Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Debate via E-mail

Hi Joseph and Duane, Thanks for your thoughts. I accept that 'man' may itself have altered its meaning but the very fact that it was originally ungendered doesn't, I don't think, diminish the point I'm making. (It even retains its ungendered meaning as 'mankind'). But woman is, thanks to the continuation of man in its gendered use, defined relative to man; and not as simply the female form of mankind. If one argues that 'listenting to' is a softening of what we ordinarily today think of as 'obeying' (what got this debate moving), then I think one can argue with the same conviction that the formation of the word woman by an affixation of 'man' is a subordination (of lower rank / secondary) and that our modern usage of the word (i.e. that is now not generally aware of the etymology and does not seek to reinstate it) is anything but a loss. If our designation of the male of the species had had a similar morphological development, what we now call 'man' (i.e. gendered man) would be 'husbandman' and it's not. Besides, that means a farmer! It's still all very interesting, though... Jeff

Dear Jeff The fact that 'woman' is a compound of 'wife' and 'man', so as to say:wife-man (the f was subsequently lost) may mean that the word 'woman' is subordinate to 'man', but only in being defined relative to man. The> subsequent gender subordination is mistaken and misreads the subordination. Of course, the Genesis story does not help itself here in terms of Adam and Eve, but this is because it is too subtle for its own good. The word 'woman' is relatively new when compared to the more ancient word 'wife', from which it stems. I of course agree with you when you say in your original mail that the modern meaning of the word 'woman' is a gain rather than a fall. In this sense it is, as you say, anything but a loss. However, this is only on account of the word 'woman' initially being used in relation to a diminished understanding of the word 'man' thereby corrupting the word 'woman' in the process - or indeed vice versa. What seems to be a development and more fitting meaning of the word 'woman', in truth simply extends the corruption so that the word continues to not say what it truly says. This brackish 'derivation' (river away from the source) has drained off and dried up the true meaning so that the word is now degenerate - as to> no longer be of its kind. I think this is why Heidegger says: "what is spoken is never, and in no language, what is said." I'm not sure if I follow your point regarding the morphological development of the word 'man' in line with that of 'woman'. I think you may be assuming that the word 'husband' is the counterpart of the word 'wife', but this is not so. I would argue that the counterparts are man and wife. Anyway, I moreover except that I may be misinterpreting your wicked sophistry. Duane

Daer All, A fascinating debate has emerged, I see. As a househusband bound to the> duties of the home, I often find myself pining for that prelapsanarian time when men lived for the thrill of the hunt and women attended to domestic chores. Alas, in our fallen era my wife has consistently been able to command the bigger paycheck and so it's soiled nappies and dirty dishes for me. But I confess I am puzzled by the belief that there was ever a time of semantic purity when mankind (or is that humankind?) spoke the natural poetry of truth in spontaneous apprehension of being. Words and things, I thought, have only a conventional relationship to each other and while those conventions may acquire what appears to be a stubborn permanance, both things and words are subject to the inevitability of change. I admire Herr Professor's Heidegger's characteristically cryptic utterance in this controversy. I shall be happy to use it whenever I am reproached for failing to live up to my word. BOB

Dear Bob, or should I say HermogenesPlease - not another sophist. And an American one too. The things you raisein your mail constitute the subject of the chapter I will be presenting atthe RS Postgraduate seminar. As you hope to attend this (after the nappiesare changed and dishes done), I will use that context as a more detailedresponse to the position you put forward.However, it would be wrong to not respond at all here. While things (as wetend to understand them) are indeed subject to change, it is, I believe, amistake to assume that words simply refer to those things. Words illuminatethose things by way of the ideas that give meaning to the things. If thewords are seen to refer to those perishable things only, then they too aresubject to change. This, I believe, is how language becomes diabolic asopposed to symbolic. Language presents the ideas (and does not re-presentthings) so as to show and thereby first distinguish things as things.Without language there are no things. Without the permanence of the ideas bywhich to define, no language could speak because things (before they arethings) in their impermanance never are to be said. Hence Socrates says toTheodorus in the dialogue 'Theaetetus':"Šyou ought not to use the word 'this' or 'not this', for there is no motionin 'this' or 'not this'; the maintainers of the doctrine have as yet nowords to express themselves, and must get a new language. I know of no wordthat will suit them, except perhaps 'in no way', which is perfectlyindefinite."Anyway, given my very limited time, I hope this will suffice as a responsefor now.Duane

Dear Bob,Glad you have taken the plunge into the discussion. I have been thinking about your statement:"Words and things, I thought, have only a conventional relationship to each other and while those conventions may acquire what appears to be a stubborn permanence, both things and words are subject to the inevitability of change."In particular "only a conventional relationship" and "both things and words are subject to the inevitability of change".Obviously many things in human society are established by convention (assembly, coming together) but this word is also connected to "covenant" and "to promise". So we have the sense of "mutual assent, commitment". It is worth thinking of the depth of that, because so often we hear the expression "mere convention", as if it were arbitrary and could be easily disposed of. Suppose society organised itself without mutual assent, without coming together, did not "convene". What would that be like? It seems to me it would not be society at all. It would not speak.My simple point here is that "convention" is colossal and absolutely foundational to civilisation, of the very nature of humanity. Can it therefore be essentially arbitrary?On your second point, the expression "inevitability of change" provokes me! It is an interesting conjunction - not merely change, but inevitable change, change that cannot be avoided, destined. The inevitable is that which is fixed in the order of things, and therefore "rules" change. Therefor change is order, the order of things.Such an order is found in the changes in language, especially in the changes in how words are pronounced. It is through this order that philologists can trace words back to their oldest roots. Words, like grammar, have an internal order of their own, independent of human intervention, their own "convention" or agreement with themselves together. And now and then the language restores itself, as in Shakespeare.It is not language that changes, but the relationship we have with language that shifts around, that is to say, the degree to which we are in touch with it. And the degree to which we are in touch with language is directly mirrored in the degree we are in touch with "things". One sees this everyday. It is not a remote theory. The inarticulate do not participate in politics, for example, thinking it has nothing to do with them. They relate only to a small sphere of existence, with their corresponding small vocabulary. The "assembly" of politics is outside their sphere of seeing or thinking. Most "things" we concern ourselves with in a university are not even known to exist by the majority. They have neither the "thing" nor the "word". They cannot even "hear" the words if you speak to them of these "things"!The reason this is not common knowledge is because few take any notice of the profound relation between existence and language. This "taking no notice" conceals language and things. Words are exchanged without seeing what is taking place, and so the exchange itself has no depth. Nevertheless, we find in the Old and New Testaments that every word we utter is a bond of some kind to something, and a destiny, a "passing sentence" in some way.The modern notion that words are merely arbitrary sounds we utter to name things is wholly false, and shown to be false by the very nature of language itself and our manner of speaking the language. But this superficial notion of language is extremely recent, the product of the reductive rationalism that has prevailed since the Enlightenment. Every ancient culture holds language to be sacred, while our times hold almost nothing to be sacred.Convention and change are lawful, showing the intelligent order in the unfolding of reality which "man" (mind) is called to participate in and comprehend. That, at least, is the ancient view, the reverent view.Joseph

Dear Joseph, First of all thank you for taking such time and effort to reply to my entry in this debate. The depth of your consideration reveals a passionate and thoughtful engagement with the matter of language. Nevertheless, I have to disagree with a number of your points and find myself at odds with your central belief about language. I do agree that there is nothing trivial or accidental about the conventional nature of language. Language is a necessity, even, so to say, a biological imperitive for human beings and so the invention of a language that must establish reliable rules of communication is one of the most important things humans do. But linguistic signs in themselves possess no magically fixed features and must only obey syntactical rules in order to be meaningful. Of course words acquire a history and an expressiveness quite apart from how they behave as pieces in a logical and representational construct. Words and things, after all, express the dynamic relationshipbetween human consciousness and reality and we are hardly mistaken in looking back to the formative origins of language for indications of how language evolve and how we have come to think about things. But why think that there was a purity of intention and expressiveness in say, the speech of Shakespeare and the Bible that we can no longer find in contemporary discourse? Why indeed, believe that there is anything intrinsically mystical in the impulse to language? As a human product, might we not expect to find in language the expression of every human thought--- sacred and profane, wise and foolish, noble and base---rather than suppose that following some seminal moments of transcendent truth, language declines into the torpor of unthinking utterance? I agree that our relationship to language changes, but it is simply factually incorrect to argue that language does not change--- unless you mean by language something other than the verbal medium by which humans communicate with each other. True, linguists like Chomsky argue that there is a deep structure common to all languages and this claim may suggest that in its essence language can only be what it has always been. Even so, the surfuce structures by which we express ourselves and understand each other seem open to infinite variety and change. While we all admire the genius of Shakespeare and find ourselves staggered by his singular influence on the English language, we also see that he was a man of his age who wrote not sui generis, but in the parlance of his times. Or dost thou contest this point? Finally, I think that I detect in your reasoning more a priestly argument for preservation rather than a plea for poetic truth. Jeff was right to point out that women suffered under ancient regimes in which they were both regarded and treated as subordinate to men. But linguistic custom merely ratified the order that saw women oppressed. Remember too, that ancient cultures did not see language as such as sacred, but believed that only their own languages were exclusive and sacred inheritences from their gods. Other languages of other people were most likely to be dimissed as the incomprehensible babble of an inferior species. I confess I far prefer the Enlightenment values as expressed by Locke and Mill over the the staunch spiritual conservatism we find in something like the Laws of Manu (which were so admired by Nietzsche). It seems to me one of the marvels of language that it can always reorient itself to the instability of the human condition and be in service to either gods or man depending on the choice of the speaker. Best Wishes, BOB

Dear Bob,Well, certainly your view corresponds with the prevailing modern view. You have massive support for your position. There is nothing I can say that can challenge this view of language, save that it is not about language but a theory about "linguistic signs". This really is the difficulty. The enquiry commences from the conclusion that language is only signs, rather than from what gives birth to the signs.A word is not a sign, any more than a human being is an image.But never mind. I accept defeat as usual in this debate! Something I am quite used to. Nevertheless, I will stick to my view that language is more than we know and says more than we hear and determines infinitely more than we suspect.With best wishes,Joseph

Dear Duane, Just because I stand in opposition to the idealism of a certain perverse old Athenian does not make me a sophist. "Words and things" is kind of a literal shorthand for the subject/object relationship and for the symbolism that arises out of conscious reflection of reality. I may be a victim of the diabolic habits of modernity, but idealism of the sort you seem to want to champion merely gets lost in the fog of abstraction whileclaiming to reveal a higher truth. I find it impossible to conceive of an idea without reference to a factual scheme that can recommend plausible grounds for belief in it. I don't dispute that "words illuminate...things by way of the ideas that give meaning to things". But ideas generate meaningful understanding by being subject to demonstration and proof. Lacking proof there is no reason to believe, as even old Athenians would agree. So when you say "Without language there are no things", I demand proof for this remarkable assertion and am forcedto wonder how creatures (human and otherwise) without a facility for language fare under your scheme. And as for your claim that we require a permanance of ideas "by which to define things", you surely have put the cart before the horse. We don't discover new truths by making them fit into our preconceived notions of reality--- unless of course, you're mediaval theologian or a member of the Taliban. What we require is a continuity of discourse that permits us to test new hypotheses and discard old beliefs when evidence demands that we do so. I realise the tenor of my remarks here makes me sound like a progessive empiricist who is confident of science's ability to march ever forward to factual truth. But that is not my position. There are countless things that we yearn to know that empirical enquiry can never reveal. To be human, I think, is to be condemned to live in various shades of darkness. Yet human consciousness for most of us (certainly me) provides the only light we shall ever know. It's nice to be facing you across the net again, Duane. I shall do my best to be at your presentation so long as you promise that I won't be lynched. Take Care, BOB

Dear Bob,We shall return to this later. But what is clear is that the nature of language cannot be got at through any scientific method, not merely because it is unequal to it it, but also because scientific method is already the use of language. It must grant language before it can proceed. No "methodology" can get at the nature of language for the same reasons.With best wishes for now,Joseph

Dear BobI referred to you as a sophist because your mail appeared to put forward theview of Protagoras that 'man is the measure of all things'. Do you not endyour recent mail to me by saying that human consciousness provides the onlylight we shall know. You may not like this, and I am sure it betrays thetruth, but still your position accords with this in that language by youradmission changes in relation to things changing. This is Protagoras' view.According to his view, the meaning of things are relative to man'sperception of them. There is of course a truth in what you say, but I amsuggesting that this is only so because language is devalued and truth ismisconceived.The view that language changes as it merely expresses the things thatchange, in turn makes language a mere thing that is able to change. I cannothelp but follow Heidegger here, who argued that language is not a thing oran 'it is', but rather an event or 'it gives' that brings all other thingsinto their own as things. In this way, language presences in absence. Itmakes all other things present as things, but is itself not present. Itwithholds as it shows all things to be qua phenomena.You wish for me to elaborate when I say that: 'without language there are nothings'. My point here is that before being spoken and so illuminated anddistinguished, what we now regard as particular things are not things. Theymay well be perceived and vaguely distinguished in terms of senseimpressions, for example, one colour may be perceived to be different fromanother, but in terms of either reason or understanding these senseimpressions constitute an agglomerative mass of meaninglessness. As such,they are not yet distinguished as things. They do not yet exist as phenomena- so as to stand forth and shine. This indistinction is the meaning ofchaos, that is without form, and void. Without logos distinguishing thatchaos there is no cosmos.You ask how do creatures (human and otherwise) without a facility forlanguage fare under my scheme. My view is that creatures (including humans)without language perceive solely in terms of the sense impressions describedabove. However, this is not to say that other creatures do not havelanguages of their own. As I write, a starling is sitting outside my windowenthusiastically crackling - and I cannot begin to understand what this is.This is one of the reasons why I am a vegan.You suggest that words are pieces in a logical and representationalconstruct. I cannot help but ask rhetorically where does this logic comefrom and what is it that words represent? When you say that words and thingsexpress the dynamic relationship between human consciousness and reality,you seem to make the assumption (as with just about everyone else) thatwords merely represent a human consciousness that is already preconceived tobe understood, and represent a reality that is likewise preconceived to beunderstood. You confirm this view when you say that words and things areliterally shorthand for the subject/object relationship.In terms of consciousness or the subject, this makes language merely postmanto the letter already finished. It has no part in the letter itself. Itbecomes a mere vehicle, a vessel, for the haulage of meaning that somehowalready is. And in terms of reality or the object, this makes language amere handle on an already existing thing, a label, a tag. In either senselanguage is simply reduced to an instrument of expression in order tocommunicate. This is the architectonic structure that just about alltheologians, philosophers, and linguists, etc, presume when thinking aboutlanguage. This structure derives from the very first paragraph inAristotle's 'On Interpretation', but it is my view that this paragraph andthis structure are misunderstood, ironically in terms of interpretation andtranslation.I agree with you when you say that idealism is lost in a fog of abstraction.I would even be as bold to say that Plato would agree with you too. You saythat it is impossible to conceive of an idea without reference to a factualscheme that can recommend plausible grounds for belief. Again I agree withyou here. My feeling is that the intelligible forms are inadequate withouttheir sensible counterparts. It is through these counterparts that the ideasare able to body forth so as to become flesh. However, it works both ways,for the ammassive objects (I say objects retrospectively) of external senseare likewise inadequate without the ideas that illuminate and distinguishthem.It is obvious to us every second of the day how the external objects ofsense strike the mind. They do so as impressions that 'press in' upon themind. However, it is not so obvious how the mind in turn strikes theexternal objects of sense. My view is that it can only do so by way ofexpression or utterance (outerance), which 'presses out' allowing theintelligibles to strike the sensibles - so that they become one flesh. This,I believe, constitutes the incarnation of the Word. The trouble with this isthat the words are then conceived to be only of flesh - this is why I saythey become diabolic and not symbolic.You are right to fear that I put the cart before the horse in terms of thepermanence of ideas which define things. But in truth you are really doingthis when you assume that there is a consciousness that words merelyrepresent. I am on the contrary saying that words only express the ideas byallowing them to cleave to the objects of sense because the ideas and theobjects of sense are completed through one another as their respectivehalves. The problem occurs when, as you seem to argue, language is seen torefer only to things that change or communicate the thoughts of men thatlikewise change - that is, when language is seen as no more than a constructwithin the subject/object framework.Finally, I know better than to believe that you are simply a progressiveempiricist. However, you surely have to concede that your position in thisdebate is that of a progressive empiricist. Regarding the research seminarand being lynched, do not forget that it is me who will be on the scaffold.I only hope that you respectively observe from a good position in thesquare, and do not spend the whole time yanking at the lever to release thetrap door. If so, you might witness me levitate.All the best Duane

Dear Duane, Levitation in debate is a favorite party trick of yours, isn't it? God knows you sem happy enough to soar off into the ether with Herr Professor. The priority that you (and Joseph, it must be said) give to language is to my mind entirely mystogougic. Of course, language does much to constitute consciousness and it is dfifficult to conceive of human consciousness as it has developed without noting the decisive influence that language has had on it. And yes, the power of discernment that comes with language does alter the prospect of consciousness on reality. But does it alter reality itself? A vexing question for which no simple yes or no answer will do. Certainly language and even particular uses of language can effect enormous changes on experiences of reality. Words can count as actions, after all. But it doesn't follow from this fact that everything is subject to the perceptions that language somehow magically authorise. Consider the place of error, not in language, but in human understanding. We might make statements like "the earth is flat", and believe that the statement is plainly true. Certainly language is not to blame for the falshood, but neither does it entail an automatic correction. It is only after our understanding has been revised that we find a need to correct the statement. Language certainly provides direction to consciousness, but this does not mean that things come into being (pace Heiddegger) as a result of being named. Last week a new species of fish was discovered in the Pacific. Presumably it originated before it was hauled out of the sea and named. But language doesn't change simply in relation to the way things change. It changes in the way that it is used by people, generation after generation. I think you and Joseph both misunderstand me when I sing the praises of language as a medium of objective representation. But that is not all that it is. The rich allusiveness that language can exhibit is impossible to grasp, let alone appreciate by breaking it down into its constituent parts. I agree that poets can sometimes show the uncanny sensitivity of shamans. But language is also capable of confining itself to sharply defined fields of enquiry and yield objective truths that apply even to itself. I agree that it is silly to regard words in a poem as signs. But it is not worthless to regard words as functions in a logical and complex network of communication and see that there are universal rules that govern the operation of language. And please don't say that language trumps logic because logic can be expressed only through language. Language that is spoken with a proper regard for logic increases our conscious purchase on reality. I do not believe "words merely represent human consciousness". I think verbalisation enacts consciousness on the ground of things known toward things that are not yet known. What is represented are things---objects, people, states of affairs, moods and so on--- to consciousness for ideation. It is words that create ideas, not the other way around. Baby crying. Must sign off. BOB

Dear BobSo Socrates is a perverse old Athenian and I guess Heidegger was(considering our previous debates sometime back) just a Nazi. You are rightto say that I give priority to language. I think it is taken for grantedmore than anything else, and on account of this familiarity not seen forwhat it truly is and does. You ask does language alter reality itself? Thisof course depends on what we think reality is to begin with. I myself holdthe view that reality is there in terms of the Mother as matter andelsewhere in terms of the Father as pattern. Matter is, as Plato asserts,the receptacle and nurse of all generation. It is the receiving principle interms of a womb or mould. While the pattern is I believe the seminal germ orlogos spermatikos as archetypal form. These two are brought together bytheir child, i.e. the mould and the form produce the cast. Matter, as thatwhich receives all forms, has no form. It may have shape in terms of what wenow understand to be trees and fish and so on, but it is not formallyunderstood. Plato says of matter that it is: "...an invisible and formlessbeing which receives all things and attains in a mysterious way a portion ofthe intelligible, and is most incomprehensible."Referring to the fish you spoke of, you say that presumably it originatedbefore it was named. In terms of world or cosmos, I would say no. It was ofcourse in itself, but before being named it was merely agglomerative inrespect of matter. It may have been distinguished in terms of senseimpressions as being part and parcel of the sea, but it did not ex-ist interms of being known into being by knowing and being itself as idea oressence. You yourself were forced to identify it as a fish, for it is thisname that gave it form and therefore meaning to both you and me. Prior tothis it was formless, though not shapeless - there is a subtle differencehere. It is for this reason that Heidegger says, when we walk through thewoods, we walk through the word 'woods'. When we come to the well, we cometo the word 'well', and so on. It is in this way that things come intobeing, so as to be ontic as phenomena.You are of course right to say that language changes as it is used bypeople, generation after generation. However, what most of those peopleoverlook is that language is not simply made up of arbitrary signs for us tomanipulate how we please. When words change in any way, they do so in accordwith the lawful roots that give them meaning at all. When a word is spokenor used without reference to these roots, then it comes to be seen as merelyconventional in the derogatory sense. In truth, such a word no longerspeaks, and this, I believe, is why Heidegger says: "What is spoken isnever, and in no language, what is said".Such a word no longer 'derives' as a river away from its source.Consequently, as I said in a previous mail, that word is drained off fromits true source and thus dried up of meaning, aside, that is, from havingthe utility of use as its source, the futility of which usurps its essentialsignificance. If a word changes, but still speaks through the power of itssource, it not only centrifugally derives, but also centripetally returns interms of a symbolic reference. If it does not return as this symbolicre-ference, then it merely rives as a diabolic dif-ference. It herecontradicts, where it should rather oppose. This is the difference betweenseparation and distinction. There is only death in the former, but life inthe latter. It is on account of being divorced from its essential source,that language is merely seen to represent things.When you say that it is words that create ideas, and not the other wayround, I would again agree with you, but not entirely. For the point is thatthey mutually depend on one another. Without the ideas, language would notbe able to speak. And without speech, the ideas would not be spoken so as tobe made manifest and appear as a showing. This is why I forever employ theformula: a only is because of b, which only is because of a. Heideggerunderstood this relation in terms of what he called the leitsatz. Theleitsatz says: The Being of Language: the Language of Being. This is to say,that language only is because of Being, which only is because of language.This was also understood, I believe, by the Stoics who saw the essentialrelation between the logos endiathetos and the logos prophorikos. Theendiathetos is the inner word as reason or ratio, while the prophorikos isthe outer word as speech or oratio. Each needs the other.Philo also understood this relation between logoi as that relation betweenMoses and his brother Aaron. "Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am noteloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant:but I am slow of speech, and of slow tongue." (Exodus 4:10). Also: "AndMoses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have nothearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcisedlips?" (Exodus 6:12). Moses is seen by Philo to be alogos, but the problemhere is that this can be understood as irrational. Moses is on the contrarythe rational per se, but rationality needs what we might call the orational.Hence the words: oracle, orator, and so on. To my own thinking, the logosendiathetos as rationalis is the image of the logos spermatikos as formalis.Both of these depend on the logos prophorikos, which likewise depends onthem. This is only a small part of a much bigger relationship of dependency,which is why in my thesis I identify ten causes indebted to one another forthere to be world or cosmos.Anyway, I should end here.Duane

Dear Duane, Without words can there be a world? I think so; you think not. But we both agree that words, or rather language is indispensible to human understanding. Words are tools that permit a conscious and reflective engagement with reality, that is with the processes of nature, which include us. But words do not create reality except in the limited sphere in which our actions can effect change. Words did not create the earth, the moon, the stars and they are powerless to change the mortal condition that attaches to existence. Words enable us to know, but they also enable us to know if we don't know, which is why it as much an instrument of enquiry as it is a stock of accrued knowledge. The fish was not unformed, merely unnamed. Syllables did not equip it with fins. All of the above seems inarguable to me, though I know you will find grounds for argument. So I shall see on the 25th in Canterbury, with a small derringer of deadly criticism in my pocket. Till Then, BOB

That's a tricky one. Is there a world without words? Of course there is, butwould it be the world as we know it? So much of our spiritual evolutionseems tied up with our ability to reflect on both the nature of ourselvesand the world we inhabit. This reflectiveness is very much tied up withlanguage, as Duane says, words are tools which allow this reflection, whichas he says, is an engagement with reality. But then, it seems to me thatwords are not the only way that we engage with reality, or reflect on it.Hence we have other forms that have evolved to give us greater scope; art,music, dance, meditation etc. Also, letting go of the need for words is alsoimportant, to be in silence is sometimes a deeper and more meaningfulexperience. To be without thought or the movement of thought is likewise,sometimes more full of reflectiveness than in thought.As human beings, we occupy a space where we have the choice/ability to useor not use language, and likewise to be without thinking or with thinking!Our engagement in the deeper levels of reality do not seem to be dependenton words themselves directly - but it is obvious that language has been andis an absolutely necessary part of our evolution as spiritual beings.I agree that words do not change reality, but they can help us to go deeperinto reality if they come from our heart. Of course, they can change thecircumstances in which we live - the human world. In that sphere, words canincite the greatest evil or the highest good - just look at our history tofind many examples of both!We are not victims of the change in language, I do not really believe thatwe are even held back because of this - the religious impulse is surely froma deeper place than language so even in these times of the 'corruption' ofmeanings of many words we can find a way to use language in a way thatpenetrates into the essence of things, that has not been lost. Even more soin these fragmented times that we should do so to prove that the divine inus is incorruptible and that if we are willing then we will find the wordswe need to say what has to be said.Mike

Dear Bob,A major problem in this discussion lies in the fact that in our time nothing is looked at essentially. The objective scientific discourse does not seek to know the essences of things. It does not need to. And so if that manner of looking is applied to language, it will not seek the essence of language.This is not about a difference between science and poetry, or linguistics and poetics. It is a difference between looking objectively and metaphysically. The knowledge of essence belongs to metaphysical perception. In our time nothing is seen metaphysically. We do not look at the sun or a tree metaphysically, and it follows that we cannot look at language metaphysically. We do not take any notice of the act of presence, but start from the already there. This is the difficulty.So when we ask about the nature of language we think of "words" and not language. We try to infer from the words that are already there, and so we say they are signs and means of communication. But that is not language. The words and signs come from language, just as all observable things come from their essence. But we do not in our time notice the coming to presence of things, neither physical phenomena nor our thinking.Neither I nor Duane are going to persuade you to look to the essence of things or of language. There is no evidence to present in favour of looking to essence. Evidence comes after essence. The only thing that can be done is to look at essence directly. If one were to do that, then what the ancients say about language would become comprehensible.Without this move, we simply have competing theories about things, and that competition can never arrive at essence. Essence itself remains merely a concept, not something apprehended.With best wishes,Joseph

Dear Bob and MikeJust for the record, no where in any of my mails do I say that language is atool. I only mention this because Bob you refer to words as tools, and Mikeyou suggest that I say words are tools. On the contrary. This is why I saythat language is not: an instrument, a vehicle, a vessel, a tag, a label, adevice, a handle, a keg, a coin, a package, and so on. As I said hitherto, Iagree with Heidegger in that language is that event which brings things intotheir own as things, but is not itself given as a thing so as to beappropriated. Without these things qua phenomena, there is no world. So whenanyone says that there is a world without words, it is because theymisinterpret what world in fact is, and mistake it for that which is aroundus and given by sense impressions. That is not world, just as a word is nota thing.Heidegger marks that the Greeks of the Classical Age knew and understood thesign in terms of a showing, whereas with the later Hellenistic Age the signoriginates: '...by a stipulation, as the instrument for a manner ofdesignation by which man's mind is reset and directed from one object toanother object'. He adds that: 'This transformation of the sign fromsomething that shows to something that designates has it roots in the changeof the nature of truth'. This, I guess, is Joseph's point in his last mailconcerning essence.Bob, you say that words did not create the earth, the moon, and the stars. Iof course see what you are saying, but tell me how it is that you know anddistinguish them to be earth, moon, and stars? Before this, I agree, theysurely would have been in themselves, but as such they were also confused interms of their ammasive tendency as constituting indistinctive chaos -without form, and void. They certainly were not earth, moon or stars as younow distinguish them. And in this respect were not created. How they begunin themselves (or were created in another sense) is not, I believe, theconcern of philosophy or theology. This literal and materialist thinkinggives rise to what I see as the absurd doctrine of creatio ex nihilio, butas Ricoeur notes, the doctrine of creation out of nothing was not knownprior to the Hellenistic era. Plato refers to the formless matter thatalready was (having shape in terms of physis) as necessity.You say that the fish was not unformed, but merely unnamed. Syllables, yousay, did not equip it with fins. Again, I think you are mistaking form forshape. On the one hand there is the mutable shape (schema) that the fish hasnaturally taken, and on the other there is the immutable form (morphe) thatgives named meaning to the shape that in itself never remains the same so asto be fixed by name.By all means bring your deringer to the seminar, but it might not be thatuseful if the seminar is nothing but a shoot out - even if you are firingblanks.Speaking of deringers and with Mike mentioning silence - has everyonenoticed how Jeff started this bar room brawl and has nipped off to someother saloon?To close, I would be most interested to see what you all think of thefollowing passage on language:"This is a tree," obviously this and tree are not actually the same thing.Tree is a word, a noise. It is not this experienced reality to which I ampointing. To be accurate, I should have said, "This (pointing to the tree)is symbolised by the noise tree." If then, the real tree is not the word orthe idea tree, what is it? If I say that it is an impression on my senses, avegetable structure, or a complex of electrons, I am merely putting new setsof words and symbols in place of the original noise, tree. I have not saidwhat it is at all. (Watts, p26).Duane

Yes, Duane, this is what I was pointing to. And this is why we cannot proceed to the things that precede it metaphysically in this discussion. There is a whole book to be written simply on this change from showing to designating.The modern view takes it as a given certainty that the word is a designator, at the disposal of human will. Until we see that this view is false and unsustainable, the word "language" means one thing to the rationalists and another to the metaphysician. The metaphysician can see the manner of thinking which takes the word as designation, but the rationalist cannot see that the manner of thinking has established itself without examination. It does not know it does not see or address language. The concept of language here conceals language. A designation about language takes place unseen.Our time looks at nothing. That is to say, it does not wait on things to show themselves. And because of this all thought about language is about a concept or notion of language that does not come from language, but simply from the prevailing habit of thought. In this, thought itself hides itself, so nothing is seen. And yet it is supposed we can jump to things directly in a moment and decide upon their nature.So it seems to me we cannot move to the question of language without raising the question of thought and seeing what things show of themselves prior to the edifice of conceptions concealing them.Joseph

Dear JosephI couldn't agree more to all you say. With regards to the book concerningthe change from showing to designation, that in turn raises the question ofthought and seeing what things show of themselves prior to the edifice ofconceptions concealing them - I hope I'm writing it now in the form of mythesis.I leave with another apt quotation from Heidegger, that bears a similarityto what you said of signs in a previous mail:"The essential being of language is saying as showing. Its showing characteris not based on signs of any kind; rather, all signs arise from a showingwithin whose realm and for whose purposes they can be signs." (The Way ToLanguage, p123).Duane

Dear Duane, Just because I am unable to verbalise the distinctions between one thing and another does not mean that I do not notice differences. Nor do I find all things I am unable to name in a chaotic blur. As it happens, I am fabulously ignorant of the varieties of both plant and animal life, and if pressed could just manage to name an oak and a pine and say why one is botanically different than the other. But I can still see how variegated the world is and see how its infinite complexity will always defeat any hope of reaching a comprehensive understanding. When someone attempts to explain to me something like string theory I watch my i.q. dwindle to an infinitesmal point. But I do not suppose that either the theory or the observations on which it is based is in the void--- except in that vast void of things I am unable to comprehend. As for Allan Watts's (the late mandarin of Marin County, California) observation that by using words we are unable to say what a tree is, he seems to contradict Herr Professor's claim that we need to be linguistically equipped to make observations in the forest. Of course, I think they're both full of shit. A tree is any definition you wish to give it so long as it fits the described object and the description is true in its terms of observation. But I wouldn't trust either of those guys to tell me the time let alone tell me the truth. Which brings me to the matter of essences. What are they? In my mind they're simply nominal, that is they are to be understood only as they fit into a given epistemic scheme which allows us to distinguish one thing or class of things from another. But as Joseph has eloquently and passionately argued, this is the error to which modernity has thoughtlessly succumbed and he bids us to regard things in a purity of perception that our rationalist habits of mind have all but extinguished. Okay--- but how? I must say however, that I regard this project with great suspicion when you, Joseph, praise "ancient cultures"--- omitting to say which ones--- for their superior understanding of ontological truth. You mean as expressed in the blood sacrifices of the Mayans? What about the hereditary hiearchies that virtually all ancient cultures believed were vouchsafed to them from heaven? I'm not trying to play the politically correct modernist here and fault other cultures for failing tolive up to modern ethical standards. What I am saying is that cutting up virgins never made the sun rise and only a hideously deluded culture could have thought so, no matter how impressive their achievements in astronomy and architecture. Still, ancient Greek, Chinese and Indian cultures did produce a depth of spiritual and philosophic specualtion that continues to inspire even us benighted moderns. But I don't think it was because they all alighted on the same ontological truth. It was because much (certainly not all) of what they said passes the critical tests that modern understanding has set for the possibility of true wonder to arise in the contemporary mind. I agree with Mike that silence deserves a greater place in our appreciation of the possibilities of experience. Which why I am moved to admire Jeff's lengthy, and I suspect, strategic withdrawal into silence shortly after he detonated this debate. May I say I haven't had this much fun since last year's melee over Heidegger? Todd I am sure will enjoy the last word. But who is going to have the last laugh? I'm going to watch the sun set now--- though I'm not sure I'm able to say what the sun is. Best Wishes, BOB

At 20:22 11/05/2006, Bob wrote:" Which brings me to the matter of essences. What are they? In my mind they're simply nominal, that is they are to be understood only as they fit into a given epistemic scheme which allows us to distinguish one thing or class of things from another. But as Joseph has eloquently and passionately argued, this is the error to which modernity has thoughtlessly succumbed and he bids us to regard things in a purity of perception that our rationalist habits of mind have all but extinguished. Okay--- but how?"Dear Bob,Yes, "modernity" supposes essence is just a concept, a name for something that is not. This notion, however, does not take the care to look first, and least of all look at how western philosophy once understood essence. The nominalist movement in the late Middle Ages first moved in this direction, by suggesting there are no universals, and that universals are just notions with no actual object.Our age, however, is selectively nominalist. For example, there is "humankind" but also the autonomous individual answerable only to themselves. There is "matter" the basis of everything, but no universal intelligence.The big confusion is between "being" and "beings" as you know. If one is to be consistently nominalist, then one should say there are "words" but not "language" - because language would be a mere classification, not an existence.Essence, however, is not a classification, but prior to all classification, that which is, and that which makes anything whatsoever knowable at all. It is where there is already union between mind and knowing. All other thought or conjecture follows after.One has to look to where things are disclosed to mind and where mind is open to knowledge, that is, to how mind attends to anything whatsoever, including itself. That is where the philosophers look. If one does not actually look there, then there is only conjecture, guesswork, and that itself will arise not from one's own attending but through the common opinion of the day, the unexamined presuppositions that are held to be true but never tested, what Plato calls opinion.It is odd. If I were to conjecture about the population of Africa, people would say I should look there. Yet it seems I am free to conjecture about essence without actually looking! I am told, either there is no essence, or essence cannot be known. Therefor there is no need to look!Best wishes,Joseph

I forgot to add that what is overlooked in this matter is the distinction between what is already known to mind, in the nature of mind as such, and what it may subsequently know of things through reflection. That which is already known to mind as such is what orients it to all subsequent things. It knows to attend. This "knowing to attend" is knowledge from the essence of mind and of things at once. It is where the silence that Mike speaks of lies.Joseph

Dear Joseph, I think you're right to isolate the nature of 'essence' as being thenub of the problem. I've struggled with this for some time and it'sclear from the emails that I'm not alone in that. I've tried to see,to attend, to learn how essences were once understood. You say that 'all other thought or conjecture follows after' essence.That phrasing itself suggests a discontinuity to me. You also saythat if one does not look to essence, to 'where things are disclosedto mind', there is 'only conjecture' (here compared to guesswork). Itseems then that there is conjecture whether or not one looks toessence. Is it true to say, then, that even true philosophy is always amovement away from essence even as it calls for a movement back toit?Yours,Jeff

Dear Jeff,I am wondering if the notion of essence as a kernel within a thing or hypostasized elsewhere is still affecting how "we" try to think about it today. No doubt, this kind of characterization of it comes from a certain kind of reading of Plato's Forms and even from Natorp's endeavor to show Plato was really a Kantian who placed the Forms outside all human knowing (which I would challenge since this reading comes from the heart of a fundamental misrelationship to being itself that was never thought by the Greeks).This way of thinking of essence is problematically instilled by some of the scholastic thinking, as Joseph as pointed out with nominalism. And as Heidegger would contend, the translation of essence from the Greek ouisa holds within it a corruption of the original Greek meditation on the nature of being and form. In this sense, the relatiobn between Plato and Aristotle is interesting because while Aristotle challenges the Forms of Plato, this challenge is in a specific context--i.e., ethical practice. Aristotle contends the Forms are not practicable. As Martha Nussbaum points out, this is not a repudiation of the Forms as such.At any rate for the sake of clarification, is this how you understand essence (even if loosely)?Regards,Todd

Dear Jeff,In a way we have to completely invert the prevailing theory of knowledge, which tries to find universal behind particulars of sense. Essence cannot be inferred, any more than being can be inferred. There is, so to speak, an "already knowing" between mind and things, which receives the intelligible and is always with the intelligible. Here presence and knowledge are the same or one.Aristotle sees this as the natural orientation of the mind towards the truth of things. Plato sees it as what we forget or pass over. Aquinas sees it as the soul already possessing all things by infinite receptivity.The "knowledge" of things belongs to the things themselves, and so the knowing act of the mind is a reception of things themselves. It is this reception that is passed over in modern theory of knowledge, while mind itself is conceived as merely forming images or representations of things, having no actual participation in things themselves.As Todd suggests, Plato is misread, and the Ideas are thought to be entities outside or behind things, while in fact he means that alone which is directly apprehended, after which the appearance or attributes of things follows.The modern reversal starts from that which is most distant from the intelligible and tries to work back to the intelligible, while in fact the mind first apprehends the intelligible - because that is already mind-like. Plato was concerned to bring all the faculties into conformity with this original presence of knowledge through dialectic, so that that knowledge was not covered over by secondary representations.Knowledge, in this sense, is "being with" the known. No image or representation is needed. That would be a departure from the known.In the same way, we would need to "be with" language to know it, so that it shows itself out of itself, speaks itself. That is what the true poets listen for, and I believe one can recognize the utterance that comes from there, as distinct from the utterance that comes from mere shuffling words about. The first is full, the second is empty.The problem is for us that we find it hard to attend there, and when presented with this view the prevailing manner of thought tries to question and critique it instead of waiting on it. It is very rare that we wait upon things, such as in moments of sheer wonder.Joseph

Hi Todd,Thanks for that. I suppose part of the problem I have is that if Imisunderstand I'm not sure how I'm misunderstanding. I take what you sayon board (I think) but am still unclear, in the light of what you andJoseph say, as to what philosophy is or can do. If you believe inessences, you'll believe they inform philosophy. If you don't, you won't.If you do, you'll say that even such a denial is dependent on them. If youdon't, you won't; and so on.As you know essences are important to poststructuralism because itdeveloped as a reaction to the kind of thinking (real thinking, you mightsay without wishing to put words into your mouth) characterised in thisway. But if language and being do indeed shine forth as an in each other,why do we need philosophy? To remind us of that? But how? Because if wecan't see it, how can we see it in philosophy?If anyone feels like chipping in, please feel free.Jeff

Jeff,A very big topic that can only be settled on the football pitch: essences v. extants.What you say about belief can be applied to any argument, but this does illumine part of the problem insofar as what one is seeking is a ground from which one can begin. Modern epistemology generally regards its task as finding a secure ground upon which it can think. This means, more or less, having an empirical formulation of premises. So the idea that essences cannot be emprically demonstrated falls within this divide between faith (or belief) and reason. But as you know, I would regard this as a false division because there is no such thing as a ground zero of thinking or perception. And Heidegger's point was there doesn't need to be because the essence of a thing is in its manner of presencing to us. Sorry to bring der Grosse Herr in again.Ricoeur is a post-structuralist even though he has a soft spot for structural linguistics. I mention him because he is (or was) one major thinker who still affirms and confers an absolute reality and trust to appearances.If you want the unadulterated experience of essences, then I suggest having a dry martini. The secret is making sure the glass is frozen.Todd

Dear JosephI think you hit the nail on the head when you suggest that knowledge is 'being with the known', and that true utterance occurs when the speaker or writer is speaking from this position. It was very obvious at the conference, for instance, which speakers were doing this, and which were not 'attending' but 'questioning and critiquing' as a way of maintaining a distance from 'being with'their material, as if this is somehow too 'subjective' to be considered good academic practice. Whereas, of course, to speak from a deep sense of being with the material is the only way to communicate something real to the listener.Obviously there is a mode of understanding which connects directly with the truth of the words. But images and representations are not necessarily superfluous to this. Proclus for instance would say that the ultimate apprehension (and purpose) of the image is not as a representation at all but as the essence itself, enabling a direct grasping of it. Some people can only make this direct connection through images, and others seem not to need them. Of course they can be a distraction if they are not symbolic in the sense he means. Doesn't true poetry only 'work' because image is its vehicle? I for one am incapable of understanding anything at all unless it presents itself as an image!! angela

Dear Todd,Now we can all understand the point of that kind of spirit, but isn't thatthe point?Nobody has quite met my challenge to describe what philosophy is for(understandably enough) - and please no simply saying that the way I'vephrased the challenge shows my own instrumental frame of mind! It may do,but what I'm asking is how philosophy can disabuse me of that and not justpreach to the converted. The way I read most of the postings is thatessentialist philosophies can only exemplify essence because anything elsewould be a movement away - not 'being with the material', as Angela putsit.It seems that if poststructuralist parasites are ever to be relieved oftheir benighted state, those claiming to live in the light are chargedwith helping them to see. One cannot, after all, blame the blind for beingblind.Yours, nearing the cliff edge, perhaps to fall, perhaps to fly...PS Would anyone who reads these postings claim to be a philosopher(without irony)?

Dear Jeff,I am not sure anyone in the department would actually claim to be a philosopher except me. So I think, more or less, that challenge of yours is addressed to me.Philosophy is good for what? The question implicitly has something in mind against which philosophy is to be measured. What is this value? Fair enough if the question is rhetorical, but even if rhetorical there is still an implication in the question by which philosophy is being measured. To refer anything to use is by no means neutral. Use for what? How is one to define the use of human being?It is this value implied in the question that determines the response and answer. So, for instance, one can say philosophy is of absolutely no use whatsoever (along with Plato, Heidegger, Chuang Tzu and even Aristotle until he seeks the 'architectonic' by which the good life can be actualized). This response is set against the notion that all things in life have to serve a practical or definable end. The question of "what good is philosophy?" anticipates that the end by which it can be measured is in fact definable or conclusive. A car is good for driving. A chair for sitting. Philosophy? For thinking, presumably. If this is so, then the question of "what good is philosophy?" can only be answered if one then questions the "use" of thinking. It would appear, then, that regardless of whether or not one wishes to be philosophical, the disposition to take up or deny the activity is to make a decision from within a philosophical understanding. Along with Heidegger onecan say that one is too late to avoid philosophy. Or if you prefer Sartre, one is condemned to philosophy.This is why, I believe, Aristotle sees contemplation as an activity whose end is in itself (praxis). Philosophy is an activity whose actualization is its fullfillment insofar as it is engaging with reality in a different manner from simply being in it as a moving body (phusis). This refers, in part, to the supra-practical domain co-emergent with human being. In other words, the decision (ontologically speaking) to be human is by no means necessary or compulsory. To participate in reflection is to a large extent only possible if one is open to that which calls for it, and this refers to an active nature inter-acting with oneself. Such a response by human beings is by no means required or necessary. It is undertaken out of one's own decision and care (or freedom). In this way, one can begin to see how and why philosophy does not fall into the realm of use and necessity and therefore cannot be called to apply to such things. But, having said this, it does have a dutyto articulate the distinction. This is something that is lacking and currently seeks to be expressed.Philosophy is not meant to persuade, or disabuse. It does have the duty to articulate a path of thinking and be engaged with a discourse. Any argument is disputable because all arguments begin from a principle which it holds to be self-evident. So the ground of philosophy is its openness to the principle which determines it. Thus, for Hegel it was history and spirit, for Heidegger being and time, and so on. For the most part, modern philosophy does not see that it is accepting a principle but tries to refer to its base as certainty--or "we now know" better than those before us who held such and such to be a principle. "I can doubt everything but myself" thus turns into the metaphysical principle (that replaces first philosophy) as cogito ergo sum.So persuasion is not the role of philosophy. To accept Descartes premise is to repudiate the appearance of things. Philosophical activity requires a willing participation, not because it is flawed but because it is always circumscribed by a hope that is presupposed from its beginning. If there was no hope, then thinking would not call to one. And this would also seem to be the reason why philosophy is not scientific, or should not be.Well, off my soapbox as I am now called to tend to taco making. If England was truly a philosophical island, they would have an abundance of decent Mexican food.pues...Todd

Dear Jeff,I do not think it is a matter of believing or not believing in essence. Either of those would indicate not knowing either way, if belief is merely a position taken up on conjecture. Do we believe in the sky? It seems an absurd question and beside the point. More interesting would be how we regard the sky, or if we regard it at all.As to use, as Todd has said, philosophy has no use according to Plato and Heidegger. I am sure you are well aware that. as love of wisdom, Plato regarded it as intermediate between ignorance and knowledge, aspiring to truth.Yet although it has no use, in the sense that it can be applied to anything, in a culture generally it determines the manner and quality of life. How existence is conceived in the general mind and discourse sets the possibilities and limits of the age. It determines the possibilities of all other discourse, because what thrives in a culture is only that which is held in common to be true or real. And I suspect that the only real ground for a common understanding can be truth, or the concern for truth.Always something will be held to be true, and enough monstrous ideas are held to be true to trouble us in our time. At a minimum, philosophical reflection preserves us from committing to fanaticism. And I think there is a direct connection with virtue here too.Joseph

Dear Angela,Yes, in principle this must hold for all studies. Philosophy and language seem to present special problems in our age, because the things of which they speak are directly there but cannot be grasped as representations. "Academic distance" is another peculiar problem of our time, arising from a shift in philosophical thinking in the 18th century and reinforced by scientific method as a "model" for knowledge. Nevertheless, it is itself a subjective commitment, for all the claim to objective impartiality, but this is not seen. Objective impartiality is itself a stance towards things which circumscribes what is to be attended to. For the natural sciences it works, but not elsewhere. But the alternative is not subjectivity (which is another form of not attending) but a kind of "obedience" to what is.Joseph

Dear Todd, I admire your reply to Jeff's provocative question and I think I mostly agree with it. The one thing I would question is your assertion that modern philosophy is in thrall to the Cartesian cogito. All modern philosophy? Or do you mean a specific school or type of modern philosophy? Anyway, I happily raise my glass to salute your small, but well informed essay. BOB

Dear Bob,Many thanks for your reply! To be clear (especially since I tend to overstate things), I don't mean all modern philosophy but that which tends to predominate in terms of positivism, "rationality", philosophy of mind, epistemology, etc. Even the analytic school seems to be moving. Philosophers such as John Cottingham, Alasdair MacIntyre and Martha Nussbaum have made much ground in moving away from a philosophical methodology that would attempt to bracket out historical context or pursue some kind of ground zero of objectivity from which to begin its philosophical task.Yes, your picante recipe would be much appreciated. I have tried to find tomatillos here in Canterbury for a salsa verde but have had no luck. Duane refuses to grow them in his allotment, saying he does eat vegetable he can't pronounce.Aren't you from Austin? I have a few friends there who claim Austin is not Texas.Regards,Todd

Dear Bob and allApologies for the delayed response to your mail below - at some point onFriday I had trouble getting on line again. I have only been able to againthis morning and I see the responses have developed since then. Still, Iwill reply to the mail you addressed to me.Firstly, I did not say that because you do not verbalise distinctions you donot notice differences. Nor did I say that those things you are unable toname are in a chaotic blur. Blur is not quite the right word here. I saidthat you are able to notice differences in terms of impressions. My examplewas that we notice one colour is distinct from another. We could also noticethat one shape is different from another, and so on. But in terms of whatthose colours or shapes are particularly, one does not 'know' by sensibleimpressions alone. If I look at the objects on my desk, I am of course ableto distinguish them by shape, size, colour, etc, but aside from this thoseobjects are not distinguished intelligibly one from the other. In thisrespect, and in this respect only, they are without form, and void. Again, Ido not want to confuse form with shape. It is now difficult to see thatthings are without form, because the second you look at anything, youimmediately identify it as such and such a thing. That is, you rarely see byway of sense impressions alone. This is why I said that when you walkthrough the woods, you walk through the word or form 'woods', and so on. Youare aware of the woods beyond that of sensory perception.You have not yet met Haakon, who also did the MA in mysticism. In hisdissertation, titled: Shaman in the World of Experience: A Journey ExploringConsciousness, he points out that there are 'borders' of difference betweenthose things we experience. For example, there is a border between thewriting on a book and the background it is written on. There is no linebetween the two, only a difference. I can see this by sensible perceptionalone, however, I do not understand that difference by perception alone asthe difference is based qualitatively on my reflection. (Apologies Haakon ifyou are reading this and I have misinterpreted you). The other side of theborder may not even be there as such, and yet it is there for us to know theother. For example, if I smell something extremely strong, there is anecessary border between that smell and a more subtle smell or no smell atall. I know one in relation to the other, but that knowing does not dependon sense impressions alone. As Joseph has pointed out, that knowing is ofthe mind. I appreciate that this is hard to swallow, but largely because wetake for granted and come to believe that mind is given purely in terms ofunderstanding things, and neglect to look at what precedes this that it isso. This is the separation of form and content, as if you can have onewithout the other.I was very surprised that you said of essences: what are they? My surprisewas that you seemed to require proof or evidence of their existence. I'm notsure that this is what you meant, but it sounded like it. Essences do notexist, they pre-exist which is why they are essences. To my thinking, basedon extensive reading of Plato, the essences only come to be on account ofthose things that disclose them existentially. This is their proof orevidence. The word 'idea' means: that which is seen. All that can ever beseen of the idea is the look or semblance in terms of its likeness,imitation, or outward appearance. For the idea to be 'that which is seen' itmust rely on that which sembles it, whilst for the semblance to in turn be'that which is seen' it must rely on that ideal form that it necesarilyre-sembles. In this way the semblance only 'seems' to be what it is. Thistells us that 'that which is seen' is both the idea and the semblance ofthat idea, which depend upon one another to be seen as appearance itself.(This is, if I don't misinterpret him, Joseph's point when he says that theknowledge of things belongs to the things themselves). This again points tothe formula I mentioned in a previous mail: that 'a' only is because of 'b',which only is because of 'a'. Here lies the need of the philosopher'sdialectical thinking. The problem occurs when it is assumed that thesemblance is understood in and of itself (which devalues appearance) andtherefore that essences are merely nominal.In a way, your suggestion that essences are simply nominal is pepper on yourboxing glove. It is a good argument often employed to blind one of essences.And I guess I need a horse shoe in my glove to counter-punch, which I do notprofess to have so I might have to leap from the ring or start kicking. Forthe nominalists, all universals are nothing but a name, and you imply thiswhen you say that they are only understood as they fit into a givenepistemic scheme which allows us to distinguish one thing or class of thingsfrom another. As you are aware, according to the nominalists, onlyindividual things exist as real, while the universal is flatus vocis or'mere word'. This means that if there is no existing thing to which the wordrefers, then it is simply an empty word. Examples of this would be God,angel, dragon, pixie, fairy, leprechaun, and so on. As it is assumed thereare no such things, they exist as mere word which really says nothing. Iwould argue that more often than not, what such words do say is overlooked,just because there is no correspondent thing in terms of what they think theword says.The nominalist position must be based on individual things themselves, which(to nominalist thinking) is all there is of reality. Thus the word 'cup'refers only to the cup on my desk and the cups in your cupboard. However, invery simple terms the word 'cup' only refers to this and that cup in that itrefers to each and every cup without exception regardless of shape, size,and colour, etc. Every example of cup is known to be a cup on account of theone archetypal cup, whose meaning reveals and pertains to the idea 'cup' orcupness as such. However, to the nominalist a universal of this kind merelypoints to the similarity between individual things. Thus redness only occursas a result of red things resembling one another. In this respect, knowledgeonly grasps individual things and language merely labels what is alreadygrasped. This must be based on an empiricism and/or a postivism.But how, I would ask, does one know that the strawberry is red as is thetomato without one's knowing first participating in redness? It is assumedthat redness is an afterthought, that conventionally comes to be understoodas pertaining to red on account of red things. But still, how are theyunderstood to be red? How are these similarities recognised? My point isthat, while the universal indeed depends upon the examples of redness to beknown existentially, those examples of redness in turn depend upon rednessitself to be known essentially. For you or I to recognise that both thestrawberry and the tomato are red, we must, I would argue, already have aknowledge of redness to make this move of recognition. As Socrates argues:If I do not know the quid of anything, how can I know the quale? Thus whenwe really come to know, we do so through remembrance or recollection thatallows us to recognise what we already (essentially) knew.Without wishing to simply assume, I am guessing from your previous argumentsthat you will say that we do not 'recognise' the redness of red things, butthat we rather 'infer' or 'deduce' the redness on account of the red thingsthemselves. But I would still feel dissatisfied with such an answer, in thatthe inference or deduction must still 'participate' in a preconceivedredness to make the analogy between the two shades of red. In short, how doI know that this yellow is similar to that yellow without first having anotion of yellow as such that connects the two? By what measure or standarddo I infer or deduce that they are to be known as yellow, if it is notyellowness itself?Again I have written too much, and so will stop.Duane

Dear Duane, I am sorry. I thought you had dropped out of this discussion because you had lost interest or perhaps because you have a thesis to complete (but I never for a moment thought you had quietly conceded defeat). In fact, your most recent entry shows again that you are indefatigable in argument and would kick and stomp to make your point. My time unfortunately is rather short this evening so I'll try to respond as briefly as I can. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the term nominal, because unlike Todd I don't have an extensive understanding of the history of philosophy. Still, I am not retreating from my essential point--- words and language (to me there is no meaningful distinction between the two) allow us to make a symbolic engagement with reality, which engagement alone determines the essence or character of any given thing. A tree is both a source of shade and firewood to cite a simple example, but these two descriptions, while accurate, hardly begin to exhaust the cognitive possibilities that arise out of an understanding of trees. A botanist, of course, is best equipped to tell us what the tree is as a growth that obeys observable laws of nature. But his understanding does not rely on the kind of exalted passivity recommended by you metaphysicians. His is an active and detailed searching for objective evidence. Just because we have words for things does not mean that words necessarily disclose the nature of any thing named, which is why I consider Joseph's notion that we have lost a vital understanding by bowing to the god of rationality so utterly barmy. We do not and apparently cannot know the ultimate nature of things and without strong evidence to suggest otherwise, there is no reason to suppose the ancients enjoyed an insight which we have lost due to our heedlessness with language. Indeed, in light of the fact that they misunderstood so much about the world because of false evidence that they did not--- or could not--- question, we may go on to suppose that they may not have had their metaphysics right, either. What you metaphysicians overlook in your haste to denounce rationality is that the universe has become more mysterious because of what rational investigation into it has revealed. By retiring the notion of God as as an explanatory principle, science has been ableto advance (horrid word for you though it may be for you) and reveal something infinitely more complex and mysterious than could ever be inferred by reading the Bible. And as for the idea that it was all "unformed, but not unshaped" before physics discovered it, you have merely adopted the nominalist's trick for your own ends. As I say, the marvel of language is not that it names things once and for all, but rather that it can be fashioned into a discourse to accomodate new evidence for the emergence of novel perspectives. But not everything follows a law of inexorable progress. Indeed, I would argue that while human knowledge has advanced enormously from our point of origin on an African savannah, human nature has not really advanced at all. The same questions and concerns that moved our ancestors continue to do so today, though the differences in our circumstances tend to conceal the fact. But this is one reason why our predecessors can still offer guidance and why, indeed, someone like Shakespeare can still feel like a contemporary when clearly he was not. I suspect Todd is more your ally than mine in this debate (this may change however, once he tastes my salsa) but one of the things I admired in his letter to Jeff was his argument that a philosophy finds its ground in the concerns to which it remains open. So unless I misread him, we don't need to accept Plato as holy writ to find that his concerns remain relevant to the reflective mind. But we have the freedom to reject his methodsand conclusions if we believe there are better ways of reflecting on things. But let me really throw down the gauntlet here. If you metaphysicians deplore the reductive habits of mind that govern the present Dark Age, what do you know that the rest of us don't? And no weasel words like 'we abide in our unknowing'. Metaphysicians do not enjoy a monopoly on wonder, and besides you claim to have a knowledge of essences, which suggests a higher understanding, indeed. So tell me, what knowledge do you think your metaphysical understanding gives you? I await your thoughtful reply. bob

Dear Bob,The difficulty in this discussion is that you are intent on dismissing fundamental philosophical concerns without actually enquiring into them. You have decided in advance that that nothing has essence, and that language has no actual ground in things.There is nothing easier than mere dismissal of this kind. But it is not the way to engage in philosophy. Philosophy is not arguments for or against mere beliefs, it is enquiry into what is true. One has to do the work, the study, just as in any other discipline. Without that, nothing can be accomplished.Joseph

Dear Joseph, I may be fogbound by reason, but if two parties disagree over points of fact--- fact here meaning a demonstrable truth---then what recourse do they have but to engage in civil argument to establish the facts in dispute? My understanding of truth requires a marshalling of evidence towards the construction of an argument, to see how it might fare against rival positions. Belief undoubtedly figures into this approach, but not blind or dogmatic belief. I would concede that there are metaphysical essences revealed in language alone if you could demonstrate that this is so. But unless I've missed something in our exchange, you haven't even tried--- you simply accuse me of being close-minded. I have not "decided in advance that nothing has essence". I assert that we devise or invent ideas of essences to act functionally for our understanding of things. This understanding of language as an entirely human and conventional construct, it seems to me, would constitute "an actual ground in things." But I assume this assertion is hardly more palatable to you. When you say "one has to do the work, the study, just as in any other discipline", you don't seem to be referring to any form of disinterested inquiry. You seem rather to be recommending a kind of cultic ascesis in which the initiates are required to drop their rational reservations in order to submerge themselves in an esoteric experience of truth. Well, I suppose there is room for this kind of thing. But I see that you have not taken up the challenge that I issued to Duane--- what do you metaphysicians know that the rest of us don't? And I am broad-minded enough to allow a non-factual answer--- you needn't say, for instance, that it increases your factual knowledge of reality. But now I would like to ask another, perhaps more personal question: do you ever wonder if your understanding of metaphysics might be wrong? I do not mean to be deliberately obtuse, no matter how wrong-headed I may seem to you. Fault me for anything, except my sincerity--- I really don't see how you and Duane can make the claims that you have been making. But I also see that somebody can be utterly wrong in one way and be almost divinely inspired in another. Yeats was a member of The Order of the Golden Dawn and was a great poet. So was Aleister Crowley, but after drawing more deeply from what appeared to be the same well of inspiration, he considered himself the superior poet. But perhaps this is another argument for another day. Best Wishes, BOB

Hi BobI have only just got back on line again. Hopefully for good. I have beenhaving lots of problems and had to buy a new router, which my boy DavidLewin set up and configured for me. On account of not always being able toget on line, I wrote my previous mail very quickly - so I am hoping it madesense, perhaps not. So I hadn't by any means lost interest, but you areright I must get back to my thesis. I do think there are subtleties you aremissing in my argument (I'm not for one minute suggesting that this is yourfault - the things I am trying to get across are not easy), and I'm surethere are subtleties I am missing in yours. Debate by email is not the bestmedium.As for what we metaphysicians know that the rest of you don't - send acheque for ten thousand pounds (payable to my business account:ToddMeihasarevoltingRicoeurfetish) and I will tell you? Seriously, youdidn't think I was going to fall for that one? For a start I can say that Ido not do unknowing - unless it is extremely qualified. I (perhaps like you)do not buy that, and in this respect I am in a certain sense (and I stresscertain sense) anti-mystical or even anti-Platonic. But nor would I be socrass as to suggest I know something you or anyone else does not, or thatthere is an answer as such. In this respect, I also do not go along with aknowing in contrast to a not knowing. This may sound like an enormous copout.However, my reasons for saying this are as follows: As you have witnessed, Iam always keen to stress the relation between essence and existence. I thinkan idealism or a naturalism taken on their own are equally absurd, and thatthey only gain true significance and import when considered together. Eachsustains the other as far as I can see, and it has been a huge mistake inthe history of philosophy to take one at the expense of the other. Thatreligion and science are seen to be severed is a tragic consequence of thisone-sided thinking.It is for similar reasons of balance, that in the realm of mystical theologyI am critical of both apophasis and cataphasis. One feigns to deny, andfails, while the other feigns to affirm, and fails. I am interested in whatgoes on that this failing happens - and here I believe lies the answer interms of the necessary ambiguity of language. Knowledge or Being are notsufficient (in my view) without language, but nor is language sufficientwithout Knowledge or Being. This is to say, that without language, Knowledgeor Being is concealed as lethe, whilst with language (although it is alethiaas unconcealment), Knowledge or Being is nevertheless concealed in analtogether different sense. This concealment or forgetting as amnesiademands a remembrance in terms of anamnesis. Language in being languageengenders both. As Angela hinted at, I too am deeply suspicious of those whowish to reach the ideas or essences without symbols or images. But I amequally suspicious of those who think they can have access to things orextants of any kind without reference to divine forms. They go together, andthough each can be conceived without the other, it is only subsequently so.There is, as far as my limited sight can see, no escaping this, and I thinkthe only way around it is in terms of understanding the metaphysicalimplications of language as symbol that sacrifices itself. This is why, Ibelieve, language presences in absence or likewise absences in presence.This again is the ambiguity of language. Wholeness needs to be posited bysymbols, but these symbols must negate themselves on behalf of thewholeness. Only on account of this creative incarnation and then redemptivesacrifice does any symbol mean. Without the creative incarnation there isonly what might be called essential identity, and without the redemptivesacrifice there is only what might be called existential separation. Theremust/needs be both at once in terms of the principle ofdistinction-in-unity. Here I am influenced by Coleridge, who saw thisalterity as integral to understanding the Holy Trinity.Before I go: you said that you resented my remark concerning pepper on yourglove - but surely, no where near as much as I resent having a mexicanrecipe for Todd tagged onto the end of your mail. If pepper in the eyewasn't enough, you resort to crushed red chilles.See you anonDuane

Ah JeffI must say I find life easier when you are in retirement.What you say of Haakon's reference to borders may well be right? He would ofcourse know better here. One must also bear in mind that I used what he saidout of context just to get a point across. As far as I am aware, and if I amnot misinterpreting his referencing, he was influenced here by SteinJohansen's: 'Outlines of a Differentiated Epistemology'.Back to your question. You say: But when you write "the essences only cometo be on account of those things that disclose them existentially", how doesthat tally with the fact that "they pre-exist" as that which "we alreadyhave a knowledge of"?I guess the answer to this is in terms of a pre-reflexive knowledge on theone hand, and a reflexive knowledge on the other. As I elaborate in my mailto Bob, I feel that each of these forms of knowing are incomplete withoutthe other. The one is merely potential knowledge that lacks symbolicactualisation so as to ex-ist, and the other is actuality (at the expense ofactualisation) no longer determined by its potential. As I'm sure you areaware, distinctions in knowing are expressed throughout the history ofphilosophical and theological discourse, as, for example: the differencebetween sapientia and scientia given by Augustine, or again reason andunderstanding given by a whole host of thinkers. One could also distinguish(in perhaps a Pauline sense) between, for example, the mind of the spiritand the mind of the flesh?Not sure if this answer will satisfy you?Duane

Dear Duane, Yes, it's terrible to be without a computer; perhaps it's only marginally better to have one. It's unlike you--- and unlike me, as you can see--- to let a long interval pass before jumping back into the constant static of an e-debate. We all have our addictions, and this appears to be one we share. So it is good to hear from you again.I think however, that we have reached that stage in which neither of us are going to budge. I appreciate your candid admission that you don't claim to know anymore than I do. But it also seems clear that you remain in search of something which I don't believe can be found except by mystical insight alone--- metaphysical certainty. But I look forward to your presentation on the 25th when I expect you to elaborate on your theme at length. I apologise for the unintended insult of including my recipe in an e-mail adressed to you. My intention was to share, first with Todd and then with anyone else who might have wanted it. But then he topped me with a recipe very much like mine, except with fresh ingredients. Take Care, BOB

Dear Bob,First of all, I do not doubt your sincerity and I certainly did not call that into question. The difficulty lies in method. When I say you need to do the study, I mean read the philosophers on the question of essence, in particular those prior to the Enlightenment (Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas etc).Essence is not a theory of things. Explanatory theory belongs to the natural sciences, not philosophy. Philosophy is concerned to disclose what can be seen, but which is very subtle. The modern movement of phenomenology was the beginning of the project to return to what discloses itself, even of simple ordinary things. It is not concerned with explanations or proofs or demonstrations.Your demand for evidence, rational arguments and so on is not philosophy. It is borrowing method from the empirical sciences. The adoption of this method into philosophy is the school of logical positivism, such as A. J. Ayer. But no major modern philosopher speaks on behalf of that school any more, partly because it does not disclose anything about reality which the empirical sciences do not disclose better, and partly because it distorts the history of philosophy, and partly because it remains always just theoretical.It was this problem that the various Continental philosophers have attempted to overcome - ranging from phenomenology, existentialism, deconstruction and so on. None of these philosophers are trying to prove anything through arguments, through logical inference, because this does not establish the truth of things - something Aristotle states in his seminal treatise on logic. Logical inference establishes the coherence of inferences, but not truth. Truth is not got at in that way.I stated in a previous message that the "truth" of things is in the things themselves. That is not merely my idea but a thread that runs through the whole of western philosophy from the Presocratics to the Renaissance. Truth is not a conception about things, not a theory about them. It is what things are. The whole business of philosophy is to come to see the truth that belongs to things themselves. This involves what I called "being with" things, open to their presence. This is the basis of phenomenology - meaning what phenomena show of themselves.This means all that is communicates itself to the intelligence. The whole problem is that the rationalist movement of the Enlightenment became concerned with what could be analyzed or inferred from things, rather than with their actual disclosure. So Descartes tired to formulate a method similar to geometry to grasp things, by first disposing of things themselves. Hence his famous claim that only the subjective mind is available for direct knowledge. Kant follows this, and so it became a doctrine that nothing could be known in itself.In a certain sense this was the close of western philosophy. It was now just the inferior handmaid of empiricism. This empiricism is now what most people think philosophy is. It is part of the general mindset of our age. It is this mindset that modern philosophy is concerned to overcome.This means returning to the very foundations of philosophy, to ontology and epistemology. This is why I spoke of that which is known before any inferring or conjecture. It means asking what it means to "know". Knowledge is not "facts" about things.There is nothing mystical or esoteric about this. It requires actual seeing. Just as no theory about violin playing will make one a master musician, only actual practice, so philosophy is done by attending to things themselves and the manner of thought that is this attending. That is why I stressed attending.Philosophy, as metaphysics, is not concerned with the kind of knowledge the empirical sciences seek. It has no argument with that. It is not against the natural sciences. It is concerned with a quite different order of knowledge. Your position, as you present it, is to require philosophy follow the method of the natural sciences, as though this kind of knowledge was the only kind there is.So this is where we are stuck. Scientific method, empirical investigation, cannot approach ontology or epistemology. And for the sciences this does not matter. The sciences require only a method that works for the ends it seeks. But the sciences cannot ask of themselves what manner of knowing this is. It can calculate with mathematics without ever asking what mathematics is. It can calculate without ever asking what calculation is. It can simply take these things for granted. Whether numbers are real things or just concepts does not matter to the natural sciences. All that matters is their use and effectiveness for the determinations of science.With philosophy nothing is taken for granted in this way. It does not take "thought" for granted, but seeks to know the essence of thought. It is concerned with primary things, the things that precede any method, any opinion, any speculation, any facts, any inference. It does not try to make ideas about these primary things, but to bring them to light. Explanation is not philosophy. Proving things is not philosophy. Argument is not philosophy. Critical thinking is not philosophy. All those things have their place, but not in philosophy.It is because it has been confused with these things that it is so difficult to get to actual philosophy. And that is the problem in this discussion. We are not ready to discuss the nature of language or of essence because of this confusion. If for you "essence" is just a useful notion we devise about things, then we are stuck. You simply claim that is so, and according to your own standards of evidence you present no such evidence.This is what has happened with the whole vocabulary of philosophy. The terms "reason", "essence", "being", "truth", "knowledge", "logic", "thought" and so on are now heard as mere notions, and not in the manner they are found in philosophy. They do not mean what people now think they mean, and so get projected back onto the philosophical texts in their false sense. This is why Heidegger, for example, is so concerned with the meaning of the Greek words the Classical philosophers used.To get to the ground where philosophy can be done is far beyond the possibilities of these email discussions. Least of all if you just oppose the enterprise.If you are not really concerned to undertake the work this would involve, then the discussion is pointless. If you are concerned, then I would recommend Gadamer's Truth And Method or Heidegger's The Essence of Truth or Introduction to Metaphysics. There is no way of circumventing taking on such reading, any more than if we were discussing geology without studying the discipline.I am not saying this out of unkindness. I appreciate that, as human beings, we all sense we can go to the truth of things. Philosophy is not the private property of anybody or any institution. Nevertheless, without the careful work and study our concern for truth remains like an uncultivated talent. Mozart was a child prodigy and composing good music at four years old, yet he writes in one of his letters that no other composer has worked harder in the study of music than he has done. The natural love of truth is given, but the mastery of thinking is earned only through sustained hard work - harder work now than in former times because philosophy has been lost in its original sense.Joseph

Dear Joseph, Firstly, thanks very much for your thoughtful and often illuminating reply to my e-mail. I find your position much clarified in your latest installment and while I still disagree with much of it, I salute the candor and conviction that went into it. So--- if you don't mind--- I'm going to meditate on this for a bit before replying. I want to be clear however, that I am not doing this out of any spirit of one-up-manship, but because our dialogue may yield points of agreement as well points of dispute. So, until then... BOB

Dear Duane and Joseph especially!Without wishing to stir the pot too much (God forbid), but as we're allgetting things off our chests.... [preamble over]I also asked very specific questions to Joseph (about 'conjecture') andDuane (about essences) - neither of which have been answered yet. I knowthat I have enough trouble stating my own position half the time but, atthe risk of the pot calling the kettle black, I'd be interested to hearyour responses - just to further the dialogue. Perhaps you're stillmulling them over.Having watched the debate unfold, and having made minor contributions toit, I still tend to see these divergent views on language as ways oflooking (rather than inherent ways of showing) - but I guess that willalways tend to put me in the poststructuralist corner.In common uncommon endeavour,Jeff

Dear Jeff,I will try to clarify what I meant, and why I say conjecture follows. Really this needs a long explanation because it is subtle, so an email cannot do it justice.Put very simply, the philosophers once understood that "mind" was already connected with the intelligible aspect of everything. That is to say, all things are intelligent primordially, and then manifest materially secondarily. The human intelligence is already attuned, so to speak, to this primordial intelligence of things. Just as the eye is open to light and the ear to sound, so mind is open to the intelligible. The eye does not have to discover light, or the ear sound, so likewise mind does not need to discover the intelligible.It is this already being with the intelligible that gives rise to thought. Thought is provoked or called to think by the presence of the intelligible. This "first thinking" is a knowing of being. All other thought is subsequent to that. In a way, the philosopher is concerned to understand the truth or falsehood of this subsequent thinking, because this is where thought can either grasp what truly is, or misconceive it. Thus consequent thought can be either "understanding" (standing under reality) or misunderstanding.It is not difficult to see why this traditional epistemology has been lost or makes no sense in our times. Modern thinking has inverted the order of things, assuming the material visibility of things is first and that "thought" tries to make sense of the visible by devising models or representations of things. So the proposal that reality is in any sense "disclosing" itself to intelligence is wholly foreign to the modern mind. Here we have the Cartesian dualism and the materialism which is taken as self-evidently true. Given this, all knowledge can only be inference or conjecture. So the modern problem becomes, how can inference from evidence be certain?, and so "certainty" replaces "truth". Truth becomes just a concept.The philosophers approach this primordial knowing in two ways. One way is to "ascend" from appearances to the real, and the other is to start from the "real" and work outward or downward. Both are to be found in Plato. The "ascent" is clearly described in the Symposium, and the "descent" in the Timeaus. The descent is often described through a myth, or a creation myth - as in the Timeaus. But it may also be described by way of discerning first principles, as in Proclus' The Elements of Theology, or in several of the Enneads of Plotinus.For a long time the modern commentators on these classical philosophers have taken all this as merely theory or speculation. But note how each of those words have changed meaning! Theory meant essentially "to see and contemplate" while "speculation" also meant "to see" - from which we have our word "spectacles". It seems the original sense was to see the stars.We cannot just believe the ancient epistemology (which would only mean holding it to be a true theory) because we cannot see in their way without first seeing how completely groundless the modern theories of epistemology are, or at least what they are. This is why the initiation of phenomenology and subsequently Heidegger are so important. And of course deconstruction.So the essential problem is: How is knowledge actually grounded in what is? To the classical philosophers it meant to be in communion with the intelligible being of things. It no longer means that, and we cannot just leap back to how it once was understood - or rather perceived. The modern mind is enframed in a disposition towards things which passes over their actual presence and disclosure of themselves. But it does not even see this disposition. There is an oblivion of the ground of the thinking which we affirm in our way of being and living in the world. And all it can bring to the classical thinkers is critical evaluation, or projection back upon them of the modern orientation.It hardly needs to be said that, given this position with epistemology, the "religious" realm must remain wholly and entirely unintelligible and meaningless.I hope that makes things clearer. But this is too vast to cover adequately by email.Best wishes,Joseph

Dear Joseph Thank you for the detailed note below – I also found this most interesting and helpful, although some points still puzzling. Grateful if I could ask: am I understanding correctly that the intelligible is primary and discloses itself directly to, (or perhaps is participated in by), mind? If so, I’m left wondering how material manifestation can relate to (or arise from?) immaterial intelligence. Or, put another way, is apprehension of the real by the mind independent of the activity of the physical brain – can the brain itself actually hold truth, or only some derivative (in which case, can truth ever be expressed)? Or more generally, can (apparently distinct) intelligible and material aspects of things coexist successfully within a non-dualist framework? With thanks and best wishes &rew

Dear Andrew,A way to come at this is to ask: "Is the nature of a thing distinct from the thing itself?" Is each human being distinct from humanity?The intelligible and what is are are not separate entities. We live in the materialist age, yet do we actually go about life as if everything was inert and devoid of intelligence? The division is between our actual being and the present dominant notions of things.How could the nature and the presence of a tree be different from the tree itself? It is its nature that presences it in its life, form and matter.The intelligible is the nature of things, and the nature of things is intelligible. It belongs to things themselves and is communicable to mind. The matter of things belongs to all matter, and the intelligible of things belongs to intelligence. The intelligible in things is not unintelligent. All things are present to themselves and to all things. The human being is the being called to reflect on this.In one way or another this is how each philosophical and religious tradition understands things. They each put it differently and bring their own peculiar insights to it. In one way or another everyone knows this. Why do people feel assaulted when a doctor regards them merely as an illness process? Because it denies their human nature. Traditional medicine never made that mistake.The present objectified view of the world alienates everybody from the presence of the world, and so there is social unrest, meaningless art, empty ambitions, irrational hatreds, aimless government. Each person is thinking of themselves as something other that what they are. The really important "duality" is the division between what is and what is thought to be.I hope that is some help.Joseph

Dear Joseph, I've been thinking about what you wrote me and at last have come back to reply. As I say, I am not particularly interested in winning a debate, but I am interested in what emerges out of the give and take of this argument. I was quite impressed by your necessarily brief explanation of what constitutes philosophy and why modern philosophy and ---presumably, by extension--- modern life has turned its gaze away from truth. But there are a number of points with which I must take issue, and which, for me, make your entire thesis open to doubt. Let me begin with your statement: " Your [meaning my] demand for evidence, rational arguments and so on is not philosophy. It is borrowing method from the empirical sciences." The problem with this claim is that rational argument in philosophy predates the birth of modern empirical science by thousands of years. On a most charitable reading of your statement one might concede that argument is subsidiary to the highest purpose of philosophy, which some believe is the contemplation of truth. But philosophers have always disagreed about the nature and truth of things (the Greeks were especially notable for the wide diversity of their opinions) and rational debate was the way they attempted to settle their disputes. Testing propositions in rational argument was what Socrates did--- with Plato, his faithful amaneusis lending his committed support--- and his dialectical method made philosophy an inquiry based on reason and evidence rather than an exposition of a revealed truth.The tradition remains more or less unbroken to the present day. Even your beloved Heidegger rose to eminence in the German academy by engaging in a formal debate with the neo-Kantian, Ernst Cassirer. More to the point, when any philosopher makes a claim it becomes open for examination and must be open to the possibility of being disputed. And this, not the contemplation of an incontrovertible truth, is what constitutes philosophy. This doen't just happen to be so--- it is necessarily so. If the history of philosophy reveals anything it is that our ideas must be open to revision in light of how they serve our conscious engagement with reality. To be sure, logical positivism did prove a cul-de-sac and and not the road to a scientific understanding of philosophy that its adherents believed it would be. But in demanding evidence from you I was not asking for something that would pass the stringent tests of evidence that arid Freddy Ayer would have wanted. I wanted a reason--- almost any reason--- for the unsubstantiated claims you were making. More recently, in an e-mail to Andrew you asserted "All things are present to themselves and to all things. The human being is the being called to reflect on this." The vatic tone of these statements does not make them true or even meaningful and it represents no impudence or impiety for someone to demand proof, ie reason for belief in them. In fact, I do not think and have never argued that "philosophy is [required] to follow the methods of empirical science." Some of the most interesting issues in philosophy such as in ethics, simply cannot be treated that way. But I would never go on to suppose that "metaphysics is not concerned with the kind of knowledge that the empirical sciences seek." I would say on the contrary, it can't afford not to be. Let me be clear here: if we understand that metaphysics is concerned with the ultimate truth and reality of things we have to begin questioning these things with the kind of intelligence we possess. Now as it happens one of the hottest debates in contemporary philosophy concerns consciousness, which however you present your metaphysics, depends on an active brain to do so. This is the latest version of the old body/mind problem, but it has been deepened immeasurably by the findings of neuroscience. I am not arguing a crude reductionism here, but philosophers of mindmust take note of what scientists of the brain discover, Including, I would add, what they have to say about the human capacity for language. It is not enough to say, as you do, that metaphysics has no argument with the kind of knowldege that the empirical sciences seek. There cannot be a firewall between them. This brings up Heidegger. You advised me to read Heidegger and Gadamer as a means of leading me out of my mental wilderness. Well, I have done at least some of the work you recommend in that I have read and recently reacquainted myself with Introduction to Metaphysics. But I confess I am no closer to the light for having done so. The book is however, most fascinating and it is easy to see why so many people have fallen under the Master's spell. But his claims about language and grammar are beyond my competence to judge and I would need the critical evaluation of a reputable linguist to see how they hold up. It is a bold thesis--- that if the Greeks had chosen a different manner of speaking and adopted another form of grammar, the history of western thought would have been much different. But even if that thesis is wrong, or in some way too flawed to command wide agreement, Heidegger seems on sure ground when he talks about the originary consciousness of being in theworld, that in some extraordianary way it is as much an act of creation as it is a form of dazzled witnessing. You feel here that he has reached into the depths of poesis and has begun the heroic task of showing us the world before it was distracted into the false consciousness of appointed purpose. But for all the undoubted richness of his work his philosophy is not beyond criticism, and like anything else, remains open to argument and disagreement. Works of philosophy, like works of art do not attain the status of unassailable truth. But they may find a lasting currency so that they always feature in any serious consideration of the topics they address. But let us consider the specific claims about essences, which phenomenology claims to have uncovered. Phenemonology lifts the lid on creation and --- luckily for Duane---it finds words. Thank god the decipherers were all professors and so knew how to read these mysterious runes. I suspect though, that you would find more information about the world on a road map than you would in one of their texts. Still, there is something to be said for their procedure of braketing, for even if it doesn't reveal the essences of things, it does show how seeing is much a matter of looking and that intentionality underwrites any understanding we might reach in the world. My MA thesis happens to be on R. D. Laing who, as a psychiatrist, employed existential phenomology to brilliant effect in penetrating the inner world of schizophrenics. The role of phenemonology in rescuing subjective experience from reification by the soullessness of modern psychiatry is almost impossible to overestimate. But there is a compelling reason to challenge anybody's claim to possess an understanding of essences, especially when such an understanding is believed to preempt any simple understanding of fact. When metaphysics ceases to be a private act of cerebration and stakes a public claim to authority as truth the matter becomes overtly political. Metaphysicians have not always enjoyed a distinguished track record when it comes to politics. They tend to sidle up to any dictator who might offer them a sympathetic hearing in preference to selling their views to a rabble that would regard their opinions with complete indifference. You wrote to Andrew: "The present objectified view of the world alienates everybody from the world, and so there is social unrest, meaningless art, empty ambitions, irrational hatreds, aimless givernment. Each person is thinking of themselves as other than what they are." That statement needs to be unpacked and cannot be allowed to stand as a litany offamiliar complaints about the modern world. 1) Although the modern experience excels in anomie, not everybody feels alienated from the modern world. It is also important to remember that the objectification that you claim the world suffers is not a universal phenomena, even if the material effects of technology have a global impact. 2) Social unrest was as common in the ancient and mediaeval worlds as it is the modern and history suggests that it is social instability, not metaphysical error that causes such unrest. 3) "Meaningless art"---- Surely a subjective matter. 4) "Irrational hatreds"---- Almost certainly true, but then can you think of anytime when humanity was free of this wretched burden? I'm also interested in knowing what you consider to be irrational. A blanket dismissal of modern art strikes me as irrational. 5)" Aimless government"--- Again, surely a matter of opinion, but what would you propose to do about an ineffective government if not hold an election? 6) The crowning irony is that you start by complaining about an objectifed view of the world and then close by saying that each person "thinks of themselves as something other than what they are." Your grammar betrays you: you know what people are and have no interest in how their experiences of themselves reveal who they are. If this is what metaphysics has to offer let us hope for no revival of the Philosopher King. But the last sentence in the paragraph from which I have been quoting strikes me as entirely true, even if you don't endorse the state of affairs that it accurately describes: "The really important 'duality' is the division between what is and what is thought to be." Yes, indeed--- our thoughts can never close conclusively on things as long as we remain alive and alert to the eternal mystery that surrounds us. Regards, BOB

Dear Bob,The difficulty, once again, with your exposition is that you are arguing from a position you have already adopted, and not from the matter of philosophy itself.Philosophy is not rational debate, and "dialectic" does not mean that. This is not to say there is no place for rational debate, but it is not the nature of philosophy nor how it proceeds. Least of all with phenomenology and what has followed from it. Nor is philosophy about making "claims" of incontrovertible truth.Plato's Republic asks the question "what is justice?" No concept of justice is accepted by Socrates in that dialogue. No argument can lead to an answer. That is what the dialogue shows. Justice can be known only by the absolutely just person, who acts from justice itself. So there is no division between the just person and justice itself. This is an example of the mind "conformed" to truth.In the Presocratics there is not even the Socratic dialectic. For example Parmenides. So when you claim that philosophy has been based on rational argument and evidence for thousands of years your claim is historically inaccurate. This is not particularly my view but that of the scholars of Greek philosophy.Further, Plato does not say truth is arrived at through disputation, but through recollection, as shown in the Meno.Your comments on what Heidegger says about language are not accurate. He does not suggest that if the Greeks had a different manner of speaking and a different grammar things would have been different. Nor is what he does say open to question by linguistics. What he is saying is that the Greeks had a way of hearing from the essence of language - not simply the Greek language, but language as such. Language discloses. This contrasts with the prevailing modern view that language is arbitrary signs for things. The only way to get at what Heidegger means by this is to go there and se it for oneself. Critiquing this as a mere theory will bring nothing to light. It is a matter of understanding what is meant.And when you call upon "critiquing", by what principle does one judge? By reason? Then the question is "what is the essence of reason?" It is not logical consistency. That only bring us back to A J Ayer again. He is not to be dismissed lightly because he shows clearly that "metaphysics" cannot be approached in this manner.The important thing here is that if one supposes one has a "method" by which to approach the truth of things, philosophy examines that method itself from above the method. This is why philosophy is not concerned with the kind of knowledge the sciences seek of things. As I said before, this is not because the sciences cannot attain the kind of knowledge they seek, but because it is a different type of knowledge. It is not knowledge of the essence of things. This distinction should not really need to be made as it has always been understood. It is stated explicitly in Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle taught the sciences as well as philosophy.A concern of the paleontological movement was to overcome the confusion of philosophy with empirical method.A major problem underlying our discussion is that the philosophical vocabulary has changed sense. "Reason" does not mean "inference" in Greek or Medieval philosophy, but the intelligence that belongs to things themselves, that is, the intelligible nature of things, their actuality in themselves which mind participates in.So we are really at an impasse. You hold that essence cannot be known, while that is a fundamental concern of philosophy. It is what philosophy seeks to know. One of Heidegger's major books is The Essence of Truth, and really this is a preparatory work to doing philosophy.Nobody said that phenomenology claims to have uncovered the essence of the creation, and in doing so "discovered words". That is a false description of phenomenology, and really this is a great part of the difficulty we are having in this exchange. You are misunderstanding the matter, and your disputation or critique is founded on these misconceptions. This cannot be resolved through email discussion. We remain where we started. You need to do much more reading, at least of Heidegger, before you are in a position to say "he is not beyond criticism". Then "criticism" will be seen to be beside the point.As to the things I said in the email responding to Andrew, these were addressed to his specific question. Your dismissal of each of the terse statements I made there is too hurried. Each of those statements were short summaries of Plato. One has to assume some familiarity with the territory in email exchanges. They are not "complaints" about the modern world, but making the connections between how present general thinking conceives reality and what follows from that. Plato talks extensively about the relation of the arts and the condition of any society. But this again is too vast a topic to launch into.What all this boils down to is that there is a direct connection between the manner in which we think reality and the manner in which we dwell in the world. Philosophy is concerned that thinking be grounded in what truly is. Such a concern is not a matter of disputation but a calling to the mind from the truth of things. It is the love of the wisdom that is present in reality.Joseph

Dear Joseph, We agree on one thing--- we have reached an impasse in our debate. There is so much about which we disagree that it is hard to know where the dispute might end. I would like to respond at length to what I consider to be your misinterpretation of my take on Greek philosophy and what I believe is your eccentric understanding of how Plato should be approached from a modern point of view. But the topic is vast and I do not have the time to devote to it (my guess is that you too might be more productively occupied with other things). But I must make one point. Although you are right to say that Plato conceived of knowledge as recollection, the curiosity of this is that his form of recollection did not consist in a consultation of memory, but in a dialectical procedure that attempts to separate truth from appearances. It should be remembered too that even though western philosophy pretty much began with Plato (the pre-Socratics were as much proto-scientists as they wereprecursors of philosophy), his presentation of it came in a literary form that allowed for characterization and irony, which are not usually found in most philosophical texts. Thus, we have Socrates slyly presenting himself as an insignificant know-nothing, even as he trumps his opponents in debate. The inconclusiveness that is often found in the dialogues does not mean that either Plato or Socrates eschewed the dialectical method as a means of uncovering the truth. The Socratic method after all consists of subjecting a belief or proposition to close questioning. Indeed, one of the enduring charms of the dialogues is that we can imagine ourselves as participants in the debates and can say to Socrates: "Hold on--- you can't get away with that!". But we need not remain in ancient Athens (and may question if we could ever be there at all) to find our most important points of difference. You write "Justice can be known only by the absolutely just person, who acts from justice itself. So there is no division between the just person and justice itself." It would be useful if you could cite an example. Where and when has there ever been such a person? Most of us recognise justice as a complex and impartial form of decision-making that engages competing ideals of fairness to reach judgments that are bound by our limited human resources to be imperfect. Surely, justice does not consist of probity of character alone, but must also rely on the circumstances and resources available to any agent acting with just intent. I may have misinterpreted Heidegger as you allege, but let me quote the Master himself from his Introduction so that I might be forgiven my misunderstanding: "It simply no longer ocurs to us that everything that we have all known for so long, and all too well, could be otherwise---that these grammatical forms have not dissected and regulated language as such since eternity like an absolute, that instead, they grew out of a very definite interpretation of the Greek language." So when Heidegger complains that the modern interpretation of German grammar has taken students far away from the oiginary spirit once enjoyed by Greek thought I would like the opinion of a linguist to see if there might be some merit in this claim. He also goes on to praise ancient Greek and German (aber naturlich) as "the most powerful and most spiritual of languages". At this point vague doubts begin to harden into opposition to his thesis. I for one, would love to hear what Noam Chomsky would makeof those claims. And that is the chief point of our disagreement. You cite someone like Heidegger or Plato as if their authority were beyond question and do not admit that there can be different lines of interptretation on the assertions they make. But all truly great thinkers stimulate a wide diversity of views and never invoke unquestioning assent as a prerequisite to understanding. That would be prophecy, not philosophy. Moreover, criticism is never "beside the point"in philosophy. Criticism is an act of considered discernment that can draw on an almost infinite variety of methods to test the truth of a claim. The suggestion that philosophy can look at a method from a point of view "above" it (below and beside it might do the trick, as well) is fine so long as such an examination can be justified on the ground of reason. No doubt you will accuse me here of being "stuck"in the trivialities of argument and for insisting on reason and evidence. But your high handed refusal to offerreason or evidence for your beliefs suggests that you prefer to remain in the ether with your convictions safely intact rather than come down to earth where they would surely be challenged. You believe in metaphysical essences and I do not. The matter might be safely closed there. But you will notice in my argument not just a stubborn refusal to embrace your ideas (and because you and I disagree on the matter our disagreement must be a matter of ideas and not of a transparent reality), but also an even more entrenched resistance to any political privelege you might claim on the authority of your metaphysical beliefs. Let's go back then to your "absolutely just person" whose being is identical with justice itself. We can then see that this is not just an empty tautology, but a dangerous one, as well. If you begin with the assertion that you are a just man and that your judgements will always infallibly reflect the truth then when you and I disagree I must perforce be wrong. It could never be a contestable matter that would oblige you to consider the evidence for my beliefs. As The Just Man you would enjoy a preeminence that forecloses the possibility of you being in error. Although this description seems to resemble your attitude in this debate, I trust that you do not actually go that far. But it is still dangerous to suppose that anyone could achieve such infallibility. Unfortunately, human beings frequently suppose themselves to be inerrant when in fact they are simply close-minded. We usually find this in religious authorities, as when the Vatican declared Galileo to be a heretic and forced him to recant his theory. You may say that this shameful episode has nothing to do with an understanding of essences, but that is not the point. The point is making a claim toa special knowledge, which on no evidence but private revelation, preempts the consideration of anything else. You believe in metaphysical essences and disdain any discussion for your belief in them, just as you categorically refuse to entertain other ways of looking at things. That is your right. But when you go on to a claim a special insight into the world because of your metaphysical conceits, which you refuse to justify on evidential grounds, your position has the potential for taking on a disturbingly political character. I confess I did not find a Platonic imprimatur for your disapproving comments on the modern world. But that doesn't matter--- they reflected value judgements and cannot command unquestioning assent. It is clear this dialogue can progress no further. There is no point in trying to get you to see things from my point of view. And perhaps there is no compelling reason for you to do so. For my part, I really don't see the essences that you assert are the true concerns of philosophy. Still, I hope you enjoy the light within. BOB

Dear Bob,What we disagree on is what the philosophers say. You close by saying "For my part, I really don't see the essences that you assert are the true concerns of philosophy." Here is what Plato says on precisely that matter:QUOTEWhat classes of things have a greater share of pure existence in your judgment--those of which food and drink and condiments and all kinds of sustenance are examples, or the class which contains true opinion and knowledge and mind and all the different kinds of virtue? Put the question in this way:--Which has a more pure being--that which is concerned with the invariable, the immortal, and the true, and is of such a nature, and is found in such natures; or that which is concerned with and found in the variable and mortal, and is itself variable and mortal?Far purer, he replied, is the being of that which is concerned with the invariable.And does the essence of the invariable partake of knowledge in the same degree as of essence?Yes, of knowledge in the same degree.And of truth in the same degree?Yes.And, conversely, that which has less of truth will also have less of essence?Necessarily.Then, in general, those kinds of things which are in the service of the body have less of truth and essence than those which are in the service of the soul?Far less.And has not the body itself less of truth and essence than the soul?Yes.What is filled with more real existence, and actually has a more real existence, is more really filled than that which is filled with less real existence and is less real?Of course.UNQUOTEThis, precisely, is where modern thinking departs from the concern of philosophy up until the 17th century. Our modern problem is that we have a manner of thinking which cannot understand what Plato is saying here. That is why I say it is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with Plato, or with me for that matter. Practicably every particular of that passage is alien to modern thought, and so, without a great deal of work on Greek thinking, it is not possible to grasp what Plato means here. The meaning of "essence" of "the real", the "more real", the "immortal", "mind" and so on are all foreign to the kind of evidential thinking that is called up in modern rationalism.That quotation from Plato's Republic could well be the starting point of Heidegger's question of being. That is why I say it is not a matter of "critiquing" philosophy. We have yet to hear what it is saying. In this discussion I have made no other claim than to say we need to grasp what philosophy is saying or is essentially concerned with, and how that concern was broken in the 17th century. Unless we appreciate this momentous shift, we read the Greek philosophers through the rational concepts of our times. That is essentially the problem.Joseph

Dear Joseph & Duane, Please, gentlemen! I have already admitted that I find this exchange compulsive, but I do not have the time for it. Duane is perhaps even more pressed for time than I am, yet he cannot free himself from the sinister attractions of debate. I think we all need to swear off this insidous vice--- but only if you'll permit me to have the last word. So, briefly: 1) Joseph, I agree that we need to understand what any ancient philosopher, but especially Plato really meant. But can you conceive of the possibility that we might reach an infomed understanding of his thought and still not agree with it? The bit of dialogue you quoted is congenial for my purposes here, for Socrates leads his interlocuter to agree that immortal, imperishable things are superior to things that do not possess such attributes. Well, yes, perhaps--- except we have a problem with immortality. Some people believe in it; others don't (count me a fence-straddler on the issue) and there is no clear way that I know of to settle the problem. Plato clearly believed in the immortality of the soul. Does this mean we should take his word on the matter? 2) One of the most objectionable things I find in Joseph's excessive veneration for the past is that he dismisses western philosophy from the 17th century onwards (Herr Professor is one of the few exceptions) with a majestic sweep of his hand, declaring that they all suffer the same metaphysical error. A quick, off-the-cuff survey of names--- DesCartes, Berkely, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhaer, Nietzche, Kierkegaard, Marx, Russell, Wittgenstein, Popper, Sartre to name only a few---tells us what a rich and diverse body of philosophy he chooses to ignore. I am not about to ignore them. 3) Duane seems to think we have to accept a position before we can understand it. Thus, in order understand metaphysical essences we have to believe in them. This is what might be termed faith-based philosophy and it actually does have its distinguished proponents in people like Kierkegaard and Sartre. But the notion that someone has to accept the Platonic ideal of justice in order to find justice or be just is simple nonsense. So far we have pretty much confined this debate to examples from the western cultural experience, but it is now time to look elsewhere to see what other cultures do and say. And what we find is that pretty much everyone works from some ideals of justice, but these ideals are not all the same. We don't all find ourselves unable to formulate workable rules of justice, nor do we all know instinctively what justice is. We work it out in a complex analysis that involves both rule making and abiding, and our intuitions of fairness. No understanding ofessences is required to do this. Well, that should leave you both transfixed for about three seconds. But don't write back. I'll ignore it, I swear. I may even delete your e-mail messages before I allow myself the chance to read them. BOB

Dear BobUnfortunately, as you know, I cannot join the debate again in any repeatedsense because of my work load. So I regret that I will not be able to replyto any response you might make, however much I would dearly like to. I justfeel the need to point out that you seem to be missing Joseph's point againand again. This is why there is an impasse, and not because you simplydisagree with one another. It is not a case of Joseph believing in essence,and you not believing in essence. It is much more subtle than this. Thepoint is that you have already made up your mind that there is no essence,and so the impasse concerns you not thinking from a position that grants theessences regardless of whether they can be proven or not. It seems that youwill only accept that there are essences if they are reified, so that youare then able to believe in them. (This is no different to those in theGospels who will only believe in the Christ if they are given a sign). Theproblem is you would then, by subsuming the essences, defeat the point.This, it seems to me, is what Joseph keeps trying to point out to you. It iswhy he suggests that you are arguing from a position you have alreadyadopted, and not from the matter of philosophy itself. You are doing whatSocrates would never do, hence the dialectic. Thus in The Republic, Socratesinfers from Cephalus that justice is no more than: "Š to speak the truth andpay your debts." (Plato, The Republic, Book 1, p197). Socrates immediatelygives an argument that proves otherwise. This forces those enquiring intothe meaning of justice to seek a further argument, one that reconciles theoriginal and any objections to it. According to this dialectical process,they will gradually approach the truth of justice. But what is oftenoverlooked or seen as a lack in Plato¹s dialogues, is that this finaldefinition cannot be had. Instead, it is deliberately shown that justice(and other such universal forms) cannot be defined, and yet we all know whatjustice is and appeal to it when we encounter something that is unjust. Inthe end, the only way to know justice ( as Joseph has pointed out) is to bejust. In so doing, one acts in accord with justice itself. This is whySocrates repeatedly asserts that he does not know. You, however, do seem tohanker for the explanation, the proof, the demonstration that Plato in factdenies because it in fact denies the place of philosophy. Whilst you might,and do seem to argue, that this is also the place of philosophy, I wouldsuggest that it is a corruption or degeneration of philosophy from its truepath. That is to say, certainty is not wisdom. In short, you will onlybelieve in essences on your terms, but not in terms of essence. Thus essenceon your terms would no longer be essence. Again, this is why there is animpasse. You seem to assume a spirit of openness that reacts to Josephputting forward some incontrovertible truth. The point is that Joseph is notdoing this, hence his reference to the dialectic and recollection. Youyourself, in terms of wanting evidence for the essences, surely call for andargue from a framework determined by incontrovertible truth. Again, this isJoseph's point, and again, hence the impasse. Duane

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