04 April 2007

Third Mystery Passage

To whom should we attribute these declarations about contemplation and greatness of soul? (Googling not allowed!)

For this reason greatness of soul is not fostered by those philosophies which assimilate the universe to Man. Knowledge is a form of union of Self and not-Self; like all union, it is impaired by dominion, and therefore by any attempt to force the universe into conformity with what we find in ourselves. There is a widespread philosophical tendency towards the view which tells us that Man is the measure of all things, that truth is man-made, that space and time and the world of universals are properties of the mind, and that, if there be anything not created by the mind, it is unknowable and of no account for us. This view, if our previous discussions were correct, is untrue; but in addition to being untrue, it has the effect of robbing philosophic contemplation of all that gives it value, since it fetters contemplation to Self. What it calls knowledge is not a union with the not-Self, but a set of prejudices, habits, and desires, making an impenetrable veil between us and the world beyond. The man who finds pleasure in such a theory of knowledge is like the man who never leaves the domestic circle for fear his word might not be law.

The true philosophic contemplation, on the contrary, finds its satisfaction in every enlargement of the not-Self, in everything that magnifies the objects contemplated, and thereby the subject contemplating. Everything, in contemplation, that is personal or private, everything that depends upon habit, self-interest, or desire, distorts the object, and hence impairs the union which the intellect seeks. By thus making a barrier between subject and object, such personal and private things become a prison to the intellect. The free intellect will see as God might see, without a here and now, without hopes and fears, without the trammels of customary beliefs and traditional prejudices, calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge -- knowledge as impersonal, as purely contemplative, as it is possible for man to attain. Hence also the free intellect will value more the abstract and universal knowledge into which the accidents of private history do not enter, than the knowledge brought by the senses, and dependent, as such knowledge must be, upon an exclusive and personal point of view and a body whose sense-organs distort as much as they reveal.

To make this fun: if you don't know, say who you think it might be, who it sounds like. And no harm in remaining Anonymous.


Anonymous said...

only because i'm teaching it this semester do i know this one, and Lord was I surprised when I first read these passages . . .

Michael Pakaluk said...

Exactly the same with me.

One of my teachers, Burt Dreben, used to like to pull out passages like this from famous philosophers, read them aloud (to the astonishment of the class) and point out that such thoughts were 'utterly mad'--although with half-admiration, because Dreben also recognized that one couldn't have a philosophical mind without passionately believing something that would seem 'mad'. (And I don't think he did.)

Anonymous said...

Yes, pass. I arrived at your blog via a google on aporia because I am reading the guide to 'Aristotle and the Metaphysics' by Vasilis Politis which is very useful to this non-expert. He uses 'aporiai'.

When one reads the excerpt closely one finds that there is still no understanding of metaphysics in it. Yes there is error, yes there is partiality but the 'form' of knowledge remains the same because without it there could not be error. He is setting up an impossible and therefore irrelevant criterion for 'true' knowledge. It has no use, as his sidekick would have said, and is therefore meaningless because useless. The fata morgana of the evidence of the senses leads him into empiricist folly. Oh ye Idealists, psychology is good enough for you.

Thanks for that puzzle.