Knowledge and Experience
Yes, if you want to put it that way, I suppose you could say I'm not normal. Very easily overstimulated, you might say. Or, you could say I'm quite sufficiently stimulated all by myself, thank you. It's always a crowd in here.
I suspect that many Raccoons are of this reclusive nature, with nervous systems that crackle with energy and bristle with social awkwardness. Or in other words, eccentric. This would explain the... exclusive nature of my readership, because with the standard blog, one reader tells his friends, those friends tell their friends, and in a matter of months you have 100,000 readers.
Or maybe Raccoons are just adept at keeping the secret. Yeah, that's it. We tell only our imaginary friends.
Lately we've been discussing the Cosmic Fundamentals. Which brings up an interesting preliminary question, that is, is a priori knowledge possible? This question is central to the somewhat tedious book on Plato and Aristotle, as they answer it in different ways.
Plato is of course all about a priori knowledge, to the exclusion of experience. Similar to the wise guys of the east, he sees the world as ever-changing and therefore useless as a source of truth.
Rather, truth is somewhere to the north of human existence, in the form of transcendent ideas. Herebelow, for example, we only encounter instances of justice, but our task is to ascend to the level at which we can perceive the ideal of justice in all its purity.
The rub is that you can't do that until you're dead, which is why Socrates happily gulped down the hemlock. Although, like Jesus, he was murdered by the state, what a difference between the Passion and his absence thereof! Jesus asked that the cup be passed, while Socrates betrayed no ambivalence at all.
Unlike Plato, Aristotle begins with experience and works up inductively. He agrees that universals exist, but only in particulars. There is no abstract world of universals we can ascend to, and there is no world more "real" than this one.
Well, they're both wrong. Or half right. If I am not mistaken, Aristotle would agree that some knowledge is a priori, for example, the rules of logic, e.g., the principle of exclusion. Without the P of E, thought itself would be impossible, similar to how a rational economy is impossible in the absence of private property. In other words, to the extent that one is "thinking," it is (partly) because a thing is this and not that.
What about the existence of a Cosmos? Are there ideas that cannot not be in order for any cosmos to exist, or in order for there to exist conscious beings?
No, we are not exactly dealing with the Anthropic Cosmological Principle, which is somewhat of a tautology -- that is, that the laws we observe are conditioned by the fact that we exist. In other words, we shouldn't be surprised that things are the way they are, because if they weren't, we wouldn't be here. This principle cuts both ways, proving either that the cosmos is a huge conspiracy or an epic coincidence.
But Schuon takes a different tack. Weaving together both universal logic and our most intimate experience, he shows that the ultimate universal is indeed accessible to the particular, which is another way of saying that man is created in the image of God. Or, the latter expression is a more mythopoeic way of saying that man is conformed to the Absolute.
Let's begin with the Absolute. What is it? Schuon defines it as necessary reality. This implies an immediate corollary, that there exists possible or contingent reality. We know from experience that there is contingent reality -- things don't have to happen the way they do -- from which we may also deduce our own free will, which is a kind of shadow of necessity.
In other words, if we are free, then we can do this or we can do that. We can choose truth or falsehood, good or evil, truth or ugliness. This reminds me of the intimate relationship between truth and ignorance: we can only approach absolute truth because we are ultimately ignorant. Things are intelligible because intelligence is implicit within them, but we can never exhaust this intelligibility. To do so would be to become the Absolute.
Freedom would seem to imply a kind of "nothingness" within the heart of the Absolute, or a nothing-everything complementarity.
Well, I guess I couldn't transcend the maelstrom. We'll start over on Monday.