Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I just wrote about Aristotle's statement that all knowledge is knowledge of something. Follow this argument. I know God. Therefore God is a thing. God is in reality not a thing. Therefore, knowledge of God is false knowledge. True understanding of God is not gained through the category of reason. Knowledge (of things) necessarily falls into this category. Another category is necessary for the unknowable. That category is Faith.

Are there other categories? Yes. Life spent in pursuit of the gratification of the senses is the most primitive. It is in fact a sort of proto-category. Think of Don Juanism. The artist, for instance, in a search of meaning, pursues beauty. Mankind was first an artist, even when he lived in caves. Faith as Religion and Reason as Science are evolutes of the category of Art. History as dialectical materialism is a further category. All of these reflect man's reaching out into the world for meaning and purpose. But the crowning endeavor, that which all the others aspire but do not achieve, is Philosophy. Think of it as consciousness being directed outward in Art, Faith, Science, History and finally in Philosophy, returning on itself. R. G. Collingwood made a study of this in his work "Speculum Mentis."

A further exegesis of this would be that Don Juanism is essentially characterized by longing, by desire; it is to be a slave of desire, bacchanalia. The next gratification will ostensibly bring fulfillment, full satisfaction, but really it just sets the stage for further desire, and, it is brutish in nature. This longing is slightly civilized when channeled into the pursuit of beauty by the artist. But beauty too is ephemeral and always just out of reach. One can't own it, only pursue it as an ideal. One work of the artist follows the other as the refinement approaches but never reaches the ultimate expression. Beauty is always on the horizon drawing the artist into an infinite regress. In religion the goal of the artist is formalized and posited as an absolute other the union with which is to occur in another dimension, another life, in death. Think about the Gothic cathedrals whose spires and buttresses looming in the landscape are rock made to appear as a yearning toward the sky. This yearning is a "Sickness Unto Death." It is the daemonic spirit in nature and is anything but liberating, this desire to be something greater than yourself, the inability to accept reality as it is. To posit "Truth" in an absolute other to be obtained only by "Grace" is the religious experience for the vast majority. It is also true that Science posits truth as something to be obtained in a Utopian future where perfect measurement ultimately results in a "grand unifying theory" that will enable man to own the purpose and meaning of the whole of Reality. Science mistakes measurement for understanding. History is the same kind of dialectic. Utopia is to be achieved politically in stages until finally perfect equality, peace and justice will be reached for all people everywhere. A true reading of history reveals that all utopias are in reality statist dystopias.

So these categories of existence in the world are for man all self limiting as they have been practiced by the majority of peoples. They all share the same false premise, that Reality is not complete. This falsehood we cling to is our excuse for not owning ourselves, for always seeking completion externally, and is responsible for all the perverseness of human nature. The sensuous genius of a Don Juan is driven by endless restlessness, infinite longing, and this same restlessness is the seed of the life of the artist, the religious, scientist, the belief in history as a redeeming principle, force of nature. Only in the philosopher might one encounter the opposite. Infinite yearning for the Other becomes infinite resignation that the journey is the destination. Once true philosophy is reached any endeavor whatsoever pursued has become like drinking tea from an empty cup; the best faith, the true scientist, the real artist, and so on, is first of all a philosopher and these pursuits are then freed from the mundane to reach the highest achievement possible.

The overture from Mozart's Don Giovanni precisely embodies the infinite restless longing of the sensuous genius in Don Juanism. This is elaborated in the sickness unto death of Western Civilization. (warning at the link = depravity)