On Jul 29, 2009, at 9:01 PM, Robert wrote:
> Hi Mike,
> Thanks for clearing up a few concepts for me. I also spent a
> bit of time reading this chapter on Proclus vs Plotinus on the
> Procession of Matter:
> Although Proclus didn't conceive matter as evil, he did see if
> as the lowest form of manifestation, so once again there is
> gradation and distance, which brings us back to square one as you
> pointed out below. It's hard to grasp a "One" that is (or
> isn't?) infinite and yet fades out with distance into nothingness
M.C. Perhaps. But either you have just the One - an amorphous,
undifferentiated mass which is even harder to conceive (perhaps the
situation of our cosmos pre-Big-Bang?), or else you have a world that
contains differentiation. Gradation and distance are the price you pay
> Plus this whole thing about the One being unaspected seems nebulous.
> How can something be posited and argued for when we aren't even
> certain of its attributes?
M.C. I have less of a problem with this than you do. It very often
happens in the sciences that one realizes the theoretical necessity of
an entity or phenomenon without being able to deduce all its
properties (black holes, for instance). Aristotle way already aware of
the difference between (1) asking and knowing *whether* a thing is
(*hoti estin*) and (2) asking or knowing what it is (*ti estin*),
i.e., what are its properties. 1) is the realm of demonstration, 2) of
definition. But it is clear, writes the Stagirite (An. Po. II, 3,
911a5ff.) that neither is there demonstration of of everything of
which there is definition, nor is there definition of everything of
which there is demonstration, nor in general is it possible to have
both of the same thing.
So much for the view of the hard-headed empiricist Aristotle. But
there might also be other reasons to support his view, such as
epistemological humility. Human intellect might be powerful enough to
deduce the necessity for an Ultimate Principle, but it might very well
be the case is *not* capable of grasping, defining, or otherwise
understanding the essence, nature or properties of such a principle.
This is the notion behind all negative theology.
> If anything, this sounds like a good point in favor of simple
> multiplicity rather than a "One" that just seems to lead to
> metaphysical deadends.
M.C. Perhaps. But then the question still arises: where did this
multiplicity come from? The continuing debates around the Big Bang
hypothesis show, I think, that modern science is still a long way from
completely resolving this problem to the satisfaction of all.
All best, Mike.
CNRS UPR 76
7, rue Guy Moquet
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