D I A L E C T I C
F O R
B E G I N N E R S
C A R L O S
C I R N E - L I M A
And to my students
Translated by Helen Marjorie Danson Barbosa
S U M M A R Y
I. We and the Greeks
1. Heraclitus’ Garden
2. The Game of the Opposites
3. The Myth of the Cave
4. The Analysis of the World
5. The Explanation of the World
II. What is Dialectic?
1. The Logical Square
2. The Synthesis of the Opposites
3. The three Principles
4. Being, Nothing, Becoming
5. Dialectic and Antinomy
III. A System Project
1. Dialectic and Nature
3. Justice and the State
4. The Meaning of History
5. The Absolute
I wrote Dialectic for Beginners thinking about my students. I wrote it
for them, for the beginners, Incipientibus in Dialecticam, as Abaelard
would say. I composed this essay for those clean-faced, shiny-eyed young
people, attentive, lucid, anxious to learn, who know very well that they
don’t know anything at all. That’s why they want to learn.
It’s for them that I wrote this book and to them that I dedicate
it. Justly, I might add. For it was with them, their questions, through
discussions and debates with them that this Dialectic was born, grew and
turned into reality. Not that I am self-taught, or that I slight my teachers.
No, I have great esteem for those who were my professors. I owe them a
lot. But it was with my students that, over the years, I learned what
I give back to them, now, with this book.
A beginner is one who knows nothing, or almost nothing. A beginner is
one who realizes that he doesn’t know anything. And for this reason
he wants to learn, to understand the words, to understand the meaning
of the sentences, to accompany the development of the argument. I wrote
this book for him. I wrote it in a simple, direct style. I wrote an unpretentious
Philosophy with no fussiness, no decorations, without academic rank and
without aerobic demonstrations of scholarship. Most ideas exposed here
are very old. There are some new things too, because everyone who earnestly
studies Philosophy and enters into a struggle with the ideas, with the
ideas themselves, will always discover something new. When we appropriate
the richness which we inherited from tradition and try to pass it along,
it gets revitalized and it grows. This work was born from the great philosophic
tradition. My wish is for it to take the readers back to the great master
thinkers of tradition.
By the way, you readers are Beginners-Who-Know-Nothing, right? Have you
realized that while you don’t know anything and express this, you
are being catapulted from the Know-Nothing to the Knowing? Because, as
Socrates said, he who knows that he knows nothing is a Wiseman. This is
Philosophy. Yes, and now what? Are you Beginners or Wisemen? Is this Dialectic
for Beginners or Wisemen? I don’t know, discover for yourself. Look
up high and observe the flight of Minerva’s Owl, don’t pay
too much attention to the Thracian Slave’s laugh, discover.
Porto Alegre, May, 1996
I. WE AND THE GREEKS
1. HERACLITUS’ GARDEN
1. Initial questions
Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the reason for the
world and our life? Did the universe have a beginning? Will it have an
end? Are there laws ruling the course of the universe? Are these laws
for us, too? May we disobey these laws? What happens when we disobey them?
Is there reward and punishment? Is there really? Or should there be? Does
this happen now during this life or in some existence after death? Can
we think about an eternal life, an existence after death, without contradiction?
Can there be a time after all time is finished? Can there be an after
after the last and final after? After all, what are we?
These are the questions which from the beginning of time, everyone who
becomes an adult has asked. These are the questions which have worried
all philosophers since the Pre-Socratics. Philosophy is an attempt, always
frustrated and constantly taken up again, at giving a rational answer
to these questions. This is what we will now develop in this essay. A
final and definite answer which completely answers these questions does
not exist. Even more, such a complete and finished answer is, as we will
see, impossible in Philosophy. But, as many questions can be asked, many
answers can and should be given.
2. Philosophy is a big puzzle
Philosophy is the science of first principles, those principles which
are universally valid and which rule not only the being, but also the
thinking. Today Philosophy is many times thought of as a science of ultimate
rational justifications, that is, as rational foundation for all other
sciences. The great theme of Philosophy is then, using a metaphor taken
from Architecture, a question of the ultimate foundation. It is in this
way that long ago Aristotle spoke about First Philosophy. First Philosophy
deals with the first principles of the universe - the being and the thinking
- principles which are the rational foundation of all the other sciences,
such as Logic, Physics, Astronomy, Biology, Ethics, Politics, Esthetics
etc., which earlier belonged to that great and all inclusive science that
was then called Philosophy.
I don’t have anything against the conception of Philosophy as a
science of ultimate foundation. It is also this. But this metaphor points
to only one of the hard nuclei of that greater thing which Philosophy
really is. It is as if it were pointing to a meatless, bare bone. The
image of foundation is a little poor. I personally prefer another metaphor,
that of a puzzle, to characterize what Philosophy is. Philosophy is, I
would say, a great puzzle.
In a puzzle we must fit each piece with the neighboring pieces so that
the edges of each one coincide with the edges of the neighboring pieces,
making up a coherent image which appears in the end without holes or ruptures.
A puzzle consists in inserting piece by piece one into each other, with
perfect fitting of the edges, until all the pieces are correctly placed
and the final, coherent, meaningful image becomes visible. If there are
pieces left, the puzzle was not finished. If there are pieces missing,
the puzzle was lacking something and the image will be incomplete. In
large puzzles it is perfectly possible for us to assemble pieces of the
large final image, each piece with its own figures, but without the final
composition. If we continue until the end, and the puzzle is not lacking
pieces, all the pieces will then fit together. There will not be any pieces
missing nor any left over, and the total image will be clear and visible.
Doing Philosophy today is, in my opinion, like assembling a large puzzle.
The sciences such as Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Biology, Archeology,
History, Psychology, Sociology etc. are parts of the large puzzle that
is Philosophy, the Most Universal Science. Each one of these particular
sciences assembles its own part, each of them deals with some figures.
None of them has to worry about or take charge of the total composition
of the great mosaic, which is Philosophy, the reason, the meaning of the
universe. These particular sciences do work on assembling the great puzzle,
but each of them limits itself to a small part of it. To do Philosophy
means to go on until the end, that is, assembling all the pieces until
one can see the global image.
This is where the first difference between the puzzle and Philosophy appears.
In Philosophy we don’t have all the pieces. The universe is still
in the making. History is not yet finished. Many things, which we have
no idea of, are still to come. The Philosopher does not have all the pieces
- the future has not yet arrived - and therefore, the final mosaic will
always be incomplete. Nevertheless, it is necessary to assemble the puzzle
with the existing pieces, including the player himself. Each one of us
who is a concrete player must jump into the ultimate mosaic of Philosophy
which is the universal meaning of the universe in which we live, that
is the ultimate meaning of our lives; in this way Philosophy becomes existential.
But, as History and Evolution have not yet finished, the image that appears
on the mosaic, although global, will always have large empty spaces. This
means that, while the time of History is still passing, Philosophy as
a global system of knowledge is and will always be an inconclusive project.
The Great Science will never be complete and finished. Philosophy always
is and will continue to be only Love of Knowledge.
No one can pretend that the particular sciences do not exist. No one should
pretend, as some Philosophers today do, that Philosophy is only Philosophy
of Language or Theory of Knowledge. This is also important, this is also
part of Philosophy. But Philosophy is more than just a Metalanguage Theory;
Philosophy is a Great Science, which contains in itself all, I repeat,
a l l the particular sciences with their theories and unanswered questions.
There comes a question: Is this still possible? Today, in our century,
with the incredible development of the particular sciences, is it still
possible to make a Great Synthesis? Of course it is necessary and it is
possible. Moreover as the particular sciences developed, so did the resources
available to the Philosopher trying to build the basic framework of the
Great Unified Theory again. It’s a little embarrassing, but we must
admit that many philosophers today have abandoned the idea of the Great
Synthesis and are happy with partial subsystems; that means however, that
they stopped doing real Philosophy. Happily though, as everyone can see,
Physicists are still looking for the Great Synthetic Theory into which
the subsystems now being worked on can be integrated. The problem is that
the Great Synthesis is more than just a conciliation of the general theory
of relativity with quantum mechanics. The programmatic job of Philosophy
is still more ample than that of Physics at the end of the twentieth century.
Biology, Psychology, Sociology, History, etc., must also enter in this
synthetic theory which is Philosophy, because we want to discover which
laws are valid for all things and which are valid only for some things.
In the past this great task was called explicatio mundi; to do Philosophy
has always been and continues to be building the explanation to the world.
We will return to this word many times, because with it we can really
express all that Philosophy can and should intend to be.
3. Criticism of Post-Modern Reason
After the intellectual collapse of Hegel’s system during the second
half of the last century, after the political collapse of Marxism - which
is a type of leftist hegelianism - in 1989, after the fall of the Berlin
Wall, and soon after with the breaking up of the Soviet Union, Philosophy
seems to have become a dead end street. Instead of the Great Synthesis
we have only a great impasse. Reason, which was ambitious and went looking
for the Great Synthesis; reason, the one reason, the unique and most universal
reason is destroyed by Nietzsche’s sledge hammer. Reason, the one
Reason, unique and with a capital letter, was declared dead. Reason died,
the multiple small reasons live, the reasons of many different perspectives
as Nietzsche said, the reasons of multiple horizons, as Heidegger wanted,
the reasons of multiple language games as Wittgenstein affirmed. The one
and unique Reason died, the multiple reasons with their relativisms live.
This is the post-modern thesis of thought.
The positive side of this dissolution of the unity of reason, which was
defined by Illuminism, is that in our century we became more modest, more
understanding, more open to other cultures, more tolerant with the foreigner,
more attentive to alterity. The particular, including the particular sciences,
progressed immensely. Even Logic, which before was the one Logic, unique,
in the singular and with a capital letter, as the Logic of Aristotle and
the master thinkers of the Middle Age, has been transformed. Today we
have, next to Aristotelian logic, written in small letters, many other
logics. Today we speak about logics, in the plural and with small letters.
What happened to Logic, also happened to Reason as a whole. Instead of
Reason, today we have many reasons, in the plural and with small letters.
Post-modern reason puts one subsystem next to another, and another and
still another, always one next to the other without a higher and more
ample unity which encloses them; the cracks between the various subsystems
remain empty. Post-modern reason denies the existence of principles or
laws that are really universal, which connect the various subsystems;
that is, principles that are always valid, in all spheres, in all the
cracks and for everything. Furthermore, extreme Post-Modernism says that,
strictly speaking, there is no universally valid proposition.
Now, whoever makes such an statement, by saying this, says just the opposite.
Such an affirmation is a contradiction in itself, it causes a logical
implosion. Let’s see what happens in another, simpler example. We
will take the proposition that There is no true proposition. Anyone who
affirms such a thing is implicitly saying There is no proposition which
is true, except this one that I am now saying. Therefore the implicitly
made exception denies the universality of that which was affirmed: There
is no truth that a l l propositions are false, since at least this one,
which is being affirmed, is being affirmed as being true. This also happens
with the post-modern proposition There is no proposition which is universaly
valid for all subsystems; in saying and affirming this, we are saying
that at least this proposition is valid in all subsystems. The same thing
happens in class when the teacher complains about the talking and little
Johnny says But teacher, no one is talking. In saying this he contradicts
exactly what he is saying. It is for this reason that post-modern reason
is good, yes, as respect for alterity and regard for diversity, but is
very bad as a substitute for universally valid reason. It cannot be universalized;
if we do it, it explodes. This is why post-modern philosophy, in this
sense, does not and will not ever exist. Whoever wishes to do Philosophy
in the way of post-modern reason, overlapping subsystems, without ever
making an encompassing theory, small as it may be, is doomed to failure
by self-contradiction. My friend Habermas, forgive me, but it is impossible:
it implodes. This shows that one can return to the one, unique, most universal
reason. It can consist of few rules and principles; maybe it can consist
of only one principle, but that such a reason exists, it exists. He who
denies it, detonates and enters in self-contradiction. The explanation
of the world can be maybe minimalist. But it is really possible.
The more negative side of post-modern reason is the trash that accumulates
in the crevices between the various subsystems. And it is there, into
these empty crevices, that we sweep the contradictions and badly solved
problems. Between one subsystem and another is where the trash of reason
lies. Particular theories, articulated just as subsystems, permit that
between one subsystem and another the biggest absurdities sprout up and
bloom. The contradictions were not resolved, they were just swept away.
This is not enough. One must think about the multiplicity as well as the
unity. Without unity, multiplicity enters into contradiction, as we have
already seen. Multiplicity in the Unity, Unity in the Multiplicity; it
is necessary to reconcile both equally legitimate and necessary poles.
And it is time to rethink Parmenides as well as Heraclitus.
4. Parmenides’ Sphere
Parmenides, one of the great thinkers of Pre-Socratic Philosophy, was
in some ways, the forefather of post-modern reason. He opposed one of
the two biggest subsystems to the other: the real being and the doxa,
the mere appearance. Parmenides said that the real reality is only the
immovable being, which is pure rest, without any movement. This immovable
and immutable being is symbolized by a sphere, that is, by a geometrical
figure which has no limits, where the finger runs without ever coming
to a beginning or an end. And the things of this world which are in movement,
which move, are born and die, well, these things, Parmenides declared,
are not real reality, they are a doxa, just appearances, under which there
is no real being. Appearances can fool you. On one side the subsystem
of what is really real, on the other side a subsystem of appearances.
But, Parmenides is not post-modern. He was more radical, he sacrificed
all the appearances, the multiple things of this world in which we live,
on the altar of an exasperating rationality, of a only, unique, immovable,
immutable, infinite logos. That which is, Parmenides said, is. That which
is not, is not. And that which is not isn’t anything, it means nothing
and does nothing. The Non-Being does not exist, it cannot even be thought
Movement is always the passage of Being to Non-Being, or to death. Then
the passage of Non-Being to Being is birth. Now, since the Non-Being does
not exist, since it is nothing, there is no passage for the Non-Being.
There is not, for the same reason, passage from the Non-Being to Being;
from the Non-Being nothing can begin. This means that there is no death
nor birth. Death and birth are illusions, they are merely appearances.
Well, by logic, Non-Being is nothing. And therefore, all that the Non-Being
determines is being determined as being nothing; that is, it is nothing,
just illusion. Therefore, Parmenides argues, there is no movement. And
if we think that something is in movement, it is just an illusion.
Zeno of Elea, a disciple of Parmenides, in order to demonstrate what he
thought as the logical impossibility of movement brings the example of
a race between Achilles and the tortoise and the example of the stopped
arrow. Achilles races a tortoise. Since Achilles is a great hero and an
excellent runner, the tortoise asks for a ten meter head start. Achilles
agrees and the race begins. Notice, states Zeno, how movement is something
contradictory, notice that Achilles is not going to be able to win the
race. Just think. Before running the distance that separates him from
the tortoise, Achilles has to run half that distance. And before running
this half, he has to run half of this half. And before finishing the half
of this half, he has to run half of this half. And so on. Since the quantity
is infinitely dividable and there is always a new half of a half, one
can conclude that Achilles will not advance one step, he will not be able
to regain the advantage, and therefore he will lose the race to the tortoise.
Why? Because movement, said Zeno, is contradictory, it cannot be thought
of until the end without there being an unsolvable contradiction. - The
same thinking is applied to the arrow shot by the archer in direction
of some target. The arrow, having to pass through infinite halves of halves,
remains still. Zeno thinks the stopped arrow and Achilles’s race
with the tortoise demonstrates Parmenides thesis that movement is impossible
and that for this reason we have to limit ourselves to the one, only,
unique, infinite Being without movement which is the only being that really
is. This is Parmenides sphere.
Parmenides, the great thinker of the one, only, unique and immutable being,
is, despite this great mistake, the intellectual father of all real Philosophy,
because he was the first who took the unity of reason and of being so
seriously. Everything that exists is a part of the Whole and the One.
The One and the Whole, Hen kai pan, are the beginning and the end of all
true Philosophy, of the science that wants to understand all things in
the frameword of the Great Synthesis. The mistake Parmenides committed,
which is visible to everyone, is not taking the moment of diversity and
movement equally seriously. He could not think of the Non-Being as something
that in some ways is. Parmenides has the conception of the universe as
the Whole and the One, but he misses the movement in which everything
flows. Heraclitus is missing.
5. The garden of Heraclitus
According to Heraclitus everything flows, panta rei, everything is constantly
flowing, everything is in movement. Real reality is not the immutable
sphere without limits of the Eleatic, but movement which without ever
stopping is always beginning again. There is no beginning and no end,
in this Heraclitus agreed with Parmenides, not because there is no movement,
but because everything is constantly changing. What for the Eleatic was
doxa, just appearances and illusion, now is real reality itself.
Reality is not just Being, it is not, for the same reason, just Non-Being.
Real reality is a tension that connects and unites Being and Non-Being.
Dialectics appears here for the first time in the History of Philosophy.
Being and Non-Being, thesis and antithesis, are united on a higher plane
through a synthesis. Being and Non-Being, which at first seem to oppose
and exclude each other, constitute in real reality a synthetic unity which
is Being in Motion, Becoming. In Becoming there is an element which is
Being, but there is also another element which is equally essential which
is Non-Being. Being and Non-Being, well mixed, do not repel and exclude
each other, but enter into an amalgam and blend together to make up a
We have there, already in Heraclitus, the fundamentals of Dialectics.
In the first stage we have two opposite poles which mutually exclude themselves.
Thesis and antithesis oppose each other, one excluding the other. In this
first stage one pole annuls and terminates the other, they are excludent.
But things don’t stop there. There is movement, there is development,
there is progress. Then, in this second stage, the poles unite and come
together, making up a higher step, a new unity.
The lyre, a musical instrument of the ancient Greeks, serves as an example
to Heraclitus. The lyre is made up of an arch and strings. Whoever wishes
to make a lyre gets a piece of appropriate wood and bends it to make an
arch. But, this arch, if let loose, returns to its straight form. In order
to keep the arch bent it is necessary to tie it with a string, or with
several strings. The arch and the string, in this first stage, are in
tension, one against the other. The arch wants to break the string, the
string wants to bend the arch. This opposition, which exists at this first
stage of Dialectics, if and when properly dosed, creates something completely
new, something marvelous: music. The tension which exists in this first
stage, the arch against the string and the string against the arch, gives
in to the synthesis which is music, or yet, with a capital M, Music which
is one of the nine Godesses that rule and inspire the Arts. In this first
stage there is excludent opposition and conflict, in the second stage
synthetizing conciliation which creates something new, something higher,
more complex, more noble.
One of the most beautiful examples of Dialectics, well known in the past,
but rarely mentioned today, is the fílesis, antifílesis
and filia movement; that is, the dialectic movement which carries us from
beginning love which proposes and asks, passing through love which, questioned,
answers affirmatively, to arrive at love which, loving, knows to be loved
back. This love which, being synthetic, is no longer exclusive property
of one or other of the lovers, but is a unity for both. The Greeks called
this filía, friendship.
Love has a beginning. Someone has to begin. The beginning is a strictly
unilateral act and always risky. One doesn’t know beforehand how
the other is going to react or what the other will say. This unilateral,
risky act is called fílesis in Greek. Hector loves Helen. Hector
loves and knows that he loves; Helen notices the invitation, but has not
yet decided. The other can answer yes, but can also answer no. In the
beginning this is open and contingent. If the other one, however, answers
yes, then we have an antifilesis, which is also a unilateral act, but
is no longer a risky act because it is no longer just a question, just
an invitation, but an answer and acceptance of an invitation already made.
Helen decides to accept Hector’s love and love him back. This return
love is the antifilesis. Filesis and antifilesis are both unilateral acts;
filesis is risky, antifilesis is not. They are both independent, complete,
finished acts, one different from the other, one in relative opposition
to the other; one is thesis, the other antithesis. But, when both cross
each other, and on a higher plane come together in a more complex, higher,
nobler, unique reality, then we have filía. In filía the
two initially different, opposite poles, one which questions and the other
which answers, come together to make an amalgam, something new. In filía
both individual loves stop being unilateral acts and become only one act,
which is bilateral, in which it is no longer important who asks and who
answers, because both initial loves have lost their individual character,
the I and the You, to unify into something new, the We. Hector and Helen,
as they love each other, first lose themselves. The sense of existence
is transfered to the other person. It is the other which fulfills the
sense of life, and it is the other, the person loved, which is the center
of the universe. Hector is madly in love with Helen. Hector first is lost:
Whoever loves somebody is always getting lost. As Helen loves Hector back,
the sense of the universe makes a complete circle and returns to Hector,
who now, deeply enriched, is again full of feeling and life. This new
life and new feeling of the universe are not a unilateral act just of
himself, it is joint act, a bilateral act, an act in which the I is mediated
through the You to make up We. It is for this reason that the love of
friendship, filía, is so great and so precious. This was the reason
why the Greeks and the Trojans fought for so many years. It was for this
reason, only for love of friendship, that Achilles, Ulysses and Agamemnon,
the peoples’ shepherds, took the Greeks with their curved ships
to the unending war. It was for this reason only, that the Trojans, led
by Hector, fought till death. All of this only because of one woman, Homer
says in the Iliad. All of this only because of the filía, which
transcends the individuals and makes up a higher and stronger synthesis.
Love then becomes History. The History of the Greeks and Trojans, the
Iliad and the Odyssey, the beginning of our civilization.
Thesis and antithesis are in the first stage, opposite poles which repel
and exclude each other. In a second stage, both unify in a synthesis which
is something higher and more noble. In this synthesis, Hegel would say
much later, the initial poles are overcome and kept (Aufheben). On one
hand they are overcome, because they have lost some of their characteristics.
In the example of the love of friendship, the character of unilaterality
and risk is surpassed and in this way disappears. But, on the other hand,
the poles are kept in synthesis, because the positive nucleus already
existing in them continues and is preserved. Love, when it stops being
a unilateral act, becomes even more love, it becomes a higher and more
noble love. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis make up that which Greek
philosophers called a game of opposites. This is the beginning, the root
Heraclitus, the father of Dialectics, said that we cannot step into the
same river twice. The river is not the same, we are not the same. Everything
is in flowing motion, it is the motion that is real reality. Reality,
he teaches, is dialectically woven through a game of opposites. In the
beginning all is fighting and war, because the opposites oppose and exclude
each other. Pólemos patér pánton, The war is the
beginning of all things. But, afterwards there is often a unifiyng synthesis
that bears something else more complex, higher, more noble.
In the game of opposites there is not always a positive result. Many times
what happens is only death and destruction. The opposite poles in this
case act only as destructive agents. The first annuls the second, or vice
versa, or both mutually annul each other. In such cases there is no synthesis,
there is no Dialectic.
Is is also evident that, in order to understand the universe in his unity,
we have to grasp it as a synthesis. When and why is there synthesis? That
syntheses exist in the universe is quite clear. One can see it, just look
at the cosmos. But the question is: Why is it that sometimes there is
synthesis and sometimes not? Whoever has an answer to this has discovered
the solution of the question about the harmony in the universe, about
the organization of the cosmos. The main question of all Philosophy, Science
of the Great Synthesis, is: Why do opposites sometimes exclude each other
and sometimes unite each other?
It is between Parmenides and Heraclitus that a space has been created
in which since that time we do Philosophy. Parmenides saying that Everything
is the One supplies the element of universal Logos which includes everything;
Heraclitus, saying that Everything flows, that all is the motion of opposite
poles, supplies the element of Dialectics. Hen kay pan and Panta rei,
the Whole and the One and Everything flows have since been the mottoes
of any and all Philosophy. That is why in the garden which we want to
represent our western Philosophy there must be a stone sphere in the center,
a sphere that refers to Parmenides Oneness which is the Being. But, since
Parmenides’ philosophy needs to be marked and corrected by Heraclitus,
it is necessary for this sphere to be in perpetual flowing motion. Water
has to spring out of the sphere like a fountain enclosing it in the flow
of the water; in this way it becomes the symbol of the Great Synthesis
between Rest and Motion, between Totality and Dialectic.
2. THE GAME OF OPPOSITES
1. The Pre-Socratic Philosophy of Nature
The Pre-Socratic Philosophers were the first, in our culture, to sketch
out a rational view of the world, saying how Nature began, how and what
it is made of, and what man’s place is in it. Before these first
thinkers constructed rationality, there was only Myth. Myth is the first,
not yet critical form, of philosophizing, that is, of thinking about the
world as one, of thinking about the universe in its totality. Myth, among
the Greeks, assumes the figure of genealogy. In the beginning, in the
very beginning, according to the old Greeks, there is just chaos. Chaos
is the beginning of all and is, therefore, the first of the gods, father
and origin of all things. From the god Chaos then appear other gods in
a genealogical sequence in which one god succeeds the other as descendant,
until we arrive at the present gods, the present inhabitants of Olympus,
a group of gods led by Zeus.
Also in the Jewish-Christian tradition Myth takes the basic form of genealogy.
In the beginning, the Jewish and Christian Bible says, there was only
God. God, before creating everything, was just himself, he was alone.
Then on the first day, God, the Father of everything, created light, calling
the light Day and the darkness Night. On the second day, God made the
firmament and separated the waters. Then there were waters below the firmament,
the seas and river, and waters above the firmament, which later fell as
rain. On the third day, God separated the earth and the seas, making then
the land, the rich earth, the plants and the fruit-bearing trees. On the
fourth day, God, the Father, created the lights in the firmament of the
heavens, one greater, the sun, and one smaller, the moon, in this way
dividing the day from the night. He also created the small lights in the
firmament which are the stars. On the fifth day, God, the Creator, created
the animals that live in the waters, the fish, as well as those that live
on land, the beasts, and those that fly, the birds, each one according
to its species. God then blessed them and ordered them to multiply. On
the sixth day, God made man in his image and likeness, to dominate over
the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, all the reptiles and over all
the earth. God then looked at the things that he had created and saw that
all of them were good. And on the seventh day, says the biblical myth,
God rested. Starting from this beginning, all the Bible is a genealogical
history, it is a history of patriarchs and their peoples, with a special
emphasis on the Jewish people.
The Greek myths as well as the myths of the Jews and the Christians tell
the history of the origin of the universe from its beginning until the
historical sequence of the times. The past time is synthetized as one
History that has a beginning and brings us to the present time, giving
meaning to things and therefore to our lives. This historical summary
of the past, which always contains judgments of value - the Good and the
Beautiful - makes up the background in which present time is inserted.
Through the insertion in this framework which links the past to the present,
daily life is also penetrated by ethic and aesthetic values, allowing
us to also project the future. Herodotus on one side and the Jewish-Christian
Genesis on the other are a history of the first beginning of the world
and of the historical sequence of the generations. Both myths have great
poetic value and work as structuring archetypes of a certain vision of
the world. In the Jewish-Christian myth there is a structure that contraposes,
on one side, a first cause, God who creates everything and on the other
side the things created, the creatures, which then enter into the scene
in genealogical sequence. God, the first cause, is thought of in a genealogical
way, as the Creator and Father of everything. This is why he is, in the
last instance, responsible for everything and, as the saying of our ancestors
goes, Deus escreve direito por linhas tortas, God writes correctly even
if the lines on the paper of life are not straight. In Greek mythology
there is a shift. Cause, in Greek thinking, is not thought of as an efficient
cause outside of the process of the universe, but as an internal cause,
an internal principle of self-determination which molds the universe from
the inside out. The first god is chaos. The god Chaos, as the name suggests,
is totally undetermined; in him there are no things or beings with limits
and outlines. But it is from this chaos, from inside this God Chaos, that
a well-ordered universe appears. The chaos organizes itself, molds itself,
and from itself creates its determinations. Chaos, upon determining itself
gives itself shape and form. From this the other gods appear and, after
them, men as well.
The Pre-Socratic Philosophers know the Myth and appreciate its savage
beauty and pedagogical relevance. But we must think and argue rationally.
This is Philosophy, and this is why there are philosophers. This means
that the process of Genesis of the universe should be analyzed and described
with the exactness and cold objectivity that characterize science. It
is in geometry that the first thinkers got inspiration for their spirit
of scientific objectivity. The Philosophy of Nature should be as exact,
as objective, and as convincing as Geometry. The Pre-Socratics tried hard,
but they didn’t get there.
Thales of Miletus thought that the origin and the beginning - the arkhé
- of everything is water. The things are made up and differ one from one
another by the level of humidity. The god Ocean is therefore the Father
of all things. Anaximander also from Miletus, probably a disciple of Thales,
said that the first principle is a being totally undetermined, with no
limits or determinations, the ápeiron, which is then totally characterized
by determinations which limit it more and more, until it forms the determined
things which we see in the sensitive world. This initial indeterminate
being, the áperion, embraces and circumscribes everything, rules
and governs all. Anaximenes of Miletus, disciple of Anaximander, accepted
the doctrine of his master about the infinite being, which makes up the
beginning of all things, but thought it did not have such an abstract
form and defined it as air. The air, according to him, is the beginning
of all things. Here we observe, in the Philosophy of Nature of the Ionic
philosophers, a first and primitive form of the game of opposites. The
first principle is opposed to the differentiated things that originate
from it and which are explained through it. Philosophy here is just an
explicatio mundi, an explanation of the world. The world is known as a
process which originates starting from one unique principle and which
develops according to determined rules. It is not yet a modern Physics
doctrine about the Big Bang, but it is the first beginning.
Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans took one step forward and discovered the
number as the beginning of all things. The mathematization of the world
started there to end nevermore. The relations which the numbers establish
between themselves make up the rules which determine the process of the
explanation of the world. The universe is derived from a first principle
according to numeric rules and proportions, which determine the whole
process and give form to things. Each number therefore has its own meaning
and gives things a determinate form. The number ten is considered a perfect
number and is visualized as an equilateral triangle in which each side
is made up from four numbers; in the center of the of the triangle there
is only one point, the central point, totaling the number ten. The so-called
numbers mystic of the Pythagoreans, which will later influence Plato and
all the neoplatonic school, is the cradle from which the modern Physics
equations are born.
Parallel to the doctrine of the numbers the Pythagorean ultimately developed
the game of opposites. Numbers already have a relationship of opposition
among themselves. The number One opposes the Other which is then called
Two. From this first opposition come the numbers 1 and 2. But there must
be synthesis, it is necessary to think not only of the 1 and 2, but also
of a new conjunction, and from that comes 3. Thesis is 1, antithesis is
2, and the synthesis is 3. That’s why, according to the Pythagorean,
the odd numbers are more perfect: in them we perceive, beyond the opposition
of two contrary poles, a synthesis. The triangle formed of ten points,
or 10 in the form of a triangle is perfection itself. After we reach 10,
everything else is just a repetition. That is how the decimal system of
counting and calculating appeared in our civilization to never again leave
This mysticism of the numbers then adds up to a list of ten pairs of opposites
- the elementary substances - which, according to combinations among themselves
give form to all things:
The game of opposites is presented here as a basic table of opposites.
According to the Pythagorean, whoever learned to play with these ten pairs
of opposites, which are the constitutive elements of existing beings,
is able to make up the internal constitution of each thing. This is the
first form, still very coarse and primitive, of what we call today the
Table of Elements in Chemistry. The atoms of present chemistry are thought
of according to the atomic model of Niels and Rutherford. One electron
turns around an atomic nucleus, the positive and negative electricity
get into balance and then we have a stable molecule, we have hydrogen.
If instead of one electron there were two turning in orbit, then we would
have the second element of the Table of Elements, and so on and so forth
until we arrive at element 107 which can only be made in a laboratory.
The Chemists of today don’t usually realize it, but they are direct
descendants of the Pythagoreans.
Along the same line as his predecessors, always making the game of the
opposites, Empedocles is the first who expressly tries to solve the problem
exposed by Parmenides and Zeno of Elea. He realizes that the Non-Being
does not exist and can not even be properly thought of. He accepts the
initial premise of the Eleatics’ argument, but does not accept the
conclusion. One cannot conclude, he affirms, that movement be unthinkable,
be contradictory, and for that reason be impossible, and therefore non-existent.
On the contrary, movement exists, only it is not the passage from Being
to Non-Being or vice versa, but mixtures and dissolution of the four fundamental
substances which are eternal and indestructible: water, earth, air and
fire. The basic elements are not ten, but two pairs of opposites. The
determinations of things vary according to the composition of these four
elements in them. The dose of liquid and solid, of fire and of air, the
proportion in which these elements mix with each other is what gives shape
and form to the things. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae also accepted the premise
that the Non-Being could not exist and continue thinking the world as
a process of composition and dissolution of basic elements. Contrary to
Empedocles, Anaxagoras judged that it was not possible to construct the
real diversity of things from just the four elements. He assumes for this
the existence of spermata, of sperms. The word itself, which in Greek
means the male spermatozoid, shows the biological tendency of this Philosophy.
The sperms would be numerically infinite, of infinite variety, each one
divisible within itself without losing its germinating and determining
power. This initial mass of sperm is the raw material of the world. The
determinations of the things are then produced by an Intelligent Orderer,
the nous, which mixes the sperm in an ordered way. The figure of God the
creator appears here, not as an external cause, but as an internal cause
which, starting from within the chaos, gets it to organize itself. After
the sperm of Anaxagoras, we then have the atoms of Leucippus and Democritus,
the first atomists. According to them, who also accepted the principle
that the Non-Being could not exist, these first principles of all things,
all of which are qualitatively equal, they are a-toms, that is, they are
indivisible. Tomein means cut, atom is what is no longer cuttable, which
cannot be cut because it is a primary element. The atoms, indiscernible
one from the other, initially make up a shapeless mass. These uncountable
atoms are first encountered in free fall. Chance - here again is the god
Chaos - allows for small detours to one side and the other on these vertical
free fall lines. These small detours make the concentration of atoms more
or less dense. These variations of density make up the nucleus of the
explanation of the world. Each thing is what it is due to a change in
the atom concentration. The atoms and Chance make up the two elements
which explain the nature of things. The atoms will be met again in modern
Physics. Only they are not in free fall, but moving in circles. The electrons
turn in orbit around a nucleus. By increasing the number of electrons
in orbit, the specific weight of the elements gradually changes from hydrogen,
element number 1, to the element number 107. Chance we will meet again
in Heisenberg’s relation of uncertainty, in Physics, and especially
as the chance mutation in modern Biology.
2. The Sophists
Sophist is a term which initially meant the wise, sofia means wisdom;
therefore Philosophy etymologically means love of wisdom. The term Sophist
as well as the word Sophism only later, after Aristotle’s debate
with Plato, acquires the pejorative meaning. It is Sophists who first
transplant the game of opposites of Heraclitus from the plane of Philosophy
of Nature to the plane of social relations. The Sophists are occupied
not so much with nature as with the lives of the people of the cities;
they are interested in the demos, the people, and in the pólis.
This is the time when, in Greece, the old aristocracy goes into a slow
but inexorable decadence and when the power of the people becomes stronger
and stronger. It is the people who do business, who go from one city to
another, who break from the narrow limits of the old world and through
trips and travelers open new horizons and inaugurate new values and virtues.
The polis is no longer an isolated city with its own constitution and
traditional virtues, it discovers itself as a city among many others.
Then something new appears, the intellectual and political necessity of
discussing and redefining what is virtue, what is Good, what is Evil.
It is no longer clear and certain that a determined way of acting is virtuous
just because tradition says so. The inertial force which tradition has
no longer serves as the only legitimating source of virtues. As new horizons
appear, new questions appear about what Good is and what Evil is. Virtue
has to be newly discussed and redefined. After all, what is virtue? What
is right? What is morally wrong? These are the questions that the new
times put before us, these are the questions that imposed themselves.
The first answers were given by the Sophists. The Sophists were, in their
time, extremely important thinkers. Portagoras, Gorgias and Prodicus were
men of their time who tried to think critically about the problems of
The greatest positive characteristic of the Sophists was the ulterior
elaboration of the game of opposites as a methodical way to think and
act; Dialectic appears there more and more clearly. The game of opposites,
transported to the scheme of social relations, means that each man is
just a pole of an opposition. In order to understand a pole, to know what
a pole in reality is and what it means, it is necessary to think of this
first pole in relation to its opposite pole. Each man, in his social relationships,
is just one pole, a part. To understand this first man it is necessary
to see him in his relationship of opposition with the other man which
is his opposite. Fílesis is only well understood if we think of
it in relation to the antifílesis; and still more, both contrary
poles can only be correctly and completely understood when we put them
together in a greater and higher unit, in filía, in which both
are superseded and maintained. This is the reason why human relations
should be analyzed in the light of the game of opposites.
This is especially valid in two fields of human relations, in Law and
Politics. In law the game of opposites appears as one of the oldest and
more important rules of any and all justice: May the other side also be
heard, Audiatur et altera pars. The man that looks for justice in a court
is always one part. He is just one part of the greater whole. For justice
to be done, it is always necessary to hear the other side. This other
side, the other pole in the game of opposites, does not always need to
be right. It is possible that only the first part is right, or that only
the other part is right, it can be that both parts are right, that both
parts are partiality right and partially wrong. In any case, always, if
there is to be justice, it is necessary to also hear the other part. The
first part, the first pole of opposition, is always only part in the literal
sense, a piece of a greater whole. Justice requires that the reason of
each part be measured and evaluated in the larger context of the synthetic
position, that is, that greater and more noble whole, in which each part
is just a piece, a constitutive element of a greater unit. Justice is
exactly this and only this. Justice, therefore, what we call Law, is a
constant and systematic form of the game of opposites. Penal Law is also
such but in this case one of the parts is always the people. To this day,
the penal processes in the countries of Anglo-Saxon tradition have titles
like The People versus A. Smith. For this reason until now jurists of
the latin languages speak of the necessity of the contradictorium. The
term contradictorium means here the dialectic context which comes to us
from the ancient times, the principle of hearing the other side, because
justice is always the formation of a synthesis, never thesis or antithesis
alone, one without the other. The part in the system of Laws is always
only a part, a piece which needs its other part, its opposite, in order
to establish justice. Even today. The jurists today do not always realize
this: they are dialectical, we are all dialectical.
The function of the game of opposites in Politics is as important as in
Law, especially in the assemblies of citizens which exist in democracy.
Before decisions are made by political consensus, there are discussions
and debates. During these there is usually a polarization, at times a
rupture. The opinion and desire of one group of citizens diverge from
the opinion and will of the other group of citizens. Then two groups with
different opinions and wills are formed. The unity is broken in two parts
and the political parties appear. The political party can only be understood
and justified when compared with it’s opposite party. Both groups
need to debate and converse, because the identity of each one is determined
by the identity of the other. That’s how Politics is done. It can
be that one group is one hundred percent right and can convince the other
group of this; it can also be that each group is only partially right,
and making concessions little by little make up the general will. The
general will is, then, that higher and more noble unit, the synthetic
position in which and only in which the parties, which are just parts,
acquire sense and justification. On the other hand we can immediately
see that Politics only exists when there are two parties. In Politics,
a single party is a monster, not only in the despotic regimes of the ancient
Greeks, but also in the twentieth century totalitarianisms. Here again
we find the old game of opposites. For sure, the Sophists were not the
inventors of Law and Politics, but they were the first philosophers in
our culture who theoretically thought of the game of opposites as a constitutive
and essential element of social relations. This honor must be given to
them. In this they were right.
Aside from this, they made some grave mistakes and committed some stupidities
for which History does not forgive them to this day. To this day the Sophists
are infamous and the word sophism has a highly negative connotation. This
is because they committed a great theoretical error which today we can
argue precisely. Instead of saying that the thesis as well as the antithesis
are false, and that the synthesis and only the synthesis is the complete
truth, the Sophists inverted the signs and said that the thesis as well
as the antithesis were equally true.
Let us schematisize. True and correct dialectic affirms that each part
is only part, or that thesis as well as antithesis are false because they
are partial. Sophists say: Thesis as well as antithesis are equally true.
The consequences of this logical error are incredible and extremely heavy
in Politics. If thesis as well as antithesis are true, one can defend
one as well as the other. The Sophists, now in the derogatory sense of
the word, began to defend one side as well as the other, as if both sides
were equally right. Justice then does not exist. The sense of right and
correctness flies away and the sophist mentality that any position is
good as long as one has the verbal skill to debate installs itself. The
Sophists, in the bad sense of the word, defend anyone, any part, any party,
as if it were, itself, the total truth. And still worse, the Sophists
do so because that is what they are paid for, because they request and
receive payment. The payment in money, requested and accepted so that
one part be represented as if it were the whole, such is the great mistake
and the great guilt of the Sophists. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, no one
ever forgave them. With reason. After recovering and reinventing dialectics,
they went away from it. They forgot that a part is always and only part;
a part which only with its corresponding counterpart forms a greater whole.
The game of opposites, when perverted and inverted turns from best to
3. Socrates, the last of the Sophists
Socrates is many times called the last of the Sophists. This is correct
if we understand the term Sophist in its positive connotation. Socrates
was the great Dialectic thinker, the great defender of moral and political
subjects, of the game of opposites which complete and unite themselves
to make up a greater whole. Socrates is the great voice which rose in
Athens to criticize the perversion the Sophists caused to Dialectics.
It is not possible to defend the thesis as well as the antithesis as if
both were equally true. It is not correct, it is exactly the opposite.
Both positions are false. Truth is just the synthesis from which both
is created. Virtue, therefore, does not consist of defending a thesis
- or antithesis -, as if this were a total and complete truth, and yes,
on the contrary, in uncovering thesis as well as antithesis as being wrong,
that is - which is the same-, as being only partial elements in a greater
whole. Only the greater whole, only the synthesis is what is true. The
Sophists argued at times in favor of the thesis; at times in favor of
the antithesis. In many concrete cases in political life, the same sophist,
paid by one group, argued first in favor of the truth of the thesis and
then, paid by another group, in favor of the truth of the antithesis.
Then, right away, with the money in his pocket, he left the citizens behind
perplexed with the contradiction.
This is what Socrates raised his voice against. The game of opposites
has to be done correctly. A part is just a part, it is not the whole.
Or, it is first necessary to argue showing the falseness, that is, the
partiality of the thesis, then showing the falseness of the antithesis,
which is also partial, in order to then suggest the conciliation of the
two, the greater, more noble truth.
Socrates is a thinker of Morality and Politics. Like the Sophists, he
applies the game of opposites to social relations, but contrary to the
Sophists, he reestablishes the correct form and structure of the game
of opposites. It is not true that thesis as well as antithesis are equally
true, the correct thing is that usually both are partial and therefore
false. That is why one must always listen to the other side as well. Only
in this way can we discover and create the truth. To know how to listen
to the other part means, in practical life, to establish a dialogue, to
converse with each other. This, Socrates said, is doing Politics in a
city of free and rational citizens. Better still, it is only in this way
that one acquires true knowledge and discovers which of the ancient virtues
is not just foolish tradition but a morally correct attitude, a moral
virtue. For Socrates to philosophize is knowing how to engage in conversation.
For Socrates, virtue, always the fruit of the game between thesis and
antithesis, is found only through real dialogue done on street corners
and in public squares. Socrates listens, Socrates asks, Socrates answers.
Socrates probes the inner voice of the conscience which he, personifying
it, calls daimon, the good demon, the good spirit. Socrates does not write.
We have nothing of his written down. Why write if the important thing
is to converse concretely, person to person? When Plato, Socrates’
disciple and follower, teaches and writes in the Academy, the rule continues
to be valid that the literary form of treating philosophic subjects, even
if written, is always the dialogue. From this come Plato’s Dialogues.
Socrates, the man of ethical and political dialogue, was, as we know,
condemned to death by his fellow citizens. With his dialogues he has committed
a great crime against the gods of the city of Athens and attempted against
the good customs, perverting the youth. The great thinker of I know that
I don’t know anything, the great master of dialogue in Ethics and
Politics, died conversing. The dialogue Apology of Socrates in which Plato
relates the happenings and ideas that surrounded the condemnation and
death of Socrates is one of the great master-works of our civilization.
3. THE MYTH OF THE CAVE
1. Plato and the game of opposites
In the game of opposites, even when the logic plan is transposed to the
level of social relationships, three things can happen. First, it can
be that the first pole is true; then the second pole is false and has
to be abandoned. Second, it can be that the second pole is the true one
and then the first must be abandoned. But third, it can also be that both
poles are false and the partial truths held in the opposite poles must
be discovered piece by piece, uniting them, conciliating them, in order
to create a real unity of a higher synthesis. - This never happens, because
it is logically impossible for both poles, thesis and antithesis, to be
true. This is the logic mistake in which the Sophists incurred, this is
the logical-systematic fundament of the moral and political errors they
The game of opposites in Plato is taken to perfection. Perfect is that
which is done till the end, that which becomes complete and finished,
in which nothing is missing and nothing is left over. Perfection is that
which Plato points us to when he does Philosophy. Never before him, never
after did man point so high up. How can that be? Isn’t it exactly
the opposite? Everyone knows that Plato is a philosopher of aporias, that
is, of dead end streets. Plato, in his dialogues, gives a rough draft
of thesis, outlines the antithesis, but a good synthesis he almost never
elaborates. How can Plato then be called a synthetic thinker who takes
the game of opposites to perfection if he never, or almost never, points
to synthesis? Without synthesis Dialectics dearticulates itself; thesis
and antithesis remain, one against the other, both negative and aware
of their falsity, without ever arriving at a conclusion. This we aready
know and we have seen through the error commited by the Sophists. And
is it not true that Plato’s dialogues are almost always aporetic,
with no final synthesis? It is absolutely true.
There are two doctrines in Plato which complement and complete each other,
the exoteric doctrine and the esoteric doctrine. The exoteric doctrine
- the prefix ex indicates this - is destined for the use of people outside,
it is done and explained for the beginners and those from outside without
the necessary prerequisites, not yet in condittion to understand the hard
nucleus of the doctrine. The exoteric doctrine is easier, it is more didactic,
more introductory. In it the game of opposites really stays almost always
open, with no final synthesis. Plato brings up a thesis; he discusses,
debates, examines it from all angles and then finally refutes it. The
thesis is always demonstrated as false. Then the antithesis is raised
and is also examined and debated, being in the end invariably refuted.
We have then a false thesis and an equally false antithesis, both useless,
in our hands. This is aporia, this is the dead end.
Plato’s dialogues, almost all of them - except for a few from his
old age - are aporetic, that is, they come out at a dead end. Dialectics,
the game of opposites, is not taken to the end. Synthesis is always missing,
as it is among the contemporaries of the School of Frankfurt. There dialectics
is a negative dialectics, a dialectics without synthesis. But this, we
shall see, is not good dialectics. Right. And Plato, discipule of the
Heraclitean philosopher Cratylus as well as of Socrates, knew this very
well. He also knew that Dialectics is not done by magic in one instant,
with the blink of an eye, but in a long, serious, difficult, many times
painful process of overcoming existent contradictions between thesis and
antithesis. Dialectics is education and as such, is done in a slow learning
and maturing process. A child does not become a man in one day, a tree
does not grow in one week, Dialectics as well needs time and hard work.
The opposites have to be worked upon seriously; if they are not, the synthesis
will be hollow and empty. That is why for the beginners and those outside
Dialectics is not immediately exposed and explained completely, it appears
under the shape of an exoteric doctrine. In an exoteric doctrine contraries
are raised in all their seriousness, one refuting its opposite, but in
the end Plato leaves his listeners and readers in suspense. Really there
is no expressly formulated, spoken or written synthesis. It is necessary
for the reader himself, alone, to try to fit the pieces in the puzzle.
It is necessary for him to try and experiment gathering pieces taking
the intellectual risk of the task. It is necessary that this somewhat
shapeless mass of contrary opositions without synthesis, of opposites
without conciliation, spends some time simmering so that great synthetic
ideas can emerge. These great syntheses, when they sprout and emerge,
make up the estoeric doctrine, the doctrine which the initiated argue
among themselves, the doctrine which the beginners can not even begin
to understand. Because the final syntheses are so simple and so bright
that those who seek them directly without running the long course of maturing
the opposite poles become blinded and cannot see anything correctly. It
is the same as looking directly at the sun. The beginner, if he looks
directly at the great syntheses of esoteric doctrine, becomes so blinded
that he thinks he is seeing absolutely nothing. That is why the hard work
of playing with the opposites must be done previously.
That is why Plato’s doctrine for beginners seems to be a dualistic
system of Philosophy, a game of opposites in which the opposites never
come together. He who only hears and only studies the exoteric doctrine,
without ever arriving at the final synthesis of the esoteric doctrine,
thinks that Plato considers the world of ideas and the world of things
as two spheres of being existing side by side, one outside of the other,
one in opposition to the other. The world of things and the world of ideas
are then two opposite poles, one against the other, without there being
- apparently - a real conciliation between them. There is perfect conciliation
in Plato, but this will just appear clearly and completely in the esoteric
doctrine, in the so called Unwritten Doctrine. The exoteric doctrine is
a strictly dualistic Philosophy in which the opposite poles never completely
conciliate. Material world on one side and spiritual world of ideas on
the other oppose each other like excluding poles. Material and spiritual
poles then never unify in due harmony. The spiritual opposes the material,
the ideas oppose the things. The hard dualism, the opposites without synthetic
conciliation, the Dialectics without synthesis, this is the intellectual
axis of the exoteric doctrine.
Unfortunately many authors, when they speak of Plato, only study and mention
this exoteric doctrine. This is just a first approximation on the climb
that takes one to the philosophic doctrine which is frequently mistaken
as Plato’s Philosophy. Plato is so violently disparaged. Instead
of being understood as the thinker of the Great Synthesis, he is thought
of as a new sophist who grabs the two opposite poles without unifying
or concilating them, leaving them as two opposite, conflicting, irreductible
principles. This has been called working by dichotomies since the ancient
times. Cut in two, construct the opposite poles, incite one against the
other, let one destroy the other, or better, let both the poles turn around
each other like two warriors in mortal combat, this is Dialectics without
synthesis. The true Plato is a thinker of the Great Synthesis, of Dialectics
in it’s full sense of unification and conciliation of opposites,
but the Plato that is studied in most of our books - and this is very
serious - the Plato of a large part of academic tradition is just the
Plato of the exoteric doctrine, the Plato of opposites without synthesis,
the dualistic Plato. And this then is an intellectual disaster because
it will generate dichotomies in which the opposite poles will nevermore
be reunited. Opposite poles in a full Dialectics and taken to it’s
appropriate synthesis are excellent, they are movements that point and
conduct us further on. In a negative Dialectics with no synthesis, the
dicotomic poles become unsolvable problems.
Unfortunately in our philosophic tradition this happens a lot. The world
of things and the world of ideas, materiality and spirituality, the great
opposition of two poles that should be unified and conciliated is transformed
into an unsolvable dichotomous problem which passes to the later philosophers
and enters our culture and our education, leaving a trail of theoretical
errors and serious ethical deformations. Let us think about the wrong
idea - imputed to Plato -, which entered in our Christian tradition, that
the spirit is good, the body, however, and especially sex is a moral evil.
The Agostinian doctrine which is assimilated by the overwhelming majority
of the Christian thinkers and that comes until our century says that concuspiscence,
or sexual desire, which we now call hots, is evil in itself, is the original
sin itself. And being a sin it is always something morally negative, something
that is a guilt, something we must be embarrassed about. This here is
a good concrete example of how an apparently small misunderstanding in
the beginning brings about a serious mistake in the end. When the Exoteric
Doctrine is taken as if it were the Esoteric Doctrine, when the negative
dialectics is taken as the legitimate Dialectics, the Dialectics of Great
Synthesis, then disasters of great intellectual and cultural dimensions
occur. Sexual desire then becomes a sin, the body is debased, man loses
the synthetic unity which is body and soul and becomes a completely ridiculous
entity. Man in this dialectics without synthesis turns into a caricature,
he turns into an angel riding a pig. This is what happens when one does
not make the necessary synthesis.
This is why we must study this first binomial of Platonic philosophy,
the world of ideas and the world of things, with attention, examining
it carefully on both sides. First as two opposite poles which apparently
exclude each other, then as two elements which unify, come together and
then become one more noble, higher unit. We men are not angels mounted
on pigs, nor centaurians, but men, a synthetic unit in which the originally
opposing poles, body and soul, disappear while they are opposites and
become a new perfect and finished reality.
2. The world of ideas and the world of things
The Sophists argued in favor of the two poles, indistinctively defending
one or the other equally, many times arguing in favor of both: argumentari
in utramque partem. Socrates, the last of the Sophists, teaches us that
this is not possible: Two contrary poles cannot be true simultaneously.
Socrates teaches us to ask and to find the answers, to discover the synthesis
between thesis and antithesis. This synthesis is not made up of the strength
of the stronger, as the Sophist Gorgias would say, but of the virtue.
What is virtue? Socrates said that he did not know and told us to converse.
This is still the main theme and Plato’s big problem. After all,
what is virtue? If it is not the brutal force of the stronger pole that
decides everything, then what does virtue consist of? The answer to this
question is the beginning of all Plato’s philosophy: Virtue is that
which should be. The world that does in fact exist, as it is in front
of our eyes, does not always coincide with that which should be. The Should-Be
is an ideal to be reached, the Should-Be is the Idea. In that way the
Platonic idea is born. The condemnation - unjust - of Socrates showed
Plato clearly that the World-Which-Really-Is does not always coincide
with the Ideal-World-Which-Should-Be.
The Sophists thought that virtue, the Should-Be, was something floating,
something relative, something that varied from situation to situation
and which did not have principles valid for all cases. Plato does not
accept this relativity. There are ethical principles which always have
the same value for everyone, and these principles are universally valid,
even before being adopted by political communities; they are general principles
of the order of the world. Plato elaborates a practical philosophy, Ethics
and Politics, based on the principles which man must adopt because they
are principles of order of all the cosmic universe. Plato’s Ethics
is based on an Ontology, a doctrine about Being in general, a doctrine
about the order of the universe.
How can we know that a determined rule is not just an invention of some
tyrannical governing power or, not that bad, a mere convention constructed
by mankind. Conventions, even when good and useful, are contingent; that
is, they can be such but they can equally be different. How shall we know
that a determined rule or principle is, more than a mere convention, an
unquestionable rule, a rule that cannot be denied, that cannot be changed
or transformed, that it is like that and must be like that, now and forever,
all over the world.
Is it possible to find and bring such fundamental principles about the
order of the Universe to light? Plato smiles and shows us that it is.
In the Menon Dialogue an illiterate slave is brought to the presence of
Socrates who was debating with friends about the existence or non-existence
of general principles of the being of the Universe and all knowledge.
Some doubted that it was possible to discover and elaborate such principles.
After all, where were such principles written? Where, in what book, in
what monument would they be written? Socrates, always the central figure
for Plato, answers: The first principles are written on the pith of the
being and therefore on the pith of our soul. Do you want to see? This
slave never studied anything, he does not know how to read or write, and
he never studied Geometry. If he never studied Geometry, he does not know
the Pitagoras theorem. Well, I am going to talk to him, I am going to
ask him questions - just questions -, and let him answer. And Socrates
then began to gently ask, drawing lines in the sand on the ground and
making the figures. And if I draw this line here, what happens? And what
if I add this one? And in that way, step by step, Socrates always just
asking, the slave was advancing, discovering the links and being able
to formulate the great theorem of Geometry. How is it that the slave was
able to do this? How did he know? Plato answers: He already knew, he had
always known, he only needed to remember what he already knew and had
just forgotten. This knowledge was inborn, it was in the slave’s
soul. And it was there because it is a principle that is in each being,
each thing, because it is a principle of the order of the Universe itself.
These principles of the order of the Universe, inborn in each thing, are
universally valid and always present. They organize the Universe from
inside out, they are what makes the things of the world be not an unordered
mass and chaos of events, but a well-ordered cosmic Universe.
The Idea, says Plato, for whom ontology of participation exists in the
core of each thing, is the principle of order that determines and commands
its development. In a duck’s egg it is this principle of order which
makes that egg develop into ducklings. From a hen’s egg, chicks
are always born. And that’s the way with all things. This founding
principle of all things, Plato calls form. Form determines what the thing
is and how it is going to develop.
All the ducks that exist have, all of them, the same form of the being
duck. The many chicks have the same chick-like form. Only one form, only
one basic design is made in various individuals. The Form is like that
of a drawing made by the designer; one thing is the project of the motor,
the basic design, another thing is the thousands of individual motors
that are made according to the project. We then have on one side the plurality
of individuals that exist in the world of things, and on the other side
the unity of Form.
3. The Myth of the Star
The Forms have always existed, they are the ruling forces which determine
the order of the cosmos. Before the cosmos existed, however, they already
existed and had value. It is also because of this that they have universal
validity. The ordered things of the cosmic universe came after. First,
before the things existed, before the things of our world had started
to exist, the Forms already existed. Is our cosmos not ruled and determined
by them? Then, they aready existed before. They make up a whole world
that consists only of forms. This world Plato calls the World of Ideas
and he locates it on a ficticious star. In this World of Ideas, which
has always existed on the star, separated from the World of Things, there
are also the individual souls of each man who will be born. The souls
see the Ideas face to face and therefore know the specific determinations
of each thing; they know everything of everything. When here on the World
of Things a man is born, his soul, which has always existed on the star
in the World of Ideas, is thrown into the prison of the body. This violent
dislocation makes the soul forget everything, or almost everything that
it had seen on the Star. But, when man develops and grows up, upon meeting
with the things of the world, on stumbling upon them, he remembers the
Idea that he saw on the Star during the preexistence of his soul and,
remembering, he knows. Knowledge is always a memory, an anámnesis,
knowledge consists in remembering the Universal Idea of one thing, and
then, facing that individual thing, in saying: Ah-ha, this is a man, this
is made in the form of a man; that is a duck, in that the form of a duck
is being made real. This explains why the ideas are always universal,
even though the things are always individual. Ideas are from another world.
And our language - strangest thing - says the individual things always
in a universal manner. Because the names, in language, represent forms
and the forms are always universal. Even though we are living in this
world of individual things, our language, the logos, has the character
of a universal idea.
We, therefore, have a wonderful explanation of the world. The things of
the world are what they are, they are determined that way and not any
other way, because they participate in the original Form that exists on
the Star, in the World of Ideas. This is the Ontology of Participation.
Like an individual motor participates in the designed project of an ideal
motor, in the same way things participate in a determined idea and that
is why they are like they are. On this Ontology, that is on this Doctrine
of the Being, Plato based his Theory of Knowledge. Knowledge is the act
by which the soul now remembers that which it had seen before, during
the preexistence on the Star, in the World of Ideas. Knowledge is correct
and science is universally valid, says Plato, because it is based on Ideas
which are the Forms of the Universe.
But, how do I know, when I stumble upon something, that I am really remembering
its Form? Are there no mistakes? Illusions? Of course they exist. That
is why the philosopher must converse, argue, question, and examine each
question, in order to be sure that what he found is exactly the Idea of
the thing. No more and no less. Plato then, always in the Myth for Beginners,
in his Exoteric Doctrine, asks: Is there an Idea for a thing? We know
there is an Idea for Man, he says in the Dialogue The Sophist, and also
the Idea of Good, of Justice. But, is it necessary to have an Idea of
Mud? Does mud, such a simple and low thing, need to have an idea of its
own? Plato leaves the question in the air. After all, such questions cannot
be answered in the scope of the Myth of the Star, such questions can only
be satisfactorily worked on in the Esoteric Doctrine with those who aready
know more than just the first principles.
4. The Myth of the Cave
We find in the sixth Book of the Republic the more important and more
well-known Myth of Plato, the Myth of the Cave. In no other image is Plato’s
Doctrine so well represented.
We imagine men who live in a cave. Since their birth they are prisoners
in there, chained by the feet and by the neck, in such a way that their
eyes are always looking to the back of the cave. They can only see this
wall in the back. Behind the prisoners, at their back in the entrance
to the cave, there is a wall approximately the height of a man. Behind
this wall walk men, this way and that, carrying on their shoulders figures
which they raise over the wall. Farther back, right at the entrance to
the cave, there is a bonfire. The bonfire gives light, the light illuminates
the scene and projects the shadow of the figures over the wall to the
back of the cave. The prisoners only see the shadow projected by the figures.
They also hear the echos of voices - the men who are carrying the figures
behind the wall - and think that this echo is the voice of the figures
themselves. What the prisoners sense is just this game of shadows and
echos. They have been chained there since birth and think that the world
is this and only this. The world is this, they say, just this.
Imagine now that one of the prisoners manages to free himself from his
chains. Going to the entrance he immediately sees the wall and realizes
that the shadows projected on the back of the cave are just this, shadows.
He also realizes that the figures are just figures. He jumps over the
wall and goes out; then he sees the men carrying the figures, hears the
voices, sees the bonfire, the entrance to the cave and outside the light.
When he leaves the cave and tries to look at the sun, he is blinded. He
lowers his eyes, lowers his head and puts himself together again. When
this man now returns to the cave, to free his companions, he k n o w s.
He knows that the shadows are just a sham. The real reality is the reality
of the light and the sun, the reality of things themselves in the sunlight.
All the rest are shadows, illusions. Man, when freed from the chains that
hold him prisoner, discovers himself free and clear, he sees then the
reality that is really real, he sees the lightened reality of the Ideas.
He will never again confuse reality with the shadow of the sham of reality.
He who has seen the light knows.
There we have all Plato. We have all of an Ontology of Participation,
a theory of Knowledge, and Ethics, Pedagogy, Politics. But then we mostly
have, always again, the Myth that puts the two opposite poles in their
counterposition, one strongly against the other, without taking us to
a truely synthetic position. After all, where is the unifying conciliation
between the World of Ideas and the World of Things? Between universal
Form and individual Thing? Between necessary Form and contingent Thing?
Plato, in the Myths of the Exoteric Doctrine, does not give us an answer.
The synthesis is always missing. This will only be presented and discussed
when the beginners are no longer beginners and become initiated. For the
initiated, for these, yes, there is an answer. Plato thought that this
doctrine, since it was so important and so difficult, could not be written.
That is why there is the dialogue - never written by Plato himself, but
the existence of which is very well documented - About the good, in which
the Esoteric Doctrine is exposed.
Before turning to Plato’s Unwritten Doctrine, however, we must see,
in order to contrast them well, Aristotle’s conception of the world.
Aristotle was Plato’s disciple for many years, but no one criticised
him so much, no one elaborated a philosophic project so different, no
one is so less platonic than he. After looking at Aristotle’s Philosophy
we will then return to Plato’s Esoteric Doctrine, the doctrine for
4. The Analysis of the World
1. The Passage from Dialectics to Analytics
Until Aristotle all Philosophy worked with the game of opposites. The
various pairs of opposites were the elements from which things were constructed.
Plato, in the dialogue The Sophist, says that Dialectics is the Philosophic
method itself. Whoever learns Dialectics and knows how to play the game
of opposites, Plato thinks, knows how to compose the great mosaic of the
meaning of life, knows how to make the explanation of the world, and has
the Great Synthesis. Aristotle, on outlining a panoramic synopsis of the
History of Philosophy from the Pre-Socratic philosophers up to his time
for his students and readers, always mentioned the game of opposites as
a methodical nucleus around which various opinions were structured. He,
himself though abandoned the game of opposites and went to a totally different
path: Analytics. Analytics, discovered and widely elaborated by Aristotle,
will constitute a method and a vision of the world which will influence
our western thinking in a decisive way.
All that we think and are in the western world comes from two sources,
Dialectics and Analytics. From Heraclitus and Plato we have the Dialectics
branch. From Parmenides and Aristotle we have the Analytic branch. Both
lines of thinking run through all History of Philosophy and our culture
and accompanies us until today. The platonic project goes from one hand
to another through Plotinus, Proclus, and in part, Saint Augustine in
the classic times; through Johannes Scotus Eriugena, through the Chartres
School and many other neoplatonic thinkers of the Middle Ages; through
Nicolaus Cusanus, Ficino, Giordano Bruno during the Renascence; through
Spinoza, Schelling, Hegel and Karl Marx in Modern times.
Lamarck, Charles Darwin and almost all the great contemporaneous biologists,
like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould; the physicists of today with
their theory of the Big Bang, with black holes like Stephen Hawking, all
of them are neoplatonic thinkers. They generally do not realize this,
they don’t know it but they are clearly platonic thinkers. The project
that they raise and upon which they develop their theories is the platonic
project of the Great Synthesis through Dialectics. The aristotelian project
of Analytics in the Middle Ages passes through Albertus Magnus, Thomas
Aquinas, Dun Scotus and William of Occam; in the Modern Times it passes
through Descartes, Leibnitz, Kant, Frege, Wittgenstein and through the
Analytic Philosophy of our times. In the continuation and later elaboration
of the Aristotelian project, under the guidance of the analytic method,
Logics, Mathematics and Physics prospered. In this analytic tradition
of Aristotle there are all the logicians and a large part of the physicists
of today. Galilei, Copernicus, Newton and Einstein are thinkers of the
analytic tradition. But, after all, what does Analytics have that is so
powerful and interesting that it produces so much fruit for such a long
time? What is Analytics?
All Analytics is based on two things, both discovered and elaborated by
Aristotle: The analysis of proposition and the syllogistic system of arguing.
A large part of our culture and our technology is based on this. On his
foundation of analytic logic Aristotle developed, as we will later see,
an Ontology, an Ethics and a Politics, a complete philosophic conception
of the world that is characterized by his extremely static character.
He is much closer to Parmenides than to Heraclitus.
2. Logic and Language
2.1. The analysis of the proposition
Man speaks in sentences that, in our languages, are always composed of
a subject and predicate. Socrates is fair is just such a sentence. This
is a complete and well-formed proposition; it is not a question, nor an
imperative or an invitation, but a statement. It says that something is
this and not that. Socrates is the logical subject of this proposition,
the predicate is is fair.
Socrates runs is also a well-formed proposition; there we clearly and
distinctly have the subject and the predicate. All men are mortal and
Some Brazilians are gauchos are also well-formed propositions; these last
two present the Aristotelian quantifiers All and Some. Propositions when
well-formed always have a subject and a predicate; in Logics and today’s
Mathematics we speak about argument and function. When this proposition
is not complete, when it is not well-formed, we can not understand it;
we do not know what the speaker wants to say, it is not possible to say
if the proposition is true or false. A fragmented, incomplete, badly formed
proposition has only a subject, no predicate: Socrates. Socrates what?
Say more! Say the rest! Without a predicate this proposition is not well-formed
and makes no sense. The same with the verb that is the predicate. If one
says only is fair, this makes no sense and soon one asks: Who are you
talking about? Who is it that is fair? What is the subject of the proposition?
This is the basic structure as it is analyzed by Aristotle. It is clear
that there are vocatives like Hi, Socrates, as well as propositions in
which the logical subject is not expressed but understood. This we call
the implied subject.
2.2.The affirmative proposition
Propositions can be either affirmative or negative. In the affirmative
proposition we take a determined subject, be it individual (Socrates),
particular (Some Brazilians) or universal (All Brazilians), and put it
into a bigger whole that is the predicate. Let us look at the graphics
drawn in the way of Euler, the mathematician:
Socrates is fair
The logical individual subject, Socrates, here in the example, is put
into a bigger whole that is the predicate is fair. The smaller set, which
represents the logical subject is contained within a larger set which
is the predicate.
All Brazilians are mortal
The logical subject All Brazilians is a smaller set that is contained
in the larger set which represents all that is mortal. All Brazilians
are mortal, but not all mortals are Brazilian. There are people of other
nationalities, as well as plants and animals that are also in this set
of mortal things. That is why the logical subject All Brazilians is completely
within the larger set of those that are mortals. - In the proposition
Some Brazilians are gauchos things get a little more complicated: Not
all Brazilians are gauchos, and not all gauchos are Brazilian, there are
also Uruguayan and Argentinean gauchos. Therefore the drawing is a little
Some Brazilians are gauchos
This is not the same as before, in which one set is completely contained
within another larger set. Here, the set expressed by some Brazilians
is partially contained by the set are gauchos, but at the same time it
is not completely in it. This is easy to see in the diagram. The two sets
enter into a partial overlapping.
2.3. The negative proposition
In the negative proposition the predicate does not have its own subject,
but opposes it. The subject is not within the predicate, the predicate
is not in the subject. One is outside the other.
Men are NOT gods
The set of the subject is on one side, the set of the predicate is on
the other, like in the game of opposites of the Dialectic. But here, in
Analytic Logic, one does not look for synthesis; here there is no conciliation,
here there is no movement. One pole excludes the other. That’s it.
The only ulterior differentiation that Aristotle does in his Analysis
is, as we see in the Logical Square, the distinction between opposites
that are contrary and opposites that are contradictory. This very important
distinction is going to be the battlefield on which analytic and dialectic
philosophers are going to fight for more than two thousand three hundred
2.4. The Logical Square
Medieval thinkers illustrated Aristotle laws of inference with the geometrical
figure of the square. The Logical Square was drawn later, but the basic
ideas and the laws that rule it were all - almost all - discovered by
Aristotle. Laws of inference are the logical rules that permit the logical
transit from one point to another in the Logical Square. Does one set
include the other? Or does it exclude it? Or is it neutral and then can
include it or not? Does the truth of a proposition given imply the falseness
of what opposes it? And what does the falseness imply?
There are various types of opposition. The opposition between A and O
and between E and I is called the opposition between contradictories.
The opposition between contradictories crosses through the middle of the
logical square. The opposition between A and E is called opposition between
contraries; both are universal propositions. One is positive and the other
is negative. The subcontrary opposition is what is between I and O, between
two particular propositions, one affirmative and the other negative. The
opposition between A and I, on the left side of the Logical Square, and
between E and O, on the right side, is called subaltern.
For each type of opposition there are different rules of inference. Aristotle
discovered and described all of them. From the truth of proposition A
can we conclude the falseness of proposition O that is its contradictory
opposite? Yes, always, answers Aristotle, the truth of A logically follows
the falseness of O. And the passage of A to E? And A to I? For each type
of opposition there are specific rules. Aristotle elaborated the rules
of the Logical Square by consequently applying the same method that he
used to analyze the internal structure of the proposition, that is, asking
if a proposition included or excluded the other. For any example we can
make the for propositions of the Logical Square and draw Euler’s
corresponding diagrams. The passage of A to I is easy. If it is true that
All men are mortal, then it is also true that Some men are mortal. The
larger set obviously includes the smaller set. The truth of A always implies
the truth of I. The passage of E to O is equally obvious. The whole always
contains its parts. The truth of E always implies the truth of O. The
reverse is not viable, because the truth of proposition I or O does not
say anything about the falseness of the corresponding A and E propositions.
It is true that Some men are bad, but this does not mean that All men
are bad. This also as well as other logical paths that follow the other
sides of the Logical Square or cross through it, we shall see later in
more detail when we return to discussing what Dialectics is, since it
is right here that Analytics and Dialectics clash.
The difference between the opposition of contraries and the opposition
of contradictories is simple enough to understand, but, as easy as it
may be, it is here that everyone stumbles. We stumble and fall, as we
know. Thales of Miletus was looking at the stars and distracted by fell
into a hole. And the Thracian slave laughed at him. The Thracian slave
continues laughing at the Analytics and Dialectics who in the twentieth
century continue stumbling and falling. The Thracian laughs because they
do not understand each other. Because they still do not know the difference
between contraries and contradictories. Because they do not know how to
put together the game of opposites.
Syllogism, the second great discovery made by Aristotle, consists of the
logical connection of two propositions which, articulated between them,
make a third proposition result from it. If the two initial propositions,
the premises, are true, then the proposition resulting from them, the
conclusion, will always and necessarily be also true. An example.
Premise no. 1 All men are mortal.
Premise no. 2 All Brazilians are men.
Conclusion Then, all Brazilians are mortal.
There is a connection between the first and the second proposition in
this logical construction. The subject of the first premise is the predicate
of the second premise: Men. This logical set, that is in both premises
and serves the first as a subject and the second as the predicate, does
not appear again in the proposition which is the conclusion. It is something
intermediary, a kind of common denominator which connects the subject
of the second premise with the predicate of the first and therefore serves
as a mediator so that the proposition which will be the conclusion can
appear. This is called Middle Term. The traditional diagram illustrates
well what we mean. M is the middle term:
M - P
S - M
S - P
In the first premise, the Middle Term is the subject of the proposition;
in the second it is the predicate. In the conclusion, that which was the
subject of the second premise appears as the subject of the predication,
and as the predicate of the predication is what was the predicate of the
first proposition. Euler’s diagram intuitively shows this logical
link of inclusion better than words. One can see there that syllogism
is just an ulterior elaboration of the inclusion/exclusion method that
we have already seen in the structure of the proposition.
We can clearly see what the Middle Term is and how it works. Between
the subject and the predicate of the conclusion a mediation is made so
that the larger set includes a smaller set, which in turn includes an
even smaller set.
It is on this basic model that Aristotle develops his doctrine about syllogism
and calculates exactly which syllogistic forms are logically valid and
which are not. This syllogistic system was so well constructed by Aristotle
that this first elaboration became the final one. The Aristotelian doctrine
about syllogism continues valid of course, and even today makes up the
backbone of all Logic. Only with Frege is Logic going to have a new impulse,
a new fundamentation and an expansion.
According to the Middle Term position, there are four basic forms of syllogism:
1 2 3 4
M - P P - M P - M M - S
S - M M - S S - M M - P
______ ______ ______ ______
S - P S - P S - P S - P
The syllogisms in the ancient times and in the Middle Ages, received
names; it is clear that the names meant something important. The first
syllogism of the first figure is called Barbara. The three A’s of
this name - Barbara has the letter A repeated three times - indicates
that both the premises and also the conclusion are A propositions in the
Logical Square, that is universal affirmative propositions. The second
syllogism is called Darii. The first premise then is A, a universal affirmative
proposition; the second premise and the conclusion are I, particular affirmative
propositions. The third syllogism is Ferio. The larger premise then is
an E proposition, universally negative; a smaller proposition is I, a
particular affirmative proposition, and the conclusion is O, a particular
negative proposition. The names of the syllogisms are the following. First
Figure: Barbara, Darii, Ferio. Second Figure: Cesare, Camestres, Festino,
Baroco. Third Figure: Derapti, Felapton, Disamis, Datisi, Bocardo, Ferison.
Fourth Figure: Bamalip, Calemes, Dimatis, Fesapo, Fresison.
For the mere combination of letters there would be a much larger number
of syllogisms. But only the above mentioned syllogisms are logically valid,
that is, only these always work so that from the truth of the premises
comes the truth of the conclusion. All the other combinations are invalid.
Por example, a syllogism with the A - I - A sequence in the first figure
is invalid. The Barbara syllogism, A - A - A, and the Darii, A - I - I
are valid; an A - I - A syllogism is not valid. Why not? How does one
know? When one tries to make Euler’s diagram of an invalid syllogism,
the diagram does not work. It is impossible to draw such a diagram, since
the sequence of continent and content becomes subverted. The diagram simply
does not form. Or better, upon forming, one sees right away that it does
not work. We will take as an example an A - I - A syllogism that in the
first figure is not valid:
All Brazilians speak Portuguese
Some Gauchos are Brazilian
Therefore, all Gauchos speak Portuguese
The larger premise is true, the smaller one is also. But the conclusion
is false, because some Gauchos, the Uruguayan and Argentinean Gauchos,
do not speak Portuguese. Where is the mistake? In the incorrect logic
Form, as we see in the corresponding Euler diagram:
The set of all Gauchos is only partially inside the set of all Brazilians.
The correct conclusion would be an I proposition (Some Gauchos speak Portuguese)
and not a universal proposition A (All the Gauchos speak Portuguese).
Classic thinkers for this reason created various rules for construction
of syllogisms. The most important of them says: the conclusion always
follows the worst part. That is, if there is a negative or particular
proposition in the premises, the conclusion should also be negative or
particular. In the above example, the second premise is particular and
for this reason the conclusion should also be particular. To make a universal
conclusion then, having a particular premise, is incorrect. That is why
the conclusion does not conclude anything and is wrong: There are Gauchos
who do not speak Portuguese.
2.6 The Non-Contradiction Principle
Aristotle’s central ideas, which are the doctrine about predication
and the system of syllogisms, take us to a position radically contrary
to the Dialectic of Plato and the game of opposites of the Pre-Socratic
Philosophers. According to him, the game of thesis, antithesis and synthesis
simply does not work. For Aristotle, to affirm the truth of the thesis
and at the same time the truth of the synthesis is pure foolishness. Everyone
who affirms one thing, and at the same time and under the same aspect
affirms the contrary, is saying foolishness. Dialectic in Aristotle changes
its meaning; it is no longer a correct and very important procedure, like
in Plato, but that foolishness which the Sophists did. This is the highly
pejorative sense of the word Sophist. Because everyone who says something
and at the same time says the opposite is not saying anything, he is being
And then what happens to the old master Plato and his Dialectics? If Dialectics
is foolishness, is Plato just a fool? Aristotle does not say this, Aristotle
changes the subject. It is obvious that he does not frontally attack his
old and respected master, Plato. But a meditated reading of the book Gamma
of Metaphysics shows us how Aristotle gets more and more distant from
Plato and the game of opposites. Nothing of playing around with thesis
and antithesis. Nothing comes from this. Nothing rational results from
this. If one of them is true, the other simply is false, or vice versa.
To try and follow the thesis and antithesis at the same time is pure foolishness.
This is Aristotle’s main and toughest objection to Plato, this is
the Analytic Philosophers’ objection to the Dialectic Philosophers.
It was like that in the classic times and continues like that today. This
is the main theme of this book. Is Dialectic a foolish thing?
Against Plato and against Dialects Aristotle raises and formulates the
Principle of Non-Contradiction. The Principle says the following: It is
impossible to predicate and not predicate the same predicate of the same
subject under the same aspect at the same time. One who states and at
the same time and with the same aspect unstates what he said, is not saying
anything. He is talking foolishness. The rose cannot be at the same time
and under the same aspect red as well as green, that is, not red. It can
happen that the rose is green and then becomes red, this can be, because
it is happens at different times. It can also be that the rose is red
and green at the same time. But then there are different aspects. The
rose petals are red and the stem is green. They are two different aspects.
But they cannot exist under the same aspect, that is impossible. We have
here, again, old Parmenides’ main thesis: The Being is, the Non-Being
is not. Aristotle deals with this subject in a more subtle way through
the introduction of the aspects of being. But once again, the rule is
valid: That what is cannot under the same aspect not be. And that is why
one cannot, under the same aspect, affirm and negate a predicate of the
same subject. Parmenides’ main idea, farther differentiated in Aristotle,
dominates the philosophic thinking again, excluding Heraclitus’s
All Flows. The static character of Aristotle’s Philosophy begins
to appear. Parmenides’s sphere shines again.
Aristotle and, even more clearly, the Aristotelian philosophers of the
Middle Ages, added to the Principle of Non-Contradiction a practical rule
of the art of thinking and debating correctly. The Principle of Non-Contradiction
is always valid. Right. But if, in practice, we have two propositions
with the same subject but opposite predicates, and both appear right,
what do we do? In these cases there is a rule of procedure: Make the necessary
distinctions. Let Socrates is less than 1.50 meters tall be one proposition,
and Socrates is more than 1.50 meters tall the other. Here we have two
propositions with the same subject, Socrates, whose predicates say opposite
and excluding things. But we have good reasons for defending either one
or the other. What do we do? Should we here defend the Dialectics? No
way. In such cases Analytics tells us to make the necessary distinctions
in the logical subject of the predicate.
Logical main subject Socrates
Aspects added to the main
subject 1. insofar as he is sitting, is less than 1.50
2. insofar as he is standing, is more than 1.5 meters
The opposite predicates, after making the necessary distinctions, are
attributed to the same subject, Socrates, but under different aspects
(while sitting, while standing). Even though the person, Socrates, is
the same, Socrates while he is standing has an attribute that Socrates
sitting cannot have. This is perfectly acceptable. Then we create a double
subject. The first, Socrates, is the logical initial subject. With the
introduction of ulterior logical aspects (while sitting and while standing)
one creates an enlargement and reduplication of the subject. The logical
subject, which was one and simple, because of the reduplication becomes
a double subject which then allows us to conciliate the initially excluding
predicates. From this comes a practical rule of procedure: When there
are predications with two opposite predicates and the same subject, and
if it is true that one does not exclude the other, then we must carefully
verify until we can find two logical aspects in this single subject that
allow us to predicate opposites without offending the Principle of Non-Contradiction.
In practice, however, if there are two opposite predicates either one
eliminates the other or it must be a logical subject that contains two
different aspects. Nothing of Dialectics, nothing of the game of opposites.
Either one opposite eliminates the other, or there is one subject with
two different aspects. This is Aristotle, this is Analytics.
3.1 Substance - essence and accident
Metaphysics was the name given by Andronicus of Rhodes, who organized
Aristotle’s works, to the Books that come after Physics. From the
etymology, then, there is nothing spectacular nor profound in this word.
The word meta ta physica, which meant nothing important, took the meaning
of the nucleus of a whole philosophic vision of the universe. It is in
these books, that come after Physics, that Aristotle sketches the rough
draft of his explanation of the world. In the same way that language obeys
the laws of grammar, which is Logic, the cosmic universe, the world of
things, does the same, also obeying a grammar, and that is why it is perfectly
ordered. On one hand we have language with its clear and exact laws -
see the rules about the proposition and system of syllogisms -, on the
other hand we have the cosmos also ordered by laws. Aristotle’s
great thesis is that the same grammar that is the grammar of language
is also the grammar of the world. The same laws that rule the articulation
of logical speech also rule the course and relationship of things. The
great laws of Logic are also the great laws of Ontology. The things have
the same structure that a well formed proposition has, says Aristotle.
In the proposition we have the subject and the predicate. The logical
subject, sub-jectum, hypokeimenon, that which is subjacent to the predicated
proposition, is indispensable to the proposition; without it one does
not know what one is talking about. In the same way there must be a hard
subjacent nucleus in the things. The logical subject of language, support
of the predicative articulation, corresponds to the substance, that which
is under the things themselves, supporting them, the sub-stance. The logical
substract, the sub-jectum, corresponds to the sub-stance. Things, in their
fundament, in their hard core, are first of all substances, ousia in Greek.
On top of this hard nucleus, which is the subjacent substance, there can
be other determinations. These are called accidents. They happen to things,
or better, sometimes they happen, sometimes they don’t. These ulterior
determinations are non-necessary determinations, that is why they are
called accidental, which exist over the substract of the substance which
supports it from underneath. What is substance? What is accidental?
In the logical structure there are certain predicates that are necessarily
required by the subject, there are others that are allowed. In this way,
the logical subject triangle always requires the predicate has three sides
and three angles. The link between this subject and this predicate is
necessary. It is not possible to think or speak triangle without the characteristics
of having three sides and three angles. These necessary predicates correspond
to the essence of things. The logical structure corresponds to the ontological
structure. According to Aristotle, essence is the substance determined
by its necessary characteristics. The allowed predicates, the non-necessary
predicates of things correspond to the accidents. Accidental is a characteristic
that a substance can equally have or not have. A triangle can be blue
or red. The color is accidental. It is a logical predicate and an ontological
characteristic which is not necessary.
The mutations which occur in nature at times affect the substance itself.
The living thing is born and then dies. Birth and death are transformations
that affect the substance itself of the thing. Aristotle, with his own
terminology, speaks of generation and corruption. There are many other
mutations that are merely accidental. The animal that is now awake is
also the same that later is sleeping. Be-Awake and Be-Sleeping designate
accidents, that is non-substantial relationships. The color of the geometric
figures is always something accidental.
3.2 Substance - form and matter
The essence of things is different from the accidents. The essence is
necessary for the thing to be what it is, accidents are not necessary.
Okay up to here. But, does that mean that substance and essence are the
same thing? Is substance, which is under the accidents and gives them
support, the same as the necessary essence for the Being-this-way of the
thing? Aristotle says no. Substance contains within itself two constitutive
elements; one of them is the essence that works as form, the other is
the matter. There is here, in the heart of Aristotle’s Ontology,
a conceptual articulation that sends us back to Plato’s Theory of
Forms. Aristotle, Plato’s disciple, completely abandoned the dialectic
method of his teacher, but he did not abandon the Theory of Forms. Here
it is, back again.
Substance is made up of form and matter. Form is the determining factor
that gives outline and determination; matter is that in which form is
realized. Aristotle, in this context, explains the four causes. Each thing
always has four causes. The efficient cause and the final cause are the
external parts of each thing, the formal cause and the material cause
are the internal parts. Let’s take a statue made in honor of Apollo.
The sculptor is the efficient cause; the honoring of Apollo, the reason
for which the statue was made, is the final cause. Both are outside the
statue itself. The marble is the material cause, the form of Apollo is
the formal cause of the statue. Form and matter are elements that enter
into the composition of the statue of Apollo, they are within it. The
statue is the form while realized in matter. Without form, the matter
is something undetermined; the unshaped marble is not yet the statue of
Apollo. The pure form, without matter is just an idea in the head of the
sculptor and of mankind. An idea? Exactly, now we are back to the Theory
of Ideas, Plato’s Theory of Forms. The idea of Apollo is the formal
cause, the ideal form, that upon being sculptured in marble will acquires
materiality and becomes a statue of Apollo. Form and matter together,
the form of Apollo plus the marble, as a whole, make up the substance.
Almost all substance is made up of form and matter. And what about the
accidents? Accidental in the statue is the fact that it is marble, of
being this or that color; remember that the Greeks used to paint the statues
which we today admire in the museums only with the natural color of marble.
Let us review. The being, or as you may, the concrete thing to which we
point is something made up of substance and accident. Accident is that
which is not necessary, it is that which just happens. Substance is the
being subjacent to what happens. Water, which at times is liquid, at times
evaporates and becomes gas, at times becomes solid as ice, the water is
a substance. The liquid, solid and gaseous states are accidents of the
water. Substance, on the other hand, is made up of essence and material.
Essence is the formal reason that determines that the Water-Being as water.
Matter is that matter from which and within which form becomes a concrete
determination. But, what is matter after all? Matter is the undetermined,
the emptiness, Aristotle is going to say. Matter itself and from itself
has no determination, it is shapeless, inert, it is the mere passive possibility
that something can be done on it and from it. Matter is something unsayable.
All comes to it from form which is the principle that molds it, determines
it and gives it shape and outline. Within substance the essence is the
formal cause; the matter, the pure potentiality, is the material cause.
It is there in this hard nucleus of his Metaphysics that Aristotle continues
being a neoplatonic philosopher. It is also there that the Aristotelian
theory about the genesis and the structure of knowledge, the Metaphysics
of Knowledge, takes root.
3.3 Metaphysics of knowledge
The things in this concrete world in which we live act upon our senses
and, starting from the sensations that we perceive, elaborate a sensitive
image that within us shows us how something is. This sensitive image however
is something mixed with the body, it is something corporeal, something
determined by space and time, something susceptible to production and
corruption. The image given by the senses changes as the things present
themselves or do not present themselves. The image elaborated by the imagination,
an internal sense, is something more independent, something more interior.
The image of the imagination, a more elaborate product of the knowledge
process, represents the things even when they are absent, therefore, when
they are not anymore acting upon the external senses. The imagination
is a powerful internal sense. Everything passes through it. But it is
only sensitive, it is not an intellection. The imagination represents
things, re-presents them, makes them present again even when they are
absent, like a signal that, being a signal, remits to a real thing that
is not itself. The image produced and elaborated by the external and internal
senses is always just a sensitive signal. But how do we arrive at the
intellection, the concept? If the sensitivity is still corporeal, contaminated
by space and time, how do we pass from it to a universal concept out of
space and time?
Things are individual, they are extense, spacial and temporal. Concept
is universal, unextense, out of time and space. How can individual, extense,
space-temporal contingent things that act on our senses produce universal,
unextense, concepts necessary in their nexuses. How does one pass from
the world of things to the world of ideas?
Things cannot, on their own, make this change, teaches Aristotle. He who
produces the concepts is the intellect itself while actively function,
while active intelect. There is in man, in all men, a powerful active
intellect. This nous bows itself to the image produced by the external
and internal senses and brightens it with its light. Under the light of
the active intellect, Aristotle says, then the Form that was within the
sensitive image and of course also within the thing itself shines. This
is again Plato’s Theory of Ideas now in the hard nucleus of Aristotle’s
Metaphysics of Knowledge. In his heart, Aristotle is still Plato’s
disciple. The conceptual nucleus of the Myth of the Cavern appears again
here more soberly, more prosaically, with less images. Here is the Platonic
idea again. The Form that gives shape and outline to something - as a
vital principle within each thing - is the same Form that is implicit
in the sensitive image reproduced by the senses. Only under the light
of the active intellect does this Form acquire visibility and become transparent
to itself again. Form is extense, space-temporal and contingent in the
thing; this is its material way of existence. Under the light of the active
intellect Form stands out from the matter which individualizes and holds
it and returns to being pure Form, Form without matter, necessary, unextense,
out of space and time form, intelligible form. The triangles, which exist
in the material world of things are contingent, they are space-temporal,
they have various sizes, they are colorful. But the concept of a triangle
is necessary in its nexusses, it is unextense and abstract; it is no longer
space-time related, allowing us to think about it in different sizes.
Form, pulsing in the heart of things, when it penetrates our senses under
the light of the active intellect, transforms itself and acquires its
real characteristics. Forms are ideas, they are necessary, unextense,
out of time and space. The triangle, the Form of the triangle, is eternal
and forever valid, throughout time and everywhere. It is this eternal
Form that comes from the light when our active intellect acts. Then we
see the universal and eternal forms of the individual and contingent things.
Form, when it was in matter, was just a potentiality. It could be thought
of, it could be transparent to itself. It could be, but it really was
not. This Could-Be, Aristotle called potentiality. Form, in the individual
things that exist in our sublunar world, are infected with materiality.
That is why they are not transparent to themselves. A table does not know
that it is a table, a cat does not have the concept of a cat. But, when
it is thought of by man through the light of the active intellect, the
Form frees itself from the matter and returns to itself; it becomes transparent,
intelligible, and one knows how it really is, as a universal with its
necessary nexusses, out of space and time. In the inanimate things and
the animals of our sublunar world the Form exists only in its potentiality,
it is just sleeping. Through the light of the active intellect the Form
is actualized; it goes back to be in act again, it goes back to being
the actuality of itself, it becomes transparent and aware of itself. Act
and Potentiality, the Being and the Can-Be are here interwoven. The active
intellect is the Act that actualizes the Form that was sleeping in its
potentiality within the thing itself and within the image produced by
Aristotle developed more technical concepts, but we note that he continued
thinking and defending Plato’s Theory of Forms. But, Aristotle said
that the Forms are inside the things, Plato had said that the Forms exist
in the Stars, in a separate world. This would be the great difference
between Aristotle and Plato. Foolish thing. Who does not yet realize that
the Star is just a mythological form used by Plato to say the same thing?
Aristotle and Plato had various differences between them. But not here.
4. Ethics and Politics
The descriptive propositions say just how things really are. This table
has a broken leg is a descriptive proposition. But the table should not
be like that, the leg should not be broken. This Should-Be, in the case
of the table with the broken leg, is something merely functional. For
this table to work well as a table it is necessary that it be firmly set,
which means that the leg can not be broken. In the world of useful things
the Should -Be is determined by functionality.
In the relationships of people with other people, what is the criteria
of Should-Be? What s h o u l d my relationship b e with other men? There,
says Aristotle, we enter into a completely new territory. Until now we
were moving around the land of the theoretical reason, workimg with the
propositions that are either necessary or contingent, which say what necessarily
is or what in fact is like this and not like that. Now we enter a new
territory, the territory of Ethics, that is, the Should-Be.
Things have nexuses that are substantial and necessary. They have others
nexuses that are merely accidents, that can happen or not happen. This
is the extent of contingency: one thing can be like that, but it can also
be different. It is within this range of contingency, full of alternatives,
that Aristotle places Ethics, the empire of the Should-Be. There are situations
in which a man, face to face with another man, can act one way or another.
Sometimes there are dozens of ways to act. Well, this is the rein of the
Should-Be. Man, upon interacting freely with other people, has various
alternatives to choose from, and s h o u l d choose of his own free will
that alternative which is Ethical.
What is Ethics? What act is ethical? That act - Aristotle teaches us -
which is done according to virtue. But what is virtue? Plato has already
discussed this to extent. Virtue is a habit, virtue comes from far, virtue
comes from local tradition. To be virtuous is to obey the rules of the
land where we are. - Is virtue then, pure conservatism? Tradition is most
important, according to Aristotle, but is not the deciding factor. The
deciding factor of ethics, the last criteria, is straight reason, straight
logos, orthos logos. A straight line, in geometry, is the shortest way
between two points. In architecture it is the lineament that one draws
and gets by stretching a rope. Following the line, in construction, we
get the architectural lines of floors, walls and ceilings. Orthos is the
logos, straight is the reason that obeys the grammar of the practical
logos. Here Aristotle introduces the idea of practical reason as something
different from and opposed to theoretical reason. Practical reason, Ethics
and Politics, do not obey the same rules as theoretical reason. The rules
of practical reason are more flexible, they are less exact. They are a
different kind of logos.
How then, when in doubt, does one find the straight reason? A good practical
criterium, Aristotle says, is to stay in the middle. The golden rule,
as it will be called in tradition, says that we should not opt for extremes,
which are ethically wrong, but we should stay in the middle. Cowardliness
and recklessness are extreme poles which are both ethically wrong. Virtue
is in the middle. Virtue is in the courage that is in the middle between
cowardliness and recklessness. If there is a fight, one should leave,
not so slowly as to look audacious, nor so quickly as to look cowardly.
Those who live by practicing middle of the road actions will be happy.
Happiness, eudaimonia, is the crowning of a virtuous life. Aristotle knows
very well that the rule of the middle road, of mesotes, is just an auxiliary
rule. The philosophic criteria if the Should-Be consists in the straight
Anticipated here in Aristotle’s Ethics, is the dichotomy between
theoretical reason and practical reason which we will find again in the
medieval classics, in Kant and almost all the other contemporary Ethics.
The rein of theoretical reason does not coincide with the rein of practical
reason. The principles of the first do not coincide with the principles
of the second. The grammar of theoretical reason is not the same as the
grammar of practical reason. This mistake - I consider this to be a great
mistake -, that is found neither in Plato nor in the neoplatonic philosophers,
caused and will continue to cause big problems. To separate two opposite
poles without making the slightest attempt at conciliating them at a higher
level is something typical of Analytics. In these situations Dialectics,
the game of opposites, orders us to continue the search for a synthesis,
a conciliation between theoretical reason and practical reason. Both reasons
overlap, therefore there must be some principles common to both. But Aristotle
does not look for this, this in Analytics by the inertia of reasoning
is neglected. For Dialectics the great question continues to be, even
after Aristotle and Kant: How do these reasons overlap? What principles
are common to both?
Men live with each other, men need each other. Only the beasts do not
need anyone and live alone. That is why men organize themselves in States.
The man who lives within the structure of a State is a citizen. The main
virtue of a citizen is justice. Justice is the straight reason that says
how the many men, equal among themselves as citizens of the same State,
should treat each other. Equal to equal. That is why a fair law is that
which is the same for all. If it is not the same for all it is not a law,
but a privilege (privi-legio, private law), they said in the Middle Ages.
- That Aristotle, in this context, has forgotten that the slaves, which
existed in his time, could not be slaves, shows us how even the greatest
among the great thinkers could have periods of blindness. There are various
forms of governing the State, but all of them should strive for the common
good, the well-being of all citizens. Even when there is only one head
of government - Monarchy -, he governs in the name of common good and
for the common good of all citizens. This is why a king, even being an
individual, must speak in the plural. When he speaks, all the citizens
are speaking, when he decides, all are deciding. The same happens when
a few govern - Aristocracy -, or when the public assemblies govern - Polity
-. When the governing power loses the view of common good and governs
for the good of some, contrary to the good of others, then the government
degenerates. When the government of one degenerates, despotism comes into
being. When the government of a few degenerates, there is an oligarchy.
When the government of many meeting in assembly degenerates, there is
democracy. In Aristotle democracy, as we can see, has a strong pejorative
meaning. What we call democracy today - the only ethical way to govern
and be governed - Aristotle called Polity. But Aristotle did not realize
that this was the only ethical way to structure the State. We only discovered
this in Modern Times.
5. The analytical conception of the world
Aristotle, an excellent observer of things, already knew that the planet
on which we live is round. In the treaty On the Heavens, he wrote that
the eclipses of the moon are caused by the position of the earth. Earth
in its movement puts itself between the sun and the moon, causing in this
way the eclipse. Since the shadow which the sun projects on the moon is
always round, we must conclude that the earth is round. If the earth were
flat, like the majority of the thinkers of that time imagined, the shadow
of the earth projected on the moon could not be round.
But Aristotle, following the opinion of his time, thought that the earth
was fixed, that the earth was an immovable point in the center of the
universe. The sun, moon, planets and stars turn in circles around one
central point that is the earth. This idea is later elaborated by Ptolomy
who in the 2nd century described the universe by perfecting the Aristotelian
cosmological model. The fixed sun, moon, planets and stars turn in eight
orbits around the earth. The fixed stars are the highest and last sphere.
Next come the orbits of, in order, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus,
Mercury and the Moon. The moon makes up the first sphere, the lowest one,
that is nearest the Earth. From the moon down we have the sublunar world,
that is the world in which we live. In the world above the lunar orbit
there is no individual movement, the only movement is the turning of the
spheres themselves. That is why the stars are fixed. The stars, the planets,
the sun and the moon make up a world that moves itself, yes, in its eternal
and immutable orbit, but there is neither generation nor corruption in
it, there are no transformations nor accidental movements. There is no
chance nor contingency in it. In the world of the stars everything happens
in absolutely regular cycles, day, night, lunar month, seasons of the
year. This immutable world in which the only sound is the music of the
celestial spheres is almost as static as Parmenides’ sphere.
In the sublunar world however, the Forms are mixed with matter. In this
concrete world of ours the Forms, upon entering into substantial composition
with matter, become extense, space-temporal, they are delivered to the
process of generation and corruption. Plants, animals, and men are born,
live and perish. This space of movement, full of chances and contingencies
- space in which the freedom of choice of man is permitted -, is not a
complete chaos because it is ordered by the Forms. The Forms, principles
of order and determination, are eternal. Man is man because he has the
Form of the Man-Being. A dog is a dog because it has the Dog-form, and
so on with cats, fish, plants and everything else. In our sublunar world
all that stays, all that remains, all that is stable is like that because
the eternal Forms give them stability. Everything else is accidental,
it appears and disappears, comes and then goes. In this mesh of accidental
events the individual man, as well as the men united in Polis, many times
has more than one alternative way to act. It is there, in this space opened
by contingency, that the free choice, the freewill is processed. If man
chooses the correct alternative, his act is ethically good. If not, it
is bad. But even in this sublunar world of ours there are necessary nexuses,
and that is why it is possible to have a science that knows these necessary
nexuses. Not only the necessary nexuses existing inside the things, but
also the theoretical science about these necessary nexuses are based on
the Theory of Forms and are explained from there. Until Copernicus, in
the XVI century, Aristotle’s geocentric model was accepted and used
by all as the explanation of the cosmic universe. In 1514 Copernicus proposed
a more complex but much more exact model: The sun is the center of the
system, around which the planets, including Earth, turn. Copernicus’
model explained something which the geocentric theory could not explain,
the reason why at times the planets turn in the opposite direction. The
geocentric theory, defended for so many centuries, then entered into a
collapse and was abandoned because it could not explain a phenomenon observed
by all those who studied the starry sky. Copernicus’ heliocentric
model, later elaborated on by Kepler and Galilei, is a theory that explains
well all that happens, including apparently strange movements of some
planets, and which permits exact predictions. Only much later, in 1687,
is Newton going to explain through some very simple principles how this
whole universe functions: through the Law of Gravity. With Newton the
analytic thinking begun by Aristotle and the Greek geometrists, passing
through Copernicus, Kepler, and Galilei conducts us to Modern Times, to
the Physics and Cosmology of today, to Hubble and Einstein.
Aristotle’s conception of world is also the conception of the world
of the great Medieval thinkers. Except that these, following the biblical
tradition of Christianity, do not consider the universe as something eternal,
like Aristotle, but as a creation made by God. In the beginning there
is God, the All Powerful, that is the beginning and end of everything.
God created the beings. The beings created are God’s creatures.
The whole universe, Earth, sun, moon and stars are creatures of God. God
created the stars - and here the Aristotelian model is incorporated -
as something fixed, as something that moves in perfectly regular orbits.
Guaranteeing the place of God the Creator, the Aristotelian thinkers of
the Christian Middle Ages defended almost everything of the Aristotelian
model. When Copernicus and Galilei brought up the heliocentric model,
the catholic thinkers were strongly against it. Galilee was condemned
by the Catholic Church for subverting the celestial order. But almost
no one realizes that both models deep down have the same Aristotelian
structure, the static conception of Aristotle’s world and of the
Analytic Method. Even Newton and Einstein himself are still Aristotelian
thinkers and use the analytic method, without realizing that there is
another important and rich model that has an enormous explanatory strength,
the platonic model of the Explanation of the World. Until now a large
number of philosophers and physicists still think of the universe as a
great clock in the Aristotelian and Analytic way. Those who believe in
God say that there was, in the very beginning, the Great Architect or
the Great Watchmaker who planned and executed everything down to the smallest
details. The others, with no God, those called Atheists, say that there
is no need for any architect, that everything is the work of some great
laws - still not totally discovered - that determine everything, that
rule everything, that explain everything, down to the last iota. Einstein,
we know, searched tirelessly until his death for what he called the formula
of the world. A simple formula, like that of energy, in which and by which
everything, all the universe, could be explained.
Contemporary physicists, especially from Heisenberg on, took chance and
contingency more seriously. Einstein on this point kept the old way of
thinking; he thought that there was no chance in Nature. There is no chance
at all in the processes of nature, he thought. What there is, is that
many times we still do not know the laws that rule certain events. Then
we speak of chance. We should not speak of chance; there is in reality
no chance but just a deficit of knowledge. When we research more, we discover
laws that rule the apparently casual event and what seemed to be chance
disappears and is shown as a process ruled by totally determined laws.
This, in the existing discussion, was transposed into a religious image.
It was asked if God threw dice, if God used chance as an instrument of
his creating act. The question here is not religious, one does not want
to know if God exists or not, but if chance exists or not in nature. Einstein
thought that there was no chance in nature. Einstein thought that God
did not throw dice. I think that Einstein was wrong, and Heisenberg was
right. God throws dice. In the discussion of the XX century, we do not
ask any more if a God the Creator threw dice or not, but if there is contingency
or chance in Nature. Does Nature throw dice? Einstein and many others
say no, Heisenberg and many others say yes. I think that yes, there is
contingency and chance in the course of things. I think that if there
were not this contingency, there would not be space for free decisions,
for free will, for moral responsibility, for justice, for political democracy,
for historicity. I think that these things are interwoven. He who does
not accept chance and contingency there in the core of Logic and Ontology,
cannot, later speak of liberty, free will, democracy and true historicity.
This, in my opinion, is one of the neuralgical points of Philosophy in
the last one hundred and fifty years. After the collapse of Spinoza’s
system and of the German Idealism, after the collapse of Hegel’s
theoretical system and Karl Marx and Lenin’s practical-political
system, what was there to do? What was wrong? Nietzsche, Heidegger, the
second Wittgenstein, Popper are going to tell us: Historicity, contingency,
chance were missing. The Philosophy System had to admit that within the
things and relationships between things there is contingency and chance.
That is why so much emphasis was given to the concrete existence of the
individual (Kierkegaard, Sartre), the horizons of time (Heidegger, Gadamer),
the multiple games of language (Wittgenstein, Analytic Philosophy). This
emphasis is right. God, that is, Nature does throw dice. This, by the
way, Plato already knew. This is the central point of Plato’s Unwritten
Doctrine. This is the important element of that which is called the Explanation
of the World in our tradition.
5. The Explanation of the World
1. To explain is to unfold
Plica in Latin means fold. Ex-plicare means unfold, or open the folds.
Explanation, that is to explain something, means to reproduce thoughtfully
in the mind or in a speech the unfolding of a determined thing. The thing
itself comes to be through an unfolding procedure. The great leafy tree
is born from a small seed. Many animals are born from an egg. There, inside
the egg, is everything; all that will result is preprogrammed there in
its basic design. It is from inside the egg that everything will develop
and un-fold. Like a Japanese origami, those folding and unfolding toys,
everything is folded up inside, inside that initial egg. It is only then,
upon opening, that the folds, folds, and more folds appear until the real
figure is formed. That is the way, exactly in that way, that the neoplatonic
philosophers think the universe. It is all inside the initial egg of the
universe. Everything is inside. From there everything will unfold. Fold
by fold, plica by plica. To give an explanation of things means to mentally
reconstruct this process of unfolding. A great, complete explanation requires
us to have do the unfolding process from the first beginning, from the
initial egg. This is an explicatio ab ovo, an explanation from the initial
egg. This is Philosophy.
There are things in the universe that have this structure, this no one
doubts anymore today. Greek biology already knew the phenomenon of development
from an egg, present day Biology only amplified and deepened this knowledge.
Present day Biologists think of the world of living things as a great
evolution process in which everything develops from a first extremely
simple structured living being. In the beginning there is something like
an egg, a first live cell. This cell has a center, a nucleus. This nucleus,
which is alone in the beginning, unfolds into two in the evolution process.
Then the same cell has two nuclei. Then comes the dividing wall, the initial
cell unfolds into two, each nucleus staying in its own cell. From the
original cell two cells then developed. Now we no longer have one, but
two cells. These two cells also later develop through bipolar duplication
of their nuclei and turn into four. And so on and so on, making the cellular
tissue. Present day biologists have no doubt about this process of development
starting from the first living being.
Rediscovered and reformulated in modern times by Lamarck and Darwin, the
Theory of Evolution, now accepted and defended by all, is scientifically
proven. It is just that the Biologists do not realize that this is all
Neoplatonic Philosophy. The Neoplatonics said exactly this; except that
they did not speak only of the evolution of living beings, they spoke
of all the universe. The Neoplatonic Philosophers taught that everything
began in an initial egg and that from there, by unfolding, everything
originated. In the beginning there is a first being that is the One that
is everything that exists. In the beginning the One is the Whole. Then
comes the bipolar opposition: From within the One that is the Whole in
the very beginning two poles appear, one opposing the other. Then, if
one pole does not annul the other and if the poles do not mutually destroy
each other, we have a new ontological structure: A Being, that is the
One and the Whole, from which then come two opposing poles. From within
the One comes the multiple, that is, two poles in opposition to each other.
These poles acquire their own being, that comes from a dividing wall between
them, then we have two beings, each of them is a One. Both together form
the new Whole. If each enters again into the process of unfolding, we
will then have four beings, and so on. The ontological process of unfolding
thought of by the Neoplatonics is a paradigm from which the Biologists
developed their theories. It is just that the Biologists normally do not
know this, they do not realize where they got their theories from. They
are Neoplatonic Philosophers and do not know it. The Neoplatonic Philosophers,
the defenders of the Explanation of the World, go on from there. This
theory is not only true for the evolution of living things, it is true
for all the universe. Whoever wishes to understand and explain the universe
has to intellectually reproduce the unfolding process, fold by fold, from
the first egg. This is ex-plicatio. Only this is the real Explanation
of the World.
2. Plato’s Unwritten Doctrine
Plato wrote Dialogues accessible, easy to read, for the public in general,
illuminated by such beautiful and rich myths that even today they feed
all those who want to learn Philosophy. But the dialogues are almost always
inconclusive. Except for some dialogues written in his old age, Plato
did not make clear and well-defined conclusions. The arguments in favor
of one side are presented and discussed, then the arguments presented
by the other side are discussed and evaluated. Okay, we know that this
is the manner of dealing with thesis and antithesis. It is the game of
opposites. Except that Plato almost never took his readers to the synthesis
in which both poles are overcome and preserved. In the Dialogues, one
does not find the conciliation of the opposite poles that characterizes
the real dialectic synthesis.
Plato, a defender of the Negative Dialectics? Absolutely not. Plato thought
the final synthesis, the Great Synthesis, would not be understood by beginners
and those outside, far from the live, personal dialogue in which questions
and answers face each other, with all the unpredictables; but also with
all the richness that a live dialogue offers and allows. In writing, in
the dialogues written for the beginners, Plato presented only the initial
moment of Dialectics in which the opposite poles are articulated one against
the other. For those initiated, those who have begun to understand, Plato
offers in live dialogue, face to face, the treasure map. The Great Synthesis
is the heart of Dialectics. Dialectics first of all means the method of
the thesis, antithesis and synthesis, that is the game of opposites. Dialectics
also means the conception that not only the world of things, but also
the world of speech develops, fold by fold, from a first beginning.
Some Neoplatonic thinkers completely assimilated both constructive elements
of Dialectics, the triadic method as well as the unfolding process of
all things from the One. Plotinus, Proclus, Nicolaus Cusanus and Hegel
need to be mentioned here. The triadic structure and the process of evolution
passes like a backbone through the philosophical systems of the authors
mentioned here. That is why Plotinus’s book is called Enéade.
The name Enéade means nine, there are nine parts to the book. A
Neoplatonic system is always made up of three parts that correspond to
thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Since each of these parts is subdivided
in three, we have a total of nine parts. That is where Plotinus’s
Enéade, a book that has nine parts, comes from. This is the structure
of the system in Proclus as well as in Hegel. In some other Neoplatonic
thinkers the dialectic method with its triad sort of vanishes. It exits
from the methodical thought and leaves only the process of development
of everything starting from a unique beginning in the first plane. This
is the case of Spinoza. Looking well, analyzing the authors carefully,
we can see that they are, not excluding this variation, all definitely
Neoplatonic. The philosophic roots of Lamarck, Erasmus and Charles Darwin,
of Herbert Spencer and almost all the contemporary Biologists are Neoplatonic.
Among the present day Biologists, the excellent work of Richard Dawkins,
professor at Oxford, stands out. In Philosophy, Spinoza, Fichte, Schelling
and Hegel were, in Modern times, those who best represented the Neoplatonic
tradition. Among the poets, Goethe should be mentioned. Goethe, in an
charmingly simple poem, suggests that we imagine God not as a being that
is out of the world manipulating the orbit of things from outside, but
as something that is within the process of the universe and from within
moves all. This, and exactly this, is Dialectics, this is the Explanation
of the World.
In the Dialogue The Sophist, Plato clearly shows that he is not a defender
of Negative Dialectics, the Dialectics without Synthesis. He asks in this
Dialogue which are the supreme classes. It is clear that they are opposite
poles, a game of opposites. The two pairs of opposites that come about
as the highest and most explanatory are rest - movement and the same -
the other. Is the universe made up of these four elements? No, Plato says.
The universe is firstly Being, synthesis of rest and movement, synthesis
of the sameness and of the otherness. - Rest is not movement. Right. And
movement is not rest. That is also right. But isn’t rest a being?
If it were not a being, it would not exist; therefore, rest is a being.
Isn’t movement a being? Of course it is. Then both rest as well
as movement, although both are mutually excluding poles, thesis and antithesis,
they come together as Being on a higher, nobler level. The same occurs
with the sameness and alterity. Both mutually exclude each other, but
both are Being. Being is the synthesis of the two pairs of opposites that
rule the construction of the universe. The Being, synthetic, is the One
that is the Whole and within which opposite poles unfold. Within the Being
rest and movement, sameness and alterity are polarized. The Being is Synthesis,
the Great Synthesis. And this Being is not only the Being that is the
One and that is the Whole, Hen kai Pan, it is also the Good. The Unwritten
Doctrine was compiled by his students in the form of a Dialogue On the
Good, Peri tou Agathou. This dialogue, never written personally by Plato,
was put forth in writing by his students. It is the merit of the School
of Tübingen, in our century, continued today by the School of Milan,
to have given emphasis to the Esoteric Doctrine and to have reconstructed
the theory of the main work of Plato, the most important of all, in general
lines. It is due to this that we understand what the Dialogues insinuate
but do not clearly state, it is from where we derive the Neoplatonic tradition:
the triadic process and the idea of universal evolution.
3. The two First Principles
Plato derives everything, all the process of the unfolding of the universe,
from the two First Principles, the Principle of Unity and the Principle
of Duality or Plurality. The first principle says the all is the One,
that everything started with the unity. The Being is the One. The Being
is that which it is, firstly it is the One. The Being is the One; in the
beginning there was only the One and this is the Whole that is all. The
One is the Universe. The One and the Whole, Hen kai Pan. And where does
the multiplicity of things come from? Don’t we live in a world of
Multiplicity begins with Duality. The Two is the beginning of the Multiplicity.
The One has always had the seed of multiplicity within itself: aoristos
dyas, the undetermined multiplicity. The One is not just the One, because
it has always been within itself also the Other. It is bipolar. This fundamental
alterity has existed forever within itself. There is a pole that is itself,
the One, but there always is also the other pole that is the Other-Being.
The Same and the Other, the first pair of opposites, has always been inside
the Being. That is why there is a triad. Thesis is the initial One, antithesis
is the Other-Being that has always opposed the first pole, synthesis is
the Being that is not only the One but also the Other. The Whole-that-is-Being,
Totality, synthesis, includes two opposite poles inside itself. The first
principle, the Principle of Identity, supplies unity to the universe,
and is the source of all order. The second principle, the Principle of
Multiplicity, is the source of Multiplicity, it is the chaos from which
the diversity of things emerges. Later on in this paper, I add a third
principle to these two principles of Plato. To better clarify the sequence
and the interdependence between these principles, I unfold Plato’s
Principle of Unity into two principles, one which is the Principle of
Identity and comes before the Principle of Multiplicity, the other that
comes later and gives order to the multiplicity that appeared. I will
call this third principle the Principle of Coherence.
4. The Mystery of the Trinity
The Platonic and Neoplatonic dialectic triad goes deeply into the Christian
tradition and the intellectual structure of that which the first Christian
thinkers called the most important and highest religious mystery, the
Holy Trinity. In the beginning there was only one God. There is only one
God, but this God is at the same time trine. He is One and Trine at the
same time. God is God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. In the beginning
of the Trinitarian creation there is the One-God. This One-God begets
the Other, the Son. Father and Son are in opposition like opposite poles.
The Father is not the Son or vice-versa. But, when the Father and the
Son meet again, one loving the other, both conciliate into a higher synthesis
that is then called the Holy Spirit. This eternal process of engendering
is called the Holy Trinity. God, who is only one God, unfolds within himself
into three persons. The One-God is also the Trine God.
As we can see, this central nucleus of Christian doctrine is clearly Neoplatonic.
But most Christian thinkers today, like present day Biologists, many times
do not realize where their roots came from. Until the XII century Christianity
was always a rich and productive branch of the Neoplatonic doctrine. Only
with Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas did the west go back to reading
and studying the Aristotelian system and its static conception of the
world. From the XII century on, Christian thinkers were divided into Aristotelian
and Neoplatonic, with the advantage always more clearly to the first.
Aristotelianism in its thomist version will be declared in the XIX century
the official Philosophy of Catholicism, putting the Neoplatonic thinking
almost into oblivion. When, in the XX century, a theologician and philosopher
like Teillard de Chardin appears and proposes the Neoplatonic doctrine
again in a new form, nobody in the intellectual catholic world knows how
to evaluate it and say exactly what is happening. Almost no one understands
anything of what he wants to say, no one can contextualize his intellectual
proposal, no one can insert it into the line of the old tradition.
5. Where does Determined Multiplicity come from?
In its first steps the Explanation of the World is easy to understand.
In the beginning there is the Onenes. From this comes the Other-Being,
which is different from the One and opposes it as another. But both the
One and the Other-Being are Being. Being is a higher unit in which the
One-Being and the Other-Being are conciliated. Everything is quite clear
up to this point.
This first One and this first Other-Being are alike. One is a mirror image
of the other. And both are conciliated in the Wholeness that holds both
one and the other. Up to now we are dealing with the engendering movement
that the old ones called the Trinity. This is a movement that is internal
to the first beginning. The first beginning is trine. Okay. This first
differentiation between the two poles is an undetermined duality, aoristos
dyas. The poles of this first unfolding are still poles that are exactly
alike. One is a mirror image of the other, one is just the alterity of
the other. This type of alterity is a yet undetermined duality. The opposite
poles do not yet present themselves with different characteristics, each
one with its own determinations and characteristics. But the things of
our real world have their own determinations, each one is different from
the others. Where then does this Determined Multiplicity come from? What
is the root and the principle of the different determinations? Where does
the variety come from?
Here there is a crossroads. Here the Neoplatonic doctrine separates into
two currents. The first current says that all the Multiplicity that one
sees today is completely preprogrammed within the first egg. All the Forms,
from the beginning preprogrammed in their structure and their minutest
details, are implicitly contained in the first beginning, in the initial
egg. Then, like the whole bird is preprogrammed in the egg, so all the
Forms of the universe are completely preprogrammed in the initial One.
The Explanation of the World unfolds like it is really unfolding because
all this factic evolution is implicit in the initial egg. To ex-plain
is to unfold. One can only unfold what was previously folded. Implicare
means make the folds and put them into the initial egg, like in a Japanese
origami. All the Multiplicity that exists and is being unfolded by evolution
has always implicitly been within the initial egg. One can only explain
that which is implicatum. Everything, in all its minute details. From
this strong nexus between explicatio and implicatio two consequences which
are extremely important in the History of Philosophy derived, and, in
my opinion, conducted this first offspring of Neoplatonism to errors:
the necessitarianism of evolution in Ontology and the conceptual apriorism
of the system design. The necessitarianism of the evolutive process is
a logical consequence of the rigidity of the structure; one can only unfold
that which in the beginning was folded into the initial egg. Here it is
not important if it was a creating God that made the implication by folding
the determinations inside, or if it were the Forms themselves that had
always been folded inside there. In both cases the process of unfolding
is subject to a rigid necessitarianism: Only what is already there pre-programmed
can be unfolded. In an evolution process subject to such necessitarianism
only what is predetermined happens. In such a philosophy there is no chaos,
there is no contingency. Spinoza is the best example of a Neoplatonic
system in this pattern. In Spinoza there is no contingency whatsoever.
Everything happens necessarily as a logical consequence of the initial
predetermination. Such a system, not permitting contingency, does not
open space for alternatives that are equally possible. Consequently there
is no freedom of choice, that is freewill. If there is no free choice,
there is no responsibility. If there is no freedom nor responsibility,
there is no Ethics nor Politics, much less Democracy. The second extremely
negative consequence is that the thinkers that followed this rigid model
of explicatio and implicatio intend to logically deduce all multiplicity
of the things of the world starting from a first principle. Therefore,
if all things ontologically derive from a first ontological principle,
then Philosophy should logically reconstruct, a priori, all the propositions
that make up the Explanation of the World in a rigorously deductive way.
To deduct everything a priori then becomes an obsession - wrong of course
- of these thinkers. Dieter Wandschneider and Vittorio Hoesle are some
of the modern thinkers who defend such a conception of the world.
The first tendency, that of the Neoplatonic necessitarian philosophers,
explains Multiplicity through a Predetermination, through the implicatio.
The second tendency, that of the libertarian Neoplatonics, which I belong
to, gives a different explanation and introduces the Principle of Chaos,
the Principle of Difference, or, in modern language, the Emergence of
the New. The first Principle, the Principle of Identity, says just A.
It repeats the A, also saying A, A, A, A etc... It also says A=A. But
with all of this we still didn’t leave A. We must deal with getting
to something that is not A itself. What then? Is it not the case of saying
Non-A? Of course, we can construct the Non-A by the anteposition of negation.
But with this we still do not have determined multiplicity. How do we
arrive, not at the undetermined alterity Non-A, but to a determined alterity
like B, or C, or D etc.? This is the problem. This question can not be
solved only by the Identity Principle, because this also just stays at
A, in its iterations and its reflexive identity. It can also not be solved
just by the anteposition of negation, because this does not supply an
Other that is in itself determined. How then does Determined Multiplicity
come into being? Where does it come from? It comes from itself, it creates
itself, suddenly it is there and appears. This is the Emergence of the
New, as the Biologists today say in the Theory of Systems. It emerges,
it comes into being, without having been predetermined from the beginning.
The determined alterity, the Other, unfolds in an explicatio, but it was
not yet there folded within, it was not implicatum. The new fold is not
just an unfolding of a previously folded fold that was put inside, but
the making of a new fold. The One, in its evolution process makes folds
that did not previously exist. The preprogramming made by the first principles
only determined the general evolutive process, it did not determine the
details. This is the Principle of Difference, this is the chaos that within
itself creates the variations. This is why it is called Chaos. Because
the variations that come into being and emerge are not predictable, they
cannot be deduced. But does this not take us to total chaos? A logical
anarchy? The destruction of science? No, it does not. Because as soon
as the variations appear, without being preprogrammed, the third Principle,
the Principle of Coherence appears. This makes order reestablish itself.
If against pole A comes a pole B, then three things can happen. Either
A eliminates B, or B eliminates A, or A and B show themselves as compatible
and enter into coherence with each other. A and B in this case become
constitutive parts of a Greater Totality. Then come C, D, F etc., always
under the rule of the Principle of Coherence that puts order back into
the evolution of the universe and the unfolding of things.
Plato had two principles, the Principle of Unity, to on, and the Principle
of Undetermined Multiplicity, aoristos dyas. In this exposition, I unfolded
Plato’s first principle in two, the Principle of Identity and the
Principle of Coherence, in order to better explain how the Chaos that
comes from the Principle of Multiplicity is not such a chaotic chaos,
but a chaos that comes to be ordered by a principle of order, which is
the Principle of Coherence. The most important thing in this exposition
that I did is that the role is being conferred to Chaos in the Emergence
of the New. The New, the Other-Being, the Determined Alterity are not
preprogrammed. They are not able to be previously deduced. Initially we
deal with a Chaos, initially we deal with a Principle of Difference that
is a Principle of Chaos. But the variations that so appear are immediately
regulated by the Principle of Coherence.
This second, libertarian branch of the Neoplatonic Doctrine offers an
Explanation of the World that contains a chaotic moment. That is why it
permits contingency, freedom, and historicity. There is space for multiple
variations, there is space for the contingency of things and for various
alternatives, there is space for liberty and responsibility. The system
of Philosophy in this proposed model is a system open to History that
permits us to track down the genesis of the things, like walking backward,
saying how and when the variations occurred. But it does not presuppose
that all these variations are preprogrammed and that for this reason they
are necessary moments in the unfolding of Nature. Nature in this project
contains chaos, it contains chance, it contains variations that could
have been different. Chance, even though it is not the most important
element, it is an indispensable element in the evolutive genesis of the
universe. Nature has a History that was like that but could have been
different. That is why it is called Natural History. History, when it
refers to man, becomes the History of Free Men.
6. The Achilles Heel
One Goddess offered the warrior Achilles a balsam that would give him
protection and make him invulnerable to the enemy weapons. The skin, bathed
with the miraculous balsam, would become unpenetrable. Achilles, however,
when he bathed himself with the balsam, had a leaf stuck to the heel of
his left foot. In that place where the leaf was stuck, the balsam could
not do its work. This is the Achilles heel, in this area Achilles was
vulnerable. Wounded exactly in this place, his heel, Achilles was killed.
The Philosophy systems also have their Achilles heel. The Neoplatonic
systems, the Philosophy of the Explicatio Mundi, has as its Achilles heel
the question of necessaritainism and the intention of wanting to deduce
everything a priori. Even the first Christian thinkers, the Greek and
Latin Fathers, raised the ojection against the Neoplatonic Philosophers
that such a system ended up eliminating the contingency of the world,
and then also the freedom of choice and moral responsibility. Saint Augustin,
who was Neoplatonic, spent all his life trying to conciliate the predetermination
with freedom of choice. He was not able to do it. Johannes Scotus Eriugena,
in the early Middle Ages, tried again. Nicolaus Cusanus during the Renascence
tried once again. Spinoza, a thinker who loved Ethics and Political Philosophy
so much, gave in to the rigorous necessitarianism and became an explicit
necessitarian. According to Spinoza, contingency simply does not exist.
Schelling and Hegel, imbued with the importance of freedom, tried again.
Hegel tried to put contingency back in, inside Logics. He declares - the
only one in the History of Philosophy - that the Absolute Necessity is
the Absolute Contingency. But he is not able to take the idea to a good
conclusion and got lost, in my way of thinking, in ambiguities. In Hegel
we never know if Necessity is really necessary or if it is contingent.
Deep, deep down, I think, Hegel presented a strong tendency for a Neoplatonic
necessitarianism. Among the contemporanians, Vittorio Hosle, although
he tries to resist, falls back on the necessitarianism.
And why not? No, why? Necessitarianism, on denying the existence of contingency
in the course of the evolution of the world, eliminates the contingency
of things. The things are like that and not different because they have
to be like that. The world is a process totally determined by completely
rigid laws. If, at the moment , we do not yet know all the laws, then
there is a deficit in our subjective knowledge. The inexactness measured
by the Physicists, the chance spoken of by the Biologists, all this is
just a deficit in our knowledge. As soon as we discover the physical laws,
we will be able to calculate the course of the universe. Calculate backwards,
saying exactly what happened. And calculate forwards, saying what will
happen in the future. It is obvious that such a system will allow for
neither the existence of alternatives in the things, nor freedom of choice
in man, nor democracy in the State. Because, if everything is predetermined
from the beginning, we can only give ourselves in to destiny and its inexorable
force. - But would it not be the case of abandoning all these things,
that would be just illusions, and giving ourselves up to the force of
The argument in favor of a non-necessitarian conception of the world,
in a final analysis, consists of the principle that the simpler theory
is the correct one. The Neoplatonic theory, which we called libertarianism
above, introduces the Principle of Difference, Chaos, from the very beginning.
It is consequent and explains everything without the necessity of additional
theories. It allows for and explains the contingency of things in Philosophy.
It allows us to understand the usage of the calculations of probabilities
as the only adequate way for certain sectors of nature, the relation of
uncertainity of Heisenberg, in Physics, the importance of chance in the
genesis of mutations in Biology, the freedom of choice and responsibility
in Political Philosophy and in Law. - On the other hand, the necessitarian
conception does not allow us to explain any of this, except through extremely
complicated hypotheses to be added to the main theory.
To this the question of the burden of proof is added. Who is it that has
the burden of demonstration? The one that accepts contingency in certain
things? Or the one that accepts the total necessity of everything? The
burden of the proof, in my point of view, falls back on he who presupposes,
without being able to prove it, that all things, in all aspects, are necessary.
To raise such a proposition as the universal principle is more than foolhardy.
It is enough to bring only one example of contingency to demonstrate the
falseness of such a principle. And here the necessity of always having
new additional hypotheses appears: We are not dealing with something really
contingent, necessity is hidden there inside, etc. - And that is why I
stay with the theory which is simpler, that is more suitable to reality,
that does not need successive additional hypotheses. I stay with the Neoplatonic
branch that I called libertarian above. Explanation of the World, yes,
but also counting on the element of chance.
7. The Crossroads
In the beginning of Classical Philosophy there is a great crossroads.
With Plato and Aristotle Philosophy divides into two great branches, the
Explanation of the World and the Analysis of the World, Neoplatonism and
Aristotelianism. From Plato come Plotinus, Proclus, Saint Augustine, Johannes
Scotus Eriugena, the medieval thinkers until the XII century, Nicolaus
Cusanus, Giordano Bruno, Ficino, Spinoza, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Karl
Marx. From Aristotle come Theophrastus, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas,
William of Occham, Descartes, Kant, Frege, Bertrand Russel, Wittgenstein,
Apel, Habermas, and all the Analytic Philosophy of today.
The second crossroads is inside the Neoplatonc thinking. Is the system
of the Explanation of the World totally necessary or does it contain contingency?
Plotinus and Proclus are strongly inclined to necessitarianism, Spinoza
is definitely a necessarianist. Hegel wants to contemplate contingency,
Hegel wants to find a way to save contingency and put it back into the
system, but in my point of view, he cannot and he gets lost, in what concerns
this problem, in ambiguities. Karl Marx is strongly inclined to necessitarianism;
and that is why, in my point of view, Stalinism is not just an accident
along the way, but a logical consequence of the system. Among the contemporaries,
Wandschneider and Hösle lean towards necessitarianism. Hans Jonas
on the contrary defends an Explanation of the World with contingency and
freedom like that which I am proposing. This Explanation of the World
with chance and contingency surprisingly coincides exactly with the General
Theory of Evolution that is being proposed by the Biologists like Stephen
Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins.
8. The Great Question
The Great Question, the most important question in Modern Philosophy was
put forward when the late Schelling in his Munich Lecture on Contemporary
Philosophy, criticized the system of his friend Hegel because it was lacking
contingency. Hegel’s error had origin and History, it was the same
error of Spinoza, Proclus and Plotinus: Contingency was missing in the
system. From that time on the job has been exactly this: How to put contingency
back inside the system of the Explanation of the World? This is one of
the two main questions of this book. We remember that this was also the
task the young Hegel was trying to accomplish: How to conciliate the free
Subject of Kant with the necessary Substance of Spinoza? This question
refers to, as one can see, the crossroads that devides the two branches
in the Neoplatonic School.
The second question refers to the crossroads between Platonism and Aristotelism.
It is connected to the first question, but is not identical to it. How
do we conciliate the game of opposites with the Principle of Non-Contradiction?
How do we use contradiction as an instrument of construction and not of
destruction? Is this possible? How can we play with thesis and antithesis
without doing anything foolish?
II. W H A T I S D I A L E C T I C S ?
1. The Logical Square
1. The Great Confusion
Dialecticians and Analytics speak to each other but do not understand
one another. They do not grasp the meaning of the words the other say.
Aristotle said, criticizing Plato, that Dialectics was not a method of
Philosophy, but only an intellectual exercise to sharpen the mind. A type
of intellectual aerobics, we could say today. In the Middle Ages, Albertus
Magnus and Thomas Aquinas adopted equally negative positions about Dialectics.
But it is after Spinoza, Schelling and Hegel that the criticism becomes
more vehement. Trendelenburg, taking up once more the great question raised
by Aristotle, asks strongly: Does Dialectics deny the Principle of Non-Contradiction?
How can one say that something is and at the same time say that it is
not? Thesis is Dictum, Antithesis is Contradictum. If one of them is true,
then the other is false. How can one say that they are both true? Or that
both are false? The old rule of logic says: If one of the contradictories
is true, the other is false and vice-versa. How can one then do Dialectics?
Karl Popper, in our century, hitting the same key, was not any less strong:
Whoever affirms that P as well as Non-P is true is being foolish. Popper
continues: From this supposition any foolishness can be deduced. Which
means that all Dialectics is a great foolishness.
Faced with these objections, the Dialecticians of the XX century are so
perplexed they almost do not answer. Dieter Henrich, one of the main researchers
of Dialectics today, wrote in 1976 that no one really knows what Dialectics
is. Dieter Wandschneider said the same thing in 1995. It is not that no
one is working on, or writing about the subject. Just the opposite. There
are hundreds of works trying to undo the gordian knot which the Greeks
willed to us. Newton C. da Costa, as he formalized the Paraconsistent
Logics, took a big step in the right direction and taught us that there
are multiple forms of negation. Robert Heiss, A. Kullenkampf, T. Kesselring,
and D. Wandschneider tried to reconstruct Dialectics from the structure
of logical and semantical antinomies. Here, also, work went on, clearing
up some points, but, in my opinion, adding to the confusion of others.
After all, what is Dialectics? Do we deny in Dialectics the Principle
of Non-Contradiction? Shall we open up the doors for any and all the foolishness
that can be affirmed?
No, of course not. We can not, in trying to save Dialectics, deny the
rationality of the speech. But then, what is going on there? A great confusion
is going on, that’s what. A confusion that has lasted centuries.
This is what needs to be cleared up with the question What is Dialectics?
2. Two Languages with Different Syntaxes
When people speak and despite their good will can not understand one another,
it is because they are speaking different languages. Speaking without
understanding is either a total lack of interest or it is a question of
different languages. A Brazilian and a Chinese, although they may wish
to, will not understand each other until they discover a language common
to both. For us Brazilians, what the Chinaman is saying is really Chinese;
that is, we do not understand anything. We use the expression It’s
Chinese to me (the American equivalent is It’s Greek to me) when
we do not understand anything. The Chinese probably have a similar expression
when they do not understand what another person says. But if there is
a will to communicate and good faith, then this is not a reason to give
up the dialogue. There should be an interpreter or a common language that
the two parties understand.
Dialecticians and Analytics do not understand each other because they
speak different languages. The language used by the Analytics is made
up of well-formed propositions as Aristotle had already taught. The proposition
is syntactically well-formed when it has a subject and a predicate: Socrates
is just. In this proposition the predicate is just is attributed to the
subject Socrates. Socrates is a logical subject, is just is the predicate.
- Without saying the predicate one says nothing. Socrates, says someone;
Socrates what? we ask. The subject Socrates alone says nothing. Besides
the logical predicate there must be a logical subject for the proposition
to make sense. Without the subject one does not know what is being spoken
about. If someone says the logical predicate is just, we immediately ask
Who are you talking about? Subject and predicate, argument and function,
mathematicians say today, are both indispensable for the proposition to
make sense. There are propositions with an understood subject. For such
a proposition to make sense, it is necessary for the listener, or reader,
to suppose the logical subject that is being understood. Generally the
logical subject was expressed a little earlier, like in the example: Pedro
and Ana were walking around. After some time, they sat down. The proposition
After a short time, they sat down, makes sense, and is immediately understood
because the subject was mentioned in the previous sentence. This is what
happens in the cases in which the logical subject is not expressed. A
logical subject must exist, otherwise the proposition does not make sense,
it is not complete. - There are a few expressions today which in Portuguese
we call propositions without a subject. Propositions without a subject?
But this, according to Aristotle’s Logic, cannot exist. Does it
exist? The example which the grammar teachers give for this kind of proposition
is chove (It rains) and neva (It snows). Who is it that rains? Who snows?
In the Portuguese language there really is no visible subject. But, if
we put it in English, it rains, or in French, il pleut, or in German,
es regnet, the subject is always something masculine or neuter, undetermined,
in the third person, singular. Well, in these expressions there is a subject,
although indeterminate, it is the great impersonal It, third person. Who
is this It? Nature? Probably. These exceptions although rare, show that
there are propositions apparently without a subject in articulated language.
When we pass to body language, what was an exception in articulated language
becomes a general rule. In body language there is never an expressed subject.
And now, what do we do? Are we lost?
In our usual language the proposition always has to have a subject and
predicate, one distinct and separate from the other. This is what we call
articulated language. But the examples mentioned show that the subject
is not always visible. Even looking well, one does not find the subject.
Or, saying the same thing in a stronger way, sometimes there is no subject,
the proposition is without a subject. This mentioned, we must register
the fact: There are languages which have a different syntax which is not
the syntax of our usual articulated language. And then, how do we understand
it? It is necessary to translate from one language to the other.
Different syntax is exactly what happens with Dialectics. The Dialecticians
use a language with its own syntax. Plato’s Ideas, or Hegel’s
Begriffe are not made up of subject and predicate. Sameness and alterity,
rest and movement in Plato, be, nothing, becoming in Hegel, what are they?
They are predicates, for sure. But, of whom or of what are Plato and Hegel
talking? The ideas sometimes oppose each other, sometimes they attract
each other, they conciliate each other. But after all, of whom or of what
is Plato talking? Whom is it that Hegel affirms is Being, Nothing and
Hegel, in an addition to the Logic of the Encyclopedia, gives us a clue.
Being, Nothing, Becoming, or whatever, the categories of Logic are always
predicates. But predicates of whom? Who is being spoken of? Hegel answered:
If someone has difficulty in thinking without the subject and the predicate
of the predication being expressed, think like the subject of the predication
The Absolute. This is exactly what Hegel recommends to us. He realized
that it is difficult for most of us to think without an expressed logical
subject and that is why he gives us a practical recipe of how to precede
in order to understand the language of Dialectics. He tells us to think
of the Absolute as the logical subject of all that is being said. Be,
Nothing, Becoming, Be-There, the Same, the Other, etc. are categorical
determinations that are being predicates of the Absolute. To complete
these propositions, which in Hegel’s Dialectics have no logical
subject, it is necessary to think, say and write:
Thesis: The Absolute is Being
Antithesis: The Absolute is Nothing
Synthesis: The Absolute is Becomimg
And so on with all the categories of Logic and with the figurations in
Real Philosophy. But what is Hegel talking about? What Absolute is this?
The Absolute is God before creating the world, Hegel answers. But God
there, right in the beginning of the system, is this not making a undue
supposition? Does God not go out like a shot from a gun? Too suddenly,
too immediately? Just like a shot from a pistol, these are Hegel’s
words. He knows very well that one can not put God in the beginning of
the system, without anything else, without careful criticism, without
preparation, without demonstration. Then why does he do that? Because
here, right in the beginning, it is not really God. God only appears in
the end of Logic, as a last category, the Absolute Idea, and in the end
of the system, as an Absolute Being. But what God is this that in the
beginning appears like the logical subject of all the predications? This
initial Absolute is carefully explained, step by step, in the unnumbered
chapter that opens the Science of Logic and that has the suggestive title
How does one begin?.
The beginning of a Philosophy that we want critical cannot have undue
presuppositions. Critical thought has to exhibit and justify all its postulates.
That is why Descartes begins doubting everything, putting in doubt all
and whatever proposition or principle. But the act of putting in doubt,
the act of doubting, this is undoubtable. The more one doubts, the stronger
and more conscious becomes the act of doubting. This is the critical beginning
that cannot be denied by anyone; this, says Descartes, is the first principle
from which all Philosophy receives its methodical justification. Descartes
begins his Philosophy from the universal doubt, this doubt which cannot
doubt itself and which forces us to say: We are doubting, we are thinking,
therefore we exist. This is the Cogito, ergo sum, of Descartes. Kant,
who is also a critical philosopher, starts from a few a priori synthetical
judgements that are true. This is a beginning that no one can doubt. From
there Kant asks for the necessary conditions of such postulates. The mapping
of these necessary conditions a priori is what Kant calls transcendental;
that is the basis of certainty. This is the structure of the three Critics
Hegel knows, however, through tradition that in critical Philosophy one
can not presuppose anything without due justification. And he does not
presuppose anything determined; he does not presuppose any proposition
or determined principle. At the beginning of the system, he does not presuppose
anything. But, by not presupposing anything determined, he is presupposing
all things in an undetermined way; he is presupposing everything in an
undetermined way. This All, this Everything, put as a great undetermined
presupposition, is the logical subject of the dialectic predication. Instead
of Absolute we can say All is Being, All is Nothing, All is Becoming.
Or instead: All the things are Being, All the things are nothing, All
the things are Becoming. The Absolute, God, All, Everything are the terms
which we use to signify that Great Undetermined Thing, that basket in
which we put everything, all the words, all the propositions, all that
The beginning is made by making a great dividing line in the mind and
putting on the left all the determined things. In the beginning, on the
right of the line, there is nothing. The space is empty. During the construction
of the System of Philosophy, it is here that we are going to replace all
the things that were put on the left. To do Philosophy is to replace on
the right what was presupposed on the left. Except that, while doing this
replacing of what was presupposed, we ought to examine each and every
piece of this puzzle and account for why we are putting it in this place
and not in the other. Replace, yes, in the correct order. What is the
correct order? The order that it is ingrained in each piece that we pick
up to replace it on the right side, the order of the things themselves,
the order called for by the Principle of Coherence. If we do not obey
this Order of Coherence, what happens? Then, since one opposite is not
compatible with the other, one eliminates the other. The pieces must fit
together, they must be coherent with the immediate and mediate environment,
in the last analysis, with the total picture. Then the Great Mosaic of
the Meaning of the World appears.
What then is the logical subject of the dialectic predication, that understood
but never expressed subject? It is always the Absolute, God, All, Everything,
that Totality which is presupposed as real on the left so that it can
be replaced as a philosophical system on the right.
But since all this is only understood, or written in tiny letters in a
footnote, the Dialecticians talk and talk but never say explicitly what
they are talking about. And then the Analytic Philosophers say that they
do not understand anything. One language always uses a hidden subject,
the other insists on an expressed subject. The Great Confusion comes from
This confusion becomes more specific and more complicated when one deals
with Contraries and Contradictories. Contraries and Contradictories are
very different things and obey different rules. Aristotle and the Analytics
know this well. But the Dialecticians, who do not have an expressed subject
in the predication, make a big confusion. They talk about contradiction,
but they mean contrariety. They speak of contradictories, but they want
to say contraries. Are the Dialecticians speaking foolishness? Yes, and
no. The old ones, like Plato, were not speaking foolishness, because it
was only with Aristotle that we began to distinguish between contradictories
and contraries. But the later dialecticians should have perceived that
they were using the terms in a different way than that which was defined
by Aristotle. The Dialecticians should have perceived that they were using
- and continue to use - the same terms as the Analytics, but with a different
meaning. That is where the confusion comes in. That is why we now have
to study the Logical Square, explaining exactly what the dialectic game
of opposites is and point out, with the finger, the exact place in which
it is done. Whoever does not do this, is condemned to saying foolishness.
3. The Four Corners
The Laws of Inference, discovered and formulated by Aristotle, were visualized
in the Logical Square. And that is where the difference between Contraries
and Contradictories comes in. Exactly there, because the Dialectics do
not have the same terminology as the Analytics, because they do not understand
the differenciations made by Aristotle well, or do not take them seriously,
that the Great Confusion between Dialecticians and Analytics begins.
The Logical Square has four corners, each one designated by a letter -
A, E, I and O. A and E are on top, and represent the universal propositions.
A is an affirmative universal proposition, E is a negative universal proposition.
I and O are on the bottom and represent particular propositions, I being
an affirmative and O a negative particular proposition.
The logical subject is here ultimately determined by the terms All, None,
and Some. These ulterior determinations of the logical subject are called
quantifiers, because there is a quantification of the subject happening
there. In the proposition All men are mortal the logical subject Men is
further determined by the universal quantifier All. Some is the particular
affirmative quantifier, Some do not is the particular negative quantifier,
and None is the universal negative quantifier. A proposition is of the
A type (A of Affirmo); if it is positive and has a universal quantifier:
All men are mortal. A proposition is of the I type (I is the second vowel
of affirmo) if it is positive and has a particular quantifier: Some men
are Brazilian. A proposition is of the E type (E of nego of the Latin
verb negare) if it is negative and has a universal quantifier: No man
is immortal. A proposition is O (O is the second vowel of nego) if it
is negative and has a particular quantifier: Some men are not honest.
These propositions make up, as we know, the four corners of the Logical
As an example, we will make the construction with the same subject and
predicate in the four propositions. We will take the type A proposition,
All men are mortal, as the example. From this proposition which already
has a subject and a predicate, we can construct the other three propositions
corresponding to the other three corners of the Square. Proposition E,
No man is mortal, is then universal and negative. Proposition I is a particular
affirmative - Some men are mortal. Proposition O is a particular negative
- Some men are not mortal.
The logical rules that permit - and is some cases do not permit - the
passage from one corner to the other are called Laws of Inference. Therefore,
if proposition A is true, the corresponding proposition O is always false.
This is important. There are, in certain cases, logically valid passages;
they are the laws of inference. But these laws, according to the path
that we take in the Logical Square, are different. It is not one rule
that can always be applied. And here then it is necessary to distinguish
with Aristotle the various paths existing in the Logical Square, or in
a more technical language, the various types of opposition. Each of the
four letters is in opposition with all the others. But each type of opposition
has a special name and obeys its own rules.
The opposition between A and O, as well as the I and E opposition is called
the opposition of contradictories. The rule on Contradictories says: If
one of the contradictories is true, then the other is false. And vice-versa,
if one is false, the other is true. In our example, proposition A All
men are mortal is true, then according to the rule on contradictories
proposition O Some men are not mortal is false. That is the way it is.
We will make an inverse example. We will take a proposition O that is
true, Some Gauchos are not Brazilian - there are Argentinean and Uruguayan
Gauchos -, then we can conclude the falseness of proposition A All Gauchos
are Brazilian. The rule is clear and works in the four possible ways.
From the truth of one contradictory proposition one infers the falseness
of the other and vice-versa.
The opposition between contraries is that which exists between propositions
of the A type or the E type, that is, between universally positive and
universally negative propositions. These are contraries. The rule of inference
on contraries is different from the rule on contradictories. The rule
here is not quite so simple, it does not work in all four directions,
but only in two directions. The rule is the following: If one contrary
is true, the other is always false. That is, if we know that one of the
contraries is true, and start there, then we can know infer the falseness
of the other contrary. But this does not work backwards: If we know that
one of the contraries is false, it is not possible to conclude anything
about the opposing contrary. This can be false as well as true; both are
possible hypotheses. Example: It is true that All men are mortal, therefore
it is false that No man is mortal. From the truth of A, one correctly
infers the falseness of E. This also works vice-versa, from the truth
of E one can infer the falseness of A. But one cannot conclude anything
when one starts from the falseness of A or E. If A is false, nothing can
be inferred about E; in this case it can be either true or false.
Then, is it possible that A as well as E are both false propositions?
Perfectly. The falseness of both the opposites, in working with contraries,
is perfectly possible. But, if one is working with contradictories, this
is impossible. This is the exact place in which the Dialecticians and
Analytics get lost in the confusion. Since the Dialecticians do not use
an expressed subject, and then also do not use an expressed quantifier,
they never know exactly if they are speaking of contraries or contradictories.
The thesis is false, the antithesis is also false, let’s go on to
the synthesis, they say. Are thesis and antithesis contradictories or
contraries? The Dialecticians do not know what to say and get confused
since the subject and the quantifiers are hidden. Many times they speak
of contradictories and existing contradiction between thesis and antithesis,
but what they really want to say is that they are contraries. Because
if thesis and antithesis were contradictories the one would be true and
the other would be false. Like that, it could never be possible that both
thesis and antithesis are false, as one affirms in the game of opposites
of Dialectics. But if thesis and antithesis are contraries, in the technical
meaning of the term, then okay, it is perfectly possible for both to be
false. It is here, exactly here, and only here that one does Dialectics.
The one and only place where Dialectics can be exercised, pointed with
the finger, as promised, is this: The game of opposites is always done
between contraries that are both false, between propositions A and E.
It is exactly here that decision is made. If we do not understand that
it is always about contraries and never about contradictories, Dialectics
Having said that, actually everything that is really important to undo
the existing confusion between the Dialectics and Analytics has been said.
But, since we are at the Logical Square let us look at the two remaining
forms of opposition without going too deeply into them, the opposition
between subcontraries and the opposition of subalternation.
The opposition of subcontraries is that which exists between propositions
I and O, one positive and the other negative, but both particular, Some
Gauchos are Brazilian and Some Gauchos are not Brazilian. The rule on
subcontraries says: If one of the subcontraries is false, then it is inferred
that the other is true. But vice-versa this does not work. From the truth
of one of the subcontraries nothing can be inferred about the other. In
the example given it is true that Some Gauchos are Brazilian, and that
is why nothing can be inferred about the truth or falseness of O. O can
be true as well as false. In the example given, proposition O for contingent
reasons is also true, since there are Uruguayan and Argentinean Gauchos.
But this is just contingent, it is not logical.
The opposition of subalternation is that which exists between A and I
on one side and between E and O on the other. The rule says: From the
truth of A and E one can infer the truth of A and O, respectively. But
from the falseness of A and E nothing can be inferred about I and O. From
the falseness of I and O one can infer the falseness of A and E. But from
the truth of I and O nothing can be inferred about A and E. This is based
on the general principle of inclusion. The sets I and O are necessarily
contained in the A and E sets.
4. The Analytic Construction of Contraries and Contradictories
When one talks the analytic language it is easy to distinguish between
contraries and contradictories. In order to form a contradictory of a
universally affirmative proposition A, that is to form a correspondent
proposition O, it is necessary to do two things. First, put the negation
in; second, alter the quantifier. Then starting from All men are mortal,
one can make the contradictory proposition which is negative and particular,
Some men are not mortal. But to form the contrary proposition it is only
necessary to do one thing: put the negation in. The quantifier remains
the same. All men are mortal is proposition A, No man is mortal is proposition
E. We can immediately see why the Analytic Philosopher, the one who learned
and knows well what is contrary and what is contradictory, does not get
lost. It is just a matter of getting the propositions and verifying if
the quantifier as well as the negation was altered. If the quantifier
was not altered, if it continues being universal in both propositions,
one is dealing with contraries. If it was altered, if is became particular,
then one is dealing with contradictories. It is easy and exact.
The problem is that the Dialecticians do not use the expressed subject.
The logical subject in the syntax used by Dialectics is almost always
hidden. And that is why the quantifier also stays hidden. That is why
Dialecticians are never sure, when they talk about two opposite poles,
if these are contrary or contradictory. Besides, the Dialectics terminology
here is different from the terminology of the Analytics. The Dialecticians
speak of contradiction and want to say that which the Analytics call contrariness,
the Dialecticians speak about contradictories, but want to say contraries.
From this the confusion between the Analytics and Dialecticians is born.
They use languages with different syntactic structures, and besides that
they use different terminologies.
It is obvious that the Dialecticians do not want to say contradiction,
but really contrariness. It is obvious that the game of opposites is a
game of contraries, not of contradictories. Dialecticians are not idiots.
Plato, Cusanus and Hegel are not stupid to say something and at the same
time and under the same aspect deny it. They do not deny the Principle
of Non-Contradiction; no one can deny it without abandoning the rationality
of the argument. When the Dialecticians speak about the game of opposites
and say that thesis as well as antithesis are both false, and that, because
of this we are moved to synthesis, contrary poles not contradictory ones
are being dealt with. If we were dealing with contradictory poles, if
the thesis were false, then the antithesis would be true. Or vice-versa.
If one of the opposites is false, the other must always be true. And that
is not what Dialectics say. Dialectics say that both the opposites thesis
as well as antithesis are false. We just need to observe the Logical Square
to verify that the only space in which this type of negative opposition,
the opposition between false thesis and also false antithesis, can occur
is in the opposition between contraries. It is in this space and only
in this space that one can make Dialectics. Whoever does not recognize
this is lost and will fall in holes. And the Thracian Slave will die laughing.
5. The Dialectic Construction of Contraries
Dialecticians always work with contraries, they never even mention contradictories.
That is why they never even ask how to build contradictory oppositions.
This is an invention of Aristotle and the subject of Analytics. The Analytic
Philosopher finds it very easy to form opposite propositions, either contrary
or contradictory. Now, here, the way to construct the contrary propositions
interests us. Starting from any A type proposition, in order to form the
corresponding contrary proposition, we just need to put a negative without
altering the quantifier. The proposition continues universal, but becomes
negative. This can be done, as everybody can see, by logical-formal manipulation.
One just needs to add the negative. But the Dialectics had great difficulty
in forming the contrary pole, because they do not have, in the syntax
they use, explicit subjects and quantifiers. For Analytics the command
add the negative without changing the quantifier is enough. For the Dialectics
the engendering of the contrary is much more complicated operation and
therefore subject to misunderstandings.
We will take, as an example, the opposition of contraries which is the
central theme of the first chapter of Phenomonology of the Spirit, the
opposition between object and subject, between objectivity and subjectivity,
in order to analyze this delicate and important question. The initial
thesis says that the Truth of the sensitive certainty is in the object.
This initial thesis, as always in the Dialectics of opposites, is shown
as false, or rather, without the subject that feels and perceives, the
propositions lose their truth. We look, observe, and write on the board
Now it is day. Here we are dealing with an objective proposition written
on the board; upon being written it became totally objectified. But in
such an objective proposition, exactly because it is just objective, its
truth is quickly lost. A few hours go by and now it is no longer day,
now it is night. Hegel then does something like a rational experiment.
As a chemist in his laboratory, the Dialectic maneuvers the ideas and
the words. And verifies that the proposition, taken just in its objective
characteristic, is not true but really false. In this way the falseness
of the thesis is proven and Dialectics is pushed, as in an explosion,
out of it. One cannot live in falseness. Where does one go? To antithesis,
of course. And after demonstrating the falseness of antithesis, one arrives
at synthesis. Here a specific point interests us: What is the antithetic
pole to objectivity? Obviously it is subjectivity. The truth of sensitive
certainty is in the subject is the corresponding antithesis to the thesis
The truth of sensitive certainty is in the object. Well, yes, it is clear,
but not quite that clear. This clarity needs to be meditated upon.
Is object the contrary of subject? Is objectivity the contrary of subjectivity?
It is clear, it is right. But it is not as simple as we make it in intuitive
thought. We take the concept of object and make the anteposition of the
negation; from this comes the concept of Non-Object. Is Non-Object the
same thing as Subject? Of course not. Non-Object, the total negation of
Object, includes all existing and possible things as long as they are
not objects. The concept of Non-Object added to the concept of object
includes the totality of existing and possible things. The set of two
concepts opposing in that way, Object and Non-Object, is the totality
of the universe. Under the concept of Non-Object the concepts of Subject,
Subjectivity, and Intersubjectivity among many others are subsumed. The
concept of Subject is contained, yes, in the concept of Non-Object, but
makes up only a small part of it. The concept of Non-Object is much more
ample than the concept of Subject. Subject is a very specific form of
opposition to Object. Non-Object is a global opposition to the concept
A more concrete example can make the understanding of this point, which
I consider of great importance, easier. We will take the thetical concept
of White and ask: What is the contrary of White?. Immediately the answer
comes: Black. In Brazil, in the culture in which we live, the contrary
of White is really Black. In Brazil, which was a country of slave owners
and slaves, in Brazil in which the commerce of black slaves originating
from Africa was usual, the contrary of White really is Black. But what
is the contrary of White in Tokyo or Shanghai? I do not know, but I think
it should be yellow. What is the point? White and Black are opposite poles
in the contrary way, yes, but we presuppose and allow other configurations
of contrariness to exist. Adding White and Black we do not have the totality
of existent and possible things, but only two opposite poles which do
not exclude the existence of a tertium quid. Other contraries, such as
White and Yellow can exist. The opposition of contraries here comes from
the language and from History, both of which are concrete and contingent.
The opposition of contraries in Dialectic Philosophy is always like this.
That is why contingency and History entered in Dialectics.
This is the methodical door through which contingency and history enter
the heart of the dialectic method itself and, therefore, the system. This
is the engendering mechanism of the contrary pole. In Dialectics the contrary
is not constructed a priori by the mere anteposition of negation. In Analytics
this can be done because they have an expressed subject and quantifier.
Since Dialecticians do not have them, they need to look up in language
and History what the semantically opposite pole of their thesis will be.
The antithesis in Analytics can be formed by logical-formal manipulation
of negation, by syntax, in Dialectics no. Here, right here, in the engendering
of the antithesis, is where Dialectics acquires its character of contingency
and historicity. It becomes a Dialectics of Concrete, a Dialectics of
History. Plato perceived this, Agustine and Cusanus knew this, for Hegel,
Dialectics is always Philosophy of History. They got in step with the
ternary rhythm and constructed powerful systems of Philosophy because
they did not try to make Dialectics a logical-formal method that would
be operated in an a priori way. This in my point of view is the biggest
mistake of the 20th century Dialectics. The engendering of the opposite
pole, the discovery or formation of the antithetical concept is not done
a priori, through the mere anteposition of negation, but through a concept
that is found a posteriori in language and in History and which is articulated
in a well specified contrary opposition. White is the contrary of Black,
Subject is the contrary of Object. Non-White and Non-Object are much more
ample concepts, in them the opposition of contraries is not specific,
but undetermined. The negation that forms the opposites, Hegel rightly
says, is a determined negation, not an undetermined, flat, general one.
This does not work in Dialectics.
In order to see that an undetermined negation does not work, we just need
to take a present day case. Let’s take the Serbs as thesis. What
is the contrary? If we say Non-Serbs we get an enormous and shapeless
set of nationalities and races, in which even we are included, we, Brazilians,
Argentineans, Uruguayans etc. What do we have to do with the Serbs? Nothing,
or almost nothing. Putting Non-Serb in opposition with Serb, nothing happens;
there is no spark, no dialectics. But, if instead of an undetermined negation,
we put the Bosnian as the opposite of the Serb, immediately there are
sparks. Serb and Bosnian are in an opposition of contraries through specific
and determined negation. And Dialectics starts to move and appear on the
scene. One pole eliminates the other, or vice-versa. Or otherwise, a synthesis
must be constructed.
6. Dialectics of the Concrete
This conception of Dialectics, which is a Dialectics of the Concrete,
which looks for and finds the Contraries in language and History, has
great advantage and, so it seems, a disadvantage. The great advantage
is that it indicates clearly where the contingent and historic contents
that occur in the Dialectics system come from: from the syntactic structure
of Dialectics that forms the opposite concepts in a semantic and not in
a syntactic way. The contraries, that is thesis and antithesis, are not
contradictory concepts (Being and Non-Being, Serb, and Non-Serb), but
contrary concepts (Being and Nothing, Serb and Bosnian). The sum of the
two contradictory concepts, Serb and Non-Serb, includes the totality of
all existing and possible things of the universe, like colors, gods, flavors,
melodies etc. The sum of the two contrary concepts does not include the
totality of existing and possible things; here always datur tertium. These
contrary concepts, fruit of the determined negation, come from language
and History, they are contingent and have this characteristic in their
structure of opposition. The great advantage of this Dialectics of the
Concrete is that it admits the existence of the contingency and historicity
of things and of man. Contingency exists, there are situations and things
that can be like that and can equally be different. There are alternatives
in the contingent course of things. This is the space of free choice and
moral responsibility. In this way History is open. There is contingency,
there is true historicity. The great objection of Schelling, Nietzsche
and Heidegger against the necessitarianism of Spinoza’s and Hegel’s
system was incorporated here to the structure of the Dialectic Method.
Now we have the Dialectics of the Concrete. This is the great advantage.
The disadvantage, in my opinion, is only apparent. From the conception
of Dialectics presented and fundamented above we follow as logical consequence
that the system can not operate exclusively and preponderantly in an a
priori manner. Since the formation of Contraries cannot be done by the
mere anteposition of the negation, it follows that the Dialectic Method
is not deductive and a priori. For some thinkers, such as Wandschneider,
Hoesle, Schmied-Kowarzik and others, this seems to be a great disadvantage.
Philosophy loses in scientific strictness. The pretension of the System
is greatly decreased. It is true. The System, constructed with this Method,
is always just a Project of a System, an open system, always to be rebuilt,
a system which permits and requires that other systems coexist by its
side. Not that there are no general principles, obviously these exist.
But only the hard nucleus of the system is common to all the horizons
and to all time. Only the hard nucleus has the pretension of only truth.
The other perspectives (Nietzsche), the other horizons (Heidegger) are
respected and enter, as peripheral elements, in the Projects of the System
that are always concrete, contingent and historic. The disadvantage is
this, the abandon of the pretension of a deduction a priori of all the
system, is not a disadvantage, but an advantage. This is my opinion.
7. Analytics and Dialectics, two ways of thinking
Analytics and Dialectics are languages with different syntaxes and produce
Philosophies with different profiles. Now, through the methodical problem,
it is possible to see how each of these philosophies project a specific
and easily recognizable profile. If we take Hegel’s logic and schematize
according to the two methods, the difference in the two profiles becomes
In analytic language the reconstruction would be the following. The thesis
is The Absolute is Being, the antithesis is The Absolute is Nothing. Since
both of these are wrong, it is necessary, the analytic philosopher says,
to make the necessary distinctions. The thesis then becomes like this:
The Absolute, as it originates and comes into being, is Being. The Antithesis:
The Absolute, when it disappears and stops being, is Nothing. The necessary
distinctions were made, what was wrong was corrected. How? Not by the
elaboration of a synthesis, as the Dialecticians do, but by the elaboration
of the necessary distinctions, by the unfolding of various aspects of
prediction. Then, in that case, there is no synthesis. The situation of
falsity of the thesis and antithesis was surpassed by the introduction
of two aspects of the logical subject. The reduplication of the subject
is what surpassed what the Dialecticians call the contradiction. Only
the Analytics, from this point on, instead of having only one logical
subject, the Absolute, are going to have two subjects. In the steps that
follow in the system this logical subject is always duplicating itself.
The profile of that kind of philosophy is the following:
Analytics cuts in two and separates. The logical subjects multiply themselves
and, if we are not paying enough attention, Philosophy gets lost in the
post-modern fragmentation of reason. In Dialectics, on the other hand,
the logical subject is always the same. We have there always the same
logical subject, hidden but understood, the Absolute. What changes are
the predicates which further determine the subject. The profile of Dialectics
is the following:
Both methods have specific disadvantages. Analytics runs the risk of
losing the unity of the subject of the System and ending up talking about
non-important things. This happens in certain representatives of contemporaneous
Analytic Philosophy. Dialectics runs the risk of turning the only logical
subject into something totalitarian. This happens, for example, in the
Dialectics of Leninism and Stalinism. The specific advantage of Analytics
is its clarity. Since in it the logical subject and the various aspects
of the subject are always explicitly enumerated, they gain in clarity.
The specific advantage of Dialectics is that it always deals with the
Absolute, with Totality. Under these aspects Dialectic Philosophy is more
Philosophy, it is more System. The important thing now, I think, is to
realize that both methods, if correctly applied, do not exclude, but complement
2. THE SYNTHESIS OF THE OPPOSITES
1. The Space in which one does Dialectics
In the previous chapter the difference between contradictories and contraries
was discussed. The Logical Square, where this difference becomes very
visible, was discussed in detail. I showed, pointing out with my finger
as I promised, the exact place, the only place in which there could be
Dialectics: Between a tethic proposition A and an antitethic proposition
E. Only there it is possible that one proposition as well as the other
which opposes it be both false. Only on this place is there space for
Dialectics. Dialectics is a Game of Opposites, yes, but always of Contrary
Opposites, never Contradictory Opposites. After Trendelenburg and Popper’s
oppositions, whoever gets confused in this deserves the laughter of the
Thracian Slave. After this, we must confess that we still do not know
positively what Dialectics is. We only know that, in dealing with contraries,
there is space for Dialectics. In the logical space between a proposition
A and a proposition E it is possible that both thesis and antithesis are
false. This is not against Logic. All right, the Analytics would say.
Thesis and Antithesis, in being contraries, can both be false. Up to here
nothing against it. But then what? How does Dialectics go? How does it
work? What moves it? Where does it take us? What does it teach us? Well,
with these questions we leave the preponderantly defensive posture, which
was almost always determined by the objections of the Analytics, and we
return to our main theme which must now be shown and discussed in its
2. Opposition and Conciliation
The ideas in Plato and the Neoplatonic Philosophers have their own life.
Just watch and keep observing. Sometimes they are opposite to each other,
sometimes they are attracted and come together forming a higher idea.
The ideas are not composed of subject and predicate, but despite that
they say and tell the truth. Actually, it is in them and only in them
that the truth is. To know what the truth is it is necessary to enter
into a dialogue like Socrates did and teach on the street corners and
public squares. In Dialogue, thesis and antithesis, the spoken and the
rebuttal, appear naturally. In concrete and real Dialogue, on the streets
and corners, when someone says something and gives an opinion, an answer
soon appears. This answer can be affirmative, in which case both are in
agreement and in consensus. The initial thesis proposed by the first speaker
was endorsed by the second speaker of the Dialogue. Great. The initial
thesis, which was only one, was accepted and endorsed by another and now
is a thesis with an ample and more general base. This beginning is valid
and important, but here one is not yet dealing with Dialectics. The Dialogue
started, but there is only thesis.
Antithesis appears when the second speaker disagrees with the opinion
expressed by the first, when the second speaker does not accept the thesis
and brings up the antithesis, which is an opinion contrary to the thesis.
In real life, as we know, this is frequent. In Law and in Politics this
is called party. Two citizens have contrary points of interest and disagree,
they enter in conflict and fight. When they go in front of a judge, they
are litigating parties looking for a higher, more just solution which
satisfies them both. In politics, when there is no consensus but disruption,
the unity of the assembly breaks and within it groups that oppose each
other are formed. This disruption makes the parties come into being, the
pieces of that bigger whole that should exist and that one wants to arrive
at which is consensus. Politics asks and requires the general will to
be formed, above the parties; the Judge makes justice by raising the parts
to the order that is above the merely individual interests, Dialectic
searches for the more ample truth which, above the partiality of thesis
and antithesis, is higher, richer, more noble and therefore truer. Because
the truth is the Wholeness. Hen kai Pan.
The unification of opposite poles at a higher, more noble level was called
Unity of Opposites by the Greeks. Nicolaus Cusanus, using a term originating
in the Bible and Christian Theology, calls this Conciliation of Opposites.
Just like the Jewish people, after repenting their sins, return to Jeovah,
the true God, and reconcile with him, in Dialectics there is also a reconciliation
between the poles that are first in opposition, one against the other.
Hegel uses the word Aufheben. Aufheben has a triple meaning. First of
all Aufheben means to dissolve, undo, annul. For example, The session
is dissolved, Die Sitzung wird aufgehoben. Aufheben, secondly, means to
put away. For example, I put your food away in the refrigerator, Ich habe
Dir Dein Essen im Kühlschranck aufgehoben. Aufheben, thirdly, means
take and put in a higher place, put on top. For example, He picked the
handkerchief up off the floor and put it on top of the table, Er hebt
das Taschentuch vom Boden auf und legt es auf den Tisch. The three meanings
of Aufheben - overcome, put away, and put up - occur in the formation
of the synthesis. The first meaning: The opposition of the poles is overcome
and annulled. In the synthesis the poles do not exclude each other any
more; the excluding character that exists between the thesis and antithesis
is dissolved and disappears. The second meaning: Despite there being dissolution,
the poles are preserved and kept in all that they had that was positive.
The third meaning: In the unit of synthesis one arrives at a higher plane,
there is an ascension to a higher level.
3. Master and Disciple
Since in a previous chapter the Dialectics of Philesis, Antiphilesis and
Philia, the Dialectics which engenders as love from friendship, was already
mentioned, we take here another example which is also classic, the dialectic
relation between Master and Disciple.
Master and Disciple, at first, are opposite poles of a relationship. This
initial relationship is a relationship of negation and excluding opposition.
The Master knows, the Disciple does not know. The relationship is asymmetric,
and the master knows this, the Disciple is also completely conscious of
this. And it is for this reason that the Disciple comes to the Master.
He comes to learn, because he knows that he does not know. And he knows
that the Master knows. In this initial step there is opposition, negation,
and exclusion. The Master is not the Disciple, the Disciple is not the
Master. One thing excludes the other.
After this initial meeting between these two opposing poles, in a second
moment, the learning begins. The Master explains, the Disciple captures
the explanation, repeats the explanation, and sometime later, he knows
how to repeat and redo alone what he learned. In the learning process
the Master exposes an idea which in the beginning exists only in himself.
This idea does not exist in the disciple, he has not yet heard and learned
it. But after the Master speaks and explains the idea, the Disciple captures
it and has it. The idea in the beginning was an idea alone, now it is
one and the same idea that exists and is in two, the Master and the Disciple.
The same idea, although still a single idea, exists in the Master as well
as in the Disciple. In relation to this idea Master and Disciple are unified.
Even though they are two different people, Master and Disciple have the
same idea, they share the same idea. The idea shared by both, continues
to be a single idea. At this point, under this aspect, Master and Disciple
became exactly the same. One knows what the other knows. They know the
same thing. They participate of the same idea, which is a single idea
but which exists in two different poles. Master and Disciple, here, became
equal and came together in a higher, more noble unity.
When, during the process of teaching and learning, the Master taught all
that he could and the Disciple learned all that he should, the learning
process is over. The relationship of Master and Disciple, which in the
beginning was asymmetric, becomes symmetric, and the Master publicly declares
that the Disciple stopped being a Disciple and that he too is now a Master.
There we have, in the example of Dialectics of Master and Disciple, the
three moments. First, we have the overcoming of the opposition while it
is excluding; the asymmetry of the relationship was overcome and annulled,
it no longer exists. Second, we have keeping and maintenance of all that
was positive, that is, of the knowledge that was only in the Master and
is now also in the Disciple. Third, we have the unification of both on
a higher plane, because it is the same Master’s Knowledge that transformed
the Disciple into Master. At the end of the process there is a symmetry
that was missing in the beginning. This is Dialectics.
The truth and essence of the Being-Master, something essentially positive
and noble, consists of teaching. One is a Master only if one teaches.
But to teach means, on one hand, having Disciples, but on the other hand,
it also means to want the Disciple to stop being a Disciple and also become
a Master. Being-Master is a positive reality, on one hand, because the
Master has the knowledge. On the other hand, Being-Master is a negative
and self-destructive reality, because the Master wants the Disciple to
learn and for him also to become a Master. With this, at the end of the
process, the Master stops being a Master of Disciples to become a master
among other Masters. The initial negativity of the opposite poles was
overcome, but all the positivity held within them was kept on a higher,
more noble level. Aufheben, overcome and put away.
It is not Analytics but Dialectics that adequately captures and understands
intersubjective relationships. For Analytics the social relationships
are just accidents that happen between substances most of the time. Each
substance is and exists within itself and for itself. The interhuman relationships
are thought of, as a consequence, as just a supervenient accident. Man
is first of all a substance, by accident he becomes social. In Dialectics,
on the other hand, man is a knot in a great network of social relationships.
In Dialectics the individual man is only what he is while element of a
greater Wholeness which is the network of social relationships. In Dialectics
man is like a knot in the net of a fisherman. He exists as a interweaving
of strings that flit and make up the texture of the net. We are dealing
with two ideas of man and his sociability.
4. Plato’s Dialogue The Sophist
In the Dialogue The Sophist Plato deals with the five supreme kinds. The
supreme kinds are those which form the apex of the pyramid under which
the ideas fall into order. All the ideas, in their nexus of opposition
and attraction, group themselves in the shape of a pyramid. The apex of
this pyramid of the Order of the World is made up of two pairs of opposites,
Rest and Change, the Same and the Other, and by the idea of Being which
hovers over everything as a final synthesis. It is for the idea of Being
that everything flows together and from this that everything has its unity.
Rest is not Change. What is resting is not changing, and vice-versa. The
poles here mutually exclude each other. The Same is not the Other, nor
vice-versa. The poles here are also excluding.
But Rest-Change and Sameness-Alterity are predicable one to the other.
We can say that Rest is the Same. It is itself, it is the same as it Self.
Then Change is the Other, and the Other is not Rest. We can also invert
the poles and say: Change is the Same. The Rest is that which is the Other.
Rest and Change, Same and Different can be predicates of each other. But
one can not say that Rest is Change, nor that the Same is the Other.
But Rest is Being and Change is also Being. If they were not Being, they
would not exist. They would be nothing. Rest as well as Change are Being.
Even though they are opposite and excluding poles, in Being, Rest and
Change are unified. Both of them participate in the idea of Being. In
Being the opposition stops being excluding and the opposites reunify in
The Same is Being, the Other also is Being. Sameness and Alterity, initially
excluding poles, are unified in Being, in which they participate. Both
are Being. Being is the Supreme Idea. To Being everything comes together,
from the unity of Being everything originates. The Universe is then an
unfolding, an explanation, plica by plica, fold by fold, of this Being
which is there in the beginning. The Multiplicity of things, in Plato,
originates from the Unity of Being. - In other writings Plato says that
this Supreme Idea, which is the Being, is also called the One and the
Good. There we have the One of the Neoplatonic philosophers and the Supreme
Good of the Unwritten Doctrine. From this all the rest is derived and
originated. The only question was exposed before in another place: Is
this process totally necessitarian or does it contain some contingency
and some chance? The Neoplatonic necessitarians stay with the first alternative,
I stay with the second, which is what is being exposed and defended in
5. Hegel - The Being that is Nothing
Hegel learned Dialectics with Plato and the Neoplatonic philosophers,
with Plotinus and Proclus. But he goes one step beyond when, going beyond
Plato, he explicitly inserts Multiplicity in the pith of Unity. The Being,
within itself, already contains the Same and the Other. The Being is as
much the Same as it is the Other. Sameness and Alterity have always been
contained within the Being. The Being is the Being that is at Rest or
in Movement, at the same time, even though under different aspects. The
Being in Hegel is thought of expressly and explicitly as a process. The
Universe is a process of the unfolding Being, the System of Philosophy
is a process of mental reconstruction of the unfoldings of the Being.
This is the opinion of all the Neoplatonic thinkers. Plotinus, Proclus,
Cusanus, Spinoza, Schelling and Hegel thought exactly like that. The only
big question that remained open is about the existence or not of contingency
in the pith of the process. Is there contingency? Is there chance? Does
God throw the dice? Spinoza says no. Hegel is in doubt. I think there
is contingency, that God does throw the dice, and I think that this is
the space of equally possible alternatives which allows for liberty, moral
responsibility and political democracy. Dialectics, yes, but Dialectics
with contingency. Contingency and Historicity are, after Schelling, Kierkegaard,
Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Gadamer, indispensable elements for any thought
that one wants to be critical. He who does not take this into account
falls in the hole of necessitarianism. And the Thracian Slave starts laughing.
3. THE THREE PRINCIPLES
3.1. The Necessary Translation
The traditional exposition of the triadic movement of thesis, antithesis
and synthesis, as is done by Plato, Cusanus and Hegel, and as was reproduced
by me in the previous chapter, is something as uncomprehensible as Greek
for the Analytic Philosophers. It is pure Greek. One can not understand
anything, they say. It is even worse, they add. Everything indicates that
the Principle of Non-Contradiction, the first and fundamental stone in
the construction of rational discourse, is disrespected there. How can
thesis and antithesis be false at the same time? How can it be that Dictum
as well as Contradictum are both false? Isn’t this acting against
the Principle of Non-Contradiction? Isn’t this saying, and at the
same time unsaying? Isn’t this foolishness? These are the classic
questions already formed by Aristotle in the Gamma Book on Metaphysics,
which were reiterated in the tradition by so many others, like Thomas
Aquinas in the Middle Ages, Trendelenburg in the last century, by Karl
Popper in the XX century and nowadays by all Analytic Philosophy.
The answer to these questions, in principle, has already been given. We
are dealing with two languages with different syntaxes. That is why Analytics
and Dialectics do not understand each other. In the previous chapter,
we have already seen that the language used by the Dialecticians does
not have an expressed logical subject and quantifier, which makes understanding
difficult. We have also seen that when the Dialecticians say Contradiction,
they want to say that which the Analytics call Contrariness; when the
Dialtectics speak about Contradictories they want to say Contraries. This
causes confusion, and therefore lack of understanding. That is why we
have to translate step by step that which the Dialecticians want to say
into the language used by the Analytics. We so restate the basic question:
Which are the logical principles which rule the course of dialectic thought?
We answer: The same logical principles that also rule the analytic thought
which are the Principles of Identity, the Principle of Difference and
the Principle of Coherence, also called the Principle of Non-Contradiction.
These three principles, the same three principles rule Dialectic Logic
as well as Analytic Logic.
3.2. The Identity Principle
The Identity Principle says that A is A. This Principle is so fundamental
and so basic that normally we do not even realize we are using it. Even
though it is tacit, it is always being presupposed as true. In daily language
as well as in the scientific language we always presuppose the Identity
Principle. There are three subprinciples contained in it.
3.2.1. The Simple Identity can not be further explained. When we say
or write A, or any other thing, we are expressing a Simple Identity. This
A is set out from the bacground and surroundings, from the field that
surrounds it, and points out something determined. A, simple identity,
points out something determined and says something determined. But what
is being said is not said to the end. Here we do not have a complete and
finished predication. We could not have it, because we only have the first
A, simple identity. Since we do not have a subject and predicate distinct
from one another, we still can not make a complete and finished predication.
But we have the first beginning, A, simple identity.
3.2.2. Iterative Identity occurs when the first A repeats itself, then
becoming A and A. Or it repeats itself again for the third time, fourth
time etc., becoming A, A, A, A....etc. While the repetition is merely
iterative, or while it is only A that repeats itself, always the same,
there is nothing new. This iterative identity is the first and most basic
form of Multiplicity. But it is still a multiplicity of what is always
the same. It is only A that repeats itself. We observe, however, that
this is where movement begins.
3.2.3. Reflex Identity begins when we say that A is equal to A, that
the first A is the same thing as the second A, when we say that they are
identical. It is right here that Identity arrives at its maturity and
plenitude. Just here we are able to formulate the first predication, because
only now we have distinct subject and predicate. The logical subject of
this first predication is the first A, the predicate is the second A.
That is how tautology appears, the mother of all further predications:
A = A. The various Identity Logics, which we know today, are all founded
on the Reflexive Identity, in the great initial tautology.
3.3. The Difference Principle
The difference in the strict sense, or the Difference, begins when tsomething
that is not only a repetition of A is added to A or to the series of A,A,A...etc.
In this generic sense it is all that is not A, that is Non-A. This Something
Different, this Non-A, can be in two forms of opposition to A, in contradictory
opposition or in contrary opposition.
3.3.1. Contradictory Opposition
If we simply put a pure Non-A in opposition with to A, then we have a
contradictory opposition. A and Non-A are contradictory concepts. All
that exists and that is possible either belongs to set A or set Non-A.
The sum of both concepts includes the totality of existing and possible
things. The construction of contradictory concepts is done by mere anteposition
3.3.2. Contrary Opposition
If, instead of an extremely ample concept like Non-A, we put a more specific
concept in opposition to A, then we have a contrary concept. The concept
contrary to A is not that which one obtains from an undetermined negation,
Non-A, but that which is obtained from a determined negation, like B,
C, D and so on, for example. These concepts are different from A, but
they are not undetermined and ample like Non-A. They point out specific
things that are exactly B, C, D etc. The sum of two contrary concepts
like A and B does not include the totality of existing and possible things.
In such cases datur tertium, like C, D etc.
These contrary concepts, in oppositon to contradictory concepts, can not
be constructed in a logical-formal way, a priori. These concepts are taken
from language and History. Such contrary is, from the logic-formal point
of view, something first, something original, something that can not be
derived from logical manipulation starting from A. Simple identity, iteration
and reflexive identity can not manage to explain what B is, and how this
B emerges. B then is a contrary concept, a determined, non-deductible,
non-derivable negation. What is contrary, suddenly, without prejacent
cause, is there and appears in language and experience. This means that
such a contrary is something contingent. It is like that but it could
be different. Contingency and chance enter here, creating an open space
in the logical structure of language. This means on one hand an enrichment,
on the other a danger to the rationality of the speech. Whenever to an
A something like a B is added there is a situation that is not just of
Identity. In these cases it is necessary to examine if A and B can coexist.
Do they fit in? Does one adjust to the other? This is determined by the
third Principle, the Principle of Coherence.
3.4. The Principle of Coherence
The Principle of Coherence, also called the Principle of Non-Contradiction,
says that contradiction should be avoided. The Principle does not say
that contradiction is impossible, it only says that it should not exist,
that it should be avoided. The modal operator here is weaker than the
tradictional, it is deontological. In the beginning of all Logics there
is not an It is Impossible, but a One Should Not. This, farther on, is
going to allow us to put forth a critical foundation of the first principle
of a General Ethics. Here, in Logic, this normative Principle says three
3.4.1. The General Meaning
The Principle of Contradiction To Be Avoided says, first, that contradictions
should be avoided; secondly it says that if contradictions really exist,
they have to be worked on and overcome. This is the general meaning, which
is universally valid, of the Principle of Non-contradiction. Here there
are no exceptions. Anyone who denies this is denying the rationality of
the speech itself. Anyone who affirms and denies the same predicate of
the same subject under the same aspect is saying foolishness. At times
such foolishness happens in the speech that we make daily and in science.
But this should not happen. Never ever. But it does happen at times. If
someone ignores the prohibition expressed by the Principle of Non-Contradiction
and really contradicts himself, the punishment comes right away. Such
a person, who speaks saying and denying, is not doing anything but saying
nothing. He abandons rational speech, and reason, and from then on he
must stay quiet like a plant. Aristotle there is completely right. Aristotle
is not right when, in the Gamma book, he uses the traditional modal operator
It is impossible to formulate the Principle of Non-Contradiction. It is
not that it is impossible, but one should not predicate the same predicate
of the same subject under the same aspect. Outside of these logic-formal
systems, which are free of contradiction, contradiction is not logically
impossible, but rationally undue. The contradiction is undue, it is inconvenient,
it should not exist, it is foolishness. This is a universal and ample
meaning - this is the definition of Rationality. Rational is all the speech
that intends to free itself from contradictions. But, if in concretely
existent speech contradictions really do exist, then what does one do?
What can one do? If there are still contradictions, it is because the
rational speech was not completed; it is because the rationality of the
speech is still under construction. In such cases, in order to complete
the installation of rationality in speech it is necessary to apply two
subprinciples which are implicitly contained in the Principle of Non-Contradiction
in accordance to the Aristolean tradition. In order to overcome the existing
contradiction, it is necessary to apply one or the other. According to
the tradition one should try to apply the first subprinciple. If this
does not solve the problem, take the second.
3.4.2. The Annulment of One of the Poles
The first Subprinciple of the Principle of Non-Contradiction says that
in many cases, the said and the countersaid oppose each other in such
a way that one is true, the other is false. In such cases the rationality
of the speech requires us to protect the true pole and throw away the
false pole. This Subprinciple of the Principle of Non-Contradiction does
not have universal validity, it is not always applicable. The annulment
of one pole through the other happens sometimes, but not necessarily always.
When one such annulment occurs, then the Analytics gets into gear. That
is the root of all that we call Analytics. But when does the annulment
of one of the poles happen? In which cases? The answer to this, tradition
gives us through the rules of the Logical Square.
188.8.131.52. Said and Countersaid can be in contraditory opposition. In such
cases the rule is that two contradictories cannot be simulaneously true,
nor simultaneously false is valid. If one is true the other, which is
in contradictory opposition, is always false. And vice-versa, if one is
false, then the other is true. In these cases, as we can see, one pole
annuls the other completely. One of the propositions remains rational,
the other implodes and has to be thrown out of the discussion.
184.108.40.206. Said and Countersaid can be in opposition of contraries. In
such cases there are two rules. The first rule says: In the opposition
of contraries, if one proposition is true, then the other is always false.
Here one pole annuls and completely eliminates the other, like in the
contradictories. The second rule says: From the falseness of one proposition
one can not infer the truth of the corresponding contrary proposition.
If a first proposition is false, the second proposition can be true, but
it can equally be false. That is why we traditionally say: Two contrary
propositions can not be simultaneouly true, but they can both be false.
It is impossible for both to be simultaneously true, but it is perfectly
possible for both to be false. This can happen, this does happen at times.
What does one do if both the propositions are false? Should we, in such
cases, throw out both the propositions? No, we should not do that. To
throw out both propositions does not help anything, it does not take us
anywhere. And it is necessary to go on. The second Subprinciple of the
Principle of Non-Contradiction shows us how. It is here, right here, that
Dialectics takes root.
220.127.116.11. Make the due distinctions tells us this second Subprinciple
that is implicitly contained in the Principle of Non-Contradiction and
was explicitly formulated by Aristotle’s Greek and Latin commentators.
It is an instruction. Like any appliance or medicine that has instructions
on how to use it, there are also instructions on how to use reason. Here
we are dealing with one of these instructions for the use of reason when
facing very specific dificulties. If, during the elaboration of the speech
a contradiction appears, then one tries to apply the first subprinciple.
If this is possible, then one of the poles of opposition is annulled.
If this does not work, if this is not possible because both of the poles
are false, then it is necessary to make the due distinctions in the logical
subject. By making these due distinctions in the logical subject of the
predication, we avoid that the same predicate be attributed and not attributed
to the same subject under the same aspect. This can not be done. Through
the elaboration of different aspects, which is indispensible for the contradiction
to be overcome, the logical subject of the predication is reduplicated.
In the Middle Ages this was called propositio explicativa, in some cases
propositio reduplicativa. In such a case the same given subject is not
predicated and not-predicated to the same subject under the same aspect,
but under different aspects. This second subprinciple of Principle of
Non-Contradiction, which - as the first - does not have universal validity
and is not always applicable, is the fundament of Dialectics. This is
what there is to be demonstrated below.
First, however, I will mention and unfold step by step a classical example
of traditional Logic and Ontology. All the tables that exist there, are,
on one hand, existent. While they are existent, they cannot not exist.
On the other hand, these tables are contingent beings and, as such, they
can equally exist or not. That is the way the said and countersaid, thesis
and antithesis, appear.
Thesis: The contingently existent tables can not not exist.
Antithesis: The contingently existent tables can not exist.
In the thesis the impossiblity of non-existence is affirmed, in the antithesis
the possibility non-existence is affirmed. In thesis the necessity is
affirmed, in antithesis the contingency is affirmed. Between the said
and countersaid there is a contrary opposition and both propositions,
simply taken as they are there, are false. What can be done? Make the
due distinctions, says tradition. And there two diverse aspects are born,
which reestablish the good sense of reason.
Subject: -The contingently existent tables
Reduplicated subject 1: -insofar as they really exist
Predicate: -cannot not exist
Subject: -The contingently existent tables
Redublicated subject 2: -insofar as they are contingent
Predicate: -can not exist.
The necessary distinctions were made. The logical subject was reduplicated
through the two propositiones explicativae that were added. The original
subject was maintained (The contingently existent tables), but through
the explicative propositions it was reduplicated, and the logical subject
which was only one became a double subject. This way, from now on, one
no longer predicates from the same subject under the same aspect necessity
and non-necessity, that is contingency. Through the reduplication of the
logical subject two new aspects are born which elaborate the previously
existent contradiction and overcome it in such a way that the contrary
poles are conciliated on a higher level. All the contingently existent
tables have necessity as well as contingency, but under different aspects.
Through the distinctions made, the contradiction which existed between
two contrary propositons was discursively worked and then overcome.
This modus procedendi is known throughout all tradition and, as we know,
is frequently used. Except that we do not usually realize, that here,
exactly here, Analytics and Dialectics are interconnected. Analytics makes
the necessary distinctions and thinks, partially right, that all became
right and correct. Analytics puts emphasis, here, not on the unity of
the original logical subject, but on the duplicity of the two new aspects
that were engendered, that is on the duality that appears in the reduplication
of the subject. Dialectics, on the other hand, puts the emphasis on the
unity of the logical subject. It supposes, like Analytics, the duality
of the contrary poles, but does not thematize the engendering of the two
new aspects which are added to the original logical subject. Analytics
neglects the original unity and considers the subject only as a double
subject, that is, as two logical subjects. Dialectics, on the other hand,
does not thematize the specific manner in which contrary poles coexist
in the synthesis without triggering an implosion. During the last one
hundred years Analytics, under this aspect, got even poorer, because it
presupposes as a logical subject something which is determined in the
smallest detail. Analytic Logic, nowadays, does not realize that the logical
subject, in the construction of argumentative discussion, many times is
not completely determined and that it therefore needs further determination
through the engendering of new aspects that are added to it and make it
a more precise concept. This logical subject, seen in the processual movement
of its engendering, which was used in Middle Ages, today is unfortunately
unknown. In this way the link between Analytics and Dialectics was also
4. Being, Nothing, Becoming
1. Thesis - Everything is Being
In the beginning of everything is Being. That is the way it was in Parmenides
and Heraclitus, it is like that in Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus and Proclus.
It continues like that in Hegel. The object of study of Philosophy has
always been Being. What is Being? That is the question.
All that is, be it existent or merely possible, is a Being. All the things
that exist are a being, of course. But the things that are merely possible
are also beings. Possibilities, if they exist as such, are also beings:
they a r e possible. We can conclude that everything is a being. Or, using
the great art of capital letters: Everything is Being. This is the first
thesis of all the great dialectic systems. And this thesis, as we shall
soon see, just like that, is false. Instead of saying Everything is Being,
we could also say, All things are Being, or The Absolute is Being. This
last formula is that which Hegel indicates and advises in an addition
to the beginning of Logic of the Encyclopedia. But it is Hegel himself
who, in the polemic against his friend Schelling, in the Preface of Phenomenology,
recommends not putting the Absolute in the beginning of the system without
this being duly mediated, that is, without the due explanations and foundations.
The Absolute can not appear suddenly in the system, without mediation,
like a shot from a gun. After all, which Hegel was right, that from Phenomenology
or that from the Encyclopedia?
First of all we will remember the context in which the question appeared:
It was in dealing with the logical subject of the predication, which for
the Dialecticians is always hidden, which is always presupposed without
saying of whom or what one is talking. In order to communicate with the
Analytics, so they can understand of whom and what the Dialecticians are
talking about, it is necessary to make the logical subject of the predication
and its respective quantifier clear and explicit. Without this precaution
we return to the state of confusion in which Analytics and Dialectics
each speak their own language but do not understand each other. Each one
them says something and the other only understands blah-blah-blah. The
Greeks, when they did not understand the language of another person, called
the other Barbar, like that Bar-bar. Barbar comes from blah-blah-blah
and means exactly that. And the Thracian Slave, seeing the confusion between
the Analytics and Dialecticians, started laughing. Because of this the
Philosophers continue to fall into holes. In order to not fall into a
hole, observe: The logical subject and its respective quantifier must
be expressed. The Absolute is Being, Everything is Being. But what is
the Absolute? What is Everything?
The Absolute, in these first steps of Dialectics, still does not mean
God. The concept is still so ample and so empty that one almost does not
catch a glimmer of that Absolute, of the real Absolute that is going to
appear at the end of the System as God. It deals with the same Absolute,
for sure, but in the beginning it is undetermined and empty, at the end
it is determined and very rich. But all this, which we are just anticipating,
we still do not know when we take the first steps. That is why it is better
to say - which is the same thing - Everything is Being or All things are
Where do we get this logical subject from? How do we justify it? Simple.
The beginning of a critical system, since Descartes, has to rigorously
justify its assumptions. It is even better not to make any assumptions.
But how do we argue if we can not make any assumption? How do we make
a demonstration without presupposing at least two premises? Aristotle
had already asked this question. The arguments logically depend on the
previous arguments, and these on still previous ones, and so on. Since
one can not move backwards infinitely, Aristotle says, in the chain of
arguments, we have to start somewhere, we have to presuppose some beginning.
This logical beginning, that iniciates the order of the argument, is called
Principle. Principle means two things. Principle is the starting. Principle
is also the rule. The answer to the question of the first logical beginning,
according to Aristotle, is that these first beginnings, which are also
the first Principles, do not have and do not need justification. The Stagirite
cites as the First Principle, the hard core of the so called First-Philosophy,
the Principle of Non-Contradiction. This, being a first principle, does
not need to be demonstrated, this Principle is evident in itself. Just
look with the inner eye and the truth of it will jump into your sight.
Evidence comes from seeing. And seeing can be something very subjective,
because, as we know, there are illusions. Aristotle, much before Descartes,
already knew this, and knew it well. That is why in the book Gamma of
Metaphysics he makes seven attempts to justify the Principle of Non-Contradiction,
the First Principle that would allegedly not need justification. The central
argument in the end is only one. The skeptical radical who denies the
Principle of Non-Contradiction, but after denying it, continues talking,
discussing and saying things, this skeptical is presupposing, by continuing
to talk and discuss, exactly that which he denied before. That which was
denied reappears, like Phoenix from the ashes, in the speech that follows.
The only thing that the skeptical radical can do in a consequential way
is to stay completely quiet. Total silence is the only alternative for
someone who denies the basic principle of all speech. He who denies the
Principle of Non-Contradiction stays silent, reduced to the state of plant.
The act of speech itself, through which one denies the Principle of Non-contradiction,
upon denying it presupposes it again.
Contemporary Philosophy magnificently rescued these first forms of argument.
It is the merit of Robert Heiss, Austin and Karl-Otto Apel to have rediscovered
these more subtle but very important forms of arguing, especially the
so-called performative contradiction. A simple example. Little Johnny
is at the refrigerator stealing the jelly. Some distance away, his mother
hears a suspicious noise, and asks: Who is there? Johnny answers with
a muffled voice: Nobody is here. The act of speaking itself denies what
was spoken. This is a performative contradiction. The act of speaking
presents a content - Nobody is here - that is negated by the existence
of speech itself. Another example of performative contradiction: On a
sheet of paper the following sentence is written There is nothing written
here. The content expressed in the proposition is denied by the existence
of characters written on the paper. The Principle of Non-Contradiction,
in Aristotle, is justified through such a performative contradiction.
He who denies it but continues speaking replaces by his acts of speech
exactly that which he denied. This demonstration, subtle, but very strong,
is already in the book Gamma of Metaphysics.
A similar, but not exactly the same type of argument is the refutation
of Radical Skepticism. Whoever says and affirms that There is no proposition
which is true enters into self-contradiction and refutes himself. Whoever
says it und puts this universally negative proposition as true, replaces
as true exactly that what the proposition which he denies is saying. In
other words, he says There is no proposition which is true except this
one. But, if this is true, then at least one proposition is true, and
then proposition There is no proposition which is true is false.
And what does all this have to do with the first thesis of the dialectic
system All things are being? The question is that this proposition, in
order to work as thesis in a game of opposites, has to be demonstrated
as being false. How do we do this? How do we show the falseness of this
thesis? The falseness of a thesis is not simply given, it can not be admitted
without critical justification. And there comes the question: In this
very beginning how do we justify the falseness of the thesis? And remaking
the previous question, which was not yet answered, how do we justify the
use of this logical subject All the things? Here the more subtle forms
of arguing enter. The usual mechanisms of arguing, which are syntactic,
are not yet available to set up a discussion here. We also do not have
premises which we can presuppose as true. How then can we argue? We have
to operate on a deeper plane, on the plane of semantics and pragmatics.
Semantics justifies the use of All things as the logical subject of the
predication; pragmatics shows us the existing contradiction in the thesis,
and therefore its falseness.
Semantics is the doctrine of the signals. A signal points to what? A signal
means what? What is the meaning of All things? We can presuppose that
we know what the things are, that which surrounds us, that which exists
and is possible in the world in which we live. Okay. Everything is a thing
in a very ample and vague way. But what does All mean? What does the universal
quantifier mean? Are we not presupposing an improper concept of totality
from the very beginning? Heidegger brings up this objection against the
great Dialecticians of tradition, especially against Hegel. Isn’t
it this totality put here in the beginning that causes the intellectual
and political totalitarianism of the Dialecticians, especially the Hegelians?
Isn’t the political totalitarianism of Stalinism implicit here,
not yet developed? Stalin says he is a follower of Lenin, who says he
is a follower of Karl Marx, who says he is a follower of Hegel. Is the
Totalitarianism in Political Philosophy not included in Logics from the
very beginning in these first steps of the system?
No, the Totality which appears in this first beginning, in the logical
subject All things, is something completely clear which can be justified
step by step. The justification obviously can not be syntactic. It is
semantic. What does All things mean? What is one pointing to when one
says this? - Since a system that wants to be critical can not presuppose
anything, then we are going to begin without presupposing anything, absolutely
nothing. Upon putting it like that, we are not presupposing anything determined.
We do not presuppose chairs, tables, computers, gods, etc. But, upon saying
that we are presupposing nothing, we are
pointing to an empty space where actually there is nothing determined,
but where there is a place to put anything we want. He who uses an ample
concept, who does not point to a determined place, who does not mean or
presuppose anything determined, is pointing to an enormous empty space
where all determined things can be put. Not presupposing anything determined
means presupposing everything of undetermined form. We will take a very
simple example: Chair and Non-Chair. Chair is a determined thing, Non-Chair
is a strong negation of this determined thing. All the things that are
not chairs are contained in the ample concept of Non-Chair. The strong
negation of something determined is always an ample empty space in which
all the other existent and possible things fit. He who denies determined
presuppositions is putting himself in the totality of the undetermined
presuppositions. Chair and Non-Chair, the Determined Presuppositions and
All that is not a Determined Presupposition. The concept of Non-Presupposition
is extremely ample. Everything, all the things are included in it. Here
the concept of All or All the Things reappears, just like magic. And is
this not dangerous? Is this not a lack of criticism? No, we are dealing
with a concept which justifies itself semantically. He who does not presuppose
anything determined is presupposing everything in an undetermined way.
It is as if we drew a dividing line in our minds and put all the existing
and possible things to the left of the line. Then, to the right of the
line an enormous empty space remains. All the things are put to the left.
This is the assumption. The job of Philosophy is to put all the things
that were presupposed and put on the left, back on the right. This job
of repositioning is not just a copy. If it wants to be Critical Philosophy,
like we really want it to be, then it is necessary, when repositioning,
to examine each piece with great care and verify how it fits in - Principle
of Coherence - with the neighbouring pieces, and in the end in the global
sense. Then, piece by piece on the right side of the imaginary line appears
a great mosaic which is the Philosophy System. What is the repositioning
rule? Only one, just one, that of the Principle of Universal Coherence,
which we also call the Principle of the Contradiction to be Avoided. Then
the use of the logical subject of the thetic proposition All or All Things
is semantically justified. The Totality put here from the very beginning
and now critically replaced is something that imposes itself semantically.
Anyone who wants to deny our argument in order to be more critical, will
always make a new negation, engendering and presupposing exactly a totality
like that which he wants to deny. Okay then, as far as the logical subject
of the first predication of the system. But how can we demonstrate the
falseness of this thesis? Through pragmatic contradiction.
All is Being, All Things are Being. The being that appears here as the
logical predicate is the simplest determination. When one says of something
that this something is being, we are determining this something as an
ample and empty undetermined thing. Being is a very ample and almost empty
concept. The pragmatic contradiction consists of exactly this: we want
to determine something, and to determine it, we say that this something
is being, or in other words, that it is an empty undetermined thing. One
determines something saying that this something is undetermined. This
is a performative contradiction. The act of saying and the intention of
the speaker is in contradiction with that which is really being said.
Like little Johnny when he says I am not talking.
The falseness of the thesis has been demonstrated, therefore we cannot
continue with it. One cannot live in the falseness. The logical explosion
that occurs with the performative contradiction throws us out. Where to?
To the antithesis.
2. The Antithesis - All is Nothing
The thesis All is Being is False. The explosion throws us out of the thetic
position and we need an alternative. The antithetic proposition All is
Nothing, All things are Nothing appears.
All the things when they come to be are Being. All things when they stop
being are Nothing. Being is a Come-into-Being, Nothing is a No-Longer-Being.
Being is the positive, Nothing is the negative. The Being is to appear,
Nothing is to disappear. How and in what way All things are Nothing? All
the things are Nothing, because all the things for the time being, were
determined only as Being in this initial determination in which we are
found in the reconstruction of the mosaic. This being is empty and undetermined,
it is something undetermined, it is a Non-Determination, it is a Nothing
of determination. - When the waiter, at the end of a meal asks and we
answer that we do not want anything else we are not becoming nihilists
nor are we thinking about finishing our life or about the end of the universe.
On the contrary, upon saying Nothing we are wanting to say the opposite
of that which the waiter offered us. Do you want anything else? No, we
do not want anything else. Nothing is not a contradiction, but a contrary.
This is the meaning when we say All things are nothing. The thesis that
all things are Being, pure Being is false. The antithesis that all things
are Nothing, pure Nothing is also equally false.
This antithetic proposition is also false. The falseness of the antithesis
is demonstrated by the implosion that occurs. How can we say that All
is Nothing, that All things are Nothing, if at least our act of speaking
and saying is Being? If this act of speaking is more than nothing, at
least this act of thinking and speaking is and exists. Therefore it is
not true that All is Nothing, that All things are Nothing. In the antithesis
the violence of the explosion is, as one can see, always bigger that that
of thesis. This is one of the facets of the tremendous force of negation.
Observe well the following: The logical subject of the predicate was not
changed. Neither was the quantifier. In thesis as well as in antithesis
the logical subject and quantifier stayed the same. Or in other words,
we are dealing with contraries and not contradictories. And this is why
the Analytics can not oppose this argument. Two contraries can be simultaneously
false. We have already seen the Logical Square: Two contradictories cannot
be simultaneously false, but two contraries can be simultaneously false.
No contradiction. No one is saying any foolishness.
The thesis is false, antithesis is also false. What do we do? What can
we do? The Analytics would say: We should make the necessary distinctions.
The Dialecticians say: We are going to make a synthesis.
3. Synthesis - All is Becoming
For the Analytics as well as for the Dialectics the rule that a contradiction,
if it really exists, has to be worked upon and overcome, is true. The
Analytics overcome this by distinguishing two aspects of the logical subject,
that is making the two reduplicative propositions. The Dialectics, who
do not have a logical subject - it is not expressed - look for a new concept
which is synthetic.
The Analytics, facing the falseness of All things are Being and All things
are Nothing, would make the necessary distinctions of the logical subject
in order to overcome the contradiction:
Subject: All things,
Reduplicated subject: while they originate and come to be being,
Predicate: are Being.
Subject: All things,
Reduplicated subject: when they expire and stop being being,
Predicate: are Nothing.
However, the Dialecticians, who do not have an expressed logical subject,
in order to overcome the contradiction need to look for a synthetic concept,
a concept which does not point to the pure Being, nor the pure Nothing,
but to both at the same time, although under different aspects. The Dialectician
goes to the great basket of presupposed things, to the left of the imaginary
line, and looks for a concept which means Being as well as Nothing, one
running into the other, one determining the other, in which one does not
exclude the other. And this is where he finds the concept of Becoming.
Becoming is the Being which becomes Nothing, it is also Nothing which
becomes Being. Becoming - the central theme of Heraclitus -, a concept
that is prejacent in language and History, and a concept which serves
as the function of synthesis between Being and Nothing. In Becoming both
Being and Nothing are conciliated.
All things are Becoming. All moves, all is moved. The things emerge and
appear. They die and disappear. Come and go, appear and disappear, birth
and death. The world is in movement, the universe is in constant Becoming.
From this it is immediately clear that the Universe is in evolution, is
developing itself. This urges Philosophy to talk about Evolution, to build
an Evolution Theory. We will do this further on in the chapter Nature
5. Dialectics and Antinomy
1. The Logics of the antinomical structure
The Logical Antinomies, known since ancient times, were considered and
dealt with by Philosophers as little monsters existing in distant lands
at the edge of the world of Reason. Such monsters have always existed
in Nature and were, especially in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, objects
of curiosity. Giants, dwarfs, two-headed calves and similar items were
collected ad shown in the so called Room of Curiosities. In the beginning
Logical Antinomies were not much more than this for the Philosophers.
Everyone knew the Antinomy of the Lying Cretan: A Cretan says “All
Cretans are liars”. If all Cretans lie, and if this is being said
by a Cretan, then this is a lie. If it is a lie, it is not true. Then,
it is not true that all Cretans are liars. Therefore, it is true that
some Cretans tell the truth. But if this is true, and if this Cretan,
who is speaking, is telling the truth, then what he says is true. Then
it is true that all Cretans are liars. But if it is true that all Cretans
are liars, then this Cretan is also lying. But, if he is lying, then it
is not true that all Cretans are liars. Then the Cretans tell the truth,
and so on. The listener is thrown from truth to falseness and back from
falseness to the truth, in an endless movement.
The logical structure of the Antinomy of the Cretan in its ancient form
has been discussed and studied since ancient times. In the Middle Ages
Petrus Hispanus and Paulus Venetus occupied themselves for a long time
with it. Paulus Venetus presented a list of 14 solutions that were proposed
at the time to solve the problem. In the XX century, the question is picked
up again and the Antinomy of the Super Liar is formulated, which is logically
harder that the antinomy in its old formulation. The Super Liar, antinomy
in the strict sense, presented a logical structure which makes us oscillate,
without any other way out, between truth and falseness: If p is true,
then p is false, if p is false, then p is true. Anyone who enters
an antinomic structure of this type becomes a prisoner of it and can not
get out again. The truth throws him to falseness, and the falseness throws
him back to the truth, in an endless movement.
If the question of antinomies restricted itself to the Antinomy of the
Lying Cretan and a few other antinomies, maybe there would not be a great
problem for Logic and for the rationality of reason. Bizarre and strange
monsters, like those we see in nature, have always existed. If they do
not occur in large numbers, if they stay on the edge, they can be ignored.
The problem comes when we notice that we are not dealing with an isolated
phenomenon on the edge of the rational world, but something very central,
something that affects fundamental concepts of Logics and Mathematics
and therefore Philosophy in general. This change, in which the phenomenon
of antinomies leaves the periphery and enters the center of attention,
happens with Frege and with Russell in the XX century, and is going to
deeply mark the contemporary conception of rationality.
Frege, when he assembles the fundamentals of Mathematics through Logics,
distinguishes and uses various basic concepts. There are things or objects,
there are classes that contain objects, there are also classes that contain,
not objects, but classes. Then, in the hard core of Frege’s argument
appears the concept of class that contains classes and right at the top
the concept of a class that contains all the other classes. Up to that
point, everything is fine. This pyramid structure in which the concepts
are ordered and hierarchized themselves is something well known to the
Logicians since Plato and the Neoplatonic philosophers especially after
Porfirius. The new point, the great new point and problem consists of
the following: There are classes that contain themselves and also classes
that do not contain themselves. For example, noun is a class and is at
the same time, something which is contained in this class; because the
term noun is in itself a noun. This exists and this does not cause any
problem; it deals with a class which contains itself. The problem occurs
when one builds - and Frege needed this to make the fundamentation of
Mathematics - the concept of a class of classes that do not contain themselves.
Does one such class belong to the class of those which contain itself
or to the class that does not contain itself? If it belongs to the first,
then it belongs to the second; if it belongs to the second, then it belongs
to the first, and so one infinitely. After all, which class does it belong
to? There is no answer; the oscillation between yes and no goes on infinitely
and paralyzes the thought. Betrand Russell localized the problem and called
Frege’s attention to it: the class of the classes which do not contain
themselves is an antinomical concept. This class contains itself and does
not contain itself. Yes and No oscillating, one sending back to the other,
one based on the other, one presupposing the other, without end. This
is the first great antinomy elaborated and seriously studied in contemporary
Building the antinomy of the empty class, Russell forms the so called
Antinomy of Truth, which really should be called the Antinomy of Falseness.
The Antinomy of Falseness consists of the following proposition: (p):
This proposition p is false. If this proposition is true, then it is as
it is, that means, it is false. But, if it is false, then it is true,
because it is saying that it is false. Or rather, the truth of p implies
the falseness of p, and vice-versa the falseness of p implies the truth
of p. The movement of oscillation between truth and falseness appears
without ever coming to rest.
The Antinomies have to be solved. We can not say yes and no at the same
time. One can not say something and at the same time and under the same
aspect deny it. The Principle of Non-Contradiction can not be denied or
else all rationality will collapse with it. In order to solve the question
of antinomies a proposal was then made in the very beginning which prohibited
the construction of concepts and propositions which reflect upon themselves,
or in other words which are self-referent (selbstbezüglich). This
general prohibition of using self-reflexive constructions found support
in many good authors like I. M. Bochenski and Albert Menne, for example.
In Tractatus, Ludwig Wittgenstein assumes and defends the hard prohibition
to do self-flexion. However, when Wittgenstein adds Here we have the Theory
of the Types in parenthesis, he does not honor the thought of his master
Bertrand Russell, who proposes a more sophisticated and more correct theory.
The prohibition of doing self-reference eliminated the question of the
antinomies, because without self-reference antinomies really do not appear.
The medicine is too strong; it cures the disease, but it also kills the
patient at the same time. If we take the general prohibition of self-reference
seriously, such a radical prohibition destroys many concepts that are
important for Philosophy, such as the concept of self-conscience. The
prohibition of self-reference, taken as a hard and general principle,
is unviable because it disqualifies scientifically indispensable concepts;
even more, it is impossible because the natural language in its own structure
is self-referent. The grammar of the Portuguese language does not need
to be written in Latin, as was done in the past, it can be perfectly well
written in Portuguese; Portuguese is self-referent here. But if the self-reference
can not be prohibited, what can we do in order to avoid antinomies?
The idea of a general prohibition of self-references having been abandoned
as being impossible, the first great advance in the contemporary discussion
about the solution of the logic antinomies is, without a doubt, the Theory
of Types proposed by Bertrand Russell. With the specific purpose of avoiding
antinomies of the kind of the Antinomy of the Liar, Antinomy of the Empty
Class and Antinomy of Truth, Bertrand Russell introduces the distinction
of types, or logical levels. On a first level there is the truth, on a
second level is falseness. Truth and falseness do coexist, but on different
levels. In that way rationality is saved; one does what is determined
by the Principle of Non-Contradiction. Sir Bertrand did exactly that which
the honorable Principle orders: If a contradiction appears, it is necessary
to make the due distinctions. In the case of antinomies which have a logically
self-referent subject, Russell introduces not logical aspects of the same
static logical subject, but a logical subject that moves through different
levels or types. The solution is simple and brilliant. I think that Wittgenstein,
when he wrote Tractatus, had not captured the strong nucleus of the solution
proposed by Bertrand Russell. Tarski did capture the important point of
the Theory of Types and on it he elaborated a theory now known to everyone
about the various logical levels existing in each language. There is a
level zero, where the things are; there is a first level of language in
which the terms are not things, but refer to the things existent on level
zero; there is a second level in which the terms refer, not to things,
but to the terms existent on the first level; there is still a third level
in which the terms only refer to the terms of the second level, and so
on. On level zero there is a table which is a thing; on the first level
there is the word table; on the second level one says that table is a
noun etc. Tarski’s explanation gave a specific linguistic content
to Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Types and removed the character
of ad hoc theory, just to solve the question of antinomies. With Tarski’s
theory on the levels of language it becomes clear why, if we pass through
from one level of language to another without paying attention, problems
Many contemporary Logicians go back to study the problems of antinomies.
All continue on the trail opened by Russell and Tarski. The solution in
principle is always the same: Yes and No are not affirmed on the same
level, or in other words under the same aspect. We are dealing with different
levels, different aspects. The oscillation between Yes and No, between
truth and falseness, typical of the antinomies, finds a rational explanation
because Yes and No live on different levels. In that way the Principle
of Non-Contradiction is not denied. On the contrary, it was followed to
the letter because the necessary distinctions of aspects were done. U.
Blau, in a work of 1985, distinguished six logical levels, each one with
a determined value of truth. The antinomic proposition, according to Blau,
has the following values of truth: true, false, neutral, open, not-true
and not -false. Truth and Falseness are the truth values which are commonly
used. The truth value Neutral is applied, according to Blau, to vague
contexts and those without meaning. The truth value Open is applied ad
infinitum to regresses and progresses. The truth value Non-Truth leaves
it open if a proposition is false or neutral. The truth value Not-False
allows a proposition to be true or neutral. Here we see the sophistication
to which the initial theory which distinguishes only two or three different
levels was taken. The antinomy, according to Blau, rolls from one level
to another, from one value of truth to another. The great advantage of
the theory proposed by Blau is that the antinomical proposition on each
level has only one value of truth. There is no truth and falseness on
the same level. One never says Yes and No at the same time, under the
2. The Antinomical Structure and Dialectics
The discussion among the Logicians about the structure of the antinomies
passes through all the XX century: Frege, Bertrand Russell, Bochensky,
Tarski, Blau and many others participated in the debate. It is natural
that the Philosophers working on in Dialectics and interested in this
theme return to this question that is so much discussed between the Logicians
and that presents such an intriguing phenomenon. There are logical structures
in which truth and falseness are mutually implicant; there are structures
in which there is an oscillation between Truth and Falseness, between
Yes and No. Is this not Dialectics? Is Dialectics not exactly this? Is
the antinomic structure not the logical nucleus of all and any Dialectics?
The question of Dialectics put this way, put on the horizon of the logical
discussion about antinomies, appears naturally. Hegel had already said
that antinomy is a privileged way of presenting the truth. The antinomy
to which Hegel is referring is that which is elaborated and shown by Kant
in Transcendental Dialectics. Antinomy, now, in the XX century, is something
very well defined, it is the Antinomy of the Empty Class and the Antinomy
of the Truth of Bertrand Russell. It is this structure to which contemporary
philosophers who think to have found in antinomic structure a conducting
string which allows us to say what Dialectics is refer. Is the Dialectics
of the classic authors an antinomic structure in the contemporary meaning?
Robert Heiss, Arend Kulenkampff, Thomas Kesselring and Dieter Wandschneider
think so. All Dialectics, they say, is always an antinomy deep down. Whoever
wants to know what Dialectics is first has to know what Antinomy is. Antinomies
are the propositions which, if they are true, they are false; if they
are false, they are true.
Robert Heiss is not a Logician, but a Philosopher, a Philosopher who spent
his whole life asking what Dialectics was. The great fruit of his work,
Heiss published in 1931 in an extremely stimulating book called Logik
des Widerspruchs. In this little known text the structure of Dialectics
is described and analyzed under new perspectives, by new angles, with
an astuteness and sensitivity which we will only find again, among the
contemporaries, in the works of Dieter Henrich. Robert Heiss describes
and analyzes several self-reflexive structures, from that which we nowadays
call performative contradiction, passing through a wonderful rereading
of the Cartesian doubt which dissolves itself, up to the antinomy of modern
Logicians in its strictest meaning. Arend Kulenkampff was the first, as
far as I know, to raise the thesis - in his Thesis in Frankfurt, oriented
by Theodor Adorno, but inspired on Robert Heiss - that the antinomic structure
makes up the hard core of all Dialectics. Dialectics, says Kulenkampff,
is either this or nothing. This is the theme of Antinomie und Dialektik,
Some years later, in 1984, Thomas Kesselring published the book Die Produktivität
der Antinomien in which he strongly and in great detail takes up the idea
that the antinomic structure is the motor that makes Dialectics run. Kesselring
describes and maps out the antinomies, analyzes its structure, puts its
logical structure of self-flexive negation up front and tries to make,
starting there, the reconstruction of some parts of Hegel’s system.
Dieter Wandschneider, in 1995, in the book Grundzüge einer Theorie
der Dialektik, continues the Kulenkampff's and Kesselring’s main
thesis. Dialectic basically consists of the antinomic structure, which
consists of oscillation between Truth and Falseness which occurs in the
antinomic propositions. This, exactly this, is Dialectics. Similarly to
what Kesselring had already done, Wandschneider tried to make a reconstruction
of Hegel’s Logic starting from his theory. The reconstruction, starting
from the Being and Nothing, passes through four pairs of opposites and
stops there. I heard live from Wandschneider, in a Coloquium organized
by him in Aachen in 1994, that the tentative of reconstruction got stuck
on the sixth or seventh par of opposites. Why, he asked? Why stop here?
Why is it not possible to go farther? Intellectually honest questions
made by an honest intellectual.
I think that both Kesselring and Wandschneider were right in many things.
But in the most important one, they missed the shot. They aimed the wrong
way and Dialectics in its greatness and flexibility escaped them. I will
try to clear up what I mean.
Dialectics consists of the game of opposites. We all know this. But what
is the game of opposites made of? Which opposites? Contradictories or
contraries? Does Dialectics disobey the Principle of Non-Contradiction?
The thesis that the antinomies are at the nucleus of Dialectics says first
of all that the Analytic Philosophers should not exaggerate and become
exalted by the defense of the Principle of Non-Contradiction, because
even the Logicians recognize that, in some cases - in the antinomies -
there is an oscillation between Truth and Falseness. It is not only the
Dialecticians, therefore, who challenge the Principle of Non-Contradiction,
in Logics there are also structures that seem to escape from it. One should
not therefore unauthorize Dialectics from the beginning and in general.
This is the first message transmitted. The second message, contained in
the theses of Kesselring and Wandschneider, says that the true motor of
Dialectics consists of the perpetual oscillation between truth and falseness.
The opposites, they say, always oscillating between truth and falseness,
being simultaneously true and false, need to be conciliated. It is in
the dialectic synthesis that this happens, they say. The typical movement
of Dialectics came about, according to Kesselring and Wandschneider, in
the movement that exists in the antinomic structure. Which movement? The
non-stop oscillation between truth and falseness.
Kesselring and Wandschneider affirm that the Principle of Non-Contradiction
cannot be denied. One can not affirm and deny under the same aspect. But,
they say, there is a movement in the antinomies in which the truth of
a proposition implies its falseness, and vice-versa. One is dealing here
with different levels of language, affirm both authors. And this is what
saves the universal validity of the Principle of Non-Contradiction. The
elaboration of these different levels of language - the Types of Russell,
Tarski’s levels - take us to the need to describe exactly the levels
under consideration and the passage from one level to another. This is
central for Kesselring as well as for Wandschneider. In spite of this
distinction of language levels there is a mixture, clearly affirmed in
both authors, between the different levels; there is always a certain
superposition of levels which they can not define any better. Besides
this, both of the authors get stuck on the reconstruction of Hegel’s
Logic after a few steps. What happened? What went wrong?
The main mistake in the theories proposed by Kesselring and Wandschneider
consists, I think, in judging that the perpetual oscillation between truth
and falseness is something rational. They gave in to the dangerous fascination
that the antinomies seem to possess and succumbed to the irrational. To
be thrown from the truth to falseness, and vice versa without stopping,
is not something rationally good, but the peak of irrationality. This
ad infinitum process is not something good, but something bad; it is not
a dialectic synthesis, but a logical absurdity. No one can live rationally
in the perpetual oscillation between Truth and Falseness, between Yes
and No. This does not make any sense. This is totally absurd. This is
totally irrational. Kesselring and Wandschneider did not quite realize
this. They fell in love with the irrational. They did not realize that
the game of opposites is made with contraries and not with contradictories.
They knew, of course, that two contraries can be simultaneously false,
but they did not realize it is right here, only here, that one makes Dialectics.
They did not realize that the opposites in Dialectics do not have a predicative
structure, and that is why the synthesis has to be done, not through the
elaboration of new aspects of the logical subject, but through the choise
of a new predicated term, taking into consideration the falseness of thesis
as well as of antithesis and conciliating both in a new concept.
Kesselring and Wandschneider did not realize that contradictions may in
fact exist, and that when they exist must be overcome. They did not realize
that the question of the logical antinomies was solved in the XX century
exactly through the application of the ancient Aristotelian principle:
Whenever there is a contradiction one must make the necessary distinctions.
In the case of antinomies, which are circular structures, the distinction
can not be made only in logical subject, since by self-reference the subject
is repeated in the predicate. The Logicians, then, not being able to make
the necessary distinctions only in the logical subject, need to make the
distinction between the levels of language. What was done? What happened?
Yes, there was a contradiction, a potenciated contradiction, and the solution
was the same as always: Making the necessary distinctions. Since the logical
subject of the antinomies is in circular movement, the solution is to
make the distinction between the types or levels of language. This is
exactly the solution proposed by Russelll, by Tarski, by Blau, by all
the Logicians. Kesselring and Wandschneider also make this distinction.
But, although they make the distinction between the levels like the others,
they emphasize the mixing of the levels, the partial overlapping, the
passage from one level to another.
What is right after all? What is rational? Distinguishing the levels of
languages or mixing them? In my opinion, this overlapping of different
levels of language which exists in the antinomies can and should be later
researched for the good of Logics as well as Dialectics. Dialectics, however,
is something much more ample and encompassing. The webbing of Dialectics
is not as narrow as Kesselring and Wandschneider think it is, and that
is why they get stuck so early in the reconstruction of Hegel’s
Logic. The solution of the antinomies is just a particular case of a much
bigger solution: Making the necessary distinctions. Yes, there is, I think,
something dialectic in the antinomies. But one can not limit Dialectics
to the structure of the logical antinomies.
The main mistake of Kesselring and Wandschneider, I repeat, is to think
that the perpetual oscillation between Truth and Falseness, between Yes
and No, is something rational. Such a situation is rationally unsustainable
and should be overcome. One can not live in such oscillation. It must
be overcome. This overcoming really occurs when one makes the necessary
distinctions between the different levels of language. In this respect,
the Logicians of the XX century are right. The philosophers who are in
love with the irrationality of the antinomies and identify the structure
of Dialectics with the structure of the logical antinomies need to be
warned that the oscillation that happens in the antinomies is as rationally
perverse as the processus ad infinitum of the classical authors. Dialectics
is not this, Dialectics appears exactly when this is overcome.
III. A SYSTEM PROJECT
1. DIALECTICS AND NATURE
1. Philosophy as a System Project
Dialectics, since it works with opposites that are just contraries, is
always inserted in the contingent historicity of language and the world
in which we live and think. In the game of opposites the antithesis is
not constructed a priori but it is taken from language and History. Sometimes
the antithesis is constructed; however, we are not dealing here with an
a priori construction of concepts, but with a linguistic and social engendering
- a posteriori - of something new which is always an intersubjective fact.
Cornelius Castoriadis, in our century, showed very well how such an engendering
of intersubjective realities takes place. One is not dealing here with
a conceptual operation a priori in the technical sense of the rationalists
The important thing for us here is to be aware that Dialectics, because
it works with opposites not constructed a priori, always contains an a
posteriori and contingent moment. Dialectics is a knowledge that is going
to look for its contents in History, and is for this reason, a knowledge
that is always inserted in History, always sending atemporal truths back
to History where they incarnate. Dialectics is a knowledge which captures
and represents the necessary and atemporal nexuses which at times - not
always - exist among the things, but even these are always thought of
as the eternity which is realized in the course of time, as the necessary
that constructs itself in the contingent process of evolution. Dialectics
does know eternal truths - like two plus two are four -, but this does
not let us forget and omit the contingent truths that pass by on the horizon
of time. That is why, as we have already seen and demonstrated, Dialectics
never takes us to a complete and finished system that covers everything,
including the contingent future. Hegel makes a real mistake when he affirms
that with Dialectics, Philosophy abandons its old name of love of knowledge
to elevate itself to the statute of Science that knows everything. No,
never. Philosophy continues being the love of knowledge, the System of
Philosophy is just a System Project. It does bring up pretensions of truth
and universality, but not the pretension of plenitude and completion.
There are necessary and atemporal nexuses, but there are also contingent
things and nexuses. Time gone by, which is no more, is kept in memory.
The future is open. While contingent we can not deduce neither one nor
the other. What we can and should do is to think about the contingent
past, attributing to it the due values, and projecting the open future
by deciding about the present. The present which flows through our fingers
is the same present that stays: the eternal present moment. Philosophy
is possible, but only as a project of an open system.
2. The Tripartite Structure of the System Project
The Philosophical systems proposed by Neoplatonic thinkers show, since
Plotinus and Proclus, a strictly tripartite structure. The system is divided
into three parts; each of these three parts is subdivided again into three.
Three plus three plus three is nine. Enneads is the title of Plotinus’s
work and system. The same division into three parts with their respective
subparts is used, with refinement, in Proclus. In Augustine the triad
of Holy Trinity is not just a processual movement of God for Himself,
something internal to the Absolute, but also the movement which perpasses
and orders the universe of nature and man. The mystery of incarnation,
in which God comes out of Himself, makes himself into man and effects
himself into a contingent person in History, is, according to Augustine,
the Great Mystery which fundaments and explains the effectuation of the
City of God in the middle of the City of Men. Mystery here does not mean
something that we can not know, but the first explicative principle of
all knowledge. All knowledge, according to the wiseman of Hippo, is just
a further reflection of this Mystery which is the light which illuminates
everything: The Logos which turns into flesh; that is, which becomes Nature
and History and, in this return finds itself again as the Eternal Present
Moment. In Nicolau Cusanus the systemic structure is also clearly triadic.
In the first part of the system, the thesis, it deals with God before
creating the world. In the second part, the antithesis, the theme is the
creation; that is, nature and man. In the third part, the synthesis, the
central idea is the Man God which, upon redeeming humanity, engenders
the universe of Grace in which God becomes man and men are transformed
into God. Hegel, in the same tradition, divides the system in Logics,
Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Spirit. Logics deals with the Absolute
in itself, or as Hegel writes, of God before creating the world. The Philosophy
of Nature talks about the Absolute which leaves itself and alienates itself
as something which is the Other of itself. In the Philosophy of the Spirit
the Absolute, returning to itself, meets itself again and living again
in and with itself, knows itself as conscience and spirit.
The project of the system proposed here has, according to the great Neoplatonic
tradition, three parts: Logics, Nature and Spirit.
Everything which was done in this work until now is part of Logics. It
deals with elaborating the structure and triadic movement of the logical
speech. Logics, so conceived, is many things. It is, first of all, a Philosophy
of Language which analyzes the rules and principles of all speech and
thought, which examines and raises the conditions of possibility in our
factual speech and thought. The main themes are, then, the triadic structure
of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis, the three First Principles in Dialectics
as well as in Analytics (Identity, Difference and Coherence) and the interweaving
existent between Dialectics, Analyctics and Hermeneutics. Logics is, second
of all, an Ontology, because it formulates valid principles also for the
being of all the beings. Logics is, third, a Theology, because on saying
what a being is, it is always speaking of the Absolute. Logics is, fourth,
a History of Ideas, because it is in language and History that it gets
its contents. - Formal Logics, in its contemporary meaning, is included
in the first meaning mentioned above, in Logics as Philosophy of Language;
it deals with Dialectic Logics as well as Analytic Logics.
About the first part of the system project, about Logics, a lot can be
added, the basic has already been shown in the previous chapters of this
book. However, I want to emphasize a main point: I do not try to make
an a priori deduction of the logical categories, but a critical reconstruction
of the factual universe of all things, which is expressly presupposed
as the beginning and start, under the empire of the Coherence Principle.
The contingency of things and the Historicity were, I think, dully respected:
The System just criticaly puts what was presupposed from the beginning.
To put is only to replace critically. - That said and done, Logics done,
what do we say about Nature? What is the Philosophy of Nature?
3. Dialectics and Evolution
3.1 Logics and Nature - The Same Principles
Logics, besides being a Philosophy of Language, it is an Ontology, or
in other words, a general doctrine about the being. If this is true, the
principles that rule the thought and speech are also principles that rule
to the being of the things. The same principles rule speech as well as
nature. The basic grammar of speech is also the grammar that rules the
course of things. If this is true, then the first principles of speech
that were analyzed and elaborated above have to coincide with the principles
that, according to Natural Science, rule the evolution of the things of
Nature. - The demonstration here is made just to insert the hard core
of Natural Science into a larger whole. This can be done. There is coherence.
There is really a perfect correlation between the First Principles of
Logics, as it was shown above, and the First Principles of Nature. In
order to verify this, we just need to put the principles of Logic and
the principles that rule Nature side by side, with the necessary translation
of the nomenclature. - The correlation mentioned should strictly be shown
in relation to Biology as well as in relation to Physics. Since my knowledge
in Physics is unfortunately insufficient, I restrict myself to the correlation
between Logics and Biology.
Principles of Logics Principles of Nature
1.1. Simple A Identity.....................................Individual
1.2. Iterative Identity A,A,A............................Iteration, replication,
1.3. Reflexive A=A Identity............................Species
2.1.Difference of contradictions
A and Non-A.............................................(does not exist)
2.2.Difference of contraries
A and B......................................................Emergency
of the new,
mutation by chance
3.1. Annulment of one of the poles...............Death, natural selection
3.2. Elaboration of the due distinctions........Adaptation
3.3. History of Dialectics...............................History of Evolution
3.2. Simple Identity (in Logics) and Individualism (in Nature)
In the beginning it is this simple identity which stands out of the background,
or its environment, as being something determined. Starting from this
first beginning long and complex processes, which are all that we call
the Universe, are developed. This is the first beginning of all: the simple
identity. - The history of evolution of things has always been the first
and most important theme for the myth and when it is cleansed through
reason, for Philosophy. The history of genesis of the world as well as
of the things existent in it belong to the fundaments of our History,
our culture. Since the Pre-Socratic the philosophers have tried to formulate
through the categories of Being, Nous, Atoms, Ideas, Substance etc. the
principles that determine the genesis and development of our complex world
starting from a simple first beginning. Recently, we philosophers - unfortunately
- have abandoned this theme, which may be the most important of all, almost
completely, and have dedicated ourselves almost exclusively to the analysis
of the connections existent among the words. We have delivered the cycle
of the great questions about the genesis of the universe and life to the
physicists and biologists who weave reasonable theories about the origin
and development of the universe. Cosmology in the past was a task for
philosophers and a subject of Philosophy, today it is a subject that is
only dealt with theoretically by physicists and biologists. It should
not be like that. If Philosophy wants to be loyal to its name and tradition,
then the question about the meaning of our lives, about the beginning
and development of the universe must be faced again in an attempt to answer
In the beginning is the simple identity; that which is identical stands
out in its environment. We call this simple something the Determinate,
or, using a more up-to-date terminology, the system. The environment in
which the system is and from which it stands out we call just that, environment.
A system, something determined, is in the beginning and stands out and
distinguishes itself from its environment, which in the beginning is just
chaos. We can not say any more about this. In the beginning there is nothing
more to say. It is clear that the principles of the being that determine
the further unfolding of evolution already exist. They were elaborated
above in their logical form; now we are going to show how they act on
the development of Nature, how they act as the principles of internal
organization of the things.
3.3. Iterative identity (in Logics) and Iteration, replication and reproduction
Simple identity, when it is repeated, becomes an iterative identity. To
the first A one adds as second, a third, a fourth etc.: A,A,A,A etc. Does
the second A come from the first? Does the second A emerge from the first?
This is what the Neoplatonics affirmed; this is what entered in Augustine’s
doctrine on the trinity and in the great tradition of Philosophy. But
this is not the question we are working on now. Here we are interested
first of all in the element of iteration, of repetition. That comes again
and appears is always the same; at least until now. The universe no longer
consists of a simple A, but an A, A, A etc. which are repeated and follow
each other. - A specific form of iteration is what we find in the elliptic
movement of the planets and also of the electrons which turn around a
central point, always describing the same orbit. In that way they always
go back to the same place and make up something which remains. That is
how the atoms and solar systems appear in the beginning. Another form
of iteration, which we find in crystals and living beings, for example,
is that which we call symmetry. Half is the iteration by mirroring the
other half. In Biology the iterative identity appears in a very specific
way as replication and reproduction. Today, these are the key concepts
which describe a specific characteristic of the living beings and in this
way make up their own definition of what life is. Reproduction is a process
by which a certain organism makes and lets out of himself - re-produces
- another living thing according to the same plan of construction. Replication
is the process where the plan of construction of a certain organism, codified
and packaged in the nucleic acid, makes copies of itself. Reproduction
is the iteration of organisms where one is the same as the others. Replication
is the iteration of construction plans which are identical. There it is,
everywhere, present and active, the principle of iterative identity.
3.4. Reflex Identity (in Logics) and Species (in Nature)
Reflex identity says that the second A (as well as the third, the fourth
etc.) is the same as the first A, A=A. Here appears a phenomenon which
has made us think hard since ancient times. In order to say the identity
of A, it is necessary to say it or write it twice; first on the left,
then on the right of the equal sign. Only then - through the explicit
position of this first difference - can we clearly say the identity of
A. The difference, the alterity, or simply the other, is what sticks out
and begins to emerge here. We are still dealing with the same thing, that
which is identical to itself, but the emerging difference begins to be
seen. One perceives that there is a process in course here in which the
identical comes out of itself to, later on, return to itself. This circular
movement is the characteristic element of the basic structure of many
important things that appear later on in evolution, like life, that is
its autopoietic structure, or thought and free action, or spirit. But
we have not arrived there yet, the difference is just a rough draft.
This reflex identity in Logics corresponds in living beings to the species.
The species is that identity in which two or more individual living beings
become the same without losing their identity with themselves. In the
species it is not the singularity which is expressed ( the this to which
we point with our finger), but the specific particularity, the species,
or rather, that which is common to many individuals. The plan of construction
of a certain species, engraved in the genes of all the individuals which
compose it, makes up the typical structure of the species during ontogenesis.
In that way, from a chicken’s egg, there will only be a chicken.
- Two questions come up here naturally. How does one distinguish what
is characteristic of the species and what is the determination of the
individual? And second, why is the structure of the species engraved in
the genes and the individual determinations not? Both questions bring
up a problem, which deep down is the same: the slow and gradual emergence
Engraved on the genes is that which is engraved there (tautological proposition,
and therefore true). The engraving determines what is common in various
individuals; this we then call typical species characteristics. The individual
variations that always appear again in the course of ontogenesis originate
from the fact that the instructions engraved on the genes are not hard
laws, they are not laws that determine everything down to the last detail.
These laws do not keep small variations from happenning or, in certain
cases, even counterfacts. These laws, just like the modal operator of
the Principle of Non-Contradiction, are just a should-be. It is obvious
that the Should-Be here can not be taken in the strict human sense of
ethic and moral law, but just as a law of nature which determines, but
does not determine as strongly as the laws of Formal Logics and Mathematics,
that is, down to the last detail. The Principle of Identity says, therefore,
equality but only an equality such which also allow the difference between
individuals to exist. In the case of one hundred percent identity - not
even twins are like this - there is still a difference in the temporal
space between the individuals. In most cases the individuals are determined
in such a way that they have relatively many individual qualities. If
one originally individual characteristic (that is, a property acquired
by the individual) enters the genetic construction plan then this quality
starts to become part of the characteristics of the species, and therefore,
hereditary by reproduction. If, on the other hand, a quality which appeared
in an individual manner (that is, an acquired property) does not enter
the genetic construction plan, then it continues being just an individual
property; it is just an individual quality, not of the species. If an
originally individual property enters or not the genetic plan of construction;
v.g., whether or not an individual property becomes a property of the
species or not, we find out through the history of evolution. This - Lamarck’s
great theme - is initially just a fact in the course of an evolution which
occurs in a contingent manner. When and how an individual property enters
the genetic plan of construction, which physical-chemical circumstances
are determinant are questions we do not yet have satisfactory answers
to. This is exactly one of the themes that biologists today research most.
3.5. The difference between contraries (in Logics) and the emergence of
the new, the mutation by chance (in Nature)
The otherness, or that which is different appears when a B which is different
from the A and from the series A, A, A etc. comes in. The alterity of
the otherness did not announce itself, it was not predictable, it did
not have a sufficient reason preceding it. Suddenly something new appears,
B, without this having been given or performed in the previous A, A, A
etc. series, or in the reflex identity A=A. This B, which is obviously
different from A, is in opposition to A, not of contradictories, but of
contraries. And in the way that B appears, C, D, F etc. also appear. We
have here, first of all, the emergence of the new without presupposing
a reason prejacent to it, without presupposing an efficient cause that
should exist before it, without taking for granted that before every chicken
there must exist a proto-chicken-egg. The different, right in the beginning,
appears casually. It appears as a case. It is a chance. In the ambit of
Logics this was the contrary pole, that which could not be deduced in
an a priori way (the contradictory pole can be constructed a priori, the
contrary can not), in Nature we are now dealing with that which is contingent,
that which is by chance.
Chance is in Logics as well as in Nature a very important element, an
element necessary for the ontological genesis and for the logical reconstruction
of this totality in which we concretely live and in which we make the
philosophical discussion. Without chance, without contingency, there would
not be the Neoplatonic Logics of opposition of contraries and, therefore,
there would not be Dialectics; without chance Nature would be just a necessary
explanation (explicatio) of that which was implied (implicatum) in the
initial seed. Without chance nature would not be a contingent history
which could, equally probably, be and happen in a different way, but a
necessary development, the only one possible, of a substance in the way
of Spinoza. It is clear that such a necessitarianistic theory, that is
one which only contains the element of regularity, does not correspond
to the Natural Sciences, such as they describe and explain the genesis
and development of the world today. We are here conferring to chance the
same importance that it was given by most Biologists of today, like Richard
Dawkins and Stephen J. Gould. It is also clear that a necessitarianistic
theory, in principle, makes contingency and, therefore, the free choice
between alternatives which are equally possible also impossible; with
this the freedom of man as well as true historicity as we know it today
are also impossible. A Theory of Evolution, which has chance as a constitutive
element like the one biologists today defend and which we are presenting
here, is also very important as a presupposition for the correct construction
of Ethics and Politics. It opens the space of contingency and then, of
the alternatives which are equally possible, which by turn make free choice,
free decision and ethical responsibility possible. Without contingency,
without chance, nothing of this is possible.
Do we not fall, however, in total chaos by putting chance or contingency
into the basic structure of the theory? Does this turn to chaos not make
everything too chaotic? No, because the longer lasting things last longer.
With this we formulate one of the most important laws of nature, the law
3.6. Coherence, the annulment of one of the poles of opposition (in Logics)
and natural selection (in Nature)
The conservation of what is different is made possible and explained by
a simple principle: What remains most is what most remains. This proposition
is a tautology like A = A. Tautological propositions are always true and
have value not only in the Logical area, but also in the Nature area.
Such propositions are not always empty of content and explicative force,
as we imagine many times today. In some cases, like here, the contrary
is true. The law of conservation What remains more is what more remains
explains very many things. It explains that only what is long lasting,
not what is temporary remains. It explains that, in the last instance,
the order has more success than the disorder. If B and C etc. do not remain
more, then they do not remain, and they disappear returning to the chaos.
What stays is only what repeats itself, the series A, A, A etc., B, B,
B etc. Only stable entities last and continue to exist. This first law
of conservation, formulated in a tautological manner, also says that there
is a principle of selection that acts from the very beginning of genesis
and in the development of the universe. Only that which lasts longer is
long lasting. Longer lasting is only that part of the world which is more
than and remains longer than those entities that appear and shine like
fleeing sparks and soon dissolve into nothing. Only what maintains itself
remains, or that which through repetition of itself gives itself consistence,
that is, that which through the iterative movement becomes a durable sameness.
All the rest, all that is evanescent, all that does not repeat itself,
that does not reproduce, disappears in the course of development, returning
to indetermination and chaos. Without iteration, without this circular
movement that is characteristic of electrons and stars, without the replication
as it occurs in the DNA, without the reproduction as it characterizes
the organisms, nothing stays for very long. Or in other words: It is the
iterative identity that under the form of orbital movements, of replication
and reproduction, gives consistence to all things. The different being
that appears but does not remain longer and does not have duration - through
the circular movements, replication and reproduction -, such a different
being stops being and disappears. It existed and lasted for a short span
of time, but did not take hold. The law of conservation that is implicitly
contained in the Principle of Iterative Identity, if applied to the differences
that appear, is already a law of selection. The so called natural selection,
as we gather from this, is a more specific form of a simple logical principle.
In Nature, the annulment of one of the poles of opposition corresponds
to death. In Logics the truth of a contrary pole implies the falseness
of the other. The false pole of opposition, exactly because it is false,
is not good for anything else and should be thrown out of the rational
discussion. In Nature we call this death. In Nature, when an opposition
of contraries appears, when there is a shock between A and B - between
System and Environment -, two things can happen. First of all, one pole
can eliminate the other. In this case only one of the poles remains, the
other does not. The pole that remains is then called - mostly only afterwards,
ex post - the winner. The other pole does not remain, it does not survive,
it dies. In Logics this corresponds to the annulment of one of the opposition
poles; the false pole is false through the other which is the true pole.
This annulment is effective in Logics in a positive way: If we know from
some positive source - a positive reason, not just the simple structure
of Dialectics as a formal scheme - that a pole of a given opposition is
true, then it logically follows that the other pole is false. In Nature
as in Logics, many times we do not know beforehand, a priori, which of
the two poles of opposition is true. To be able to conclude about the
falseness of the antithesis in Logics it is necessary that the truth of
the thesis be demonstrated starting from a positive argument (for example,
through a performative contradiction). Also, in Nature, one of the two
poles should appear as being the truth or the correct. This demonstration,
in Nature, many times is not a logical nexus, but a simple fact. One of
the two poles of the opposition in Nature wins. Ex post we realize this
and then say that this pole is the winner, that is the one that survived.
The other pole of this opposition which lost the battle dies and disappears
back into the chaos.
Is this not a very poor Philosophy that has as the final purpose of living
the mere survival, an aethic Philosophy without pity or love? No. If this
thinking is consequently taken to the end, one arrives, as we will soon
see, at a humanistic vision of the world in which not only the dignity
of man, but also his roots in the cosmic order will clearly appear.
3.7. Necessary distinctions (in Logics) and adaptation (in Nature)
We return to the hard alternative. If a shock between two contrary poles
appears in Nature, two things could happen. First, it could happen that
one of the poles because it is true, eliminates the other; which we saw
before. Second, it could happen, as happens in Logics, that both poles
are false. Two contrary poles can not be simultaneously true, but they
can be simultaneously false. What happens in Nature, when - and this is
not rare - both poles are false? Then one applies the same rule that has
already solved the problem in Logics: If both poles of opposition are
false, then, in order not to stay in a blind alley, it is necessary to
make the necessary distinctions. In Logics that means the logical aspects
which once elaborated and announced, overcome and solve the existent contradiction.
In Nature this does not mean speech and thought, but being. The new aspects
which are necessary to overcome the contradiction really existent in Nature
are real aspects; they are new corners, new folds, new facets, which in
being real, really overcome the contradiction which appears in Nature
and exists in it as something real.
The alternative now is the following. If in Nature there are contrary
poles that are both false, or are not adequate, then two things can happen.
Either one pole annuls the other, or - both being inadequate - Nature
creates new real aspects (corners, folds, facets etc.). These real aspects,
so developed, then overcome the previously existent contradiction. The
creation of new aspects, which was called the elaboration of the necessary
distinctions in Logics, here in Nature answers to the name adaptation.
Adaptation, that is the formation of real aspects solves the problem of
real contradiction which previously existed and conciliates both poles
on a higher, more complex and richer level. System and Environment, which
previously were in contrary opposition and were both false, are conciliated
and united through engendering of new real aspects. This engendering of
new real aspects can happen in the System as well as in the Environment;
it can also happen in both. The process of evolution of living things,
in which all these adaptations concretely happened until reaching the
present stage, is called Evolution by the Biologists. Charles Darwin is
responsible for reformulating this old theory on the development of the
universe, already conceived by the Greek philosophers and later developed
by the master-thinkers of the Middle Ages and Modern Times, and have reunited
such empirical and abundant material to prove it that we can now discuss
the subject in a scientific way. The importance given to chance, or contingency,
in my opinion, is decisive in this context. One especially realizes this
when one compares the different forms through which Darwin’s theory
of evolution has passed until reaching the theory of systems of today.
3.8. History of Dialectics (in Logics) and History of Evolution (in Nature)
The evolution of things in Nature, like the logical movements in Dialectics,
always follow - this is one side - the necessary rules that were discussed
in Logic, but also always contained, as was shown there - this is the
other side - the unrenounceable contingency, that is chance. That is why
the history of evolution, just like the history of Dialectics, has to
be written a posteriori. There is there, for sure, an element that is
necessary and a priori (the Principle of Identity and the Principle of
Coherence), but there is also an element of contingency and a posteriori.
History is written when one tells and describes, first - always ex post,
then - how something contingent engendered itself in a contingent way,
and later, how this contingent being inserted itself into the net of things
ruled by principles which are necessary and a priori. History is therefore,
like everything else in Dialectic Logics - and also in Nature -, a union
or conciliation of what is necessary with what is by chance.
The history of Evolution of Nature is today one of the main themes of
Physics and Biology. The History of Dialectics which also always contains
a contingent element deserves more and more attention from the researchers.
1. The Ancient Family
In the beginnings of our civilization the Should-Be, main theme of all
Ethics, emanated from the Family and concretized itself in it. The Good
and the Bad, what one should do, what one should not do, which were the
rewards of good deeds and the punishment for the crimes, all was ruled
and determined by the Canticle song that the Father of the Family, the
Pater, vocalized while performing the ritual dance around the sacred fire
of the Home, which was then called Hestia. The Pater, all dressed in white,
with a crown of flowers on his head, in front of the Mater and the rest
of the family in line, started the sacred dance in honor of the Domestic
Gods. The Domestic Gods, represented by small statues placed on the edge
of the home, where the sacred fire that Prometheus had stolen from the
heavens cracked, were the father, the grandfather, the great-grandfather,
the great, great-grandfather etc., all heroes of many virtues and many
deeds. The Hymn song by the Pater in all the important ceremonies of the
Family was in honor of the ancestors or Domestic Gods. That is why all
the great canticles, in ancient times, started singing about the heroes
who were ancestors, or rather the ancestors who were all heroes. In the
Iliad the poet sings about the hero of the Trojan War, Achilles. In the
Aeneid the founding fathers of the city of Rome. In the Lusiadas, “the
weapons and barons” who founded Portugal. The Song in honor of the
ancestors, sung by the Pater, started honoring the ancestors, but soon
became much more practical. All that the Pater sang in the Hymn of the
Family was a rule that either obliged or prohibited some kind of action.
Nomos in Greek means both canticle and law. Both meanings were, in the
beginning of our civilization, intimately connected. All that was in the
Canticle sung by the Pater was Law. The Good and the Evil, virtue and
vice, good and bad action, to distinguish them one just needed to listen
and pay attention to the Sacred Song which, besides honoring the Domestic
Gods, established the normative statute for the Family.
The young woman, daughter of the Pater and Mater, before marrying, needed
to be disconnected from her Family of origin. The disconnection ceremony
was done in a dance around the sacred fire of the Home. The fire was sacred
because it was stolen by Prometheus from the Gods of Olympus, and the
Mater was the one responsible for it never going out. If the fire went
out, the family would fall into ruin, it would return to the barbarian
state; worse yet, it would be the same as the beasts who ate raw food
and suffered in the cold. The Home fire was something very important.
The Hymn of the Family was too. In order to disconnect a legitimate daughter
from the Family, the Pater had to sing the Sacred Song including in this
the mention that at that exact moment he was disconnecting his daughter
so and so from the Family. The bride, dressed in white and wearing a crown
of flowers on her head, like her Pater, was then taken to the house of
her future husband. A cart decorated with flowers, pulled by one white
and one black ox took the bride while the bystanders sang a hymn called
Hymenaeus. Upon her arrival at the house of her future Family the bride
got out of the cart, but could not enter the main room of the house. This
was prohibited under penalty of death. A stranger could never enter the
room where the Sacred Home Fire was burning. The only exception permitted
to this rule were the guests if they were brought in and conduced by the
hand of the owner of the house and host. Since the bride was not yet a
member of the Family, but she was also not just a guest who leaves, she
could not enter. If she entered and stepped on the sacred floor under
which the ashes of the ancestors were kept, she would be a strange invader
breaking the peace of the home. And then, sacra esto: she would be sacrificed.
That is why the bride, not being able to enter on her own feet, had to
be carried in the arms of the groom until the sacred fire of Hestia, without
stepping on the floor.There in the face of the Pater and the family reunited
for a feast, the groom deposits his future wife on the floor. The Pater
then asks if she wants to marry the groom and therefore, start belonging
to the new Family. On answering yes, the bride is taken by the Pater in
the ritual dance around the sacred fire singing the Hymn of her new Domestic
Gods, of the grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather
of her husband. In this ceremony, the bride, already disconnected from
her family of origin, is connected to her new family. She is then, reconnected,
she has a religion (re-ligare). In those times the Religion, centered
on the Family and the Sacred Song of the Home, was the fountain and criteria
of all Ethics. That is how it was done, how it should be done, because
who is connected or reconnected to the Family has to obey what is sung
in the Nomos which is Canticle and also Law.
This is the Ethics of the old ones. Simple, solemn, sometimes cruel. This
is one of the fundamental norms of our civilization. Until now the brides
dress in white and wear crowns of flowers. But they do not know why. Until
recently all women when they married took on the family name of their
husband. And they did not know why. Until today the laws, to be valid,
have to be promulgated; this is done first by singing, then pronouncing
in a good loud voice. Today in Brazil we have the Official Newspaper which
fills out this function. There has been modernization but not always and
not in everything. Many of us, when we get up in the morning, take care
to put our right foot on the floor first; whoever gets up with the left
foot first will be unlucky. In some older barrooms, in the countryside,
the yokel, before lifting his cup of spirits, offered the first sip to
the saint. The Saint here is not from Africa, but from ancient Greece;
it is a libation. This is the Ethics that gave the origin to our civilization
and which ruled our culture for many centuries.
2. The Ethic of the Virtues
In a patriarchal culture like ours to be a man is good; better yet is
to be strong. Vir means man. Virtus means the strength of man. This is
the first meaning of the word virtue. But man is only strong when he lives
and acts in society. Society is the Family, society is also the Fratria,
a grouping of families and especially, a City which the Greeks called
Polis. He who lives in the City lives well. The City succeeds the Family
in time as the source of ethicity. Now, there is no longer the Song of
the Family Pater, it is the City which says what is good and what is bad.
The Law of the City is the valued norm for all actions. And who makes
the Laws of the City? Who does the Politics, the Law of the Polis? The
citizens meeting in assemblies discuss and make the laws. The laws made
like that are legitimate and normally just. But we know that in reality
there are laws that are not just. Why is one law just and the other not?
What is the criteria?
This is the main question asked by the Sophists. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle,
each in their own way, tried to give a rational answer to it. The Dialogue
making the critical examination of the reasons brought up by both sides
forms the central nucleus of Socrates’ answer. The hierarchy of
all values, in a pyramidal form, under the rule of the Supreme Good idea,
is Plato’s answer. The straight reason is Aristotle’s answer.
In Ethics, dedicated to his son Nicomaco, Aristotle affirmed that an act
is virtuous if and when it comes from a virtue. Virtue is the habit of
doing good deeds. This is the concept of habit that points back to the
tradition of good costums and affirms as a general principle of Ethics
that good is what our parents, grandparents and grand-grandparents did.
Good is that which one usually does. But Aristotle is a critical philosopher
and the many discussions about the subject made in his time did not permit
him to stay just with this. Tradition and the Local Customs, the Mores,
are a good principle and initial criteria of ethicity. But, at times,
even tradition stumbles: some customs are not good. Why not? Which criteria
do we apply in these cases? Aristotle answers: Mesotes. Mesotes is the
middle of the line, it is that position which is neither at one extreme
nor at the other, but in the middle. In the middle is virtue, In medio
stat virtus. Virtue consists of being in the middle. The virtuous man
is courageous, is not coward nor temerarious, but situated in the middle:
that’s courage. But Aristotle realized that the Middle of the Road
is not always located exactly in the middle. Courage is nearer to temerity
than to cowardliness. If the Mesotes is not exactly in the middle, if
Mesotes is not the decisive criteria to decide between the Good and the
Evil, then what is the last criteria of ethicity? Aristotle answers: the
Straight Reason. Straight comes from the straight line of the Geometrists,
it comes from the rule of the Architects of stretching a rope and building
ceilings and walls exactly following the straight line made by the stretched
rope: the shortest distance between two points, a basic element of Geometry
and Architecture. Straightness, yes, straightness like in geometric figures,
like in Architecture. And Reason. What is Reason? We are still asking
what Reason is today, even now we do not know well what Reason is. Why
did Aristotle’s Ethics work so well for so long - Thomas Aquinas
adopted it, the Neoaristotelicians today still defend it - Why? What is
Reason? What is Straight Reason? Kant, in Modern Times, explains more
and takes a strong step further on.
3. The Categorical Imperative
Kant always uses the same basic scheme in his three Critics. He starts
from a factic presupposition that is not questioned by anyone. This presupposition,
accepted by all, is taken by Kant as being true. Kant applies upon it
the so called transcendental question: What are the necessary conditions
of possibility for this presupposition made? Necessary conditions of possibility
are what the words say: if any p exists, what are the necessary conditions
for p to be able to exist? Mapping the necessary conditions of possibility
of knowledge, Kant calls this a priori truths. They are the necessary
conditions for something we all accept; they come before, they are a priori.
In Criticism of Pure Reason Kant starts from the presupposition that there
are really some synthetic judgements a priori which are true. Kant is
thinking about the first principles elaborated by Newton in his Physics.
We are dealing with judgements with subject and predicate, in which the
predicate adds something new to the subject, something which is not being
said only by the logical subject. Such judgements are synthetic. They
are a priori, they are taken as being valid without being confirmed by
experience. That at least some such true judgements exist is evident and
is admitted by everyone. That many of these judgements are synthetic,
everyone also admits. Is it admitted by everyone that some of these synthetic
true judgements are a priori? Yes, the first principles, for example,
in Geometry as well as in Newton’s Physics are accepted by all as
true and they are a priori, that is, one can not confirm their truth by
an experiment. One can then presuppose that there are at least some synthetic
judgements a priori which are true. This is the initial fact, this is
Well aware of this presupposition we bring up the question: Which are
the necessary conditions of such a fact? Kant maps the conditions sine
qua non of the presupposition that we all do, even the most critical of
us. They are: A general subject which can formulate judgements, a minimum
number of predicates, or rather, logical categories, and the minimum forms
to interconnect the subject and predicate in judgements. This Kant calls
transcendental. A transcendental subject and the transcendental categories
are those minimum conditions, without which there could not be any logical
true synthetic judgement a priori. But such judgements exist. Therefore,
there is a transcendental subject which is composed of an empty subject,
and also by empty but absolutely indispensable categories. They are necessary,
they are necessary conditions of possibility. This is the transcendental
world of Kant. - Transcendental here means just the conditio sine qua
non of a presupposition which in fact is being made, that there are really
true a priori synthetic judgements. - In the Middle Ages the master-thinkers
anchored the Eternal Truths on the essence of God. Truths, if necessary
and eternal, have to be based on something. Since they do not exist, as
such, on a Platonic star, they must be put in the essence of God himself.
The Eternal Truths are anchored in God, which is transcendental. The is
why the science that deals with eternal truths is called scientia trancendens
by Johannes Duns Scotus; later Christian Wolff and others called it scientia
transcendentalis. This is where Kant gets his problem and his terminology
from: the transcendental question and the Transcendental Subject. The
truth of the knowledge is anchored, no longer to a transcendental God,
but to a universal and necessary subject which is common to all the empirical
subjects and is inborn in them. Kant’s argument, put into logical
sequence, is the following: If there is a priori knowledge, then there
is a conditio sine qua non of such knowledge. Well, the a priori knowledge
does exist. Therefore, its conditio sine qua non does exist. This consists
of those minimal structures: subject, predicate, connection between subject
In the Critic of Practical Reason the reasoning structure is the same.
Kant starts from a factic presupposition: All the peoples of all times
and in all cultures have some kind of Should-Be. Kant does not presuppose
the straightness of the Ethics of any certain people or culture. No, he
just presupposes what is absolutely general: some kind of Should-Be. Although
the contents vary a lot from culture to culture, all of them have some
Should-Be. This Should-Be Kant calls Fact of Reason. This in the second
Critic is an initial presupposition. This is the place in which Kant inserts
the transcendental question: What is the necessary condition of possibility
of such a fact? What is the conditio sine qua non? For all the people
in all places to have such a Should-Be it is necessary that an a priori
structure exist, it is necessary to admitt a practical transcendental
subject which is guided by a great and unique general principle. There
is, then, a transcendental principle of the Practical Reason that is the
a priori necessary condition and the common denominator of the local multiple
ethics. Kant calls this practical principle Categorical Imperative: You
shold always act in such a way that the norm of your action could be elevated
to the statute of a universal law. This great moral imperative is empty
of contents, but in compensation it is valid for everyone.
4. The Ethics of Discouse
The Categorical Imperative, because it is empty of contents, attracted
a lot of criticism. Very just criticism, we must say. If there are no
contents, how can we apply the Categorical Imperative in the practical
daily life? Apel and Habermas, in our century, took the question further
on. The Categorical Imperative is wonderful and was well demonstrated
by Kant; they call it another name, in this way characterizing its speculative
nucleus better, and call it the U Principle, Principle of Universalization.
This Principle, in its basic content, says the same thing as Kant’s
Categorical Imperative. Except that for this U Principle to work, it has
to be applied simultaneously with Principle D, which is the Principle
of Discourse. Starting from the contemporary theory about all acts of
speech, Apel and Habermas construct the minimal structure which is presupposed
in the circle of rational discussion. In the circle of Discussion without
violence, in which only the reasons presented by each one of the participants
have any value, the private interests of each one are examined in their
ethicity, starting from the application of the U Principle. Someone in
the Discussion group has in fact a determined interest; is this interest
ethic? In order to discover this, it is necessary to try to universalize
this private interest and verify if it is passible of universalization.
Is it passible of universalization? Then it is ethic. Ethics is done,
according to Apel and Habermas, in the coming and going between the D
and the U Principle. From the U Principle, which is Kant’s old Categorical
Imperative, comes the normativeness, the Should-Be. From the D Principle,
from the Discussion group, comes the contingent and historic conditions
which were missing in Kant’s empty Imperative. It is brilliant.
Even more brilliant is the sharpness of the demonstration: Whoever tries
to deny the D Principle by argument, through rational discourse, upon
denying it replaces exactly that which they want to deny: the rationality
of the discussion circle. Whoever tries to deny the U Principle, on doing
so, denies himself, because he uses arguments which are only valid because
they are universal. D and U cannot be denied, without reappearing from
the negation itself. Whoever denies U and D enters into performative contradiction.
With this it is shown that the Principles U and D are universally valid.
The two First Principles of the Ethics of Discourse, a modernized form
of Kant’s Ethics, can not be denied. Whoever denies them enters
into performative contradiction. It is brilliant, but it is not yet complete.
5. The Three Great Questions
Today, any project of constructing an Ethics has to answer three basic
questions that have been becoming clearer in the last centuries. The first
is: How does one make the passage from merely descriptive propositions
to normative propositions? The second: Which is the first, or which are
the first great principles that rule the Should-Be? The third: How does
one make the passage from the particular to the universal and vice-versa?
The first question is not answered even by Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas,
or Kant. All of them start, in the very beginning, from a practical reason,
or in other words, from normative propositions. This is bad, very bad.
Because theoretic reason and practical reason are, from the beginning,
unassociated, and the nexus between them can not be reestablished. There
are two distinct and separate reasons. Is this reason, which is no longer
one, which is divided into two reasons, still Reason? How can we think
about this duality without unity? Can we? No, we can not.
To the second question Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas answer with a list
of virtues and values. These, without further care of critical elaboration,
are declared the first principles of all ethicity. Kant and Ethics of
Discourse go deeper and farther. The First Principle in Kant’s Ethics
is the Categorical Imperative; the U and D Principles can be indirectly
demonstrated through the performative contradiction, Apel and Habermas
say. They are, in my opinion more right than the old ones.
The third question deals with the difficult passage that is necessary
to make between the universal validity of a principle and its application
to the concrete individual situation. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas used
here what they called prudence; this is a spiritual attitude with characteristics
which are difficult to define clearly. Kant, facing this question, remains
without a satisfactory answer. The passage of the Categorical Imperative,
empty of content, to the Moral Maxims and from these to the individual
decision are done with great bumps; this is the great objection which
Hegel finds against Kant’s Ethics. Apel and Habermas offer us a
better answer to this question. The interleaving between the universal
and the private is done in parallel to the interleaving between the D
and U Principles, because the ideal situation for the discourse (U) has
to be anticipated in the real situation of the discourse (D). Since the
acts of speech are always universal, on one hand, but concretely individual
on the other, the bifacial structure of Ethics corresponds to it. One
interleaves the other. This answer is totally plausible, although not
complete, because it just moves the problem.
6. The Passage from Descriptive Propositions to Normative Propositions
How does one make the passage from descriptive propositions to normative
propositions? In the project of the system proposed here the answer to
this first question is easy and comes naturally. Because since the first
beginning of Logic we are operating with the Principle of Non-Contradiction
which is one of the three basic principles. This principle, as we modified
and formulated above, worked with a modal operator, the Should-Be. We
say that contradictions exist at times, but they s h o u l d be avoided.
The Should-Be is the modal operator of the Principle of the Contradiction
to Be Avoided. That is why from the beginning, in the heart of Logics
itself, we are operating with the Should-Be. How do we make the passage
from the descriptive propositions to the normative propositions? We do
not. From the first beginning of Logics we are operating with normative
propositions. The Principle of Non-Contradiction itself is a normative
The Should-Be, the practical reason in our system project, is a more ample
and encompassing circle. Theoretical reason is a smaller circle situated
inside the bigger set which is the practical reason. Practical Reason
includes and contains Theoretical Reason within it. At this point what
is being proposed coincides with Habemas’s theory about Communicative
Reason, because this has the Should-Be as its characteristic. There is
no agreement at this point with Aristotle or Kant, which separate the
reason in two. Here reason is just one reason, only one Totality which
within itself has a specific subsystem, Theoretical Reason.
The question of the passage of descriptive propositions to normative propositions
then receives a new focus. We are, from the beginning, since the Principle
of Non-Contradiction, working with propositions which are primarily normative.
The Discourse and the Dialectics have always been normative. Logics, in
its beginning, is normative. The passage of these first normative propositions
to descriptive propostions which are secondary comes later on, by abstraction
and narrowing of the ambit. When one says One should not make contradictions
we have an extremely universal principle, always valid and without restrictions,
that is a normative principle. When we say It is impossible for contradictions
to exist we are talking only about some logic-formal subsystems, not about
all reality; the modal operator here is the traditional It is Impossible.
Descriptive propositions exist, of course, but they are not the beginning,
they are not the general paradigm, they are just a subspecies, a subsystem
within a larger system. The passage from the normative proposition to
the descriptive proposition is given by abstraction, by cutting and impoverishment.
One removes the deontic modal operator from the concrete normative proposition
and then on one side the kingdom of necessary possibilities appears and
on the other the kingdom of the facts to be captured and described in
their factuality. Both the kingdoms are just a result of cutting and abstraction.
That is why we can never be totally objective. We can not, because such
pure objectivity does not exist, because we can never make a perfect and
7. The First Principle of the Should-Be
The first Principle of the Should-Be has been, since the beginning of
the system, the Principle of the Contradiction to be Avoided, or by another
name the Principle of Coherence. Since the beginning of Logic we have
worked with this Principle: Contradictions, if they really do exist, should
be worked on and overcome. All the Dialectic structure, as it was shown
previously, is based on this. The Dialectic Discourse is ruled by a Should-Be.
All the things in Nature, in their evolution, are ruled by a Should-Be.
System and Environment can not be in contradiction. If there is some contradiction,
then one pole eliminates the other, or the necessary distinctions are
elaborated. In Nature the distinctions are made by the engendering of
new sides, new facets, new forms of complexity. The evolution of the beings
consists exactly in this. Also in Nature the contradictions appear. And
here the Principle of Coherence comes in full force. Either one of the
elements in the contradiction eliminates or annuls the other or there
must be an adaptation. The adaptation consists exactly of those small
changes that appear side by side, in such a way that the characteristics
which were bevor opposing and excluding become qualities which complete
and complement each other. The Systems change and adapt, the Environment
also changes and adapts, although less frequently and on a smaller scale.
Adaptation by adaptation changes, and in the long run great transformations
appear. Simple beings, therefore, become more and more complex. Why? Because
they should adapt. Whatever does not adapt, whatever is not coherent should
not be. It will be eliminated by Nature. Death and Natural Selection are
names used by Biologists to express that rule which we in Logics call
the Coherence Principle. It is a Law, but a flexible Law, which in the
long run conducts the things, but which over a short time allows counterfacts
to exist. It is a Law that shapes and molds, but slowly, in small steps,
always allowing and presupposing the engendering of the new, and, therefore,
the reality as we know it. It deals with a reality in which not everything
is always determined in all details, it deals with a reality which at
times self engenders, regulates itself, reproduces itself. This is where
Coherence comes in determined as a Should-Be. It is not that incoherences
never exist. Sometimes they exist, but in the long term the Principle
of Coherence imposes itself, either by eliminating the opposites or by
conciliating them through adaptations. In Biology this is called Evolution.
But, what is this? Do plants and animals have a Should-Be? The answer
at first is: No. Not in the complete sense which we humans give to Should-Be.
But the answer is Yes in the meaning that plants and animals also have
certain degree of autonomy, they have some mechanism of self-determination,
make some choices, and are subject to the Universal Law which order them
to be coherent. Plants and animals must also have internal coherence between
their parts, external coherence with their immediate environment, and
finally coherence with the rest of the Universe. In this ample meaning
of Should-Be plants and animals also participate in the Ethics and could
be called ethic. Who has not seen or realized that dogs in living with
humans and among themselves sometimes act in bad faith? What rider has
never realized that his horse reacts sometimes cooperating, and sometimes
with wrong intention? Plants and animals do have a certain Ethics, in
their own way.
What then is the formulation of the First Principle of a General Ethics
according to the System which we are proposing? Exactly that of Kant’s
Categorical Imperative, of Apel and Habemas’s U Principle. In relation
to these the specific difference of this project is that the Coherence
Principle, as we understand and showed it, permeates all the Philosophy
System from the beginning of Logic up to the end, up to the Absolute.
It is a great Principle which determines Logic, Nature and also Spirit.
The three great parts of the System are anchored on the Coherence Principle.
In opposition to the systemic amplitude, Kant’s Categorical Imperative
does not exist in the ambit of Theoretic Reason. According to Habermas
the U Principle exists already in Logics, but it is not a rule for Nature;
I think it is a rule for Nature too. This is the difference between the
Kantians and what is being proposed here. Except for this, I think that
the Ethics that I am proposing is congruent with that which is proposed
by Apel and Habermas.
8. The Passage of the Universal to Particular and vice-versa
The great difficulty in Kant’s Ethics was the going down from the
Categorical Imperative through the Maxims of Reason to the individual
decision of man. How do we make a legitimate passage of a Universal Principle,
which is empty, to a particular one, which has concrete contents? Apel
and Habermas answer by saying that the U Principle has to be used together
with the D Principle, that is in the concrete group of Discussion. The
answer is good, but does not totally clear up the question. How is it
possible to conciliate a formal and empty U Principle with the real situation
of discussion? Apel and Habermas answer saying that each member of the
discussion group has to take his own private, concrete and historic interest
and try to universalize it. If he can, then it is ethical. If he can not,
then it is against Ethics. The defenders of Discourse Ethics make the
passage between Universal and Private by experiment. Like the Chemists
who, when they still do not know what substance they are working with,
do empirical experiments, Apel and Habemas order us to do a moral experiment.
They never say what I just said in these words. Probably they would be
furious with me. But it is like that, and only like that that it works.
We only know what should be when we do the universalization experiment.
Ethics is experimentation.
The passage from the universal to the private and vice-versa, from the
private to the universal is a problem which always appears when one follows
a dualist system. Aristotle, Kant, Apel and Habermas are dualists. And
that poses a problem which I think has no solution. In a monist system,
like that which is being proposed here, there is not a non-conciliated
opposition between material and spirit, between particular and universal.
The monist system consists exactly in the conciliation of these opposite
poles. The material world has always been in its intimate somewhat spiritual.
The Individual and the Particular are just cuts which one makes within
The Universal is being thought of here as a Concrete Universal. This is
the real starting point, this is the larger set from which we make the
cut which we then call the Individual and Private. What exists in fact
is not an abstract and rachitic universal concept removed from its original
texture, but a Concrete Universal, which can be taped and filmed, the
joint action of many men in their work and speaking relationships. There,
there inside, appear the Signs, which give rhythm to the actions and which
are constitutive parts of the concrete whole in which they are inserted.
Like the beats of the drum are integral parts of a bigger whole, the music
of the group, the Signs give rhythm to the action groups of which they
are part. These are the Concrete signs which remit to a Totality that
is present; they are pars in toto. When we remove the signs from their
concrete context, when we send a signal, not within all that is present,
but out of it, then the signals are pars pro toto, they still point to
a Totality but the pointed Totality in itself is no longer present. The
Concrete Sign is transformed and becomes an Abstract Sign. The Abstract
Sign is only understood if and when the listener has the capacity to remember
the original Totality from which the Signal was an integral part and to
which it still remits. What are the consequences of this? That which we
call Universal day-by-day - after Ockam - is just an abstract signal.
This signal, the Abstract Universal, is in excluding opposition with the
individual only in the first moment, at first sight. Then Dialectics comes
in and a conciliation of opposites is made, and we realize that on a higher
plane Universal and Individual are identical. In the Concrete Universal
there is no more excluding opposition between Universal and Individual,
there is conciliation.
Therefore the problem of the passage between universal, particular and
individual, that is insoluble in dualist systems, is so resolved in monist
Dialectics. And on top of that we understand that in order to grasp the
meaning of one concept, of an abstract signal, we have to know how to
reinsert it in the concrete totality where it has its complete meaning.
To know a concept is to know how to use it. Wittgenstein in this was right.
9. Reward and Punishment
All good action is in itself its own reward. It is coherent with itself,
with its near and remote Environment. It is coherent and because of this
presents no conflicts. Neither internal nor external. That is why a good
action feels good. It is happy and knows it is happy. A bad action on
the other hand, has no coherence. It is in conflict either with itself
or with its Environment. In a bad action there is always conflict. That
is why, feeling the conflict, it feels endangered, it feels bad. It is
its own punishment. - Reward and punishment at first are just the other
side of the goodness or badness of an action.
Many times the coherence or incoherence is not something immediate. Many
times it is not dealing with an internal contradiction or with a contradiction
with the immediate Environment, but with a type of coherence which is
more distant, in space and principally in time. It deals here with a mediate
coherence with the Environment. - There are substances which barely put
in one’s mouth cause pain or cause one to feel bad. There are other
substances which at first seem okay, but later on, the next day, cause
a bad feeling or hangover. There are still other substances - like tobacco
- which only cause the bad effects or pain after a long time. The structure
of reward and punishment is really, deep down, the same. But the distances
increase as in concentric circles. Ethical is the attitude of the person
who knows how to anticipate the conflicts coming from a remote or future
incoherence, who looks for the coherence and this way does not enter in
conflict. He who is not ethic, he who enters into the incoherence, sooner
or later the contradiction catches and punishes him. The punishment then
comes from inside the action itself, only later. To smoke twenty cigarettes
a day is an evil which after some time, sometimes a very long time, becomes
its own punishment. In summary: Good rewards itself, Evil punishes itself.
The old ones knew that the Good and the Evil at times took entire generations
to happiness or disgrace. Today we find this unjust. After all, what is
the guilt of this poor individual? There is not, possibly, individual
guilt in him; but the guilt of the collective remains. The Germans, after
World War II, realized that there is something like a collective guilt.
The Jewish, the primitive Christians, the Arabs, the Orientals, still
have traces of this ample concept of Collective Good and Evil, of Collective
Reward and Punishment. We, the modern heirs of Descartes’ Solipsism
and Leibnitz’s monads, just see individuals, we see just the Individual
and the Abstract Universal. That is why we do not understand how and why
Good and Evil, Reward and Punishment do not only inhabit in the Individual,
but permeate generations, pass through whole peoples, creating extremely
complex structures of Collective Good Will, of Collective Guilt, or Evil
Feeling which we can no longer understand. This happens because we became
stupid, closed up in our extremely narrow individualities. Whoever thinks
correctly thinks of the Universal as a Concrete Universal, knows that
Good rewards itself, Evil punishes itself. If not in a short time, then
in the long run. If not in the specific individual, then in the social
texture of the group. This is where the necessity of having a State and
a Law of the State appears.
10. The State and Politics
Since coherence is not always immediate, since Reward and Punishment sometimes
come much later, it is necessary to institute the State and the Law of
the State. If an individual in his contingent historicity does not realize
that a determined action is going to eventually enter in conflict; if
the individual does not pay attention to incoherences because they are
remote and because the punishment will not touch him directly, then it
is necessary that Society, a group of men in a collective decision for
the Common Good of all make the Law and with the Law the Punishment for
all those who disobey the Law.
The State is the Concrete Universal in which the ethical Should-Be of
many individual men is elevated to the statute of a Collective Should-Be,
external and superior to the individual men, in which the will of each
one is combined with the will of all the others in a General Will. The
State is the Individual that now knows himself as a Concrete Universal.
The Law is the Should-Be that now, for some, children and idiots, starts
to be something that is just external. The Law is in the Concrete Universal
of a Society, what Custom was in the Family, what the ethicity of good
action is in the Individual. The State is just the other side of the coin,
the universal face, of Ethics itself. That is why Politics has to be Ethical.
That is why Ethics upon developing and solidifying itself in its exterioriority
becomes Politics. There are no ruptures nor mysteries.
3. JUSTICE AND THE STATE
1. What is Justice?
Good is that which in the kingdom of liberty, that is, of the free decisions
of man, is in coherence with itself, with its near Environment as well
as with its total Environment which is remote. Evil is that which contains
some incoherence. Good, according to the Coherence Principle, is that
which should be. Evil is that which should not be. Both distinguish themselves
from each other because they are or are not coherent. The First Principle
of Ethics is the same Principle which is there in the beginning of Logic,
the Principle of Contradiction to Be Avoided, or the Principle of Coherence.
In Ethics this Principle takes the form of Kant’s Categorical Imperative
or Habermas’ U Principle: Ethical is that which has the capacity
to be universalized.
Good exists in many forms, or as the Greeks say, in the form of many virtues.
Virtues are for the Greeks, for example, Knowledge, Courage, Temperance,
Justice etc. The cast of virtues varies from one author to another, but
one virtue always assumes an uneven position: Justice. In Plato there
are four cardinal virtues. Three of them correspond to the three parts
of the soul and the three professional groups of the State. Temperance
corresponds to the concupiscent soul and the professional group of the
farmers, craftsmen and merchants who deal with the material necessities
of the citizens, like habitation and food; temperance orders and disciplines
the desires and pleasures, saying which are ethically good and which are
bad. Courage, the second of the cardinal virtues, corresponds to the irascible
soul and the professional group of the warriors who defend the State;
the warrior, who has to be meek and strong at the same time, takes care
of the State and defends it from its external enemies. Knowledge, the
third of the cardinal virtues, corresponds to the intellectual soul and
the professional group of the governing bodies, which, because they know
and contemplate the Supreme Good, have the capacity to order the State
and give the final word about what should or should not be done, what
is Good and what is Evil. Up to now, everything is in a close correlation.
There are three virtues, there are three parts of the soul, there are
three professional groups of the State. But Plato adds one more to these
three, Justice, the fourth and most ample of the cardinal virtues. Justice
does not correspond, in a specific way, to any part of the soul nor to
any of the classes that make up the Polities. Justice is more ample than
the other three cardinal virtues, it surpasses them, it is common to them
and serves as their base and foundation. Is justice the first and most
important of the virtues? At least at first it seems to be. It is in the
State, the Ideal State, that Justice is completely realized. But what
is Justice? Is it the Supreme Good per chance?
Aristotle also has a doubt. Justice is a chapter, among others, in the
Nicomachean Ethics. Is it a virtue among others? Or is it the queen of
virtues? With the beginning of Christianity the doubt of the Greeks is
nullified in favor of Charity. Justice is an important virtue but not
the most important. Above all the natural virtues are the theological
virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity. According to the Christian tradition
the queen of all virtues is Charity. Charity presupposes Justice but goes
beyond it. That is how Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and the medieval classics
thought. But the question continues without an answer: What is Justice?
Justice is to give each one what he deserves, Suum cuique, the Romans,
who in this way summarize the doubts and perplexities of the tradition
before theirs, say. Justice is doing that which is just. Tautology, here,
at first sight, is not enlightening. After all, what is just? Just, since
the beginnings of our civilization, is the action and attitude of the
man who considers the other man as being an equal. Just is the division
of harvested fruit or the animal slaughtered in the hunt, if and when
the division is done in equal parts. Just is the prize, if for the candidates
of equal merit there are equal rewards. Just is the punishment that is
equal if the crimes are equal. Justice is equity. Equity deep down is
the ethical counterpart of the Principle of Identity which in Logic has
the form A=A. Justice is the equal situation between men that corresponds
to the Reflex Identity in Logic. Law is just if it is the same for everyone.
Man and his action are just, if and when the other man is considered as
an equal and not as different. Justice is this. All this and only this.
Very rich and very good. Justice is like that, it has two faces.
2. Identity, Equality and Equity
Justice is very rich and very ample, because all men are equal by Law.
The Law is the same for everyone. Justice is very poor and very restricted,
because some men are, by contingencies of Nature well endowed from birth;
such men are rich from birth. Many others are by contingencies of Nature
poorly endowed. these are poor from birth. Many times it is not Nature,
many times it is men themselves that engender in their interpersonal relationships
the difference between rich and poor. You just need to open your eyes
to see this. Here, right here, a great temptation appears. It is a temptation
to say that the Laws that rule the concrete and historic State, in which
we live and in which there are such differences, are completely wrong.
It is a temptation to say that these Laws are unjust, that it was these
Laws that provoked poverty, that the Laws should be changed in order to
implant Justice, in such a way that all men become exactly the same. Is
that right? Yes, and No.
The confusion here causes a Great Temptation. This Great Temptation comes
since the communities of the first Christians, passing through the monks
that inhabited the desert, then through the vow of poverty of the great
religious orders of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, through Proudhon’s
socialism, through Karl Marx and through the various types of Marxism
and communism, through the hippie communities some decades ago, until
the social question which continues, among us, without solution. Whoever
thinks a bit realizes that to be Justice the difference between the rich
and the poor can not be accepted as it is now. And the thinkers, who are
ethic and want to act ethically, identify themselves with the poor. If
there are poor, then we also want to be poor. If there are poor, we want
to be the same as them. Then there are the communitarian and equalitarian
societies, from the first Christians until the hippies of love and peace.
Then there is the strong identification of the socialists and communists
with the class of those who at the time were the poorest, with the working
class. And that is how the confusion is made. Because, as wisemen and
scoundrels know, only uppity intellectuals would like to be poor. He who
is poor, really poor, wants to become rich. To establish equality on the
lower side, by the base, by the miserable ones means to transform poverty
into a great ethic value. Poverty is not any value, it is a social evil
which is the result of ethically perverse actions. Poverty, that is misery,
is not a virtue but an evil to be avoided. Wisemen and scoundrels know
this. And why don’t they talk about it? The scoundrels are not interested
in telling, the wisemen many times do not know how to express themselves.
As you see, we then remain with no practical nor theoretical solution
that is satisfactory. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the breaking up
of the so called World of Real Socialism were historic marks that closed
the mouth of some extremist politicians and many thinkers, Dialecticians
yes, but poor in critical substance. Marxism as a deterministic theory
of History and as a practical recipe to end poverty and injustice finished,
most recently, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It finished, much before,
since Horckheimer and Adorno in Germany, since Satre, Castoriadis and
Lefort in France criticized it from the inside out. But poverty in practice
still continues, and therefore also the Temptation continues in Theory.
Temptation, the Great Temptation, consists in thinking that since all
men are equal according to Law, they should be equal in everything. Men
should be equal according to Law. Yes, according to Law and Justice all
men are equal. But Justice, although it is ample, does not include everything,
it does not include all aspects of human life, it does not affect all
the relationships between people. Justice, although rich and ample is
poor because it does not determine all the social relationships in all
their smallest details. The virtue of Justice, equity, the absolute symmetry
of the relationships of the Equal to its Equal, although extremely important,
is not always the criteria to be applied to gauge the Should-Be into a
determinate action. A fortiori is not the highest criteria.
The relationship of Master and Disciple here again serves as the conductive
thread. The just teacher is that who on the exam applies the same criteria
of evaluation for all the students, not considering favorites or friendships.
On the exam the teacher should be extremely just. Consequently, in the
exam situation, all the students are exactly the same and should be measured
with the same parameters. During exams there should not be didactic incentive
but justice. During the learning period, however, incentive is indispensable.
The professor, out of the exam situation, can and should treat different
students in different ways. Here there are incentives. That is what the
pedagogic Eros consists of: Treating unequally those who are unequal so
that they can come to equality in excellence. - But, one moment, is there
justice in this? Where is Justice? Justice is not always applied, Justice
is not always the criteria of the Should-Be. Between husband and wife,
between parents and children, between friends Justice is not the most
important criteria to distinguish Good from Evil. On the contrary, the
Should-Be in such situations is dictated by virtues other than justice.
The husband who wanted to lay, equally - to be just - with all women,
and the woman who wanted to have sex, equally, will all are not the paradigm
of matrimonial virtues. They are not? Why not? Does justice not require
that we treat all as being equals? It is here, in this equivocation, that
the curious constructions come in like the equalitarian and communist
society of the primitive Christians, the vows of poverty and the celibate
life of the monks, general love which being equal for all, impedes and
excludes the private love for one determined person, the libertinism which
exists between some chiliasts, the free love between anarchists, communists
and hippies, the open marriage defended by some intellectuals in the beginning
of our century, as well as others. In all the cases we are dealing with
the same question: Does justice not require that everyone always be treated
as equal? The answer is clear: Not always, not in everything. There are
differences among men, they exist by Nature, and this difference, in principle,
is good and can exist as long as it does not impede Justice. And here
is where the decisive question that many times stays without an answer
appears: Where is it that equality is the criteria of the Should-Be, that
is, where is it that there should be Justice? And where can there be unequality?
In a more exact and harder way: Where can there be unequality without
having injustice? This is the question.
In pure theory the answer is simple and well founded. Justice corresponds,
in Ethics, to that which in Logic is known as the Principle of Reflex
Identity: A = A. Nobody doubts that this Principle is important, that
it is valid in Logic. The Logics of Identity take root and are fundamented
here. Except that in Logic, we all know that this principle is not always
valid, that it is not valid for everything. In Logic it is necessary to
also admit the Principle of Difference next to the Principle of Identity.
Without this, the universe would be reduced to tautology A = A. Well,
there is a large variety of things. Besides A, there is B, C, D etc. Then
the Identity Principle is not always valid, it is not always applicable,
under all aspects, to everything. What is valid for all things, including
for the New that emerges with no prejacent reason, is the Principle of
Coherence. Identity does not impede Difference; both can and should coexist
under the egis of Coherence. Identity corresponds to Justice, difference
corresponds to Liberty which the Individual has to be Different. What
does Coherence correspond to? We do not have a proper term to designate
this. Maybe we have to create a new expression: The Ethics of Human Rights.
Why Ethics? Why Human Rights?
3. Justice and Human Rights
A society which wanted to implement the ideal of Justice in everything,
or, a society in which the equalitarism was taken to the last consequences
would be something monstrous. All men would be the same in everything.
All the totalitarian States walked in this direction. Everyone would be
the same in everything: House, clothes, food, habits, gestures, thoughts,
preferences. In such a State the Individual is annihilated. In our century
we have seen where this takes us to. We know in theory that this is wrong
because the Difference, the second great Principle of the whole system,
is simply eliminated. Such an elimination of Difference is impossible
and is wrong in Logic as well as in Nature, and also in Spirit. The Totalitarian
State and the closed Society which this presupposes are in theory a great
mistake, in practice a horror. Karl Popper was right here.
But isn’t the society contaminated by injustice also a horror? Isn’t
it, in theory, incurring in error? Of course. Whoever knows this country
where we live can not even pretend that this is a just world. And then
we return to the question: When should the criteria of Justice be applied,
or rather that of Equality, and when should Difference be permitted as
good? The answer to this direct and simple question is very difficult
in practice. In theory, the answer is easy: Men, upon instituting the
State of Law and upon defining by Positive Law what is just and what is
not, should respect the Minimal Rights of Man. Among the Rights of Man
are the Right to be treated as a Citizen equal to all the other Citizens,
on the same level as the right of being Different in all that does not
affect the Citizenship. Identity as well as Difference belong to the Basic
Rights of each Man. The equalitarian capacity of being a Citizen equal
to all the other Citizens, and the liberty of being able to be different
from the others in everything else, this is the conciliation of contrary
ideas that functions here as synthesis. The State, upon being instituted,
needs to define what belongs to the Citizenship, that is, the ambit in
which all should be the same, and that which is the space of individual
liberty, that is the ambit of Difference. By defining these limits in
the Institution and Constitution of the State the citizen should introduce
into the sphere of Equality and Justice the Minimal Human Rights, which
are the minimum possible conditions of man as a free and responsible agent.
As we know, this does not happen yet. But, the conscience of which are
the Minimal Rights of Man is evolving in the History of our Civilization
in such a way as to include more and more elements. We are, happily, becoming
more and more Citizens, that is more civilized. But to Be a Citizen means
only to be equal in the face of the Law, in face of that which is put
in the statute of Law; this does not mean that men should be equal in
everything. To deprive a man of his individual liberty is a crime against
the Human Rights as serious as the crime of emptying the Citizenship,
that is, the ambit of that in which all men in the State are Equal. Can
we draw even more exact limits between the Citizenship of Equals and Individual
Freedom? Yes, in real life it is the citizens, through their representatives
and parliament members, who should define the outlines of the Sate, therefore
of the Citizenship that should be. At this level of details, Philosophy
shuts up and lets the politician speak, or, for those who desire, the
Philosopher becomes a Politician.
4. The Institution and Constitution of the State
The men make the State. At a specific moment in the History of Evolution
the men sitting down in front of the fire discussed as equals and deliberated
to make the State. The States are made, they are instituted, they are
constructed. The States are in History. They are there where Free and
Equal men institute Justice and Law as a common denominator that brings
them together and unifies in acting together. The design of the State,
or the size of the State, corresponds to the decision which was made together:
This here is Law and holds true equally for everyone, that there is the
space of individual liberty. The State is a social construction - self-founding
and self-founded - in which Justice is incarnated and transformed into
Before being the State, there was already the Ancient Family. And in the
Family there were already traces of that which we call Justice. The Father
should treat the children, in certain circumstances, as all being equal.
This happened for sure. Already in the ambit of the Family there were
equalitarian relationships between Husband and Wife, Parents and Children.
Man and woman as human beings are absolutely equal. Without it there is
no justice. Feminists are right in this respect. But Man and Woman as
genders are different: each one to his own manner. This difference cannot
and should not be destroyed. Between Man and Woman, genders, between Parents
and Children, the relationships are first of all complementary and only
secondarily of equality. Being complementary is on the first level, equality
which today nobody can nor wants to deny. This fades away on a second
level. In the Family, Justice, implicit and not developed, already exists.
But the Parity of Equal to Equal is not a determining characteristic of
the Family structure. As similar as they may be, Parents and Children
are different. The difference between an Adult and a Child is a registered
mark of this relationship. Between Father and Mother, between Man and
Woman, the equality only has a meaning when conceived together with difference.
Vive la difference! the Post-Moderns say nowadays in France. On this point
they are right. If the difference goes to a second level, and the equality
comes to the first level, then the Family disappears and other grouping
forms appear like the State and the Civil Society.
Man, member of the Family and citizen of the State, simultaneously lives
in three worlds. He, alone inside himself, in the solitude of his conscience,
is pure Identity and Equality. He is identical to himself, he is equal
to himself. In the Family man is lost and upon losing himself in the other
refinds himself. But he finds himself again as the Other, being unequal
to himself. In the Family Man loves the other, and he who loves is always
getting lost. It is the Other who lives, not I. The I that in the family
becomes We almost loses itself in this alterity. In the family structure
the You, that is altruism, acquires a primate over the I. It is not justice,
the equality of rights, that is in first plane; it is the filia. In the
State the symmetry is reestablished and man again finds himself as equal
to himself. Identity, Difference, and Identity again, a new Identity already
mediated now, an Identity which passed through Difference and returned
Just like the State historically instituted itself at a certain moment
in time, the same happened to the Constitution, the Magna Carta, which
positively determines which are the Human Rights and which is the sphere
of individual liberty of each Citizen. Justice as a virtue of the Pairs
and Equals permeates all life, but it does not determine everything in
all the smallest details. The existing interstices between the rules which
lay the beams for the structure are the spaces for individual liberty.
Without rules there are no interstices, without interstices there are
no rules. Without Laws there are no Freedoms, without Freedoms there are
no Laws. In theory everything is simple, clear and easy. In practice,
as we know, the difficulties are great.
5. Democracy as the only form of Government
Greek Philosophers very early in the History of our culture, realized
that it is very important to clearly define what the form of government
that makes Justice and Citizenship bloom is. There are various forms of
government. Government made by only one man is Monarchy, the Government
of Only One. Government formed by a group made up of some men who are
supposed to be excellent in virtue and knowledge, is Aristocracy, the
Government of the Best. The government done by the action of everyone
together is Democracy, the Government of All.
Plato spent all his life worrying about this. Which is the best form of
government. Which is the form of government which takes one to Justice?
The Republic as well as The Laws have exactly this question as their central
theme. Plato hesitates and is at first inclined to the Government of the
Best, to Aristocracy. The State, he says, should be run by those who understand
the subject, or, by those who know how to govern. Who knows how to govern?
He who knows the difference between what is just and what is unjust, he
who knows the difference between Good and Evil. Who is this man, who knows
better than the others what the Supreme Good is? The Philosopher, Plato
answers. That is why the State should be governed by the Philosophers.
Here Plato’s aristocratic concept of the Philosopher King appears.
Is this foolishness? Yes, it is. But not so much. If we are on an airplane,
40,000 feet in the air, flying 600 miles per hour, and the stewardess,
pale, tells us on the speaker that the pilot unfortunately died, what
do we do? We hope that the copilot is competent. But what if the stewardess,
still paler, adds the copilot also died from the shock. What do we do?
We hope that there in the back, half asleep, there is a man with some
gray hair, with a small black bag, one of those old pilots who after flying
his turn is returning to his base. If this in fact is true, then there
is no problem. Someone competent, someone experienced someone who knows
what he is doing, will take control of the plane and without blinking,
without problems will take us to the secure land of the nearest airport.
But isn’t this against Democracy? The stewardess, in a situation
like this, does she not need to call a general assembly of the passengers
in order to decide what the best thing to do is in order to put the plane
under government, under control? Before calling the pilot on a flight
back to base should the stewardess not call a General Assembly? Doesn’t
Democracy require this? Isn’t the stewardess taking away our Rights
of Citizenship? No, she is not. In real life the stewardess would not
even inform the passengers about the pilot and copilot’s death.
She would go directly, immediately to ask for help from the old experienced
pilot sleeping in his seat in the back of the plane. Democracy and General
Assembly, in such cases, no way. - This is all Plato. Except he did not
speak about airplanes of course, but about ships. A ship lost in a storm,
without a pilot, what do we do? Do we call a General Assembly? Do we have
a Democratic Discussion? No, we do not. In this case we should find the
one who knows how to pilot a ship. Aristocracy in these cases is better
than Democracy. It does not help to discuss in assembly and vote if only
a few know what to do. And even having an Assembly, who is chosen and
designated for the job? The one who knows what to do. Then why do we need
an Assembly? For nothing, the assembly is dispensable, and consequently
the Democracy is also dispensable.
The short circuit that exists in this reasoning consists of omitting a
link in the chain. It is only in the General Assembly that one discovers
who really knows what to do, and then it is only the general Assembly
that can legitimately designate this possesor of governing knowledge.
Because it is only like that, through the Assembly, that is through Democracy,
that we know who is what. Since the knowledge is not only a priori, since
the knowledge is not just a gift of Nature, it is necessary that the choice
of form of Government be adequate to what we are: Beings that self-determine
as free individuals and that also self-determine as State. Democracy is,
for this reason, the only form of ethically correct government. It is
only in it that men self-determine themselves as Citizens and as being
free. The other forms of government, Monarchy and Oligarchy are ethically
legitimate only when they incorporate in themselves the Democracy: Constitutional
Monarchy, like there is today in Holland and Sweden, and Collegiate Government,
Democratic Oligarchy, like in Switzerland.
But the Great Temptation continues and at times it whispers in our ear:
Why the Democratic Assembly if the Good Thinker, alone, knows better what
to do? And there is the mistake. We only know what is best through the
ample and democratic discussion, or rather, in Assembly. Only through
Assemblies will we really know who the Good Thinker is. The knowledge
is only partially a priori; to this it is necessary to add the a posteriori
knowledge, including that a posteriori that emerges in the Democratic
Assembly. Ethicity, or rather, the capacity that a private interest has
to be universalized, this we only discover by doing the Real Discourse
in which all, equal among equals, present their reasons. In this point
Habermas is completely right. But the temptation of thinking that I alone
know what is best for everyone, this temptation remains with all it fallacious
That is why all the peoples in all the cultures, even after the invention
of Democracy by the Greeks in Athens, continue having political fallbacks
and go back to instituting non-democratic governments. Tyranny, Absolute
Monarchy, Dictatorships are forms of government which, under one pretext
or another, abandon Democracy - so slow, so time consuming, so complex,
at first sight so incompetent - and appeal to a pseudo-solution, appeal
to non-democratic forms of government. This is completely wrong, but it
is understandable; there is no justification, but there is an explanation
for this. Democracy, the only form of government that permits the complete
self-organization of the People and therefore permits and respects the
self-determination of the Free Man, is something really complex. The I
has to think of himself as the concentric circles which appear when one
throws a stone in still water of a lake. I am the first circle that appears,
but I am also the second, the third, and so on, until the I reaches cosmic
dimensions. The I, which is the individual I, is also my Family, is also
my people, I am everything, I am all the Universe. The so called Mystics
always said this. They were Neoplatonic thinkers. Today the good ecologists
say this, sometimes afraid to sound like idiots. It is right, very right.
It deals with the dynamic of the I which, besides being the Individual
being, is also always a Universal. But it is a Concrete Universal, a Family,
a Society, a State, which we can point to with our finger. We are not
dealing with a Universal Abstract, with a mere signal taken - abs-tractum
- out of context, but a Concrete Universal that only exists and realizes
itself when we, in fact, live and realize it. That is why, deep down,
very deep down, the only ethical form of Government is Democracy.
6. The Parliamentary Representation
Democracy is made by speaking that is by parliamenting. The inventors
of Democracy, the Greeks from Athens, made up a not very numerous group
of men and Democracy then occurred naturally. The Citizens on certain
dates met in Assembly and decided what to do, doing what the majority
wanted. Pericles tells us, in one of the most beautiful texts of our Tradition,
how the citizens discussed, planned and decided together about the life
in the Polis. The theory was perfect. Democracy was right. Because there
was a small number of citizens the Assembly could deliberate about everything;
it did not need the Parliament, an institution invented later on.
In practice, Greek Democracy was full of problems. Not everything was
perfect. The Citizenship was not extended to the women, the foreigners
or the slaves. And the Athens Democracy was fragile and transitory. How
could such a correct institution last such a short time? Shouldn’t
what is right be something long lasting which would exhibit its truth
by staying? Right is that which is in Universal Coherence in the long
run. And Democracy comes, always re-emerging and imposing itself. The
Coherence is not something that is ready and finished, we must construct
it in the logical discussion as well as in the State. And it is for this
reason that Democracy, although complex in its structure and slow in its
reactions, is the only ethically correct form of government.
When the number of citizens increases, the Assembly becomes more difficult
and slower. At this stage of development it is necessary that we introduce
the Parliament. Parliament is the place where one parla (speaks), where
the political discourse is done. Parlamentarians are those that actively
Since not all the citizens can always be present and active in all the
deliberations, the figure of the Parliamentary Politician was instituted
into the Assembly. This re-presents, a group of citizens in the Parliament.
The individual citizen, in the parliamentary institution, transfers his
voice and voting power to the Political Representative in his place. The
Representative speaks in the name of the citizens that are represented
by him; he holds an office. His duty, in the Parliament, consists of mediating
between a private group of Citizens and the General Will that includes
Everyone’s interests. The Representative, if he does what he should,
is just an incarnation of the citizens who he represents in the Parliament
room. He should listen, speak and especially cooperate in order to make
up the General Will that is the spinal cord of Democracy, the State, and
Justice. Never more nor less than this. That is why the parliamentarians
should be legitimately elected. That is why the elections for choosing
the Representatives should obey a certain regularity in order for there
to be legitimate representation, for the citizen to really feel present
in the Political Discourse that makes the laws of the State.
7. The Participative Budget
In this Very Loyal and Valorous City of Porto Alegre we have been implementing,
during the last few years, a wonderful form of doing the mediation, in
political life, between the Private person and the Universal: the so called
Participative Budget. The common citizen continues having his representatives,
the city councilmen, in the Municipal Council, who correspond to the Assembly
of Citizens of the Democratic State. Besides being represented by the
city councilman elected democratically, the citizen can be present in
meetings done in each neighborhood, where the local problems are discussed
and ranked. The citizen of Porto Alegre, in the recent years, has been
able to participate actively and personally in the budget decisions of
his city. To be able to, there is just a matter of wanting. Does it work?
Yes, it does. In the meetings in each neighborhood the open discussion
and democratic spirit are surpassing the obstacles. The introduction of
the popular consultation through the computer, already promised here,
is advertising radical changes in the forms of political representation.
Democracy is becoming more and more real. Will it last? I hope so. Enough
4. THE MEANING OF HISTORY
1. The Force of Destiny
The Greeks believed in Destiny. It was Destiny that ran the lives of men
and determined the course of History with an iron hand. Pitia, priest
in the temple of Apollo in Delphi, inspired by the steam coming from inside
the earth, said what the future would bring. The oracle, for the Greeks,
said what was going to happen. Man could try to resist, many times he
resisted, but the force of Destiny always won in the end. Whoever is wise
does not resist Destiny, but gives himself up to it.
The Greek Tragedy deals exactly with this contradiction between the will
of the individual man and Destiny which from above runs everything. The
case of King Oedipus shows what happens when man in his craziness thinks
he can resist Destiny. Laius was the King of Thebes, Jocasta, was his
wife. The Oracle told Laius that he should never have children, because
if he did the afflictions and punishments would be great. The son he conceived
would kill him, his father, and marry his mother, Jocasta. But Laius and
Jocasta, despite the warnings of the prophecy, conceived a son. In order
to avoid the evil predicted by the Oracle, the son is then abandoned by
his parents and left in the wilderness for the wolves to eat. But a shepherd
found the child and gave him to another shepherd as a gift, who then gave
the child to the King of Corinth, who, not having sons, called him Oedipus
and educated him as his own son. Oedipus, abandoned son of the King of
Thebes, is raised as the son of the King of Corinth. But he does not know
this, he thinks he is a legitimate son. When a stranger, coming for a
party reveals that he is not the legitimate son of the King of Corinth,
Oedipus has a crisis. He who has a crisis and does not know what to do
should consult the Oracle of Delphi. Oedipus consults Pitia who says that
he should avoid the presence of his father, because upon seeing him, he
is going to kill him, to kill his father, to later marry his mother. Frightened,
Oedipus avoids returning to Corinth to not see his father. He goes to
Thebes. Upon entering Thebes Oedipus is offended and attacked by a nobleman
who is also going to the city with his entourage. Offended and attacked,
Oedipus reacts and kills the one who insulted him. He does not know it,
but he had just killed his real father. Oedipus then goes to Thebes and
ends up marrying Jocasta, his mother. When a fortune teller, much later,
told him that he had killed his father and married his mother, Oedipus,
who wanted to be a just man, tried to discover the whole truth. And he
verified that everything the fortune teller had said was true. Oedipus,
then, gauged out his eyes. Had he not been blind the whole time? Had he
not gone against Destiny? You do not play with Destiny. Murderer of his
father, husband of his mother, blind in both eyes, Oedipus, who only wanted
good, got caught up in the web that Destiny had weaved. Does Destiny exist?
Is there a hidden meaning in the events of History?
The Greeks thought so. So did the Romans. Until today there is among us
Latin Americans, remote inheritors of the legionaries of the Roman Empire
that stayed guarding the far away Iberia, an old saying: Fata voluntem
ducunt, nolentem trahunt. Fate conducts those who deliver themselves,
but drag those who intend to resist. Why resist, if Destiny wins in the
end? Is it not better to give oneself up to Destiny right away? That is
what our Roman ancestors did in remote Iberia. This Roman fatalism was
then sharpened by the fatalism of the Arabs who conquered part of the
Iberian peninsula. Double dose of fatalism, fatalism on fatalism. Our
ancestors were impregnated with fatalism to the bottom of their soul.
Christianity with its All Powerful God, which runs and administers everything
with its Divine Providence, did not alleviate the situation very much.
After all, it is not us, but Divine Providence that writes History: God
writes the right things through crooked lines. Even when we men make the
lines quite crooked, God, with its Divine Providence straightens them
again and writes things right. It is not us, but God who writes history.
Then when the Portuguese and Spaniards discovered the New World, and in
mixing with the native Indians, began that which we are, Fatalism continued
being the a ruling line of our culture. We Brazilians, we Latin-Americans
are inheritors of the Iberian fatalism which comes from the fatalism of
the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. That is why, in our History we stay inert,
without action, without reaction so frequently. All of this which happens
has already been written and determined. Why act, if everything is already
predetermined? The Destiny of the Greeks, the fate of the Romans and the
That which is written of the Arabs, the predetermination of the Christians,
this is the cultural broth that we inherited and which explains, at least
partially, why the development of Latin America is so different from that
of North America.
2. The Logic Necessitarianism
Behind this necessitarian conception of the world that we inherited from
the Greeks and Romans under the name of fatalism, there is a clear and
simple philosophical thesis: Everything is necessary. All the events of
History are linked to each other in a necessary way, making a network
of nexus in which the things happen in a inexorable succession. I, you,
we, who are finite, maybe we do not know which necessary nexus there is
between the events, but such a nexus does exist. This is the central thesis
of Logical Determinism, defended by Diodoros Chronos, for example.
As the name itself says, this determinist conception of the world is based
on Logic, to be more exact, on the idea of logic truth itself. A well-formed
proposition is always true or false. Either true or false, Non datur tertium.
Well, the proposition Tomorrow will occur a naval battle is a well formed
proposition, with an appropriate subject and predicate. Therefore, this
proposition is either true or false. That is, today, the day before, what
will happen tomorrow is fixed and determined. What is going to happen
tomorrow is a logical consequence of a truth that is already fixed and
determined today, even though we - finite cognitive subjects - perhaps
still do not know it. We are dealing here with just a deficit of knowledge.
We, contingent beings, do not know the whole reality. The reality is totally
determined within itself; it consists of the necessary nexus between necessary
events. This is the theory of Logic Determinism.
Aristotle, in Peri Hermeneias, went round and round to escape this trap.
After all, isn’t a logical law which says that a well formed proposition
is always either true or false valid? Aristotle vacillates. Thomas Aquinas,
commenting on Aristotle’s text, answers firmly: The Law of the Bipolarity
of the Value of Truth of the well formed propositions is always valid,
except as related to the future contingents. The propositions are always
either true or false, except when dealing with future contingencies. The
Law is valid, but an enormous space for exceptions is opened. And how
do we know that it is a future contingency and not a necessary future?
Thomas Aquinas does not answer.
The Logic Necessitarianism, rooted in the structure of the predication
itself, is the necessitarian fountainhead from which emerged the religious
fatalism and conception of Destiny which marked our culture so deeply.
The mistake became patent. The Law of the Bipolarity of the Value of Truth
of the well formed propositions is not an totaly universal law; it is
not always true. Whoever makes a mistake in this respect and thinks that
the propositions are either true or false, enters a logical and ontological
system which is strictly necessitarian. Whoever gets into this web of
necessities, which supposedly encompass all the universe, can not get
out. - But after all, is the world a web of necessities? Or is there contingency
in the world? Whoever affirms that there are just necessities radically
denies the contingency of things. What really happens necessarily has
to happen. There is not, in this hypothesis, the factuality of the things,
just the necessity. What we think to be facticity is in fact just a necessity
which we have not yet understood and recognized as such. Contingency and
facticity, according to this necesitarian way of thinking, are just a
momentary deficit of knowledge.
Such a theory, on affirming what is not obvious, on the contrary, affirming
which is against common sense, has the burden of proof. And proof does
not exist. More, whoever affirms that all the universe is just a web of
necessities and that the supposed contingency of things is just a deficit
in our knowledge is denying the possibility of free choice, of liberty
of the human being, of the moral responsibility, of Law and Justice. More,
whoever wishes to defend the Necessitarianism in a systematic and consequent
form goes into performative contradiction and has to abandon the group
of argumentative discussion. Why argue if the others necessarily have
the ideas of the facts that they have? The fact that we seriously discuss
something shows that there is necessity on one side and also contingency
on the other. The argument against Necessitarianism is clear and decisive.
Whoever defends Necessitarianism can not even seriously argue in favor
of it without entering into a performative contradiction. But logical
temptation - Who says there are no logical temptations? - continues to
sing its siren’s song. Not opposing the argument shown above, the
sub-replica idea that propositions are always either true or false, that
the world is ruled by some law, hidden, but inexorable, that there is
a Destiny that directs and determines everything continues to flower in
the conscience. This is a mistake, an ancient mistake, which comes from
the Greeks and Romans, which deeply affected our culture. This is not
3. Philosophical Necessitarianism
Logical Necessitarianism soon becomes Philosophical Necessitarianism,
or - the same thing under another name - Systematic Necessitarianism,
under the protection of Plato, Plotinus and Proclus. It is not just Logic
that is necessitarian, all Neoplaotnic Philosophy turns into a web of
necessary nexus. All the things as well as all the events are linked in
a great chain. One link is connected to the other two, one in front and
one in back. All the nexus between the various links are absolutely necessary.
The universe, in this necessitarian conception, is a necessary development
in which everything is preprogrammed (im-plicatio) in the initial egg
from which all things unfold (ex-plicatio). In this conception of the
world, one assumes that the whole universe is contained in this first
beginning, in this initial egg. The universe was placed in the initial
egg all folded up; it is implicatum. The folds, the plicae, come out of
this initial seed. The unfolding of these folds, which are implicit in
the initial egg, happen in an inexorable manner. From the egg only comes
what was contained within it: The explicitation of what is already implicit.
The process of development is thought out, then, as an inexorable process
in which everything happens in a necessary manner. In this process there
is no contingency; there is no chance. That is why there is no space for
alternatives of action that could be equally possible. And that is why
there can not be a free decision between equally real alternatives. That
is why there is no space for free choice. If there is no space for liberty,
there is no true responsibility for decisions made. If there is no real
responsibility, the State must be authoritarian. The government has to
be in the hands of someone who has the knowledge, or in modern language,
to someone who has the know-how. Plato, Plotinus, and Proclus, great and
virtuous thinkers who I admire so much, forgive me for the historic systematic
context in which I am putting them. But the fact is that many types of
totalitarianism have their roots in the Neoplatonic thinking. A small
mistake in the beginning provoked a great mistake in the end, Parvus error
in initio, magnus in fine, the Medieval said.
The Systematic Necessitarianism which we found as a rough draft in Plato
and clearly outlined in Plotinus and Proclus provoked horrible political
errors which they did not directly intend. The passage from Philosophic
Necessitarianism to Political Necessitarianism is processed almost naturally:
Only one who knows should govern. The ignorant mass can only be governed
by someone who has the Knowledge. The ignorant mass really wants to be
controlled by an iron hand. But a small step and we are facing a shocking
conclusion: The ignorant mass really wants to be fooled (Is anyone per
chance thinking about certain politicians which we still have in this
country?). It is hard to say, but it is true: Stalinism with all its horror
had its last roots in the Neoplatonic fountainhead. Stalin came from Lenin;
who came from Marx, who came from Hegel, who came from Spinoza, who came
from the medieval Neoplatonics, who came from Plotinus and Proclus, who
came from Plato.
What is the mistake? The Philosophic Necessitarianism is. The Christian
Fathers had already realized that the Neoplatonic Philosophy was faulty
in the necessitarianism which in that way made liberty and responsibility
impossible. Agostine, for example, spent all his life trying to conciliate
Predetermination and Divine Providence with the free choice of man. He
was not able to. Nicolaus Cusanus tried again, in vain, in the Middle
Ages. Spinoza, the great Neoplatonic thinker of Modern Times, capitulated
before the problem. Spinoza wants to write an Ethics, but the system which
he produces is just a web of necessary relationships. Everything is necessary
in Spinoza’s system. Contingency, according to Spinoza does not
even exist. It is only a subjective mistake to be corrected by Philosophy.
After Spinoza comes Hegel. As a general program of his Philosophy, Hegel
intends to conciliate the Neoplatonic System with the concept of liberty
that was elaborated by the medieval classics and summarized in Modern
Times by Kant. Hegel, in the Preface of Phenomenology, tells us without
any run around, exactly what he wants: To conciliate Spinoza’s Substance
with Kant’s Free Subject. This is written there explicitly: The
Great Problem consists in conciliating the Neoplatonic Project of the
System with the really free Subject, in conciliating the Substance with
the Free Subject. This is the great problem which Hegel deals with during
his whole life. Who, according to Hegel, writes the Universal History?
Is it Reason, or us who write History? Hegel looks for, hesitates, staggers
and ends up giving in to the Great Force of Reason. It is Reason that
writes History, he affirms. And what about us? Where do We come in? Well,
we are rationaly legitimated only while we let us dissolve in the Universal
Reason. In Hegel the Philosophic Determinism became a Determinism of History.
Marx, in Hegel’s footsteps, inherits the same unsolved problem and
repeats the same mistake, making it worse. In Marx, Necessitarianism becomes
even stronger and clearer than in Hegel. The Marxists, soon afterwards,
transformed the theoretical error into a great political error. The error
then became multiplied. Stalinism and the so called popular democracies
in which the Dictatorship of the Proletariat should make Justice and Law,
was born in this way. For the Marxists all History was predetermined.
The Revolution was inexorable and - great political naiveté - it
had to be right. History, the Marxists of Porto Alegre said, rode the
cable car. In Argentina they said that History rode the train. Cable car
and train are vehicles which ride on preplaced tracks; all the way from
the beginning it is predetermined. They spoke of the famous Laws of History
and were sure that, also in practice, the theory would work out right.
They were Neoplatonic philosophers and only repeated an error which had
come from Ancient Times. All this passed, but it is important for us to
understand the philosophic context which caused this so that our children
and students do not repeat the mistake. It is a mistake which comes from
way back, which began with the divine Plato and passing through Scotus
Eriugena, Spinoza, Hegel, and Marx, got to our colleagues and friends
of the left: Philosophic Necessitarianism which installed itself as Historic
Who pointed out the mistake? In Ancient times it was the Christian Fathers.
In the Middle Ages the great Aristotelian thinkers, Albert Magnus, Thomas
Aquinas, Boaventura, Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, who realizing
the necessitarian defect in the Neoplatonic system started to defend Aristotelism
and especially the Aristotelian conception of free choice. At the end
of the Middle Ages it was the English who gave form to the renewed conception
of free choice and Political Philosophy. In Modern Times, then, the English
Empirism and a Political Philosophy centered on the freedom of the Individual:
from Hobbes to Hume and Locke appeared. In the German Idealism Schelling
was the first to give emphasis to the mistake in the Necessitarian System.
In his Lectures on Contemporary Philosophy, given at the University of
Munich, Schelling pointed his finger to the great mistake made by Hegel:
the pilfering of contingency. After Schelling almost all the great thinkers
hit on the same key. Kierkegaard, Nietzsch, Heidegger, Sartre, Horckheimer,
Adorno, Popper, Habemas, Apel, Rawls, Rorty all pointed out the mistake
innate in necessitarianism. In the twentieth century, the voice of the
defenders of contingency, historicity, temporality, multiplicity of reason
was raised against the necessitarianism, against the reason of Hegel and
the Neoplatonic projects. Society had to be an open society; the Universe
had to be thought of as an open Universe.
Is the mistake that is pointed to really a mistake? Yes, it is a mistake.
The refutation of the Necessitarian Philosophic System in its first root
is done through a performative contradiction. Whoever raises the thesis
of Radical Necessitarianism enters into a performative contradiction upon
doing so. Whoever argues, upon arguing in the group, is presupposing that
he wants to convince the other participants of the discussion group, with
good reasons. The good reasons do not necessarily impose themselves because
of an inexorable historic process. They need to be exposed and discussed.
Why? Because not all the reasons are ready and finished. Not all the reasons
are preprogrammed. Some are, others are not. Some nexuses are necessary,
others are contingent. It is in the discussion group that we realize what
is necessary reason and what is merely a contingent nexus. If all the
nexuses were necessary, there would not be any discussion. Each one would
discover what the meaning of the world is without asking anything of anyone
else. The real dialogue with other men, in a necessitarian system would
be unnecessary and useless. After all, is real dialogue necessary or is
it contingent? It is necessary that we make a dialogue for what is necessary
and what is contingent to appear. Whoever says that everything is always
necessary does not need dialogue. Who has a dialogue is presupposing that
there is a reason for the dialogue. This is the performative root which
makes contingency legitimate and prohibits Necessitarianism as the General
Theory of the Universe.
Is the argument not weak? No, basically we are dealing with the same argument
which Aristotle had already used to fundament the Principle of Non-Contradiction.
Whoever denies the Principle of Non-Contradiction, upon doing so is presupposing
it again. Otherwise he is reduced to the plant state. Whoever denies that
contingency exists in the Universe, on making the negation, is putting
on an act that is known to be contingent; and presupposing that in the
listener there is an equally contingent act. Are there other arguments
in favor of the existence of contingency in the world in principle? Yes,
there are many negative arguments. Whoever denies contingency, also by
principle must deny free choice, responsibility, Justice, Law and the
Democratic State. Nothing of this can exist in principle, if there is
no contingency, and historicity. Heidegger and Popper were in this respect
completely right. At this point the criticisms made by the contemporaneous
thinkers against Necessitarianism of History in Hegel, are in my point
of view, absolutely convincing.
4. Kant’s Theory of the Two Worlds
Hegel has a deeply ambiguous posture in regards to History. On one hand
he realizes the problem of Necessitarianism in the way it was put by Spinoza,
on the other hand he wants to save liberty as it was described and affirmed
by Kant. The project of life that guided all of Hegel’s work was
to conciliate Spinoza’s Substance with Kant’s Free Subject.
Kant had already clearly realized the problem. In Kant, Necessitarianism
does not appear very much under its logical nor its systematic form, but
under the form of scientificism. Scientific Necessitarianism, a specific
form within the larger gender of Philosophic Necessitarianism, affirms
that the Principle of Causality is always valid in all cases. Where there
is an effect there must be a pre-jacent cause. And the effect is already
predetermined within the cause. That is the way things have always been,
predetermined in their causes. And these, in turn, predetermined in the
previous causes. Everything is consequently predetermined since the first
cause. The universal application of the Principle of Causality takes one
to a total and encompassing Necessarianism. Kant understands this very
well. And to save a space where liberty is still possible, Kant offers
a merely ad hoc solution, which is no solution at all. Two worlds are
postulated. In one of the worlds, the world of the phenomena, says Kant,
there is the Principle of Casuality and the Necessitarianism caused by
this. In the other world, the world of the noumena, is the place of the
liberty of man with his capacity to choose between alternatives that are
equally possible. Two worlds? Each thing, according to Kant, would always
be situated in two worlds. In the World of Casuality the casual necessary
nexus would reign, in the World of Noumena, there would be liberty.
To postulate two worlds? To say that my action, on one hand is absolutely
predetermined through the reining causal nexus, and affirm that on the
other hand I am freely deciding without the causal series predetermining
my decision, is this not absurd? Is this not a contradiction? Yes, it
is a contradiction. Rarely in the History of Philosophy has a master-thinker
gotten into such a terrible muddle. To postulate two worlds is absurd.
In order to save liberty, Kant, the great Kant, got into a muddle. Kant
preferred to admit something foolish rather than sacrifice liberty. The
respect he had for liberty and the responsibility of man was so great
that instead of saying that liberty was something impossible, he created
the absurd theory of the two worlds. Do we, today, need to admit such
a theory? How do we solve the question? By the Theory of the Interstices
as proposed by Charles Taylor or by the Theory of Degrees as proposed
in this work. The Theory of Interstices supposes that in the Universe
there are laws that encompass and cross it like a concrete structure that
supports a building. Between the concrete beams there are interstices
where one can place walls as one wishes. These interstices, which are
not regulated by deterministic laws, form the space where contingency
exists and where the free will decisions are inserted. According to the
Degrees Theory there are Strong Laws and Weak Laws. The space open by
the admission of the Weak Laws is the place for contingency and free will.
5. Minerva’s Owl and Absolute Reason
Hegel had only one great objective in his philosophical work. It was to
conciliate Spinoza’s Substance with Kant’s Free Subject. Hegel
wanted, on one hand, to build a system according to the Neoplatonic project
of Philosophy, be he also wanted on the other hand that in this system
there be space for Man’s true liberty. Spinoza’s System, which
Hegel knew very well, took Necessitarianism to the extreme. What should
he do? How should he do it?
Hegel’s System from the beginning intends to be a Neoplatonic System:
Everything comes from the Being which is also Nothing. Being is Nothing,
which is Becoming, which is Something, which is the Other, etc. until
one arrives at the Absolute Knowledge. All the Universe, including all
the History is part of this process of unfolding. Fold by fold, everything
is unfolded starting from a first and simple beginning. History and all
its events are also just a mere unfolding during the process in which
the Undetermined Being slowly becomes the Absolute Knowledge.
Everything determined? Everything predetermined? Hegel speaks about the
inexorable march of thought, about a necessary process of development,
about the necessity of History. And where does the contingency of things
and the historicity of events that can happen, but can equally not happen
fit in? Hegel studies the question. After all, this is a main question
for him. Hegel hesitates, staggers, and changes his mind. The Absolute
Contingency which Hegel puts there in the middle of the Logic of Essence
starts getting corroded at the edges, is dissolved and ends up becoming
Absolute Necessity. Hegel is the first, the last and the only thinker
that considers Contingency as a typical characteristic of the Absolute.
But Hegel does not stay coherent. Necessity follows him, assaults him,
and ends up conquering his heart and mind. Hegel also becomes, in my opinion,
a necessarian thinker. That is why Minerva’s Owl only flies in the
evening. It is that after things happen, post factum, after the events,
it becomes clear that everything was moved and determined by Reason, by
the Great Force of Negation, thinks Hegel. History is then transformed
into a stage in which the great drama written by Reason is acted out by
us, without us knowing, we are just marionettes guided by the Great Cunning.
The script of the History of the World, according to Hegel, is written
by Reason. We are just conducted by the Cunning of Reason.
6. Historical Materialism
The Marxists, Hegel’s disciples, held themselves strictly to this
conception of History. In place of Hegel’s Absolute Reason of Logic
they took the Proletariat. It is in this that the Absolute incarnates.
The Proletarian Revolution is, according to them, the moment in which
this Absolute, which is pulsating in the intimate of the Proletariat,
comes out, emerges and installs itself as a Classless Society. That is
why the Revolution is inexorable according to the Marxists. That is why
it can never be wrong. This necessary conception of History took us then
to a necessary conception of the State, to Political Totalitarianism.
The crimes of Stalinism, the processes of Moscow, the diffusion of Marxism
throughout the world, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the breaking up of
the Soviet Union, all happened due to a mistake in Philosophy. A small
mistake in the beginning, a great error in the end. Today we know that
if we do not respect contingency, we turn into robots and the world becomes
a nightmare. It costed a lot, but we learned. If we had understood Schelling’s,
Kierkegaard’s and Nietzsche’s criticism against Hegel better,
this would have all been unnecessary. Or would it?
Minerva’s Owl only flies when the evening falls. The melancholic
tone of these words of Hegel, turned towards the nostalgia of the past,
gave their place to the young Hegelians on the left who, facing the future,
wished to substitute Minerva’s Owl for the early morning crowing
of the French Rooster. The French Rooster, cited in this context by Michelet,
one of Hegel’s students, referred to the French Revolution and announced
a new Great Revolution which, like the French Revolution would completely
change the political world. From Michelet to Feuerbach, Karl Marx and
Lenin the distance is great, but the stress is the same. The young Hegelians
thought that History was in gear and this gear was inexorable. Until the
Belin Wall fell. Whoever stopped to think, long before the fall of the
Berlin Wall, realized that contingency exists, that man is free, that
many times there are alternative options, that the State should not be
total, that History is not an inexorable process.
But if Reason does not write the script of History of the World, then
who is the author after all? Who writes it? We write it, we make History.
6. Minerva’s Owl and Us
A human act, when done, completed and finished, finishes and does not
come back, right? Wrong. We can and should always reevaluate the acts
we have done in the past. Time has gone by, but our acts are never completely
gone. We always continue to be responsible for them. It is up to us, day
after day, to give them their moral value.
Whoever has killed someone, is an assassin. If he killed, he is an assassin.
But the assassin can and should later morally judge the act. If the evaluation
is positive, the already once assassin is convinced that the murder was
something good, and so being, something that he would do again. Evaluating
it in this way, the assassin would kill again and think he was right.
It would not be unexpected if such an assassin, sure that he is right
in having assassinated, would murder again. All caution is not enough
with such a person. We are dealing with a murderer who would murder again
at any moment. - Another, having committed a murder, is sorry. The fact
of the murder does not change, someone was really murdered. But the feeling
of guilt and sorrow changes the person and the Personal History of the
murderer. He is sorry. He does not want to kill again. The fact gone by
does not change that the fact that it happened, but the guilt changes
his moral coloration. It was something bad. This evaluation which we make
each day of the events gone by is the nucleus of History. To make History
is to tell the facts giving them their due moral evaluation. Ethics is
the hard core of History. Ethics is based on liberty, which is based on
the capacity of choosing between alternative options. Who, then, writes
History? We write it, with our decisions and moral evaluations.
It is obvious that the term We means the Concrete Universal, the Society
in which we live, the Culture which we are and do. In this sense the author
of the script of World History is we ourselves. We, each one of us, within
the limits of our potentiality, are the modest co-authors of the script
of History. Each one of us contributes with a small stone to the great
Mosaic of the Meaning of History. Our contribution is modest, but, as
we see it, is real. The medieval monks, at the end of each day did a examen
conscientiae. The Facts which happened and the actions done throughout
the day were then evaluated in their ethic context. In the Examination
of Conscience the correct man should be able to ethically evaluate what
he did, confirming the good acts, asking for forgiveness for the bad ones,
by putting the initially isolated events in the great context of the History
of Salvation according to the Medieval ones. The facts practiced by the
individual were then, in the examination of conscience, put into the horizon
of Universal History. The Individual was in this way transformed into
Universal. The isolated acts done by the individuals entered into the
weaving and made up a cloth: The Meaning of Life. - With the gradual disappearance
of the monks, then the layman substitutes appeared. In the XX century
the Existential Philosophers and the psychoanalysts have the same job
as the Confessing Fathers: They make the Individual reflect upon himself
in a way as to insert himself by universalizing reflection, into the universal
cloth of History.
Is there not anyone above us taking care so that we do not get out of
the script of History? Is there no one other than ourselves, a chief scriptwriter,
a thinking being which coordinates our individual contributions to the
Meaning of History? Our ancestors said that God wrote correctly with crooked
lines. Did he really? Is God not the Great Coordinator of the Meaning
of History? In order to think about God as a Reason in History, it is
necessary to first ask if God exists. Does God exist?
5. The Absolute
1. Does God Exist?
Many classics of Philosophy, especially Medieval thinkers like Anselmo
de Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas, were seriously worried about the existence
of God. Does God exist? Does the Absolute exist? Anselmo and Thomas Aquinas
tried to assemble rational arguments to prove that God exists. The ontological
argument of Saint Anselmo and Thomas Aquinas’s Quinque Viae are
attempts to demonstrate just through reason, or without presupposing Christian
faith, that God really exists. This problem entered strongly into our
philosophic tradition and split the thinkers into two groups: Those that
accept the demonstration of the existence of God and those who do not.
Theists and Agnostics still discuss and debate today. Can one demonstrate
the existence of God? Is this feasible? Theism or Agnosticism? Neither
one nor the other, at least not in the current meaning of the words.
About the existence of the Absolute I have a distinct and clear position:
I think that there is no question to be discussed. It is obvious that
there is an Absolute. The existence of the Absolute, such as I understand
it, can not even be put under question, without immediately becoming an
affirmative answer. Even more. Whoever denies the Absolute, by denying
it, confirms its existence. Whoever denies the Absolute enters into a
performative contradiction. How? Why?
Things are either relative or absolute. Relative things are relative because
they send off logical and ontologically to some other, in the last instance
to something absolute. Everything relative is a relation to something
else; this something else in turn is either relative or absolute; if it
is relative it sends off to another; and so on, until we arrive at the
Absolute which is always being presupposed. One always presupposes a something
that will be Absolute. It there is a being that is relative, there must
also be a being that is Absolute. Then, there are beings in the Universe;
I, myself am here thinking, I exist and I am a being. Therefore, there
is also something Absolute. Whoever understands this can no longer ask
if the Absolute exists. Such a question is no longer possible. The question
that is possible is not about the existence of the Absolute, but about
its identity. Who is the Absolute? How is the Absolute? Would I, who is
here thinking, be the Absolute itself? Just a little good sense and reflection
is enough to discover that I am not the Absolute, or rather, I am not
the whole Absolute. The question about the identity of the Absolute is
a question that makes sense and which is, therefore, able to be asked.
The answer that says that I am the Absolute is not correct, but it is
not a completely foolish affirmation. But, to seriously ask if the Absolute
exists, this is foolish thing in my point of view. There are beings, like
the I that is talking, consequently there is an Absolute.
We are dealing here with the same argument that Leibnitz uses in the beginning
of the Monadology. The things are simple or complex. The complex things
are formed by the simple ones. This put forth and presupposed, it is immediately
evident that there is a being that is simple. The same thought is done
in reference to the relative-absolute binominal. Since the Relative always
presupposes the Absolute, if one relative exists, then there must be an
Absolute too. - That is why I think it is foolish to discuss the existence
of the Absolute. It is obvious that the Absolute exists. Thomas Aquinas
must forgive me, but to try and demonstrate the existence of God is as
foolish as trying to prove that I, who is here writing and talking, exist.
However, the question about the nature of the Absolute is a very different
question. The Absolute exists; God exists, of course. The great question
is the following: Who is God? How is the Absolute? Where is the Absolute?
Is it transcendent above and outside of all things? Or is it inherent
and within all things? This is the decisive question: Is the Absolute
transcendent or immanent? Is it hovering above things or within them.
Here is where the waters separate. Here is where the opinions are divided?
In our philosophic tradition there are two concepts of the Absolute, the
Neo-Aristotelian concept and the Neoplatonic Concept. The Neo-Aristotelian
concept of God, coined by Albert Magnus and Thomas Aquinas by the light
of Aristotle’s classics, says that God is the first immovable motor,
it is the first non-caused cause, it is a transcendent being, that is,
it exists there above and beyond the limits of finite things. The Neoplatonic
concept, which comes from the Greek Fathers, Agustine, Johannes Scotus
Eriugena, Nicolau Cusanus and gets into Spinosa, Fichte, Schelling and
Hegel says that God is immanent and is within all things. God, in this
dialectic conception, is immanent as well as transcendent. It is inherent
because it is in the pith of each thing, including the I which is here
talking and writing and the You that is listening and reading. It is also
transcendent because it is not identified with anything in particular
and therefore transcends it. Two conceptions of God put against each other.
One is analytic, Aristotelian and thomist. The other is dialectic and
Neoplatonic. The first defends the thesis that God is transcendent and
that transcendence and immanence are opposing characteristics which mutually
exclude each other. If transcendence grows, immanence decreases and vice-versa.
Transcendence and immanence are inversely proportional. The second conception,
the dialectic one, says that God is transcendent as well as immanent,
it affirms that transcendence and immanence are not opposites that just
exclude themselves - thesis and antithesis - but opposites which can and
should be conciliated into a higher synthesis. According to this doctrine
transcendence and inherence are directly proportional.
My main thesis, according to the premises which have been exposed and
demonstrated as this work progressed, is that the Neoplatonic theory of
God is correct, and that the Neo-Aristotelian concept is wrong. The God
designated and thought out by the Neo-Aristotelian concept does not exist;
if God is this, then God does not exist. Faced with this Neo-Aristotelian
conception of God it is necessary to become atheist, or at least - to
have good manners - agnostic. If, however, we understand God as this which
is conceived by the Neoplatonic thinkers, then God does exist, without
a doubt. But, this is not the God which we learned about in our good and
well intentioned catechism; this is not the God of our Catholic or Protestant
school teachers. What God is this? We shall see. But first we must talk
about the God that does not exist, the God of the Neo-Aristotelian tradition.
2. Transcendent God of the Neo-Aristotelian tradition
Aristotle has already taught us: Everything that is moved is moved by
another. Thomas Aquinas puts this principle in the center of his philosophic
system: Quidquid movetur ab alio movetur. It is on this principle that
the argument to demonstrate the existence of God as the first immobile
motor is mounted. If something is moved, it is moved by something that
is external to it. Each being moved presupposes a moving being. If this
in turn is also moved it is moved by something that came before it. And
so on, until we arrive at the first moving thing of all the things moved.
This first and last moving thing, although it moves everything else, it
in itself is immobile. If in the Universe there is some being in movement,
Thomas Aquinas argues, there is also a first immobile motor. Then, since
there are beings in movement, God exists as the first immobile motor.
What is the mistake? Where is the error? Not everything that moves is
moved by something else, by something that is outside of it. Aristotle
himself considered the living things as autokineton, as a being-that moves-itself.
Not all movements are provoked by something that is external and previous
to each thing moved. That is the mistake. The invoked principle, Quidquid
movetur ab alto movetur, although important and valid for many things,
is not valid always and for all things. That is why the argument does
not conclude. Thomas Aquinas and the Thomists did not realize that there
are beings that move themselves and that despite this, they are not God.
The concept of self-movement itself is strange for them. Today, with contemporary
Biology speaking about self-organizing systems, this seems easy and obvious
to us. But to the Medieval thinkers it was not. Movement, for the Medieval
Philosophers was always the fruit of some movement external to the thing
moved. This conception of movement - mistaken - is the core of this type
of argument on the existence of God.
The other great argument to prove the existence of God, similar to the
first, is based on the Causality Principle: Everything that is caused
must have a previous cause. The Causality Principle seems to be an analytic
proposition, and, therefore, universally valid. Does effect not always
presuppose a cause? Doesn’t the caused being always presuppose a
previous cause? Hume shows us that the question is not quite that simple.
The Principle invoked above, in the formulation that was given to it,
is, I think, an analytic proposition and as such always true. But who
tells us and guarantees that this table which I am pointing to is really
an effect? That it is something caused? If the table is an effect, if
it is caused, then necessarily one takes a previous cause for granted.
But who says that the table is a caused effect? Who says that the contingent
things are really something caused? Thomas Aquinas and the Thomists got
stuck here, and did not go any further because they assumed that cause
and effect are always and necessarily opposite poles or that self-cause
is something impossible. The concept of a cause that causes itself would
be a contradiction. This is the central theme of the Associate Professorship
Thesis which Schopenhauer wrote against the Hegelian concept of self-causation
and presented to Hegel himself at the University of Berlin. Schopenhauer
is defending here the Neo-Aristotelian concept of cause which is always
external to the effect. The mistake here consists of presupposing that
each and every cause is always external and previous to its effect. One
such concept, which by principle excludes the structure itself of a Causa
Sui, is wrong because it thinks of causality as only something external.
If this were true life, thought, conscience, freedom etc. could not exist.
Leibnitz, before Schopenhauer, realized the problem, and without admitting
the Neoplatonic concept of self-causation, went ahead and tried to fundament
the Causality Principle on a more ample and more valid principle, the
Principle of Sufficient Reason. - Things are contingent. They can exist
or not. Even when the things really exist they continue contingent because
they, by their essence, can exist or not. But if things really exist,
why do they really exist, if they can also not exist? What is the reason
that things which can not exist, really exist? What is the sufficient
reason for this? Leibnitz formulates then, according to a late tradition
of the Middle Ages, the Principle of Sufficient Reason: All contingent
things, which can exist or not, if they really exist, must have a sufficient
reason. The Principle formulated like this is correct. The only thing
is that we usually understand a addendum: there must be a sufficient reason
previous and external to it. With this addendum - wrong in my opinion
-, generally made silently and sub-repticia, we go back to a situation
similar to that of the previous argument. We get an advantage and a disadvantage.
The advantage is that the argument of the existence of God seems to be
sanctioned: Since contingent things exist, there must be a Non-Contingent
God, which is the sufficient reason for these. The disadvantage is that
the Causality Principle in this formulation becomes so powerful and extensive
that it would be valid for everything and every nexus; this however takes
us to a totally necessary causal paradigm and makes the freedom of man
and contingency of History totally impossible. Leibnitz understood the
problem well and facing it he capitulated. He would have liked to have
a solution, but did not have one. Hence the doctrine - extremely strange,
but understandable if put in the correct context - of Pre-Established
What is Leibnitz’s error? What is right? What is wrong? It is right
to say that all the contingent things have to have a sufficient reason.
This is analytic. The addendum made in silence is wrong: this sufficient
reason is always external to the contingent thing, outside of it. Why?
Why can there not be something contingent which is sufficient reason for
itself? Is life not sufficient reason within itself of its vital movements?
Is this not the definition of life itself? Is our free decision not a
self-determination? Man deciding freely is not a causa sui of his decision?
- The analytical thinkers, among the Greeks as well as in the Middle Ages,
were unable to imagine the good circularities. For them every circular
movement is always a vicious circle. In Logic, they affirm, the circular
movement does not prove anything; in Ontology it is absurd. That is why
the First Mover is thought of as being Immobile, and not as a Moving-Thing-that-Is-Moved-By-Itself,
like a Self-Movement. The First Cause is thought of as being uncaused,
and not as Causing-Itself, like Causa Sui. The analytical thinkers, by
refusing the structures of good circularity, entered into contradiction.
Where? What contradiction?
The contradiction of the Analytics consists in never conciliating the
mover and the moved, the cause and the caused, the absolute and the relative,
the necessary and the contingent, the transcendence and the immanence.
According to the Analytics the opposite poles are self-excluding; and
then, that’s that. The error made becomes visible, because Nature
is full of beings that contain the two conciliated poles, the causing
element as well as the caused element, the moving element and the moved
element within themselves. Some beings are under one aspect causing and
moving and under another aspect caused and moved. In order to avoid explosive
contradiction, the Analytics carefully separate the two aspects, the active
and the passive. This is right; it is necessary to distinguish two logical
aspects and two ontological moments. But the Analytics here went further
and, without realizing that the conciliation between the active and passive
is perfectly possible and exists within many beings, postulated that the
Supreme Being is just active, not passive that he is just necessary, not
contingent, that he is just the cause and never the effect, that he just
moves and is never moved. Why?
Because they think - wrongly so - that the passive, the moved, the caused,
the contingent, the relative are always something inferior and less perfect.
Such imperfection, they say, can not exist in the Supreme Being. This
then is thought of as the Cause, as Mover, as Absolute, as Necessary,
as Transcendent, without ever having the logical and ontological conterparts
attributed to it. Where is the error? What is the mistake? It is absolutely
impossible to think about the active without the passive, the necessary
without the contingent, the absolute without the relative, the cause without
the effect, the changed without the changer. Since this is logically impossible,
the Supreme Being is then unthinkable. The discourse about the Supreme
Being becomes a Negative Theology. More. Speech becomes impossible. And
that which is logically impossible can not exist. Consequently, the Supreme
Being, thought of in this Neo-Aristotelian way, does not and cannot exist.
Where is the error? What is the serious mistake? The Analytic’s
error consists of thinking that opposite poles are always mutually exclusive.
The Analytic’s mistake is that they never learned to play the game
of opposites. They do not realize that opposite poles mutually constitute
themselves, they do not realize that one pole can only be thought of through
its relationship with the other. The second mistake committed by the Analytics,
stemming from the first, is that they think that opposites always exclude
themselves, one annulling the other. That is why they never thought of
synthesis as being possible, of synthesis as being something due.
The God of the Analytics is a logical consequence of these mistakes. He
is a God that is immobile like a stone, necessary like logic-formal operations.
The Analytics think about God as a Being that is totally Other, like a
Pure Negation. Now, such a God is undone and stops being a God, because
negation just exists as Negation of Something. Such a God loses its divinity
and presents itself as the fruit of the denial which man himself is making.
Such a God is a constructed God, and therefore a false and perverse God.
If this were God, then it would be better to be an Atheist. Conclusions
of this kind were made by many Philosophers who could only think of an
Absolute through the Neo-Aristotelian concept. In such a case, it is really
better to be an Atheist, or, to be courteous, agnostic.
And what about the argument about the existence of God which is made through
the Order existent in the Universe? There in the beginning of everything
does the existent order of things not require a Great Architect who planned
everything and conducts everything with a firm hand? - This argument,
which was quite popular in the XVIII and XIX centuries, at first seems
to be founded on good reasons. It still has the advantage of not necessarily
leading to a Negative God, which is normal in the Neo-Aristotelian tradition.
The probability calculus, at first glance, seems to confirm the idea of
the Great Architect. After all, what is the probability of all the atoms
of a Boeing 767 getting together with each other in such a way as to construct
a functional airplane? One such probability is so extremely small that
we are obliged to admit that an airplane of such a complexity is not the
fruit of just chance but the careful work of an Engineer, who with a lot
of ingenuity and art planned and executed the whole project. Is the World
not well ordered? Do the Marvels of Nature not require a Great Architect,
by the same reasoning? Of course they do. The Great Architect, however,
is not a God which stays out of the World, turning the spheres of the
stars and atoms, but a God which is in the center of things and of the
Universe. God is not outside, he is inside. He does not push the planets
and the atoms in their orbits from outside. God does not play with the
planets, stars and men like a child plays with his toys which are always
external to him. God, the Absolute, is inside, in the core. God is a Principle
which is internal, which from inside out constitutes the Universe. But
this is another God, this is the God of the Neoplatonists, the God of
Plotinus and Proclus, the God of Augustine, Eriugena and Nicolau Cusanus,
the God of Goethe, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, the God of Teillard de
3. The God of the Neoplatonic tradition
The Neoplatonic conception of the Universe was captured in its plenitude
and brightly expressed by some of the Renaissance artists in the Cascade
Fountain. Here in our Porto Alegre, in the Redenção Park,
some architect remembered this and in the beginning of the century built
such a fountain. You just need to go there and take a look. Right in the
middle there is a pipe which takes the water to the top. There it flows
and falls into the first basin. When this one is full, the water overflows
all around and falls into a lower basin, which is slightly larger than
the first. When this second bassin is full, it also overflows and supplies
the water for a larger basin which is under it. And then it gets to the
ground. Bonum diffusivum sui, good difuses itself said the old ones. The
water is the same. It comes up in the center, high up. From there it emanates
and falls down, in a waterfall, basin by basin, to the ground. The Greeks
called this Emanation.
The central idea in Plotinus is that all the multiplicity comes from the
One, the Being that is One. In Proclus the great thesis is that the Particular
Beings come from the One, which is the Universal. All the multiplicity
of individuals, of species, of genera come, through emanations, from a
first beginning which is the One, the Being that is the Concrete Universal.
The defect, the error, in Plotinus and Proclus consists in the necessitarianism.
Both think of the System of the World as a deterministic succession of
stages which follow each other in a necessary series, without contingency,
without chance, without true historicity. In such a system there is not
space for the contingency of things, for the free will of men, for free
choice, for the construction of Reason in History. The Greek and Latin
Fathers argued - rightly at this point - against the Neoplatonists of
the Ancient Times. As we have seen in various places throughout this work,
necessitarianism is a mistake. Whoever affirms it is in contradiction.
Augustine, the great Christian thinker who made himself the heir of the
Neoplatonic concept of the world, clearly realized the problem of necessitarianism.
To the necessarian emanation of the Neoplatonists he opposed the free
creation through God. God is the Creator who engenders the world by a
free act. In this way the world can be thought of as something contingent
and historic. The problem - which we will return to just below - is how
to conciliate the Neoplatonic conception with the creationist concept
of the world. Agustine, and after him the Neoplatonic Philosophers of
the Middle Ages are always stumbling with two conceptions of the World
which are not easily conciliated: The World as the sweet flow of the Absolute
which in degrees, leaves itself - emanates and lets sprout from itself
all the multiplicity of things on one side, and on the other, the World
of fixed stars and immutable species made by a God Creator who stays out
of it all. Even today Catholic and Protestant Theologists - some at least,
- have this problem stuck in their throats without being able to solve
it to their content.
But the Neoplatonic conception of the world, despite the Creationism of
the Christian thinkers, continues strong and acting. The so called Pseudo-Dionisius,
one of the greatest and most influential thinkers of Ancient Christianity,
explains the world, in the way of Plotinus and Proclus, as waves of being
that are irradiated from a central point which is God the Father. The
waves which come from the father and spread out, constituting the universe
in this way, return through the Logos to the primeval unit. God is the
beginning and the end of a great process of development. Book IV of the
treatise De Divinis Nominibus is a full proof of how Christianity was
deeply influenced by Neoplatonism. Johannes Scotus Eriugena, in the IX
century, returns to the central idea of Pseudo-Dionisius in his treatise
De Divisione Naturae. From the Father comes the Son. From the Father and
the Son comes the Holy Spirit. From the God-One-Trine comes the Created
Universe, Nature, which splits and divides and subdivides itself even
more, constituting the things which we see with our eyes. The Neoplatonic
conception of the Universe, the Explanation of the World, in Scotus Eriugena
is clear and distinct. The condemnations which were imposed by the Catholic
Church in 1209 and 1212 already showed the difficulties of conciliation
between Neoplatonism and Creationism.
The doctrine of forma essendi in Tierry de Chartres, in the best Neoplatonic
tradition, affirms that God is inborn in the things. In Tierry de Chartres,
Bernard Silvester and William of Conches we find an identification of
the Holy Spirit with the Soul of the World in the Neoplatonic tradition.
In Gilbert de la Porré the Neoplatonic dialectic returns to the
center of attention as a method. In that way the red string which makes
up the Neoplatonic tradition continues passing through Hugo of Sanct Victor,
Abelardus until Petrus Hispanus. Here, only here in the XII century is
Aristotelism rediscovered and makes its triumphal entrance into Christian
thinking. Through Albert Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, Aristotelism, the
dicothomic theory of act and potency, of God Creator and Created Nature,
returns. The Middle Ages, in the beginning of the XII century, begins
to lose its Neoplatonic substance to become more and more Neo-Aristotelian
until the present.
What after all is the conception of God of the Neoplatonic thinkers? The
Absolute in a Neoplatonic system is not thought of as something merely
transcendent. The Absolute transcends the world, like the Whole transcends
each one of its parts, but the absolute is always inside the Universe.
In the dialectic conception, which is characteristic of the Neoplatonic
thinkers, transcendence and immanence do not exclude each other, but include
each other. The more transcendental God is, the more immanent he becomes
and vice-versa. The Neo-Aristotelian God is the contrary: The more transcendental
God is, the less immanent he becomes. The Aristotelians do not know how
to conciliate opposite poles, the Neoplatonists do. The Aristotelians
are analytic, the Neoplatonists are dialectic. This is the main theme
of this small book. It is understandable then, from what was exposed throughout
this work, in which way God exists. God exists, yes, the God of the Dialectics
exists. And what about the God of the Analytics? This God is, in my judgment,
unthinkable and impossible.
4. Is God the Creator of the World?
Can one think of the Absolute as the Creator of the World? The concept
of creation says that in the beginning there was God as an intelligent
and absolutely perfect Being. God, then, in the super abundance of his
perfection freely decided to create the world. And then, by his own decision,
he created the things, he created the various species of plants and animals,
he also created man. This Myth of Creation has two elements, one right
and true, the other wrong. The right element is the idea that the Free
Spirit is the beginning and the structuring principle of the Universe.
The wrong element is to imagine this Spirit like in Catholicism, as a
Creating Architect, which is outside of the process of the Universe. The
Principle of the Universe is One and Trine; Identity, Difference and Coherence
make up the Universe with its marvels, as we have already seen. All the
things, including Man, are fruit of this Evolution. In this way, there
is no longer reason, in Philosophy, to talk about a God Creator. The Myth
of the God Creator should be substituted by a good General Theory of Evolution.
But a good General Theory of Evolution - a theory which is logical as
well ontological - is based on the three First Principles, Identity, Difference,
and Coherence. These Principles, as we have seen in the first and second
parts of this work, are the Principles of Thinking and Speaking. They
are the Principles of Logic. Here is the Logos which is in the beginning
and which passes through all. There is a Logic, there is a Logos, since
the first beginning. The theory which I am defending is a form of Idealism.
An Idealism which contains contingency, yes, but an Idealism. That is
why I judge that the concept of Absolute in Hegel, with the small corrections
made here, is perfectly adequate. To think of the Absolute is to unmask
the Bad Infinity and understand the Absolute as a Good Finity, as Absolute
Idea and Absolute Knowledge.
If Fichte, and more moderately, Hegel are accused of Atheism, this is
due to the small knowledge that the Protestant and Catholic ecclesiastic
authorities of the time had of the the Neoplatonic concept of God. The
Bishops thought of God only through the Neo-Aristotelian concept; then
they had to think and say that Fichte, Schelling and Hegel were Atheists.
The accusation of Pantheism was raised against the Neoplatonic thinkers
since the Ancient times. Scotus Eriugena was condemned, Cusanus was under
suspicion. If I were permitted, I would suggest that the competent ecclesiastic
authorities research the questions which were debated between the Neoplatonists
and Neo-Aristotelians since the IV century of our culture better and that
the positive meaning of the term Pantheism be brought back.
5. The Circle of Circles
If at this point someone were to ask me for some bibliographic indication
about the problem of God, I would tell him to read all the Neoplatonic
authors cited in this study, and that he especially study Hegel’s
concept of Absolute.
But, except for Hegel, is there no one else? Yes, Let me cite two other
authors, Meister Eckhard and Goethe. One is a Great Mystic, and the other
is called the Great Pagan. The Great Mystic and the Great Pagan have one
common denominator. Both are Neoplatonic, both have the same concept of
God. Meister Eckhard, the Great Mystic, decisively influenced all of Goethe’s,
the Great Pagan’s, concept of the world. After all, if God is in
all parts, in the core of each thing, the Mystic is always meeting with
God. And since he meets God in all people and all things, it is really
no longer necessary to enter churches. Or is it possible that God privileges
some architectural spaces with his presence? And if the Mystic never goes
to a church, like the believers, will he not then be called the Great
Pagan? Meister Eckhard and Goethe - no one should surprise himself - can
and should be read, au pair.
The work of the concept is painful and, generally, without poetry. But
it is the Poetry which crowns and finalizes everything. Let me be permitted
to finish with a typically Neoplatonic poetic image The Circle of Circles.
When one throws a stone into a lake, concentric circles which spread out
in the water starting from the point of impact. One small circle, one
larger, and another ad infinitum. The first circle is I, that I which
is the Individual. The second Circle is the I which is We, the Society,
the State, the Human Race. The third circle is the I which we are Nature
itself. The fourth circle is the I which is the Planet Earth. And so on
until the I coincides in the I which is the Concrete Universal. To do
Dialectic Philosophy is to know how to pass from a narrow I to other I’s,
which although more ample, do not stop being the I Myself: the I which
is We, the I which is Nature, the I which is Absolute.