THE LIVING AND THE DIVINE
Part1: Between Experiences and the Transcendental
Chapter 1: Experience and Reality
1.2 True and false in science and philosophy
Leaving aside the complexity of presentation, basic thinking in Kantian philosophy, responsible
for every claim that reality beyond experience is unknowable, leads back to a very simple line of
thought: knowledge of the real outside of experience, means knowledge of things as they are, things
'an sich'. We can, according to Kant, know only 'appearances'; appearances imply representation;
the nature of things 'an sich' is unknowable because it can only be apprehended conceptually and lacks
the element essential to cognition, namely representation. For Kant, representation is either empirical
or 'pure'. Pure representation is a faculty inherent in our consciousness; it is identical with
envisioned forms of potential experience. Kant knows of no capacity for representation by our consciousness
other than through the senses and pure representation that requires no external object. Imagination, which
does figure incidentally, has a role in both these types of representation and appears once as the common 'dark
root of sensory perception and thought'; it has no role in epistemology as such. Yet, it is, in fact, there
that imagination has a special philosophical meaning and that we find its actual significance as the function
and organ of our apprehension of reality, namely in the area of reality beyond experience. Here, imagination
is the irreplaceable intellectual organ that can add the crucial element of representation to cognition -
representation that must be of a kind different from representation based on sensory perception and different
from pure representation, since it is concerned with representation of reality beyond so-called experience
(beyond the reality whose existence alone, not its nature, is apprehended through experience ). Imagination
must also differ from a fantasy unfettered by any binding criteria of reality.
Taking human consciousness to mean an organ of orientation specific to our apprehension of the world-whole,
we find that imagination is a function, controlled and creative, of that consciousness, whose legitimate function
it is to bring about the representation of world objects and truths that are beyond our experience. That such
representation is not as clear or as clearly circumscribed as a sensory perception is explained by the field
in which it operates, a field where the clarity of empirical objects is neither available nor required. While
orientation in the world is the hughest function of human knowledge, it is not the most urgent in terms of life's
needs; it is set with a view to long-term results, constantly self correcting, constantly gaining insights.
At this point we need to look at a trait that is fundamental in our attitude to philosophical cognition, namely
the kind of expectation and demand made on the strictness, the validity and truth of philosophical cognition. These
are three frightening terms, all pointing in one direction: the total rejection of every philosophical assertion that
cannot demonstrate its validity or truth down to the last detail. The history of philosophy shows ever greater demands
here, from the na´ve, uncritical intuition of pre-history to our ever stricter, thought-through criteria. Such criteria
tend, increasingly, to cut off the paths of a progress-seeking philosophy, so that the area of what was once seen as
scientific by a relaxed philosophy has literally shrunk to such an extent that philosophy as an enquiry, as questions
and answers about the world, has almost become a museum piece that belongs to the past, one that now produces only short
term efforts. Actually, the alarming severity and the full-throated pathos of the calls for truth and science, which
no-one dare contradict, are nowhere more misplaced than in the field of real philosophy. Seldom have we witnessed a
greater impact on our cultural identity, brought about by the cunning exercise of an instinctive hostility to a specific
perception of the world, to a specific knowledge-seeking impulse , than now, with our throttling of philosophic thinking
by the rigid model of scientific cognition.
For one, science outside the realm of philosophy cannot be the same as the science that philosophy would like to qualify
for. A deeper insight shows that it is a pointless distortion of the philosophical enterprise; more, to confuse non-philosophy
and its attendant strict, scientific criteria with philosophy shows a lack of authentic philosophical thinking.. Philosophy has
its own content and its own method. A brief yes or no, a speedy decision on whether something is true or false is possible in
separate fields of science; it is senseless in a science that deals with general, universal subjects, where a million aspects
cross, a science that deals with content, not form and in which a contradiction between several logical formulations does not
have to signify the exclusion of a given content. Most, if not all questions raised by philosophy need to have some open end
that remain undecided for some time, possibly for ever, whereas single fields of science are able to offer appropriate decisions
within a relatively short time; they can say yes or no, true or false (difficult scientific questions may come close to areas of
philosophical content). The subject matter of philosophical enquiry, dealing with matters on a world scale, undergoes constant
transformation, all the while retaining something of the originally disputed thesis. In the area of philosophical enquiry, in
the statements concerning reality beyond experience, much more truth than falsehood is found. An analysis based exclusively on
that which is false, one that somehow claims 'scientific' status, misses the essence of philosophical subject matter in a far more
serious way than an enquiry into 'truth' in the context of epistemological research in philosophy. In that research, change is
brought about by combining a study of the content of knowledge with that of its opposite, form.
We should by no means see this as eclecticism, not, that is, if it constitutes a genuine synthesis and is not just an external
patchwork. This is not the place to enter into that subject; suffice it to say that such genuine synthesis is a characteristic
hallmark of all great philosophical conceptions, those that always arise at important intellectual crossroads.
There is a sense in which everything that philosophy has produced persists. That is not to say that we cannot discard anything
because nothing is as yet properly known. It means, rather, that man's huge intellectual work has put together an almighty, unfinished
mosaic, an ongoing task unless it is cut off or made suspect. All the little stones in the mosaic denote an equal number of viewpoints
trained on universal subjects. The true place of each and the true demarcation of each is uncertain because an equal number of spaces
and of connecting lines are missing.
To label something false is as inappropriate as it is possible to get, as meaningless as to label it true. Whoever uses either label
clearly has not the faintest idea of the enormous undertaking that is philosophy; such a person supposes that philosophy is able to
present the truth concerning a universal conception, preferably within the confines of one book in the way that a scientist can present,
within a relatively short space of time, say, a theory on heat or on genetics. The closest that philosophy comes to applying the term
'false' is in the context of claims, to remove something from a content on account of some features that are incompatible; such excisions
are mostly incidental, accompanied by many an 'either' 'or' and have a formal or logical character rather than pertaining to the seminal
kernel of a proposition.
The logical aspect of philosophical propositions, the 'proof', as also the 'definition' constitute an independent judgment, subject to
specific criteria, the criteria of logic; it is possible, in some measure, to separate this aspect from the content of a philosophical
proposition. For instance, the conception of a realist universal or of a Platonic idea lend themselves to a variety of definitions -
Plato discusses the logical difficulties that arise out of a given definition of the doctrine of ideas in his Parmenides - discussing
these will never lead to judgments on the seminal kernel of the theory, as we intend to show when we discuss the development of this
particular conception. In philosophy, logic comes closest to the special sciences; therefore it is possible to have formal arguments
and refutations within philosophy in areas of pure logic; content and non-formal theses remain unaffected by that fact.
Examples of conceptions of content are: a rung on the ladder of being (such as empirical and trans-empirical existence), realist universals,
the oneness of life in the world, a universal consciousness, universal substance, etc. Examples of logical operations are: 'proofs' of
various kinds, such as that immortality is based on the soul being simple (not complex); also much theory and method in epistemology.
Kantian antinomies belong in this category; they are meant to prove the unknowability of reality outside of experience. i.e. outside of
appearance. They do not prove this unknowability because the contradiction on which they are based is purely logic and formal, or rather,
it is semi-mathematical and, as such, handles the concept of infinity in a wholly inadequate way, one that allows for any number of
In fact, thesis and antithesis apply to concepts where the component of representation is either lacking or is disregarded. Given this
lack or this indifference to the moment of representation in concepts or near-concepts that describe matters beyond experience (as do the
concepts of antinomies, as do 'world', 'absolutely necessary being'), one ought not to draw conclusions as to all matters beyond experience.
Such a step is the more hasty as the relation of concepts, in particular these concepts, to their potential for representation or to a
representation that corresponds to them, has never been examined; never mind that it has even been seen as the basis for the assertion that
non-empirical reality is unknowable, when absence of representation is presented as arguing their unknowability.
Even if an 'absolutely necessary being' does not require the attribute of representation in any way whatsoever, that may not be the case for
other concepts beyond experience; we intend to show that this is so. It then follows that the argument of contradiction falls away aand with
it the consequent proposition that all trans-empirical reality is unknowable; nor do we see a systematic consistency in the critique of concepts
pertaining to that reality.
True and false are designations in propositions with a far wider connotation, although used by philosophy; within philosophy, the terms
are mainly restricted to the area of logic. Indeed, it is not advisable to use the terms 'correct' and 'incorrect' with reference to content
that is of a pure philosophical nature. It so happens that, as a result of recent developments in intellectual history, true and false have
come to be out of favour as designating philosophical conceptions, though this has come about in an illegitimate way. The particular historical
perspective that obtains to-day does, indeed, refrain from using the stamp 'true' or 'false' for past ideas in philosophy. One will hardly,
to-day, find a 'refutation' of, say, neo-Platonism or Fichte's concept of world-ego (?) or the doctrine of monads, not because anyone sees these
as in any way true, but because we see them as no longer applicable; we simply see them as 'interesting' historically. The truth or otherwise
of these positions is not argued, because they are not seen as worth refuting. We believe that 'much that is true' has been said, but that
truth only constitutes a single, thin, intermittent and temporal line which ends up as part of our own convictions, a line that is distinct
from a broader area of things opposite and untenable. Deep down, we are inclined to think that there is a great deal more false than true here,
however characteristic and important we may see these conceptions or fanciful conceptions to be. That past thinking - always excepting logic -
is not given the label 'false' is not because that would be incorrect, but because of our sense of superiority.
Our viewpoint is different. We believe that, content-wise, more or less everything persists that has come into human consciousness; we think
that to argue the evidence of contradictions is wholly inadequate, given the immensity of universal subject-matter. There is a profound truth
in Spinoza's statement, 'There is nothing positive in ideas that would make us call them false'. What makes these conceptions unsatisfactory is
not their content, but that which is not in their content; as also those of their aspects that do not allow them to fit into a wider context or
into a deeper synthesis - they cannot be 'cancelled out' there, in Hegelian terms.
However, in this sense, almost all conceptions are capable of developing. They are unsatisfactory, not in themselves, but on account of
aspects that can be taken as being independent and are only recognisable as facets of things once they come into play with the rest. Everything
that has ever occurred to human thought is present, not as 'true' or 'false', but as part of an unfinished outline of an object whose mass and
depth go way beyond our power of survey; so much so that the best, indeed the only image we can have is fragmentary and shadowy; however, the
image can constantly be filled in and be seen as increasingly inter-connected. It may certainly not be discarded.
To sum up: In philosophy, there are propositions that concern the subject-matter of philosophy, the world, being, its vast domain and its
principal conditions; in other words, propositions about facts and about being. There are also propositions that concern knowledge itself,
form, the validity and potential of knowledge ( we can disregard psychology as a transitional area here because specific clarifications allow
for the application of terms in accordance with their current usage). Let us call the two areas the philosophy of being and formal philosophy.
We can say that formal philosophy is the preferred domain of that which is 'true and false', namely logic, epistemology, methodology. The
philosophy of content and fact, the philosophy of being deals with aspects that are, in an extraordinary manner, incomplete and unclear within
the whole and singly; they are hardly subject to the criteria 'true and false'. Everything in this field must be seen as hanging in the balance.
In the domain where true and false are established and handled, it is wholly appropriate to apply them.
There is a somewhat strange general thesis that this situation leaves outside an area where knowledge is not possible. But it is on this
area, the area outside of experience, that the drive to know is essentially focused and where it is most required. Let us call the faculty
directed to this area of knowledge, reason, distinct from intellect, which handles experience. We can then appreciate that a thesis that
claims that reason is inadequate in the field of ontology cannot be sustained. However, it would seem justified to expect a facility of
representation, innate to or associated with the thinking process of reason in order to enable such knowledge. That facility does exist;
it is enabled by philosophical imagination. Imagination is the sense organ of reason. Knowledge of non-empirical reality is not only
possible, it is the real knowledge, not in terms of degrees of clarity, but in terms of essence and importance.