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The Mirror: Unity and Multiplicity

The Grey Man

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#1
It's everywhere

It's Atman and Maya
Yang
and Yin
Psyche
and physis
The soul and nature
The Cartesian substances, mind and matter
Spinoza's thought and extension
Locke's secondary and primary qualities
Leibniz's simple substance and the multitude within it
Kant's noumenon and phenomena; the subject and the objects of experience
The frame of reference and motion in relativistic physics
The whole and its parts as spoken of by the 'gestalt' psychologist Kurt Koffka

Men have, at all times and in all places of the world, thought about a unity that combines a multiplicity because there is nothing else for us to think about. Cogito ergo sum; what we think about is what we are, and what we are, to the very last, is a combination of things reciprocally individuated by their oppositions to each other—polar relations of right-to-left, before-to-after, warm-to-cold, light-to-dark, and red-to-green to name a few. Each of these multiple physical dualities is a mirror to the unitary metaphysical 'duality of dualities' between the multiplicity itself and the unity that it constitutes.

In all moments are we confronted with these dualities—we can no more escape them than we can escape ourselves. We can, however, call them by their proper names—we can represent the multiplicity, whole and entire, with symbols, thereby furnishing a microcosm: such is the vocation of the philosopher. Philosophers are themselves individuated by what side of the existential looking glass they represent—those who speak of the physical world are physicists or natural philosophers, those who speak of the metaphysical metaphysicians or philosophers in the strict sense.



In the Western world, the whole ear of the philosophical laity has been rankly abused since the ascension of the industrial system to dominate our economic life in the 19th century. In our zeal to enrich ourselves by increasing our capacity to manufacture goods from readily available materials, we have submitted ourselves to a most lamentable intellectual poverty; concurrent with the division of labour needful to increase our material productivity has been a division of intellectual labour needful to maintain and expand that physical microcosm furnished by natural philosophy which has borne all the technical discoveries that made that increase possible. The result has been a specialization of thought to match our specialization of labour; gone are eagles like Leibniz who command the entire landscape of Western knowledge from on high, replaced by creepers who jealously cling to the parochial patches of dirt that they claim as their "fields of study." What a falling off was there!

Now, even as the special physical sciences are lauded by the learned for their continued contributions to our technical knowledge and thereby our material wealth, metaphysics is mocked as a medieval relic, and those creepers who would pose as its heirs do little to salvage its reputation. Since the 20th century, the philosophical legacy that extends from Charlemagne and Scotus Erigena to Frederick the Great and Kant has been all but forgotten, buried under a mountain of superfine obscurantist pedantry heaped up to advance the careers of good-for-nothing university professors to whose hearts "love of wisdom" is no closer than to that of the dullest manual labourer. So sordid is the state of academic philosophy that I can scarcely disagree with the eminent physicist Hawking when he says that philosophy is dead and people like him "the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge."

In my search for a metaphysician who would call the duality of dualities by its proper name, I was forced to hearken back to a time before the intellectual flame of the West was smothered by the materialistic philistinism of the industrial system. There, in the Germany of Goethe and Beethoven—two men who, more than any other, represent the very apogee of Western culture—did I find my teacher, as did Nietzsche before me. There did I find the man who, alone among all the philosophers of the Western canon, dared to call the dual existential principles of unity and multiplicity by their proper names: Wille und Vorstellung.

2kugky.jpg



When one looks in the mirror, does one see oneself or someone else?

Animals think that it is someone else that they see and children think that they see themselves, but we who know the true meaning of the above-quoted saying of Descartes know that the proper answer is both and neither—when one looks in the mirror, one sees a duplicate of one's body.

Just as each physical duality is a mirror to the metaphysical duality between their multiplicity and the unity that combines them, so is the duality between one's body without and its duplicate within the physical looking-glass the representation par excellence of this existential looking-glass, a microcosm in itself. Looking in the mirror teaches us that we both are and are not our bodies, for though the self combines a multiplicity of individuated things, still the unity suffers no duplication. But still we do not learn. The language of the mirror is too austere, its symbolism too esoteric for us to readily avail ourselves of it. Our teacher must needs be a man like us, our interpreter, if you will, between our language and that of the world.

This teacher came to us in 1818, when the union of one man's insuppressible love of wisdom and the robust literary tradition of the West produced a prosaic masterpiece that has never yet been equalled in its lucidity and catholicity. In The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer complements Kant's work in identifying the unity and the multiplicity as the dual principles of existence by identifying the latter as a mirror to the former. Elucidated in plain terms at last is the solution to the "riddle of existence" which had already been discovered by the Vedic sages of India, thereby bridging the gulf between Eastern and Western thought.*

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason teaches us that we have both a phenomenal and a noumenal character; we exist both as a body—one of a multiplicity of things which are reciprocally individuated by their polar relations to each other—and as a unity which combines a multiplicity. The sage of Königsberg had thus already discovered that thought and thinker were one by the time Schopenhauer was ready to pen his magnum opus; all that remained for the latter was to illuminate the nature of the relationship between the two. In doing so, he was forced to reckon with the considerable progress that natural philosophy had already made in representing some of the persistent patterns exhibited by polar relations—in discovering some of those natural laws which govern the physical world, also known as causality.



Do men have free will, or are we bound to follow natural laws?

Block-headed optimists think that we are free, while mean-minded misanthropes think that we are slaves to causality; once again, the proper answer is both and neitherwe are what we will.

The will has a dual character corresponding to the dual principles of existence: multiplicity and unity.

The phenomenal character of the will is integral to nature and thus no less bound to natural laws than anything else within it; indeed, one's body is merely an embodiment of causality, a multiplicity of polar relations whereby things are individuated from each other.

The noumenal character of the will is the integrating principle of nature and for this very reason transcends its laws; causality is merely the individuating principle whereby a multiplicity of things is combined into a unity, which is itself beyond individuation.

Why do we call the government of the multiplicity by natural laws and its combination by the unity alike by the selfsame name of 'act'? Because whatsoever exists acts. Do not ask what is an act, for there is no answer. It is :slashnew:

:cthulhu:



* Schopenhauer is thus to be credited with first translating the ancient Indian doctrine of the identity of Atman and Brahman in the language of Western philosophy; that today's fraudulent "philosophers of the mind", determined to exploit the credulity of their intellectually impoverished contemporaries in order to achieve fame, plagiarize Schopenhauer with their anemic talk of the unity as "the intrinsic nature of the physical" (Chalmers) and of the multiplicity as the "identity between phenomenological properties of experience and informational/causal properties of physical systems" (Tononi) even as they blithely ignore Kant and act as if nobody had thought about mind and matter before them, need not concern us here.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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Elucidated in plain terms at last is the solution to the "riddle of existence" which had already been discovered by the Vedic sages of India, thereby bridging the gulf between Eastern and Western thought.*
What is the "riddle of existence"?
 
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#3
we are blind to the perfect shades of grey we strive for.
most notably in politics and ye olde science vs religion debate.
 

onesteptwostep

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Grey Man, what do you think of the existentialist movement in general? Schopenhauer was a reaction to Kant and Hegel, often incorporating a large unifiying system for reality as well as its purpose and goal or lack thereof, but how about the personal inwardness reactions of the existentialist? It's arguable that philosohpy after Hegel was never systematic (apart from Marx) but went into a self introspective mode. Would be nice to hear your thoughts. By the way have you read into Kierkegaard or Nietzsche?
 

The Grey Man

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#5
What is the "riddle of existence"?
Unity and multiplicity: what is the relationship between them?

Grey Man, what do you think of the existentialist movement in general? Schopenhauer was a reaction to Kant and Hegel, often incorporating a large unifiying system for reality as well as its purpose and goal or lack thereof, but how about the personal inwardness reactions of the existentialist? It's arguable that philosohpy after Hegel was never systematic (apart from Marx) but went into a self introspective mode. Would be nice to hear your thoughts. By the way have you read into Kierkegaard or Nietzsche?
Schopenhauer stands between the 'impersonal' grand systematizing of the scholastics and German idealists and the 'personal' individual-centric philosophizing of the existentialists and, in a way, this is why I revere him more than any Western philosopher. No theory of the object is complete without one of the subject, nor the latter without the former. By giving due consideration to both the subject and the object—will and representation—I think Schopenhauer avoids the traps of myopia and materialism that one is liable to fall into when one focuses too much on just one.

I see existentialism, on the whole, as an example of focusing too much on the subject. Existentialists seem to pay so much attention to the subject and his freedom that they neglect the object and its determination; their philosophy is entirely ethical in character and, as Hawking pointed out, they don't even try to reconcile their doctrines with the findings of the physical sciences. One might think to excuse this by saying that their philosophy is somehow "unsystematic", to which my retort would be that philosophy is characteristically systematic—it uses words to represent the world as a complex of relations—and that it is therefore absurd to speak of unsystematic philosophy.

It's been a while since I read anything by Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, but I have read most of the works of the latter as well as Fear and Trembling.
 

onesteptwostep

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I see. Personally I see Schopenhauer as too pessimistic and deterministic, and feel like his lack of a teleology unattractive. I think the logical conclusion of Schopenhauer is that we should all just commit suicide because life is just a sham- which I think Mainlander, the guy you introduced, was trying to get at. Have you also heard of Alain de Botton? I think he and Schopenhauer share the same views, that the escape from the deterministic will and the pessimism of the world lies in aesthetic and ethics.

From my Christian perspective I think Schopenhauer gets something right, that there exists a will, but to me he leaves out God's will. To me I feel like his philosophy is incomplete because he leaves out God. Can Schopenhauer get me to embrace life and live in hope? To me he doesn't seem to fulfill that criteria, sadly.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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Unity and multiplicity: what is the relationship between them?
Yeah, I've considered that one in this sense: how is it that my mind can perceive what is around me as though it were distinct yet unified? In what way does the differentiation of sensation allow itself to be perceived all at once? And the simple answer is: what you see before you, that is the answer.

The main riddle that I concern myself with is regarding ethics: how is it that I can have a choice between options, with there being a gradient between good and bad options, which myself and/or the world will bear the consequences of, given that I would almost surely choose the best option if I knew what it was, and should have no responsibility and hence be rolling dice if I didn't? With the answer being: what you choose becomes; will is manifest from your source (a bit more obscure).
 
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I have some thoughts on the relation between unity and multiplicity and the cognitive functions which I want to record here in case I lose track of it. It's incomplete so far, just notes:

So, in my above post I basically showed 2 paradoxes which happen to be representative of the relation between Ni and Se for the former, and Fe and Ti for the latter paragraphs. So I inferred that there would be corresponding paradoxes for Ne and Si, and Te and Fi.

I think it goes something like this:

Ti/Fe - the perfection of moral action
Ni/Se - the unity of sensation/the integration of the differentiated
Fi/Te - the congruence of tasks
Si/Ne - the stability of flux/the continuity of transformations

(it's interesting that the perception functions are linked to calculus; if anyone knows how to link the judgement functions to mathematics in a likewise manner, I would much appreciate to hear it!)

So all of these are concerned with: how the multitude of individual parts (extroversion) constitute a unified whole (introversion); which is what seems to be being posited with the unity and multiplicity idea.

I had a couple other thoughts around the same time:

The first is that I considered that perhaps there are overminds consisting of a multitude of smaller minds, for example the earth may have a mind where each individual organism is like the small specks of qualia that make up our own minds.

Again, unity and multiplicity.

Now, in psychology, there is an additional dichotomy: the unconscious and the conscious.

I posit that this dichotomy relates to the freely willed versus determined/random* distinction.

And it has been stated in these threads, if I am following along, that Will, which to me is Free Will, is associated with the Subject, which is Unity, and Representation, which to me is deterministic/random, is associated with the Object, which is Multiplicity.

There are probably other paradoxical situations that are inherent to the cognitive functions, but I suspect they are all manifestations of Unity and Multiplicity.

* there will be a statistical structure to that which is outside of one's own control, but I believe one's free will, when considered from the inside, has no such statistical nature, except insofar as it is constrained by circumstance (though, "circumstance" might even include such things as the constitution of one's soul, which I would not really deem to be the same as what I mean by circumstance)
 
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