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waymarks for a critical philosophy
prolegomena to a possible metaphysics of process

© Wim van den Dungen

 "Human reason is by nature architectonic,
i.e. it regards all cognitions as parts of a possible system ..."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B501 (A473)

Dedicated to Erik Oger, who, without ado, hit me with the criticism of Kant. Honi soit qui mal y pense !


Chapter 1
 Philosophy : Theory & Practice

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4
A Neurophilosophy of Sensation

Chapter 5
A Philosophy of Mind & Brain

Chapter 6

Chapter 7
Intelligent Wisdom

Chapter 8
Does the Divine exist ?


Is true conceptual knowledge possible ?
Is valid metaphysics possible ?
Does the Divine exist ?

These three questions underline the present exercise in Criticism, organized in eight Chapters. This work serves as a prolegomena to a Metaphysics of Process (2010).

Answering these questions has an irreversible & immediate impact on the unfolding architecture of thought, attributing parameters to its cognitive build-up, adjusting its extensions.

Adjacently, we inquire how rationalism and irrationalism can be defined ? What is a true proposition ? When is an action good ? Or a sensate object beautiful ? How is sensation possible ? How does the mind change and grow ? Does the Divine exist ? Does It necessarily entail a Supreme Being, a Creator-God ? Or does an Author suffice ? An Anima Mundi ?

1. Normative philosophy.

Criticism plots clear & functional demarcations between philosophy and science, between valid & invalid propositions, between science & metaphysics. It is not dogmatic (positing a truth without good reasons), nor skeptical (negating with dogma's in disguise). It is not eternalist (rooting thought in the eternal & the permanent), nor nihilist (clearing thought from all positive, permanent spheres, only inviting the impermanent, the fugal & the transient). It tries to define borders, mark them, signal their presence, designating the necessary conditions of thought, knowledge, goodness & beauty. It has relinquished real or ideal concept-realism, is thoroughly nominalistic and anti-foundational.

Valid empirico-formal propositions are considered to be true by all concerned sign-interpreters, but this truth is only conventional and in no way a priori identical with absolute truth, namely the ultimate, noumenal nature of phenomena. This conventional truth is established by the application of the "realism" of experimental work, listening to the monologue of Nature hand in hand with the "idealism" of theoretical work & dialogue, argueing with all concerned to reach consensus.

Normative philosophy uncovers a set of principles, norms & maxims in epistemology, ethics and esthetics, summarized by Immanuel Kant in his famous three questions :

Epistemology  : What can I know ?
Ethics : What must I do ?
Esthetics : What can I hope ?

This in-depth delving into the conditions of cognition does not produce facts, which is the exclusive arena of the empirico-formal sciences, but generates insights into the conditions of the production of facts. Normative philosophy is not a science.

Nevertheless, transcendental analysis & synthesis imply a meta-science of science, critically discovering (unearthing) the principles, norms & maxims of possible thought & knowledge. These rules are indeed not random and impermanent, but express regularity on the side of the subject of thought. Because normative philosophy cannot change these self-evident discoveries, it must -saving the possibility of thought from any harm- confront, without the ability to alter them, the conditions pointed out by this transcendental work. These conditions are the "meta-facts" of meta-science, giving normative philosophy what the imperative side of the discipline needs.

This said, note normative philosophy is a special meta-science, not one taking part in a possible description of the world, but actively pointing out the demarcations necessary to do so. The application of these normative rules keeps the boundaries of valid thought, knowledge, action & sensation intact. Insofar this critical function is properly applied, creative issues may rise, pointing to "the other side", to the unknown. Then, this meta-science of science is the discipline channelling valid speculative creativity. This acts as a vitalizing heuristic for the empirico-formal sciences dealing with actual facts. The latter are produced by way of monologue with Nature and by way of dialogue with all concerned sign-interpreters, i.e. intersubjective consciousnesses delineating states of matter sealed by meaningful regularities, conditions & determinations.

Normative philosophy aims to reflect the necessary conditions of truth, goodness & beauty. This is the normative, transcendental (not transcendent) pole of the discipline of philosophy, characterized by theory (normative & descriptive philosophy) and practice (philosophy of the practice of philosophy). Transcendental insights call for a logic of the meta-level, manifesting what has always been done by scientists (producing facts), moralists (doing good) & artists (making beauty).

As a normative meta-science, philosophy discovers the principles, norms & maxims involved in the production of true knowledge (epistemology - Chapter 2), good actions (ethics - Chapter 3) and beautiful sensate object, in casu works of art (esthetics - Chapter 5).

Of these three, epistemology comes first, for by knowing the true possibilities of cognition, we are equipped to designate all other possible cognitive activities and the multitude of views these bring about. Each of these has proper distinctions, proposing demarcations and establishing landmarks, keeping relative, conventional reality and absolute, ultimate reality apart, but also together. Criticism is there to establish & sustain borders, frontiers, thresholds, not to abolish or negate them.

2. The descriptive speculations of (immanent) metaphysics.

Why is there something rather than nothing ?
What about the cosmos ?
How did life become possible ?
What is consciousness ?

Traditional philosophy aimed at wisdom, revealing the true nature of reality, the question of being. This ultimate, absolute nature of all phenomena was deemed knowable in conceptual terms, in knowledge unveiling the substantial, essential core of things. This heart of the matter remained identical with itself, permanent and established its nature from its own side, independent of all other substances. In Plato's World of Ideas, a hierarchy of such substances emerged, with "the Good" as summum bonum.

Indeed, the descriptive metaphysical intent of traditional philosophy was not restrained by its normative side. Moreover, ideas about the nature of reality preceded epistemology, rooting knowledge in a sufficient ground outside knowledge, causing the perversion of reason (cf. Chapter 2).

Criticism corrects this mistake, and so the study of existence is impossible without a painstakingly careful and accurate investigation of the limitations of our capacity to know. This thoroughness invokes the distinction between immanent and transcendent metaphysics, between (a) an arguable, untestable, totalizing picture of the world, assisted by logic and the facts produced by science and (b) untestable and unarguable statements. Immanent metaphysics is not scientific but speculative, its results are not factual but heuristic, its method is not experimental but argumentative.

3. The poetical speculations of transcendent metaphysics.

Questions regarding the totality & infinity of things may be approached in two ways : either one may take logic & the results of science into account, or, one may try to say something about the ineffable, about which only silence is gold, and explain "the world" from this "higher" perspective. The first approach is conventional & immanent, the second absolute & transcendent. Insofar creative conceptual thought is used to eliminate conceptuality (as in ultimate analysis), immanent metaphysics assists in introducing transcendence. It focuses on the functional interdependence of things, while transcendent metaphysics articulates their un-saying beyond conceptualization. Therefore, it can be nothing more than speculative poetry.

To facilitate answering the question of Divine existence (Chapter 8), a relative treatment of the subject, i.e. one posited from the perspective of a single theological system of beliefs, is avoided. The word "Divine" is extended beyond the exclusive milieu of Abrahamic monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). We ask not : "Does the God of Abraham exist ?", "Does the God of Akhenaten exist ?", "Does the God of Shankara exist ?", etc. but : "Does the Divine exist ?".

My first philosophical text, written in Dutch in 1981, was entitled : Schetsen van een Absurde Wereldbeschouwing (Sketches of an Absurd World View). It was rather absurdist & nihilist. At that time, studying Applied Economics, I got taken by this love of wisdom. In 1984, just before receiving my second bachelor's degree, College Tractaat (College Tractate) was written. The nihilist view was out and the urge to manifest a philosophical system poignant.

In 1987, my Proto-Tractatus Logico-Comicus emerged. This English text sketched the contours of this system-to-be.  In 1992, integrating mysticology, the Tractatus Logico Trago-Comicus emerged. Besides a considerable reorganization of themes, this text pointed to decennia of study ahead. In both works, the principle of the non-reduciblility of the cosmic operators matter, information & consciousness pertains. From 1993 onward, my Dutch Studies were privately published in book-format (a total of 2064 pages).

Around 1995, the issue of being read, and therefore interact with a community of sign-interpreters, was solved by the WWW. From the 9th of April 1996 onward, my ongoing Studies in Philosophy were and have continued to be freely available on the internet. This is rather unique.

Between 2005 & 2007, the chapters of the present text were published as a series of separate, hyperlinked papers. Reworked, they are brought together here as a single text.

Chapter 1 : www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/philo_study.htm
Chapter 2 : www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/clearings.htm
Chapter 3 : www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/behaviours.htm
Chapter 4 : http://neuro.sofiatopia.org/brainmind_sensation.htm

Chapter 5 : www.neuro.sofiatopia.org/brainmind_philo.htm
Chapter 6 : www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/sensations.htm
Chapter 7 : www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/intelligent_wisdom.htm
Chapter 8 : www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/divine.htm

Chapter 1 maps the discipline of philosophy. Besides the theoretical approach cherished by the academia, the practice of philosophy is also given space. The theory of philosophy is divided in normative & descriptive philosophy. The former involves logic, epistemology, ethics & esthetics, the latter metaphysics, both immanent & transcendent. The practice of philosophy is applying philosophy to the domain of everyday life, providing the discipline its vital input.

Chapter 2 is about critical epistemology. Rooted in transcendental logic, unveiling the principles of thought, theoretical epistemology unearths the objective & subjective norms covering the possibility & expansion of true knowledge. These define science as producing fallible but valid empirico-formal propositions by way of methodical experiments & discourses. By contrast, metaphysics is fallible & non-empirical. The validity of its propositions is established by way of arguments only. Irrationality is then invalid metaphysics, or the set of non-empirical, unarguable propositions, often blatantly producing contradictions. Theoretical epistemology, unearthing the Quid Iuris ?, the statute aspect of the study of knowledge, is complemented by the question Quid Factis ?, the casus aspect. To the "theoretical" a priori norms are added the "practical" a posteriori rules of thumb of a particular research-cel. An opportunistic logic is at work and "as if" methodologies are adopted. Facts are produced by confronting experiments with theory and vice versa. Theory co-generates the observed facts and facts point to necessary changes in theory. In the manifacture of knowledge, the dynamism of this process is pivotal.

Chapter 3 deals with critical ethics. Rooted in transcendental logic, demonstrating the necessity of coordinated movement and the presence of conscious intent a priori, theoretical ethics unearths the objective & subjective norms ruling the possibility & realization of goodness. Ethics, aiming at good behaviour, is a normative system, implying a quaternio of factors : intent, duty, conscience & calling. On the side of the subject of ethics, intent & conscience define the private, personal aspect of ethics. Objectively, duty & calling rule public life. Practical ethics or morality is an application of these norms. Maxims covering persons, health, family, property, the secular state & death ensue.

Chapter 4 studies the neurophilosophy of sensation, preluding the study of beauty. This is needed for two reasons. Firstly, science is defined as "empirico-formal", stressing the importance of the senses, the substantial causes, so we must think, of the changes caused by the stimulation of the sensitive surfaces of the receptive parts of the sensory organs, by an outer chemical (smell & taste), mechanical & chemical (touch), mechanical (audition) or electromagnetic (sight) source. Perception (the work of the senses) and sensation (the work of the neocortex) are not identical. Conventional truth always calls for symbolization (designation, imputation), and so P(erception) = S(ensation) . C(onceptual)I(nterpretation), with CI ≠ 1, pertaining. Secondly, sensate objects are the object of esthetics. Without clearly defining their status beforehand, no progress in understanding beauty can be made.

In Chapter 5, the philosophy of neurology is at hand, focusing on a panexperiential settlement of the brain/mind-problem.

Chapter 6 brings in critical esthetics. Rooted in the transcendental logic of creativity, positing sensate objects and a creative subject bringing about excellence of craft worthy of imitation, theoretical esthetics delimits both subject & object of esthetics, differentiating between the pleasant, the satisfying and the tasteful. The latter gives rise to excellence, exemplarity & sublimity. By the power of their esthetic meaning, exquisite sensate objects are excellent. As examples of the rules of harmony they are exemplary. Pointing to a totalizing integration they are sublime, integrating disharmonization at a higher level. Applied esthetics is the study of the factors of creativity and the way the keys of harmony emerge in practice. Noted are : objective, subjective, social, personal, revolutionary, psycho-dynamic, holistic & magisterial art.

Chapter 7, sketching the cognitive continuum from myth to nondual thought, brings the foregoing together. Human cognition is a dynamical process involving "instinct", "reason" & "intuition". Instinct or ante-rationality (cognition at work before the advent of reason) is stratified. First there is myth and its notions. These are, by absence of concepts, irrational. Then the pre-concept of pre-rationality arises and after this the concrete concept of proto-rational thought. Despite local exceptions, ante-rationality is typical for pre-Hellenistic Antiquity as a whole. Reason or rationality, initiated by the Greeks, calls for formal and critical thought. The former is able to decontextualize, while the latter is transcendental. Intuition or meta-rationality is the domain of creative thought, the mode of cognition prevalent in immanent metaphysics. Valid metaphysics is the heuristic of science, and answers the three fundamental questions of immanence : Why something rather than nothing ? How did life come about ? What is consciousness ? The intuitions of transcendent metaphysics, moving beyond the world, are nondual and so ineffable. Anything said at this level is, at best, sublime poetry. The difference with irrationality is not a concept. Direct, nondual cognition of the absolute is possible.

In Chapter 8, to answer the question "Does the Divine exist ?" the various historical "proofs of God" are studied. The a priori argument is based on the ontology of the supposed "nexus" between, on the one hand, intra-mental universals and, on the other hand, an extra-mental, absolute, ultimate reality or "Being" ("Dasein"). In this semantic adualism, the word "existence" does more than only instantiate the whole set of characteristics attributed to an object. Although nominalism requires "existence" cannot be a predicate, this Platonic ontology deems otherwise. As nominalism is consistent with criticism & science, the ontological proof of the Divine fails. The a posteriori arguments also fail insofar they work with an infinite regress in time (horizontal). As infinite time was deemed impossible, the sequence had to end by jumping outside the limitations of possible knowledge, positing a transcendent Being, explaining begin & end by the extra-mundane (root the relative in the absolute). If and only if the infinity of all objects hic et nunc is posited, a blatant absurdity, can an immanent First Conserving Cause be logically rejected. Moreover, only by adhering to permanent mathematical miracles can certain features of the design of the world be explained without an immanent, Intelligent Designer or "Anima Mundi" ... Conservation and design are valid grounds for a possible religious philosophy. Can a direct experience of this Soul of the World be accommodated ? Or should be only know how to properly Wait ?

This book serves as a prolegomena to my Critique of a Metaphysics of Process. The latter ends what started three decennia ago.

Wim van den Dungen
Antwerp, the 12th of September 2011.

Chapter 1

Philosophy : Theory & Practice

"for what the natural light shows to be true can be in no degree doubtful ..."
Descartes : Meditations, III.9, my italics.


I : The Spirit and Way of Life of the Philosopher.
01. Ancient Egyptian sapience.
02. Greek spiritual exercises.
03. Christian philosophy ?
04. Montaigne & Descartes.
05. Kant and the "Copernican Revolution".
06. From the academy to Achenbach & C°.
07. The philosophy of spiritual exercises.

II : A Critical Approach of Philosophy.

08. Pre-critical substantialism.
09. The subject of sensation, action, affect & thought.
10. Determined & nondetermined events.
11. Normative philosophy : cognition, behaviour & sensation.
12. Descriptive philosophy : the world, life, man & the Divine.
13. Applied philosophy.
14. Towards a practicum of philosophy.

Suggested Reading

I : The Spirit and Way of Life of the Philosopher.

Pushed by the love of wisdom, the philosopher is called to think, feel & act in a way serving philosophy to the full measure of his capacities. Whatever happens, philosophical activity must be ongoing. This calls for a discipline of its own.

The shipwreck of philosophy being a total loss, there are some who claim such a path no longer exists. Obviously, for humans, this can never be so, for thoughts, feelings and actions always lead to ideas regarding the world -its existence, life & consciousness- and the transcendent.

In the thesis advanced here, theory and practice of philosophy form a unity. Integral part of society, the practice of philosophy is an integral part of the philosophical life. This life involves theory, practice and spirituality.

For different reasons, the sapiental "systems" of Antiquity cherished an organic, natural wisdom. Their leading notion of the Golden Mean, the middle between all extremes (of thought, emotion and action), is present in Egypt (cf. the Balance of Maat), in Judaism (cf. Qoheleth, 7, 15-18), in Greece (cf. Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics), in Christian philosophy (cf. Boethius in The Consolation of Philosophy) and in Islam (Koran 25:67). It can also be found in Taoism, Hinduism & Buddhism. In all these traditions, wisdom has "the other answer" escaping conceptual thought. Wisdom is found when extremes are avoided and the true nature of things is perceived. Limiting ourselves to the Mediterranean civilizations, let us trace the highlights of this wisdom.

The use of capitals in words like "Absolute", "God" or "Divine" points to abstraction and reason. Hence, throughout this book, in the context of ante-rational thought, words such as "god", "the god", "gods", "goddesses", "pantheon" or "divine" are not capitalized.

01. Ancient Egyptian sapience.

In Ancient Egypt, ca. 2.300 BCE, the wisdom of the divine king of Egypt ruled. The uncorrupted, original text of the main ritual of this wise Horus-king was carved in stone and, for over 4 millennia, left untouched (cf. Cannibal Hymn in the Pyramid texts of Unas). This divine king was the "power of powers", the "image of images", the "slayer of the gods". He spoke the Great Word.

The direct influence of Egyptian sapience on Greek philosophy, affirmed by more than one classical writer, can be argued. The "Greek miracle" is unmistaken. Introducing formal thought, the Greeks worked with abstract connections between systems of concepts & meta-concepts, and used their inquisitive mind to seek the harmony between theory & practice. But like all other pre-Greek civilizations, Ancient Egypt thought never decontextualized its concepts, and so could not operate the advantage of meta-concepts and formal architectures between concepts and series of meta-concepts (C, C", C'" ... ). Because of the power of rationality, it took ca. six centuries of Hellenization to identify the ante-rational mentality, solving problems by raising Mediterranean thought to the level of the formal operations (cf. Chapter 2).

In the Ptolemaic Period, the Greeks reshaped Egypt. Mixing Egyptian thought with their own philosophies, they created new, original mystery cults (cf. the popular Cult of Serapis and esoteric Hermetism). The Greek Corpus Hermeticum influenced Christian as well as Islam theology, while Coptic (the last stage of Ancient Egyptian) remained the liturgical language of the Egyptian Coptic Church. The latter adopted its own, original interpretation of the nature of Jesus Christ.

"Along with the Sumerians, the Egyptians deliver our earliest -though by no means primitive- evidence of human thought. It is thus appropriate to characterize Egyptian thought as the beginning of philosophy. As far back as the third millennium B.C., the Egyptians were concerned with questions that return in later European philosophy and that remain unanswered even today - questions about being and nonbeing, about the meaning of death, about the nature of the cosmos and man, about the essence of time, about the basis of human society and the legitimation of power."
Hornung, 1992, p.13, my italics.

Prince Hordedef, son of king Khufu (ca. 2571 - 2548 BCE), vizier Kagemni, serving under kings Huni & Snefru, ca. 2600 BCE, and vizier Ptahhotep (ca. 2200 BCE) were the first men on record to have "lived their wisdom".

This "sAt, "sAA" or "sArt", representing the rule of Maat (justice & truth), animated more than 2000 years of Egyptian sapiental literature.

The Instruction of Hordedef (ca.2487 - 2348 BCE, fragment)
Instructions of Kagemni (ca.2348 - 2205 BCE, fragment)
The Maxims of Ptahhotep (ca.2200 BCE, complete)
The Instruction to Merikare (ca.2160 - ?, incomplete)
The Instruction of Amenemhat (ca.1919 - 1875 BCE, nearly complete)
The Instruction of Amen-em-apt (ca. 1292 - 1075 BCE, complete)

The manuscripts of Ptahhotep (ca. 2200 BCE) and Amen-em-apt (ca. 1200 BCE), both complete, represent beginning and end of the "royal" sapiental tradition. After Amen-em-apt, more popular, less elitist forms of discourses take over, and the texts are no longer available in hieroglyphs or cursive hieroglyphs (but in Demotic & Coptic). With the end of the New Kingdom (ca. 1075 BCE), it took Pharaonic Egypt another thousand years to cease.

In Egypt, ritual and devotion were always part of these sapiental discourses, for the wise was loved by the deities, the million faces of the Great One Alone (cf. the New Kingdom theologies of Ptah & Amun).

In Ancient Egypt, between ca. 3000 and 1800 BCE, five major state theologies emerged. Their literature was always linked to a deity, its temple and province (nome) : Osiris for Abydos, Re-Atum for Heliopolis, Thoth for Hermopolis, Ptah for Memphis and Amun for Thebes. In the New Kingdom, Amun, the "king of the gods" manifested as a body (Ptah) in Memphis, as divine speech (Thoth) in Hermopolis and as divine power (Re) in Heliopolis. He was deemed "one & millions", before and beyond the deities. Despite the sophistication of this Theban answer, the fundamental paradox between unity (one) & plurality (many) cannot be solved in proto-rational terms, for the system of relationships is not formal but concrete (applied). Godhead remained confused, for bound by the limitations of the "field-of-action" of each deity.

Ancient Egypt culture never adopted decontextualized, formal, theoretical rules. In theological terms, the deities always operated together, in constellations or groupings. Connections between other "families" were established as in myth, and regularly reenacted. The divine king was a very special "god", for his spirit (Akh) was on Earth, not where it belonged, namely in the "sky" of Re, its father. Because of the divine presence of the king, equilibrating truth & justice (Maat), the Nile was "good" and the deities could interact with the living.

When the first formal operations emerged in the minds of the Egyptian royal elite, namely decades before and under the 18-year rule of Akhenaten (ca. 1353 - 1336 BCE), they were swiftly erased from cultural memory, becoming a subreptive stream of "forbidden" literary themes and images (cf. Assmann, 1999). The monotheist singularity of sorts of the Aten, before, above & against other deities, could not be accepted by the Egyptians. The "mechanism" of their spirituality could not overthrow the Duat and Osiris.

The presence of an ante-rational sapiental tradition is attested as early as the Old Kingdom. Was Egyptian wisdom the flower or fruit of Ancient Egyptian spiritual practices and rituals ? Did it attain the level of excellent exemplarity within the boundaries of a profound closure of millennia of proto-rational thinking ?

02. Greek spiritual exercises.

Both in Egypt and Greece, the wise fostered an integrated approach of wisdom. They knew how to apply sapience in everyday life (practical philosophy, "praxis"). Moreover, their spiritual exercise addressed both cognition, affect, volition and sensation. These skillful means allowed philosophers to "orient themselves in thought, in the life of the city, or in the world" (Hadot, 1995, p.21.).

"The Socratic maxim 'know thyself' requires a relation of the self to itself that 'constitutes the basis of all spiritual exercises'. Every spiritual exercise is dialogical insofar as it is an 'exercise of authentic presence' of the self to itself, and of the self to others."
Hadot, 1995, p.20.

The particulars of the Greek style involved more than youth, keen interest, opportunism, individualism and anthropocentrism. With the introduction of formal thought and its application to the major problems of philosophy (truth, goodness, beauty & the origin of the world, life and the human), a completely new kind of sapiental thinking was set afoot. Theory, linearization and abstraction were discovered and applied to the new Greek mentality. The immediate was objectified in discursive terms, and this in a script symbolizing vowels.

As Indo-Europeans, the Ionians had a couple of typical features of their own :

  • individuality / authority ;

  • exploring mentality ;

  • unique dynamical script ; 

  • linearizing, geometrizing mentality ;

  • anthropomorphic theology.

Starting with the Ionians, in particular Pythagoras (ca. 580 BCE - ca. 500, Metapontum, Lucania), philosophy was a way of life summoning the person as a whole. Although in Greece cognition was privileged, philosophy also implied the training of affects, volitions & sensations (cf. the four elements of creation). Moreover, to effectively master these, a lot of effort was required. Besides cognitive tasks, imagination, music, ritual, meditation, martial arts, dance, singing, role-playing etc. were also practiced, addressing the entire spirit and "one's whole way of being" (Hadot, 1995, p.21.). This "intuitive" aspect of Greek philosophy is visible in the mysteries, with its integration of poetry, dance & song.

After the Persian Wars, starting with the Sophists, Greek philosophy displayed the supremacy of reason & the subsequent liberation of thought from immediate context & geosentimentalities. Before, ante-rationality ruled and the latter had always been bound to its milieu. Greek civilization changed all of this forever. With the introduction of abstraction, thought was finally liberated from its trusted local horizon, envisaging a "global" perspective. This is grasping at a universal, a "genus" instead of a "species", i.e. a non-concrete, abstract, decontextualized, formal concept, acting as a meta-concept for all possible concrete concepts (namely those ruling ante-rationality). This new élan of Hellenism embraced all nations and dreamt of a Greek pan-humanism, and later a Pax Romana.

Formal rationality is abstract and able to overstep the limits of old. It needs no references outside its own conceptualized duality of a knowing subject and an object known. Applying labels on a previously coded incoming primary data-stream, transforming "perception" into "sensation" (cf. Chapter 4), the conceptualizing mind creates and maintains a difference between object-possessor (the subject) and mental and/or sensate events (the object).

The "young" Greeks emerged out of their Dark Age as curious individualists able to make fundamental abstractions. Moreover, most pre-Socratics were also travelers & wanderers, eager to investigate other cultures. The emergence of the city-state and colonization walked hand in hand.

The emerging Greek mysteries, contrary to the Egyptian, aim at the illumination of thought through the bridling of emotions & uncontrolled volitions, and this while the body remained passive. Greek spiritual practices point to the transformation of one's view of the world, deemed possible only after a radical subjective change. In Greek philosophy, reason is nearly always placed above passion & volition. Conscious mental states master sensate, affective & volitive states.

For Plato, the way of life of a philosopher was given with Socrates (470 - 399 BCE), the only "prophet" the Greeks produced. He sought universal, eternal truths by way of dialogue, criticizing established views and inviting his listeners to discover the truth by the use of their own minds. Although Socrates is Plato's great example, his own philosophy had two aims : the transcendent and the political. Not only did the wise participate in the world of ideas, but he does so to return to the world to liberate and remind people of their original, transcendent origin (cf. the allegory of the cave in book VII of The Republic).

Plato, an Athenian aristocrat, depicts the philosopher as a liberator, a king who guides his own out of the cave of shadows & illusions. As such, the physical world of becoming is rejected. Impermanent, not as it appears, it is a discontinuity tending towards chaos, giving in to the everlasting yawning space of oblivion. In humans, this manifests as a display of afflictive passions, affects, emotions and negative volitions.

For those gone astray, the philosopher is a wandering light  ... He participates in a higher world and so for those caught in illusions, his wisdom is salvation. Hence, the human needs to "build" himself in the light of who he truly was, is and always will be. The Platonic school tries to help people remember their Divine, transcendent essence, existing from their own side.

The process of institutionalization, starting with the Eleatics, had run its course. With Plato, the first comprehensive "system-school" emerged ; a graded, gradual approach scattered in a corpus of dialogues. In it, formal thought had duly linearized "the life of a philosopher". It had, in effect reduced "practical philosophy" to teaching, writing & politics. After Plato, Greek philosophy remained school-bound and in tune with power. Although we remember Plato for his "spiritualism" (or idealism), it should be clear his interests lay in the organization of the "perfect" city-state, one which would allow its citizens to "escape" the shadows and turn towards the light of their own substantial and eternal "idea" or substance : the World of Ideas, eternal and ruled by the Idea of the Good.

Let us return to Socrates, who wrote nothing and is described by Plato, Xenophon & Aristophanes. We hear of an original, unique, civilized but non-conformist individualist, ironical, brave, dispassionate and impossible to classify, belonging to no school. In this person, the ideal of Greek philosophy seems fully embodied, and what Socrates teaches, allows, in terms of Hellenistic culture, this characterization of philosophy :

1. philosophy is a radical, uncompromising, authentic search for understanding, insight & wisdom ;
2. philosophy is never an intellectual, optional "game", but demands the enthusiast arousal of all faculties, addressing the "complete" human and giving birth to a practice of philosophy ;
3. philosophy equals relative, conventional, approximate truth, but never absolute truth. Greek philosophy, accepting meta-rational intuition, never eliminates reason.

For Socrates, the practice of philosophy helps to understanding the role of the human being as part of the "polis", a designated community. In Plato's dialogues, there is a ongoing bi-directional flow between the issue at hand and Socrates's continuous search for rational answers to fundamental problems by posing questions, opening up the space to new possibilities and creating the conditions for some insight or higher understanding to be born.

The rationality of Socrates was unsystematic, but not confused. Returning to key questions concerning reality, truth, goodness and beauty, gave body to numerous spontaneous conversations. Variations on these themes were common, but their motifs recurrent. Socrates intended not to know more about the good, but wanted knowledge committed to work for the good.

This knowledge of values is charged with affectivity. This explains Socratic determinism : "to know good is to act good". The knowledge of the philosopher is not exclusively abstract, distant and theoretical. For this indifference will never cause me to take it serious. But committed knowledge is taken serious. Born out of insight, born in those standing between intellect and folly (Plato : Symposium, 204 a-b), calling for both reason & intuition, such knowledge is Divine but also dangerous (cf. Plato's Apology).

03. Christian philosophy ?

Although the thinkers of Late Pagan Hellenism (neo-Platonism, Stoicism, Skepticism & Epicurism) had already considerably lost the free spirit of city-states philosophers like Socrates, they continued to seek personal transformation, but more and more failed to find it in terms of Pagan philosophy and its religious practices.

Particularly in Stoicism, language became an independent area of study. Logic was not longer embedded in metaphysics, but a science of language, or linguistics. Physics studies things ("pragmata" or "res"'), whereas dialectica and grammatica study words ("phonai" or "voces").

"Messianism or millenarianism is the belief in the imminent arrival of a new order or millennium of harmony and justice when the Messiah and the saints 'go marching in'. It is a frequent response to distress of all sorts, but especially to military conquest and economic and cultural dominations by foreigners. Indeed, the idea that some outside force will sweep down and overthrow the present illegitimate rulers so that 'the first shall be last and the last shall be first' has been fundamental to Judaism, at least since the captivity in Babylon in the 6th century BC. It is clear, however, that this feeling intensified after about 50 BC and was very prominent for the next 200 years ; furthermore, the sense of apocalypse was not restricted to Jews. The crisis can be partially explained by a number of political and economic changes. There were the unprecedented success of the Romans in uniting the Mediterranean, the savage civil wars between the Roman warlords ; and finally, in 31 BC, the establishment of the Roman Empire -often portrayed as a new age- under Augustus."
Bernal, 1987, pp.124-125.

The intellectual climate of Late Hellenism was characterized by a feeling of disquietude and fatalism, and from the beginning of the 4th century, a release of talent and creativity is witnessed. The empire was in a deep crisis and the reforms of Diocletianus (284 - 305) tried to "solve" the issues by transforming the Roman civil state into a despotic empire (he professionalized the army, introduced a hierarchical bureaucracy, raised the taxes and put into place a repressive legal system and a secret state police, the "agentes in rebus", as Augustine would call them). These changes were consolidated by Constantine the Great (306 - 337), who adopted Christianity as the ideology of the state, turning the monarchy, by introducing hereditary succession, into a system ruled by the grace of the God of Christ (he himself was baptized on his dead bed). After Theodosius I (346 - 395), the "imperator Christianissimus", the empire was divided and the Western part was invaded by the "barbarians" ... In the East, the Byzantines recovered from the Gothic inroad and, throwing back the Persians and the Arabs, they would hold out until 1453.

In Late Hellenism, Christianity represents the new view on the world, man & salvation, advancing parallels to Paganism, but outstripping the latter in ultimate rejection of the classical concepts. As early as 95 AD, Roman centrists as Clement I defined Papal authority, and by the time of Constantine, Greek philosophy is used to solve major theological disputes (namely those concerning the nature of Christ).

Gathering bishops to solve problems had been done before. Especially to counter early heresies (choices unacceptable to the orthodox Christian centrists) and the rapid rise of counter-churches, "regular" bishops deliberated together (the so-called "synod" or "concilium") to constitute a dogma (the first Catholic synods were as early as 197, 256 & 314 CE). Episcopalism was born. This episcopalism would be the political tool used to realize the "universal" church of Christ.

The first "holy" synod, held under the aegis of emperor Constantine in 325 CE (Nicænum), initiated a deposit of faith, a magister and a "sacred" tradition to be kept by the Papal court. Curialism was born. Next, Catholic dogma would rule all higher learning for more than a millennium.

Indeed, a synod of only ca. 220 bishops (i.e. a small fraction of the total episcopate !), was urged by Constantine in person to canonize dogma's pertaining to the nature of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. Regarding this nature of Christ, a lot of serious conflicts had arisen between the Roman position and the bishops of the East. These problems pertained to the relation of Jesus Christ to God (Trinitarian) and to the two natures of Christ (Christological). This clever "spiritual putch" would eternalize the Roman view and save imperialism.

Was Christ "created" ("factum") or "generated" ("natum") ? If created, Christ is the subordinate of the Father and therefore not God as He is. The substance of "1" (unity) differs from the substance of "2" (duality). If generated, Christ, born out of the Father, was, is and will always be part of the Father and so in the same way "God" as He is. How to understand this God-status of Jesus Christ ?

Tritheism (Father, Son & Holy Ghost as three independent Gods) & modalism (One God with three Divine modi) had to be refuted. The canons reached at during the ancient synods had to solve the spirito-political tensions between the bishops and to allow the imperial order to identify with an evangelical "Divine" order. Jesus Christ, the Son, was deemed "generated" not "created", born out of the Father and consubstantial ("homoousios") with Him. The Holy Spirit came from the Father and the Son (in the East, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only and the phrase "and the Son" or "filioque" is absent). Compromizes such as "analogous in all with the Father" or "resembling the Father in being" ("homoiousios") were rejected.

The Roman Trinitarian formula became : "one essence and three Divine Persons". This Nicæan formula became the leading dogma of the Roman Church.

When concentrating on the Person of Christ, parties disagreed about the proper balance between Christ's humanity and His Divinity. Too much humanity could loosen the ontological bond with the Father (as "God" -like the Father- or as First Creation next to Him). Too much Divinity could endanger universal redemption in the name of the Godman Christ. Deny His humanity and our bond with Him as Son of Man is gone. Deny His Divinity and Christ can no longer save us, but only the Father can.

In the Latin West, the formula : "One Divine Person with two natures (human & Divine)", became the ruling formula promulgated by Constantine's bishops.

The Council of Nicea, deciding in favour of co-substantialism, the two natures of Christ, and the Filioque, effectively divided Christianity, allowing each to position its own theological system.

"Credimus in unum Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Dei, natum ex Patre unigenitum, hoc est de substantia Patris, Deum ex Deo, lumen ex lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, natum, non factum, unius substantiae cum Padre ..."
19th of June AD 325 - my italics

Compared to Paganism, Christianity adopted four major novelties :

  1. the idea of a World Savior:
    a perfect human and a perfect God, called "Jesus Christ", lived, died and rose again within historical time, acting as a savior-figure, founding a totally new cult ;

  2. the theology of the person :
    humans are persons endowed with a free will and so able to make a positive choice. To find salvation, the despondent men of the empire could come one by one ;

  3. the spiritual equality of all humans :
    although the social system distinguished ever more sharply between aristocrats and commoners, the new religion offered salvation to all human beings ;

  4. the emperor as the protector of the new order :
    already at the end of the first century, Clement I had stressed the centrist approach and placed himself at the head of the Church of Christ (for Rome "had the bones" of Peter & Paul). Constantine would finalize this move, and declare himself as the protector of the Universal (Catholic) Church, while manipulating the outcome of crucial Christocentric & Trinitarian issues.

With Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335 - 399), Gregory of Nazianzus (329 - 389), Basil of Caesarea (ca. 329 - 379) and Augustine (354 - 430), etc. we see the emergence of a Christian philosophical school, raising the issues of Platonic and neo-Platonic thought and dealing with them in terms of Christian theology. They devised the language of Christology and Trinitarism, introducing Greek metaphysics into Christian theology.

From the side of reason, Christian revelation (or any other), cannot define truth. Christian philosophy is either a "Christian" version of philosophy or the philosophy of Christianity. In both cases, the essential tension between revelation & reason remains unsolved.

In a Christian perspective, "spiritual exercises" no longer involve the person as a hermit in his or her own right, but only as a member of the community or church. Without the church, no salvation ! Without a rule, no monastery ! Despite the theology of the person (in fact intended to allow people to make the life-saving choice for Christ and the Catholic Church), individualism was lost and even hermits as the Desert Fathers (in 4th century Upper Egypt), would eventually also become regulated by the centrist bishops (cf. the rise of monastic rules) and emerge in the 9th as a completely regulated "spiritual" life (cf. Cluny). Also, even if monks and nuns (cf. Beatrice of Nazareth, Jan of Ruusbroec) were seeking transformation, this was no longer to find a new wholeness within themselves as themselves, but only insofar as they became, through baptism, the adoptive children of Christ Himself ! Realizing the "imago Dei" was the goal, and without the grace of the Holy Spirit this was deemed impossible.

By contrast, in Greek philosophy in general, and in neo-Platonism in particular, individual efforts were considered to be sufficient to realize wholeness and experience "the One" directly. In Christianity, only Jesus Christ saves. Indeed, persons make a "free choice" to find themselves integrated into the "mystical body of Christ" ! What a difference ! Without Divine grace, nothing could be achieved and man was an easy prey for the Devil and his own (cf. Augustine in his Confessions, who's life coincided with the transition from Late Hellenism to the Christian Middle Ages).

Augustine, the bishop of Hippo (North Africa), affirmed the continuity between rationality (identified with Platonism) and faith, in casu, Christianity. Without (the Christian) God, reason leads to the worship of idols. For him, reason and faith are not in conflict and should not be separated : "itinerarium mentis in Deum". But, the gospels have no philosophy to offer. They provide no rational system, but a proclamation of the "Kingdom of God" (in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ). If the former is a Greek ideal like "agathon" (Plato's "summum bonum") or the Peripatetic unmoved mover, Jesus Christ is a revelation of the Divine : a Divine datum. The tensions are obvious. Is reason equipped enough to arrive at a comprehensive explanation of what works ? If so, then no "eye of faith" needs to be postulated. For Tertullian (ca. 220 CE), Christianity abrogated reason, or "worldly wisdom". He believed because of its absurdity. The folly of faith ?

With the rise of Christianity & its fundamentalism, Greek philosophy and the Pagan way of life were deemed heretical and therefore excommunicated. Hermetism and Gnosticism were condemned. A mentality which would persist for more than 13 centuries, reducing free thought to nil ! Officially, individual spiritual exercises were over and philosophy became the appendix of Christian theology, used for apology & exegesis, i.e. reduced to logic & linguistics. Only as late as 2000 CE did the Roman Church acknowledge these "sins against truth", asking God to forgive her.

Despite this general climate, philosophers did emerge. More than once in open conflict with the powers that be, they evidenced the spontaneous association of thought, feeling and action with their reflections, creating a need to understand the wider perspectives on truth, beauty & goodness, and this while remaining within the confines of Christian faith, often placing faith above reason.

Catholic thinkers such as Augustine, Scotus (ca. 810 - 877), Anselm (1033 - 1109), Abelard (1079 - 1142), Aquinas (1225 - 1274), Ockham (1290 - 1350) and Cusanus (1401 - 1464), contributed to the preservation of many twists & turns of the philosophical mind. Devoid of philosophical practice, they kept & polished the magisterial "dead bones" of the philosophies of Antiquity, adding a few of their own.

04. Montaigne, Descartes, Kant.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Europe developed a new vision of the human. Differing radically from anything before, it became an example for non-Europeans to follow. Eventually, this new ideal conquered the civilized world. Its essential components were :

  • humanism : the human is put in the center and given an ultimate value to which everything else had to be subdued. Egocentrism & the subjugation of nature to the will of the human prevailed ; 

  • focus on the empirical : the transcendent realities of myth and religion are replaced by what the senses bring ;

  • openness : commerce brings the unknown into focus and exploration is of the order of the day, everything is possible and there are no sacred grounds ;

  • pluralism & tolerance : slowly the realization dawned that other people, groups, nations etc. have the right to take their own development at heart ;

  • rationalism & utility : science & technology are deemed crucial to eliminate the difficulties encountered : anticipation, prediction, self-control, efficiency, argumentation etc. become more important ;

  • pretence : the rational, calculating, planning and self-controlling Westerner becomes highly optimistic and develops pride in his enormous achievements, anticipating to become God himself, i.e. achieve immortality on Earth ;

  • democracy : with the French Revolution (1789), a new political consciousness dawned. Divine kingship could no longer be accepted and with its demise the world was again transformed.


With his motto "Que sais-je ?", Montaigne (1533 - 1592) revitalized skepticism and posited cultural relativism. In his Essays (or "Attempts"), he eloquently employed so many references and quotes from classical, non-Christian Greek & Roman authors, in particular Lucretius, that his work may be read as an argument to disregard religious (read : Christian) dogma. More importantly, Montaigne was the first to use introspection to analyze his own thoughts, feelings and actions. This "psychological turn" implied self-discovery and the experience of oneself "as it is", the first step in any attempt to address the totality of faculties. This reinvention of the individual was one of the crucial characteristics of the Renaissance thinkers. Less and less shackled by the constraints of Catholic dogma, they took reason as their guide and rejected blind faith and its fideist impact on thought. As Thomas Aquinas before him, Montaigne considered revealed and natural truth to be in harmony. However, this traditional thesis went hand in hand with skepticism.

In his Apology for Raymond Sebond (1576), Montaigne wrote we can not be sure of anything unless we find the one thing which is absolutely certain. Task was to "watch my self as narrowly as I can". Of course, this is only possible if we place not God, but the human center stage. Montaigne reinvented the practice of philosophy, and instead of focusing on theoretical issues, he tried to understand how human beings can be happy. The quest for happiness is indeed the main theme of any practice of philosophy, for it is common to all human beings.

Montaigne did not reject the Bible. In his introduction to his Apology, we read that without "illumination" reason can understand nothing fundamental about the universe. Duly illuminated, the human can come to know himself, his Creator and his religious and moral duties, which he will then love to fulfill. The method consists of freeing humans from doubts and revealinf the errors of Pagan Antiquity and its unenlightened philosophers. It teaches Catholic truth, showing up sects as errors and lies. It does all these things by teaching the Christian the "alphabet" which must be acquired if one is to read Nature aright. Revealed truths and the Book of Nature properly read say the same things. With this thesis, Montaigne is still firmly grounded in pre-Cartesian thought.

The move from this Renaissance humanism to rationalism was interpreted by Toulmin as rationalism's answer to the initiating force of humanism (cf. Cosmopolis : The Hidden Agenda of Modernity, 1990). The humanists had placed humanity to the fore, and the rationalists continued on this line, for humans were foremost characterized by their cognitive abilities. This "turn" placed epistemology and the question "What do I know ?" in the center. Devoid of revealed, dogmatic knowledge, the Renaissance thinker is forced to find good reasons to justify thought. The three traditional avenues (of ecclesiastical authority, sense data and formal logic) were questioned, and the first was radically rejected. Empirism and rationalism devised two opposed answers to the question of justification, and grounded thought either in sense data or in the necessary truths of reason.


To seek indubitable truth, René Descartes (1596 - 1650) turned to radical methodological doubt. He left the Jesuit college of La Flèche and was ashamed of the amalgam of doubts and errors he had learned there. In fact, he realized his knowledge was based on nothing certain. Traditional scholastic philosophy, influenced by the dogmatic discourse of revealed knowledge, consisted of various contradicting opinions, grosso modo Platonic or Peripatetic. History was a series of moral lessons (cf. Livius) and philosophy was still restricted to logic. The experimental method was absent, and various authorities ("auctoritates") were studied (Galenus, Aristotle, Avicenna, etc.). Aim was to harmonize the magisterial contradictions (cf. the "sic et non" method). In the interpretation of these sources, a certain creativity was at work, but the question of the foundation of knowledge was not posed. However, in the mind of Cartesius, the only constructive point of his education, so the Discourse on Method (1637) tells us, was the discovery of his own ignorance.

This discovery prompted Descartes to reject all prejudices and seek out certain knowledge. This is knowledge justified in an absolute way, i.e. based on a sufficient ground (foundationalism). Nine years he raises doubts about various conjectures and opinions covering the whole range of human activities. Eventually, doubt is raised against three possible sources of knowledge :

  1. authority : in Scholasticism, the system of authority was the only one in place. This authority was based on "revealed" knowledge, deemed eternal, unchangeable and definitive (cf. the revelations of the Torah, the New Testament & the Koran). Historical criticism was absent and epistemologically, the source of revealed knowledge was considered "higher" than rational and empirical knowledge. However, as contradictions between authorities always rise, a higher criterion is needed if the effort to solve these is considered necessary ;

  2. senses : maybe waking experience is just a "dream", a "hallucination" or an "illusion", i.e. something appearing differently than it really is ? By which criterion can both be distinguished ? Is waking a kind of dreaming and dreaming a kind of waking ? Also : the senses give confused information, so a still higher criterion is needed ;

  3. reason : here we have the laws of logic and its "clear & distinct" ideas. How can we be certain some "malin génie" has not created us such, that we accept self-evident reasoning (for example : the triangle has three sides) although we are in reality mislead and in fatal error ? Here Cartesius raises doubt about reason itself. As a rationalist, he tries to "escape" this problem by intuitively positing a criterion of truth (the "clear & distinct" ideas) circle-wise connected with the existence of God. He failed doing so without introducing a circular argument (reminiscent of scholastic fundamentalism).

However far doubt is systematically applied, for Descartes it does not extend to my own existence. Doubt reveals my existence. If, as maintained in the Principles of Philosophy, the word "thought" is defined as all which we are conscious of as operating in us, then understanding, willing, imagining and feeling are included. I can doubt all objects of these activities of consciousness, but that such an activity of consciousness exists, is beyond doubt.

Thus, the "res cogitans", "ego cogitans" or "l'être conscient" is the crucial factor in Cartesian philosophy. Its indubitable, intuitively grasped truth ? Cogito ergo sum : I think, therefore I am. That I doubt certain things may be the case, but the fact that I doubt them, i.e. am engaged in a certain conscious activity, is certain. To say : "I doubt whether I exist." is a contradictio in actu exercito, or a statement refuted by the mere act of stating it. The certainty of Cogito ergo sum is not inferred but immediate and intuitive. It is not a conclusion, but a certain premiss. It is not first & most certain in the "ordo essendi", but as far as regards the "ordo cognoscendi". It is true each time I think, and when I stop thinking there is no reason for me to think that I ever existed. I intuit in a concrete case the impossibility of thinking without existing. In the second Meditation, Cogito ergo sum is true each time I pronounce or mentally conceive it ...

Having intuited a true and certain proposition, Descartes seeks the implied general criterion of certainty. Cogito ergo sum is true and certain, because he clearly and distinctly sees what is affirmed. As a general rule, all things which I conceive clearly and distinctly are true. In the Principles of Philosophy, we are told "clear" means that which is present and apparent to an attentive mind and "distinct" that which contains within itself nothing but what is clear. Although he has arrived at a certain and clear proposition, he does not start to work with it without more ado. Indeed, suppose God gave me a nature which causes me to err even in matters which seem self-evident ? To eliminate this "very slight" doubt, Descartes needs to prove the existence of a God who is not a deceiver. Without this proof, it might be so that what I conceive as clear and distinct, is in reality not so.

But what is the problem with Cogito ergo sum ?

Besides not being a rational conclusion, but an intuitional, apodictic (tautological) certainty, both in the Meditations and the Principles of Philosophy, the "I" in Cogito ergo sum, is not a transcendental ego (a mere formal condition of knowledge, as it should be), but "me thinking". Despite various contents of thought, the thing that cannot be doubted is not "a thinking" or "a thought" or a formal "thinker", but a thinking ego conceived as an existing substance. This ego is not formal, nor the "I" of ordinary discourse, but a concrete existing "I", a kind of scholastic soul (anima). Descartes uncritically assumes the scholastic notion of substance (substantia), while this doctrine is open to doubt. Thinking does not necessarily require a substantial thinker. The ego cogitans does not refer to a thinking thing, but to a mere transcendental ego accompanying every cogitation.

Because he did not rely on the object of knowledge (deemed doubtful), Descartes rooted his whole enterprise in an ideal, substantial ego, constituting the possibility and expansion of knowledge. All idealists after him would do the same. The end result of this reduction is a variation on the Platonic theory of knowledge. Eventually (as in contemporary epistemology), truth is identified with a consensus omnium between sign-interpreters (cf. Habermas - Chapter 2).

Descartes, in order to integrate his systematic doubt into his philosophical method, relying on the natural light of reason to attain certain knowledge, introduced the style of the meditation. Self-reflective activity is made independent of revealed knowledge, and the thinker is deemed able to find absolute truth independent of the scholastic tradition. Although this cannot be called a return to a spiritual practice aiming at the integration of the whole (the transformation of parts -thoughts, affects, actions- into a larger whole), Cartesian meditation does imply a systematic use of introspection at the service of a given philosophical aim, in his case finding the absolutely certain. René Descartes thereby initiated the French approach "from within", which returns in Bergson (1859 - 1941), as well as in Sartre (1905 - 1980) or Foucault (1926 - 1984). In German philosophy, Husserl (1859 - 1939) is a good example, as was the late Wittgenstein (1889 - 1951).

05. Kant and the "Copernican Revolution".

With his "Copernican Revolution", Kant (1724 - 1804), focusing on the transcendental subject of experience, completes the self-reflective movement initiated by Descartes, while trying to purge objective (realist) and subjective (idealist) substantializations. The "I" in "What can I know ?" does not refer to a Cartesian substantial ego cogitans, but to an unsubstantial, formal possibility of gathering the manifold of mental & sensuous objective activity under the unity of a single apprehending consciousness, the "I think", the apex of reason necessary to be able to think the empirical ego and its concrete cogitations. The "I think" is a meta-level. Criticism reflects on the conditions of knowledge and uncovers principles, norms & maxims. Transcendental inquiry is therefore the "doubling" of reason in :

  • mind ("Verstand") :  together with the senses, co-conditioning  facts tending towards differentiation (variety) &

  • reason ("Vernunft") : regulating dualism with ideas converging on unity & the unconditional.

Integrating the best of rationalism and empirism, Kant avoids the battle-field of the endless (metaphysical and ontological) controversies by (a) finding and (b) applying the conditions of possible knowledge. From rationalism, he adopted the idea knowledge is a phenomenon co-constructed by the subject and its natural operations. But instead of introducing a substantial subject he worked out a transcendental apex for the cognitive system. From empirism, he took the idea knowledge "starts" with sense-contact, and not with a priori categories.

Indeed, an armed truce or concordia discors between object and subject had to be realized (cf. Chapter 2). Inspired by Newton (1642 - 1727) and his theory on universal gravitation, but turning against Hume (1711 - 1776) and his skepticism, Kant deems synthetic propositions a priori possible (Hume had only accepted direct synthetic propositions a posteriori). Kant was among the first to realize that in the previous centuries, the crucial epistemological question had been reduced to an ontological problem. Not "What can I know ?", but "What is the foundation of what I know ?" had been at hand. The latter quest first introduced a theory on being (ontology) and then moved to explain how knowledge emerged as a result. Hence, two opposing, contradictory "solutions" were proposed : in rationalism, knowledge was based on an ideal kind of cogitation ("intuitions" like Cogito ergo sum), or empirism, based it on a empirical observation (like the direct, experience of sense-data, representing reality one-to-one).

Propositions are either analytic, i.e. tautological, structural, and a priori, as in logic & mathematics, or synthetic, adding a sensuous predicate to the subject, requiring sensation. This happens a posteriori, i.e. after the fact of sensuous contact. Synthetic propositions a priori are propositions of fact which, just like analytical theories, are always & everywhere true. Kant was still dreaming of finding the absolute foundation for scientific knowledge. Later, neo-Kantian criticism would prove him wrong.

For Kant, the categorial system, rooted in the subject of experience, produced scientific statements of fact which are always valid and necessary (for Hume, scientific knowledge is not always valid and necessary). This system stipulates the conditions of valid knowledge and is therefore the transcendental foundation of all possible knowledge.

So in his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant tried to find how statements of fact could be universal & necessary, i.e. as binding as the analytics of mathematics. Only then was a universal and necessary science deemed possible. Without apory, his philosophy explained how Newton's physical laws were universal & necessary. The scandal was over ...

Kant let rational thought mature. Unlike concept-realism (Platonic or Peripatetic) and nominalism (of Ockham or Hume), critical thought, inspired by Descartes, is rooted in the "I think", the transcendental condition of empirical self-consciousness without which nothing can be properly called "experience". This "I", the apex of the system of transcendental concepts, is "of all times" the idea of the connected of experiences. It is not a Cartesian substantial ego cogitans, nor an empirical datum, but the formal condition accompanying every experience of the empirical ego. Kant calls it the transcendental (conditional) unity of all possible experience (or apperception) a priori. Like the transcendental system of which it is the formal head, it is, by necessity, shared by all those who know.

"What can I know ?" is the first question asked. Which conditions make knowledge possible ? This special reflective activity was given a new word, namely "transcendental". This meta-knowledge is not occupied with outer objects, but with our manner of knowing these objects, so far as this is meant to be possible a priori (A11), i.e. always, everywhere and necessarily so. Kant's aim is to prepare for a true, immanent metaphysics, different from the transcendent, dogmatic ontologisms of the past, turning thoughts into things.

The professorial philosophy of Kant divorced the practice of philosophy from the theory of knowledge, making the intuitive core of philosophy no longer an issue. Kant is the first to find good reasons to limit philosophy, but was himself largely misunderstood. His metaphysical intention was overseen, although the theoretical division between "phenomenon" and "noumenon" would influence post-Kantian ontology.

In the German Idealism of Fichte (1762 - 1814), Schelling (1775 - 1854) & Hegel (1770 - 1831), a restoration of scholastic ontology was pursued. Absolute object & absolute subject were reintroduced. Hegel added dialectic change to his largely Spinozist kind of ontology. By way of thesis, anti-thesis & synthesis, Nature becomes Spirit and Spirit becomes Aware of Itself (as Hegel). Integrating history and novelty-through-change in what had been a static, geometrical and formal exposition of substance, Hegel lay the foundation for historical materialism (Marx as Hegel reversed) and process philosophy.

In the virulent conflict between, on the one hand, the will to restore & maintain the old ways of foundational thought (a nostalgia for pre-critical feudalism also visible in the political tensions between revolution & restoration) as in Hegelianism, Marxism, scientism, Fregean logicism, logical positivism, historical materialism, Husserlian and Heideggerian phenomenology etc. and, on the other hand, an irrationalism rejecting the supreme role of reason, as in the protest philosophies of Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860), Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) and Bergson (1859 - 1941), irrationalism proved prophetical for the 20th century.

06. From the academy to Achenbach & C°.

From Kant onwards, but especially when Hegelianism was taken over by physicalism, academic philosophy was reorganized (in Germany ca. 1850). The role given to philosophy depended on the overall orientation of the university. The division between, on the one hand, an empirical approach, and, on the other hand, a textual, hermeneutical and more "scholastic" way remained pertinent until this day. In no way was the practice of philosophy made part of the study, and a scholarly reduction was at hand. The process of devising a standard "curriculum" for philosophy continued, depending on local preferences and intellectual tastes. This absence of standardization has many advantages, allowing each department of philosophy the freedom to adapt to its environment. But is this philosophy or only its logistics ?

A curriculum of philosophy must train philosophers in such a way they are able to become "real life" philosophers. If it cannot deliver this, then philosophy has not been served. If philosophy is what philosophers do, then surely an academic training in philosophy must teach philosophers how to do that ? Suppose this is not the case, then what use has the academy ?

Given the results of two centuries of criticism, a series of "hardcore" philosophical disciplines were found to be necessary : logic, epistemology, ethics, esthetics & (immanent) metaphysics. In various forms, this core is always part of any contemporary Western faculty of philosophy. But perhaps academic philosophy has failed us because of its reluctance to integrate the practice of philosophy and think the philosophy of the practice of philosophy, including its economy.

The philosophy of the practice of philosophy has as object the practicum of wisdom in (Socratic) dialogue and the psychology, sociology & economy of the practice of a philosopher.

Contemporary academic philosophy, concocting a beautiful, but still incomplete neo-scholastic system, does not provide future philosophers the tools to actually practice sapiental teachings "on the market", i.e. in the world outside school and the academic system. The curriculum has no practicum. These academia are presently unequipped to give its "Master Degree in Philosophy" any economic value. This petrifies the veins and causes arrest. The philosophy of the practice of philosophy is the necessary complement of the "pure" work of writing out theory intended to study & teach philosophy in the best possible way. Thanks to philosophy as praxis, the psychology, sociology, economics, etc. of acquiring wisdom are integrated to fructify philosophy as theoria. Thanks to the latter, the former increases efficiency.

With the reintroduction of the practice of philosophy in the late '80s, things changed. As a Socratic operator, the philosopher moved "on the market". Able to make a living as an independent teacher and advisor, reflection correlates with action. Being a way of life, defined by a free spirit of rational inquiry, regulated by the idea of the unconditional, and aiming to be more "a living voice than writing and more a life than a voice" (Hadot, 1995, p.23.), philosophy is more than a logistics of ideas and their history.

The acquisition of abstract, theoretical knowledge should not be divorced again, this time by realist materialism instead of idealist dogmatic theology, from the transformation of one's complete personality through the exercise of wisdom. Moreover, the latter implies much more than relative, contextual virtues and maxims, mere "applications" outside the confines of the "academic approach". Exercising wisdom constitutes the actual spirit of philosophy, rooted in practice, and should not be misunderstood for irrationalism. Quite on the contrary, it triggers a deeper realization of the "higher" Self of the philosopher, actualizing creative thought. Academic philosophy still circumvents a confrontation with the challenge posed by the actual life of philosophers through the well-known tactic of intentional silence.

In the '90s, the postmodern movement brought philosophy outside the academic system. Just as the Renaissance thinker risked his life when thinking outside the limits of Roman dogma, the postmodernist identifies the modernist academia as places of "double talk". Given philo-logistics is crucial, postmodern logic draws a margin and identifies the whole system of convenient classifications as a "mummification" (cf. Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida) of the spoken, living world, a priori invalid in the actual situation of any living philosopher, and thus unaware of the sense of wisdom. Precisely because the latter cannot be "frozen" in abstract categories, academic philosophy turns away from its necessary feeding-grounds and, at first anorexic, it finally starves itself to death. The postmodern reflex to "deconstruct" or identify the "transcendent" factors (i.e. absolute thinking) "in the margin" facilitated the recovery of the "true sense" of philosophy, the "voice" instead of the "writing", the "ancient" way of life of the sapient and the spiritual exercises accompanying such a life.

"Die philosophische Praxis ist ein freies Gespräch."

In 1987, the German Gerd Achenbach launched his Philosophische Praxis ("Practice of Philosophy"), bringing about a rediscovery, reappraisal & operationalization of the "sense" of wisdom, not in terms of a theoretical logistics, but as an actual, living wisdom and its praxis, namely as that what philosophers do. Comparable initiatives emerged across Europe, USA, Canada, Latin America, Israel and the far Eastern countries. In France and in the Netherlands, these efforts were followed and developed by Veening (1987), Hoogendijk (1988), Dill (1990), Sautet (1992) etc. In Belgium, the practice of philosophy of the present writer assists business (since 1990).

A philosophy of the practice of philosophy is possible and necessary. It should be studied and taught at school. This is vital for the future professionalism of a practicing philosopher. Philosophers have to be taught how to be autonomous thinkers. Philosophical dialogue in theory and practice furthers an individual’s originality & self-sufficiency. Counteracting strategies and divisions, philosophers must be told how to bridge, advise, harmonize, cultivate mutual understanding through dialogue, aim at the transformation of ideas to produce cooperation, integration and wholeness, etc. Academic philosophy should be able to prepare its students, giving them the tools to build a genuine philosophical life, teaching them how to practice philosophy, i.e. apply its theory.

The necessity of the "Practice of Philosophy" derives from wisdom's aim to reduce alienation & disorientation, promoting :

  1. (inter) subjectivity :
    self-awareness, consciousness of being a subject, a someone rather than a something, the First Person perspective, ability to interact constructively with others, implying openness, flexibility, respect, tolerance etc. ;

  2. cognitive autonomy :
    capacity to think rationally, to self-reflect, able to formulate ideas independent of traditions, ability to integrate instinct & intuition in a rational way, dialogal capacity, using arguments to posit opinions, etc. ;

  3. moral balance :
    awareness of the importance of happiness, justice and fairness in thought, feelings and actions, communicational action, building peace, mutual understanding & acting against extreme positions like fundamentalism, nihilism, skepticism, dogmatism, relativism, materialism, spiritualism, etc. ;

  4. intellectual & spiritual concentration, sharpness & depth :
    creative capacity, originality, inventivity, novelty, and the spiritual exercises aiming at wholeness, leading to increased mental concentration, intellectual acuteness and extend of interests and compass.

For Hoogendijk (1988), wonder starts where self-evidence ends. By moving beyond the confines of any given context, chain of events or situation, ever alert when something new approaches, practical philosophy is an exercise in permanent wonderment. Indeed, the finite circle of always-the-same-thing is thus abandoned and the attitude, frame of mind and intention of the beginner are invoked. Beginning anew calls for past & future to be bracketed, objects of memory & expectation to be eliminated from the immediate awareness of reality-for-me, and the perpetual present to be invited by observing what happens here and now with as few interpretations as practically possible. Starting all over again is an art and a science. It is like existing in the interval of the "now", in the isthmus between what is past and not yet future.

Philosophical dialogue is the confidential instrument of practical philosophy. This is not the same as a casual conversation about the meaning of life, love, health and the like. As Ptahhotep and the Egyptian sages after him already noticed, a curious exchange occurs between a person with a crucial question and another person trained in using the mind constructively and spiritually, i.e. aiming at the integration of the full scale of consciousness and its meaning-giving activities. Because of their predilection for words as the eternal expression of the "energetic formative principles of nature" (Lawtor in Schwaller, 1988, p.10), the Egyptian sage characterized this exchange in concrete concepts (cf. proto-rational stage of cognition and the ante-rational, instinctual mind).

In the Maxims of Good Discourse, there are no grammatical criteria to establish whether the author uses the verb "sedjem" ("sDm") as "to hear" or as "to listen". Although in some cases, variations occur which could indicate "listen", in other cases "sDm" appears when the context suggest "listening". Hence, only the context may reveal the distinction, which is pertinent.

The following "order" or proto-rational closure may be derived :

  • hearer : one who opens his ears to invite the meaning of the words spoken - the ears are pleased to hear what profits the didactical purpose of the good discourse, the accomplished transmission of the commanding words of wisdom - the hearer directs his attention consciously and so "hearing" is clearly a level higher than registering without the effort to comprehend ;

  • master-hearer : the one who immediately comprehends the meaning and can reproduce it - this leads to listening if the heart desires so ;

  • listener : one who opened his heart to invite the "inner" meaning of the totality of what he heard - one able to recognize the excellence of the good discourse in the words & deeds of those who heard & listened to them (i.e. a perfect son) - note that he who listens is loved by the god (the deity ruling the place) ;

  • master-listener : one who listened so well that he surpassed the teachings of his own father and is able to do great, excellent deeds and speak the accomplished discourse ;

  • venerable : when old age has arrived, the master-listener (while alive) enjoys constantly doing righteousness.

In Classical Greek philosophy, the exchange between subjects in philosophical conversation became hyper-symbolical, dialogal, argumentative, objectifying, linearizing and abstract, confining the role of philosophy in society to the study & practice of cognitive & moral states, implying logic, a series of normative disciplines and metaphysics (particularly ontology).

Introducing rationality and the conceptualizing (discursive) mind hand in hand with the abstract symbols and their mathesis, allowed wisdom to finally integrate the rational discourse and to fully benefit from this new stratum of cognitive (formal) operations, freed from any geo-cognitive hangovers, so typical of ante-rationality. After a few millennia, cognition had to face the problems of formal rationality and its "fundamentalism", i.e. the ante-rational need for a sufficient ground or underlying "thing" (hypokeimenon), whether it be as the Fata Morgana or conceptual mirage of the "Real" (world out there) or the "Ideal" (subject in here). Drawing the lines and defining the fundamental demarcations of thought as thought, criticism is never "on its own". As the constant ally of formal reason, critical thought reminds itself of the constant possibility or trap of mistaking facts for reality & thoughts for ideality. New experiments are always needed (for nature changes), and debates must be forthcoming.

Once the underlying, sufficient ground is uncritically accepted (as in concept-rationality), ever more glyphs materialize (due to the infusion of meaning, or consciousness, in matter) and solid deposits occur. This  accumulation of glyphs forms aggregates operating as institutions and academic, legal, economic, military, educational, medical, religious etc. systems. So many monoliths of long-term wishful thinking accommodates a conservative reflex, and also maintains (to guarantee a personal livelihood) the shameful waste of energy and effort. Indeed, the major problem facing humanity is the same as what stares us daily in the face, namely proper rational organization. As long as a poor household quarrels, no gain is made. The practice of philosophy, and not religion and/or psychotherapy, is the most rational approach, for a new beginning is also a new state of mind (cf. "metanoia").

The reciprocity between listening & talking are the perennial corner-stones of sapience. But in the practice of philosophy, the ideal speech-situation is sought, i.e. an open space created for the sole purpose of introducing a new project of self-knowledge. In the context of the practice of philosophy, philosophical investigations and probing questions must be rejected as authoritarian power-instruments (Dill, 1990). In fact, the whole "scholastic" approach of philosophy dominating academic philosophy must be rejected and replaced by a critical reappraisal of philosophy, integrating the best of the scholastic approach of philosophy's logistics.

The practice of philosophy has no imperative, "automatic result" and does not transfer a teaching or a particular system of philosophy. As "theoretical" philosophy is presupposed, the practice of wisdom is impossible, from the side of the philosopher, without (1) a serious theoretical, propaedeutic study, and (2) an ongoing theoretical endeavor after such a practice has been initiated, evidencing a creative integration of the philosophical traditions of one's formative years and an ability to move beyond these and contribute to the field of free thought.

In the practice of philosophy, the quality of a given dialogue lies in the hands of both philosopher and his dialogue partner. From the start, the whole process is two-way. The philosopher does not consider him or herself as "privileged" in any way, but only more capable of (1) analyzing systems of thought, (2) opening up conceptual constructions and (3) smoothly transiting from one dialogal style to another.

A philosophical dialogue is a string of individual dialogues in tune with the theme introduced by those addressing wisdom, ranging from mere informational statements, to exchanges of ideas, concrete questions and deep existential questions. Such a dialogue may be considered as successful if it results in both attaining a larger understanding. It serves the purpose of spiritual care if the client feels liberated from (self-imposed ?) restrictions and is again able to witness new possibilities. It has sense when it communicates self-respect and increases empathy.

The fundamental attitude is based on an open, communicative and inquiring mental disposition. The philosopher constantly returns to the mentality of the beginner, implying the re-investigation of established truths, norms, values and expectations. This engagement to let go pet ideas & cherished concepts makes way for wonderment, which invokes new questions regarding old phenomena, ideas, mentalities & opinions. Closed rationalism, turning away from instinct and intuition, always leads to unbearable situations. The practice of philosophy contributes to this harmony between all possible faculties of consciousness. Both the senses, instincts, affects, reason and intuition are given their place and reality. Personal issues as well as abstract considerations are part of the equation, a rare combination indeed.

Interested scrutiny is the method of the practice. By doing so, we may participate by empathizing with the other and this by using all our spiritual faculties. Understanding is not given or offered, but found (discovered) by way of dialogue. Accurate observation, feeling reality, mentally grasping the situation and trying to form a total phenomenological picture of everything which emerges in consciousness, as well as between both, are at hand. These instruments are put in place to come in touch with higher human values, considered to be a given between human beings or deemed acquirable by way of thought.

Socrates combined a unique spirit of questioning with a specific method. He wanted to ascertain the meaning of human life with the art of conversation, dialogue and argumentation. He considered himself as the midwife of wisdom, enabling the other (and himself) to give birth to solutions to given problems. The Socratic art and science of conversation is a game of questions and answers, enabling the dissolution of mental knots by way of thought. This "Socratic dialectic" is two-tiered :

  • critical : humans have to liberate their thinking from delusions, uncritical ideas and irresponsible certainties ;

  • maieutical : aiding, or tending to, the definition & interpretation of thoughts or language, the dialogal partner comes to understanding by himself and makes his or her own choices in clarity and responsibility. Man is able to liberate from self-imposed chains. The philosopher assists in this.

The final result of such a Socratic dialogue is self-knowledge and a personal opinion regarding a given issue. Is one prepared, for the sake of some higher value (truth, beauty, goodness, loyalty, courage, health, balance etc.), to reject delusional thought ? Hence, this type of dialogue is an intensified philosophical conversation. It never stops and is defined by a given problem or issue (problem-bound). Solutions always point to new questions, making the dialectic recurrent. In its critical phase, intensity is heightened and confrontations are at times rather severe. All prejudices hindering an engaged conceptualization of the fulfillment of life have to be abandoned and to face one's illusions is not easy.

Confused knowledge is therefore organized in clear concepts. Available knowledge is discussed and subject to criticism. The demarcation between sensible knowledge and irrelevant content is crucial. But, the philosopher has no pre-established "domain" or "theory" and is in principle open to discuss anything. So in these conversations, the philosopher's own ideas play a secondary role. A consensus is aimed at, with instinct, reason and intuition as instruments. Whether something has value depends on whether it works or not. Use teaches capacity. Inefficient and unoperational mental constructions hinder the free flow of associations and block the emergence of solutions to problems. The ideas people entertain regarding themselves, the others, the world and the Divine co-determine how they experience life, how they think, feel and act.

All human beings desire to be happy.

The philosopher may act as a mirror, reflecting contents with as little interpretation as possible. Posing questions, he or she may open the door and allow the other to take initiative. This may trigger a dialectical process by systematically creating opposition, or may stimulate the other to devise new mental constructions and symbolic connotations. In order to bring about another view on the issue, the philosopher may "brainstorm" or think "laterally". The philosopher listens carefully and utters, with some luck, a word bearing wisdom.

Let me stress the practice of philosophy is not a therapy. The philosopher has no clinical capacities whatsoever. He is no clinical psychologist, psychotherapist or priest. To grasp the other, the latter make use of "a system". Its origins may be neurological, psychostatistical, psychomorphological or based on revealed knowledge. Due to the dehumanization of the world, these psychosocial workers are more and more confronted with the philosophical questions of their clients rather than with particular symptoms or sins. As a rule, those who attend philosophical counsel are healthy adults, in body and mind, conscious of themselves and pursuing a unique walk of life on the basis of their free will. These are people seeking a good conversation, as one would talk to a true friend.

A good philosophical conversation may be healing. To heal is to cure by non-physical means (i.e. promote health by leaving the physical body untouched). Given the import of psychosomatic illnesses and the significance of the placebo-effect in drug-based therapies, the direct influence of dialogue on physical and mental disturbances is pertinent. But given the causal model used in Western medical science, the self-chosen modus operandi of self-healing, suggestion and placebo fall outside this medical paradigm, limited to the material operator. If approached in a technical way, they are an object of psychology & "suggestology". Various "schools" emerge and in each a given "theory" tries to reproduce the effects. However, human beings are not machines and physical methodology does not always work if mentalities need to be changed. Systems and theories fail. A kind of psychotherapeutic nihilism is most probably the outcome of a too technical approach of the existential problems of humanity.

Contrary to this, the philosopher is not a technician and does not follow a prescribed system of therapy. He has no other means than the word-in-conversation. Through dialogue he tries to establish a mental point of rest and clarity, an understanding as well as a renewed power to continue to think. If "therapy" is at hand, then only in the sense of an "open concept" (cf. Spinelli & Goodman).

Good philosophical conversations may indeed lead to spiritual, psychological and even physical relieve. This healing effect however, mobilizing the immune system of thinking bodies, is secondary. Healing as a result of listening and talking belong to the positive side-effects of the philosophical way of life. The healing power of the word is indeed known in psychology. Neurology, linguistics & cybernetics give form to an array of psychotherapeutic spear-technologies. This has little in common with the practice of philosophy, for here, the philosopher has no preestablished model, system or mental frame. He starts every conversations afresh as a beginner would. By nearly observing without interpretation, he allows a better observation, a more sound reasoning to emerge. This leads to a game of questions & answers, a rhythm of listening & talking. Although the healing power of such conversations is unmistaken, their goal is not to cure or heal.

07. The philosophy of spiritual exercises.

Associating the practice of philosophy with "spiritual exercises", begs the question of the possible relationships between, on the one hand, philosophy, both as theory & practice, and, on the other hand, mystic experience, religious experience & the practices of the religions, in particular the monotheisms.

Indeed, since Kant, adherence to the Divine (in whatever guise) was separated from the logic seeking absolute certainty or relative probability on rational grounds. Beliefs are axiomatically true as an article of faith, even if they run against reason (cf. Tertullian's "credo quia absurdum est"). But since the Greeks, philosophy tried not to oppose the province of formal thought & its dialogal intent. The Medieval dialectic between faith & reason is so pertinent precisely because Greek philosophy only accepted sensation & thought, observation & argumentation, Peripatetics & Platonism. A "Deus revelatus" was unknown to them. For the Greeks, man, with his mind, is equipped to emancipate himself, put himself up (cf. Marcus Aurelius). Christianity eradicated this, accepting the poverty-mentality of original sin to glorify our salvation through the God-Man Jesus Christ (earlier, Judaism, in the Book of Job, portrayed the paradox of a good God punishing the just). Also in Islam, the human is a slave before Allah. Scholastic (dogmatic) philosophy can be nothing more than the handmaiden of theology. Spiritual exercises outside the canons of faith are ipso facto heretical and to be exterminated.

In the 19th century, as a result of a strict & limited understanding of Kant's work, eclipsing his immanent metaphysics (cf. the Opus Postumum), the profession of philosopher was reduced to the academic, neo-scholastic format persisting until today. It was thus separated from the personal quest of the sage. In such a view, philosophy cannot have a profound effect on one's destiny, way of life or existential situation. Like "hieroglyphs" it is deemed a dead language, a relic kept to adorn our Western philosophical faculties with the marketable illusion of "queen of science". By reintroducing the practice of wisdom, its fundamental character emerges, for in the "Lebenswelt", the impact of the wise kind of conversation is directly experienced. This effect may endure and if so, observe how thought transforms our direct observations. And even in the academy, the study of this philosophy of practice is more than necessary, providing a living link with the application of philosophy in society, pushing it outside the ivory tower of dry intellectualism.

Philosophy is more than a "theoretical", ascetic approach of the fundamental questions regarding being, life & the human. It is more than renunciation, but transforms cognitive states and effectuates effective changes in the connotative field simultaneous with observation. If lasting, the influence of the practice of philosophy is irreversible, liberating and clarifying. A change of mind occurs and a new, more panoramic vantage point is established. A new, larger whole has been formed, facilitating the transformation of cognitive states, making personal experience richer, deeper and clearer.

How does the spiritual side of the practice of philosophy differ from religious belief and the existence of the Divine ? The practice of philosophy is not religious in the soteriological and/or dogmatic sense. It does not "save" from anything, except possibly from cognitive hangovers, pet ideas, mental limitations, expectations, prejudices and the like. It has no prefixed system of revealed dogma's accepted without rational inquiry, quite on the contrary, it is the ally of science (the system of empirico-formal propositions we for the moment considered to be true). It seeks the full development of cognition.

But, just as religion, the praxis of philosophy is "spiritual" because addressing the complete human being in a way which directly influences his or her way of life and being-in-the-world. Indeed, the "spirit" of something refers to what it truly is, unfettered by illusions and bringing in the fundamental mental, emotional and activating principle determining one's temperament. Not only the development of cognition is aimed at, but the transformation of all aspects of one's being. This is the application of the Delphic (and Socratic) "know thyself" to the full extend of our shared human possibilities.

Understanding reality in this way has a direct impact on one's personal circumstances. The philosopher who practices wisdom does not stop doing so at the end of the day (as does the academic philosopher of the old, neo-scholastic school). Teaching, writing & studying are complemented by philosophical conversations, advise and spiritual exercises. Theory and practice are the "two eyes" with which he or she observes the world and participates in it. And this practice of philosophy touches all levels of society, not only university students. A good philosophical conversation is spiritual and dialogal. Both listener and speaker are changed by increased self-awareness, symbolic concentration and clarity.

Qua praxis, dialogue & monologue are the two organs of practice. In the monologal situation of reflection, the philosopher entertains a series of efforts aiming at a personal spiritual goal, namely the emancipation of his or her cognitive apparatus, as well as the other faculties of his or her consciousness. This monologal, inner reference is the personal experience of the reality (ideality) of the own-Self, a someone rather than a something, a Being-there, Dasein, or clear presence rather than the answer to What ? or Who ? (Sosein). The own-Self appears as a reality-for-me, is intimate, private and inner. This monologue is clearly spiritual.

Spiritual exercises are meant to integrate all foci of consciousness and seek the highest possible awareness. To fully actualize & harmonize the potentials of awareness, consciousness, cognition, affection, sensation and action is the goal of any spiritual practice.

When object and subject are no longer present in consciousness, language fails, making way for the perplexities & wonderments of intuition. The annihilation of the own-Self is inevitable, for it too is without substance and so subject to change (functionally co-relative). Although outside the nominal (material) four-dimensional continuum, the own-Self is subjected to the topology of its own 6th dimension (the 5th being consciousness - cf. Tabula Tabulorum, 2006). Nonduality, operating in the 7th dimension, is beyond the concept itself and can only be discovered in the clarity of the direct sensation, affection, cognition & intuition of the absolute (reality and ideality).

"The consciousness of self (apperception) is the simple representation of the ego, and if by it alone all the manifold (representations) in the subject were given spontaneously, the inner intuition would be intellectual."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B68.

Because the meta-rational, intuitional levels of cognition, labeled "creative" and "nondual", are not everyone's share (A42), Kant eliminated "intellectual perception" or "intellectual intuition" from his epistemology. Insofar as he was trying to establish the critical, transcendental view, and in doing so define "science", he was correct to discard "inner" intuitional knowledge. But in terms of a complete picture of cognitive possibilities, he was wrong to do so.

As a result, the noumenon is not part of the categories and so no empirical-formal characterization of it is de jure possible. In neo-Kantian thought, this closing of the door to a foundation outside formal, conceptual thought, led to faillibilism, probabilism & the modesty of our contemporary sciences, solid state physics included. Formally, thinking the synthetic unity of the fivefold experiential manifold, the transcendental Self of "all times" must accompany every cogitation of the empirical ego, but cannot formally be objectified by means of any perception of a purely "intellectual" kind (cf. Descartes, Pascal, Spinoza, Leibniz (1646 - 1716) and later Husserl (1859 - 1939)). For Kant, and the critical tradition after him, the vision behind "the surface of the mirror" is imaginal, nothing more.

Accepting this crucial critical distinction, the philosophy of spiritual exercises foremost involves the optimalization of one's cognitive, mental capacities. The demarcation between science (testable and arguable) and metaphysics (arguable or irrational) returns as the distinction between formal, critical thought and "intuition", extending cognition ex hypothesi beyond its "nominal", "rational" stage, considering a three-tiered continuum of 7 modes of cognition :

  • ante-rational (pre-nominal) : these three modes of cognition (called mythical, pre-rational & proto-rational) remain anchored in myth and context, and have no abstract system of concepts. Concepts are either pseudo-concepts or concrete concepts ;

  • rational (nominal) : thanks to formal thought and its foundational reflex, critical thought lay bare the pre-conditions of thought, making rational free thought possible. Formal & critical concepts pertain ;

  • intuitional (meta-nominal) : creative and nondual thought are immanent and transcendent answers to the ontological questions and touch upon the interiority of the philosopher. Creative concepts and nondual, non-conceptiality persists.

In terms of the specificities of the spirituality of the practice of philosophy, their outstanding feature is the integration of the three fundamental modes of cognition (instinct, reason, intuition). As co-operating waves reinforcing each other through resonance, instinct and intuition are not "kept out" and so the tribunal of reason is better informed and equipped to judge.

The two intuitional modes argued here, namely creative & nondual thought, give birth to a range of immanent & transcendent metaphysical systems or ontology. In the former, the order of the world is not transcended and the highest concepts are limit-concepts. In the latter, the highest concepts are transcendent signifiers and establish an imaginal focus beyond, outside the world, either in terms of some onto-theological ground or a meta-Self (as substantial own-Self or "soul").

In creative thought, "purged" by criticism, and due to the transformation or "spiritualization" of its rational stage, a new kind of reflexive activity occurs, but as an inner, secret, direct experience of one's own ideal, or higher Self. Rationally, such an inner, direct experience is problematic.

Nondual thought is the direct discovery of the natural light of the mind. Here, conceptualization stops. No object. No subject. If not for the clarity of the natural state of mind, this would be a return to the oceanic milieu of myth and its irrationality. Thought thinks "all possibilities" and has no longer any focus, no ego, no own-Self. The "via negativa" is the only viable approach-of-no-approach. What has cognition gained ? Absence of reflectivity (myth), turned into presence of reflexivity (nondual), irrationality into wisdom ?

So in the meta-nominal, meta-rational stage of cognition, two modes are distinguished :

  • the immanent : the contemplative, creative activity of the arguable, non-factual ideas (hyper-concepts) of the ontic own-Self, perceived by the intellect (cf. immanent metaphysics) and 

  • the transcendent : the nondual activity suggested by the direct discovery of the unconditional core of all what is.

Two types of rationality or ways to use reason ensue :

  • the rational mind : is preoccupied with the growth of scientific knowledge gathered by the mind through synthesis, but unable to contemplate the transcendental Self as ontic. It discovers the transcendental norms of reason which regulate the mental process of producing knowledge (one-dimensional reason) ;

  • intellectual reason : serves the purpose of the complete expression of the actual, individual own-Self, encompassing its creativity & inventivity, being the stepping-stone to the direct discovery of the natural light of the mind. This play does not inform about the world but about ourselves as Selves. This Self-knowledge constitutes a creative dynamization of reason, mind & sensation. Intellectual reason may also be viewed as two-tiered :

    1. the intuition of the own-Self of creativity (evidenced in immanent metaphysics, creativity and art) ;

    2. the direct discovery of absolute reality (suggested by mysticism, spirituality and testimony of the religions).

In terms of the practice of philosophy, wisdom seeks ways to make instinct, reason & intuition cooperate simultaneously as three layers of mind. The mythical, pre-rational, proto-rational, rational, critical, creative and nondual modes of cognition are so many operational tools to address these layers, prompting the emergence of a true, good & beautiful multi-dimensional consciousness.

II : A Critical Approach of Philosophy.

08. Pre-critical substantialism.

Ancient Egypt

The roots of Mediterranean substantialist thought can be found in Ancient Egypt. As early as the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts, but more explicit in the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts, "Nun" was the fundamental, grounding, pre-existent, omnipresent "substance" or "stuff" of which the world consisted (cf. Hermes the Egyptian, 2002). It was deemed everlasting, unchanging & undifferentiated.

In the ontology sketched in the Pyramid Texts, precreation is in the first place an undifferentiated mass of water. The Egyptians gave descriptive rather than denominative qualifications. Nun is conceived as an inchoate, nonexistent state-of-no-state. In the Coffin Texts and later, Nun is often depicted as a deity, and although no cult is attested, there were offerings and feasts in his honor (as on the 18th & 19th day of the month of Phamenoth). The hieroglyph of the vault, which is part of his name, conveyed a topological difference : not only was precreation something different (namely darkness and a nonexistent potential surrounding the cosmos), but it was also somewhere else.


In their ante-rational discourse, the pre-Socratics sought the foundation or "archē" of the world. It explained existence as well as the moral order. For Anaximander of Miletus (ca. 611 - 547 BCE), the cosmos developed out of the "apeiron", the boundless, infinite and indefinite (without distinguishable qualities). Later, Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) adds : immortal, Divine and imperishable.

The Archaic, pre-Socratic stratum of the "Greek Miracle" was itself layered :

  • Milesian "archē", "phusis" & "apeiron" : the elemental laws of the cosmos are rooted in substance, which is all ;

  • Pythagorian "tetraktys" : the elemental cosmos is rooted in numbers which form man, gods & demons ;

  • Heraclitian "psuche" & "logos" : a quasi-reflective self-consciousness, symbolical & psychological ;

  • Parmenidian "aletheia" : the moment of truth is a decision away from opinion ("doxa") entering "being" ;

  • Protagorian "anthropos" : man is the measure of all things and the relative reigns.

The systems of Plato & Aristotle are also a reply to the Sophists. Protagorian relativism is wrong. To refute this skepticism, i.e. the unwillingness to accept there is only "doxa", opinion, not "aletheia", truth, Classical philosophy opts for substantialism, the idea some permanence exists in the things that change. This core or essence is subjective or objective. In the former, it is a subject modified by change while remaining "the same", acting as the common support of its successive inner states. In the latter, it is the real stuff out of which everything consists, allowing the manifestation of the real world "out there". Both Plato & Aristotle are concept-realists. Their systems are examples of foundational thinking. Truth is eternalized and static. Concept-realism will always ground our concepts in a reality outside knowledge. Plato cuts reality in two qualitatively different worlds. True knowledge is remembering the world of ideas. Aristotle divides the mind in two functionally different intellects. To draw out & abstract the common element, an intellectus agens is needed. The first substance is "eidos", i.e. the form, or Platonic idea realized in matter (cf. hylemorphism).

The foundationalism inherent in concept-realism seeks permanence and cannot find it. It therefore ends the infinite regress ad hoc and posits something to be possessed by the subject. This is either an object of the mind (a permanent soul) or an object of the world (the permanent stuff of reality). Greek concept-realism seeks substance ("ousia") and substrate ("hypokeimenon"). This core is permanent, unchanging and existing from its own side. In a further reification of this foundationalism, subtle substance is introduced, and the eternalizing tendency gives rise to "universalia", eternal ideas (in the mind of God).

Substance is the eternal, permanent, unchanging core or essence of every possible thing, existing from its own side, and never an attribute of or in relation with any other thing.


The monotheisms introduce theo-ontology : existence is created by the revealed God. This singular God is the supreme being, an absolute of absoluteness creating a plural creation, etc. In these religions, the focus is not on truth & ontology, but on salvation, the restoration of the link with God.

Christian philosophy tried to bring faith and reason together. It failed. By identifying the mind of God with Plato's world of ideas, the Platonists had to exchange Divine grace for intuitive reason. The Peripatetics introduced perception as a valid source of knowledge and so prepared the end of Christian theology, the rational explanation of the "facts" of revelation.

the Renaissance ...

Influenced by the "Orientale Lumen" and Arabic scholarship, the cultural movement known as "the Renaissance", born in Florence as early as the 14th century and spreading over Europe in the following three centuries, placed the human phenomenon center stage, rediscovered Late Hellenism and tried to end Catholic supremacy on knowledge, learning and the arts. The "via antiqua" was over. Times of religious turmoil were at hand. The Renaissance and its humanism sparked the Reformation and other debates & conflicts. With the French Revolution (1789) the political translation of modernist thinking was on its way.

Renaissance thinking is still foundational. It still clings to substance in terms of the Platonic world of ideas being the mind of God. Saturated with centuries of Christian idealism, substance itself is not (yet) rejected, only its fixation in terms of the Catholic monopoly. Renaissance thinkers are self-conscious. With the birth of reflection as a cultural phenomenon, European thought was liberated from the chains of authority and magisterial dogmas. As reflection was immature, only the intellectual freedom to do so was demanded, so the fundamental substances could be scrutinized by facts & arguments, unassuaged by clerical influence. Only after World War II (1945) does such freedom truly exist.

The ontological system of Descartes (1637) provides us with three fundamental substances : res cogitans or thinking substance (consciousness), res extensa or extended substance (matter) and God. The ontologies after him will return to this division and either introduce reductions (of mind to matter) or rename the Cartesian triad, this summary of all previous ontologies. Descartes was not a reductionist. The three substances have their own kind of (interacting) existence. Mind points to consciousness and its freedom. Matter is limited and bound to cause & effect. God is the ultimate guarantee things happen as they happen. Spinoza (1632 - 1677) would rethink Descartes and prove his monist version of rationalism "de more geometrico".

With the Spinozist definition of "substance" (nature or God), the rational definition of substance matured. The stuff of existence is an infinite, closed, solitary, singular, unchanging, eternal & everlasting monad, the only free supreme being, Godhead of its own essential theo-ontology, the direct experience "Face-to-Face" of God with God.

"By God, I mean the absolutely infinite Being - that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses for itself an eternal and infinite essentiality."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VI.

"That thing is called 'free', which exists solely by the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is determined by itself alone. That thing is inevitable, compelled, necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of existence or action."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VII.

At the end of the 18th century, a variety of ontological systems had been proposed and substantialism had come under attack by empirism. Can a variety of contradictory answers be true ? What if only direct experience is valid ?

Kant deemed the situation scandalous. Philosophy was in need of its own "Copernican Revolution".


In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant unmasks the false substantialism (or ontological illusion) brought into the field of epistemology by both rationalism (innate ideas) and empirism (sense-data). The possibility of knowledge cannot be grounded in an outside, substantial reality, but only in the ideality of a formal set of cognitive conditions enabling one to know and produce scientific knowledge, i.e. empirico-formal propositions. This "transcendental" ideality is necessary to formal thought and by critically reflecting on it, spatiotemporality, a categorial system and regulating ideas are discovered (cf. Clearings, 2006).

Because of this change of perspective, more systematically clarified by neo-Kantianism and the philosophies of science, language & mind, phenomena may or may not appear as they are. Perception is not sensation, for sensation (the actual conscious experience by a conscious subject) is always simultaneous with conceptual, discursive interpretation, involving identification & labeling (cf. Chapter 4).

S(ensation) = P(erception) . C(onceptual)I(nterpretation).

Is CI = 1 possible, as nonduality suggests ?

Critical philosophy lay bare the limitations of conceptual, discursive thought. Sensations are perceptions orchestrated to contain the inherent duality or concordia discors of conceptual thought. Conceptual thought is unable to avoid the factum rationis of reason itself : no designation without a designator, no cogitation without a cogito, no transcendental subject without a transcendental object.

But in conceptual thought, things-for-us do continue to eventuate simultaneous with an appearance of objectivity, which is the manifestation of their concrete, conventional reality, composed of "working parts" and seemingly determined reactions. Critical philosophy tries to cut through this ontological illusion.

Although we must think as if these relative facts indeed, in some way simultaneous with our designations, represent absolute reality-as-such, we never conceptually know whether this is the case or not. We never have absolute proof or irreversible certainty. Such a "revelation" would imply our conceptual constructions suddenly vanished. Critical thought opts against this. A return to foundationalism and its substantial thinking is avoided. And for good reasons : grounding the possibility of knowledge in either object or subject of thought handicaps reason, perverts it.

Our paradigm or set of valid theories (systems of empirico-formal propositions) may be invalid tomorrow. So reality-for-us appears as a shared illusion, a collective hallucination, like things systematically not appearing as they are, either by nature and/or because we grasp & follow these appearances only (instead of directly perceiving reality).

The transcendental study of thoughts, action & sensation (affect) has considerable influence on philosophy. No longer serving the interests of a set of metaphysical options, normative philosophy articulates the necessities of scientific practice as well as the logic of the methodology of the production of empirico-formal propositions of fact, i.e. statements the scientific community, for the time being, holds for true.

"We thus see that all the wrangling about the nature of a thinking being, and its association with the material world, arises simply from our filling the gap, due to our ignorance, with paralogisms of reason, and by changing thoughts into things and hypostatizing them."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, A394-398.

Grosso modo, the difference between pre-critical and post-Kantian philosophy involves the status of reality and conceptual rationality. In conceptual, discursive thought, an irreversible and necessary demarcation between reality-for-us (ideality-for-us) & reality-as-such (ideality-as-such) ensues. The phenomena of science, the evidence of facts, are not things-in-themselves, noumena, substances or underlying realities, but they are phenomena always co-determined by the theories (the nets) with which "facts" are gathered (caught). As sensations happen as the result of conceptual interpretation, experiments do not yield insight into absolute reality "an sich", but only in a relative reality "für uns". Between appearance and reality a gap must be thought, causing desubstantialization. So the realist or idealist grounding of the possibility of knowledge in a sufficient ground or substance serving as a so-called "certain foundation of science" and acting as a justificator of its propositions is inconsistent with the results of our transcendental, critical study of the necessities of correct & valid conceptual thinking. No way these conclusions can be avoided.

Because of this gap between phenomena & noumena, metaphysics can no longer be invoked to ground phenomena in noumena, whether that be reality (via experiments) or ideality (via discourse). Although we must accept facts to bear witness of noumena, we never actually know whether this is the case or not. Reality-for-us might be a kind of dream, presenting things differently as what they truly are. And in fact they do, for conventional objects seem substantial, while analysis shows they are not.

In terms of the limitations of conceptual reason, criticism puts forward the groundless ground of thought, not a sufficient ground (cf. Chapter 2).

Metaphysics, being untestable, can only be judged on the basis of logic & argumentation and has a heuristic role to fulfill. Inspiring science, it allows a generalized speculation on existence, life and consciousness based on the evidence of cosmology, biology and anthropology. Insofar as it focuses on these three, metaphysics does not step outside the world positing a world-ground transcending it. This immanent metaphysics, as the muze of science, does not accept determinations, like First Causes, to operate from "outside" the world. Its highest concepts are limit-concepts, always referring back to condition which is part of the world, and the latter is defined by the results of experiments hand in hand with the outcome of argumentation.

If this crucial condition is left and -against the logic of the infinite regress- a First Cause is posited ad hoc (cf. Chapter 7), then a principle outside the world is accepted. There are no valid arguments to do so and therefore transcendent metaphysics cannot be conceptually elaborated without obfuscating reason.

By and large, the normative study of thought, behaviour and sensation (emotion) is a necessary preliminary to train the mind in the philosophical approach of reality and/or ideality. This is a very difficult study, for our minds are used to identify & label objects as if they exist from their own side. Naive realism or idealism are innate and habitual, and these formations needs to be broken down piece by piece. To think transcendentally, these "natural" inclinations have to be bracketed. Both "outer" reality (the world) as "inner" ideality (the ego, the Self) may appear differently as they are. We know this because of the difference between perception & sensation caused by the conceptual interpretation no concept can completely remove, but critical thought can identify and make sure it no longer fools us. The illusion remains, but is unable to confuse.

In any study of philosophy, they should come first. If not, the danger lurks ontology dominates the necessities of cognition, behaviour & sensation (emotion), resulting in a philosophical training serving metaphysical presupposition rather than to foster free, independent thought.

09. The subject of sensation, action, affect & thought.

Transcendental studies are theoretical reflections which do not fall out of the sky. As the empirical ego is continually present to itself as someone who perceives, feels, desires, thinks and is conscious, it relates to the "natural" world constantly surrounding it. This "natural standpoint", as Husserl calls it, involves the ordinary sense of the world, in which the ego naturally exists.

Transcendental study tries to suspend the fact-world giving itself to the ego as something existing "out there". Likewise, the idea-world of our nominal cogitations are also bracketed. Hence, this method bars us from using any judgment concerning concrete existence (Dasein). Disconnecting thought from this natural world or standpoint is necessary to be able to find the principles which condition thought as thought. The bracketed world does not vanish, but we realize a consciousness which remains unaffected by the disconnection.

The proto-psychology of the natural world is the "Lebenswelt" or pre-critical condition in which the empirical subject finds itself. Five functions can be isolated : sensation, affection, volition, cognition & consciousness.

1. sensation : linked with perception, it informs us, by way of direct conscious experience, about the stimuli targeting the sensitive areas of our sensory organs. These stimuli are coded (transduction), projected in the primary sensory areas of the brain and then finally interpreted conceptually (identified and labeled) ;
2. affections : closely linked with sensation, feelings or emotions add color and affect to sensoric & motoric data, valuating the possible lust/unlust balance triggered by perceptions, volitions, thoughts & states of consciousness ;
3. volitions : determining action, deed & behaviour, this function rules motoric response ;
4. cognition : allows the ego to gather knowledge or information about itself (mental objects) and its environment (sensate objects), solve problems, produce empirico-formal propositions and metaphysical insights ;
5. consciousness : the fluctuating stream of experiences the ego, at any given moment, is aware of as a unique, individual, meaningful unity & intentionality (or relationship with the "other"). Reflecting on the conditions of the former functions is the privilege of transcendental consciousness, taking sensation (affect), action (volition) & cognition (thought) as objects of reflection.

The results of transcendental inquiry are rooted in the subject of knowledge. This is not an idealism, because this subject is formal and thus devoid of substance. The "I think" accompanies all the cogitations of the empirical ego, and is as it were the apex of the transcendental edifice as a whole.

Transcendental logic makes both sides of the formal equation offered by the Factum Rationis necessary and not reducible. In terms of acquiring knowledge, behaving good and sensating the beautiful, this implies object and subject of knowledge have to be used simultaneously. If epistemology, ethics or esthetics, the tripod of the normative disciplines, reduce the concordia discors to a monad (object to subject or vice versa), then and only then, reason is perverted, creating the illusion of a sufficient ground for thought, affect & action. Such an illusion invalidates the quest for truth, beauty & goodness.

Thought is the minimum requirement for epistemology to function. Without it, the transcendental conditions of cognition are not present. Likewise, ethics implies action (volition) and esthetics sensation & emotion.

10. Determined & nondetermined events.

The "object" of the natural standpoint dictates a reality "out there", existing independently (extra-mentally) and with a solidity from its own side. The physical body is the first of these natural objects. Although part of the "subject" it nevertheless behaves in the same "objective" way as do outer objects. Moreover, objects "out there" seem even more to escape conscious manipulation, and so manifest tenacity, permanence, solidity and an unchanging character.

This view has to be bracketed, for both sensate & mental objects depend on the situation of the ego, in particular its intentionality. Sensate object appear to a conceptual mind as a function of its interpretation or cognitive connotations. Mental objects appear before the mind's eye as parts of a "Gestalt" or constellation of supporting sensate & mental objects. The object appearing in the "natural" world is problematic, appearing -as in the case of an optic illusion- as straightforward.

The proto-physics of the natural world is the "Lebenswelt" or pre-critical condition in which the empirical object finds itself. Two main types of events occur :

1. determined events : in a system of general determinism, events are connected by way of categories of determination, as there are : self-determination, causation, interaction, mechanical determination, statistical determination, holistic determination, teleological determination & dialectical determination (cf. Bunge, 1979, pp. 17-19). Events are linked if the conditions defining the category are fulfilled. For example, in the case of causation, it is necessary, in order for an effect to occur, to have an efficient, external cause and a physical substrate (to propagate it). In general determinism, these determinations are not absolutely certain, but relatively probable. Science is terministic, not deterministic ;
2. nondetermined events : if individual action and (as an extension) civilization is considered, events are also connected by way of conscious intention, escaping the conditions of the categories of determination. Indeed, without "freedom", or the possibility to posit nondetermined events, ethics is reduced to physics and free will impossible. How is responsible action possible without the actual exercise of free will, i.e. the ability to accept or reject a course of action, thereby creating an "uncaused" cause or influencing agent, changing all co-functional interdependent determinations or interactions ? Although it remains open whether the will is free or not, morally, we must act as if it is.

11. Normative philosophy : cognition, behaviour & sensation.

The normative disciplines aim to articulate the principles, norms & maxims determining cognition, affection (sensation) & volition (action or behaviour). Theoretically, their role is to define the limitations of thought, affect & action a priori, grounding their principles in the logic governing the possibilities of thought, feeling and behaviour. Practically, these disciplines facilitate the production of knowledge, goodness & beauty a posteriori.

Clearly, in a critical, normative approach, the object is not created by or derived from the subject. Such ontological idealism is avoided by introducing a formal transcendental subject "of all times", devoid of empirical individuality, but accompanying every cogitation of the empirical ego, and in doing so, guaranteeing the unity of the manifold of sensation and cogitation (the activities of sensate & mental objects). It does not constitute knowledge, but is a necessary condition to think its possibilities.

without an object
nothing is thought
without a subject
nobody thinks
necessity of reality
idea of the REAL
Factum Rationis necessity of ideality idea of the IDEAL
Epistemology : knowledge - truth
object of thought
subject of thought
research-cel Practical
opportunistic logic
the production of provisional, probable & coherent empirico-formal, scientific knowledge we can hold for true
Ethics : volition - the good
coordinated movement & its consequence Transcendental
free will
duty - calling Theoretical
intent - conscience
family - property - the secular state Practical
persons - health - on death
judgments pertaining to the good (the just, fair & right), providing maxims for what must be done
Esthetics : feeling - the beautiful
states of sensate matter or mental objects Transcendental
consciousness persuing excellence & exemplarity
sensate & evocative esthetic features Theoretical
esthetic attitude
objective art, social art, revolutionary art, magisterial art Practical
subjective art, personal art, psycho-dynamic art, total art
judgments pertaining to what we hope others may imitate, namely the beauty of excellent & exemplary states of matter

Transcendental logic proves the inconsistencies of skepticism. Reject the subject, and there is no knower. Reject the object, and there is nothing known. If there is no knower, then there is nobody stating the transcendental subject is invalid. Hence, the thesis is self-refuting. If there is nothing known, then there is nothing to be known, not even the fact of rejecting the object. Both strategies lead to a contradictio in actu exercito, and are therefore rejected.

The normative disciplines are logic, epistemology, ethics & esthetics. Logic studies the validity of statements. Epistemology focuses on the truth of propositions, ethics on the goodness of actions and esthetics on the beauty of sensate objects.

Normative disciplines such as epistemology, ethics and esthetics, do not describe the true, the good and the beautiful, but lay bear the necessary principles, norms and maxims which have always been used to think true thoughts, do good actions and create sensate beauty.

Logic, despite its mathematics & syntax, is dialogal, and involved with the validity of arguments & argumentation. As a mathematical system it deals with formal calculus, i.e. with the laws & rules determining the truth-value of statements. As a syntax, logic studies the grammatical rules which define the understanding between members of the same linguistic community. As a dialogic, logic focuses on the logical rules guaranteeing the validity of argumentative transitions. It is this last aspect of logic which exemplifies its value for science & philosophy. Transcendental logic is a special case, laying bare the principles necessary to arrive at truth, goodness & beauty. These principles root the theory of knowledge, goodness and beauty in the groundless ground of cognition itself.

Epistemology brings together the conditions of true empirico-formal knowledge and the way to produce facts. Ethics, valuates the good of actions, and esthetics judged the beauty of a work of art.

Practical maxims, in tune with a more local & opportunistic logic, i.e. only insofar as theoretical principles & norms are being applied, often deviate from the proposed a priori scheme. In this way, the normative disciplines stay connected with the "natural standpoint" which allows them to (re)discover their leading transcendental principles and theoretical norms.

12. Descriptive philosophy : the world, life, humanity & the Divine.

Conceptual thoughts, feelings & behaviours happen against a inalienable metaphysical background, i.e. a network of arguable but untestable concepts, considered, after prolonged argumentation, as true (a metaphysiscal tenet), but always open to future refutation (not a religious dogma).

Metaphysics is preluded by a self-reflective, transcendental inquiry into the possibility & expansion of knowledge (epistemology), behaviour (ethics) & sensation (esthetics). These tell us, to paraphrase Kant, what we do know, must do and may hope.

The descriptive disciplines satisfy philosophy's need to acquire a totalized view of existence. But what is existence ? Before attempting to answer, the limitations of any description have to be made clean-clear. The results of speculative inquiries are not scientific, for they are not factual and can therefore never be tested. Metaphysics does not attempt do describe the world in terms of empirico-formal theories, but :
(a) defines the ideological background against which experiments a forteriori take place ;
(b) clarifies the "ceteris paribus" clause of scientific theories, as well as the fundamental concepts used in any scientific discourse ;
(c) tries to explain the world as a coherent whole ;
(d) inspires the sciences by challenging them with new ideas and possibilities and
(e) articulates an arguable & argued view about existence, life & consciousness.

Such speculative activity cannot be backed by experimental facts. Indeed, the only way for metaphysics to claim validity is through argumentation, and hence logic. However, as all logic has an axiomatic basis, the origin of metaphysical axioms is largely intuitive. Why certain axioms are preferred over others, is not a matter of logic, but follows an intuitive insight preceding it. Insofar as this insight can be developed by means of creative concepts, logic may be applied. But the insight itself may remain outside the confines of argumentation.

Metaphysical statements must be formally correct and, as much as possible, be backed by science. Through logical analysis, the strength of speculations can be ascertained. In some cases, because of the application of the principles of identity, non-contradiction and excluded third, arguments may be conclusive.

If metaphysics is defined as ontology, the speculative study of being qua being, then a first differentiation calls for the distinction between the world as a whole and what, ex hypothesi, transcends it, namely the Divine. The world contains all objects of formal, critical and creative thought. Viewed onto-genetically, it emerged in three steps, each calling for a symmetry-break :

(1) existence per se : there is something rather than nothing, i.e. the absence of whatever could be. What exists are aggregates of particles & forces. Metaphysical cosmology (or philosophy of nature) tries to develop a total picture of why there is something, in particular why there is a comos ;
(2) life : there are living things, not only particles & forces. What lives has a genotype (DNA), a phenotype and is able to produce an offspring. Metaphysical biology aims to speculate about the emergence of life, its purpose and goal ;
(3) consciousness : there are conscious subjects, not only particles, forces and biological organisms. Consciousness is aware of itself, the other than itself, and the meanings associated with both. Metaphysical anthropology posits the human as the most conscious entity on this planet and tries to understand the nature of this consciousness.

Speculations, based on intuitions & arguments drawn from these axioms, not trespassing the limits of the world, are immanent. Immanent metaphysics strives to realize a comprehensive view of reality and ideality.  It dares to speculate.

The "idea" of the real is pushed beyond "the surface of the mirror", for the ontological question "What is ?" makes creative thought posit a real, solid world "out there".

The "idea" of the ideal is also carried through, rarified as the final meta-term of an endless series. The transcendental Self of critical thought becomes an ontological Self, claiming "I, I am" (ego sum). The fleeting moments of identity characterizing the empirical ego are backed ontologically (not epistemologically) by a substantial, higher Self (Descartes' ego is a rarified empirical ego). The notion of such an own-Self proves necessary in the evolution of cognition to its final stage, nondual thought.

The "final" nondual mode of cognition may be viewed as the mythical "beginning" of a new septet of still higher cognitive modes, etc.

Attentive of critical thought, immanent metaphysics does not describe truth, goodness or beauty to ground epistemology, ethics or esthetics. Attentive of formal thought, arguments are backed by scientific fact.

Moving beyond the frontiers of the world, metaphysics becomes transcendent. Logic shows only the "via negativa" may establish the possibility of such a transcendent metaphysical speculation. Does the Divine exist ? cannot be answered by looking at the world "from the outside", for where could an Archimedic point be established ?

Ockham showed how to posit the First Conserver of the world.

As a contingent thing that comes into being, is evidently conserved in being as long as it exists, its conserver is dependent, for its own conservation, on another conserver or not. If not, then how can the evidence of it being conserved be there ? As only necessary beings conserve themselves and the world contains contingent things only, every conserver must depend on another conserver, etc. As there is no infinite number of actual conservers "hic et nunc" (the world being finite) there must be a First Conserver. An infinite regress in the case of things existing one after the other (like horizontal, efficient causes of the same kind) is conceivable, although unlikely. But an infinite regress in the actual, empirical world here and now would give an actual infinity, which is, given the world is finite, absurd. So to avoid the presence of the First Conserver, actual reality would become infinite ! Ergo, the First Conserver probably exists. Without this First Conserver, metaphysics would only be immanent. Because of this proof, transcendent metaphysics is possible.

Note : the question is not "Does God exist ?". Why ? The word "God" has a smaller semantic field than the word "Divine", for the latter includes everything related to Divinity, irrespective of quantifiers (like polytheism, henotheism or monotheism) & ideological contents (like the tenets of any particular religion, irrespective of the number of adherents). Transcendent metaphysics does not aim to intuit the object of a historical rarified definition of the Divine (as Re-Atum, Brahma(n), Aten, YHVH, Amun, Zeus, Buddha, summum bonum, Prime Mover, the One, Trinity, Allah, God, etc.), but the extraordinary, meta-rational, seemingly supernatural direct (mystical) experience of the absolute, the Real-Ideal totaliter aliter. Not as a limit-idea, as in critical thought, not as a higher Self, as in creative thought, but immediately, direct and without mediation..

Transcendent metaphysics is nondual or non-conceptual. Hence, it is devoid of conceptual designation. What transcends the concept is either irrational nonsense or metaphysical poetry. Poetical symbols, like music, need a system of delineation or hermeneutics. Comparing Divine poems may lead to insights about why & how the Divine is encapsulated in poetical discourses, prompting a study of the names of the Divine or theonomy and comparative mysticism. This leads to the notion of a plurality of approaches of the Divine. In a substantialist view, the Divine is an omnipotent & omniscient Supreme Being or singular, sole, one God. In a nondual view, "unity" & "oneness" are just names attributed to the Divine, i.e. conceptual designations. These limit the Divine, absolute in absoluteness, beyond affirmation & denial.

Theonomy is not an inquiry into the nature of God (or theology), for how, given Divine un-saying, is this possible ?

13. Applied philosophy.

Taken together, logic, epistemology, ethics, esthetics & ontology are the "theoretical" side of the curriculum of philosophy. And adding philo-logistics (history, encyclopedia, auxiliary studies), one arrives at the traditional course given at any academy of Western philosophy, in which, to this day, applied philosophy, or the philosophy of the practice of philosophy remains absent. As a result, graduating philosophers are unable to actually continue to learn to be philosophers and mostly forget all about it. The academy countered this by introducing specializations adapted to the markets, and by doing so more and more eclipsed the true purpose of philosophy : a life in accord with wisdom. In this way, academic philosophy refutes itself, which is absurd.

In the light of criticism, academic philosophy must be both theoretical & practical :

  • the theoria of philosophy :
    (1) normative : logic, epistemology, ethics & esthetics ;
    (2) descriptive : metaphysics or an ontology of existence, life & the human ;
    (3) philo-logistics : history of philosophy, hermeneutics, linguistics, philosophy of language, neurophilosophy, etc.

  • the praxis of wisdom: the philosophy of the practice of philosophy, namely the tools to apply philosophy in society, in terms of psychology, sociology & economy.

The "theoretical" activity of the philosopher (reading, writing, teaching) needs to be complemented by the "practical" activity of the same philosopher (listening, advising, mediating, meditating). Without sufficient input from real-life & real-time philosophical crisis-management, the mighty stream of wisdom becomes a serpentine of triviality and/or a valid pestilence of details (pointless subtlety).

Contemplation (theory) and action (practice) must work together to allow wisdom to deepen by the touch of a wide spectrum of different types of interactions. Risks must be taken. Opposition & creativity (novelty) must be given their "random" place in the institutional architecture. One must teach philosophers how to integrate themselves in the economical cycle. Kept outside the latter, state-funded, in-crowd academies of philosophy rise.

To the "theoretical" side, a more "practical" approach needs to be added. Philosophers must be taught to be advisors, mediators, interpreters and arbiters, implying communication skills beyond what philosophy has to offer today. How the economy of the practice of philosophy works is also a requisite. And of course, how to refine the principles of the Socratic dialogue, theoretically as well as practically, cannot be left out.

Applied philosophy adds art to science, circumstance to rule. Hence, applied philosophy has no principles & norms, only maxims, i.e. rules applicable to occasion. This casus-law is meant to allow maximum transparency, openness & fairness.

More about these maxims of practice can be found in the literature of the philosophy of practice.

14. The need of a practicum of philosophy.

The normative disciplines offer a lot of possibilities to introduce practical exercises, individual training and brainstorming sessions. These applications must be rigorous, and constitute the backbone of the philosopher and his practice.

Ontology invites the student to try to give answers to its three main questions : Why is there something ? What is life ? What is consciousness ? Speculative creativity trains multiple theory-formation, dialogal confrontation, adaptation and intelligent problem-solving.

Understanding how the practice of philosophy works from within allows students to be confident enough to start their own praxis. The academy should assist students by helping them to actualize the maxims of practice.

The practicum of philosophy also includes critical and creative cells introduced to constantly verify demarcations and pose intelligent questions as well as advance new ideas.

Devoid of this integrated training, any philosopher is forced to train much more after graduation, all while finding the material means to realize & sustain this effort. This is not impossible, but very difficult and so rare. In no other branch of human learning is this the case and the academy of philosophy is hereby again called to add applied philosophy to its curriculum.

Suggested Reading :

Achenbach, G.B. & Macho, T. : Das Prinzip Heilung, Dinter - Keulen, 1985.
Achenbach, G.B. : Philosophische Praxis, Dinter - Keulen, 1987.
Achterhuis, H. : Arbeid, een eigenaardig medicijn, Baarn - Ambo, 1984.
Arendt, H. : The Human Condition, Doubleday - New York, 1958.
Bernstein, R. : Praxis and Action, Duckworth - Philadelphia, 1972.
Bonhoeffer, D. : Seelsorge, Kaiser - München, 1982.
Buber, M. : Between Man and Man, Macmillan - New York, 1967.
Buber, M. : Pointing the Way, Harper & Row - New York, 1963.
Buber, M. : Ik en Gij, Bijleveld - Utrecht, 1959.
Cogen, E.D. : Philosophers at Work, Holt - New York, 1988.
Cooper, D.G. : Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry, Ballantine - New York, 1967.
Delnoij, J. & van der Vlist, W. : Filosofisch consulentschap, Damon - Best, 1998.
Deurzen-Smith, van, E. : Existential Counselling in Practice, Sage - London, 1994.
Dill, A. : Philosophische Praxis, Fischer - Frankfurt, 1990.
Elster, J. (red) : The Multiple Self, Cambridge University Press - Cambridge, 1989.
Erikson, E.H. : Identity : Youth and Crisis, Norton - New York, 1968.
Frankl, V. : Man's Search for Meaning, Beacon - Boston, 1962.
Goodman, P. : Nature Heals, Free Life - New York, 1977.
Griffiths, A. (red) : Philosophy and Practice, Cambridge University Press - Cambridge, 1985.
Hadot, P. : Philosophy as a Way of Life, Blackwell - Oxford, 1995.
Hamlyn, D.W. : Being a Philosopher : The History of a Practice, Routledge - London, 1992.
Hanfling, O. : The Quest for Meaning, Blackwell - New York, 1987.
Hoogendijk, Ad. : Spreekuur bij een filosoof, Veen - Utrecht, 1988.
Hoogendijk, Ad. : Filosofie voor managers, Veen - Amsterdam, 1991.
Kessels, J. : Socrates op de markt : Filosofie in bedrijf, Boom - Amsterdam, 1997.
Laing, R.D. : The Divided Self, Penguin - London, 1970.
Laing, R.D. : Knots, Vintage - New York, 1972.
Laing, R.D. : Wisdom, Madness and Folly, Macmillan - London, 1986.
Marcuse, H. : One Dimensional Man, Sphere - London, 1968.
Rogers, C. : On Becoming a Person, Constable - London, 1974.
Rogers, C. : A Way of Being, Houghton - Boston, 1980.
Rotenberg, M. : Damnation and Deviance, Free Press - New York, 1978.
Sacks, O. : Awakenings, Penguin - Harmondsworth, 1976.
Sautet, M. : Un café pour Socrate, Laffont - Paris, 1995.
Schuster, S. : Filosofische Praktijk, Lemniscaat - Rotterdam, 1999.
Sontag, S. : Against Interpretation, Farrar - New York, 1966.
Sontag S. : Illness as Metaphor, Farrar - New York, 1978.
Spinelli, E. : Demystifying Therapy, Constable - London, 1994.
Tillich, P. : The Courage to Be, Yale University Press - New Haven, 1952.
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Veening, E.P. : Over de werkelijkheid van drie werelden, Veening - Groningen, 1998.
Vonessen, F. : Was Krank macht, ist auch heilsam : Mythisches Gleichheitsdenken, Aristoteles' Katharsis-Lehre und die Idee der homöopathischen Heilkunst, Haug - Heidelberg, 1980.
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Witzany, G. : Zur Theorie der Philosophischen Praxis, Die Blaue Eule - Essen, 1991.

Chapter 2


on critical epistemology

"... science is apparently increasingly able to construct and reconstruct itself in response to problem challenges by providing solutions to the problem ..."
Knorr-Cetina : The Manifacture of Knowledge, 1981, p.11.



I : Transcendental Logic :

A. The dyad of formal thought.
B. The fact of reason.
C. The groundless ground of knowledge.

II : Theoretical Epistemology :

01. The normative solution.
02. The object of knowledge.
03. The subject of knowledge.
04. Categories (mind) & ideas (reason).
05. Idealistic & realistic transgressions.
06. Regulations towards unity & expansion.
07. Correspondence versus consensus.
08. The coherency-theory of truth.
09. On methodology.
10. The fundamental norms of knowledge.
11. The scientific status of a theory.
12. Metaphysics and science.
13. Language and the criteria of discourse.

III : Applied Epistemology :

14. The practice of knowledge.
15. Methodological "as if"-thinking.
16. Practical communication.
17. Judgments a posteriori.
18. Optimalisations.
19. Producing facts.
20. The opportunistic logic of knowledge-production.

Suggested Reading


§ 1

This introduction serves to highlight a few remarkable historical landmarks in the field of epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge, its possibility and expansion.

Briefly discussing these examples paves the way for the critical approach (not skeptical, nor dogmatic) fostered in the main body of this work piece, called in as an epistemological preamble to a possible ontology.

The choice of what is an outstanding achievement in this domain is subjective insofar the author was touched by the exemplaric excellence made present by certain texts. But, these options also cover objective ground, because at each station, our understanding of knowledge grows.

This effort is flanked by Chapter 7 on the existence of the Divine, concluding in favour of an immanent, conserving cause of the universe (as in Late Stoic materialist "logos" metaphysics).

On the one hand, strong reliance on a critical epistemology brings the natural limitations of knowledge to the fore and so delimits the scope of what there is to be known. The outcome will be an immanent stance, one staying within the borders of a possible knowledge. So immanence will be at the core of this natural philosophy, however not without reference to the transcendent, both as a regulative limit-concept (a construct) and an objective infinity (or absolute absoluteness).

On the other hand, making the onto-categorial scheme explicit, shows how the proposed naturalism is in accord with a view on consciousness, information and matter, and this based on contemporary sciences like physics, biology and psychology. The options demanded by the scheme give shape to a metaphysical research program at work in the background. By making its tenets clear beforehand, our naturalism operates without implicit untestable propositions. Being conscious of them in an explicit way, may avoid their subreptive infiltration in the domain of science proper (i.e. as part of empirico-formal propositions, which are arguable and testable).

Both investigations prepare the philosophical study of nature. Calling this effort "ecstatic" implies (a) the discovery of traces of the transcendent within the immanent order and (b) the acknowledgment of the creativity of nature, the urge of all things to become and develop into greater complexities and this while introducing novelty. This disclosure will not be prompted by any metaphysical axiomatics (incorporating such ecstasy a priori, either out of choice or by adherence to a creed), nor by a theory of knowledge accommodating ontology (endorsing realism or idealism as the constitutive ideas of the possibility of knowledge). These unsuccessful strategies proved to be vain, leading to "perversa ratio", to quote Kant. Indeed, the critical instrument sought, will be indebted to nominalism and critical thought. However, although largely constructivist, it thinks thought as an unfolding process, of which formal thought is not a priori in conflict with ante-rationality and meta-rationality, nor does it denies the importance of both in a multi-dimensional concept of rationality. The latter is in accord with the author's definition of philosophy.

"Philosophy or love of wisdom, is a multi-dimensional, comprehensive, cognitive answer to this call rooted in our bio-psychological & spiritual evolution, to knowingly push limits, transcend limitations, producing more complex, refined & subtle states of consciousness, information and matter. This answer is rational, dialogal, open, critical, personal and seeks the unconditional. Philosophy allows recurrent & multiple transferences between, on the one hand, reason and intuition or meta-reason, and, on the other hand, reason and instinct or ante-reason. It is open to the wonderous, ineffable, luminous, spontaneous & meaningful."

In the course of this intro, salient epistemological perspectives put forward by the examples, are highlighted in tables.

§ 2

Thinking is of all cultures, as are imagination and speculation. But the solidification of the philosophical approach of thought by thought in well-formed glyphs or signs (like signals, icons and symbols) is rather rare. Oral traditions exist, but their historical authenticity cannot be ascertained, except by testimony. Without signs, imposing a definitive form upon matter and so leaving a meaningful trace, thought does not in effect leave the mythical, neither does it initiate history, a traceable community of sign-interpreters. Even if a scribal tradition is installed, one needs strong media to ensure historical continuity. If texts are carved into stone, they are likely to survive better than when recorded on very perishable materials, like wood or clay. Although the latter have the advantage of facilitating the speed with which signs can be recorded, they nevertheless are less sustainable over long periods of time. To keep them for posterity, they need to be copied again and again ...

Philosophical cultures become possible when a society has reached the stage of a leisure-economy, implying that a small elite, close to the ruling powers, no longer has to work for a living. This upper class is made free to exclusively perform an intellectual task. Moreover, to accommodate the formation of schools of thought, an explicit desire to transmit speculative information must be present in the cultures at large. This implies a classical language, a scribal tradition, an educational method, specific buildings, copyists, etc. And these are costly investments for any society, let be those of Antiquity. In a historical sense, these philosophical schools become "real" insofar original texts or reliable testimony are extant.

In Antiquity, speculative thought was never divorced from religious and ceremonial considerations. In the East, the Vedas (ca. 1900 BCE) and their commentaries, the Upanishads (starting ca. 700 BCE) record the musings of the enlightened seers of India, as well as their Brahmin rituals. But these texts were recorded on lasting media much later, and their originals are lost. Were did the first speculative scribal tradition make solid history ?

In the Middle East, Ancient Egyptian culture, because of its long and outstanding scribal tradition, brought together a number of remarkable
characteristics. The latter influenced Western civilization, notably the pre-Socratic Greeks, a fact our history books have yet to come to grips with :

  • the words of god and the love of writing : it should be emphasized, that in Ancient Egypt, both spoken and written words were deemed very important : hieroglyphs were "divine words", a gift of the god Thoth, endowed with magical properties, "set apart" and distinguished from everyday language and writing (namely Hieratic and later Demotic). They were protected against decay, either by underground tombs, exceptional climatic conditions or by carving them into hard stone. Pharaoh Unis (ca. 2378 - 2348 BCE), to assure his ascension and subsequent arrival in heaven, was the first to decorated his tomb with hieroglyphs, the so-called Pyramid Texts. So even if the offerings to his double (or "ka") would end, the hieroglyphs -hidden in the total obscurity of the tomb- contained enough "inner" power (or "sekhem") to assure Wenis' felicity ad perpetuam ... In its iconicity, Egyptian civilization was quite unique in the Mediterranean. But, although producing a vast literary corpus, Egyptian culture never acquired the rational mode of cognition. Its attachment to the contextual and the local (provincial), as well as the special pictorial nature of the "sacred script", all point to highly iconic, rather "African" ante-rational mentality ;

  • accomplished discourse : the fundamental categories of Egyptian wisdom were "heart/tongue/heart" insofar as theo-cosmology, logoism and magic were at hand and "hearing/listening/hearing" in moral, anthropological, didactical and political matters. The first category reflected the excellence of the active and outer (the father), the second the perfection of the passive and inner (the son). The active polarity was linked with Pharaoh's "Great Speech", which was an "authoritative utterance" ("Hu") and a "creative command" based on "understanding" ("Sia"), which no counter-force could stop ("Heka").

    "The tongue of this Pharaoh is the pilot in charge of the Bark of Righteousness and Truth !"

    Pyramid Texts, utterance 539 (§ 1306).

    The passive polarity was nursed by the intimacy of the teacher/pupil relationship, based on the subtle and far-reaching encounters of excellent discourse with a perfected hearing, i.e. true listening. The "locus" of Egyptian wisdom was this intimacy. Although Pharaoh was also called "wise", the sapiental discourses alone name their (possible) author and restrict their reference to the Divine by using the expression "the god" ("ntr") in the singular. Wisdom ("saa") was always linked with a "niche" defined by the vignettes of life the sage wished to impart as good examples to confer his wisdom to posterity.

    "No one is born wise."
    Maxims of Ptahhotep - line 33

    The wisdom teachings are parables helpful to understand how, in all circumstances, the wise balanced Maat and made the social order endure by serving "the great house" ("pr aA" or Pharaoh), being at peace with himself and "the god".
    This sapiental tradition is not a fixed canon, and undergoes several transformations ;

  • truth and the plummet of the balance : in Middle Egyptian, the word "maat" ("mAat") is used for "truth" and "justice" (in Arabic, "Al-Haq", is both "truth" and "real").

    Truth is an equilibrium (a bringing together hand in hand with a keeping apart), measurable as the state of affairs given by the image, form or representation of the balance :

    "Pay attention to the decision of truth and the plummet of the balance, according to its stance."

    Papyrus of Ani
    18th Dynasty
    Chapter 30B - plate 3

    This exhortation by Anubis, the Opener of the Ways, summarizes the Egyptian practice of wisdom and pursuit of justice & truth. By it, their "practical method of truth" springs to the fore : serenity, concentration, observation, quantification (analysis, spatiotemporal flow, measurements) & recording (fixating), with the sole purpose of rebalancing, reequilibrating & correcting concrete states of affairs, using the plumb-line of the various equilibria in which these actual aggregates of events are dynamically -scale-wise- involved.

    This causes (a) Maat to be done for them and their environments and (b) the proper "Ka", or vital energy, at peace with itself, to flow between all parts of creation (truth and justice are personified as the daughter of Re, equivalent with the Greek Themis, daughter of Zeus - cf. "maati" as the Greek "dike").

    The "logic" behind the operation of the balance involves four rules : 

    1. inversion : when a concept is introduced, its opposite is also invoked (the two scale of the balance) ;

    2. asymmetry : flow is the outcome of inequality (the feather-scale of the balance is a priori correct) ;

    3. reciprocity : the two sides of everything interact and are interdependent (the beam of the balance) ;

    4. multiplicity-in-oneness : the possibilities between every pair are measured by one standard (the plummet).

Although these speculations were embedded in religious thought, an independent sapiental tradition existed. In the Old Kingdom (ca. 2670 - 2205 BCE), the scribes were talented individuals around the divine king and his family. By the Middle Kingdom (ca. 1938 - 1759 BCE), a scribal class emerged. These exceptional thinkers produced the masterpieces of classical Egyptian literature. They were attached to a special building in the temple precinct, the so-called "per ankh" or "House of Life" (in El Amarna, the "House of Life" abuts upon "the place of the correspondence of Pharaoh" - Gardiner, 1938).

§ 3

In the Early New Kingdom (ca. 1539 - 1292 BCE), Late Ramesside Memphite theology and philosophy (ca. 1188 - 1075 BCE), was dedicated to Ptah, the god of craftsmen and the patron deity of Memphis. This theological move balanced the Theban hegemony of the "king of the gods", Amun-Re. Memphis was allegedly founded by a divine king, who, for the first time around ca. 3000 BCE, if not a little earlier, united the Two Lands, i.e. Upper (South) and Lower (North) Egypt.

These first kings were the "shemsu Hor", the "followers of Horus" ("Hor" means "he upon high"). Their names were written within a rectangular frame, at the bottom of which is a recessed paneling (like on false doors). On top of this "serekh" or palace facade, was perched the falcon of Horus, hence the appellation "Horus-name".

The Horus-falcon symbolized the overseeing qualities of the king present in his palace, representing a transcendent and uniting principle. This bird of prey glides high up in the sky on the hot air and with a watchful eye overlooks its large territory, soaring down on its prey at a 100 miles per hour, combining speed with endurance ...

In the Old Kingdom, Memphis had been the capital of Egypt and throughout Egypt's long Pharaonic history (ca. 3000 - 30 BCE), it remained the city where the divine king was crowned. In the Late Period (664 - 30 BCE), the priests of Memphis were renowned for their scholarship and wisdom (in his Timaeus, Plato lauds the nearby priests of Sais, worshipping the goddess Neith). Indeed, Egypt's sapiental tradition was born in the milieu of scribes and priests.

In Memphis, these thinkers envisioned the process of acquiring knowledge thus :

"The sight of the eyes, the hearing of the ears, and the breathing of air through the nose, these transmit to the mind, which brings forth every decision. Indeed, the tongue thence repeats what is in front of the mind. Thus was given birth to all the gods. His (Ptah's) Ennead was completed. Lo, every word of the god (Ptah) came into being through the thoughts in the mind & the command by the tongue."
Memphis Theology, lines 56-57.

ante-rational reflection, by the intellectual elite of Memphis, on the origin of knowledge, is part of the Memphis Theology, a text carved ca. 700 BCE on the Shabaka Stone exhibited at the British Museum. It goes back to a lost original composed between ca. 1291 and 1075 BCE, if not earlier.

We read how the events recorded by the sense of hearing and the sense of sight in the living, breathing body are brought up to the mind (or "heart" = ). The notion of moving upwards is suggested by the determinative of the double stairway ( / 041), leading to a high place. This elevated place is nothing less than the realm of the divine mind of Ptah, to which all possible impressions ascend.

The two phases of the empirico-noetic process (registering and deciding) are put forward. This happens in the context of an affirmation of the theo-noetic origin of everything. Indeed, the passage is part of a cosmogony, explaining how every thing came into being by the divine words uttered by Ptah. Every law of nature (the "netjeru" or deities) and everything these laws operate, is conceived in the divine mind and spoken by the divine tongue. Nothing comes into existence without them.

Although the Aristotelian distinction between the passive and the active intellect is absent as such (for no formal, abstract concept has yet been established), it is clear our authors are aware of the registering faculty of the mind and know that after registering, the mind produces "every decision", i.e. works to solve problems. These ideas stand before rationality (ante-rational), because, as is general in Egyptian thought, they do not fix the mind in terms of categorial, formal rationality (initiated by the Greeks). As will be explained later, ante-rational thought covers the first three stages of human cognition, namely mythical, pre-rational and proto-rational thought.

The activity of Ptah's divine mind is all-comprehensive. His law (thought and spoken) is also moral :

"Thus all the witnessing faculties were made and all qualities determined, they that make all foods and all provisions, through this word. {Justice} is done to him who does what is loved, {and punishment} to him who does what is hated. Thus life is given to the peaceful and death is given to the criminal. Thus all labor, all crafts, the action of the arms, the motion of the legs, the movements of all the limbs, according to this command which is devised by the mind and comes forth by the tongue and creates the performance of everything."
Memphis Theology, lines 57-58.

This remarkable theology does not contemplate a realm of "pure" thought outside of the operations, contextual limitations, conditionings or determinations of physical reality (a world of ideas, a Greek "nous"). Instead of working with a clear-cut division between object and subject, both are understood as emerging and co-existing with (not transcending) the context in which they happen. No formal distinction between facts and so no decontextualized "theoria" (or contemplation) of events.

The description thus necessarily lacks formal abstraction. So there is no Greek Being, Logos, idea of the Good, First Intellect or Divine mind ("logos"), considered to be radically independent from and different than the world of the senses and action (in logic, "formal" means independent of contents). In Egyptian thought, the "word" only exists when it is spoken ! Like idea and reality, mind and speech are simultaneous.

In Memphite thought, the impact of mind and speech on both ontology and epistemology is made clear in ante-rational terms. On the one hand, this is an idealism avant la lettre, i.e. a proposal in which the creative and constructivist power of thought and its articulation are put forward. To conceive something, is to create structures which determine reality. This ontological idealism is pre-Platonic and cosmogonic, but exemplifies the importance of (divine) cogitation, both in terms of understanding (Sia) and authoritative utterance (Hu). On the other hand, it also underlines, in realistic fashion, the importance of perception, for the senses bring their information before the mind and the latter decides. As usual in Egyptian thought, a multiplicity of approaches is summoned. Hence, the concordia discors of thought is already made explicit, albeit in a proto-rational discourse.

§ 4

The Greek miracle did not fall out of the sky. By the end of the Dark Age (ca. 1100 - 750 BCE), the Greek cultural form had already acquired persistent "Aryan", Indo-European characteristics of its own. Although mythical, they were outstanding enough to leave their archeological traces.

The Greek mentality had been around before the collapse of the Pax Minoica (in ca. 1530 BCE, the Thera volcano on Santorini erupted), and at least emerged at the beginning of the Mycenæan Age (ca. 1600 - 1100 BCE). These Mycenæans were Helladic warlords entertaining an active commercial economy (based on indirect consumption) and a high level of mostly imported craftsmanship. They had "tholos" burials, with their dome shaped burial-chambers. Their palaces followed the architectural style of Crete, although their structure was more straightforward and simple.

Their Linear B texts reveal the names of certain gods of the later Greek pantheon : Hera, Poseidon, Zeus, Ares & perhaps Dionysius. There are no extant theological treatises, hymns or short texts on ritual objects (as was the case in Crete). Their impressive tombs indicate their funerary cult was more developed than the Minoan, and in the course of their history, outstanding features ensued. Despite the Dorian devastations and their obliterating and repressing effects, these persisted :

  • linearization : "Mycenæan megaron", "geometrical designs", mathematical form, peripteros ;

  • anthropocentrism : warrior leaders, individual aristocrats, poets, "sophoi" and teachers ;

  • fixed vowels : the categories of the "real" sound are written down & transmitted ;

  • dialogal mentality : the Archaic Greeks enjoyed talking, writing & discussing ;

  • undogmatic religion : the Archaic Greeks had no sacred books and hence no dogmatic orthodoxy ;

  • cultural affirmation : the Archaic Greeks were a "young" people who needed to affirm their identity ;

  • cultural approbation & improvement : the Archaic Greeks accepted to be taught and were eager to learn.

The Egyptian sage never relinquished the religious. The divine was a given and speculative thought at all times an expression of the deity. Although deep, remarkable and vitalizing, Egyptian philosophy remained contextualized and defined by a "milieu" it could not escape. Exceptional individuals, like Akhenaten, may have had access to formal thought. The Ramesside Hymns to Amun and the Memphis Theology also testify to this. Although more than one aspect of Egyptian thought, like the virtual adverb clause and its pan-en-theist henotheism, may assists speculative naturalism, no systematic approach of wisdom ever gained ground.

The Indo-European mentality of the Archaic Greeks differed from the African tradition (of which Egyptian thought was the best example). Between ca. 750 and 600 BCE, we find the crystallization of their city-states and the rise in power of the non-aristocrats, allying themselves with frustrated noble families and putting the hereditary principle under pressure. The two main leitmotivs of this age are discovery (literal and figural) and the process of settlement & codification. In some towns, a leisure-economy ensued, and with it, the free time to speculate.

Despite these and many other influences, the Greeks developed their own systematic, linearizing approach. They focused on :

  • Milesian "archē", "phusis" & "apeiron" : the elemental laws of the cosmos are rooted in substance, which is all ;

  • Pythagorean "tetraktys" : the elemental cosmos is rooted in numbers forming man, gods & demons ;

  • Heraclitean "psyche" & "logos" : becoming and a quasi-reflective self-consciousness, symbolical & psychological, prevail ;

  • Parmenidian "aletheia" : the moment of truth is a decision away from opinion ("doxa") entering "being" ;

  • Protagorian "anthropos" : man is the measure of all things and the relative reigns.

From the start, ontological questions dominated Greek thought. What is the "physis" or fundamental stuff of nature (Ionic branch) ? How to know the truth as "being" (Eleatic branch) ? Can indeed anything truly be known (Sophists) ? Why is there something rather than nothing (Plato, Aristotle) ?

§ 5

Parmenides of Elea (ca. 515 - 440 BCE), inspired by Pythagoras and pupil of Xenophanes (ca. 580/577 - 485/480 BCE), was the first Greek to develop, in poetical form, his philosophical insights about truth ("aletheia"). Thanks to the neo-Platonist Simplicius (490 - 560), 111 lines about the Way of Truth are extant. In it, the conviction dominates that human beings can attain knowledge of reality or understanding ("noos"). But to know the truth, only two ways are open : the Way of Truth and the Way of Opinion. These are defined in terms of the expressions "is" and "is not".

The first is the authentic way, leading to the unity and uniqueness of "being". When using the copula "is", Parmenides points to the perfect identity of substantial "being", ascribed in a single sense. Hence, what is other than "being" itself has no being at all ... This is the second way, that of mere opinion ("doxa").

To develop his argument, Parmenides uses a three-tiered disjunction. To answer the question : "Is a thing or is it not ?", three answers are possible : (a) it is or (b) it is not or (c) it is and it is not.

By using the necessities of logic, the formal conditions of knowledge become apparent. Two ways of inquiry are alone conceivable. The first, the journey of persuasion, attends on reality, on the fact a thing is, while the second, is without report and deals with that a thing is not and must not be. As one can neither know what is not (deemed impossible), nor tell of it, the second way is pointless. Only one story of the way is left : "being" is ungenerated, imperishable, entire, unique, unmoved and perfect. It never was nor will be, since it is now all together, one, indivisible. It has no parentage.

Let us consider the three answers. If a thing is and is not, then this either means that there is a difference due to circumstance or that "being" and "nonbeing" are different and identical at the same time. This answer is relative (circumstantial) or contradictory. If a thing is not, then it cannot be an object of a proposition. If not, not-being exists ! This answer is pointless. As the last two answers are clearly false, and only three answers are possible, so the first answer must, by this reductio ad absurdum, be true, namely : the object of thought "is" and equal to itself from every point of view.

With Parmenides, pre-Socratic thought reached the formal stage of cognition. Before the Eleatics, the difference between object and subject of thought was not clearly established (cf. the object as psychomorph). The formal laws of logic were not yet brought forward and used as tools to back an argument. The strong necessity implied by the laws of thought had not yet become clear. Ontologically, the proto-rational concept of change of Heraclitus (540 – 475 BCE) is indeed opposed to the static, single being of Parmenides, but epistemologically, the latter was the first to underline the importance of the formal characteristics a priori of all thought. The mediating role of the metaphor is replaced by an emphasis on the distinction between the thinking subject (and its thoughts) and the reality of what is known.

"... remaining the same and in the same state, it lies by itself and remains thus where it is perpetually, for strong necessity holds it in the bondage of a limit, which keeps it apart, because it is not lawful that Being should be incomplete, for it is not defective, whereas Not-being would lack everything. The same thing is for conceiving as is cause of the thought conceived ; for not without Being, when one thing has been said of another, will You find conceiving. And time is not nor will be another thing alongside Being, since this was bound fast by fate to be entire and changeless."
Parmenides, fragment 8, 29-35.

§ 6

Ironically (or by force of apory ?), the idealism of Parmenides, thinking the necessity of the object of thought, confuses between a substantialist and a predicative use of the verb "to be" or the copula "is". That something "is" (or "Dasein") is not identical with what something "is" (or "Sosein"). Properties (accidents) do exist apart from the "being" of the substances they describe.

From the substantialist point of view, not-being is pointless. Only an all-comprehensive "Being" can be posited. We know Parmenides asserted further predicates of the verb "to be", namely by introducing the noun-expression "Being". The latter is ungenerated, imperishable, complete, unique, unvarying and non-physical ...

He did not conceive the absence of certain properties as not-being, nor could he attribute different forms of "being" to objects. What Parmenides calls "Being", is an all-comprehensive being-there standing as being-qua-being, as "Dasein" in all the entities of the natural world (and their "Sosein"). In that sense, namely in his mysticism, he is closer to Heraclitus as one would suspect.

If Parmenides core interest was formal, then he mainly wanted to show what sense attaches to the verb "to be" in asserting and thinking. But modern exegesis attributes to his thought an existential understanding of the verb, or worse, an archaic failure to distinguish between both uses.

The difference between object and subject of thought, at the core of formal rationality, allows for two radical reductions : an object without a subject and a subject without an object.

Without object, thought cannot say anything about the world and its propositions are all tautologies and analytical. None of the accidents refer to anything outside thought, to an entity, so must we think, which is kickable and which kicks back. In an all-comprehensive subjectivism, the sole laws are the formal rules themselves, pointing to a set of ideas. Lack of object is an outstanding characteristic of idealism.

Without subject, observation is impossible. For there can be no observation without an observer and no two observers occupy the same space-time. Moreover, there is no observation without interpretation. The thinking subject is an integral part of the act of observation. Theoretical connotations co-determine what is observed (even in the brain, various levels of sensoric interpretation are at work). In an all-comprehensive objectivism, sense-data are the sole bedrock, pointing to a real world out there. Inability to regard the constructed nature of reality is the outstanding feature of realism.

As soon as formal rationality envisaged the crucial difference between object and subject of thought, the apory resulting from radical reductions became possible. As a result of the continuous complexification of thought, these extreme positions were and are still advocated. Grosso modo, realism in materialism and the natural sciences, idealism in humanism and the sciences of man. It is one of the tasks of epistemology to elucidate this concordia discors and make it operational in terms of the growth of knowledge.

§ 7

"All thinkers then agree in making the contraries principles, both those who describe the All as one and unmoved (for even Parmenides treats hot and cold as principles under the names of Fire and Earth) and those too who use the rare and the dense. The same is true of Democritus also, with his plenum and void, both of which exist, he says, the one as being, the other as not-being. Again he speaks of differences in position, shape, and order, and these are genera of which the species are contraries, namely, of position, above and below, before and behind ; of shape, angular and angleless, straight and round."
Aristotle : Physics, book 1, part 5.

Democritus of Abdera (ca. 460 - 380/370 BCE), geometer and known for his atomic theory, developed the first mechanistic model. His system represents, in a way more fitting than the difficult aphorisms of Heraclitus, a current radically opposing Eleatic thought.

The evidence of perception cannot be denied. The Eleatics are obviously wrong. Instead of relying on the formal conditions of thought only, the origin of knowledge is given with the undeniable evidence put forward by the senses. Becoming, movement and change are fundamental. Hence, not-being exists. It is empty space, a void. If so, then being is occupied space, a plenum. The latter is not a closed unity or continuum, a Being, but an infinite variety of indivisible particles called "atoms".

The atoms are all composed of the same kind of matter and only differ from each other in terms of their quantitative properties, like extension, weight, form and order. They never change and cannot be divided. For all of eternity, they cross empty space in straight lines. Because these atoms collided by deviating ("clinamen") from their paths, the world of objects came into existence (why they moved away from their linear trajectories remains unexplained). Hence, the universe is composed of a multiplicity of atoms moving and colliding in empty space ... Each time this occurs, they form a vortex separated from the rest of the universe, thus forming a world on its own. Hence, an infinite number of simultaneous and successive worlds are in existence.

Objects emerge by the random aggregation of atoms. Things do not have an "inner" coherence or "substance" (essence). Everything is impermanent and will eventually fall apart under the pressure of new collisions. Atoms are characterized by quantitative features only. Thus, all spiritual, psychological and mental processes can be reduced to conglomerates of atoms moving without inner principle of unity. Thoughts, feelings, volitions and the like, are nothing more than mechanical activities between atoms. Qualities are subjective interpretations of quantities. Hence, the universe is material, quantitative, deterministic and without finality.

Regarding knowledge, Democritus conjectures the senses are all derived from the sense of touch. The atoms bombard the senses and give a picture of the object emitting them. As a function of their speed, form etc. we can speak of sweet, blue etc. These names are only conventional and do not convey any real characteristic of the object in question. But, we are able to discover the true, real features of a thing behind the dark veil of the senses. This is intellectual knowledge. Indeed, without the latter, it would not be possible to develop the mechanistic model !

The logical difficulty facing this model is clear : if all things are atoms, then how can rational knowledge be more reliable than perception ? Moreover, how can atomism describe atoms without in some way transcending them ? In epistemological terms : how can the subject of knowledge be eclipsed hand in hand with a description of this "fact" ? There is a contradictio in actu exercito : although refusing the subject of knowledge any independence from the object of knowledge, the former is implied in the refusal.

The problems facing Democritus are those of realism (materialism) in general. They mirror those of Eleatic idealism (spiritualism). In pre-Socratic philosophy, both represent the two poles of the essential tension characterizing thought.

The pendulum-swing between realism and idealism, or, in other words, the exorcism of respectively either subject or object of knowledge, can be identified in pre-Socratic thought as the apory between Parmenides & Democritus. Both exemplify a movement of thought allowing it to exceed and thus reduce (repress) its natural anti-pode. Idealism rejects the object of perception, realism the constructive activity of the subject of thought. Instead of harmonizing both, by introducing a principle of complementarity, thought is crippled by a contradiction. In each case, the necessities lay bare by this forced monism (either of mind or of matter), bring the structure of both poles to the fore : Parmenides thinks the logical conditions a priori, leading to oneness, universality and qualitative uniqueness, Democritus observes the empirical conditions a posteriori, bringing in an infinite series of singular atoms and quantitative multiplicity.

§ 8

The Eleatic effort to posit the necessity of logic & unity was turned into rhetoric by the wandering Sophists. By so introducing the relativity of thought (skepticism and humanism), they prompted a new quest for a comprehensive system. In it, the various facets developed since Thales would have to be brought together in such a way that true knowledge would remain certain and eternal (and not circumstantial and probable).

"Nothing exists. If anything existed, it could not be known. If anything did exit, and could be known, it could not be communicated."
Gorgias of Leontini : On What is Not, or On Nature, 66 - 86.

Greek concept-realism, in tune with the  tendency of thought to fossilize and substantialize, developed two radical answers and two major epistemologies. These were foremost intended to serve ontology, the study of "real" beings and being, as does the logic that underpins them. Indeed, neither Plato or Aristotle developed the quantitative view of the world as proposed by Democritus. Their systems are devoid of mathematical physics.

In concept-realism, concepts must refer to something "real". Our thoughts are always about some thing. The "real" is a sufficient ground guaranteeing the identity of every thing. For the Greeks, the "real" had to be universal ("ta katholou", or applicable everywhere and all the time). Either these universals exist by themselves outside the sensoric world (the real is ideal) or they only exist as the form of things in each individual thing (the ideal is real). In the former, a cleavage occurs and dualism emerges (between being and becoming), in the latter, a monism ensues. Again two reductions of the ongoing, crucial tension of thought, i.e. the continuous, shocking confrontations between object and subject of knowledge : the concordia discors.

For Plato (428 - 347 BCE), strongly influenced by Pythagoras and the Eleatics, there is a real, Divine world of ideas "out there" or, as in neo-Platonism, "in here", a transcendent realm of Being, in which the things of this fluctuating world participate. Ideas are those aspects of a thing which do not change.

Obviously then, truth is the remembrance (anamnesis) of (or return to) this eternally good state of affairs, conceived as the limit of limits of Being or even beyond that. These Platonic ideas, like particularia of a higher order, are no longer the truth of this world of becoming but of another, better world of Being, leaving us with the cleaving impasse of idealism : Where is the object ?

The Platonic ideas exist objectively in a reality outside the thinker. Hence, the empirical has a derivative status. The world of forms is outside the permanent flux characteristic of the former, and also external to the thinking mind and its passing whims. A trans-empirical, Platonic idea is a paradigm for the singular things which participate in it ("methexis"). Becoming participates in Being, and only Being, as Parmenides taught, has reality. The physical world is not substantial (without sufficient ground) and posited as a mere reflection. If so, it has no true existence of its own (for its essence is trans-empirical). Plato projects the world of ideas outside the human mind. He therefore represents the transcendent pole of Greek concept-realism, for the "real" moves beyond our senses as well as our minds. To eternalize truth, nothing less will do.

Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) rejects the separate, Platonic world of real proto-types, but not the "ta katholou", the generalities ("les généralités", "die Allgemeinen"), conceived, as concept-realism demands, in terms of the "real", essential and sufficient ground of knowledge, the foundation of thought. So general, universal ideas do exist, but they are always immanent in the singular things of this world. There is no world of ideas "out there". There is no cleavage in what "is" and there is only one world, namely the actual world present here and now. The indwelling formal and final causes of things are known by abstracting what is gathered by the passive intellect, fed by the senses, witnessing material and efficient causes. The actual process of abstraction is performed by the intellectus agens, a kind of Peripatetic "Deus ex machina", reflective of the impasse of realism : Where is the subject ?

"The faculty of thinking then thinks the forms in the images, and as what is to be pursued or avoided is already marked out for it in these forms, the faculty can, by being engaged upon the images, be moved, and this also in a way independent from perception."
Aristotle : De Anima, III.7.

How is this first intellect able to derive by abstraction the universal on the basis of the particular ? How does it recognize the forms in the images without (Platonic) proto-types ? Even a very large number of particulars does not logically justify a universal proposition, as Aristotle knew. Induction has no final clause, for all past causes can never be known. How does this active intellect then recognize the similarities between properties offered by the passive intellect, if not by virtue of a measure which is independent from perception (and so again introducing a world of ideas) ?

Aristotle posits the objective forms in the actual world. In the latter, both being and becoming operate. This was a major step forward, for ontological dualism is explicitly avoided, although implicitly reintroduced within psychology. The forms are realized in singulars, but known by accident of a universal intellect he does not study. For him, the "real" is known through the senses and the curious abstracting abilities of the mind. The workings of the intellectus agens remain dark. This concept-realism is immanent. All things are explained in terms of four causes : causa materialis, causa efficiens, causa formalis and causa finalis. Experience of the first two causes, triggers the process of cognition and knowledge of material bodies. Abstracting the last two causes, allows one to understand the "form" or essence of things.

In Platonic concept-realism, one cannot avoid asking the question : How can another world be the truth of this world ? The ontological cleavage is unacceptable. Peripatetic thought summons a psychological critique, for how can the human soul possibly know anything if not by virtue of this remarkable active intellect ? Both reductions are problematic. Because they try to escape, in vain, the Factum Rationis, and so represent the two extreme poles of the concordia discors of thought, they form an apory. Plato, being an idealist, lost grip on reality. Aristotle, the realist, did not fully probe his own mind. Composite forms of both systems do not avoid the conflict, although they may conceal it better. The crucial tension of thought was not solved by Greek concept-realism. How to evolve formal rationality ?

The two major philosophical systems of Greek philosophy are examples of foundational thinking. Truth is eternalized and static. Concept-realism will always ground our concepts in a reality outside knowledge. Plato cuts reality in two qualitatively different worlds. True knowledge is remembering the world of ideas. Aristotle divides the mind in two functionally different intellects. To draw out and abstract the common element, an intellectus agens is needed. But, both positions reveal new insights : knowledge is impossible without innate forms (Plato) versus knowledge starts with perception (Aristotle). Greek thought is unable to reconcile the extremes and so no armed truce ensued. One tried to avoid the concordia discors by eliminating the other side of the equation. These tensions, like open wires, short-circuited Medieval logic, preparing thought for its emancipation from fideism and fundamental theology.

§ 9

In Late Hellenism, and particularly in Stoicism, language became an independent area of study. Logic was not longer embedded in metaphysics, but part of the new science of language (linguistics). The technical apparatus developed by the Platonic and Peripatetic schools, as well as the mechanics of logic had been fully mastered. An overview of knowledge was sought, and concept-realism still prevailed. Concepts were either rooted in universal ideas or in immanent forms. Both ideas and forms were "real", i.e. agents working "outside" the mind and delivering the foundation of thought and true knowledge. Throughout the Mediterranean, the Egyptian school of Alexandria was renowned. In 529, under the Christian emperor Justinianus, who commissioned the Hagia Sophia, the Platonic Academy at Athens was closed.

Physics studies things ("pragmata" or "res"'), whereas dialectica and grammatica study words ("phonai" or "voces"). This is the approach of the first scholastic and the last Roman, Boethius (480 - 524 or 525). He created the term "universalia" (the Latin of "ta katholou") to denote the logical concepts genus and species. The apory between Plato's world of ideas and Aristotle's immanent forms, is no longer part of the Stoic context. A simplification took place which brought logic and linguistics to the fore.

In his Isagoge, a work translated by Boethius, Porphyry (232/3 - ca. 305) had written :

I shall not say anything about whether genera and species exist as substances, or are confined to mere conceptions ; and if they are substances, whether they are material or immaterial ; and whether they exist separately from sensible objects, or in them immanently."
Porphyry : Isagoge, 1, introduction.

For Boethius, considering these matters to be "very deep", the answer is Aristotelian : the universals have an objective existence in particular physical things, but the mind is able to conceive genera and species independent of these bodies.

For Isidore of Sevilla, who died in 636, etymology was the crucial science, for to know the name ("nomen") of an object gave insight into its essential nature. Hence, there exists an implicate adualism between the name (or word) and its reality or "res". This symbolic adualism does not differentiate between an "inner" subjective state of consciousness and an "outer" objective reality, which is a typical characteristic of ante-rationality (cf. psychomorphism). This view was a return to Plato and the Eleatic cleavage between "is" and "is not". And indeed, this Platonism accommodated the Augustinian interpretation of Christianity. Here, symbolical adualism walks hand in hand with ontological dualism : the true name of a thing reveals its unchanging, transcendent essence intuitively, precisely because there is a radical division between the perfect, true world of Being and the incomplete, false world of becoming.

Thanks to the Carolingian Renaissance, and the organization of the Palatine School, a remote ancestor of the Renaissance "university" ("turned towards unity") was created. Europe, under the political will of Charlemagne, was awakened to its "rational" inheritance and embraced the importance of education and learning (for the upper classes). Although short-lived, its influence would not completely vanish.

Clearly the problem of universals touched the foundation of fideist thought, which tried to identify general names (like "God") in the mind with universal objects in reality. On the one hand, there was the ultra-realistic position, or "exaggerated realism", found in the De Divisione Naturae of John Scotus Eriugena (ca. 810 - 877) and the work of Remigius of Auxerre (ca. 841 - 908), who taught that the species is a "partitio substantialis" of the genus. The species is also the substantial unity of many individuals. Thus, individuals only differ accidentally from one another. All beings are thus modifications of one Being. A new child is not a new substance, but a new property of the already existing substance called "humanity" (a kind of monopsychism avant la lettre may be noted).

On the other hand, very soon heretics in dialectic rose. For Eric (Heiricus) of Auxerre (841 - 876), general names had no universal objects corresponding to them. Universals concepts arise because the mind gathers together ("coarctatio") the multitude of individuals and forms the idea of species. This variety is again gathered together to form the genus. Only individuals exist. By the process of "coarctatio", many genera form the extensive concept of "ousia" ("substantia"). In the same line, Roscelin (ca. 1050 - 1120) held that a universal is only a word ("flatus vocis") and so "nihil esse praeter individua" ...

§ 10

In the Middle Ages, this apory between exaggerated realists ("reales") and nominalists ("nominales"), itself a logico-linguistic transposition of the ontological apory between Plato and Aristotle, is best illustrated by the confrontation between William of Champeaux (1070 - 1120), and Abelard (1079 - 1142). The latter was a rigorist dialectic arguing against the "antiqua doctrina", and, according to the famous Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153), an agent of Satan !

Abelard argued, that according to William of Champeaux, only ten different substances or "essences" exist (namely the 10 categories of Aristotle). Hence, all living beings, subsumed under "substance", are substantially identical, and so Socrates and the donkey Brunellus are the same. In his early days, William of Champeaux taught, against his teacher Roscelin, that the individual members of a species only differ accidentally from one another. But this identity-theory came under severe attack and so he changed it. Some say as a subterfuge, William later replied to Abelard with his indifference thesis, according to which two members of the same species are the same thing, not "essentialiter" but "indifferenter". Peter and Paul are "indifferently" men (they thus possess humanity "secundum indifferentiam"), because as Peter is rational, so is Paul, whereas their humanity is not the same, i.e. their nature is not numerically the same, but like ("similis"). In fact, he is saying the universal substances of both are alike, applying indifferently to both or any other man. This position was also part of Abelard's polemical interpretations.

Abelard's "nominalism" is a denial of ultra-realism in epistemology, i.e. against the adualism between "vox" and "res". He does not refute Platonic "ideae" preexisting in the mind of God, but understands these as the metaphysical foundation of the real similarities in status between objects of the same species, and not of the objects (as Platonism insists). So the ideas explain how two things may be alike, but objects do not participate in ideas, nor are these ideas the "ousia" or "substantia" of objects.

Abelard's analysis states the distinction between the logical and the real orders, but without the denial of the objective foundation of the universals. This early nominalism is a moderate realism. He demonstrated how one could deny exaggerated realism without being obliged to reject the objectivity of genera and species.

For Abelard, universals were by nature inclined to be ascribed to several objects. They are only words, not things (against the "reales"). When identified with words, universals are not reduced to mere "sound" (which is also a "res"), but to the signifying power of words (against the "nominales"). This "significatio" of words is not a concept accompanying the word (a mere contents of mind, i.e. exclusively subjective), but gives expression or meaning to the objective status of the word (semantics). This status is a human convention based on real similarities between the particulars, but these real "convenientia" are not a "res", not "nihil" but a "quasi res" : it is not the substance "homo" that makes human beings similar, but the "esse hominem".

For Abelard, objectivity, found in universal propositions, is a human convention based on real similarities between particulars. The latter exist on their own. Ideas are the metaphysical foundation of the similarities between objects. They are not the "ousia", "eidos", essence or substance of things. These conventions have a special status, for they stand between being and nothing.

The extraordinary contribution of Abelard to epistemology is that he was able to avoid the apory of the concordia discors by introducing a third option :

  1. universale ante rem : the universals exist before the realities they subsume : Platonism ;

  2. universale in re : the universals only exist in the realities ("quidditas rei") of which they are abstractions : Aristotelism ;

  3. universale post rem : universals are words, abstract universal concepts with a meaning, given to them by human convention, in which real similarities between particulars are expressed. The latter are not "essentia" and not "nihil", but "quasi res".

This juggling may conceal the larger issue at hand : if extra-mental objects are particulars and mental concepts universals, then how to think their relationship ? Does an extra-mental foundation of universals exist ? The Greeks as well as the Scholastics answered affirmatively. The idea of a foundation of knowledge was still present.

For the Scholastics, given their preoccupation with God, the problem was to know whether an objective, extra-mental reality corresponded to the universals in the mind ? If so, then the mere concept of "God" might entail Divine existence, as the a priori proof tries to argue. If not, rational knowledge resulted in skepticism and Divine existence might be argued a posteriori only. Greek rationalism was conceptual and ontological, whereas Medieval dialectics was foundational and logico-linguistic (psychological).

Abelard's solution involves a crucial distinction : universals are not real, but they are words (real sounds) with a significance referring to real similarities between real particulars. Because of their meaning, they are more than "nothing". The foundation of his nominalism is "the real" as evidenced by similarities between objects, whereas the "reales" supposed an ante-rational symbiosis between "verbum" and "res", between Platonic ideas and material objects ("methexis").

His pivotal contribution to the historical process of reason becoming conscious of itself is not limited to logic, epistemology and semantics. In his Ethica seu Scito Teipsum or "Ethics of Know Yourself", he stressed the importance of intent ("intentio"). Good and evil are not situated in the action itself (cf. Aristotle's Ethics Nicomachea), but in the intention of the acting subject. Conscience ("conscientia") is therefore crucial, for "non est peccatum nisi contra conscientiam". So also in his ethics, Abelard puts emphasis on the subject of experience, moving far away from the shores of the objective morality of his age (focusing on the virtue of the deed and not on the doer and his motifs).

A similar Abelardian line of argumentation is found in David Hume (1711 - 1776), ending in a skepticism preventing Kant (1724 - 1804) from sleeping (indeed, Hume rejected rationalist intuitionism and so could not back the observed similarity between objects). When Aristotle was finally translated into Latin, Abelard could and was recuperated by High Scholasticism.

§ 11

"Although it is clear to many that a universal is not a substance existing outside the mind in individuals and really distinct from them, still some are of the opinion that a universal does in some manner exist outside the mind in individuals, although not really but only formally distinct from them. (...) However, this opinion appears to me wholly untenable."
Ockham : Summa totius logicae, I, c.xvi.

With the Franciscan monk William of Ockham (1290 - 1350), theologian & philosopher, the "via moderna" received its most logical of defenders. Thomists, Scotists and Augustinians formed the "via antiqua". It is their realism, Platonic (the essence is transcendent) as well as Aristotelic (the essence is immanent), which was firmly rejected. Instead, nominalism was promoted, but one without objective universals. It was hence more radical than Abelard's. No reality ("quid rei") is ever attained, but only a nominal representation ("quid nominis").

For Ockham, the metaphysics of essences was introduced into Christian theology and philosophy from Greek sources. So, contrary to Abelard's moderate nominalism, his strict nominalism did not incorporate them. There are no universal subsistent forms, for otherwise God would be limited in His creative act by these eternal ideas. Indeed, every idea is limited by its own individuality. This non-Christian invention has no place in Christian thought. Universals are only "termini concepti", final terms signifying individual things which stand for them in propositions.

It was Peter of Spain (thirteenth century), who's exact identity is unknown, who had distinguished between probable reasoning (dialectic), demonstrative science & sophistical reasoning. Ockham was influenced by this emphasis placed on syllogistic reasoning leading to probable conclusions. Hence, arguments in philosophy (as distinct from logic) are probable (terministic) rather than demonstrative. Formal logic is demonstrative, whereas terministic logic is probable.

For Ockham, who took the equipment to develop this terminist logic from his predecessors, empirical data were primordial and exclusive to establish the existence of a thing. The validity of inferring from the existence of one thing to the existence of another things was questioned. He distinguished between the spoken word ("terminus prolatus"), the written word ("terminus scriptus") and the concept ("terminus conceptus" or "intentio animæ"). The latter is a natural sign, the natural reaction to the stimuli of a direct empirical apprehension. Only individual things exist. By the fact a thing exists, it is individual. There cannot be existent universals, for if a universal exists, it must be an individual, which is a contradictio in terminis (for universals are supposed to subsume individuals).

This focus on the objects which are immediately known, goes hand in hand with the principle of economy to get rid of the abstracting "species intelligibiles". What is known as "Ockham's Razor" was a common principle in Medieval philosophy. Because of his frequent usage of the principle (cf. the Franciscan vow of poverty), his name has become indelibly attached to it. In Ockham's version it reads : "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate." (plurality should not be posited without necessity). In general terms, this principle of simplicity or parsimony is to always prefer the least complicated explanation for an observation.

Radical nominalists, like Nicolas of Autrecourt (ca. 1300 - ca. 1350), who belonged to the Faculty of Arts, would say no inference from the existence of one thing to the existence of another thing could be demonstrative or cogent, but only probable. Hence, necessity and certainty, idolized by the foregoing metaphysical systems, were gone. No demonstration of God's existence was possible. Such matters have to be relegated to the order of adherence to revealed knowledge or faith. At this point, theology and philosophy separate and the latter becomes a "lay" activity. This is not yet apparent in Ockham, who remains a theologian seeking to find a way to rethink the "proof" of God's existence in merely a posteriori terms.

Against his predecessors, Ockham accepts "being" as a concept common to creatures and God, meaning "being" is predicable in a univocal sense to all existent things. Without such a concept, the existence of God could not be conceived. But, this does not mean this concept acts as a bridge between empirical observation of creatures and the existence of God. It is univocal in the sense it is common to a plurality of things, neither accidentally or substantially alike (thus avoiding pantheism).

These thought bring the distinction between "scientia realis" and "scientia rationalis" to the fore. The former is concerned with real, individual things. He agrees with Aristotle that only individuals exist, but rejects the doctrine that science is of the universal. The latter are not forms realized in individuals (realities existing extra-mentally). Real science is only concerned with universal propositions, i.e. with their truth or falsity (for example : "Man is capable of laughter."). To say a universal proposition in science is "true", is to say that it is verified in all individual things of which the "terms" of the proposition are the natural signs. The terms known by real science stand for individual things, whereas the terms of the propositions of rational science (like logic) stand for other terms.

Ockham's contribution is remarkable, although his terminology is still scholastic and he considered revelation as a source of certain knowledge.

With Ockham, concept-realism is finally relinquished. The foundational approach is also left behind. The nominal representations arrived at in real science are only terministic, i.e. probable. They concern individuals, never extra-mental "universals". Real science deals with true or false propositions referring to individual things. These empirical data are primordial and exclusive to establish the existence of a thing. The concept ("terminus conceptus" or "intentio animæ") is a natural sign, the natural reaction to the stimuli of a direct empirical apprehension. Rational science is possible, but it does not concern natural signs but other terms.

§ 12

"Il y a déjà quelque temps que je me suis aperçu que, dès mes premières années, j'ai reçu quantité de fausses opinions pour véritables, et que ce que j'ai depuis fondé sur des principes si mal assurés ne saurait être que fort douteux et incertain ; et dès lors j'ai bien jugé qu'il me fallait entreprendre sérieusement une fois dans ma vie de me défaire de toutes les opinions que j'avais reçues auparavant en ma créance, et commencer tout de nouveau dès les fondements, si je voulais établir quelque chose de ferme et de constant dans les sciences."
Descartes, R. : Meditations, 1, § 1a.

In the mind of Cartesius, the only constructive point of his education, so the Discourse on Method (1637) tells us, was the discovery of his own ignorance (cf. Chapter 1). This prompted him to reject all prejudices and seek out certain knowledge. Nine years he raises doubts about various conjectures and opinions covering the whole range of human activities. Eventually, doubt is raised regarding three sources of knowledge :

  1. authority : as contradictions always arise between authorities a higher criterion is needed ;

  2. senses : maybe waking experience is just a "dream" or a "hallucination" ? Can this be or not ? Also : the senses give confused information, so a still higher criterion is needed ;

  3. reason : how can we be certain some "malin génie" has not created us such, that we accept self-evident reasoning although we are in reality mislead and in fatal error ?

I can doubt all objects of these activities of consciousness, but that such an activity of consciousness exists, is beyond doubt. Thus, the "res cogitans", "ego cogitans" or "l'être conscient" is the crucial factor in Cartesian philosophy. Its indubitable, intuitively grasped truth ? Cogito ergo sum : I think, therefore I am. That I doubt certain things may be the case, but the fact that I doubt them, i.e. am engaged in a certain conscious activity, is certain. To say : "I doubt whether I exist." is a contradictio in actu exercito, or a statement refuted by the mere act of stating it. The certainty of Cogito ergo sum is not inferred but immediate and intuitive. It is not a conclusion, but a certain premiss.

At this point, the apory resulting from a mismanagement of the concordia discors which animates all possible thought, reappeared and entered modernism.

Transcendental logic makes both terms of the formal equation offered by the Factum Rationis necessary and irreducible. In terms of acquiring knowledge, this implies object and subject of knowledge have to be used simultaneously. But like Plato and the "reales" after him, Descartes eclipses the object of knowledge by inflating an ego cogitans in terms of a substantial ego, solely reflecting on itself, and as Leibnizean monad, without windows on the world and the alter ego. The Spinozist definition of God and freedom being the mature example of the substantializing (ontologizing) effect of this idealistic reduction of the discordant concord or armed truce of thought.

"By God, I mean the absolutely infinite Being - that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses for itself an eternal and infinite essentiality."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VI.

"That thing is called 'free', which exists solely by the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is determined by itself alone. That thing is inevitable, compelled, necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of existence or action."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VII.

Because he did not rely on the object of knowledge (deemed doubtful), Descartes rooted his whole enterprise in an ideal ego constituting the possibility and expansion of knowledge. All idealists after him would do the same. The end result of this reduction is a Platonic theory of knowledge. At the end of the line, truth is identified with a consensus between sign-interpreters (cf. Habermas).

§ 13

In his Treatise of Human Nature (1739) and Enquiry concerning human Understanding (1748), David Hume (1711 - 1776) seeks to develop a science of man. As Locke (1632 - 1704), he envisages a critical and experimental foundation.

"Nature is always too strong for principle."
Hume, D. : Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, 12, 2, 128.

"Perceptions" are the contents of the mind in general, divided in impressions and ideas. The former strike the mind with vividness, force and liveliness, whereas the latter are faint images of these in thinking. Impressions are either of perception or of reflection. The latter are in great measure derived from ideas.

Like Ockham, Hume is a nominalist. Real or ideal universals are not the foundation to erect the science of man. Unlike Descartes, he is an empirist : the senses are the foundation of knowledge. Two kinds of propositions are possible :

  1. analytic : the predicate is part of the subject - these tautologies are universal and necessary, but restricted to geometry and arithmetic. All a priori propositions are analytic and have nothing to say about the world of fact ;

  2. synthetic : the predicate is not part of the subject and an extra-mental reality is implied. All synthetic propositions are a posteriori and have always something to say about the world.

The extra-mental reality sought can be no other than the one offered by direct or indirect empirical experience.

  1. direct synthetic propositions : the predicate is attached to the subject because of what is immediately empirically perceived here and now ;

  2. indirect synthetic propositions : the predicate is attached to the subject because we move from what be know to be a direct, given fact to a state of affairs which is not (yet) empirically given. These propositions are problematic because a necessary and objective connection between our idea of causality and real events cannot be demonstrated. Moreover, logically the move from a finite series of particular observations to an infinite, necessary law can never be warranted (cf. the problem of induction in naive realism).

Suppose the observed psychological connection between fact A and fact B is continuous. Is it necessary ? My (or our) witnessing the connection more than once, does not imply that it will work tomorrow. Skepticism results. The universal value of scientific laws cannot be demonstrated, neither can the reality of the world (within and without). Science is restricted to statements of probability.

The Achilles Heel of this position is the status of the sense-data and the formation of concepts. It is not clear how sense-data can be identified without some conceptual connotation, which is not a sense datum. Moreover, perception is introduced as a sufficient ground. "Adequatio intellectus ad rem" is presupposed (as in all forms of realism). Finally, how can similarities between sense-data be observed ? At the end of the line, empiricism identifies truth with the naive correspondence between concept and fact.

The ontologisms a priori & a posteriori (of Greek concept-realism and the Medieval universalia) gave way to the crucial distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions. On the one hand, Descartes, by introducing a substantial ego cogitans and its intuitive cogito ergo sum, reintroduced Platonism by backing his criterion of truth with a proof of God (making use of the criterion). On the other hand, Hume, by rejecting all but direct synthetic propositions, was unable to explain how we can draw out the common element without innate cognitive structures. Remember how Aristotle was forced to call in his intellectus agens ! Is rationalism not a return to the symbolical (Platonic) adualism and its "leges cogitandi sunt leges essendi" (the laws of thinking are the laws of reality) ? Is empirism not the modern equivalent of the system of Democritus and the subsequent "veritas est adequatio rei et intellectus" ("truth is the correspondence between the intellect and reality) ? These constant pendulum-movements were first identified by Kant and deemed a "scandal" ... How is knowledge possible ?

§ 14

"We thus see that all the wrangling about the nature of a thinking being, and its association with the material world, arises simply from our filling the gap, due to our ignorance, with paralogisms of reason, and by changing thoughts into things and hypostatizing them."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, A394-398.

With his "Copernican Revolution", Kant (1724 - 1804) completes the self-reflective movement initiated by Descartes, focusing on the subject of experience (cf. Chapter 1). Incorporating rationalism and empirism, he avoids the battle-field of the endless (metaphysical and ontological) controversies by (a) finding and (b) applying the conditions of possible knowledge. An armed truce between object and subject had to be realized. Inspired by Newton (1642 - 1727) and turning against Hume, Kant deems synthetic propositions a priori possible (Hume only accepted direct synthetic propositions a posteriori). There is a categorial system producing scientific statements of fact which are always valid and necessary (for Hume, scientific knowledge is not always valid and necessary). This system stipulates the conditions of valid knowledge and is therefore the transcendental foundation of all possible knowledge.

Let us recall the previous positions.

For Plato, the supreme thing is the idea of the Good. The ontology implied is dualistic, for the world to which this idea belongs represents the static, eternal truth in which all shifting temporal particulars participate. To know, it to remember the world of ideas. In short, Plato made his thoughts into an ideal thing separated from this world. The Peripatetics do the opposite ; they idealize the world of becoming, and attribute a final ground to it which is realized in every particular (cf. hylemorphism). This ontologism is realistic, for the "ousia" of a thing is real, but exists as an integral part of the individual things only (cf. the soul as the form of the body). Subsequently, with the division between "reales" and "nominales", nothing new was achieved. Abelard was the first to avoid the apory (cf. universale post rem), but he retained the ideas as metaphysical foundation for the similarities in status between objects of the same species. Although his mild nominalism avoids the trap of symbolical adualism, it fails to adequately explain these similarities.

The transcendental system of the conditions of possible knowledge (or transcendental logic) is a hierarchy of concepts defining the objective ground of all possible knowledge, both in terms of the synthetic propositions a priori of object-knowledge (transcendental analytic covering understanding), as well as regarding the greatest possible expansion under the unity of reason. These transcendental concepts are not empirical, but are the product of the transcendental method, bringing to consciousness principles which cannot be denied because they are part of every denial. They are "pure" because they are empty of empirical data and stand on their own, while rooted in (or suspended on) the transcendental "I think" and its Factum Rationis. For Kant, reason, the higher faculty of knowledge, is only occupied with understanding, while the latter is only processing the input from the senses. Reason has no intellect to inform it. There is no faculty higher than reason.

"All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds thence to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason for working up the material of intuition & comprehending it under the highest unity of thought."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B355.

The process of acquiring knowledge runs as follows :

  1. transcendental aesthetic : empirical knowledge : a variety of direct, multiple, unordered, nameless impressions (Hume), called "Empfindungen" (or perceptions) are synthesized by the forms of representation "space" (related to geometry) and "time" (related to arithmetics) and turned into "Erscheinungen" (or phenomena). These representations reflect the structure of our receptive apparatus. They are meant to structure perceptions into phenomena ;

  2. transcendental analytic : scientific knowledge : phenomena are objectified by thought, but do not constitute an object of knowledge, for this is realized in propositions. The phenomena need to be structured by the 12 categories of understanding, corresponding to 12 different types of propositions (quantity, quality, relation and modality, each viewed from three angels). This categorization of phenomena leads to object-knowledge (synthetic propositions a priori). The categories are meant to structure phenomena into object-knowledge ;

  3. transcendental dialectic : metaphysical knowledge : the variety of objects known is brought to a higher unity. A last, sufficient ground is sought and found in the ideas of reason : "ego", "world" and "God" (derived from the category of relation). These words are not things and only serve understanding, nothing more. While stimulating the mind's continuous expansion, these ideas regulate understanding and bring it to a more comprehensive, reasonable unity. They are meant to structure understanding into an immanent metaphysics.

The 2 forms of representation, 12 categories (brought to unity by 3 ideas) make the object possible, rather than vice versa. The human mind is the active originator of experience, rather than just a passive recipient of perception, as Hume thought. The mind can not be a tabula rasa, a "blank tablet", so Descartes is right. The whole transcendental system is innate. Even on the level of the transcendental aesthetics, perceptions, the only source of knowledge acknowledged, as Locke claimed, must always be processed to be recognized, or they would just be "less even than a dream" or "nothing to us". Both perceptions, representation and categorization are necessary to constitute an object of knowledge.

In his "transcendental dialectic", Kant works with the negative, deceptive meaning of the word "dialectic", namely as antinomy and paralogism. These scandals occur each time the barriers given by our  transcendental logic are not upheld and the ideas are changed into things, which is far worse than a mere mistaken use of the categories. Kant was fully aware of the unwholesome habit of thought to fixate itself or its objects into so-called realities, filling in the "gap" which, for Kant, cannot be crossed.

"I do not mean by this the transcendental use or abuse of the categories, which is a mere fault of the faculty of judgment, not being as yet sufficiently subdued by criticism nor sufficiently attentive to the limits of the sphere within which alone the pure understanding has full play, but real principles which call upon us to break down all those barriers, and to claim a perfectly new territory, which nowhere recognises any demarcation at all. Here transcendental and transcendent do not mean the same thing."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B350.

When the landmarks are removed, transcendental illusion ensues, or reason forgetful of its own, changing thoughts into things. This fundamental falsehood perverts the principles of reason itself. This natural "dialectic" of reason does not go away once realized, but requires to be removed again and again, for it "will never cease to fascinate our reason" (B354). Human reason has a natural inclination to grossly overstep these limits, to give in to the pull of the "unconditional" idea, to fill the gap between what we can know and what we fancy to know, thereby regarding the transcendental ideas as real things, whereas they are wholly subjective, only needed to organize understanding and have no meaning outside this regulative, non-subreptive way. This reveals a fundamental demarcation or difference in the use of the transcendental ideas : regulative (as it should) or constitutive (as hypostases). In the latter case, they step outside the barriers of transcendental logic.

With Kant, a totally new perspective unfolded : criticism highlights the limitations, demarcations, frontiers and borders of thought. It is not possible to step outside ourselves and witness the world. The subjective structure cannot be removed and so what is "objective" can never be identified with an observation without interpretation. The latter is impossible. There is no point of intersection between the lines created by our thoughts and reality-as-it-is. They bounce off on the mirror-surface of phenomena and do not allow us to probe into reality itself. A fundamental distinction is made : humans only know reality as it appears, not as it really is. Hence, the world is epistemologically divided between "phenomena" and "noumena", between what is processed by our understanding (by virtue of the categorial scheme) and the intellectual intuition of things as they are in themselves (an intuition Kant rejected). Needless to say that this new division is problematic. Has Kant, without knowing it, given in to the transcendental illusion he uncovered himself ?

§ 15

Kant wished to retain for science the certainty of the sufficient ground. To understand his epistemology properly, this aim is of paramount importance. He wished to do for philosophy what Newton had done for physics : a universal system allowing one to explain the movements of planets as well as those of apples. He could not accept skepticism and the relativism it engenders. Not finding this firm ground in the objective, outward reality (as a world of Platonic ideas or universal forms immanent in matter), his transcendental method cleared the foundations of the (universal) subjective apparatus of thought. By thus viewing the subject of experience as active after the reception of the perception (analytic object-knowledge after the aesthetic synthesis of phenomena), all possible knowledge was about the "thing-for-us" and never about the "thing-as-such" or reality-as-it-is.

Where did Kant miss out on his own Copernican revolution ?

The first to point to the major flaw was F.H.Jacobi (1743 - 1819), who -in 1787- asked : Were does the "matter" of the perception ("Empfindung") turned into phenomena ("Erscheinung") come from ? Kant supposed our perceptions were somehow caused by reality-as-such, the famous "Ding-an-sich". How can this be ? Causality cannot be invoked, for the nameless perceptions are pre-categorial. Neither can the world-as-such be thought as temporally first and the perceptions last, for the former is outside time. Hence, the way our senses receive information is obscured, compromising Kant's epistemology. If Kant needs the "noumenon" to start up the engine of the categories, then he clearly does not use the "thing-as-such" as a negative, formal and empty limit-concept, and the Copernican Revolution is incomplete. And if this is the case, and it is, then his attempt at justifying knowledge a priori fails. So far the idealists were correct : knowledge cannot find a sufficient ground in the transcendental apparatus, for the latter depends on the very thing it tries to avoid : a direct, unmediated contact with reality.

Kant's system, although transcendental, and thus devoid of any attempt to explain the possibility of knowledge by ontology, retains the postulate of foundation, by which true knowledge is certain, universal and necessary. Scientific knowledge is seen as a system of synthetic propositions a priori, and so indirect synthetic statements pass Kant's critical test (while for Hume only direct propositions were certain). Kant's philosophy is Newtonian, and so absolute principles are acknowledged both in understanding (forms, categories) as in reason (the ideas). At the same time, clear demarcations avoid their abuse and potential corruptive effect on thought.

For good reasons, the history of philosophy is divided in pre- and post-Kantian. For with the crucial Copernican Revolution, the activity of the subject of knowledge was finally fully acknowledged. The categorial scheme yields object-knowledge in the form of synthetical propositions a priori. A Newtonian science of absolute certainties is possible. The skepticism of Hume (also at work in Ockham) is overturned. Causality can be thought and so the connectivity of our knowledge guaranteed. The catch ? By pursuing his foundational course, Kant had to introduce a pseudo-causality before causality in order to explain (describe) how the motor of the categories is fuelled. Moreover, the cleavage between becoming and being was reintroduced as the abyss between phenomena & noumena. To avoid these problems, parts of the transcendental exercise of Die Kritik der Reinen Vernunft has to be redone.

§ 16

In the 20th century, neo-Kantianism reconstructed parts of Kant's system. What can I know ? is answered without presupposing that synthetic proposition a priori are possible. The science of certainties is replaced by the science of probabilities and approximations. Demonstrative intentions are replaced by a terminist logic. This means modernism, as the via moderna had before, took the next step by abolishing foundational thinking. To show this radical move does not automatically lead to relativism or skepticism, is one of the underlying motifs of the present exercise.

According to Sextus Empiricus, it was the skeptic Pyrrho of Elis (ca. 365 - 275 BCE) who taught conflicts between two (or more) criteria of truth automatically lead to an apory or an antinomy, i.e. a contradiction posed by a group of individually plausible but collectively inconsistent propositions. The truth of a given criterion can only be argued using true propositions. But, whenever a given criterion is justified, a petitio principii or circular argument is involved. Discussions about the criterion of truth are therefore unending and without solution.

Much later, the problems of foundational thinking were summarized by the Münchhausen-trilemma (Albert, 1976). Its logic proves how every possible kind of foundational strategy is necessarily flawed. The trilemma was named after the Baron von Münchhausen, who tried to pull himself out of a swamp by his own hair !

Every time a theory of knowledge accommodates the postulate of foundation, three equally unacceptable situations occur. A justification of proposition P implies a deductive chain A of arguments A', A", etc. with P as conclusion. How extended must A be in order to justify P ?

  1. regressus ad infinitum :
    there is no end to the justification, and so no foundation is found (A', A", etc. does not lead to P) ;

  2. petitio principii :
    the end P is implied by the beginning, for P is part of the deductive chain A. Circularity is a valid deduction but no justification of P, hence no foundation is found ;

  3. abrogation ad hoc :
    justification is ended ad hoc, the postulate of justification is abrogated, and the unjustified sufficient ground (A' or A" or ...) is accepted as certain because, seeming certain, it needs no more justification.

The Münchhausen-trilemma is avoided by stopping to seek an absolute, sufficient ground for science. This happens when one accepts genuine science is terministic. In mathematics and physics, major changes have happened since Newton, and who is able to disprove the revolutions of tomorrow ? Hence, the categorial system cannot be absolute, although some of its general features are necessary in a normative way (for we use them when we think).

On the level of transcendental logic and the theory of knowledge, object and subject of thought are fundamental critical concepts. On the level of the practice of knowledge, experiment & argumentation are crucial. Realism and idealism are the proposed transcendental ideas of reason (instead of ego, world & God, crucial for psychology, cosmology & religious philosophy).

The end result of the proper regulative use of the ideas of the real and the ideal (leading to experimentation and argumentation respectively), is not a synthetic proposition a priori, but object-knowledge which is considered, for the time being, as very likely true by the community of sign-interpreters. These empirico-formal propositions are always a posteriori, and may be direct (reality-for-me) or indirect (reality-for-us). Kant's critical epistemology is there to remind us of the natural tendency of reason to hypostatize its ideas.

If the idea of the real is turned into an object (like extra-mental, kickable and kicking things out there), then true knowledge is "adequatio intellectus ad rem". But, we do not know whether knowledge is made possible by a real world. Suppose the latter is the case, then how to reconcile this with the facts that (a) observation co-depends on theoretical connotation and (b) observation unfolds in a conceptual pattern which develops in the act of observing ? If the idea of the ideal is turned into an object, then true knowledge is given by the "consensus omnium" and "leges cogitandi sunt leges essendi" persists. But, knowledge is not made possible by an ideal theory or ideology. For if so, then we blind ourselves from the fact synthetic propositions are also statements about some thing extra-mental, escaping (inter) subjectivities. These two criteria of truth, although discordant, operate simultaneously, and regulate the development of thought.

In the domain of science, producing empirico-formal propositions, the idea of the real and the idea of the ideal are both necessary and operate together. Hence, scientific knowledge is the product of two vectors : objective observation (experiment, test) & intersubjective dialogue (argumentation). In the concrete research-unity, these a priori rules are complemented by a posteriori rules of thumb or practical, opportunistic hypothesis assisting the efficient functioning of the research community. On this level, the difference between what should and what is (between theoretical epistemology and the sociology of science) is felt most ... Indeed, like the rest of us, scientists are not perfect.

In accord with Ockham's terministic probabilism and the view of all knowledge as "approximative", contemporary criticism finds comfort that only probable, not certain empirico-formal knowledge is possible, and that no sufficient ground for the possibility of knowledge needs to be found.  This position is open and so free to investigate all possible expansions of knowledge. Dogmatic and ontological fossilizations are excluded from this secure but narrow point of view.

The major problem of criticism is avoided.

Facts are not monolithical. No pseudo-causality is needed to trigger knowledge. Facts are hybrids.

On the one hand, they are theory-dependent and as such determined by intersubjective languages, theories and their arguments. Of this a descriptive analysis is possible, for we can test ourselves to realize how extended the influence of subjective connotations on direct and indirect observation is. In quantum mechanics, the total experimental set-up, observer included, co-determines the outcome of the experiment.

On the other hand, so must we think, facts are theory-independent. If not, there is no object of knowledge, whereas the proposition in which this is affirmed ("There is no object of knowledge.") has as object the absence of the object of knowledge. The conviction (or belief) in the theory-independent face of facts is not descriptive for it cannot be observed (every observer has a unique set of space-time coordinates). Ergo, the theory-independence of facts is normative and belongs to what we must think in order to think properly. And this is precisely what thinkers thinking properly have been doing all the time.

§ 17

Also in science, the problems posed by skepticism had to be addressed. Especially since Kant, the question "What can I know ?" has been crucial. The apory between "realism" and "idealism" is also without final result. The foundational approach favored since Plato and Aristotle has caused a pendulum movement between two criteria of truth (consensus versus correspondence). To move beyond this, the antinomic problems of justificationism (i.e. the foundational, fundamentalist thinking within science) must be clear : if, on the one hand, real "sense data" are the only building-blocks of "true" knowing, as realism maintains, then why is the definition of the word "sense datum" not a sense datum ? Also : how can a "naked" or "raw" sense datum be observed if our mental framework co-constitutes our observation ? If, on the other hand, ideal linguistic symbols and speech-situations are the exclusive arena of truth, as idealism maintains, then how can knowledge be knowledge if it is in no way knowledge of something (i.e. a "res" and not only "flatus voci") ?

A focus of truth "behind the mirror" (as Kant put it) comes within reach if and only if both perspectives, experiment (correspondence, objectivity) and argumentation (consensus, intersubjectivity) are used together, and this in a regulative, non-constitutive (unfoundational) way. The criterion of truth is not justified by a sufficient ground outside knowledge, but by discovering the normative principles governing all possible knowledge. The latter are bi-polar but interactive and never exclusive, as 19th century, Newtonian scientific thinking claimed. Insofar as either realism or idealism are accepted, the logical merits of the truth claim of science do not exceed the religious criterion of truth. It cannot escape the apory as long as it identifies with objectivity at the expense of subjectivity and intersubjective symbolization (as in logical positivism, materialism, scientism, instrumentalism, reductionism and epiphenomenalism) or with subjectivity and intersubjective symbolic activities with disregard for entities independent of the human sphere (as in spiritualism, idealism and humanism).

Facts are not only experimental and not only theoretical. They are hybrids, composed of what we know (our theories) and, so must be think, the realities outside our minds. The latter cannot be isolated from the former, for the subjective conditions of knowledge cannot be removed without causing the perversity of reason. Empirico-formal object-knowledge is always the product of two vectors at work simultaneously. Not because of some ulterior reason, but because it must be so and has always been so. Epistemology is hence not descriptive, but normative.

Although the Copernican Revolution posits the subject and its constructivist activities, Kant's epistemology is a attempt to still adhere to the postulate of foundation, for synthetic judgments a priori are rooted in the cognitive, categorial apparatus of the subject of experience, without which no thinking is possible. In other worlds, the constructions of my mind are per definition those of other minds. These categories hold true for the object of experience insofar as this object is constituted in observation by our capacity of observation and knowledge. For Kant, scientific knowledge (empirico-formal propositions) does not deal with reality-as-such, but with reality-for-us. However, as contemporary mathematics, relativity & quantum mechanics disagree with the principles of Newtonian physics Kant thought to be anchored in our minds for ever, it becomes clear these categories are not absolutely certain and not a priori. Kant's attempt to anchor science failed, although his unearthing the active subject became a fundamental and irreversible asset of modern epistemology.

It took more than a century before the antinomy between realism and idealism was critically superseded by a normative theory on the possibility and the production of knowledge. In contemporary scientific practice, scientific facts are the outcome of two vectors : on the one hand, objective experiments and their repetition, and, on the other hand, intersubjective communication between the community of sign-interpreters. Logic provides a few a priori conditions, related to the form, clarity and elegance of the symbols of a theory. Epistemology adds a few objective and intersubjective criteria and the local research-unit will foster a series of a posteriori rules of thumb. Nevertheless, despite all possible care, scientific knowledge cannot be absolutist or radical, but instead delicate, prudent & provisional. Indeed, divorced from the metaphysical aim to anchor knowledge, genuine science cannot be a new dogmatic religion, but a method to acquire fallible knowledge.

Indeed, empirico-formal knowledge, or knowledge of facts, is conditional, relative, hypothetical and historical, although a clear theory explaining a lot of phenomena will (provisionally) always be called "true", meaning "very probable", not "certain". A set of such theories will constitute a tenacious scientific paradigm, covering entities which "kick" and "kick back". But things may change, and usually they do ...

"It is an hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow : and this means that we do not know whether it will rise."
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.36311.

Regarding the justification of its truth claim, formal & critical rationality developed their arguments in three stages :

  1. uncritical & foundational : true knowledge corresponds with real, repeatably observable objects (naive realism under the guise of materialism) or true knowledge is the object of an ideal theory (naive idealism under the guise of spiritualism or ideology). Greek concept-realism developed both variants. In both strategies, the error consists in the implicate use of the contra-thesis. Real objects are also co-determined by the theoretical connotations of their observers. Ideal objects are always also referring to a "something" outside the grasp of a theoretical discourse. The foundation of science is objectified : the "real" world "out there" or the "ideal" theory of reason. For Kant, the apory empiricism versus rationalism was a scandal ;

  2. critical & foundational : asking for the limitations of human knowledge, Kant rooted cognition in the cognitive apparatus (cf. the Copernican Revolution). In this way, the foundation sought was interiorized and its a priori categorized. By making the ego cogito (the "I Think" of the Factum Rationis) the foundation of knowledge, Kant succeeded in making reality-as-such fall outside science ! Likewise, for Kant, meta-rational knowledge (intellectual perception) was denied to science, which, divorced from any direct contact with "das Ding an sich", seems trivial. The foundation of science is subjectified (not in an idealism but in a transcendentalism) ;

  3. critical & normative : in the previous century, the foundational approach was relinquished and in this way, the aporia threatening justification was avoided. Science produces terministic empirico-formal propositions. These are treated "as if" they represent a high probability, but never a certain truth. This likelihood is posited by repeatable tests and the intersubjective dialogues and argumentations of all involved sign-interpreters. The end result is fallible knowledge, although, for the time being, highly probable.

With the end of foundational thinking, the confrontation between incompatible foundations is over. Scientific knowledge is probable, historical and relative. Facts may change over time, and nobody is able to predict for certain what the future holds. Moreover, scientific investigations are always conducted against the background of untestable information. Insofar as the latter is arguable, metaphysics is possible. But the latter is never testable, only arguable. Finally, who decides who the "involved sign-interpreters" are and/or when a certain threshold is "critical" ? In order to define these and other matters, science evokes a series of a posteriori conditions representing the idiosyncrasies of the local research-unity, the "opportunistic logic" of their fact-factory and the style of their pursuit of scientific, factual knowledge. These conditions determine the practice of knowledge.

Philosophy and science should remain open and postpone their final judgments. Both must be totally recuperated from the hang-over of their shameful foundational history over the last two millennia. The only role of science is to confirm or deny probable fact. The task of philosophy is to uncover the laws ruling epistemology, esthetics & ethics as well as develop a theoretical picture of the whole (speculation or metaphysics).

Ontology no longer roots object and subject in a self-sufficient ground or eternal, certain foundation. The possibility of knowledge is grounded in knowledge itself. Critical thought raises the reflective to the reflexive. Epistemology is a normative discipline, bringing out the principles, norms and maxims of true knowledge. These must be used in every correct cogitation producing valid knowledge. The principles are given by transcendental logic, the norms by the theory of knowledge (and truth) and the maxims by the knowledge-factory or applied epistemology. Science deals with propositions arrived at by the joint efforts of experimentation and argumentation. The discordant concord of both vectors is necessary and their defences should never be put down, nor should their truce, which is essential to produce knowledge that works, be broken. Scientific knowledge is in the form of empirico-formal propositions which are terministic (probable) and fallible. They are formulated against the implicit or explicit background of untestable metaphysical speculations and always imply a "ceteris paribus" clause.

§ 18

"There is a science ("episteme tis") which studies being qua being, and the properties inherent in it by virtue of its own nature. This science is not the same as any of the so-called particular sciences, for none of the others contemplates being generally qua being ..."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, IV, I.1, 1003a

In chapter 1 of his Metaphysica Lambda (or twelfth book of his Metaphysics), shortly written after Plato died (347 BCE), Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) tries to demonstrate the existence of two physical beings and one unmoved being. These three beings, or meanings of the word "ousia", are : (a) physical and eternal (planets), (b) physical and moved (plants & animals) and (c) a "first" being beyond physics and eternal ("the God"). The first two beings are the objects of physics. The last is not and demands another approach coming "after" and/or next to physics, or metaphysics, a word Aristotle did not coin himself. "Metaphysics" appeared as a separate discipline only after the Aristotelian corpus was put together ca. 40 BCE by Andronicos of Rhodos. He used to place the books on metaphysics "next to" those dealing with physics.

"Then if there is not some other substance ("ousia") besides those which are naturally composed, physics will be the primary science ("proto episteme") ; but if there is a substance which is immutable, the science which studies this will be prior to physics, and will be primarily philosophy, and universal in this sense, that it is primary. And it will be the province of this science to study being qua being ; what it is, and what the attributes are which belong to it qua being ("eta on")."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, VI, I.12, 1026a.

Metaphysics does not seek to produce propositional statements of fact. It is not limited by what is actual, but by what is possible in thought. It has no research-cell in which knowledge is produced, sold (published) and exported. Because no actual, factual, contracted entity can be its object, it is not a science. The study of being qua being is not a "study" in the same way or in the same sense as this word is used in science. But, this inquiry into being is not devoid of organization or arguments.

For Aristotle, a unique science was possible before those singling out some actual entity. Only this speculative "science" (from "episteme", or "epi" + "histanai", to cause to stand) differed from all other sciences, and this because of the extension of its object and because it was deemed prior to all others. Aristotle tried to make this science stand, but because the object aimed at, namely the Being which makes all actual entities be, is a supreme generic concept, it can not be objectified. There is no standpoint outside this absolute, sheer Being, no subjective stance or possible vantage point "outside" the all-encompassing totality of all what is. Being cannot be equated with any object, and so Aristotle was in error when he viewed speculative philosophy as a science. Metaphysics is not. At best it is a metascience, depending on the data of science. As such, it is a forteriori immanent, but cannot be called a scientific metaphysics. It is never of the nature of a science, for it does not produce facts, but works on a meta-level next to them. Metaphysics is not a "scientia prima" nor a "scientia ultima". It is not science at all and, by its very nature, can never be one ...

In Ancient Greek, the "beyond" of something is expressed by "meta". To inquire into being qua being is "meta ta physika" and goes beyond entities. It transcends the limitations of science, which are the boundaries of the entities made public or unveiled by categories of thought focused on the being-what of the physical world. Accordingly, the investigation of being qua being is "peri physeo", concerns the being of the entity, not only its being-what or "Sosein", but in its being-there ("Dasein"), and moves beyond the pre-Socratic concept of "physis". However, as Aristotle identifies being with substance, and takes the latter as object of the first science, it is clear that already in his case the inquiry into being remained unalterably a study of entities, i.e. "physics". Aristotle missed the point, and had better isolated "ousia" from the categorial scheme.

In The Twilight of Idols, Nietzsche, identifying metaphysics with its Platonic incarnation, called such "highest concepts " as being, "the last cloudy streak of evaporating reality". For him, the study of being qua being is nothing less than the "error of being". As the reversal of Plato, Nietzsche heralded the end of classical, transcendent metaphysics.

Can the question of Being be answered ?

"Pourquoi il y a plutôt quelque chose que rien ?"
Leibniz, GW : Principes de la nature et de la grâce, 1714.

Wittgenstein (1889 - 1951), Popper (1902 - 1994), Habermas (1929), Lakatos (1922 - 1974), Feyerabend (1924 - 1994) & Kuhn (1922) put into evidence the co-determining influence conceptual connotations (or subjective viewpoints) have on the macroscopic observation of the being-what of actual entities. In the subatomic realm, the Copenhagen interpretation of the wave-equation of Schrödinger takes this influence of the observer on the observed for granted. A particle is also a wave and subatomic entities become one or the other only at the moment of measurement. Indeed, look at a photon and it behaves like a particle, observe not and it is a wave ... Ergo, (inter)subjective constructions (like a particular experimental setup or metaphysical background knowledge) are always part of the formation of propositional statements of fact, and directly influence the outcome of any experiment ! Scientific knowledge of reality-as-such devoid of any theoretical connotation, i.e. observation without absolutely no interpretation, is therefore impossible.

In a Platonizing phenomenology, object-knowledge, the product of an inquiry into the What ? and Who ? of the entities, does not escape the duality between the reality-as-such of an actual entity (its contraction from Being) and reality-for-us (its appearance as fact). The being-what of entities, disclosed by scientific knowledge is, in this account, only a disclosure veiled by the limitations of the discovered "what-ness" (by the type of question posed) and by the form of the observer, his or her conceptual connotations. This approach does not understand the crucial importance of the hybrid nature of scientific facts : simultaneously theory-dependent (insofar they are right) and, so must we think, the messengers of reality-as-such (insofar they are wrong - cf. infra). As a result, an ultimate confusions arises, as the work of Heidegger (1889 - 1976) exemplifies.

"Gott ist, aber er existiert nicht."
Heidegger, M. : Was ist Metaphysic ?

How to define metaphysics or metascience in the context of the present critical epistemology ?

"... speculative philosophy (= metaphysics) is the endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of experience can be interpreted."
Whitehead : Process & Reality, p.4.

Hence, metaphysics is a speculative, non-factual, arguable inquiry with the following objects (Apostel, 2002, p.61) :

  1. the totality of all what exists in the world of facts and events, i.e. the universe ;

  2. the properties common to all existing things (= ontology) ;

  3. the architecture of the totality of things ;

  4. the global pattern, place or rank of all things.

Without scientific data, the enterprise of metaphysics is impossible. Moreover, once such a total picture emerges, its role is not to stand on its own, but to be a heuristic tool for science, offering new factual research vistas. Besides the logical consistency of its arguments, metaphysical systems can be judged as a function of their ability to cover more factual variety, realize a higher unification of knowledge and give more new research suggestions.

Consider the two-step program of metascience, of which only one can be completed within the boundaries of reason :

In an immanent metaphysics, rather Peripatetic of inspiration, staying within the limitations of possible experience, the world is all there is and existence is only instantiation. Science observes and argues a series of predicates ascribed to objects, and pours these connections in non-eternal, probable, approximative synthetic propositions a posteriori. No necessary Being can be inferred. Meta-reason is empty. The highest being to be inferred a posteriori remains proportionate to the world. Only an immanent natural theology is possible.

In a transcendent, Platonizing metaphysics, there is more than the world, for the latter, in phenomenological terms, i.e. as revealed by the things themselves, is the theophanic contraction of absolute Being. Hence, each fact reveals more than the series of predicates ascribed to it, for each fact is (also) an epiphany. To supersede the world, is to stand in one's own essential Being or being-there. The a priori arguments backing the proof of God aim to posit this transcendent Being as an existing Being analytically, thus including the finite world in infinite Being. They fail to deliver this. "The Divine exists." is hence not and analytical, self-evident statement (cf. Chapter 7).

As such, metaphysics is foremost immanent and thus a heuristic, speculative, suggestive, innovative and spiritualizing system of arguable statements about the world. The essence aimed at in a transcendent approach cannot be articulated, which does not preclude it can be shown as an object of art or given as the sacred or the holy (in mysticism and religion). It can not be object-knowledge, but shown in action. Hence, it is not an item of science but of art and ethics (cf. the existence of God as a postulate of practical reason).

Science and metaphysics do not exclude one another. The former is impossible without metaphysical background information in the form of a generalizing ontology (a total picture of reality and ideality). Often, the precise outline of this ontology is repressed, forcing it to work implicitly. But, only science is testable and its "game" the guardian of "true" knowledge. Metaphysics, lacking the objective side of the equation, can never be tested. Instead, it can only depend on logical criteria of formal well-formedness and the laws of correct argumentation. Insofar as it does not exceed the limitations imposed by the world, it stands next to science as a possible creative fount of its inventivity and novelty. Being an immanent heuristic tool, it may help the development of knowledge and trigger new research, both in terms of experimentation and argumentation. Insofar as metaphysics exceeds nature, it posits a world outside the world, and accommodates transcendent thought. The latter does not interact with science but with mysticism, religion and spirituality. Insofar as metaphysics is unarguable, it is irrational. As such, it must be rejected and avoided.

§ 19

In Jean Piaget's (1896 - 1980) theory on cognitive development, two general functional principles, rooted in biology, are postulated, namely organization & adaptation.

The former implies the tendency common to all forms of life to integrate structures (physical & psychological) into systems of a higher order. The latter (to be divided in assimilation & accommodation) shows how the individual not only modifies cognitive structures in reaction to demands (external) but also uses his own structures to incorporate elements of the environment (internal). 

Organisms tend toward equilibrium with their environments. Centration, decentration (crisis) & re-equilibration are the fundamental processes forcing the cognitive texture of humans to complexify.

Mental operators are the result of the interiorization of this cognitive evolution. An original, archaic sense of identity is shaped. After prolonged exposure to new types of action -challenging the established original centration and its equilibrium- a crisis ensues and decentration is the outcome. Eventually, a re-equilibration occurs because a higher-order equilibrium was found through auto-regulation (re-equilibration, autopoiesis).

Over time, various different strands, levels, layers or planes of cognitive texture unfold. The process may be analyzed as follows :

  1. repeated confrontation with a novel action involving motor functions (original, initial coordinations of actions) ;

  2. action-reflection or the interiorization of this novel action by means of semiotic factors : this is the first level of permanency or pre-concepts which have no decontextualized use ;

  3. anticipation & retro-action using these pre-concepts, valid insofar as they symbolize the original action but always with reference to the initial context ;

  4. final level of permanency : formal concepts, valid independent of the context of the original action & the formation of permanent cognitive (abstract) operators.

In this way, and based on his experimental work with children worldwide, Piaget defined four layers of cognitive growth :

  1. sensori-motoric cognition, between birth & 2 years of age ;

  2. pre-operational cognition, between 2 and 6 ;

  3. concrete operatoric cognition, between 7 and 10 ;

  4. formal-operatoric cognition, between 10 & 13.

The first three levels correspond with "ante-rationality" (cf. supra), whereas formal-operatoric cognition is identical with formal rationality. In his Le Structuralisme (1970), he defines "structure" as a system of transformations which abides by certain laws and which sustains or enriches itself by a play of these transformations, which occur without the use of external factors. This auto-structuration of a complete whole is defined as "auto-regulation". In the individual, the latter is established by biological rhythms, biological & mental regulations and mental operations. These are theoretically formalized.

Piaget refuses to accept that "real" dialectical tensions between physical objects are the "true" foundations of thought and cognition (its possibility, genesis & progressive development), as in most other types of psychology and pedagogy attuned to realism. Piaget never fills in what reality is like. He maintains no ontological view on reality-as-such, considered to be the borderline of both the developing subject and its objective world, stage after stage.

The cognitive is approached as a process, for rationality grows in developmental steps, each calling for a particular cognitive structure on the side of the subject. What reality is, is left open. Why ? Every objective observation implies an observer bound by the limitations of a given stage of cognitive development, i.e. a subjective epistemic form, containing idiosyncratic, opportunistic and particularized information. These work like Kantian categories, but without their universal intention.

Neither did Piaget choose for a strictly transcendental approach. Conditions which exist before cognition itself (like in Foucault) are not introduced. What Popper called the "problem-solving" ability of man, may be associated with Piaget's notion on "re-equilibration". Popper introduced the triad : problem, theory (hypothesis, conjecture) & falsification (refutation). In his dynamical and actional anthropology and psychology Piaget introduced : activity, regulation, crisis & re-equilibration (auto-regulation).

His psychogenesis (based on the observation of children) shows how knowledge develops a relationship between a thinking subject and the objects around it. This relationship grows and becomes more complex. Stages of cognitive development are defined by means of their typical cognitive events and acquired mental forms. This development is not a priori (pre-conditions), a posteriori (empirical) but constructivist : the construction eventuates in its own process, in other words, the system has been, is and will always be (re)adapting and (re)creating new cognitive structures, causing novel behavior & different environmental responses, which may be interiorized, forming new internal cognitive forms, etc. The foundation of this process is action itself, the fact its movements are not random but coordinated. It is the form of this coordination, the order, logic or symbolization of the pattern of the movements which eventually may stabilize as a permanent mental operator.

Two main actions are distinguished :

  • sensori-motoric actions exist before language or any form of representational conceptualization ;

  • operational actions ensue as soon as the actor is conscious of the results & goals of actions and the mechanisms of actions, i.e. the translation of action into forms of conceptualized thought. These operations are either concrete (contextual) or formal (decontextualized). The latter are identified with rational thought.

The last decades have seen many applications of these crucial insights in the functional, efficient (educative) side of the process of cognition. An example is schema theory, at work across the fields of linguistics, anthropology, psychology and artificial intelligence. Human cognition utilizes structures even more complex than prototypes called "frame", "scene", "scenario", "script" or "schema". In cognitive sciences and in ethnoscience they are used as a model for classification and generative grammar (syntax as evolutionary process). 

The schema is primarily a set of relationships, some of which amounts to a structure, generating pictorial, verbal and behavioral outputs. The schemata are also called mental structures and abstract representations of environmental regularities. Events activate schemata which allow us to comprehend ourselves & the world around us.

The term is thus used to define a structured set of generalizable characteristics of an action. Repetition, crisis & reformation yield strands of co-relative actions or stages of cognitive development. Knowledge begins in the coordination of movement. Ergo, in genetical sequence,
these consensual types of schemata emerge :

  • sensori-motoric, mythical thought : aduality implies only one relationship, namely with immediate physicality ; object & subject reflect perfectly ; earliest schemata are restricted to the internal structure of the actions (the coordination) as they exist in the actual moment and differentiate between the actions connecting the subjects and the actions connecting the objects. The action-scheme can not be manipulated by thought and is triggered when it practically materializes ;

  • pre-operatoric, pre-rational thought : object and subject are differentiated and interiorized ; the subject is liberated from its entanglement in the actual situation of the actions ; early psychomorph causality. The subjective is projected upon the objective and the objective is viewed as the mirror of the subjective. The emergence of pre-concepts and pre-conceptual schemata does not allow for permanency and logical control. The beginning of decentration occurs and eventually objectification ensues ... ;

  • concrete-operatoric, proto-rational thought : conceptual structures emerge which provide insight in the essential moments of the operational mental construction : 
    (a) constructive generalization ; 
    (b) the ability to understand each step and hence the total system (1 to 2 to 3 ...) and 
    (c) autoregulation enabling one to run through the system in two ways, causing conservation. The conceptual schemata are "concrete" because they only function in contexts and not yet in formal, abstract mental spaces ;

  • formal-operatoric, rational thought : abstract conceptual structures positioned in mental spaces which are independent of the concrete, local environment. Liberated from the substantialist approach but nevertheless rooting the conditions of knowledge outside the cognitive apparatus itself ;

  • transcendental thought : abstract concepts explaining how knowledge & its growth are possible, rooted in the "I think", the transcendental unity of apperception (or transcendental Self) ;

  • creative thought : the hypothesis of a possible (arguable), conceptual immanent metaphysics ;

  • nondual thought : the suggestion of a possible, non-conceptual but meta-rational transcendent metaphysics (or pataphysics).

The last mode of cognition is mentioned here ex hypothesi.

§ 20

These modes of thought contain two important demarcations : the lower threshold defines the border between ante-rational thought (mythical, pre-rational and proto-rational) and reason. The higher threshold declares the difference between reason (conceptual and transcendental) & immanent metaphysics (or creative thought).

Each time a threshold is crossed, the potential of the mind has been expanded, deepening the subtle complexity of the cognitive texture and enlarging its ability to communicate with its environment and to continue to grow.

Three important stages of cognition emerge :

  • prenominal : mythical, pre- & proto-rational (instinctual) ;

  • nominal : rational and transcendental (rational) ;

  • meta-nominal : creative and nondual (intuitional).

from action to ante-rational thought



First substage :

  1. adualism and only a virtual consciousness of identity ;

  2. primitive action testifies the existence of a quasi complete indifferentiation between the subjective and the objective ;

  3. actions are quasi not coordinated, i.e. random movements are frequent.

Second substage :

  1. first decentration of actions with regard to their material origin (the physical body) ;

  2. first objectification by a subject experiencing itself for the first time as the source of actions ;

  3. objectification of actions and the experience of spatiality ;

  4. objects are linked because of the growing coordination of actual actions ;

  5. links between actions in means/goals schemes, allowing the subject to experience itself as the source of action (initiative), moving beyond the dependence between the external object and the acting body ;

  6. spatial & temporal permanency and causal relationships are observed ;

  7. differentiation (between object and subject) leads to logico-mathematical structures, whereas the distinction between actions related to the subject and those related to the external objects becomes the startingpoint of causal relationships ;

  8. the putting together of schematics derived from external objects or from the forms of actions which have been applied to external objects.

Comments :

The earliest stage of mythical thought (first substage) is adual and non-verbal. The only "symbols" and "forms" are the material events themselves in all their immediacy and wholeness. It is this non-verbal core, which makes the mythopoetic mind analogical. In mythical thought, everything is immediate and the immediate is all. Ergo, myth goes against the differentiation which feeds the complexification of thought & cognition. The myth of myths is the "eternal return" to the primordial state.

Before the rise of language, mythical cognition is embedded in action and allows for the distinction between an object & a subject of experience by being conscious of the material, exteriorized schematics connecting both.

The first differentiation occurs when, on the level of material, actual, immediate actions, the object is placed before the subject of experience. This emergence of subjectivity implies the decentration of the movements of the physical executive agent (the body), which unveils the subject as source of action and prepares for the interiorizations of pre-rational thought. By this foundational difference between the body & the empirical subject, consciousness can be attributed to a focus of identity (ego). 

Mythical thought is non-verbal but actional. Nevertheless, actions are triggered by a subject conscious of a whole network of practical and material actualizations, although without any conceptual knowledge but only through immediate, exteriorized material schemes. Hence, ritual comes before narrative myth.

In terms of cognitive texture, mythical thought is the "irrational" foundation of ante-rationality. Indeed, the earliest layer of human cognitive activity is devoid of logical necessity, although patterns & schemes are present, but their flexibility and plasticity are a function of the direct environment and what happens there. There is no cognitive permanency. Action and its source are distinguished, but coordinations which suggest any reflection on the action itself (or on the actor) are absent. Hence, idiotic schemes are obsessively repeated. The "irrationality" being the total absence of means to communicate meaning in other ways than in immediate physical terms (offering something, going away, kicking the other, smiling, crying etc.). Nevertheless, the subject is conscious of being a source of action. There is a non-verbal sense of identity (the I-am-ness of the empirical ego).


  1. because of the introduction of semiotical factors (symbolical play, language, and the formation of mental images), the coordination of movements is no longer exclusively triggered by their practical and material actualizations without any knowledge of their existence as forms, i.e. the first layer of thought occurs : the difference between subject & object is a signal which gives rise to the sign ;

  2. upon the simple action, a new type of interiorized action is erected which is not conceptual because the interiorization itself is nothing more than a copy of the development of the actions using signs and imagination ;

  3. no object of thought is realized but only an internal structure of the actions in a pre-concept formed by imagination & language ;

  4. pre-verbal intelligence and interiorization of imitation in imaginal representations ;

  5. psychomorph view on causality : no distinction between objects and the actions of the subjects ;

  6. objects are living beings with qualities attributed to them as a result of interactions ;

  7. at first, no logical distinction is made between "all" and "few" and comparisons are comprehended in an absolute way, i.e. A < B is possible, but A < B < C is not ; 

  8. finally, the difference between class and individual is grasped, but transitivity and reversibility are not mastered ;

  9. the pre-concepts & pre-relations are dependent on the variations existing between the relational characteristics of objects & can not be reversed, making them rather impermanent and difficult to maintain. They stand between action-schema and concept.

Comments :

A tremendous leap forwards ensues. The formation of a subjective focus (at the end of the mythical phase of thought) is necessary to allow for the next step : interiorization, imagination and the actual articulation of pre-concepts, leading up to pre-relations between objects, but the latter remain psychomorph.

The reality of objects is always individualized or made subjective. Natural phenomena, stones, trees and animals "speak" just as do human subjects. Important objects are those with the strongest positive (attractive) subjective potential : family, teachers, ancestors, Divine kings, prophets, angels, Deities, God, etc. These "mediate" when pre-rationality fails to bridge the gap between what is stable (the architecture) & what constantly moves (the process).


  1. for the first time concepts and relations emerge and the interiorized actions receive the status of "operations", allowing for transformations. The latter make it possible to change the variable factors while keeping others invariant ;

  2. the increase of coordinations forms coordinating systems & structures which are capable of becoming closed systems by virtue of a play of anticipative and retrospective constructions of thought (imaginal thought-forms) ;

  3. these mental operations, instead of introducing corrections when the actions are finished, exist by the pre-correction of errors and this thanks to the double play of anticipation and retroaction or "perfect regulation" ;

  4. transitivity is mastered which causes the enclosedness of the formal system ;

  5. necessity is grasped ;

  6. constructive abstraction, new, unifying coordinations which allow for the emergence of a total system and auto-regulation (or the equilibration caused by perfect regulation) ;

  7. transitivity, conservation and reversibility are given ;

  8. the mental operations are "concrete", not "formal", implying that they (a) exclusively appear in immediate contexts and (b) deal with objects only (i.e. are not reflective) ;

  9. the concrete operatoric structures are not established through a system of combinations, but one step at a time ; 

  10. this stage is paradoxal : a balanced development of logico-mathematical operations versus the limitations imposed upon the concrete operations. This conflict triggers the next, final stage, which covers the formal operations.

Comments :

Thanks to transitivity, a formal system of concrete concepts arises. It is not combinatoric (but sequential) and not formal (abstract concept are not present). Concrete thoughts manipulate objects without reflecting upon the manipulation. The latter is stored as a function of its direct use, not in any overall, categorial, librarian or antiquarian fashion, although within a given manipulation a series may be present. The contextualism, pragmatism and use of the concrete concept is its stability.

Proto-rationality is always limited by a given context. Moreover, there is no reflection upon the conditions of subjectivity (just as in the pre-rational stage objects remained psychomorph). This contextualization leaves in place uncoordinated actions and concepts which are the expression of many serious (fundamental) contradictions.

As suggested earlier, Egyptian and pre-Socratic thought do not exceed ante-rationality. A more adequate understanding of the creative products of these civilizations becomes possible thanks to this Piagetian analysis of the early modes of cognition. Especially in Ancient Egypt, the power of proto-rational "closure" is exemplaric and makes clear how grand culture is not necessarily rational.

from ante-rational to rational thought



The formal operations leave contextual entanglements behind, and give a universal, a-temporal embedding to the cognitive process through abstraction, categorization & linearization. Cognition is liberated from the immediate events and able to conceptualize logical & mathematical truths (deduction) as well as physical causalities in abstract terms, without any consideration for their actual occurrence, if any (cf. the inner thought-experiment). Thought is able to combine propositions.

However, although object and subject of thought are differentiated, and grasped as abstract parts in an epistemological inquiry about the origin of human knowledge, continuity and stability in the becoming and fluctuating world is found by projecting these conditions outward (instead of inward, i.e. as particular conditions on the side of the subject of experience). The concordia discors of reason is approached with a reduction. Idealism (Plato and the tradition of a subject without an object) and realism (Aristotle and the tradition of an object without a subject) ensue. The antinomies caused by these major reductive set of explanations of the possibility of knowledge, have dominate pre-Kantian thought. Therefore, pre-critical rational thought is the first, somewhat primitive subphase of the mode of decontextualized conceptualization, as it were the infancy of reason.

The inventive, Greek adaptation of these strong direct influences, the linearization of the underlying ante-rational thoughts and eventually the rational universalization of ante-rationality itself, constituted the formalizing streak which characterized Hellas. Indeed, in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, a fair number of technical processes and decorative motive of Mycenæan Art reappeared in Greece. They are probably reintroductions from the East, where they had been adopted in the days of the Mycenæan empire and kept alive throughout the Dark Age. Mycenæan Linear B was never used again, but parts of the "old" Greek cultural form had survived and was presently seeking its renewal by good, strong & enduring examples : Phoenicia, Egypt, Mesopotamia.

"Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Bronze Age to Classical Greece was something less tangible, but quite possibly inherited : an attitude of mind which could borrow the formal and hieratic arts of the East and transform them into something spontaneous and cheerful ; a divine discontent which led the Greek ever to develop and improve their inheritance."
Higgings, 1997, p.190 (my italics).


When reflection upon the conditions of object and subject of thought happens and the internal, transcendental pre-conditions of the cognitive apparatus are discovered, a new mental world is opened up. The "natural" approach is over, and a new "transcendental" (not "transcendent" !) layer becomes active. This marks the birth of critical rational thought.

With the completion of the rational mode, and as soon as the conditions of the process of thought become the object of thought, a new conflict arises. The transcendental approach aims to understand the reflection of the process of thought on itself, as it were unveiling the ongoing operations of thought without disturbing the flow of empirical consciousness and its continuous cognitive, affective and motoric activity circumambulating an empirical ego. However, the transcendental "I think", placed at the heart of the whole edifice of transcendental inquiry, is formal and devoid of intellectual perception of itself. It is not a substance, but a mere idea accompanying the cogitations of the empirical ego.

The intellect integrates and unifies the two ideas of critical reason : the real (correspondence) and the ideal (consensus). Fed by the senses, the categories produce empirical-formal propositions, or statements of fact. This manifold is brought into focus by reason by means of these two regulative (not constitutive) ideas, which define the "essential tension" (Kuhn) or armed truce of reason, and their various categorial schemes. These mechanisms are discovered by transcendental thought.

from scientific to metaphysical thought



According to Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274), metaphysics has its own mode of knowledge, ascribed to what he called the "intellectus". This mode captures one single truth, and implies a direct, immediate intake of knowledge which differs from the mediate ways to gather it. So "ratio" (related to science) and "intellect" were divided. Metaphysics offers a unique synthetical, intellectual insight regarding being-as-such. But Thomas (like Kant), denied reason its "terminus". A direct knowledge of what lies outside the "ratio" was deemed impossible. It was Nicolas of Cusa (1401 - 1464) who introduced the famous expression "intuitio intellectualis" to define the direct knowledge of an evident truth.

To experience the unity of apperception (Kant's formal "Ich Denke") as an active, dynamical and creative Self, is, ex hypothesi, a prehension of the unique, individual & creative ideas of the immanent Self of each person, i.e. the true observer. To witness these ideas is the origin of all creativity and also the fundamental completion of the individualizing cognitive process, for this wholeself is the intuitional stepping-stone to the non-verbal, unknowing, ineffable "special knowledge" of poets and mystics alike.

The Self-ideas witnessed in the creative mode of thought thirst for manifestation and succeed through intellectual flashes of insight to inspire, initiate & engage new, creative activities of reason. Immanent metaphysics works with arguable statements and in tune with the unification reason seeks (namely that of understanding). The own-form of creativity of every actual entity in general and of human beings in particular, i.e. their specific form of definiteness, escapes reason and belongs to the ontological, noumenal Self. Hence, insofar as immanent metaphysics tries to objectify man (in a possible speculative anthropology), it cannot eliminate the Self of every individual.

The realization of this (higher, more aware) Self is the conditio sine qua non of every truly creative act, whether occasional or sustained over long periods of time. The true observer, a higher Self different from the empirical and its wanderings, is more than "of all times". Here a hidden, invisible, intimate and inner stratum is delved deeper into. Intuitional philosophers do accommodate the creative ideas of the Self and are thus able to witness, from the vantage point of the true observer, the latent possibilities of consciousness and its potency to expand its creative and inventive horizon.

Although this higher Self has given contents to the formal, empty transcendental Self of rationality, it does so for the sole purpose of fostering creativity, not to formulate propositions about the world. Creative concepts have the purpose of expanding the horizon of the empirical ego and are necessary to introduce a panoramic view. This view is not an insight into the real status of things, but a more comprehensive outlook on nature, life and man. Ultimate analysis shows how a substantial own-Self cannot be found. As a construct of consciousness, it assists creativity and helps inventivity. It guarantees the totalizing view offered by immanent metaphysics, a view designated by a more elaborate subjectivity. Albeit one more extended than what the empirical ego offers, the own-Self is not a way to gain access to "reality-as-such". This access cannot be given by conceptuality, even not in terms of its creative concepts.


This non-conceptual and non-propositional mode of thought allows us, so our living examples teach, to integrate knowledge beyond the point of scientific & speculative thought and relate the immanent whole achieved by immanent creative thought with the suggested transcendent totality, or absolute reality (ideality), the absolute Real-Ideal (or absolute coincidence of the order of reality and the order of ideality, of being and thought).

Transcendent metaphysics is ineffable.

Even the latter qualification is only poetical and suggestive. This mode of thought reveals the most subtle aspect of cognition, one most philosophers would not consider to be "thought" at all. This mode is put into evidence by the life of the great mystics. But such examples of grand sublimity know paradox & are incomprehensible to reason.

Indeed, it seems as if the pinnacle of thought (mysticism) and its startingpoint (namely non-verbal myth) touch. Mystical elocutions are works of art, not of science or philosophy. As such, they can be an object of faith, which at best, involve direct experience of the radical other (totaliter aliter).




1. Mythical
libidinal ego

 the irrational

2. Pre-rational
tribal ego


3. Proto-rational
imitative ego
barrier between ante-rationality and reason



4. Formal
formal ego


5. Critical
critical Self
barrier between rationality and intuition



6. Creative


7. Transcendent

§ 21

In the present genetico-epistemological discussion of a possible critical theory and practice of knowledge and its growth, human cognitive growth is not halted at the level of reason. The nature of things is the constant dynamism of mental forms, propensities and differences (energies, particles & forces). As long as conflicts remain, the process continues. All actual entities are dynamical. "Panta rhei !" (all things are in constant flux) is one of the more famous sayings of Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Ephesus quoted by Plato. In his view, as in Whitehead's, the world is all there is and all of that is constantly changing. This ongoingness of the world-process or universal dynamism does not deny the presence of architecture and lawfulness (forms of definiteness). Without these (for example in the form of the constants of nature, the laws of physics or biology), all this movement would have no order or coordination. Hence, no forms would have come into actuality and nothing but the primordial soup would have continued to exist (given the question of the coming into being of this crucial primordial matrix is postponed, or worse, abrogated, for indeed, who or what "banged" at the Big Bang, i.e. at t ≤ 0 ?).

Thinking change and an evolving cognitive texture, leads to inquire after meta-rational states of cognition. Is a faculty of cognition exceeding reason possible ? This faculty of creativity, exerts its efforts either on the totality of the universe, lacking facts but arguing a totalizing intent (immanent metaphysics), or, as
suggested by the most sublime art and poetical harmony, tries to promote faith in the transcendent Being, encompassing -so do revelations tell- the complete contingent world-process.

Reason occupies the middle-ground between instinct and intuition, between, on the one hand, multi-layered thought (a variety of different approaches) and, on the other hand, at best, an arguable immanent metaphysics and/or the echoing suggestion or poetry of a non-conceptual, transcendent mode of thought (rooted in the nameless and the nondual). Reason, as the string of a violin, is stretched between instinct and sublimity.

The exercise is to understand thought as both instinctual, rational and intuitional, i.e. conjunctive rather than disjunctive. To properly think, the three stages of cognition need to be integrated and functional. Although science must limit itself to rational, formal structures, thought is not confined to these boundaries necessary to produce probable empirico-formal object-knowledge. Thanks to the modesty of science, instinct and intuition may be checked and curtailed. Exceeding its own possibilities, science delegates instinct to the realm of inferior tendencies (cf. the Greeks) and/or ridicules intuition (cf. the logical positivists). Without limits, it becomes dogmatic and a perversion of reason (cf. Kant). But staying within its domain, it exercises its crucial intersubjective and factual role and assists the development of thought beyond its own domain. Intuition is possible but not contrary to reason. In the tribunal of our cognition, mind is the defense (bringing in evidence), reason the prosecutor (putting data into given categories) and intellect the judge (unifies the two scales in one judgment). To separate them when they work together is essential to know and continue to know.

Even if reason is critically watchful and not deluded by ontological illusions, so that the ideas of reason (the "real" and the "ideal") are not seen as ontological hypostases, but as regulative principles holding a hypothetical (not an apodictic) claim, reason, in tune with the concordia discors, entertains a conflictual interest (cf. Kant's "widerstreitendes Interesse"). On the one hand, it seeks unity in the variety of natural phenomena (the multiple is reduced to a type). On the other hand, in order to guarantee the growth of knowledge, reason wants heterogeneity (the unique, not repeatable & singular). Kant could not reconcile the law of variety and the law of types (as there is no intellect, there is no "faculty" of cognition higher than reason, as it were working from behind the surface of the "mirror" of reason). The genetic process is stopped ad hoc and the "nominal" is made absolute. In Kant's court, the seat of the judge remains at best empty, or, worse, reason is the only player, leading to confusion, apathy or insanity.

Thought and cognition, fed by the coordination of movement, are psychobiological organs in constant development. In the course of their growth through action, various stages are run through and at each stratum new cognitive texture is acquired, allowing the subject to experience, understand and manipulate him/herself and the world better and better. Rational cogitation (problem-solving knowledge-manipulation) stands in-between the instinctual and the intuitive stages of the development of thought. The strata are not disconnected, but form a whole. One-dimensional reason rejects instinct (too primitive) and intuition (too unworkable). Seven stages persist, called : mythical, pre-rational, proto-rational (together ante-rational, instinctual thought), rational, transcendental, creative and transcendent. Only the last stage is hypothetical, whereas the last two are intuitional.

§ 22

If the organization of thought in general and of mind in particular may be characterized as "dual" (sensoric versus categorial), the overall logic behind reason, although layered, is "monadic". Reason is prepared & equipped for the immanence of the intellect, but has to give up its role of master and become a servant of the own-form of its own Higher Self. This ontological necessity, in particular its constant negation (not this, not that), reflects on the creative potential.

If variety & unity are active on the same level, reason is crippled. A schizoid fluctuation between variety & unity is accommodated. Judgment is constantly postponed and knowledge becomes anecdotal. Kant projected the inherent dualism of the mind on reason. Nothing can be its own tribunal except in madness. Reason needs intellect to replenish itself and acquire the intention of the beginner unhindered by the consequences of wrong thought, unbridled affects and immoral actions.

Distinguish between three factors :

  • mind ("Verstand") :  or understanding, together with the senses, co-conditioning  facts tending towards differentiation (variety) ;

  • reason ("Vernunft") : regulating dualism with ideas converging on unity & the unconditional ;

  • intellect : faculty or stage of cognition allowing for the creative, intuitional manifestation of one's immanent own-Self and the intellectual perception, ex hypothesi, of its unconditional transcendent core.

The law of types is more fundamental to our prosecuting reason than the law of variety, which is fundamental to our mind, the advocate of the senses. By working with the law of types, reason invokes the intellect, who's role Kant tried to limit to the bare, formal minimum necessary to make the mind work properly "for all times"... He eliminated the notion of "own-Self", i.e. the specific, unique ontological form of actual definiteness characterizing each and every individual and crucial to promote creative thought.

The critical position defended here can thus be summarized as follows :

  1. in human cognition, rooted in action (coordinated movements), sensoric synthesis, affect, mind, reason & intellect prevail ;

  2. under the ægis of the transcendental unity of apperception (the formal, transcendental Self), the mind, hand in hand with -so must we think- sensoric and affective events, produces knowledge in the form of probable, fallible empirico-formal propositional statements of fact ;

  3. reason is meta-mind unifying & expanding mind ;

  4. intellect is meta-reason unifying reason ;

  5. the unification of mind by reason implies a transcendental Self, the capstone of the pyramidal structure of the spatio-temporality of the mind ;

  6. the unification of reason by intellect implies a Higher Self, the own-form of the individual and unique ontic definiteness (difference and thus energy). Immanent in the ontological sense (not exceeding nature as such), this Self is "transcendent" in the epistemic, creative sense (transgressing the possible experience of the empirical ego and its mental cogitations) ;

  7. "intellectual reason" is the ideal of a real harmony between ante-rationality, the science of facts, immanent metaphysics and transcendent pataphysics.

Fundamentally, cognitive activity is dualistic. The two sides of its equation, the object and subject of knowledge, cannot be reduced to one another. This dualism is complex. On the one hand, mind aims at concrete knowledge and is assisted in this by reason. On the other hand, intellect aims at intuitional knowledge, and assists reason to bring it and thus mind under the highest unity. If reason converges on unity, then intellect is that unity. If the former is able to articulate its aim (namely the ideas of the real and the idea), intellect is ineffable and non-verbal. Intellectual perception is possible, but does not yield propositions.

§ 23

Scientific knowledge is a system of empico-formal propositions involving "facts" produced by an experimental set-up or set of instrumental actions and a chain of dialogal processes, both strategic (with asymmetrical dialogal structures based on the media money, propaganda & money) and communicative (devoid of the latter).

Besides scientific knowledge, metaphysics speculates to arrive at a global perspective on the world. Being no longer the foundation of science, it aims to understand the world and man as a whole, feeding its arguments with scientific facts, the condensation of the activity of objective and (inter)subjective principles, norms & maxims. Situated "next" to "physics" (or science), meta-physics is the inescapable background of all possible scientific knowledge. The demarcation between both is clear, for science is testable and arguable, whereas metaphysics is only subject to the laws of logic and argumentation. Metaphysics is speculative and demonstrative, but never experimental and factual. Hence is can never be a science nor acquire the nature of one (as in a "scientific metaphysics"). Precluded of arguability, metaphysics and irrationality cannot be distinguished.

We define "rationality" as the set of cogitationes uniting 3 subsets :

  1. normative philosophy :
    the normative disciplines delving up the principles governing thought (epistemology), affect (esthetics) and action (ethics) ;

  2. scientific knowledge :
    all empirico-formal propositions which are probably true in most tests (regulated by the idea of correspondentio) and for most concerned sign-interpreters (regulated by the ideal of a consensus omnium), but never absolutely true or certain ;

  3. metaphysics :
    all speculative propositions which have been the subject of a dialogal & argumentative process (argued plausibly, i.e. defended in argument).

Philosophy aims to dig out the laws of thought (truth), affect (beauty) and action (goodness). These laws, which we have been using all the time, give body to normative disciplines, defining epistemology, esthetics and ethics. Furthermore, once it is known what we must think, feel and do, philosophy tries to develop a total picture of the world, in which nature (physics, cosmology), life (biology) and man (anthropology) are brought together in a way able to explain everything. This theoretical (metaphysical) pursuit aims at answering the questions : What is nature ? What is life ? What is man ? These answers finally yield the most cherished quest of philosophy : What is the purpose of man's life on Earth (and in the universe) ?

Book Naught
Transcendental Logic

0. No rational thought without, on the one hand, a transcendental object, which appears as an object of knowledge (what ?), and, on the other hand, a transcendental subject, which -as a subject of knowledge (who ?)- is a member of a community of intersubjective sign-interpreters and hence co-exists with language.

A. The dyad of formal thought.

Thought is not monadic nor triune. The monad is the standard of standards, a onefold unity. Evidently, the absolutely transcendent exceeds the limitations imposed by the dyad. The triad is the standard of process, defining initial position, movement and final position. Unity and process do not constitute thought.

Transcendental logic formalizes thought as the necessary product of two irreducible factors constituting all possible thought :

  • the transcendental subject : the one thinking, as it were possessing the object ;

  • the transcendental object : what is thought, or what is placed before the subject.

Suppose a thought without a (thinking) subject. This implies there is no one thinking the thought. This is a contradiction in actu exercito. Thinking the subject away implies subjectivity. Likewise, a thought without something being thought involves objectifying the thought which has no object. Hence, all possible thought is a function of both transcendental subject and transcendental object.

Division, opposition and duality are expressions of the dyad of rational thought. This discordance is necessary and cannot be taken away without leaving the domain of concepts. The conflict does not intend to cause cleavage, schism or separation. Its aim is to maintain both sides together and apart and to engage communication, empathy and cooperation to achieve a common goal : correct thinking. The two sides of thought may move away from complementarity by reduction (subject to object or object to subject), or "split" into two quasi-independent parts (cf. nature versus culture). Clearly to no avail.

In the political arena, the
discordant concord or armed truce can only be realized if both sides have relinquished all intentions to eliminate or harm each other. Only if both show respect, can open communication (re)start. Likewise, before both sides of the function of conceptual thought are integrated in all cogitations, correct thinking is impossible.

The transcendental subject is not a closed, Cartesian substance. It is more than a mere Kantian "I Think" accompanying all cogitations. Intersubjectivity, language-games (cf. Wittgenstein), the use of signals, icons and symbols by persons and groups, enlarge the scope of the transcendental subject, appearing as a community of language users, both in terms of personal membership(s), the actual discourse, as well as their historical tradition (the magister of past, successful games).

The transcendental object is not a mere construct of mind, a shadow or a reflection of ideal realities. Although the direct evidence of the senses is co-determined by the observer, object knowledge is possible and (also) backed by, so must we think, an extra-mental reality, or reality-as-such. This is absolute reality, whereas thought is bound to produce fallible object-knowledge (reality-for-us).

B. The fact of reason.

Transcendental logic is a formal explicitation of the normative system of rational thought, discovered a posteriori and at work in each cognitive act. In this logic, the fundamental form of thought itself, the Factum Rationis (cf. Kant) is approached. This is the primitive (in the sense of first), undeniable given of thought which cannot be explained by anterior causes. These principles are the groundless ground of thought and knowledge. They form a set of unproven principles used in every cogitation. Ergo, they evoke the limitations of thought, in particular if all conceptual modes of cognition.

A hermeneutical circle emerges, showing that the foundation of the principles of thought cannot be found in anything outside these principles. The circle starts with the study of the cogitations produced by our cognitive apparatus, in other words, by investigating the mind. This brings us to principles which are presupposed and at work in every single cogitation. Afterwards, epistemologists "discover" how the abstract formulation of these principles is the necessary and irreducible condition of the conceptual self-reflection of thought. At the end of the exercise, they place its "transcendental logic" at the head of epistemology, while in fact it comes at the end of the circle.

C. The groundless ground of knowledge.

Being the support of the edifice of thought itself, and this for all times, this Factum Rationis cannot be grounded. All efforts to do so have failed and are bound to fail, for to ground thought outside thought entails the elimination of one of the conditions of thought, made explicit by transcendental logic. So in effect, they are only a perversity of thought.

   Book 1
Theoretical Epistemology

1. The solution to the problem of the foundation of knowledge is an epistemology giving a valid answer to the question how true knowledge and its development are possible ?

1. The normative solution.

In any theory of knowledge, the two vectors posited by transcendental logic are called to appear as the concrete subject and object of knowledge. Epistemology tries to explain the possibility of knowledge and to do so is backed by the universal form of thought itself.

In the precritical discourse, foundational approaches dominate epistemology. This implies a reduction of the discordant concord of thought (the vector-field defined by opposing interests) to either the subject of knowledge (idealism, spiritualism) or the object of knowledge (realism, materialism). The problem of how knowledge itself can be justified, i.e. given certain grounds, remains unsolved. The ontological epistemologies associated with these incomplete solutions (exclusively promoting human consciousness or physical reality) subreptively re-introduce the other vector (idealism needs a "something out there", realism implies a "someone in here"). Hence, they fail to answer Kant's first question of epistemology : "Was kann ich wissen ?" What can I know ?

Three questions dominate theoretical and applied epistemology :

  • How is knowledge possible ? What are the criteria or conditions of knowledge ?

  • How is true knowledge possible ? Which theory of truth is applicable in the game of "true" knowledge ?

  • How can true knowledge be developed ? If we know (a) how knowledge is possible and (b) to define true knowledge, then which method allows us to produce knowledge and so expand our knowledge-horizon ? This last question is the object of applied epistemology.

The échec of the ontological epistemologies was countered by Kant and his "Copernican Revolution", culminating in neo-Kantianism and its critical theory. The latter made a decisive step away from the foundational intent still present in Kant (namely his synthetic propositions a priori). Object-knowledge is relative, historical, fallible and a posteriori. This does not lead to the skeptic "anything goes", for the principles of transcendental logic, the norms of theoretical epistemology and the maxims of the practice of knowledge must be accepted if the game of "true" knowledge is to be played well.

Instead of a description of how knowledge is possible, critical theory offers the principles, norms and maxims by which "true" knowledge must be possible and productive.

2. An epistemology articulating a valid answer is necessarily free from (outrageous) internal contradictions.

Epistemology must apply the principles of thought. This is a transcendental condition overlooked in onto-epistemologies. In principle, the architecture of the answer to the question How knowledge is possible ? should reflect both vectors of thought, namely the Who ? and What ? of all possible thought.

In practical thinking, these transcendental considerations are postponed. Epistemology does not have that luxury. It must explain how knowledge is possible. Without a valid answer, science cannot be certified, and everything remains in doubt. So let the transcendental principles of all thought become the theoretical norms of all knowledge : the Who ? of thought appearing as the subject of knowledge, the What ? of thought as the object of knowledge.

These norms of knowledge are necessary and a priori.

3. All previous attempts to build-up epistemology from a sufficient ground outside knowledge are rejected by logic.

As the transcendental structure of all thought is a dyad, all foundational attempts reduce :

  • the object of knowledge to the subject : idealism will eventually disregard the facts, in particular their, so must we think, extra-mental reality. Its logic is rejected not only because it tries to undo what cannot be undone (namely to think without an object), but because it needs to subreptively reintroduce the excommunicated. In order for "objectivity" to have meaning, idealist theory of truth (consensus) must refer to something extra-mental. This is nothing less than the object of knowledge it banished (in vain) from its mental arena ;

  • the subject of knowledge to the object : realism will epiphenomenalize and eventually deny the existence of the subject, in particular the first person perspective, giving birth to intimate, personal worlds (reality-for-me), and co-creating the world by the constant use of signals, icons & symbols. Its logic is rejected not only because it tries to think without a subject, but because the latter is necessarily reintroduced. Logically, realism cannot escape the first person perspective, for no two observers share the same spatial coordinates. Moreover, as every observation is dependent of both theoretical connotations and fact, realist theory of truth (correspondence) cannot eliminate the role of intersubjectivity. Hence, also realism reintroduces the eliminated, and so fails to deliver.

4. Each attempt to ground epistemology leads to unacceptable logical difficulties. For this gives or an infinite regress, or a logical circle or a dogmatic break with the attempt of justification (the trilemma of foundation).

Accommodating the postulate of foundation, three logical impasses occur. A justification of proposition P is a deduction with P as conclusion. How extended must this deductive chain be in order to justify P ?

  1. regressus ad infinitum :
    There is no end to the justification, and so no foundation is found. The presence of an infinite series begs the question of the status of infinity, whether or not it is objective ? In general terms, logicians and mathematicians try to avoid this kind of endless succession and dislike attributing reality to infinity (and so renormalize their equations to fit their finite parameters). The regressus ad infinitum is pointless, leads nowhere and can never deliver solid, decontextualized principles ;

  2. petitio principii :
    The end is implied by the beginning, for P is part of the deduction ; circularity is a valid deduction but no justification of P, hence no foundation is found. Transcendental logic involves such a circle. Thought can only be rooted in thought itself. Normative epistemology is based on the groundless ground of thought. Normative philosophy articulates the principles, norms & maxims of correct thinking (epistemology), correct judgment (esthetics) and correct action (ethics). These are discovered while having used them and using them. Insofar as this circle is "hermeneutic", normative disciplines are more than formal and contribute to understand the fundamentals of thought, in particular truth, beauty and goodness. The petitio percipii is limited and of little use outside the normative sphere, where it equals the tautology. But, although tautologies, offering perfect identifications (A = A), do not add to the contents of thought, they do add structure, associations, correspondences & internal harmonizations of large associated blocks of information ;

  3. abrogation ad hoc :
    Justification is ended ad hoc, the postulate of justification is abrogated, and the unjustified sufficient ground is accepted because, being certain, it needs no more justification. This has been the strategy of all ontological epistemologies, i.e. descriptions (not laws) of how knowledge is possible in terms of a theory of real or ideal being (viz. the Peripatetic and Platonic schools). When the subject is eliminated, knowledge is rooted in an hypostasis of the object of knowledge. This is the real, absolute, extra-mental reality of the thing-as-such, considered as the cause of the sense-data feeding the mind in order for it to know. When the object is eliminated, knowledge is grounded in the hypostasis of the subject of knowledge : the ideality of the thing-as-such, as in Plato and his variants. The abrogation ad hoc is dogmatic and one-sided.

The trilemma is avoided by stopping to seek an absolute, sufficient ground for knowledge outside knowledge. The ground of knowledge is the groundless principle of thought itself. This is the simple fact conceptual thought is impossible without the discordant concord of transcendental subject and transcendental object.

5. Only a normative approach to the problem of the foundation of knowledge makes it possible -through reflection- to discover the necessary basic system. These are the principles & norms we have always been using and hence which we can not deny without using them in the denial.

Transcendental logic dictates the principle of rational thought. This is the concordia discors of the Factum Rationis. Duality is its architecture. On the one hand, thought has a contents, an object of knowledge, on the other hand, cogitation implies a thinker. Both are necessary and form a system. In epistemology, these logical conditions are translated by the simultaneity of two vectors : the vector of the subject of knowledge, its languages, theories and theoretical connotations and the vector of the object of knowledge, its physical apparatus, tenacity, inertia and, so must we think, factuality & actuality.

The normative status of the system of epistemology is given by the necessity of the principles & norms implied. Each time we deny one of them, we use them in the process of the denial. A stronger case cannot be made. They represent what has been, what is and what shall be the game of "true" knowing, based on correct thinking (logic) and epistemology, both theoretical (the possibility and truth-value of knowledge) and applied (the production of knowledge).

6. On the one hand, a valid epistemology makes it possible to delimit factual, true knowledge from only arguable, speculative knowledge. On the other hand and based on the basic system, it becomes clear which cogitations we rather call rational than irrational (and vice versa). In this way, a model of rationality ensues which joins the sought epistemology.

Logic and epistemology do not stand alone. They are part of a larger positioning of rationality as open at two ends of its cognitive texture, for rationality is ante-rational or instinctive in its genesis or historical origination (archē), and trans-rational or intuitive in its goal (telos). Rooted in the mythical (non-verbal), pre-rational (semiotics) and proto-rational (concrete concept and mental closure) layers of thought, reason must learn to (a) operate itself, (b) be aware of its relationship with instinctual thought-patterns and (c) not abrogate its higher aim, to wit : lead thought to unity, creativity and intuitive insight (nondual gnosis).

On the one hand, instincts force thought to root itself in a sufficient ground outside thought itself. The idea of such a ground, satisfies our human longing for security, stability and the guarantee things stay the same (tenacity). These stem from our emotional constitution, are intertwined with ante-rationality, and dominate our life from pre-natal conditions to early puberty, when formal thought enters the arena. On the other hand, intuition tends to root thought in a transcendent ground, and reduce the products of knowledge to illusions and "lower" states of consciousness. Although rationality must remain open at both ends, it should not loose itself in either instinct or intuition, but neither should it block the latter out. Hence, to be reasonable is a rather difficult exercise ...

A critical epistemology draws the lines. In terms of possible knowledge, the most important border holds speculative and factual knowledge apart. The latter is knowledge we, for the time being, may consider as "true", constituting the paradigmatic core of the edifice of scientific knowledge. This object-knowledge is science proper, and is cast in synthetic, empirico-formal propositions a posteriori. They are called "synthetic" because they operate the domain of direct observation, "empirico-formal" because observation is the product of both theory and, so must we think, extra-mental reality, and "a posteriori" because their contents is not a given and largely unknown beforehand.

Speculative knowledge is clearly metaphysical. When pursued, metaphysics is indicated and (dialogal) logic inevitable. As no crucial experiment is possible, only argumentation prevails. So to erect a solid speculative system is a gigantic enterprise, even if deconstruction is allowed to unmask the transcendent terms and the idea of a system is asterixed (cf. equiaeon-system*). Given these difficulties, speculative knowledge remains problematic.

7. Every cognitive act presupposes an object of knowledge which has to be thought of as unsurmountable. If not, we commit a contradiction "in actu exercito".

2 The object of knowledge.

The object of knowledge is always placed before the subject of knowledge. This is either another thought (mental object) or a fact (sensate object). In both cases, the presence of the object is a given.

It is not always possible to cause change just by thinking it. Even while we reflect, an internal object is present. Besides mental cogitations, we must posit an object which has intrinsic power-of-tenacity-in-opposition, as objects confront subjects. Together with our mental constructions, this reality must co-define the contents of our cognition. Only by eliminating the architecture of thought itself, rejecting its transcendental logic, can the mind regress into believing in the confounded one-sidedness of the real or the ideal.

The object of knowledge is particularly dear to science. Without it, no empiricism is possible. However, to integrate perception into epistemology, does not license the return of ontological realism to ground knowledge, although the temptation is strong. Materialism, epiphenomenalism, scientism, logico-positivism, instrumentalism take a bridge too far. Unavoidably, epistemology is perverted and so the ante-rational longings for the correspondence of ideas with an eternalized reality are attached to "pure" principles & norms.

If one says : "There is no object of knowledge.", then this statement itself is the object of knowledge to those who hear what is said. Denial of the object of knowledge entails the use of the object of knowledge. Hence, it is unsurmountable and never eclipsed. If repressed, it re-emerges subreptively, for nothing can be thought, said or written without its constant use. This is the case in idealist onto-epistemologies, were the object of knowledge is driven out at the profit of an intersubjective, object-constituting consensus about the coherence between propositions and/or theories.

For cogitations to be possible, the object of knowledge has to be conceived as a "Gegenstand", and this a forteriori.

8. The unsurmountability of the object of knowledge does not imply it grounds the possibility of knowledge absolutely & a-historically (as tried out in a model of knowledge devoid of subject of knowledge). It does mean -so must we think- our knowledge always tells us "something" about reality-as-such. We have to think reality as knowable.

The foundational approach seeks certain knowledge. Critical theory aims to produce probable knowledge. Realism, exorcising the subject, aims to ground the possibility of knowledge in a reality outside the cognitive act, thereby introducing a passive subject, invoked to accept and register stimuli. In its simple form, induction and verification by correspondence with sense-data are called in to explain the development of knowledge. The fact these mental arrangements exceed the sense-data eludes the realist.

There is no absolute, a-historical ground of knowledge outside knowledge itself. The normative discipline works in a circular way. On the basis of a hermeneutical circle it argues a logical deduction but offers no new contents. It makes evident what thought has, is and will be been doing all the time. The groundless ground of knowledge is the irreducibility of the discordant concord, forbidding the reduction of object to subject or vice versa.

By rejecting ontological realism as a sufficient ground, one does not necessarily reject the necessity of thinking the object of knowledge. If one seeks "true" knowledge, one must think this object, and so accept that, while thinking, there is no other option than to conceive the "other" facing the subject. Cogitations aside, this is an extra-mental reality which cannot be divorced from the act of "true" knowing.

9. Justificationism (the justification of knowledge by intuitional, rational or empirical foundational attempts) has to be rejected on logical grounds.

Onto-epistemologies need to justify how knowledge can be true and certain. They seek a sufficient ground outside knowledge. Historically, justificationism worked along two lines : either mind or reality were put forward as the rock-bottom of certainty. Insofar as interests were dominated by the mind, true knowledge adequately reflected reality-as-such, and a symbolical adualism (Platonism) was indicated (intuitionism, rationalism). Insofar reality was pushed forward, true knowledge was deemed the direct, immediate correspondence of theory and reality-as-such (empirism, materialism). In terms of the possibility of knowledge, avoiding the trilemma, both positions are deemed outdated. Knowledge is not called "true" because everybody says so or because we think reality triggered it.

To avoid the transcendental contradiction caused by banishing either mind or reality from the logic of thought itself, the two vectors of knowledge have, in every cognitive act, to be used simultaneously. Empirical justification as it were hopes to bracket the subject, directly observe reality-as-such without interpretation, and finally remove the brackets to talk and write about the acquired knowledge. Will at some point, repeating this successful process, the justificationist be allowed to make the crucial logical jump from a finite number of observations to a universal statement of fact (encompassing an infinite number of observations) ? Clearly not. Can one eliminate the subject of knowledge and observe without interpretation ? If so, can this still be called rational knowledge ?

The problem of induction is not the crucial logical ground to refute justificationism, nor is its subreptive use of the Factum Rationis (realism calling in the subject, idealism the object). The position itself is untenable for it invokes what it intends to banish. It is impossible to directly observe reality-as-such without there being someone observing. This may be a formal transcendental subject, but this makes the point. Likewise, it is impossible to realize a consensus about a state of affairs without there being something to which this consensus refers to. Knowledge cannot be without object. Knowledge cannot be without subject.

10. Refined falsificationism, coherence, pluralism & interdisciplinary dialogue are crucial in a model of knowledge which joins the critical tradition and this without (extra-epistemologically) grounding the possibility of knowledge in the object of knowledge.

Critical theory is not realist or idealist. Its aim is to discover, make explicit and maintain the principles, norms and maxims of thought and knowledge. These are not rooted in anything outside the latter.

Dogmatic falsificationism avoids the problem of induction by turning things upside down. Instead of starting with a number of individual propositions from which to derive a general law, they begin with a universal statement and try to find exceptions. If one is found, then the general statement is refuted or falsified. This variant of empirical justificationism accepts a theory can never be completely justified. Hence, the more it is corroborated, i.e. withstands attempts at falsification, the more trustworthy the theory becomes. But the naturalistic, onto-epistemological presence of a given empirical ground is not yet left behind.

Refined falsificationism no longer accepts any "ontological" confrontation between theory and fact. Coherence replaces correspondence. Only theories clash. This answers the question of how to translate sense-data in propositions. Only propositions clash. Critical theory adds the hybrid nature of facts. Janus-faced, they are two-faceted : one, turned towards the subject of knowledge, is theory-dependent and intra-mental and the other, turned -so must we think- toward the reality of the object of knowledge, is theory-independent and extra-mental. We recognize something as a fact because our theories allow us to do so AND because it acquired, so we believe, the guarantees of reality-as-such (the Real-ideal).

11. To consider the object of knowledge as an "existing thing" to be divorced from the cognitive act and with which our knowledge does or does not correspond (cf. Popper's critical rationalism), leads to an ontological theory of knowledge which is in conflict with the strict nominalism necessary for normative theory (in which knowledge can only be justified through knowledge).

In science, the object of knowledge is fact X placed before the subject of knowledge. On the one hand, a theory makes it possible for the observers to witness fact X, on the other hand, we must think the tenacity with which fact X kicks in terms of the letters of belief it holds. Facts exist "out there", but they are not divorced from the cognitive act. This is the skeptic streak of theoretical epistemology. It could be possible rational thought is sheer illusion. The subject of knowledge cannot rationally know reality-as-such precisely because it cannot escape its own active mind. The latter is highly symbolical and constructivist. The co-authorship of the mind in what is observed and symbolized is therefore considerable.

The "nugget of gold" found in realist onto-epistemology is the idea of the real, the conviction knowledge has to be about some thing. When considering the status of facts, in particular their extra-mental, theory-independent, kicking tenacity and inertia, critical epistemology retains this conviction as an imperative of thought, but not as an ontological description of the theory-independent side of facts (which, given the dyad of thought, is impossible).

12. Every cognitive act presupposes a subject of knowledge which has to be thought off as unsurmountable. If not, we commit a contradiction in actu exercito.

The subject of knowledge.

A parallel argument is developed, but this time focused on the subject of knowledge. Realist onto-epistemology need to think it as wholly passive, unable to add substance to what is observed. The stimuli are deemed to be caused by the outside, extra-mental world. They are the fuel of the "motor" of the formal categories, and make the system work. In the even simpler view of empirism, the mind is considered a tabula rasa at birth. Subjectivity is "necessarily" (sic) eliminated by those playing the game of science and using, so is assumed, its extraordinary language and method of objectification.

On the one hand, observational psychology has shown an absence of priority between the conceptual frame and the so-called "data of observation". On the other hand, if the constructivist powers of an active mind cannot be refuted, then a severe logical problem haunts any epistemology without a subject. Indeed, if one says : "There is no subject of knowledge.", then,
to those who hear what is said, this statement itself is made by a subject of knowledge. Denial of the subject of knowledge entails the use of the subject of knowledge. Hence, it is unsurmountable.

13. The unsurmountability of the subject of knowledge does not imply it grounds the possibility of knowledge absolutely & a-historically (as tried out in a model of knowledge devoid of object of knowledge). It does mean the subject of knowledge has to be thought off as active, open and theoretizing.

Again, the subject of knowledge is not introduced to ground the possibility of knowledge. The subject is not divorced from the cognitive act, for this cannot be without resorting to a transcendental contradiction pushing epistemology to accept the ontological illusion stating the object exclusively constitutes knowledge or, instead, the subject does so. Knowledge is constituted by knowledge, not by the idea of "the real" or the idea of "the ideal".

To organize the experience of itself and the world, the subject of knowledge produces signals (movement), icons (affects) & symbols (cogitations). This is an activity, not a mere passive reception. The subject creates structure, form, architecture and fills in the holes with expectations. This makes it the opposite of a passive registrar. But, this obvious activity cannot be invoked to move to the extreme of positing truth-bearing subjects. Although the mindset of the subject co-determines what is observed, the facts also, so must we think, refer to the absolute, extra-mental Real-Ideal, although the latter escapes any direct confrontation with a subject of knowledge. Indeed, subjectivity cannot remove its own coloration.

14.  The observations made by a subject of knowledge are always theoretically connotated, i.e. they happen in a pattern of expectation developing in the observation itself. Such a pattern of expectation structures and co-determines the facts observed. Between this conceptual frame and the data of observation no priority exists. The notion of a "pure, objective observation" is part of a realistic metaphysics.

Showing the impossibility of attributing logical precedence to an observation over the pattern of expectation allowing it to happen, is to make an end to the naturalism of empiricism and its passive subject (as in realism). It also marks the frontiers of the opposite intention : to make the expectation precede the observation (as in idealism). Staying within the limitations imposed on rational knowledge, there are no objective observations devoid of subjectivity and no subjective creation of things observed. The former is impossible, because the activity of the subject cannot be eclipsed. The latter is impossible, because knowledge is always about some thing escaping subjectivities and transcending, so must we think, the theory-dependent facet of facts.

There are many levels of expectation. In its simplest form, recall the famous cube of Wittgenstein published in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (5.5423). Whether it is observed as standing or lying down is independent of the objective drawing, but is caused by the expectation of the observer (focusing either on this or another angle of the cube). Escherian paradoxes are of the same type, and are linked with the problems arising when three dimensions are projected upon a plane. Optical illusions, which do not go away when discovered, are yet another level of expectation. They are intertwined with our observational apparatus and its natural defects.  Hallucinations (to be distinguished from visions in trance-states) are exceptional examples of subjective pathological fabrications, and show how subjective states may directly affect the auditory and visual pathways of the central nervous system.

15. The community of subjects of knowledge talk about theories. Differences of opinion ensue (the ruling consensus breaks). The ideal speech-situation is necessary to regain consensus. In every factual speech-situation the ideal is presupposed and anticipated. This does not mean the truth of statements can be determined by excluding the object of knowledge.

The subject of knowledge is not posited in isolation. In a closed, substantialist approach of the subject, subjectivity is rooted in an ontology. Likewise, truth is also subjectified as a super-subject (cf. the Platonic idea of the Good). In the present critical approach, the subject of knowledge is always communal and so cannot be divorced from the community of subjects to which it belongs. A solipsist subject is an illusion and a misconception of subjectivity. A variety of communities emerge around the subject and in each, by way of interaction, the subject as it were shows another profile. Hence, the solitary subject, its family, relationships and professional vocation are to be set apart as the pivotal areas of subjective functioning. Each time, otherness cannot be bracketed. As one's inner dialogue testify, even the solitary subject defines itself in terms of others, albeit imaginal. The empirical ego calls itself an "I" only, because some "non-I" identifies it as such (cf. Lacan and the mirror-stage). And between subjects, the use of languages to signal, represent or symbolize thought is outstanding.

In the advocated model of rationality, the linguistic capacity of the subject of knowledge is (a) either turned towards goals projected outside the speech-act, or (b) aiming to realize the ideal speech-situation. In the former case, the discourse is instumental or strategic, in the latter it is communicational, for in harmony with the norms of discourse. A strategic discourse does not satisfy the ideal of communication, but, because of its a-symmetry, is able to top-down imperative knowledge to manifest a target. Because of the inequality in speech and the lack of freedom to speak, a "military" strategy is at work and the success of the operation is forthcoming in a linear way.

To share propositions, theoretical connotations and theories, open subjects of knowledge communicate with one another. This discourse is communicational and has no outer targets. The issue at hand is a thought, a concept, a proposition, a theory ... The invoked words intend to bring into evidence coherent novel contents and architectures between other words. The aim being consensus between all involved subjects. To realize this consensus, the concrete speech-situation must be symmetrical. No coercion rules. Although this ideal speech-situation is the limit-concept of the logic of communication, and thus never actual, it is presupposed and anticipated in every actual communication. It is presupposed, because otherwise external coercion would be allowed to enter the picture, perverting the possibility of communication itself (namely the ideal speech-situation). It is anticipated, because in order to communicate, all parties must accept the normative status of the ideal. If not, then their intention before starting to communicate was not to communicate at all (cf. culpa in contrahendo or culpable conduct before contract negotiations).

The ideal speech-situation or logic of communication is at work between subjects of knowledge, ruling their communicational discourses. As it does not refer to the theory-independent facet of facts or to the extra-mental objects of knowledge, but only to the speech-acts of other subjects of knowledge appearing as objects of knowledge, it cannot be a used to judge the truth of propositions. Intersubjectively valid insofar subjects, to seek consensus, communicate in non-strategic ways, the ideal speech-situation is not a truth-criterion. It is not because everybody thinks the same thought, that this thought should be considered "true", for they could all be wrong. Thoughts do no constitute things.

16. To think the subject of knowledge as constitutive of an object (independent of the cognitive act, as in Habermas' transcendental philosophy) leads to an unacceptable ontological theory of knowledge which idealistically deobjectifies the basic system.

Starting with Fichte, idealism ontologised Kant's transcendentalism. For Kant, the transcendental system is not a thing among things, nor is it a (higher) reality of ideas. The Copernican Revolution roots the system of thought in the Thinker, and in nothing else. For Kant, the transcendental "I Think" or transcendental unity accompanying every cogitation of the empirical ego, must be kept totally empty. The "I Think" is "of all times", but not above time. Transcendental and transcendent have to be sharply distinguished.

The transcendental ego can be made historical as a series of essences in constant transformation. This historical, hypostatic Self-reality is epistemologized as the ideal consensus between all possible language-users. Like the leaders of Plato's ideal state, this consensus catholicus is the guardian of truth and hence the sole power to define falsehood. In contemporary transcendental philosophy, and the philosophy of Habermas in particular, the intersubjectivity of knowledge eventually constitutes the object of knowledge, i.e. defines the What ? or contents of knowledge. This is like taking away objectivity from thought.

17. Knowledge can be divided into mental knowledge (aiming at an object or object-knowledge) and rational knowledge (aiming at the mind). The former is related to the categorial scheme, the latter to the ideas.

The categories (mind) & ideas (reason).

When reflecting upon the cognitive act, cogitations have the mind itself as object of knowledge. This is rational knowledge, for the mind is its object, and reason is the meta-faculty ruling the mind. The ideas of reason are those concepts which are necessary to guarantee the coherence and development of the mind. As contents of mind are addressed, mental knowledge ensues when the functional product of the two vectors of mind is at hand. This knowledge is called "scientific" because it is backed by both sides of the equation of knowledge and its categorial scheme. The latter is an explicitation of both vectors, introducing the notions of "test" (experiment) and "dialogue" (argumentation). This happens in the context of the proposed theory of truth.

The categorial scheme works for the mind and its mental knowledge. The ideas of reason work to organize the two vectors, regulating, on the one hand, the object of knowledge and its experimental definition with the idea of the real, and, on the other hand, the subject of knowledge and its discourses with the idea of the ideal.

18. The ideas guarantee the order (unity) and the expansion (totality) of our mental knowledge. They aim at the unconditional. If we use reason in the same way as we use the mind (i.e. if we use the ideas in the same way as we use the categories to acquire object-knowledge) then and only then does the transcendental illusion ensue.

A transcendental contradiction happens when thought allows the dyad to become a monad, and this by reducing the transcendental subject to the object or vice versa. A transcendental illusion does not belong to transcendental logic, but to theoretical epistemology. There it happens when the ideas regulating the process of cognition are made to constitute it. When a "real" object of knowledge is said to stimulate a passive mind, or when an "ideal" subject of knowledge is said to constitute the object of knowledge. The ideas of reality and ideality serve the mind, but not the senses.

In neurophysiology, the primary information gathered by the senses is filtered by secondary & tertiary sensoric systems. Observation happens in a pattern of expectation which develops in the observation itself. The field of connotation defined by the expectation cannot be removed from the observation (cf. Chapter 4).

The two ideas of reason dominating epistemology aim at the unconditional. The idea of the real pushes reason to seek the ultimate correspondence between theory and fact. The idea of the ideal stimulates the notion of the consensus omnium between all sign-interpreters of signals, icons and symbols. This optimalization is like a receding horizon. How could it be realized ? In terms of applied epistemology, the expansion of knowledge has no end, for the totality of all possible experience is never given.

19. This illusion (which cannot be taken away but only unmasked by way of criticism positing limitations so it can no longer deceive us) shows the borders of our possible mental knowledge have been transgressed, making the mind slow & perverse. In this way, ideas become objects, i.e. things amongst things. Hence, this illusion is also an ontological illusion.

The transcendental illusion (using the ideas of reason to constitute the possibility of knowledge) is an ontological illusion, making the object of knowledge appear as reality-as-such or the subject of knowledge appear as ideality-as-such. But absolute reality (reality-as-such and ideality-as-such or the Real-Ideal) cannot be an object of knowledge, for how to eliminate the theory-dependent facet of facts ?

Caught in the net of illusion, the mind either makes the idea of the real into a real world "out there", or the idea of the ideal into a truth-bearing ideality "in here". When the mind thinks it faces the Real-Ideal, it not longer needs to push the limits of possible knowledge (i.e. develop it), for everything is known to everybody. Hence, because of this mirage, our mental knowledge receives a wrong sense of completion, for totality duly belongs to reason and not to the mind. This sense of completion halts the development of knowledge, whereas the one-sided reliance on a sufficient ground (either of the real or of the ideal) makes the cognitive apparatus function in a debilitating way, as it were sucking the strength out of our capacity to know.

20. Realistic answers to the problem of the foundation of knowledge step beyond the boundaries of all possible mental knowledge because the idea of a "reality devoid of the subject of knowledge" (i.e. reality-as-such or Kant's "Ding-an-sich") becomes the foundation of epistemology (so facts coincide with this reality and the subject of knowledge becomes secondary) .
21. Idealistic answers ground the possibility of knowledge in the idea of an "ideal, object-constituting subject" (reality becomes secondary). Both are in conflict with the necessary conditions of the possibility of knowledge.

5 Idealistic & realistic transgressions.

Both foundational approaches have to be explicitly ruled out. Scientific knowledge, as a particular type of mental knowledge, must not eclipse the subject of knowledge, nor is the object of knowledge manufactured by the subject. Realism and idealism represent metaphysical answers to the problem of knowledge and although arguable, the decisive role of the ideas of the real and the ideal in epistemology is restricted to assist (mental) knowledge in its unity and expansion. As such, they belong to reason and their knowledge is reflective.

The ideas of reason have the categorial scheme of the mind as their object, not its fuel, i.e. the contents of the mind given by the facts. Because of the rules of logic and the workings of the active mind, the reality aimed at by the idea of the real (namely, that this-or-that fact is absolutely real) is not an object of the mind. Likewise, the ideality aimed at by the idea of the ideal is never before the mind, for the ideal speech-situations is never the actual discourse (indeed, this-or-that discourse is never absolutely ideal).

22. By shaping the unconditionality of the object of knowledge, the idea "reality" (the real-as-such) guarantees the unity & the expansion of the monologous object-oriented conceptual knowledge .
23. By shaping the unconditionality of the intersubjectivity of knowledge, the idea "ideality" (the ideal-as-such) guarantees the unity & the expansion of the dialogal subject-oriented conceptual knowledge.

6 Idealistic & realistic regulations towards unity & expansion.

To observe and experiment involves the study of regulation, determination and lawfulness, among which that of efficient causes. The asymptotic "ultimate determination" of reason lies beyond the finite borders of possible mental knowledge. Being no longer conditioned, it belongs to the idea of the real-as-such, i.e. the absolute, unconditioned reality-as-such. Communication aims to establish a consensus between all involved subjects of knowledge, but the ideal speech-situation is an ideal beyond the reach of any actual discourse. Being no longer conditioned, it belongs to the idea of the ideal-as-such, i.e. the absolute, unconditioned ideality-as-such.

In every observation of fact, both regulations are simultaneously at work. The idea of the real pushes the mind to pursue sensate adventures, whereas the idea of the ideal brings its constructions in the larger arena of the community of interpreters of signals, icons & symbols, seeking consensus and approval. Experimentation concentrates on the real. Discourse, dissensus, argumentation and consensus on the ideal. They are special cases of observation of fact, intended to articulate empirico-formal propositions or statements of fact, in casu scientific knowledge.

Experimentation, regulated by the idea of the real, involves a one-to-one relationship with the object of knowledge, at the maximal exclusion of intersubjective dialogue and discussion. It is always instrumental. This is the image of "objective" science as the monologue of Nature with herself (as in realism). The highest art of dialogue, regulated by the idea of the ideal, involves the constant dialogue with & between other subjects of knowledge about ideas, concepts, theoretical connotations, conjectures or theories. Here we have the image of a community of people seeking the truth about something and communicating to find out what it is (as in the more contemporary forms of idealism and social theory).

24. Both ideas converge towards an imaginal point which, as a postponed horizon, is a complete, universal consensus on the adequate correspondence between our knowledge and reality-as-such. This is a heuristic fiction, suggesting a position "beyond the mirror surface", a "world behind" regulating the possibility of knowledge without grounding the latter or serving as its foundation.

Epistemology, esthetics and ethics are the three normative disciplines defining the formal conditions of rationality. They draw the lines between "correct" (valid) and "outlawed" (invalid) and also define the borders of the inner architecture of cognition. In epistemology, empirico-formal propositions are at hand, as is their truth-value and method of corroboration. In esthetics, judgments of beauty prevail, and in ethics moral valuations are made. Propositions involve object-knowledge and probable truth. Judgments of beauty imply subjective keys to harmony and escaping sublimity. Moral valuations are imperative and intend the good.

The absolute mind is visualized by our faculty of imagination as an adequate correspondence. Both ideas are optimalized and projected outside the limitations of rationality, for neither science (mental knowledge), nor transcendental philosophy (rational knowledge) is equipped to know in an absolute way. The "
adequatio intellectus ad rem" or "veritas est adequatio rei et intellectus" of the realist is coupled with the "leges cogitandi sunt leges essendi" of the idealist. Both ideas are pushed beyond any possible limit. Unconditional, they represent what transcends rational thought ; a perfect unity between thought and fact, as it were the dwindling away of the theory-dependent facet of facts, a fiction brought about by the faculty of imagination and reason.

25. These ideas of contemporary epistemology characterize the "essential tension" (cf. Kuhn) typical for thinking and knowledge itself. In this way, it voices the fundamental property of scientific thinking, i.e. the continuous & permanent confrontation between "testing" (object of knowledge) and "language" (subjects of knowledge).

Both in thought, theoretical & applied epistemology, the concordia discors is what has been going on since the Homo Sapiens sapiens emerged as the result of his pre-frontal lobes and angular gyrus starting to compute or process consciousness thinking (cf. Chapter 4).

In science, especially interested in object-knowledge, this armed truce makes both parties persue their proper vector. During experiments, discussions are, for the time being, stopped. This separation is followed by confrontation. Test-results are discussed and face competitive explanations and interpretations. Dissensus may arise and at this point argumentation comes in to decide who is right and to foster consensus. Conclusions are formulated and new experiments are made ... In theory this circle is unending.

26. On the side of the object of knowledge, we must think "reality-as-such" as knowable (without being conceptually equipped to know whether this is the case). Facts are both intra-linguistic (are co-determined by the theories of the subject of knowledge) and -so must we think- extra-linguistic, i.e. the messengers of "reality-as-such". Hence, they correspond with reality-for-us.
27. On the side of the subject of knowledge, we have to think the "consensus omnium" as possible (without us ever reaching it in fact). In this way, the distinction between "my" consensus (with myself), "our" consensus here & now (i.e. the agreement between the users of the same language) and the "consensus omnium", the regulative idea on the side of the subject of knowledge, ensues.

7 Correspondence versus consensus.

For the philosophers of old, true knowledge was certain knowledge. And certain knowledge was perennial. Truth was eternalized. Pre-critical epistemology, seeking to make this postulate of foundation explicit, sought a sufficient ground outside knowledge, either as a Real World "out there" or an Ideal Idea "in here". In Greek metaphysics, concept-realism dominated and rooted the possibility of knowledge in an ideal world (Plato) or in the abstraction of the essence of things by observing them (Aristotle). In Scholastic thought, the crucial difference between (Platonic & Peripatetic) realism and (moderate & strict) nominalism emerged, replaced in modern thought by empirism and rationalism. All these efforts were pointless. Reason cannot find the sufficient ground of thought outside thought and this a priori (cf. transcendental logic). We are unable to escape the necessity of the Factum Rationis. Pre-critical modern thought was termed "scandalous" precisely because of this prevailing antinomy. Both rationalism and empirism could be argued relatively successfully, but, taken together, constituted a contradiction. This meant philosophy, if it were for example to compete with the universality of the G-force expressed by Newton's law of gravity, could not endure in this format.

With the Critique of Pure Reason, the first step was taken to formalize (or empty of its ontology) the Cartesian cogito and integrate both sides of the equation of possible thought. But Kant retained the senses as "quasi-causes" and hoped synthetic propositions a priori could be found. He was still a foundationalist. Because of these problems, German idealism rejected the transcendental method itself and did not try to reconstruct Kant (or read him properly). A return to brontosauric ontology emerged, both idealist (cf. Hegel) as realist (cf. Marx). Worse, protest philosophy (cf. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson) rejected the necessities of rationality, and plunged Western thought in the nightmare of irrationalism, spawning the horrors of the 20th century (communism, fascism, militarism, blind global capitalism). The development of knowledge itself deemed too Platonic in a world supposed to have killed God. Serious epistemology is absent here.

The more radical forms of postmodernism are the successors of these illicit and vain attempts at denying thought with thought. In fact, they are the contemporary forms (cf. Feyerabend) of a radical skepticism already known to the Greeks (cf. Gorgias, Protagoras). The échec of foundationalism multiplied with epistemological irrationalism, heralds the end of any rational investigation of the possibility, expansion & production of knowledge in general and "true" knowing in particular. Must be avoided : (a) a radical denial of the ongoing complexification of the cognitive texture of human beings, (b) all foundational onto-epistemologies (metaphysical realism or metaphysical idealism) and (c) radical scepticism & relativism.

The second step was made by neo-Kantianism,
a general term to designate the adoption of Kantian views in a partial or limited way. In particular, the rejection of the postulate of foundation is another crucial move, which calls for a normative appreciation of the problem of knowledge. Avoiding radical skepticism by discovering principles & norms, critical epistemology accepts the terministic and probabilistic status of mental knowledge in general and scientific knowledge in particular. On the one hand, absolute certainty is lost, but, on the other hand, the real, so is discovered, must be at work in every proposition corroborated by facts, because this must be the case. The real is not a quasi-cause of perceptions, for, as explained by contemporary psychology, observation and patterns of expectation coincide in every fact.

The theory-dependent facet of facts is intra-linguistic. It belongs to a theory to form a pattern of expectation. But this pattern, although always rooted in my subjectivity, is inter-subjective and belongs to a community of communicators.

In the present critical theory of truth, seeking to find reasons to accept a theory as if true, the following categories emerge :

  • the subject of knowledge / the one thinking / intersubjective discourse (consensus, dissensus, argumentation, consensus, etc.) / consensus omnium / the idea of the ideal ;

  • the object of knowledge / what is thought / monologous testing (experimental setup, tests, observations) / adequatio intellectus ad rem / the idea of the real.

28. In this way, the idea "reality" regulates the objectivity of knowledge and the idea "ideality" its subjectivity.

Paradigmatic paralysis is the collective result of scientific knowledge perverted by an ontological illusion unchecked by transcendental criticism. If individual scientists do not have the discipline to regularly reconsider their position vis-à-vis the ideas of the real and the ideal, they will be bewitched by the identification of (a) their factual accounts with reality-as-such and (b) the results of their intersubjective discourses with the ideal idea of scientific dialogue. This creates a closed scientific community, an institution, cherishing the monolith of the paradigmatic core, the new desacralized idol of those who know how to speak the scientific language and claim a privilege over others in terms of their knowledge of reality and intersubjectivity (language), either in the name of an exclusive window on reality, or to accommodate the common good of an intellectual elite and its cherished fancies.

To notice the illusion on the side of "reality", the use of the idea of the real is to be restricted to three different contexts :

  • reality-for-me : the irreducible perspective of the first person, the whole area of covered by intentionality, intimacy, secrecy, privacy and the inner world of each and every single conscious observer or subject of knowledge ;

  • reality-for-us : factual, scientific object-knowledge produced, within a conventional framework discussed, agreed upon & given beforehand, by testing, experimentation, systematic observation, etc. ;

  • reality-as-such : limit-concept of formal & critical cognition, representing, so must we think, the extra-mental, extra-linguistic, theory-independent absolute, sheer absolute reality or the ultimate nature of all.

To notice the illusion on the side of "ideality", the use of the idea of the ideal is to be restricted likewise :

  • ideality-for-me : the irreducible inner language-game of the first person, the whole area of covered by conscious meaning, thoughts, imaginations and volitions, i.e. inner mental objects giving form to signs as signals, icons and symbols ;

  • ideality-for-us : the intersubjective object-knowledge produced by discourse and the art of argumentation about the interpretation of ourselves and reality-for-us ;

  • ideality-as-such : limit-concept of formal cognition representing the Ideal idea of an absolute system of concepts encompassing all possible (inter)subjectivity, the "ideal of ideals", the sheer absolute ideality or the ultimate mind knowing all.

The probable, historical but paradigmatic system we hold for true is possible if (a) subject and object of knowledge are always both implied, and (b) the ideas of the ideal and the real are used to regulate the process characterizing mental knowledge, not to constitute the latter.

29. Let us distinguish between :

A.on the side of the object of knowledge :
theory / fact-for-us / REALITY =
criterion of truth : correspondence
B.on the side of the subject of knowledge :
"my" opinion / "our" discourse / IDEALITY =
criterion of truth : consensus omnium

8 The coherency-theory of truth.

Successful experiments bring something to the fore. Creative thinking names the something. At the point where the stuff of tests is symbolized, a proposition is formulated. The extra-linguistic factor must not be exorcised and so "coherency" does not imply "truth" to be mainly an intersubjective decision. Likewise, the truth-value of the proposition must not solely depend on correspondence with reality, for facts are facts-for-us and, so must we think, the heralds of the real thing, which is not quite the same.

Coherency then points to the balance between the two vectors and the leading ideas of the critical theory of truth : language and consensus versus experiment and correspondence. A "true" theory is one corroborated by repeated testing and approved after elaborate discussions. It is "true" because the force-fields of both vectors have been allowed to play and contribute to object-knowledge and its empirico-formal propositions and theories.

The imaginal, heuristic point of intersection between the ideas reality & ideality is a knowledge-leading & knowledge-regulating fiction which guarantees the progress of knowledge without ever constituting knowledge itself. If it does, then it misleads knowledge, thus curtailing its unity & progress.

The progress of knowledge is guaranteed if we never allow its expanding movement to stop. The latter happens when, after having considered "truth" as eternal, we fixate our conceptual knowledge and replace its temporary status with a dogmatic closure, identifying facts with reality-as-such and/or theories with ideality-as-such. The knowledge-horizon is never attained and so knowledge is allowed to progress for ever. Practically, the actual horizon may be limited by the extension of the observable physical universe, but given its humungous size, millennia of discovery lie ahead.

To deeternalize truth in epistemology does not make eternal truth impossible. Like infinity, and the absolute Real-Ideal, truth, beauty and goodness are limit-concepts of transcendental thought, the ideas of reason. If we speculate about their being (as in metaphysics), and use these ideas heuristically (as in immanent metaphysics), then we use them to actualize truth, beauty & goodness. In transcendent metaphysics, a direct, ineffable radical experience of them is at hand (cf. mysticism).

31. One of the tasks of epistemology, is to reflectively reconstrue the basic normative system already used by scientists all the time.
32. Being part of epistemology, one of the tasks of methodology is to make the normative system more concrete in terms of testability (experiment) & linguistics (dialogue & argumentation).

9 On methodology.

Scientists are cognitive actors producing object-knowledge by way of corroborated empirico-formal propositions and theories. Everyday observation also involves experimentation & (inter) subjective naming, but, in the language-game of true knowing, a more solid, inert and tenacious objectification is at hand. Here, a series of more lasting connections between direct observable events is made, and categories of determination are put forward to organize these connections. The following irreducible types of lawfulness may be posited :

  • causal determination : effect by efficient, external cause (example : a ball kicking another ball) ;

  • interaction : reciprocal causation or functional interdependence (example : the force of gravity) ;

  • statistical determination : end result by the joint activity of independent objects (example : the long-run frequency of throwing two aces in succession is 1/36, the position or momentum of a particle) ;

  • teleological determination : of means by the ends (example : standardization) ;

  • holistic determination : of parts by the whole (example : needs of an organ determined by the organism).

Methodology transposes the necessities of experiment and communication to the local research-cell in general and to the practical logic of its specific scientific studies in particular. This causes a variety of local coordinations of scientific activity.

In physics, experiments will be at the core of research. But, unassisted by a constant dialogue enabling refinements, novel interpretations and alternative views, testing is rather futile, often off-mark and reduced to a standardized confirmation of established points of view.

In human sciences, methodology turns into hermeneutics and participant observation. But, if the interpretation of signals, icons and symbols is not balanced by a practical, open and honest experience of a variety of intersubjective communities, then a fossilization takes place, and the institutions of knowledge are an easy prey for the media money, propaganda and power. As such, they cannot guarantee free study and, as authorities ex cathedra, will eventually see their monolith crumble. The production of knowledge should be protected against extreme forms of subjectification & objectification.

33. All conceptual knowledge is fallible. According to its form, the normative system is necessary (universal & absolute), but according to its factual contents, it is historical (particular, local & relative).
34. We have to think reality-as-such (ideality-as-such) necessarily as knowable, without our minds ever being able to know whether we know this or not.

The fallibility of empirco-formal knowledge does not invite radical skepticism. Not everything is relative. Anything does not go (against Feyerabend). Some principles & norms still necessary and constitute the normative discipline of knowledge. This has truth as its aim, in the same way as taste has beauty and the justice has goodness as object.

The normative solution does not call thought & knowledge to find a sufficient ground outside thinking & science. The ideas of reason have been used and are used. Epistemology explains why this must be so. Rational (conceptual) thought cannot discover whether there actually exists an absolute Real-Ideal behind (beyond) the theory-dependent facet of object-knowledge. Facts remain "for us" and we must assume they reflect or mirror the Real-Ideal. But, insofar as normative science goes, this could as well be a universal illusion.

35. Two antinomian regulations are necessary to arrive at valid, i.e. true knowledge : on the one hand, a monological regulation (the path of experiment), on the other hand, a dialogal regulation (the path of discourse & discussion).
36. The imaginal point of intersection between the regulating norms is like the permanently postponed horizon of our mental knowledge, guaranteeing its order & expansion.

10 The fundamental norms of knowledge.

These compel science to walk the Two Ways, namely the paths of experiment and communication. Focus on the object of knowledge leads to a monological regulation of every experiment by the correspondence with the idea of the real. Likewise, every dialogue aims at consensus and presupposes the idea of the ideal (of communication). Not to use both norms in every cognitive act, is to move outside the domain of (formal) rationality.

37. A theory is "rational", when it (a) is logically well-fashioned, (b) does not exclude dialogal symmetry and (c) allows for dialogue & discussion. If so, it is an "arguable" theory.

11 The scientific status of a theory.

A theory is an arguable unity of propositions about ideality and/or reality. If a theory cannot be discussed, then an irrational, ante-rational or trans-rational factor is implied. These kind of theories are not rational, either because they reject the Factum Rationis, just prelude rationality or pertain to Unknowing. Rationality and arguability are intimately linked. In the adjacent theory of language, three criteria are fundamental : (a) rational theories have a certain logic and format, (b) they do not exclude the ideals of communication a priori and (c) they are open for discussions and confrontations with opposing views. Note that for a theory to be rational, it does not need to be testable. Scientific thought is rational and testable.

38. "Testability" & "arguability" are predicates which both must be ascribable to every scientific theory.

Insofar as arguable, rational theories are not put to the test, they cannot belong to science proper. A scientific theory X belongs to strict science if, and only if, X is corroborated and consensual. For a rational theory to be strict science, it needs to be factual and trigger the approval of all involved. Hence, strict science is the outcome of an application of both vectors and adjacent regulations.

39. As a function of the status of a theory, three subdomains of scientific endeavor ensue :
- proto-science : not tested and arguable ;
- strict science : corroborated and agreement ;
- semi-science : falsified and/or disagreement.

If a rational (arguable) theory does not refuse testing, it already belongs to the domain of science. As proto-science, it reflects the order book of science, its tasks ahead. In particular, the specific activities planned by each research-cell. If corroborated and approved by others, it becomes strict science. If falsified by new experiments or disagreement about it prevails or both, it becomes part of the large storehouse of outdated (semi-) scientific theories.

40. Formally speaking, a theory may at first be proto-scientific, become strictly scientific, and then semi-scientific. Finally, it is "metaphysical".

If a rational, semi-scientific theory can no longer be tested, it becomes metaphysical. Likewise, all rational theories refusing or somehow escaping testing are metaphysical. The only regulation left is arguability.

41. Two lines of demarcation stand out : on the one side, between the sciences (proto-, strict & semi-) & metaphysics, in other words as a function of the testability of done statements and, on the other side, between valid & invalid metaphysics, in other words, as a function of the arguability of done statements.

Science and metaphysics have arguability in common. Both can be checked using logic. But testability is the crucial demarcation between them. Metaphysics cannot be tested. Science is all about intelligent experimentation. Given the vast domain of metaphysics, covering all rational theories and all former scientific theories, a second demarcation is introduced.

Valid metaphysics is arguable. As an immanent metaphysics, it must be able to argue a comprehensive rational picture of the metaphysical horizon. Insofar as transcendent metaphysics, being nondual, cannot be verbalized, all efforts to stretch beyond immanence must be deemed futile and, at best, of exemplaric poetic value only. Can validation have meaning in nondual terms ? As authenticity perhaps ?

42. Metaphysics is speculative & theoretical knowledge on being (ontology), the cosmos (philosophical cosmology), life (philosophical biology), the human (philosophical anthropology) & the Divine (philosophical Divinity). Metaphysics may be divided into :
- valid metaphysics : arguable ;
- invalid metaphysics : unarguable.

12 Metaphysics and science.

Metaphysics is a rational theory dealing with the totality of possible relationships between seer and seen. Elaborating upon this, brings the seer in touch with him or herself, with other seers, with the world, and finally, with what transcends the world. If the first relationship is the neutral core of the experience of seership, then the second and the third bring to the fore the horizontal plane around this core. When the latter is transcended, the vertical plane emerges. These three represent the personal, intersubjective and absolute use of the ideas of reason (in particular, reality & ideality).

Let us, to format our proposed immanent metaphysics, devise a linguistic framework which is directly derived from the structure of the sphere of observation. This is a universal & necessary empirico-linguistic framework. Let us ponder this :

All empirico-formal statements of fact made by a seer about the seen are always & everywhere necessarily framed by the local sphere of observation of the seer, globally defined by a horizontal plane with four cardinal points of reference (East, South, West, North) and a vertical plane with two points of reference (Nadir, Zenith), i.e. six directions.

Consider the following :

  • horizon of observation = field of consciousness of the observer, defined by four possible divergent quarters and situated in the neutral origin of the sphere, O (0,0,0) and the divergent interconnectedness of all objects facing the seer ;

  • prime vertical = evolutionary field of the seer, from origin to final goal and the convergent evolution of each seer ;

  • P1, P2, ... = set of orientations given to the observer within the boundaries of the sphere ;

  • diurnal hemisphere = the realm of rational consciousness ;

  • nocturnal hemisphere = the realm of irrational and ante-rational consciousness ;

  • the sphere itself = the totality of all immanent realities and idealities of every observer ;

  • beyond the sphere = the trans-rational, the ineffable.

Although each observation is unique (using a exclusive local sphere), its constituents are universal (defining the global sphere). If each local sphere is linked with a particular "reality-for-me", the global sphere is related to the planetary "reality-for-us". The horizontal plane is associated with the diversity of beings, the way they interconnect (although divergent) and their respective "horizon" or limitations, whereas the vertical plane is used to construe the evolutionary process in which each is involved (moving from origin -Nadir- to final end -Zenith-), implying the dynamical convergence of each.

Metaphysics formulates an onto-categorial scheme. In it, the basic operators of being are described.

43. Distinguish normative philosophy from theoretical metaphysics using the coercive necessity of the rules of the game. These are fixed by the former by reflecting on the conditions of the possibility of the logical (correct), the epistemological (true), the esthetical (beautiful) & the ethical (good) conduct of humanity. Together, normative philosophy & valid metaphysics make out the field of philosophy.

Over time, the role of philosophy has been more and more narrowed down. Gradually, many of its pursuits were taken over by theology, psychology, physics, cosmology and others. In the late 20th century, the difference between academical philosophy and philosophy per se was made clear. The former focused on the logistics and the strategies of historical philosophy, whereas the latter is a novel synthesis of theoretical (as in writing and teaching) as well as practical aims (as in advising and assisting). The interaction between "theoria" & "praxis" is the corner-stone of the dialectical tension called in to uphold the effort and avoid fossilization (institutionalization, canonization, eternalization).

Critical philosophy is divided in normative & descriptive philosophy. The former is a formal discipline involving principles, norms & maxims, and subdivided in critical epistemology, critical esthetics and critical ethics. Its main task is to syntactically differentiate between valid & invalid empirico-formal propositions, esthetical judgments and ethical valuations. The standard used is rooted in the Factum Rationis. So transcendental logic, the rule of principles, is common to all three normative disciplines.

Valid metaphysics is a semantic discipline, seeking to understand things insofar as they are and this in a comprehensive way, involving expanding layers of relatedness between a person and him/herself, the others, the world and the absolute.

44. Metaphysics can never be completely driven out from the field of knowledge. This means the field of the paradigm of knowledge equals the sum of scientific statements and valid metaphysics.
45. Valid metaphysics inspires the sciences (heuristics & "ars inveniendi"), promotes openness & pluralism (it is better to think more possibilities than only a few) and hence stimulates a critical interdisciplinary dialogue.

Greek and Scholastic philosophy was foundational and ontological. Especially the realists (Platonic or Peripatetic) sought to subjugate the possibility of knowledge to a theory of being. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, revealed knowledge was deemed more superior than rational and empirical knowledge. The former originated from the Divine Mind, whereas the latter were reflections.

It was this metaphysics of transcendence gone wild, which critical philosophy, starting with Kant, tries to bridle.

By 1850, spawned by the industrial revolution and its technological wonders, a new materialist synthesis was reached. Taken beyond itself by hubris, metaphysics and religion were deemed to belong to an earlier stage of human knowledge. They had to be exorcised out of science, only based on sense-data. But with relativity, quantum and chaos, the picture changed, confirming the interdependence of object and subject. The latter is an open, problem-solving, intelligent producer of signals, icons & symbols. These evolve from notions, to concepts, ideas, propositions, conjectures and theories. As scientific theories are not fixed entities, but may become semi-scientific or metaphysical, the spectrum of knowledge is a dynamical totality, in which metaphysics cannot be eliminated. Moreover, in order to articulate a propositions and conduct an experiment, an irreducible metaphysical background knowledge is needed, without which words would remain silent and no test could be performed (cf. Popper). Hence, to make this implicit background explicit, is the crucial task of epistemology. This cannot be done without the study of metaphysical systems and the validity of their arguments.

To speculate is to imagine thoughts systematically. This comes very close to invention and improvisation. To build an immanent metaphysical system is a creative activity and escapes the transcendental rationality of formal reason. A creative thinking takes place. The difference with art is the rational necessities linked with trying to understand the totality of existence. To do so, the speculative activities of the metaphysician counterpoint the scientific paradigm.

46. An invalid metaphysics is characterised by :
(a) an incorrect, inefficient & contradictory formal language or syntax, and/or
(b) the unilateral hypertrophy of object and/or subject or semantics, and/or
(c) the impossibility to judge done statements (pragmatics).
47. These characteristics are also valid for our understanding of "irrationality". Hence, all invalid metaphysics are irrational.

A valid metaphysical system is discussed and approved. This means (a) internally, the system is without syntactic, semantic and pragmatic flaws, (b) the system per se is arguable and (c) externally, competing with other systems, it covers more ground in a better way.

Some metaphysical systems are invalid a priori. Without being discussed and found lacking strong arguments, these systems are rejected on logical grounds. Besides compliance with formal criteria, the presence of both object and subject of speculation is necessary, as is the possibility to argue statements derived from the system.

48. Rationality is the privilege of subjects of knowledge willing to communicate well, using a well-proportioned and correct language (semantics & syntax), allowing for discourse, i.e. argumentation & consensus (pragmatics).
49. Inconsistency is a failure of the syntactic conditions which are rationality's own and is a distinguishing mark of irrationality if and only if :
(a) the inconsistency attacks the axiomatic foundation of the theory ; and
(b) this absurdity can in no way be reduced to a determinable, efficient measure.

13 Language and the criteria of discourse.

Language is the outcome of the cognitive process of transforming experiences into signs or glyphs (signals, icons & symbols), intended to be used to communicate with other intelligent systems. Signs indicate parameters, icons representations and symbols conceptual content. The latter also refer to the three fundamental parts of the brain : reptilian, mammalian and human (cf. Chapter 4). This broad definition includes the languages of the natural world, from crystalline structures and their geometrical qualities to the complex social structure of the mammal in its biotope, as well as the languages of science and art. 

A glyph (from the Greek "glyphe" or "carved work") is the physical presence of some distinguishing, differentiating material condition or activity, understood by way of its meaning (semantics), its order (syntax) and recurrent practice (pragmatics). Glyphs always trace a contrast with their environment, involving (single or a combination of) visual, auditive, olfactory, gustatory or tactile experiences. Glyphs are hence meaningful & well-formed states of matter. To understand this, consciousness is necessary. To measure its form, information is indispensable.

  • pragmatism or matter (hardware) : a glyph is an executive material aggregate, composed of matter ;

  • syntax or information (software) : by virtue of the laws of symmetry which describe its well-formed code and non-redundant information, a glyph is an ordered architecture ;

  • semantics or consciousness (userware) : a glyph is a source of meaning, develops a unique perspective or conscious outlook, suggestive of the ability to auto-redefine, auto-regulate and auto-reorganize as a function of the degree of intelligence (or freedom).

Language is not only an artifact of the human being. It is not restricted to the spoken or written word.  Art & body-language are good examples of non-verbal languages. Also in the natural world, signals and icons are used. Signals involve the protection of territory and show who is on top. Icons try to represent a complex network in a relatively simple image (like bees dancing the direction to food). So in this broad definition of language, all cultural forms are languages but not all languages are cultural forms. Culture always implies conservation and the transmission of meaning to the next generation (which is absent in most of the mineral, vegetal, and animal world).

Of course, the production of sounds (in music and through the spoken word) is an excellent way to trace the characteristic distinctions of a glyph. Sound is not noise. The latter is homogenous & chaotic, i.e. in noise, entropy and redundancy are always high. No distinct meanings are conveyed, no specific order or differentiation can be recorded and a long exposure to too much local noise even causes one to hear less (negative pragmatical result). Auditive pollution by noise has negative effects on health, both physical (deprivation of sleep) as psychological (stress).

On the one hand, sound-glyphs exist as distinguishable entities "carved" in air. These distinguishing features are clear and distinct when the level of noise is low and the articulation of the characteristic meaningful acoustic form is well performed (low redundancy). 20th century Classical and to a lesser extent Popular music have demonstrated the line between noise and sound is relative. However, the return of tonality, polytonality & the non-alleatoric show sounds cannot be produced with (educated) noise alone ...

On the other hand, sound-glyphs are volatile. Before the technical ability existed to record them, they were always lost. Hence, as soon as humans understood the advantages of recording these sounds for future reference and (re)transmission, history started. Oral traditions were slowly replaced by written testimony. Of course, prehistoric glyphs other than sounds existed (like artifacts, rituals, pictorial art etc.), but their meaning can not be established as distinctly and unambiguously, and the information derived from them is always prone to redundancy. 

The process of recording sound-glyphs implied the standardization of sounds, which came about either by drawing pictures of the object denoted by the sound-glyph (the logogram) or by isolating individual sounds, as it were reducing the spoken to its elements or "phonemes" (from the Greek "phonoma", or "speech sound" and "phonein", or "to sound"). The moment these spoken sound-glyphs are recorded as individual written glyphs, phonograms emerge (from the Greek "gramma", or "the written"). Phonograms are the foundation of all written languages, although in archaic languages, like early Sumerian, logography was predominant, suggesting phonography was derived from logography. In Ancient Middle Egyptian, the phonograms were represented by pictorial representations without vocalizations, causing a static "sacred" writing system to emerge, which differed from the spoken language.

The four actors in this cycle are the environment, the sender, the message and the receiver. Each actor is stimulated by a source and in turn becomes a source of stimuli :

  1. environment : collective, conventional information or code is stored in the collective data bank (or collective memory) which acts as a source of information concerning the cultural form at hand (education & socialization) ;

  2. sender : the stimuli of the environment are received by the info-receptor of an individual sender, who integrates the information and (tries to) author an original, individualized response, which is a variation on the theme of the collective code ;

  3. message : the actual response of the sender is a message which is a symptom of the response and the source of symbolic activity sent to a receiver ;

  4. receiver : the symbols received are integrated by the receiver who has access to the collective code and who integrates the received symbols in the repertoire of the data bank of the collective and communicates the integrated symbols of the message.

Each phase of the process may be flawed by possible errors in transmission : the information of the collective may be misunderstood by the sender and/or the latter may represent the info-source by means of an alienating symptom. The message itself may contain redundancy (due to noise), eclipsing the original intent of the sender. The receiver may misunderstand the symbol and integrate it inadequately, adding sullied information to the collective data bank. The more the cycle is corrupted, the less coherent a cultural form becomes.

50. Rationality implies a principle of symmetry (equality in speech and freedom of action), a language which is formally correct and a theory of argumentation.
Regarding the theory of argumentation, preference is given to a model of judgment built on game-theory, i.e. the definition of the logical system and rules of discussion are chosen beforehand by the discussers.

Strategic speech-acts are not communicational but efficient & utilitaristic. They create the iron cage of alienation, in which humans only exchange glyphs for the sake of some outer, material goal, like the production, exchange or acquisition of some thing. By making language an instrument of some extrinsic process, the essence of communication, namely to share truth, beauty and goodness, is lost.

The strategic use of language is the arena of the media power, propaganda and money. Top/bottom relationships, deception and the building up of capital for the sake of capital, are precisely devoid of the symmetry characterizing genuine communication. They depersonalize humans and turn them into objects to be manipulated and used for the sole benefit of those who have the power, the data and the money to take away a person's freedom or parts thereof. Hence, they are the language of the sadist. Those who willingly bow and comply because of the received painful benefits, those who put on the chains themselves and willingly crawl into the cage of their masters, are the masochists, as Nietzsche correctly observed. Both in philosophy and science this kind of discourse must be absent. It cannot help to attain truth and so is eliminated from the desktop of those who wish to truly communicate. In sado-masochistic contexts, equality in speech is abrogated. The slave can only speak if so allowed by his master. Freedom of action is also gone, for the movements of the slave are controlled by the master. As the slave exists for the sole benefit of the master, all communication between them is reduced to signals of obedience, icons of humiliation and strategic symbols (glyphs intending the satisfaction of the top only).

If we communicate, we do so on an equal basis. Everyone is free to say what they like and nobody is able to enforce their position upon another. Besides this symmetry, the value of statements must be checked. This implies a theory of argumentation. To make sure the latter is not an idealized canon, its rules must be discussed and approved beforehand. In this way, all concerned parties agree upon the way to handle dissensus and a clear-cut assessment of statements can be made. Strong arguments back a statement and make it more likely than those unable to provide such a warrant.

Book 2
Applied Epistemology

52. Consider the practice of knowledge as a dynamical interplay between, on the one hand, dialogue and the rules of argumentation and, on the other hand, participant observation and the rules of experimentation.

14.The practice of knowledge.

To ask : Quid juris ? is to foster the normative approach prevailing in theoretical epistemology. As such, validity and justification of knowledge rule over how it is produced. Here, the logic of discovery answers the question : Quid facti ? This is the difference between the idea of a stable and universal method and the constant revision of standards, procedures and criteria as one moves along and enters new research areas. The difference between the principles of transcendental logic, the norms of theoretical epistemology and the maxims of applied epistemology.

From the perspective of the history of science, most, but not all, rules are violated at some time or other. The community of science, as the sociology of science testifies, is not a set of ideal subjects, but a living group of learned people who evidence the oldest rule in the book : Errare humanum est ! In order not to be entrapped by ontological illusion, scientists need the basic normative system uncovered by theoretical epistemology. What scientists have been doing (diachronical) and what they do today (synchronical), is not identical with the norms of knowledge they are always using (and abusing). These makes knowledge possible and guarantee its unity and expansion.

Theoretical and applied epistemology are both necessary. The former may be compared to "statute-law", universal, imperative and normative, the latter to "casus-law", local, adaptive and descriptive. Contextualism and decontextualization are both necessary, and so emphasis on either "what must" or "what is", is lacking. Lakatos invoked a pluralistic system of authority between them.

In applied epistemology, the context of knowledge-production is studied, and so the norms of knowledge are not made explicit. In every concrete situation they are at work and are addressed. Theoretical epistemology is general & necessary (a priori), applied epistemology is contextual & situational (a posteriori). The latter affirms the laws of discovery to be context-specific and complex, far beyond the capacities of a simple formal logic.

The general structure of applied epistemology is derived from theoretical insights, for (a) the subject of knowledge and its norms becomes the subject of experience and (b) the object of knowledge and its norms, the object of experience. In physical science, the latter is given form as the rules of experimentation, whereas in the human sciences, the rules of participant observation are applied. Both make use of this-or-that actual discourse, with its non-strategic communication (dialogue, dissensus, argumentation, consensus).

The principles of transcendental logic (derived from the pre-critical arena of communication), give rise to the norms of theoretical epistemology. The latter are normative rules which assist the practice of knowledge as maxims organizing the opportunistic logic of discovery. These maxims are not like binding norms. Deviation from them is possible, but not advisable. Violating a maxim does not entail the end of the possibility, unity & expansion of knowledge, but slows down its manufacture. The process of production is not halted (and replaced by an illusion), but its efficiency drops. Hence, the research-cell at hand will suffer and become a less attractive competitor in the market of available facts.

53. Move against ontological rigidity by regularly investigating all possible deviations between the norms of the theory of knowledge (what must) and the maxims of the practice of knowledge (what is).
54. Try, as soon as a given production-process of knowledge demonstrably deviates from the a priori norms, to bridge the gap by provoking a discussion between the other actors of the production-process.

The maxims of applied epistemology try to operationalize the effort of maximalizing the production of knowledge. They are inspired by the norms of knowledge. In this case, ontological rigidity has to be identified and cancelled. In a research-cell, experiment and communication are both crucial. If too little discourse is taking place, or a one-sided experimental course is pursued, provocation is called in to stimulate pluralism and dissensus.

This could be summarized by saying free study is part of any intelligent research-cell.

55. Consider reality-as-such (and ideality-as-such) as knowable, although this might be a universal illusion.

Empirico-formal propositions, statements of fact or object-knowledge are the product of the vectors experimentation and discourse (dissensus, argumentation, consensus). By virtue of the theory-dependent facet of facts, in other words, their mental and linguistic co-determination, one cannot know whether our theories indeed coincide with the Real-Ideal (the point where all of reality is known to all concerned). On the one hand, object-knowledge, so theoretical epistemology worked out, is always "for us". This limits the scope of science and stops the foundational and outrageous pretence witnessed in science at the beginning of the last century, as there were : logical positivism, epiphenomenalism, materialism, instrumentalism, scientism, etc. On the other hand, one cannot think thought or knowledge without the necessity of accepting facts also, extra-mentally, extra-linguistically and theory-independently, carry the letters of belief of reality-as-such.

In the practice of knowledge, it is this last "face" of facts which is of particular importance. For here we temporarily suspend our criticism and so allow the limitations of our possibilities to be overtaken by our hubris and emotional need to think reality (ideality) in such a way both become transparant and tangible. We know this cannot be the case, but realize the question Quid facti ? impels us to do so. For in the latter case, we are no longer normative philosophers working out the possibility, unity & expansion of knowledge, as it were guaranteeing for ourselves we may think and know, but, as scientists, are thrown in the arena of direct observation and discourse. Both entail the need to think reality & ideality as open books in which we read the story-line of the real-ideal. Surely this is not the case, and we fool ourselves with an opaque, clouded version of the latter. However, if this concept, necessary in theory, would be constantly before the scientists in their laboratory or discourse, a constant bewilderment would ensue, for our emotional need of security would be in jeopardy and we would fixate this issue instead of what happens "on the field".

For this reason, this maxim is introduced to allow scientists to suspend this critical dimension and work as if reality-as-such & ideality-as-such are available in all their absolute glory ... It is clear this maxim is not based on theoretical epistemology, and rather conflicts with it. Indeed, the maxim can not be justified in any normative way (as in statutory norms), but only satisfies the a posteriori descriptions of what scientists do and need in practice, in this case a temporal satisfaction of an emotional need, which is particular and contextual (as in casus-law).

56. Act in the practice of knowledge as if facts (reality-for-us) coincide with reality-as-such.
57. Act in the practice of knowledge as if the factual agreements (the consensus-for-us) coincides with the universal consensus omnium.

15 Methodological "as if"-thinking.

In the practice of knowledge, scientists, supposed to be aware of the issues raised by theoretical epistemology, suspend the distinctions between test-results and reality-as-such, as well as between the actual consensus and the consensus omnium. The game is played as if it were possible to gaze the Real-Ideal in the face and directly derive true knowledge from this.

58. Realise this "as if"-thinking can not be legitimised by the theory of knowledge, but is rather linked up with the anthropological need for regularity.

The reasons why the above maxim is introduced are not normative, but descriptive, in particular psychological. Human beings, rooted in mammalian, limbic reflexes, need to experience repeated patterns.

As depth-psychology has shown, we often organize ourselves in such a way as to satisfy the need to have positive experiences confirmed and negative avoided. This lust-principle is not processed in the neocortex of the brain, and so cannot be based on symbols. Instead, the dynamics of lust is mediated by icons, representations, visualizations, images and fantasy. These trigger the deep-seated memories stored in the hippocampus, the archive-keeper of the brain. The hippocampus has regulatory effect on the thalamus, the gate through which all information carried by the sensoric axons enters the central nervous system. Here, these afferents are pre-processed to branch out to the relevant cortical areas. The hippocampus may block (with or without the thalamus) sensory input to the neocortex and regulate the autonomous nervous system by maintaining emotional equilibrium. As such, the hippocampus does not process the generation of emotional states, but memorizes them. The recognition of patterns is therefore a highly emotional affair.

There is no good reason why scientists should expect the same constantly, quite on the contrary. This need for regularity may lead to dogmatism and an irrational attachment to identical or quasi-identical frame-works. That this may lead to bad science, is amply shown when scientists are confronted with effects they do not understand and/or undermine the stability of their emotional expectations, as parapsychological research had made clear. Confronted with telekinesis, most of them reject the laboratory-experiences afterwards and because of this dissensus, no fact can be recorded. This unwillingness to discuss the possibility of facts contradicting the core of their paradigm, has done more harm to the science of parapsychology than the so-called impossibility to trigger and repeat extraordinary instances of remote viewing and the like. Let us call this the Bellarmine-effect, after
Robert Cardinal Bellarmine (1542 - 1621), who administered the controversial admonition to Galileo not to hold or defend the Copernican theory, in conflict with the geocentric theology of the Roman Catholic Church of his days ...

The same goes for other disciplines on the periphery of the paradigm, like homeopathy, astrology, magic, alchemy and other so-called "occult" and "irrational" statements. As correlation is not causality, and the latter needs theory (i.e. discourse), an irrational block has been put in place. Because of such an attitude, these irregular claims have not been properly dealt with, for scientists fear the ridicule of their peers and so prefer to kill the messenger instead of properly disproving the message.

In science, openness implies not to expect the same effect, but, on the contrary, inquire whether the repetition is not of our own making. A strict experimental setup, defined by a stringent protocol, points in that direction. We wish to trace our conditioned reflex, as well as our need to face the unknown. We want to make sure we are not fooling ourselves, and so experiments (and discussions) are repeated in different research-cells over the world. Confirmation by the duplication of results is the best guarantee we have against projecting expectation on test-results, i.e. fabricating pseudo-facts (as in pseudo-science). This works out well for theories staying within our common Newtonian perspective on things. But if a novel and undermining effect is recorded (like non-locality in physics), scientists tend to turn their backs, disregard the effect or together indulge in the wrong kind of silence, namely indifference.

Hence, this maxim may serve its purpose or backfire. Fear for the unknown, peer-pressure, irrational certainty, dogmatism and skepticism work to make it a dangerous tool in research. If these emotions can be bridled, the expectation of regularity will assist science in its discovery of patterns and laws.

59. Act as if objects of knowledge "exist" but leave room for a discussion about the experimental results (methodological realism) and act as if subjects of knowledge "think" but leave room for new experiments (methodological idealism). This is a game in which the final term (existence = thinking) is permanently suspended.

The two regulators (experiment and discourse) have to assist each other. If we consider, for the sake of methodology, our test-results as real, we need to discuss whether there are no alternative interpretations. If we consider our consensus as ideal, we need to test to observe whether novel facts emerge. Lack of this, will eventually slow down the manufacture of knowledge. The game is played without final terms, and so the ongoing production of knowledge is in no way halted.

60. The rules of dialogue and argumentation are grounded in communicative action. The latter is based on a common definition of context (negotiation) and a problem-solving behavior (execution), coordinated by consensus. It is crucial to avoid pseudo-communication (like in the case of the perlocution).
61. A valid dialogue-language has rules for :
(1) communicative quality (symmetry a priori & a posteriori) ;
(2) form : Fregean & non-Fregean ;
(3) meaning : different types of "discourses" ;
(4) argumentation : formal3 rules (cf. Lorenzen & Barth).

16. Practical communication.

"Locution" refers to the literal meaning of a given speech act. Hence, "illocution" refers to the effect the speaker intends to achieve in making the utterance, while "perlocution" refers to the actual effect the utterance has upon the audience. The "perlocution" of a speech act is thus the way it is received by an audience. It is affected by "extra-locutionary" factors, such as strategic intentions kept secret for the sake of some hidden agenda, asymmetry between speakers and/or coercive acts, all intolerable in the context of the practice of knowledge. For Habermas, perlocution always involves teleological acts aimed at success. It is strategic in all cases. In communicative action, the latter have to be put aside, for genuine communication has no other aim than to establish truth by way of speech acts.

The difference between instrumental action and strategic action helps to define communicative action.

Instrumental action Strategic action
object of experience subject of experience
actor - environment actor - actor
theory of decision game theory
things & events persons
objects & processes intersubjectivity
lack of information strategic uncertainty
technology strategy
behavioral modification social action

Communicative action turns strategic uncertaintly into symmetry, stategy into absence of coercion and social action into an intersubjective quest for consensus.

In daily speech acts, strategic communications, although rejected in the practice of knowledge, are very common. Constantly people communicate in order to get something done or influence others. Hence, strategic speech acts are far more common than genuine communicative action. Because of this, scientific communication is a rather rare and restricted language-game, played by a subset of possible sign-interpreters. So in science, intersubjectivity is defined as the community of all involved delineators of signals, icons & symbols.

The discourse needed in applied epistemology has to abide by certain rules :

  • the quality of such a communication is optimalized by making sure nobody is forced to speak or hindered to do so. A priori, all parties anticipate and presuppose the ideal speech-situation. A posteriori, in the actual discourse, they all work hard to realize this symmetry and lack of coercion. None of them has strategic intentions, and all done speech acts have intrinsic value and interest. Relative goals outside the immediate speech acts are not present ;

  • the form used to communicate has to be logically valid, implying all have to agree which kind of logic will be used to establish the truth-value of statements and their propositional reference to reality. In that respect, two broad categories of logic exist : the formal, classical, Fregean structures, devoid of semantic or the non-Fregean, non-formal logics, working with representations, analogies, metaphors and lateral methods (cf. De Bono, NLP and the techniques of brainstorming) ;

  • dialogal context is intimately related to form. The various branches of science are so many subsets of intersubjective activities manufacturing object-knowledge, working with a semantic in tune with their respective fields of experimentation. In publications, results are shared, allowing others to duplicate the latter through experimentation and communicative action within their own contexts ;

  • finally, the concrete rules of argumentation have to be discussed. They are the meta-rules of the meta-system of logic, or formal3 rules.

The division between Fregean & non-Fregean logics is recent. Indeed, traditionally, classical & non-classical logic are Fregean throughout. It was Aristotle who initiated Fregean deductive reasoning by eliminating the contents of the propositions and judging their validity exclusively on the basis of the truth-value of the logical operators "not", "and", "or" and "if-then". The importance of this kind of approach is unmistaken and has eventually developed into the imperative algorithms used by most of our computers. Every step of the argument can be checked using formal rules, devoid of semantics. Given the initial positions (the axioms), a series of hypothesis may be inferred which, when proven correct, turn into theorems. This formal calculus does not allow or has difficulty with stochastic variations (the element of probability & chance) or non-linear attractors (the element of chaos). This could be seen as the logic of formal representation, the way of the linear straight line (instead of the non-linear curve). Formal logic tries to develop closed, complete & consistent representations, in which no "bugs" or randomness occur. Moreover, although impossible (cf. Gödel), it also invokes completeness, i.e. the calculus foresees all possible logical situations beforehand.

Non-Fregean logics are non-formal representations in mini-worlds by analogy. Problems are isolated and transferred to such a representation or register. In this "small" world, the problem is solved and then reintroduced into the main frame of the argument. In this elliptic way, the argument do not follow an imperative course, but as the meandering river, adapts to the ever changing circumstances. There is no attempt to represent the whole or to seek complete solutions. Para-consistency (the fact paradoxes always remain present within the system) is not fought (but efficiently handled) and there is no absolute, but relative predictability.

The study of Artificial Intelligence has shown the importance of non-imperative algorithms, able to process novelty & randomness, as well as multiple userware inputs. Non-Fregean systems are therefore the way of the curve, not the line.

These two broad and general systems have three branches : syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The first rules the rules, the second contents and the third application.

Fregean systems tend to reduce contents to syntax. They inflate structure, and attribute truth exclusively to the form of the argument. Indeed, semantics is more than just the identification of certain symbols with certain meanings. In non-Fregean approaches, symbols "throw together" a wide array of meanings and fuse these together, so as to form a dense semantic core around which a variety of meanings circumambulate, defining a particular and unique semantic field.

In living systems, the use of natural symbols is common. Natural languages are able to convey a complex network of meanings with a relatively small number of symbols, as do art and non-verbal communication. In this synthetic, connotative area, formal logic is unable to penetrate and its analytics is completely off the mark. This shows both systems have to work complementary, but in "real life" formal logic proves to be the exception (the architecture or backbone), whereas elliptic systems are the rule (the evolution, the symmetry-breaks).

Regarding the adopted theory of argumentation, let us follow the distinctions introduced by Barth & Krabbe (1978) :

  1. formal rules : the classical formal logic of the language used, the logical constants ;

  2. formal2 rules : the rules of use of the logical constants ;

  3. formal3 rules : the rules of argumentation.

Whenever dissensus occurs, a new discourse is organized, preluded by a mutual agreement regarding the rules of the game of logic. These are the two meta rules, covering the measurement of truth and the validity of a given argumentation. Systems A can be called objectively better than system B, if there is at least 1 logical problem solved by A which is not by B while there is no logical problem solved by B which is not solved by A. The rules of argumentation cover the process by which validity is established.

62. Accept specific, empirical criteria of judgment a posteriori. They are the result of the particular way in which practical processes of learning are institutionally concretized in the given research-cell.
63. These criteria a posteriori are the tangible background of each real conversation. So the meaning of the notion "ideal speech-situation" may vary.

17 Judgments a posteriori.

Scientists organize themselves and in doing so institutionalize. They form groups, departments, schools, universities & research institutions. Besides the development and unity of knowledge, other social and psychological issues ensue. Judgments are not only based on strict experimental and dialogal evidence, but also on situational, local, contextual parameters.

A certain way of doing things raised to the height of a maxim, begs for the loss of free study. Nevertheless, in every research-cell, in every unity of knowledge-production, a series of rules of thumb emerge, a certain style is applied, and both directly influence decisions and the way the future of science is handled by that cell, department or institution. This is disturbing and brings in the psychology & sociology of science. This is not only a tale of randomness, of "anything goes", of outrageous discriminations, Bellarmine-effects, and strategies detrimental to the possibility of knowledge itself. Scientists, like everybody else, do more than try to pay their bills and keep up the esteem of their peers. Of course, they do need money and may be tempted by applause.

If institutions abuse of these maxims to mock the normative necessity to experiment & discuss issues, and let a posteriori whims negate a priori norms, then such institutions are no longer the places where knowledge is produced. The academia and the universities are called to turn all knowledge towards unity, as reason demands. They should be safe havens for free study and be open to all possibilities. They should not dependent on the markets and their strategic commerce. The normative ideals of truth, beauty and goodness must be their aim and work. If they fail, the true, operational value of academic degrees "in the field" will diminish and a whole generation will have been fooled.

64. The criteria a posteriori must be questionable. This should be made exclusively dependent of the communicative will of those concerned and aims to oppose the colonization of the discourse by money & power.

he present philosophical investigations are the fruit of a free study, unhindered by the media money, propaganda and power. The latter bring a posteriori rules into play, which disable the scientist to ascertain the facts in an open, multidisciplinary and honest way. Regrettably, many of our universities are no longer turned towards unity. Instead, they have become polyversities accommodating neoliberal market forces and the worship of the modernist monolith. In such a perspective, the periphery of science is kept abay, as are paradigmatic shifts.

65. Be aware function-optimalisation in intelligent systems happens among other things by representing problems in a non-Fregean way, for example in a mini-world, solving them there and then transferring the solution back to the original scale.
66. To optimalize the quality of the knowledge-practice of subjects, creative training-programmes must be executed, so elements which were not joined are put together and through analogy & metaphor new insights may ensue.

18 Optimalisations.

Besides the constant presence of an independent critical function, thinking the limitations of thought & knowledge, applying the norms of knowledge, identifying & restoring transgressions, etc. each research-cell, department or institution may optimalize the output of the production-unity by installing a creative function, allowing brainstorming, inventivity & non-linear (chaotic) movements & actions to happen. On a regular basis, both functions should be used to facilitate the production of knowledge and the subsequent valour of the research. Both functions are optimalisations countering the uncertainty & possible excess caused by judging a posteriori.

67. To produce knowledge, the maxims "test" & "talk" must, as soon as disagreement occurs, be divided from each other and be joined again as soon as consensus is reached. The knowledge concerned may be taken as true.

19 Producing facts.

The production of knowledge is a construction. So the products of science are not the result of researching that-what-is, but a selection carved out from whatever "is". Facticity is fabrication. Facts are, as the Latin root "facere" indicates, that which has been made. Not the vocabulary of Nature is at hand, but the constant conjunctions fabricated in the research-cell, fulfulling the "sense" of truth in terms of instrumental production & communicative action. Succes in making things and persons work is the bottom line of the application of the norms of knowledge.

The critical function of the research-cell, embodied by a single individual or a team, organizes the constant tension between the two formal parts of the undivided intersubjective research-community : the subject of experience or "theory" and the object of experience or "facts". The former is an intersubjective language-game regulated by consensus, a dialogue between the members of the research-cell, aiming to produce a concise and valid theory about some thing by means of communicative action. The latter is a monologous experimental procedure or set of instrumental actions regulated by correspondence, an immediate confrontation with facts as if with reality-as-such.

While routine investigations are happening, regular discourses are needed to test the solidity of the consensus. As soon as dissensus occurs, communicative action is suspended to focus on testing. Test-results are then discussed, leading to a better articulation of the theory at hand. When a new consensus dawns, regular discourse & experimentation recommence.

68. A flexible pulse between experimentation & language characterises the ideal practice of knowledge. Dialogandi & experimenters are conscious of the frontiers of their respective fields of action.

The critical function allows each members of the team to become aware of the alternative regulator. A redefinition of the proper field is possible, and this well beyond the limitations imposed by either experimentation or communicative action. The two sides of the equation of thought need to be connected but also kept apart. Their inner tension is possible, necessary and productive. Without the activity of the critical function, ontological illusion comes into play, pushing research into the perverting polarity between either "physical" (testing) sciences (like physics, chemistry, biology) or "human" (talking) sciences (like anthropology, linguistics, psychology, sociology, economy). Although emphasis on either side is possible, all sciences thrive on experimentation and language, and the critical know-how to differentiate between them.

69. Be aware testing & conversing are possible because of partly metaphysical & unalienable background-information.

The creative function, embodied by a single individual or a team, is heuristic. As such, its aim is to bring in new vistas and suggest novel connections, either between the components of the theory, between the experimenter and the experimental apparatus, or between both regulations. Creative sessions are organized in which the metaphysical assumptions of the team are made explicit and then discussed. The background against which all research takes place is noted and also discussed. The influence of this on current research is described. Theories are challenged by alternatives and the potential of the Ars inveniendi is to be constantly raised. The creative function may foster lateral, non-Fregean thinking. It may suggest new circumstantial conditions of conducting research, going from the psychology of the team-members, their proper diet, to the wall-paper of the research facility, etc. It works at the periphery of the research-paradigm, and stands under the authority of the critical function.

70. Be aware the production of knowledge is only possible because of an opportunistic logic which states that the actors of a research-cell develop a local "know-how" determining what works & what does not (methodological relativism).
71. Be aware this logic of local habits also influences quantitative factors and control-mechanisms.

20 The opportunistic logic of knowledge-production.

Besides a series of rules of thumb and judgments a posteriori, a local body of "know-how" determines the overall operations of the research-cell, understood as a local accumulation of facts from previous operations. This logic is opportunistic and strategic. It bears the mark of local contingency and subjective interest structures. It aims at the optimalization of effective results, and defines in practical terms which experiments and/or discourses produce facts and which do not. Clearly, this logic cannot be rooted in theoretical epistemology and represents a synthesis of a local tradition. This not only involves broad theoretical and/or experimental choices, but also the way in which small changes (in experimental setup or output) and/or personal attitudes (during discussions) are interpreted & assessed. Science optimalizes the production of facts by cherishing these variations between research-cells and by confronting the protocols of various local production-units, connected the publication of results in the various scientific journals available.

Clearly, in such an opportunistic logic, irrationality and personal preferences, based on idiosyncratic and emotional motives, are not silenced, quite on the contrary. Each cell takes on the image of its research-leaders. While the way results are gathered may contain blatant irrationality, the publication of research-results puts the cell in the line of fire of other researchers all over the world. Errors in procedure, irregular articulation of theoretical connections and drawing conclusions beyond the scope of the evidence will be noticed by others and reduce the scientific worth of the research, as well as depress investors and so possibly eliminate funding.

That this opportunistic logic directly influences quantitative factors and control-mechanisms should be repeated. Whether a threshold is considered as critical or not, does not always depend on theoretical assumptions, but also on "the feeling" or "intelligent guess" of those conducting the experiments. Whether a certain path will lead to success cannot be determined solely by testing and talking, for the decision can be made by following a hunch or because it seems proper to do so at the time ...

72. Local interpretation & strategic opportunism lead to criteria-variability & oscillation, so random factors also influence the production of knowledge. The effect of this indeterminism is necessary for a progressive & organised adaptation of the research-cell to internal & external factors. The production-process of knowledge implies decision-chains & selections which are contextual & random. Products of knowledge may, notwithstanding this randomness, nevertheless come about.

Especially when scientists inform policy makers, they should stress the relativity of their facts. Science has not replaced dogmatic religion and is not called to define how things are for ever and ever. Instead, the terministic or probabilistic nature of scientific theories should bar the way of any attempt to eternalize the truth of this-or-that proposition.

The research-cell is determined by two factors : (a) the production of knowledge as defined by the norms of theoretical epistemology and the maxims of applied epistemology and (b) the (psycho)sociology of knowledge, or the description of the actual behavior of scientists in their various fields. Internally, the production of knowledge comes about by communicative & instrumental action, externally, by publications. Insofar as the research-cell itself is concerned, the question Quid facti ? calls for strategic & instrumental action. Considered in relationship with other cells, the homo economicus is at hand.

How, given randomness in the chain of crucial operational decisions, knowledge can be produced, is clarified by  the effect of indeterminacy on the ability to adapt and thus survive change demanding auto-regulation and autopoiesis. Like certain physical and biological systems, knowledge is a complex, dissipative and chaotic phenomenon, continuously developing more complex cognitive textures.

In terms of the practice of knowledge, the latter is a process of complexification, a progressive (re)construction resulting from the integration & elimination of earlier scientific activities.

Maxim 72 allows new maxims to be added.


Scientists have no anchor and navigate their vessel on the vast ocean (Oger). Aware of the greater relative infinity of the cosmos, as well as the lesser relative infinity of the molecular, atomic & subatomic strata, considering life and consciousness, they must keep proportion. Despite the finitude of the observable universe, our physical insignificance compared to it, defines its relative infinity and thus prospect. However, throwing out our nets, we only catch those big fish unable to slip through the mazes, while at any given moment, the number of nets aboard is limited. Too often our mazes, boxes, frames or mentalities are too rigid and self-cherishing. The fish adapt.

Scientists erect buildings on the edge of or in the swamp (Popper). Such flooded bottomland, saturated with water, is constantly shifting. Yet, despite this instability and all the rest of it, science tries to build a platform above it, holding out for a while. How long precisely, nobody knows. But not forever, this much we know ...

Next, we produce new nets to bind Nature or another set of poles to drive into the marsh, etc. In view of the vastness of the observable universe, this procedure or process of acquiring valid empirico-formal knowledge is practically unending. Likewise for the expansion of knowledge. As long as critical people argue and experiment, the vessel of science is relatively secure.

Nevertheless, scientists are like sailors on a leaking ship, a worn vessel set adrift on an extremely vast ocean, seeing nowhere a safe harbor to accost.

To them to repair their vessel while aboard and navigating ...

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Chapter 3


formal sketch of a critical ethics

"Where can we go where our sins will not touch us ? No place on Earth - no place at all. Not in the sky, not in the midst of the sea, not in the rocky clefts of mountains."
Buddha Shakyamuni - Dharmapada, Evil, 12 (8:127) - spoken to the three groups of monks.



I : Transcendental Ethics.

II : Theoretical Ethics :

01. Ethics as a normative system.
02. The subject of action or the freedom of initiation.
03. The object of action and physical determination.
04. Moral science, moral philosophy & critical ethics.
05. Teleological and deontological transgressions.
06. Moral science : the genesis of a sense of justice.
07. Moral philosophy : ego & intent as sources of ethics.
08. The alter-ego and Operation Duty.
09. The formation of conscience.
10. Returning the call of vocation.
11. Goodness & Project Fairness.
12. Planetary Participationism.
13. Ethics and metaphysics.
14. Ethics and the Divine.

III : Sketches for a Practical Morality :

15. The practice of ethics.
16. Persons.
17. Health.
18. Family.
19. Property.
20. On the secular state.
21. On death.

Suggested Reading


system : the totality of parts organized in an orderly fashion ;

movement : a change in the physical position and/or momentum of a system in the exclusive presence of external causes  (cf. "SR" or Stimulus-Response with no internal causes) ;

coordinations of movement : combinations of movement of a system in the presence of external and internal causes (cf. "SIR" or Stimulus-Internal-Reponse, characterized by the presence of a conscious agent and/or a meaningful choice) ;

internal causes : forces belonging to the interiority of a system, engendering changes initiated by the intent of the conscious agent of the system ;

action : a change brought about or prevented by a conscious, intentional, intelligent, affective and volitional (behavioural) system with minimal impact on the world ; the absence of action (inaction), being the zero-action ;

free will : the creator & director of intentional action in the absence of all possible coercion to undertake or to do nothing ;

deeds : complex of actions serving a single purpose with medial impact on the world ;

behaviours : habitual complex of deeds with maximal impact on the world ;

ethics : the justification of action, the propagation of Project Fairness and the nurturing of care & compassion ;

morality : the application of the rules of ethics to the various issues of practical life, fostering fairness and rightness.

Book Naught
Transcendental Ethics

0. No action without, on the one hand, a transcendental object, i.e. a coordinated movement & its consequence (or the prevention of such movement & its consequence), and, on the other hand, a transcendental subject, i.e. a possessor of conscious intent, who is the source of behaviour, accommodating desire, free will and reason.
The minimum necessity for a possible ethics ? Coordinated movement and free will.
If free will is the initiator, then coordinated movement is the sedimentation of intent in terms of action, deed or behaviour.

No transcendental object without goals (to be realized through coordinated actions, deeds or behaviours, i.e. culturalizing states of matter) and/or values (exercising an attraction, prompting action from both passions and cognition).

1.1 Eliminate the transcendental object, and ethics is no longer about certain coordinated movements and their impact on the actor and his/her environment.
1.2 The transcendental object of ethics guarantees movement, and allows the coordination of movement to actually happen.
1.3 The object is necessary, for without it, there is nothing to justify, nothing ethical ever happens, and values & goals are non-existent.

2. No transcendental subject without free will (slipping through the uncertainty-margins of nature) and its power of choice.

Eliminate the transcendental subject, and ethics is no longer about actual coordinations based on conscious meaning. Without coordinated changes in position and/or momentum, ethics is (a) that part of physics which describes certain classes of movements deemed important to organize social formations in terms of goals, values and norms and (b) inherently devoid of its principal actor, namely : the human.
2.2 The transcendental subject of ethics is another formulation of the irreducibility of the First Person Perspective (FPP), the sole guarantee of coordination, or the meaningful, conscious manipulation of objects and signs (signals, icons & symbols), thus allowing for a definition of action, deeds and behaviours.
2.3 The subject is necessary, for without it, there is nobody to do justice to and ethical intent is non-existent.

3. No justification of action without, on the one hand, objective goals and/or values and, on the other hand, the subjective power of indeterminism, i.e. the exclusive privilege of the First Person Perspective (FPP).

3.1 Ethics functions in accord with the transcendental principles of thought as defined by transcendental logic (cf. Chapter 2). To answer the question : "What must I do ?", develop, by means of duality, the dual structure of thought into a fourfold of norms exhausting the possibilities of theoretical ethics.
3.2 The object of ethics is a sedimentation of action, deeds & behaviours, while its subject is the intent driving the coordinations of movement implied by values and goals.
3.3 Free will & coordinations are put together to avoid impairing ethics by confusing its principles and hence clouding its decrees.

   Book 1
Theoretical Ethics

01. Ethics as a normative system.

4.  The moral norms uncovered by critical ethics answer : (a) how good actions and their propagation are possible and (b) how ethical judgments must be performed. They take form as a necessary division, a quaternio or fourfold of critical ethical factors, developing the dual structure of the logic of ethics : "I" versus "not-I". In-between subject and object, actions are at hand.

4.1 The subject of ethics is either confirmed ("this is I") or denied ("this is not I"), yielding the difference between subject (affirm) and object (deny). To define, from without, this inner distinction further, it is made to balance (a) subjectively and (b) objectively.
4.2 Identify the subject of ethics with conscious intent and its object (the other beings) with duty. Then the first (subjective) harmonization involves conscience and its second (objective) harmonization is calling. Intent, duty, conscience and calling form a
quaternio of necessary ethical factors.
4.2.1 The first harmonization involves a stable but transient trinity of factors : intent, duty & conscience. It represents the Order of Fairness.
4.2.2 The second harmonization, stable and enduring, integrates intent, duty & calling. This is rightness.
4.2.3 Goodness is fairness with rightness.
4.3 All beings belonging to the kingdoms of nature are possible objects of ethics. Water, Air and other crucial chemical compounds are objects due to their life-sustaining capacities. Minerals by virtue of the geometrical architecture between their molecules. Plants in terms of photosynthesis and the ecosystem. Animals because of their capacity of motility and affectivity. Humans in view of their conscious thought and, as
minimum minimorum, the ability to create new and better circumstances for all sentient beings on planet Earth.
4.3.1 All objects of ethics are sentient, i.e. derived and/or based on natural light, luminosity and the photon.
4.3.2 For all sentient beings, the path of action is coercive, and so ethics necessary.

5. The architecture of normative ethics must be in tune with the transcendental conditions of thought and with the dualism of the selfsame conditions of action, deed & behaviour, encompassing both the objective, teleological (consequential), as well as the deontological, subjective (universalizing) perspective on ethics as defined by these traditional systems.

5.1 The transcendental conditions of thought state that both object and subject of thought are necessary and irreducible
(cf. Chapter 2).
5.2 An exclusive focus on the transcendental object of ethics generates consequential systems (exclusively judging the consequences of action in terms of goals & values), whereas positing the ideal subject implies a universalizing ethics (exclusively judging the intent and the rules of duty in terms of a generalization of the outcome of action).
5.2.1 Consequential systems of ethics define objective conditions and classes of coordinated movement. They measure the final goals of action. They eclipse the importance of free intent as well as the influence of conscience on action. Focusing on the immediate and the direct, they lack an overall perspective. Statute-law is avoided.
5.2.2 Deontological systems work out (inter)subjective rules of valid generalization and focus on the intent of action. They avoid the circumstantial and deny context, locality and probability (chaos) to enter into the equation. Casus-law is ousted.
5.3 Critical ethics tries to harmonize both intent (consequence) and duty (rules). It does so by bringing the extremes back to the "middle path" and linking fairness with rightness.
5.3.1 Fairness is applied justice. Here, the formal side of goodness is realized. This is the justice of equality, the application of the "letter" of the law. It is only fair to expect justice. Rules, consequence and conscience lead to fairness. This is what must be done.
5.3.2 Rightness is applied goodness. It has broken out of the limitations of the letter and is able, through wisdom, to witness both sides of the balance, take into account all relevant elements and pronounce "the spirit" of the law. This is what care does.

6. Objectifying, teleological ethics posits the empirico-formal rule of gratification & usefulness. In subjectifying, deontological ethics calls free will to obey the rule of reason.

6.1 Consequential ethics elaborates upon the spatiotemporal relativity of statistically significant needs & goals, and this without integrating personal happiness (private self-regard) and the specificity of ethical issues. However, in an insentient universe, good and evil have no status. No physical fact is better than another.
6.1.1 Gratification is satisfaction nourishing personal happiness. Limited by time, place and person, it forms unending longings. Objective ethics have no idea about internal, intimate & private matters.
6.1.2 Usefulness extends from one person to the planet as a whole (and may -theoretically- encompass the whole universe). In practical terms, it reflects the common good cherished by the ruling class. Thus, to control the access to this good is the principal cause of conflicts, disputes and wars.
6.1.3 The utilitarian law dictates that under any given circumstance, the action which produces the greatest amount of happiness on the whole (taking into account all whose happiness is touched by this), is objectively right. Extend this consequential law by judging any favorable consequence of an action, moving beyond happiness or pleasure.
6.2 Deontological ethics cannot escape the laws devised to regulate intersubjective contact. Being statute-laws, they address the existential nature of intersubjective contacts in terms of duty. This is the respect for the "pure" moral law, dictating that we must treat others as the persons we ourselves are, even if this thwarts our inclinations to gratify ourselves and make other humans useful to ourselves. Duty humbles self-love.
6.2.1 Agreeableness, the active ingredient of satisfaction -even the promotion of the happiness of others- does not, in this scheme, consist in the conception of the moral law in itself, for it would not require the will of a rational being conceiving the moral law.
6.2.2 Moral value cannot depend on the reality of the object of the action at hand (values or goals), but merely on the principle of volition in the assumed total absence of any activity of desire.
6.2.3 The moral law demands that "I" must never act in such a way that "I" could not will that my ethical norm should not be a universal law, and this for the sake of the law (morality) and not by mere compliance to it (legality).
6.2.4 The moral law thus defined is never in touch with the desires, but only with thought. Unable to understand the full implications of goodness, namely fairness and rightness based on desire, free will and reason, exclusivist deontology, by lack of care, does not exclude cruelty nor mild psychopathy.
Teleological ethics, based on either a higher good or on the principle of utility, accommodate desire and its principle of pleasure or happiness. The happiness principle holds that actions are good, right or just when they promote pleasure. Classical utilitarism concludes : as some kinds of pleasures are more desirable and valuable than others, a scale of goodness is possible, with the greatest good to the greatest number on top. Preference utilitarism tries to bring about the fulfillment of preferences and is called consequentialism.

7. In critical ethics, happiness, fairness & rightness are possible by allowing, as much as possible, both subject (intent, duty) and object (conscience, calling) of action to participate in our ethical deliberations and in the moral or practical organization of our lives. In this way, one decides what to do and what not to do, and this, as much as possible, in every instance of coordination.

7.1 Happiness is the fruit of gratification or the repetition of agreeable experiences. All sentient beings seek happiness.
7.1.1 As long as the pursuit of happiness, fairness and rightness is made to root in wrong desires, wrong volition and wrong thinking, human beings are immensely dissatisfied and so suffer.
7.1.2 Wrong desires feed the impulse to attach or dislike. Wrong volition drives action exclusively towards personal gain. Wrong thinking considers subjects & objects as inherently existing substances.
7.2 Fairness is the outcome of conscientious justice, transcending legality into morality out of sheer respect for the moral law.
7.3 Rightness is the outcome of the "turning of the wheel" of ethics. It is the response of care to a calling acting as a transcendent observant disabling any attempt to by-pass the fundamental horizon of all possible human action : to do the good for all sentient beings, meaning to be fair and care.
7.4 Goodness, encompassing happiness, fairness & rightness, is impossible without the total transformation of the actor. To not complete one's own-Self-realization (or the actuality of right mind, right action & right desire) is to strand the project of ethics on the shores of egology.
7.4.1 Self-realization is not to acquire something which is not already present, but to be fully aware of who one truly is in thought, desires and volitions.
7.4.2 To remove the mental clouds shielding the Sun from casting its rays of awareness is the crucial metaphor.

8. If there is no actor to exert free will, it is impossible to say what someone ought to do or not to do. He who says "ought", should at least accept the other in his or her strangeness. Only dictators do not.

8.1 Ethical models based on symmetry & homogeneity between moral actors lack true equanimity resulting from difference & asymmetry. They reflect the solitary ego and extend its existence to all other human beings.
8.1.1 Nobody has "my" spatio-temporal coordinates and overlaps the sentient being "I" am.
8.1.2 Because of the lack of symmetry between "myself" and the "others", there is the possibility of genuine goodness and not just the common good necessary to organize the traffic.
8.2 The fundamental fact of ethics is the irreducible difference between all moral actors hand in hand with their interrelatedness.
8.2.1 Difference does not exclude comparison, but all comparisons fail to satisfy the conditions of right thinking, positing the uniqueness of every sentient being.
8.2.2 Interrelatedness is (a) physical and (b) psychological. Non-locality determines that all things emerge from the underlying universal quantum field which connects every particle of the observable universe at speeds exceeding that of light. A subject of experience is always part of an intersubjective environment and hence in constant communication or exchange with others.
8.2.3 A solipsist subject would be a closed monad with no windows to exchange anything. It would be a super-object posing as a subject and hence not a subject at all. With self-regard maximalized, communication is impossible.
8.3 To leave an open place at the table (space), to never close one's door for a stranger (time) and to accept the otherness of sentient beings (person) are the three fundamentals of any ethical process between human beings.

9. The living core of ethics is the reciprocal acknowledgment of the fundamental asymmetry between ethical actors.

9.1 The moment "I" am not identified with "You", there is an ethical continuum in which exchange is possible and novel coordinations of movements may emerge.
9.2 Theoretical, discursive, cerebral, centrifugal thought destroys otherness and its secret. It cannot conceive the intimate, and therefore annihilates its possibility. Science seeks to dominate through universals, not to serve this other in particular.
9.3 Practical, symbolical (hieroglyphic), centripetal intelligence "of the heart", invites the stranger as he or she is, and negates any attempt to reduce otherness. Hence, otherness is the revelation of unicity and brings into existence new coordinations of movement.
9.3.1 Only if my own-Self is deemed a stranger to me can there be moral development beyond fairness or excellence.
9.3.2 When the actor knows, feels and expresses his or her own sentient core, fairness couples with rightness or sublimity.
9.4 In the case of a Cartesian ego or a Leibnizean monad, the "I" is a permanent, substantial, essential, unchanging entity that exists in itself, independent and disconnected from the "not-I". Such substantialist egology is left when "I" and "not-I" mutually imply each other and cannot be alienated from one another (either by reduction or by exclusion).

10. Satisfying either desire (hedonism), volition (utilitarism) or reason (deontology), traditional ethics is unable to cause both happiness, fairness and rightness for all sentient beings in concert. These ethics may, at their best, bring satisfaction, fairness & justice, which is not the same as goodness, adding concern, care & rightness.

10.1 To view ethics as a normative discipline, implies unweaving the crucial ethical factors of what is a good action and has always been the necessary architecture of an example of goodness. This is like finding a treasure of which one was not aware that it has always been there.
10.2 Normative disciplines such as epistemology, ethics and esthetics, do not describe the true, the good and the beautiful, but lay bear the principles, norms and maxims which have always been used to think true thoughts, do good actions and produce beautiful sensations. Not the question "Quid factis ?", but "Quid Iuris ?" engages them.
10.2.1 The sociology of goodness counts, compares and formulates empirico-formal laws. It describes the actuality or absence of goodness. But the principles, norms and maxims of goodness decree and engage. They prescribe what must be done in order for goodness to be actual.
10.2.2 It is a fallacy to move from a mere description of goodness to what is necessary for goodness. Descriptions are the casus-law of ethics (morality), whereas obligations are its statute-laws.
10.2.3 Statute-laws are uncovered within. They were, are and will always be there to assist critical ethics. Casus-law are identified without and are altered hand in hand with the actor and his or her history. They help the development of applied ethics or morality.

02. The subject of action or the freedom of initiation.

11. In order to act on intent, the actor must exercise his or her free will, i.e. be able to move in the absence of external impediments.

11.1 Suppose, ad absurdum, predestination, fate or destiny to be true. Then, all movements, actions, deeds & behaviours are determined by the complex of anterior determining factors like causality, the Fates, Providence or the Will of God or Gods. If so, there is no uncertainty in nature allowing the subject to freely choose between two possibilities, except fictionally. Ergo, there is only movement and no coordinations of movement, and thus no action and no actor. With the moral actor reduced to a mere mover, ethics becomes the object of a closed Newtonian physics.
11.2 Besides being in contradiction with the probabilism of contemporary physics, determinism (the modern version of predestination)
faces a major logical problem : if all things are determined, then how can this determination be described without in some way, in the very act of description, transcending it ? How to avoid the contradictio in actu exercito ?
11.3 Epistemologically, one may wonder
how the subject of knowledge can be eclipsed hand in hand with a description of this "fact" ? Behold the contradiction : although refusing the subject of knowledge any independence from the object of knowledge, the former is necessarily implied in the refusal.
11.4 All movement is external and the outer world knows of many impediments. Linear and non-linear movements constitute the process between the four physical forces & the numerous, photon-based particles constituting the architecture of the observable universe.

12. Besides (a) the negative side of liberty (i.e. to be free from internal dependences of external determinations) and (b) its positive side (i.e. the active possibility to be autonomous, independent and self-conditioning), free will is a nondetermined choice, or the actual physical possibility to escape the probabilistic determinism of matter.

The approach of both momentum and architecture is probabilistic, for Newtonian determinism has been superseded by relativity, quantum, chaos and string, revolutionalizing cosmology, nuclear physics and mathematics. The margin of error allowed by these equations is the principle of indeterminacy of Heisenberg.
12.2 Exerting free will is a highly complex operation, involving the seeking & finding of the small interval or isthmus of uncertainty within probable processes surrounding its manifestation.
12.3 Without free will, there is no difference between the coming of goodness and the manifestation of the physical universe. In this case, ethics would be one of these manifestations. Instead, critical ethics lays bear the necessity and possibility of making excellent and sublime use of certain physical margins of error.

13. In order for "me" to exercise "my" free will, the individual "I" am cannot be reduced to anything else. Egoism, or the humanism of the ego, dictates that nothing is more to "me" than "myself". Hence, "I" must be able to act as "I" like to act or not to act. The freedom of initiation is wholly rooted in the "I".

13.1 Ad absurdum, maximalize egology, and make the ego absolute. By taking the owner serious, the ego is the ultimate ideality. It accepts the presence of other ego's, but must treat them as if they were objects. Hence, all value put on those objects are creatures of the ego, who acts as their sole Lord.
13.2 The egoist, pursuing no other goal, considers only the actors’ own welfare.
13.2.1 As the egoist has degenerated reason, the actor's own welfare is the satisfaction of desire in terms of one's own emotions and physical kicks.
13.2.2 In mythological terms, the animal nature of the egoist has been sullied by a degenerated reason and has turned the human into a Beast.
13.2.3 Beasts in the wilderness, the "war of all against all", and the hierarchy of might are the outcome of egology. Insofar as the Beast must love suffering, it always creates its own downfall.

14. In order for "my" actions to escape the "war of all against all", "I" must consider every possible "other" as "I" consider "myself". Altruism, or the humanism of "the other", as given by reason, dictates that nothing will humanize "me" more than to participate in the humanization of "the other" and live in accord with this reciprocity.

14.1 There is an "I" because there is a "not-I" and vice versa. Thought cannot escape its own necessities.
14.2 The "war of all against all" is replaced by the "contract of all with all". Neither in duty will ethical tensions resolve.

15. The reciprocity of altruism is the recognition of "You" as "myself".

15.1 To observe the "I" is to realize its momentum. Although taken as a piece of architecture, the "I" is more like a stream. This movement is seldom perceived, but has diurnal, nocturnal, monthly and seasonal fluctuations.
15.2 The impermanence of identity brings the various interrelationships between subjects to the fore. Instead of scattered pieces, subjects & objects are modules which are part of communicational networks and their energy. As in dissipative systems, they are defined by their connectivity, redundancy and complexity.
15.3 Although the "I" is not a substance existing inherently, it does functionally exist as the seat of free will. Although its existence is more like a fluctuating but coherent pattern of coordinated movements though space-time, it is the more or less fixed continuum of this pattern called "I" which initiates action, gives meaning to movements and manipulates the margins of nature.

16. Formal, universalizing ethics, of which the three forms of deontological ethics, imperative, contractual and righteous, are transgressive sublimations, makes reason dictate the free will.

16.1 Insofar desire is the sole lawgiver, reason has to be degenerated. Insofar reason is the sole lawgiver, free will has to be willingly handicapped.
16.2 Deontological ethics are transgressive because they run against the principles of transcendental logic. By eliminating the object of ethics, an indifferent and imperative system of rules is deduced. These are sublimations resulting from the unconditional within reason, in this case eclipsing the object of thought.

03. The object of action and physical determination.

17. Actions are either done to realize a goal or to implement a value.

17.1 A goal is an objective state of affairs to be realized now or in the future.
17.2 A value is a subjective merit considered worthwhile or desirable.

18. Goals limit action by resisting intent with their own-form.

18.1 Physical limitations (inertia) slow down the realization of intent and are overcome by enduring repetition.
18.2 By eroding inertia, a new set of coordinations is introduced, co-sustaining the mental operators of process and emancipation.

19. Values co-determine action by imposing their own-form on intent.

19.1 Merit requires free intent.
19.2 Values presuppose a relative intersubjective stability of desires and reasoning or traditions related to creativity and growth. Hence, negative values presuppose destruction and decay.

20. Insofar as goals and values are of desire, they are objects of teleological ethics and generate the "war of all against all". Insofar as they are objects of reason, they appear in deontological ethics as imposed by Operation Duty, feeding the shadow of guilt.

20.1 Operation Duty, the contrary of egology, is forced humanism. The egoism of the individual is compromised by and relinquished for that of the collective, in whatever form.
20.1.1 The moment, by giving "my" violent response away to the state, "I" loose the possibility to kill whenever "I" like and whoever "I" like, egology can no longer be lethal in an acute sense.
20.1.2 "My" violent response is replaced by the monopoly of violence held by the state. This causes conflicts between states, as well as within the fabric of Operation Duty itself (killing is wrong but necessary in war).
20.1.3 Because of the inherent imbalance between desire and reason, the corruption of Operation Duty is inevitable.
20.1.4 Better a corrupted, guilt-striken sense of duty than no duty at all.
20.1.5 Conscious (ethical) egoism is preferable to covert (bourgeois) egoism pretending altruism (i.e. hypocrizy).
20.2 In the equation of the Order of Fairness, desires are bound to overturn reason, degenerate it and feast in the wilderness. Hence, the "contract of all with all" is also the "lie of all against all".
20.2.1 The human body is rooted in primate desires, urges and volitions. The thinking capacity is limited and untrained. What more is needed to conclude most humans feast like Beasts ?
20.2.2 Although contracts help to regulate the tragedy of egology and fairness, they can be broken. Feeding a cold sense of justice, contractualism fosters the blind workings of dossier-logic.

21. The realization of a goal engenders a new goal. The recognition of value entails another value. Is there an end to the sliding scale of goals & values ?

21.1 Human undertakings based on egoistical & intersubjective goals and values produce more suffering than pleasure, happiness, fairness or rightness.
21.2 Suppose our actions succeed, which is not necessarily the case. Then we either :
(a) realize our success after again losing it ;
(b) seek a new object as soon as fulfillment is actual ;
(c) witness the atrophy of the mere pleasurable after repetition and
(d) are driven into the despair of boredom which eliminates all goals and values. Thus the human Beast suffers more than the animal.
21.2.1 The necessity with which a second object arises after the elimination of the first in the fire of desire and excellence, is given by the conditioned origination of all sentient activity.
21.2.2 The satisfaction of pleasure causes the quest for a new object to annihilate, prompting yet another search, etc.
21.3 Goals and values form a circle of dependent causes. Success and fulfillment generate new goals and values, allowing for the repetition of the pleasurable, the desirable and the excellent.
21.3.1 The pleasurable, the desirable and the excellent are prone to swift decay and demand, to maintain impulse, an exponential rise of input, which is untenable. Saturation of wants (diminishing returns) and decreasing marginal value rule.
21.3.2 Excellence can be consolidated into traditions by thought and its signs (signals, icons & symbols). These last longer but their trace runs deeper. Over time, any original mistake is enlarged. The result being a cacophony of conflicting traditions.

22. Affective, consequential, teleological ethics, in its two forms of eudemonic (producing happiness and well-being) & utilitarian (serving immediate utility), is a goal & value-oriented transgressive sublimation making desire becharm reason and free will.

22.1 Because it appeals to desire, affective ethics overpowers the rationale of deontology.
22.2 In the trinity of factors covering the Order of Fairness, namely intent, duty & conscience, desire unleashed by free will exceeds the rationality of duty, except in mediocrity and the dulling of intent.
22.3 The transgression of affective ethics lies in its neglect of reason and the universal principles, norms and maxims of thought, action and sensation.
22.3.1 A priori. Without a subject of ethics (a someone striving), objects have no meaning.
22.3.2 A posteriori. If all goodness depended on pleasure and utility alone, the "war of all against all" would not be the bestial fact of human history. Bestial behaviour
would lead to peace, not to the rule of shared pain.

04. Moral science, moral philosophy & critical ethics.

23. Moral science observes, analyzes, systematizes and explains what is present in society in terms of moral phenomena. Moral science also "tests" the latter by way of logic, observation and pragmatism. Here justice is an option, never a must.

23.1 When carefully applied, moral science is multi-disciplinary and integrates crucial data of biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, economy & philosophy.
23.1.1 In mammals with long memories, primate ethics, based on kinship & reciprocity, exist.
23.1.2 Humans are special animals able to manipulate natural selection and develop culture.
23.1.3 Sensation, desire, volition, reason and consciousness drive the psyche of the human.
23.1.4 Not consanguinity nor race, but shared norms, goals & values, consolidating a fertile process of communication, produce lasting social bonds.
23.4.5 A planetary economy commands respect for all living creatures on planet Earth and brings into effect the social, just & caring ideals of planetary participationism, allowing for the satisfaction of most desires within the framework of detachment, transformation and the sanation of reason by a new humanism.
23.4.6 Spiritual hedonism does not exist. 
23.2 Insofar as moral science is also multi-cultural, the wisdom of common sense may come into focus. This is not the wisdom of goodness.

24. Moral philosophy, acknowledging the crucial data offered by moral science, tries to approach moral phenomena in a reflective way.

24.1 Insofar as moral philosophy is constituted by trans-empirical concepts, it is but a precritical attempt to formulate a mere metaphysical justification of actions, deeds & behaviours in terms of an explicit or presupposed, realist or idealist ontological scheme.
24.2 Religious ethics have abused precritical logic by clinging to revealed dogma, brewing various onto-theologies of the Abrahamic Deity, afflicting free will with predestination and direct mystical experience with the stake. Facing self-refuting statements deemed irrefutable (axiomatic), nothing else is left than to posit another option.
24.3 When atheism backs statements with realist or idealist presuppositions, like the existence of a solid world "out there" or the presence of a substantial Self "in here", it is precritical. Critical atheism needs to refute the arguments backing the existence of the Divine (cf. Chapter 7).
24.3.1 Atheism denies the existence of the Divine in all possible denominations. Has this denial had any influence on the religious attitudes of most Westerners educated by the atheist elite ?
24.3.2 On the crucial issue of Divinity, agnosticism remains indecisive. Only superficiality & mediocrity are able to treat something important as trivial.

25. Critical ethics is a moral philosophy constituted by the transcendental conditions of coordinated movements and free will, implying conscious intent, design, meaning and a nondeterminated choice. Thinking intent, duty, conscience & calling, it makes moral valuations in terms of the goodness of actions, deeds & behaviours. Here, fairness & rightness are a necessity, an ought called to be a good choice, i.e. free, happy, fair and caring.

25.1 Free because the subject of ethics is endowed with free will.
25.2 Happy because desires can be transformed & satisfied.
25.3 Fair because the conditions of reason are fulfilled.
25.4 Caring because it enacts the unconditional core of charity.

26. Critical ethics opts to combine the truth-core of both earlier deontological and teleological approaches. On the one hand, justification of action depends on the rationality of intersubjective duty (implying generalization) and, on the other hand, on the quality of the goals or values intended and by which desire is objectively gratified (implying consequentialism). A priori, critical ethics is a two-tiered system of statute-law and case-law.

27. Conflicts of interest between duty and intended gratification demand an ethical evaluation by conscience, seeking a balance between both.

28. With the addition of conscience, the conflict between afflictive egoism and legalistic altruism achieves an unstable closure. Project Fairness is able to increase material wealth, but not for all and not without the iron cage of alienation, mass-manipulation, hypocrisy & mediocrity.

29. Critical ethics draws the line between personal & transpersonal ethics.

29.1 Personal ethics involves intent (goals and values of desire), duty (a rational free choice) and conscience (or the inner organ of ethical evaluation between, on the one hand, the affective ethics of intent, and, on the other hand, the formal ethics of duty). It culminates as fairness in all matters.
29.2 Transpersonal ethics involves a calling or vocation, the outer organ attracting a renewed conscious intent, causing (a) Self-realization, (b) Self-annihilation and (c) Self-recollection in Radical Otherness.
29.2.1 Self-realization is the constant awareness of the true own-form of consciousness, which is of the nature of transparency, light, brightness, clarity and luminescence.
29.2.2 The own-Self is burned in the fires of unconditional charity.
29.3.3 The own-Self is reborn in every fair act of rightness, positing just compassion for all sentient beings, teaching by example the antidote to afflictive affects and uncontrolled desire.

30. The horizontal plane connecting intent with duty defines the divergent interconnectedness between ethical subjects. The vertical plane connecting conscience with calling defines the convergent evolution of a person's ethical sensibilities. The horizontal calls for fairness, the vertical calls for rightness.

30.1 Theoretical ethics is regulated by the idea of an ideal community of intelligent & sensitive communicators, a body of sign-interpreters constituting the horizontal plane. In practice, the vertical plane is put into place by "filling in" calling with super-ego and its constant sublimations. When thus manipulated, calling is wishful thinking.
30.1.1 To be called does not belong to the nominal process of ethical evolution. The unstable closure at this level is caused by the pull of desire and the feebleness of reason. The tragic truth is hidden by display and the repetitive re-confirmation of pointless excellence.
30.1.2 Placing the transpersonal factor of our ethical equation between brackets leads to unwholesome fossilizations.
30.1.3 Taking calling aboard is witnessing the gap leading to absolute thought, a brief opening for man to forsake his Beast.

30.2 The first closure, the Order of Fairness, ends with unfairness. The gravitational pull of a free will deeply entrenched by afflictive affects fed by a degenerated reason, is too great to allow for anything else but sublimation & unscrupulousness.
30.3 Only if the human hears his or her call, can the fluctuations caused by desires be reduced and put to rest. The sand cannot sink to the bottom as long as the glass is being stirred.
30.4 To perceive the Order of Fairness may give rise to great pessimism. This awareness of possible suffering is a great teacher and leads to a concerted effort to carefully listen to the call and realize one's true nature.
30.5 The only purpose of suffering is to trigger the quest for the own-Self and beyond.

05. Teleological and deontological transgressions.

31. Consequential ethics make the goodness of an action exclusively depend on the object (goals and/or value) desired by the free will and/or rationalized by the mind. When thinking goodness, they eliminate "pure" reason a priori. Universalizing ethics understand, in accord with the transcendental subject of ethics, good behaviours in terms of the rational imperative of duty. They eliminate goals and values as sources of goodness.

31.1 The transgressions mimic the perversa ratio or ontological illusion as given by critical epistemology (cf. Chapter 2).
31.1.1 The conceptual mind (defined by anterational, rational and critical thought, affects & actions) is dualistic and works with the difference between object & subject.
31.1.2 Foundational epistemologies aim, by reduction of the dyad to the monad, to eliminate the necessary concordia discors or armed truce of the mind. Either objectivism, in the guise of subject-less realism, or subjectivism, as object-less idealism, thus serve the aim of grounding knowledge outside knowledge.
31.1.3 The duality of the conceptual mind must not be eliminated. To use this tool well is the object of normative philosophy. Abuse its architecture and the empirical-formal propositions of science cannot be fully argued, tested and reargued, slowing down the development of knowledge.
31.2 When the theoretical connotations of observation are not accepted, the object of knowledge is as it appears and a one-to-one relationship can be established. The error of realism is to consider knowledge without the knower.
31.2.1 Realism is apparent in ethical systems reducing the ego's own-ness to values and goals. The ego's privatim is not a generatim.
31.2.2 The objects & states aimed at in consequential ethics never represent the "common good" (which is not a reality but a regulative limit-idea), for not the good of all private values & goals is realized, but merely a pleasing idea invented by the ruling classes (the wealthy, the intellectuals, the politicians, etc, usually representing only ca.10% of the population).
31.3 When the symbolical creativity of the human is made to constitute reality, the subject of knowledge thinks reality and the laws of mind reflect those of being. The error of idealism is to consider the knower without the known.
Ethical idealism dictates us to act as if the Kingdom of Ends is with us now, although, in fact, this is not the case.
31.3.2 Deontological systems lack the capacity to consider what is needed to bring the Kingdom actually about. These elements are considered "impure" and circumstantial, although universal thought is only appropriate if it can be applied as local compassion & care.

32. Critical ethics, being in accord with its own conditions of operation, cannot eliminate the object of ethics (goals & values), nor the subject of ethics (categorial imperative) without a contradictio in actu exercito. This it wants to avoid.

32.1 One extreme. Suppose there are no moral values & goals (the object of ethics). These are the sedimentations of generalized intent. How to define ethics without someone acting ?
32.2 Another extreme. Suppose ethics has no subject. Without free will, all choices are defined by the laws of physics. How to define ethics without freedom (and thus responsibility) ?
32.3 The middle ground accepts the dual conditions of conceptual thought and the limitations both entail, thrusting the moving, conceptual mind out of the worn pantheon of Platonic or Peripatetic eternalization.

06. Moral science :
the genesis of a sense of justice.

33. Moral science does not derive "ought" from nature or imperatives from indicatives (naturalistic fallacy), but describes the moral phenomenon without the necessity of goodness, the latter being an option, not an imperative.

34. Moral science focuses on facts, trying to produce an empirico-formal, scientific theory dictating scientific moral laws. Moral laws, being relative and historical, are not moral imperatives.

35. Because of its limitations, moral science is unable to articulate ethical goals and values, nor give way to the irreducible necessity of freedom in a possible critical moral philosophy. A series of facts is not a goal. Merit is not a description of virtue. So can moral science be a reliable foundation to erect a just political system ? No.

36. In accord with natural selection & sociobiology, moral science discovered primate ethics involving kinship, sexuality & reciprocity. It also made clear the crucial difference between the animal and the human kingdom : human can rise above the exigencies of natural selection, other species of animals cannot.

37. Relative genetical epistemology, moral science describes the sense of justice found in each and every Homo Sapiens sapiens as a cognitive phenomenon evolving in six universal stages of growth, involving three major reference-groups are crucial, namely family, school and peers.

38. According to moral science, the highest moral stage is reached when moral choices are determined by personal conscience, encompassing both intent & duty.

38.1 Insofar as the Order of Fairness is concerned, the conclusions of moral science and critical ethics overlap. The deficit of this order is the lack of enthusiasm and engaging intent. After a lot of work, the meaning of life still remains unclear. The bravest persevere in fairness and do the right thing.
The Order of Fairness is an unstable closure, leading to turbulence and calamity. The latter invite the creative impulse to secure planetary survival and the rise of a new humanism.

07. Moral philosophy :
ego & intent as sources of ethics.

39. Traditional moral philosophy gave transempirical and/or ontological grounds to what ought to be done to be good, i.e. happy, fair and caring. Critical moral philosophy operates a quaternio of ethical factors based on the transcendental conditions of coordinated movement and free will, of which the first one implies ego.

39.1 Traditional morality never tried to find the middle way between the extremes of freedom and necessity. In more than one way, if preferred necessity to freedom. To think freedom is to curtail the gods, God or nature.
39.2 The necessity of the fourfold of theoretical ethics is given by following the ethical process and recording the logic of its foundational & pivotal moments : initiation (subject, intent), confrontation (object, duty), first unstable closure (subject, conscience), second stable closure (object, calling).

40. Action is exclusively initiated by the actor. There must be a someone doing the something which ethics must evaluate. To relinquish this evidence is to cripple ethics and turn it into a face, as happens in some religious ethics and in totalitarian systems.

40.1 In religious ethics, the role of the individual is to serve his or her Deity at the expense of personal freedom. The problem of desire is abrogated by trying to eliminate desire by repressing its passions. In this way, the shadow is fed and projected on the adherents of other religions (following "false" Gods) or on the unbelievers. This procedure is disastrous.
40.1.1 History holds the dramatic record of the tragi-comic failures of religious ethics. Insofar religions are moral systems rooted in the so-called transcendent, irrefutable, permanent substance, entity or ground, morality has been elitist, unjust and against the human. How difficult is it to remain backward ?
40.1.2 The failure of religious ethics is the failure to truly connect the human with the Divine. Revelations (of the so-called "holy" word of God), canonizations (of texts, people and institutions) and religious traditions fail to deliver their promise and do not liberate their adherents, on the contrary. The latter are chained to manmade institutions and the slavery continues on a more abstract register.
40.1.3 Religious fundamentalism makes the point of these deductions : turn religion into a simplistic death-loving (neo) fascism and witness how indoctrinated adherents are willing to take their own lives in addition of those of innocent children or fellow believers.
40.1.4 Humanism, disguised as egoism or altruism, cannot renew the human spirit. A new, pan-humanism is called for.
40.2 In totalitarian systems, the collectivity (ruled by an elite) is deemed more important than the individuals defining society. Left extremism and (neo) fascism both relinquish the rights & duties of the individual for the sake of their irrationalisms. Their leaders are dictators in disguise, posing with an ideal they themselves cannot actualize.
40.2.1 Both religious fundamentalism and totalitarian systems express the rule of the Beast.
40.2.2 If one leaves the Beast to do his or her thing, life on planet Earth soon dies, the Beast included.
40.2.3 Persons are entitled to choose not to interact with Beasts, for as long as every social contact with these people pollutes body, energy & mind, their presence must be part of renunciation.

41. Determinism, predestination & fatalism contradict critical ethics. One cannot judge an action, deed or behavior if the actor is not free to act as he or she wills. This freedom may be called a free movement of the subject (i.e. psychological or anthropological), but also a co-relative, ongoing slipping through the margins of the principle of indeterminacy of physics.

41.1 The system of Nature operates matter, information and consciousness. Matter knows uncertainty, information redundancy and consciousness ignorance (of the nature of mind).
41.2 Consciousness, constantly interacting with (and supported by) matter and information, is (a) able to make beneficial use of the conditions imposed upon forces & particles (hardware) and (b) to redefine terms and/or select other axioms (userware) for its expert-systems (software).
41.3 Neurophilosophy and neurotheology (cf. A Spiritual Mindbrain, 2003) differentiate between 3 interlinked neurological computers (original hardware uploaded with specific software).
41.3.1 Differentiate between
(a) the reptilian brain : brain stem, midbrain, hypothalamus ; (b) the mammalian brain : thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala and (c) the human brain : neocortex of cerebral hemispheres of cerebrum & angular gyrus.
41.3.2 V
arious functions have been attributed to each of these three parts of the brain, characterized by a different structure and chemistry, yet extensively interconnected.
41.3.3 The human brain computes all higher functions. Its prefrontal lobe processes identity, whereas (in the right-handed) the left hemisphere involves analytical higher order approaches (language & speech), usually dominating the right hemisphere (or lateralization). The latter computes synthetical approaches and is a gateway to the emotional brain.
41.3.4 The mammalian brain computes emotional states. This involves an elaborate emotional circuit, fairly isolated from the human brain and its conceptualizations. Its task is to flavor incoming & outgoing data-streams with affective coloration.
41.3.5 The reptilian brain computes all basic survival needs. It acts as filter and master modulator of all cerebral activity and defines basal neurophysical activity.
41.4 Interactionism upholds the irreducible operational distinction between consciousness, information and matter, and posits a constant interaction between the brain (as a hardware/software-unit) and consciousness.
41.4.1 Consciousness is not caused, produced, secreted or created by the brain. It acts through and with the latter. Its natural station is beyond time and space but reflects in its conditioned states.
41.4.2 The logical set characterizing consciousness is not identical with that of information and/or matter. The numerics of consciousness are complex, those of information natural and those of matter unreal.
41.4.3 Each operator interacts with the other as a function of its logical possibilities. Consciousness slips through the margins of quantum physics. Information standardizes states of matter into glyphs ("0" or "1"). Matter solidifies both meaning and expertise by computation, processing and the ongoing play of architecture and momentum.

42. The intent of an ego possessing desire, super-ego, shadow, free will and cognition is the source of all action & so the initiator of whatever human beings do to themselves, their direct environment, society, the world and the Divine (insofar as this is possible).

42.1 Depth-psychology pictures the waking ego as a small candle wandering in the vast, dark storehouse of the psyche. Driven by desires dictating passions (lust & unlust) & feelings, the ego needs to adapt to the realities of its milieu. It introjects the goals & values of its parents, teachers & peers (super-ego) and rejects conflicting impulses (shadow). Its free will is constantly torn between afflictive affects (feeling) and unreal projections & conceptualizations (thinking).
42.2 The confused, ignorant pool of rationalizations (feelings into thought) and emotional thinking (thought into affects) is the swamp to be cleared. Humanism leads to psychoanalysis.
42.3 A clear and strong intent sustained for as long as needed initiates.
42.3.1 Clarity is achieved by balancing the five components of the human : sensation, feeling, volition, reasoning & consciousness. Strength is achieved by the disciplined, diligent practice of the actual harmony or natural health of the human.
42.3.2 Identification with or rejection of objects of desire cause the degeneration of reason.
42.3.3 Desire causes change in feelings and triggers volition.
42.3.4 In the Homo normalis, desire usually outlaws reason.
42.3.5 Only with great effort can the incomplete closure offered by Project Fairness bring about an unstable good.

43. The humanization of the ego is the ego taking care for what pleases the ego and avoiding what displeases it. To act for one's own sake alone, inevitably leads to the "war of all against all", to authoritarianism & the culture of slavery.

43.1 The hierarchy of the Beast is one of fear, domination and pain. The Beast is conscious of what it does and causes. Its catechism is one of might and control.
43.2 Although aware of the other, the egoist tries to objectify the someone into a something.
43.3 Although aware of the ego, fake altruism rarefies it to the point of hypocrisy and personal despair.

44. The ego is its own. Imprisoned as an abject slave owned by a master, the ego is present to itself. This own-ness or egoism is the creator of new freedom.

44.1 It is pointless to try to eliminate the ego. In doing so, only super-ego is affirmed and these "higher values" of the Beast are worse than its circumscribed activities.
44.2 Hellish cultural forms degenerate our youth, damaging their ability to communicate and interact. This nullifies any attempt at spiritual emancipation. As so many satans stuck in ice, the moral development of the low life is halted.
44.3 Egoism is a necessary factor in the equation of ethics. It is the starting-point which needs to be superseded by duty, conscience and calling. Ego cannot be a slave, even not when caged as one. Only in physical death is the ego broken.

45. Insofar as freedom is conquered by the ego, it creates new boundaries to be conquered, etc. Freedom can be taken away, own-ness not. own-ness is not an idea but is everything owned, or a description of the owner. To the ego, own-ness is more important than freedom.

45.1 As far as the egoist is concerned, the others are objects to be owned. To seduce properly, to find the adequate chain and a way to bind, constitutes the art and science of personal gain.
45.2 Own-ness points to the exclusivity of "my" space-time and the FPF. This does necessarily invoke a substantial ego (as in the present ethics), but generally it does. Egoism turns ego into an absolute. In that case, ego = God prevails ...

46. Historically, humanism, working in liberalism as well as traditional socialism, separated the "idea of man" from "my" own-ness. Creating a fiction, man became an idol worshipped in terms of the religion of the Free State. Privatim was turned into generatim, and "my" own-ness or fundamental egoism was lost.

46.1 Liberalism has advanced the ego under the flag of individuality, but without introducing libertinism, its natural ally. Thus it does not lead to the true freedom of the ego, but to the minimal version of altruism, conflictual contractualism.
46.2 In repressive communism, the fiction is "the People". In socialism, the "working classes". In both cases, the egoism of the human (on all sides) is not taken seriously.
46.3 Fed by the myth of the golden age, both systems have no eye for their long-term impact on the eco-system. Ravishing Earth, they ultimately destroy the conditions of life itself. At this point, the nations are called to intervene.

47. The humanism of the ego is the cult of egoism, mindless selfish gratifications, sensualism, passion and the use of freedom to express own-ness, eventually through slavery, i.e. the power to control and destroy what is owned. To humanize the ego is to teach the Beast how to excel in the evil it does best.

48. Selfish freedom is (a) completed in the almighty ego, recognizing the Beast it really is, and (b) secured by making the world its own, i.e. gained it and taken possession of it for ego alone, by all means : might, persuasion, petition, demand, hypocrisy, cheating, lying, tricking, etc. The ego is the father of all lies.

49. The love of the almighty ego, is the lashing whip carving the stigmata of dominion upon the torn flesh of slaves worshipping the Ego-is-God of their evil master-owners. Might is right.

49.1 The almighty ego is a fascist sadist, while the masochistic slave perverts this sadism, turning it against the humiliated ego.
49.1.1 These hyperbolic expressions aim to convey the volatile and bombastic drama of the displays of the ego, in particular related to power, money and sex.
49.1.2 Power gives control and because it is confused with might and dominion leads to lack of control and unbalance. Money gives gross satisfactions numbing the senses without their subtle counterparts, which cannot be bought. Sex wears out.
49.2 Although mostly carried out to satisfy perverted pleasure (not emancipation), sado-masochism is usually moral and involves inflicting psychological and moral pain to others.
49.3 To become conscious of the shadow is being able to accept, name and integrate the demons of the ego.
49.3.1 Once integrated, mental unbalances are no longer projected upon the others.
49.3.2 The "black box" procedure involving the retrieval of the shadow is a psychosynthetic move to integrate the personality and establishing a foundation for more subtle preoccupations.
49.3.3 Shadow-work is giving to the animal (mammalian & reptilian) side of the human what belongs to the animal without creating the Beast, the "golem" or "Frankenstein" of degenerated reason.

50.  The religion of the ego is the worship of ownership, i.e. the free will choice to bow before the Beast, either as a victim or as a victimizer. Ego's religion is diabolism, the reversal of conventional goodness and the worship of evil.

50.1 Diabolus est Deus inversus. Egoism is ruled by the principle of reversal for the sake of the ego's ownership.
50.2 Egoism demands constant objectification, also of other ego's. To bind them, the egoist knows how to fake altruism.
50.3 The tragedy of the life of the ego is the reluctance to deal with this issue without being sedated by super-ego solutions.
50.4 Most ego's are too infatuated by the gross, bourgeois morality of their super-ego's to vent their bestial side overtly, giving rise of neurosis and hypocrisy. Instead, it is projected outwards, creating enemies, and/or kept inside the boundaries of their domestic lives (causing adultery, domestic violence, moral sado-masochism, child abuse, incest, etc.).
50.5 Social control and longing for the satisfaction of worldly needs (money, fame, sex, family, etc.) offer so many general values and goals enabling overt or repressed egoists to become truly unhappy in their mediocrity.

51. Because intent and free will are owned by ego, critical ethics cannot propose to altogether eliminate this source of moral evil. To acknowledge the privatim implies to make way for the Beast, not to idolize a fanciful, a priori idea about the Homo Sapiens sapiens.

51.1 Critical ethics acknowledges the ownership of the moral initiator, namely the free will of the ego, and so intent opens the possibility of a conscious or unconscious choice for evil and destruction, as dictated by desire and a perverted reason.
51.2 Only when the personal psychosynthesis of the ego is completed, can the Beast be said to be transformed from wrathful to protective.

52. The ego is a solipsist and considers the existence of other ego's only insofar as they are or will be owned, i.e. controlled and, if so willed, sold or destroyed. Egoist ethics & politics are Plutocratic, i.e. true power lies in the hands of a small, invisible, "infernal" elite deifying their egos.

52.1 In the course of human history, a small part of any population never had to work to make a living. Deriving their power from ancestors, brutal force or supposedly Divine beings, the traditional upper class mostly subdued those willing to worship them. Slavery, in so many forms and guises, is the extreme version of this situation. As a result of the worldwide changes triggered during the Age of Enlightenment and thereafter, this exploitation was abolished in most countries (although not completely).
52.2 With the advent of the democratic nations and the industrial revolution, the upper classes turned Plutocratic and invested their money & power in international corporate business, escaping the controls of individual nations. Their outdated models are responsible for the massive destruction of our natural resources. They institutionalize greed and a questionabe, limited & ultimately dangerous view on economy and well-being.
52.3 With the coming of the New Renaissance of a pan-humanism acting on a planetary scale, these invisible destructive forces will come into the light and perish. Eventually, a planetary solution to world problems will be implemented before ecological disasters eliminate our race.

53. Because the ego, at times, and this solely to instrumentalize and for strategic reasons, thinks and communicates using signs (in the form of signals, icons & symbols), other "master" ego's may be distinguished. The subsequent "war of all against all", as well as the armed truce of legalism (contractualism), hedonism, sociologism, authoritarianism and utilitarism replacing it, both imply the recognition of own-ness next to "my" own, as well as the incapacity of egoism to finds its way out of this deadlock, eventuating natural and humanitarian disasters.

54. Is this not the tragedy of humanity ? The crucial initiators of all possible ethics, intent & free will, are owned by an ego prone to revert to the way of the Beast at any moment ...

55. Passionate lust feeds the amoral Beast. Cognition is unable to make the majority of ego's capitulate, accept & acknowledge the other human being in his or her own right. The constant clash of concept and desire disables either approaches.

55.1 Consequential ethics are confounded about which goals and values to share and how to prioritize them.
55.2 Inventing perpetual growth to satisfy narcistic expansion, ego eventually destroys the very ground of its own existence.
55.3 Because of its limitations, ego battles other humans and abuses the mineral, vegetal & animal kingdoms of nature. This all ends in total futility.
55.4 The police and the military represent the ego-based and/or duty-based responses of the ruling social formations to the wilderness of Beasts.

08. The alter-ego and Operation Duty.

56. The patterns of communication at work in early family-life and at school, educate the ego to open up for the experience of the other. They transpose primate reciprocity to the level of the ante-rational conceptualization and rational understanding of the mutual acknowledgment of the asymmetry between the "I" and the "other". Where egoism cherishes this, altruism aims to harmonize it.

56.1 Egoists reveal an disinterest in others. They may listen, but continue to express own-ness. Their core privation is empathy.
56.2 Harmonization is not the same as the undoing of a difference, but more like the tuning and retuning (after play) of a string over two extremes.
56.2.1 Communication implies difference.
56.2.2 Increased difference is increased energy or the actuality of both architecture (material particles) and movement (forces).
56.3 Altruism is able to bridge the divide between people without eliminating the irreducible differences. Multiple transferences between cultures enable each culture to redefine its own, keeping it alive. More communication leads to better communication, more efficient cooperation and expanded understanding.

57. Acknowledging the frailty of the ego, being introduced to the other-as-myself, is leaving egoism behind. With this moral birth, "my name" becomes a name among other names, loses its might as solipsist singularity, and is thrown into the competition of socialization and collective merit.

57.1 To be named by the other (in his or her own right and not as owner or owned) is the beginning of the humanization of the other.
57.2 The ego, at the center of the field of consciousness, is not a substance, but the ever-changing product of the vectors (or aggregates) sensation, feeling, volition and cognition. It owns fleeting clouds.

58. The free will is a formal, moral will when, due to reason alone, (a) it is in accord with the moral law and (b) respect for this moral law is its only determining ground. The moral will does not only act in accord with the moral law, but for the sake of the moral law.

58.1 Insofar as the will acts in terms of the formal (universal) correctness of an action and with disregard for its moral contents, the letter and not the spirit of participationism has been fulfilled.
58.2 Participationism is in line with critical ethics, positing open, highly interactive, complex and constantly changing systems and subsystems. Each part having its own architecture and/or movement within the world-system(s).

59. The letter of the moral law is not a hypothetical, but a categorial imperative : act in such a way that your moral will is a universal lawgiver, i.e. do to every other as unto yourself.

59.1 The categorial imperative is derived from the autonomy of the moral law of reason. Autonomy is not arbitrary, but satisfies the conditions of moral reason reaching towards the unconditional.
59.2 The unconditional completes the edifice of reason and cannot be eliminated.

60. Righteousness is the spirit of the moral law. Then the other manifests him or herself to "me" as a totality with an aura, i.e. with the power of luminous presence. This self-revelation of the other to "me", is like being penetrated by the poverty of "our" mutual relationship. It triggers "my" need to communicate with "You" and vice versa. Only then may "we" stop being strangers to one another.

60.1 The aura of the other is a subtle emanation surrounding the living body. Unlike the face, which is a pars pro toto, the aura is an integral, bodily representation of the sentient presence of the other. It refers to his or her nakedness, and steps beyond own-ness & cultural signs. The aura is not owned by the ego. It mirrors the energy of the whole, also of what cannot be repressed, put aside or rejected. It shows the integral human as he or she is, repressions included.
60.1.1 We all read the aura's of others. They trigger either rejection, attraction or auspicious neutrality.
60.1.2 The more a human is complete, the more the aura of any other is perceived as a totality.
60.2 The aura points to the original, unique and specific qualities of the human. It invites "me" to accept the other as he or she is and not as he or she fits in "my" perceptions regarding him or her.
60.3 Not to witness the aura is not to accept the human as basically naked, fragile and without inherent existence. This is the attitude of the egoist, who wants to exists in the cage of sorrow, negativism & cynicism.
60.4 When witnessing the aura, the other reveals himself or herself to the ego as a stranger invited by "my" perceptions.

61. In the humanism of the other, the latter evokes responsibility and the desire to communicate and to sponsor individual becoming in and with a network of other individuals promoting the ideal of planetary participationism.

61.1 To humanize another human is to step outside the solitary framework invented by the ego to satisfy its desires and to realize for itself the mind of isolation & inherent, substantial existence.
61.1.1 To relinquish the egoist, the worst enemy must be forgiven and integrated. Only by giving attention to the interconnectedness between objects, events & persons, can the hardened position of the egoist be rooted out.
61.1.2 To step outside solipsism is the first step of compassion. Cherishing otherness with kindness while assisting reflourishing.
61.1.3 Restoration comes with each return of the mind to its natural, luminous state. Eventually, each state of mind is integrated with this arché or base of the mind.
61.2 As every element constituting the world is in constant communication with every other element, except for the closed & artificial systems invented by industry, the continuity of interaction guarantees the non-arising of extremism, fanatism and other one-sided approaches.
61.3 Planetary participationism underlines the interdependence of all elements of planet Earth. Aware of this interlocking, responsibility is triggered, for each and every other human is as myself, and Earth is (for the moment) all we have.

62. The moral imperative is done for the sake and out of respect of the law. Both cognition and desire participate. Operation Duty is the systematic humanization of the other. Duty is the application of the free will of the ego to accommodate, by participation, the becoming of the other, i.e. to wholeheartedly co-produce the emancipation, socialization and integration of fellow humans.

62.1 After the strong emphasis on the degeneration of reason and the will-to-power of the Beast, the integration of desire may seem difficult to maintain. Desire is indeed, more impermanent than other phenomena, but nevertheless maintains a solid fata morgana of its own projections and mystifications of reality (in all its modes).
62.1.1 Desire can and must be trained and restricted by reason. Operation Duty implies discipline, work and a joyful diligence in constant practice. In some cases, punishment is the tool of education.
62.1.2 At its rare best, Operation Duty is a cage of alienation able to sublimate frustrations by blinding itself with the excellence of its finite conditionality, forming a platform upon which the sublime may rest (as on a truncated pyramid) and correct duty.
62.1.3 Projections and mystifications maintained over time cause sedimentations like cultural forms, traditions, habits etc. These may represent excellent answers to past circumstances.
62.1.4 Only flexible architectures withstand their surrounding momenta. All extremes rapidly fall.
62.2 Operation Duty must be the extreme limitation of private own-ness for the sake of every possible other human being (in ceteris paribus), causing its downfall. The logical form of the view it posits is too rigid and unable to integrate process, flow, change and interrelationality. Without the inner correction of conscience, duty cannot be maintained.

63. Operation Duty, the acceptance of moral standards, obligations and the voice of moral reason, is giving up freedom to satisfy the conditions of the categoral imperative, bridling individual choice for the sake of and by the institutions of the group.

64. Moral value, according to Operation Duty, merely depends on the moral law never to regard another as a means, but always as an end. Chosen by the free will, it does not depend on the pleasurable objects of desire. This law "I" ought to follow even if "my" own inclinations are thereby thwarted. If an action does not occur for the sake of the moral law (by itself), but out of the necessity of duty, it has legality but not morality.

65. Despair is the outcome of the humanism of the ego. Although the altruist is posturing  to move beyond it, the humanism of the other and its universalizing ethics, encounters the lack of moral sufficiency and is plunged into guilt. A mere "doctrine of duties", a moral rationality or justice dominating the will, does not suffice. Ethics needs a "doctrine of virtues" and this reason cannot offer. A new subjective input is called for : conscience.

66. Because duty is rooted in the rational, formal and empty conception of the moral law in itself, it represses the will of all impulses to gratify "my" inclinations and give "me" happiness.

67. The horizon defined by intentions and duty is (inter)subjective and divergent. Alone with reason and its categorical imperative, the Beast, used to live irrationally, prevails in numbers. Intent and duty offer disharmony and fragility between happiness and goodness. Horizontality is tragi-comic and invites mild pessimism.

67.1 Operation Duty has given humanity excellent forms of sedimented thought. Grand cultural forms and civilizations have persisted and persist the centuries. Teachings and prayers and sciences are at work, etc.
67.1.1 Although cultural forms assimilate and transform chaos, their rigidity (at the end of one of their cycles) causes their eventual downfall. One must mind the gap. Watch and step. Constant adaptation & open communication are essential to persist over time. Enemies must be embraced. Energy saved even if it is plentiful. But to learn these simple things still takes a lot of time.
67.2.2 Ecology, poverty, the situation of children, the elderly, handicapped & excluded are good a posteriori indicators of the correct application of Operation Duty by the nations. Today, these parameters indicate that Operation Duty is ready to become a planetary exercise.
67.2 Despite the comical enthusiasm of hoping the best for the human, the equation does tend downward, although a planetary participationism (or the odd invention) could reharmonize it for centuries. Qui vivra vera !
67.2.1 Critical ethics embraces pessimism while inviting the possibility (propensity) of the positive fact.
67.2.2 Critical ethics embraces optimism without rejecting the historical failures of humanity.

09. The formation of conscience.

68. Conscience is the objective, inner organ of ethical evaluation between the affective ethics of intent & the formal ethics of duty, between the needs of the ego and the responsibility (or the application of the moral imperative) towards all possible others.

68.1 As duty, conscience is objective, and rooted in a certain application of reason, shielded from the degenerative flux of desire.
68.2 Conscience is an inner organ sitting at the cross-roads between fairness and the Beast. It is an integral, functional part of the ego-system, the organic totality of ego, desire, will, reason, super-ego, shadow & conscience.

69. The formation of conscience is a cognitive process, in which two complementary elements play a decisive role : autoregulation and social interaction.

69.1 Autoregulation means that the cause of change is not external but exclusively internal, i.e. rooted in the architecture & the momentum of its constituent parts. Crisis is the main cause of autoregulation, for in order to survive a system must reequilibrate after disequilibration.
69.1.2 Classical, linear systems will postpone autoregulation and reinforce their imperative architectures. Although slowing down degradation, this does not incorporate the benefits of well-chosen turbulence, nor does it shape flexibility.
69.1.3 Intelligent, non-linear systems choose the chaos which accommodates their most optimal complexification by way of multiple exchanges of well-formed energy. They survive any change and can withstand space & time much longer without external controls.
69.2 Social interaction constitutes the reference-groups used by the moral process, or the interaction between more than two actors, namely their parents, the school and their peers.

70. The species Homo Sapiens sapiens bonds by producing signs (signals, icons, symbols). Conscience must be trained to enter the symbolical moral order in the same way as the mind must be trained to operate a language. Education teaches actors to understand the moral messages of the other.

70.1 Symbolical interaction allows "me" to understand "myself" through the eyes of the other and become aware of the higher, intellectual levels of reason and their regulative activity.
70.2 Critical epistemology acknowledges ante-rational, rational and intuitional strata of thought, i.e. it is multi-dimensional.

71. According to moral science, stages of moral development, corresponding with cognitive and affective growth, prevail. Together they form genetic anthropology.

72. The highest stage of moral development optimalizes differentiation (between goals, values and their priorities) and integration (ability to process a diversity of moral problems and produce complex and coherent behaviour). With this, the formation of conscience ends.

73. Conscience is part of the intimacy of the ego. Formed in the course of socialization (so depth-psychology claims), it dominates the ego through the unconscious ideal-ego. Insofar as its rulings are fixed in values and goals acceptable by society, it dictates the ego under the guise of a super-ego, reinforcing, through sublimation, the standards of the introjected world or, if repression is at hand, feeding the shadow.

74. Conscience postpones the breakdown of ethics by working its "golden proportion" between egoism and altruism. This brings in the moral illusions of the super-ego, and transposes the armed truce to encompass "all others".

75. Just like moral reason, replacing the "war of all against all" with the "contract of all with all", conscience cannot harmonize happiness with goodness and complete ethics. Left with intent, duty and conscience, hypocrisy & unscrupulousness almost seem inevitable, although it is not.

75.1 Ultimately, conscience, as an inner organ and a function of the ego-system, relies on the intentions of the ego and gravitates around it. Because the role of conscience is wholly internal, it cannot directly posit anything objective and so must rely on desire, volition and reason.
75.2 Humanity manifests a strong attachment to desires. In a solitary, circular psyche they dominate the stream of consciousness and sedate reason.
75.3 History and memory bring into evidence the minority able to practice calling daily and in doing so balance and refine their elements.
75.4 To pursue fairness, finitude is enough but not satisfying.
75.5 Either hypocrisy creates a social alter-ego to bring out desire, or reason is consciously perverted.
75.6 With great effort, the closure offered by intent, duty & conscience can bring about Project Fairness.

76. Like the subjectivists, but for different reasons, critical ethics affirms the role of feelings in the general inquiry into what is good, making ethical judgments also a posteriori, i.e. relative, historical, contextual, situational, singular, case-defined, etc.

76.1 Feelings are meta-actions and thoughts are meta-feelings.
76.2 Conscience is affected by both thought & affect.

77. Despite the given limitations on our capacity to know, reason discovers the transcendental conditions of Selfhood.

77.1 Transcendental inquiries focus on the conditions of knowledge and make a sharp distinction between immanent (staying within the limitations of formal thought) and transcendence (moving beyond these borders). Transcendental apperception discovers a formal Self of all times accompanying each and every cogitation of the empirical ego.
77.2 The formal Self is the empty apex of the cognitive apparatus, and guarantees that "my" thoughts can be attributed to "me".

10. Returning the call of vocation.

78. Affects urge for repeated gratification. In esthetics, sensations are ravished by the excellent sublime. In epistemology, the unconditional regulates thought seeking truth. In ethics, fair volition is being called to answer vocation.

78.1 Calling is the intuition of the own-Self, manifesting as the full actualization of individual potential.
78.1.1 The need to acknowledge the own-Self is not spontaneous and must be triggered by a conscious choice adn dgenerated by creative thougt.
78.1.2 The ego seeks the own-Self because it suffers. Without the direct experience of the own-Self, the gratification of desire only ends with physical death.
78.1.3 The realization of an elliptical consciousness does not end suffering, but is the first step, like leaving the cage of alienation.
78.2 The own-Self, as a deeper mind, is the unique, individual reflection of nondual awareness (or the natural light of the mind), rooted in the universal light-ground.
78.2.1 Three levels of consciousness : (1) conceptualizing ego, (2) own-Self and (3) nondual awareness. The first two levels are relative & dual (involving ante-rationality, formal, critical & creative cognition), the last is absolute & nondual (calling for meta-rational, nondual cognition).
78.2.2 Because of its characteristics, each own-Self has an individual trajectory in space & time.
78.2.3 The own-Self is not a permanent, substantial entity, but a higher (deeper) stratum of the consciousness-operator of the moral agent, involved in migrating through time & space a unique spiritual code, consisting of individualized and meaningful conscious habits, patterns & traces.
78.2.4 In the spiritual systems of both East and West, the own-Self persists through time & space. In the West, it is conceptualized as an eternal, permanent soul (anima) in which one of the Divine Sparks of God or Imago resides. In the East (with the exception of Buddhism), it is called "atman" and deemed identical with "Brahman", the Creator-God. Ergo, in these substantialist philosophies, the soul is sempiternal (enduring forever).
78.2.5 Each own-Self has its own particular reflection (refraction) of the spacious luminosity of nondual awareness, is enduring beyond physical death (for consciousness-based), but is not absolute, substantial or inherently existing.
78.3 Because calling is highly personal, it is subjective. Because it does not manifest from within the moral agent, it is outer (objectifying).
78.3.1 Calling actualizes an awakening urging to accomplish the welfare of the own-Self. This urgency makes calling unavoidable. Vocation is finding this true, egoless love of own-Self, leading to enlightenment.
78.3.2 Meaningful coincidence (synchronicity) and serendipity characterize the advent of calling.

79. Vocation is the call of the own-Self. Ego realizes this "own-Self" (moves from a circular to an elliptic consciousness) insofar as it answers the call of vocation and makes use of its free will to walk its own, unique path of individuation. Ego does so, if it desires to be happy and good.

80. Like animals, Beasts have no calling. A world of Beasts is a wilderness, not a civilization. At best, there are islands of fairness, unhappy about the moral situation of the rest of the world. Fairness has no calling, remains passive like a remote ideal or consolidates. Calling immediately triggers action. It engages.

81. Calling is the objective, outer manifestation of the quest for completion, totalization & perfection driving the own-Self. It is the identity arrived at when all possible conditional series applicable to the ego (and the super-ego) are negated.

81.1 In Homo Sapiens sapiens, the own-Self calls each human to fully realize his or her potential (liberation through realization).
81.1.1 The own-Self is a reflection of a nondual, luminous,  Clear Light awareness united with the light-ground.
81.1.2 More than often, the call of the own-Self is lost in the busy noise of the ego.
81.1.3 When nondual Clear Light abides, the light-ground is recognized and the own-Self annihilated.
81.2 In the West, the own-Self is ontologised as an eternal soul with its "imago Dei" or an eternal spirit, presupposing the existence of a Creator-God.
81.3 In the East, the own-Self is psychologized as a "soul" (âtman) united with Creator-God (Brahman), or, as in unorthodox systems, as a migrating spiritual (karmic) code.

82. Calling is expressed in what is done and not done. It brings the despair of conscience to silence. The latter is no longer furnished by "me" and "You", neither by our wars and contracts.

82.1 Calling reveals the interconnectedness of all events in the worldsystem(s). This undermines the fundamental isolation of the ego, aware of the vast space of possibilities in which it operates.
82.2 Calling intensifies enthusiasm, affecting thought, feeling and volition. This is an antidote against the neurotic tendencies caused by Project Fairness.
82.3 Calling brings in the spirit of the universal rule of moral reason, coupling fairness with rightness, justice with care.

83. The one called is bound to answer by realizing, annihilating & recollecting the own-Self. Realization decenters consciousness by introducing the awareness of its creative core : Be-Who-You-Are. Annihilation comes with nondual light-awareness. Recollection allows for fusion with the light-ground of all that exists.

83.1 The conceptual ego veils the own-Self. The own-Self veils nondual awareness. By individual awareness of Self-identity, the first step is taken.
83.2 Annihilation of the own-Self is abiding in nondual awareness, discovering its root, the light-ground of the world-system(s). This brings into focus the universal spirit of compassion for all sentient beings.
83.3 Recollection is wisdom mind, direct, nondual experience, or the fusion of interconnectedness (space), clarity and energy (movement through difference).
83.3.1 In Western philosophy, wisdom is rationally explained, giving rise to ontology and onto-theology.
83.3.2 In the East, wisdom is a nondual state beyond lust & unlust, grasping & aversion, acceptance & rejection, affirmation & denial, action and inaction, explained in terms of psychology and soteriology. If in denial or in acceptance, never pursue what is denied or affirmed.

84. When the circularity of egoism is broken, Self-knowledge is gained through the direct experience of the own-Self. The final recollection or ultimate return of the call of vocation is -at least- the experience of nondual awareness merging with its ground.

84.1 The unity between light-ground, nondual light-awareness and light-energy is found in Ancient Egypt (Nun, Atum-Kheprer & the Ennead), in Dzogchen (Great Perfection) Buddhism (kunzhi, rigpa & tsal) and in quantum mechanics (zero-point field, photon, particle & momentum).
84.2 Calling, once found, has no other merit than to allow the wheel of goodness to continue to turn and goodness to benefit all sentient beings.
84.3 The notion of the own-Self is implicit in Buddhism, but has not been put to the fore because of possible recuperations by a substance-ontology reintroducing an immortal & eternal "âtman".
84.3.1 The no-Self axiom of Buddhism does not deny the possibility of a migrating deep-mind with its individual specifics, albeit subtle and purified. It denies a substantial ego and Self.
84.3.2 Because an ontological interpretation of the Self is rejected, the whole idea has been eclipsed (except by the Pudgalavadins).
84.3.3 The core of no-Self is this : the own-Self is not a permanent, substantial, inherently existing entity, but a construction able to withstand physical death and migrate into another physical system until annihilated by the awakening of the wisdom realizing emptiness.
84.3.4 Without the own-Self, Buddhism cannot consistently explain the long-term effect of causes, the accumulation of merit, nor reincarnation.
84.3.5 If reincarnation is not, then suffering does not stop with the end of desire, but with the termination of the physical vehicle.

11. Goodness & Project Fairness.

85. Good behaviour or fair and right action is (a) initiated by the free will of the individual ego, (b) expanded as duty commands, (c) rooted and adjusted by each individual conscience -seeking the "golden proportion" between circumstantial desire (utility) and moral reason (duty)- and (d) finalized by returning the call of vocation.

85.1 At the point of returning to reflection, the horizontal plane is exhausted. Every moral agent must act and the inevitable tensions between intention and duty will be mirrored in a subjectivity recollecting, pondering and making sense of it all before acting again.
85.2 Conscience is the arena of fairness, the balance between personal interests and the good of all other sentient beings.
85.3 Project Fairness represents the first, intermediary closure of the dynamics triggered by an intent posited in a world. The failure of the "contract of all with all" leads to a disequilibrium preluding a reequilibration of the moral subject into maturity.
85.4 Moral maturity is not enough to maintain the first equilibrium (of intent, duty & conscience). Conscience reinforces the ego and allows a subreptive re-entry of own-ness frustrated by duty.
85.4.1 Because of the closure offered by the first three ethical factors, Project Fairness can -at great costs- trigger an unstable balance.
85.4.2 Without vocation, the first equilibruim is disrupted, causing fairness to be followed by periods of unrest and turbulence.

86. Moral science and moral reason cannot take away the frustrations of the ego. Thrusting oneself into a work of desire accommodating goodness is not of Project Fairness. Although the latter is secular, it does not include the spirit of humanity.

Moral science, touching ethics from without, cannot capture the true sense of right and wrong. Unable to execute moral judgment, any possible morality goes.
86.2 Moral reason, enforced by duty, leads to an untenable contractualism, slowing down and limiting the moral impulse to encompass all sentient beings.
86.3 Without the ego finding its own-Self, ethics remains a table with three legs.
86.4 The spirit of humanity allows every human being to excell and step over its own ego. Legalism and bourgeois mentality do not give this and hence limit the humanisation of the other as a function of its needs and shared contracts.
86.5 The religious project is a hypertrophy of bourgeois ethics wherein God is transformed into a master-bully, cruel & brutal.

87. Without vocation, happiness & goodness are not simultaneous. Participationism is not the synthesis of a personal ego, but the higher synthesis coming from being an individual, a someone rather than a something, and this together, interrelated and interacting with other Selves. No longer a Beast, the "I" of justice and fairness is not yet wholeheartedly human, for lacking care, direct empathy & rightness.

88. Theoretical ethics posits a quaternio : intent, duty, conscience and vocation (calling). Project Fairness is the constant circulation between the first three factors. Intent is of ego, resulting in the wilderness of Beasts. Duty is the moral imperative regulating the fair social contract. Conscience is the burden of proof used by judgment to pronounce its inner, ever-present verdict.

89. Project Fairness, if successful, is a moral sedative failing to provide enthusiasm, vehemence, urgency, diligence & devotion for the Magnum Opus each human being is called to perform. It is necessary but not sufficient.

89.1 Closure implies intent, duty & conscience form a whole and balance each other. Because of this, Project Fairness is not necessarily doomed to fail.
89.2 The difficulty with imperfect closure is the tendency of intent, duty & conscience to step outside their own limitations and replace their interdependency with the stability of egoism, i.e. trigger the return to the amorality of the Beast.
89.3 Project Fairness is necessary because it enables legalism to mature and be truly responsible (in a conscientious way). It is incomplete because without vocation, it is unstable.

90. Taken as a trinity of factors working together, intent, duty and conscience are interconnected and represent the "letter of the law" or justice. To have fairness at work, the application of strong vocation and positive enthusiasm to ongoing just action -making it right- is not necessary. But not so to the "spirit of the law", compassion or rightness.

91. Project Fairness is the set of maxims leading to the threefold process of ethics in individuals, societies and the world. Intent covers personal maxims, duty covers social maxims and conscience covers emancipatoric maxims.

91.1 The machinery of Project Fairness facilitates the emergence of a global community, but not of its continuity.
91.1.1 The closure offered by the first three factors of the ethical fourfold lacks, as does intent, the objectivity of subjectivity offered by vocation (and duty) and is therefore discontinuous and unstable.
91.1.2 Although the excellence of reason builds an international community, only care & rightness (beyond fairness) sustain and extend such an effort of excellent rationality as far as the continuity of a profound planetary peace (transforming the excellence of planetary participationism into its sublime utopia of the golden age).
91.1.3 For it to continuously gain efficient momentum, i.e. constantly maximalize harmonization, the greatest number of caring intellectuals must define Project Fairness.
91.2 If, driven by desire alone, egological conscience turns into unscrupulousness, fairness turns into injustice.
91.2.1 Caring intellectuals accept affects and their analogical representations hand in hand with the free rule of excellent rationality.
91.2.2 This reign of enlightened reason is not restricted to the formal mode, but, integrating the latter, it is multi-dimensional in all possible ways, i.e. also embracing myth, pre-rationality, proto-rationality, critical reason, creative cognition and the enlightened, nondual intellect.

91.3 The downfall of Project Fairness can be postponed as long as the energy-sources of its economy are varied, sufficient and cheap.
91.4 At their best, emancipatoric maxims cover the preparations and practices preluding the opening and entry of the own-Self. For its introduction is nothing less than the implementation of a mental perpetuum mobile, an imaginal everlasting energy-harvesting device.
91.4.1 The ego is a closed circle. The own-Self moves along an ellipse defined by two conscious foci of which the Self is one. A constant (re)balancing occurs (between understanding and wisdom, between negation and affirmation, between relative and absolute, etc.).
91.4.2 The perspective of the dualistic ego is Lunar, gravitating around the Earth of our physical body and its five senses. As the Sun, the own-Self is galactic, and in effect spatial & luminous. Working with the ego alone is observing with the eye of delusion, experiencing only the half of all things. Realizing the own-Self is the clarity of endless possibilities (cf. the numerous worlds suggested by the stellar view).

92. Compassion is beyond the exemplaric performance of duty in accord with intent & conscience, for its activities transcend desire. Because of the latter, egoism does not find its ultimate end in conscience. Project Fairness has closure but remains incomplete.

92.1 Discovering its own-Self, ego walks the Middle Path.
92.2 The Via Regia of the "Golden Middle" leads to the extinction of clinging & aversion and the experience of impermanence of all desire. The unwholesome effect of the latter is extinguished and its contents integrated as part of the spiritual path of light.

93. The ethics of compassion is not legalistic, but "moral" in the spiritual sense, i.e. as rightness, based on care, trust, empathy, the context of particular others, sensitivity to each other's emotions & feelings, etc. This is the spirit of refinement instead of geometry, of interrelatedness instead of isolated, permanent and failing atomism.

12.  Planetary Participationism.

94. The more we seek out and answer the call of vocation, the sooner planetary awareness will become stable in each member of humanity. Communication and justice are just not enough. Participation and compassion form the cap-stone of ethics.

95. Without transpersonal ethics, and the positive empowerment allowing one to seek out higher satisfactions, an individual cannot integrate happiness, fairness and care.

96. Convergence alone satisfies desire and pacifies the mind. The first is knowing and realizing the own-Self as a "higher", panoramic inner perspective (looking out and down). To know the own-Self is realizing it. To be introduced to that Self is being it.

97. Transpersonal ethics is not a religion, but the affirmation of mental and spiritual states of consciousness beyond the nominal and so beyond the conflict between egoism and altruism.

98. Political leaders lacking Self-realization will not be able to solve the problems facing humanity on a planetary scale. Very lucky and at their best, they implement Project Fairness, but fail to satisfy all sentient beings. They lack care.

99. Planetary participationism can be defined as a secular pan-humanism. It promotes planetary democracy, sustains the global rule of law, satisfies all basic human needs worldwide, maximalizes bio-diversity and implements the new industrial 0-pollution standard. It accommodates both controlled and free markets.

100. Planetary participationism is initiated by a Global Help Project, intended to guarantee a peaceful transition to this planetary solidarity. In pan-humanism, the global social contact, as well as a Pareto-optimum in the caretakership of nature, ought to be moral facts. Both are based on the idea of the overall interconnectedness between all things as suggested by solid state physics.

13. Ethics and metaphysics.

101. Insofar as theoretical ethics posits the transcendental conditions (free will and coordinated movement) and so moves beyond the relative precepts of moral science, it cannot do so without metaphysics, i.e. arguable but untestable statements about the universe (metaphysical cosmology), life (metaphysical biology) and humanity (metaphysical anthropology).

101.1 To define the experimental setup or to describe the speech-acts & language-games played, implicit metaphysical background information is always needed.
101.1.1 To lay bare implicit concepts adds to their heuristic value. Metaphysical notions kept implicit continue to be effective in one's stream of thought.
101.2 The first limit-concepts try to work out the fundamental, all-comprehensive state, ground or origin (if beginning be). These metaphysical notions regulate the activities of cosmologists. The second deals with the root-state of life, the third of the human being.

102. Critical ethics works with an immanent metaphysical background. Transpersonal ethics integrating transcendent metaphysics, is a religious ethics.

102.1 Immanent metaphysics develops its concepts within the limitations of the world-system(s). Ultimately, this leads to all-encompassing limit-concepts, a definite asymptotic behavior near the point at infinity. As a heuristic tool, it never trespasses finitude.
102.2 Ethics rooted outside the world-system(s), must depreciate man and/or mystify the world as a universal illusion ("mâyâ") or a mere fata morgana.
102.2.1 Ontologically, the argument of illusion implies that everything which is not the world is more important (purest, truest, etc.). Hence, movement is rest, process is inert, and an ongoing development is an unmoved idea. This Platonism is superseded.
102.2.2 Psychologically, in this view, man is created by the static, i.e. by the projected "eidos" of man, product of ever-changing conceptualizations.

103. Metaphysical concepts do not constitute moral philosophy, but inspire the elaboration of the transcendental pair. Intent, duty and conscience are also objects of moral science, elaborated against a metaphysical background.

104. By objectifying the unconditional, calling offers a final and stabilizing regulation, or "turn of the wheel". It represents the threshold between individual isolation and the dawn of the awareness of the interconnectedness of everything and everyone, resulting from the decentration of the ego, the direct experience of the own-Self, its annihilation and recollection.

105. At the outer edge of immanence, rational cognition, backed by the empty concept of a formal, transcendental unity of apperception, is transcended at the point (at infinity) where the higher Self is realized.

105.1 Creative reason offers vistas of new creative awareness. Creative thought circumambulates the higher Self and the ego.
105.2 Critical ethics points to the necessity of vocation, but is not equipped to posit empirico-formal propositions about the own-Self.
105.3 The study of the higher Self is itself part of metaphysical anthropology.

14. Ethics and the Divine.

106. Due to calling, the higher modes of cognition (the creative and the intuitive) are unveiled as intellect to reason and directly experienced as part of a pure potential or "own-Self" (amongst and infinite number of other potentials)

106.1 Annihilated, the own-Self no longer limits consciousness by its own-ness and so the luminous root of consciousness is witnessed.
The root of consciousness is the root of matter and the root of information. From beginningless times the natural state of consciousness is a clear presence united with everything else.

107. In most mystical traditions, the Divine exceeds and does not exceed the world-system(s). In the West, Divine essence, core or substance is transcendent, and exceeds every thing. Its expression, energy or accident is immanent. Every actualization of the Divine is of the same one essence.

107.1 Critical ethics posits the difference between immanence and transcendence and does not overstep its own limitations.
107.1.1 In epistemology, the crucial distinction is between science (argued & tested empirico-formal propositions of fact) and metaphysics (arguable, totalizing statements about being, life and the human condition).
107.1.2 In ethics, the crucial distinction separates (and unites) Project Fairness (the optimum given by an unstable momentum between intent, duty & conscience) and rightness, care and compassion (resulting from integrating vocation).
107.1.3 Goodness is the unison of happiness, justice & rightness.
107.2 The formal Self is the best critical rationality can do, but the best formal reason can do is not enough to objectify conscience.
107.3 Own Self, nondual light-awareness & light-ground are data of direct spiritual experience, the training of the intellect and the manifestation of intuition and wisdom. The more these maxims of emancipation invoke practice, the better they are.
107.4 The immanence of the Divine is arguable
(cf. Does the Divine exist ?, 2005).

108. Religious ethics is based on revealed dogma. The call of vocation is solidified into a monolith, for ever and ever.

108.1 Most, if not all religious ethics justify & institutionalize (a) the inequality between man and woman, (b) the conflict of man with nature (both in terms of our physical bodies, as well as regarding the three kingdoms of nature, the minerals, the plants and the animals) and (c) the tensions between believers of different religions (due to an exclusivist theology).
108.2 The criticism of the religions is not the issue here. But historically, they dominated ethics to the point of being identified with it. As if without religions Project Fairness would be impossible.
Project Fairness is based on moral science positing various levels and stages of moral growth, based on biological, anthropological, psychological, social & economical facts.
The limit of fairness is esteem, which is a sign of excellence (not sublimity).
108.2.3 To understand sublime moral action of highly charitable & compassionate individuals, a level beyond fairness is necessary. Although religious, its minimal logical requirements are non-theist (i.e. devoid of a Creator-God) but never atheist.
It is possible to define calling as a Divine Call, but insofar intent, duty & conscience are then infested by transcendent significators, the limitations of critical ethics are superseded.
The trinity own-Self, nondual light-awareness and light-ground does not necessarily imply a Creator or a God. In the West, all transcendence is ontologically recuperated by monotheist onto-theology. In the East, henotheism prevails, except in Buddhism.
108.3.2 The luminous ground of human consciousness, matter and information can be made to blend with the statements of solid state physics and cosmology, stressing the photonic nature of that part of the observable universe in which life sprang.
Fundamental onto-theology should be devoid of anthropomorphisms (giving the essence of the absolute a human face or name), revelations (positing an infinite distance between man and the absolute) and intermediaries (replacing the own-Self -my Lord- with brokers -our Lord-).

109. Because of its irrational tenacity and the Bellarmine-effect (or the
unwillingness to discuss the possibility of contradicting facts), religious fundamentalism is an erratic ingredient in any moral equation.

109.1 In essence, Project Fairness is secular and laic. To control the world-system(s), it has no factor "X" transcending it. Insofar as vocation is thwarted, this project constantly verges to fall in its negation, the rule of fake justice.
109.2 The rules of the game of democracy do not exclude religious ethics to become law.

110. The absolute (transcendence) and the relative (immanence) are two sides of the same, one reality. By positing the difference, we disable ourselves to open the door and unite with what never changed to be one.

111. Devoid of religious superstructures, the crucial experiences of the inner worlds (like own-Self, nondual light-awareness and light-ground), trigger the ethics of concern & care. Then, happiness & fairness are good, justice & compassion are balanced, as are fairness & rightness, charity & righteousness.

Book 2
Towards an Applied Ethics

15. The practice of ethics.

With the practice of ethics, our investigations receive a new dimension. Instead of focusing on the question Quid juris ?, and asking for the necessary principles, conditions & norms of ethics and its judgments, Quid factis ? aims at maxims enabling us to apply the wheel of ethics (the dynamics of intent, duty, conscience and calling) particularly to local contexts and circumstances, taking into account the relative conditions of space, time & person.

Theoretical ethics is rooted in the a priori and represents a system of statute-law, implementing a series of principles and norms "top-down". In such an approach (as in deontological ethics), there is no room left for circumstantial elements. The concrete situation at hand, namely its psychological, social and economical facets, are not taken into consideration, but replaced by formality and legality. Even if ethics takes, as does critical ethics, the consequential (intent) and subjective (conscience/calling) into consideration, its norms exclude the actual set of elements gathered a posteriori.

These considerations bring in the distinction between ethics and morality, between a normative, conceptual understanding of the quaternio of ethical factors and the actual, practical application of the formal tool in a concrete, specific and circumscribed field of events, triggering the mother of all ethical question : What must I do ? Let good actions, deeds & behaviours be the answer.

Clearly memory plays a crucial role in the transition from norms to maxims, from statute-law to case-law. In a general sense, memory is then history, and the forms retained by the latter offer nearly endless examples of good & evil actions, sedimenting in wrong behaviour and bad habits. If nothing is learned from this past, then morality can never be deep and vast.

Morality is the application of ethical norms. The formation of successful series of actions as well as good habits, forming living traditions, bring in rules of stable good behaviour or maxims. The latter are more fluid and less formal than a set of norms. Insofar morality yields good fruits (i.e. a happy & good life), it roots, ex hypothesi, in the dynamics of the normative process of ethics.

The various maxims may be organized in concentric circles, starting around the person and expanding to encompass the zenith and the horizon.

The physical body, the first object of any person, is the vehicle, instrument, sheet, interphase or material actuality through which understanding (information) and consciousness manifest in the physical, observable world. As the health of this body is crucial for the possibility of long-term behaviour, it occupies the first circle around the person.

As the first five years of any Homo Sapiens sapiens play a decisive and irreversible role in the development of all his or her possible actional, affectional and conceptual faculties, family life surrounds the baby's healthy body. Given that families are defined by other families insofar differences occur, property is the circle shielding any family-life, and providing the transition from social cell (clan, tribe) to society. Property as a circle is not limited to the material plane, but (at least) includes actional (style), cognitive (education) and affective (refinement) parameters of nobility. These have taken time to slowly sediment, have always been and continue to be transmitted to one's off-spring, and this through specific educational patterns & ways of relating to oneself, the others & the world (nurturing a selective & exclusive set of maxims).

With the emergence of the concept of the secular state (rooted in the historical examples of the finishing of the Constitution of the United States in 1787 & the French Revolution of 1789), the notion of ruling families is encircled by a set of independent nations, constituted by three independent powers and this in a secular & democratic fashion, operating in accord with the rights of all human beings, and safeguarding the future.

The need to be protected and safe, triggering a military acting against enemy-states, although legitimate, leads to a severe moral impasse, accommodating armed conflicts and war. Indeed, if Earth were as big as Jupiter, our problems would not yet confront the nations with planetary turbulence, disaster and impending catastrophe, as they do at the beginning of the XXIth century. As Earth is finite and our families a "global village", another circle is called in by the physical limitations of our planet. Here, a planetary participationism is actively sought by the nations for the nations, and this to maximalize their happiness and goodness. A minimum ? The absence of poverty, the absence of human rights violations, new industrial standards and an increased bio-diversity on Earth.

As all things rise, exist and fade away, the physical body of each and every person eventually dies. The way we make death part of our lives, illustrates our ability to develop a positive, creative & constructive approach of illness, old age & the process of death in general, and of our own fears of perishing and transformation in particular. Meanwhile, it brings understanding of all things that come to an end and allows us to grow into wisdom facing adversity & felicity alike.

16. Persons.

If personhood is a hypostasis, then an underlying reality is presupposed, like a "soul", eternal or not. This final ground is then the axiom supporting philosophical anthropology. Consistent with critical epistemology, critical ethics does not embrace a substantialist, foundationalist approach, acknowledging the impermanence of all things within the relativity of the world-system(s).

Given this, personhood points to an original compound, complex or system of material, informational & conscious operators. Although impermanent in absolute terms, the person is a relative continuity within the limited span of a lifetime. This normal, "nominal" waking, dreaming & sleeping continuity is foremost rooted in consciousness, depending on & interphasing with a body loaded with physical, chemical & biological information ready to be transmitted and a brain conditioned by numerous cultural forms.

If personhood would start at birth, tabula rasa might be an option. But as the brain is prewired and goes through crucial experiences while living in the womb, personhood is more likely the glorious surplus of the fusion of one seed (out of millions) with one ovum. With personhood starting at conception (and not a little later), the maximal moral protection of persons is guaranteed.

Personhood and egohood first meet when the name N is attributed to "my" coordinations of movement, causing a series of identifications between the physiological impact of the auditive, visual and/or tactile glyph of N and coordinations of movement not yet attributed to N (not yet identified as "my" coordinations). Eventually, the mental habit of identifying consciousness with the first person ("I"), thinking "I am N" ensues. Here, a new field, only present in potential, is triggered by coordinations of movement aiming at allowing the movements of the body to be associated with a phonetical and later visual founding glyph : the first name. However, the semantics of this name "I" cannot choose. Hence, the infant is a pre-moral person introduced into the moral sphere by means of an appellation chosen by his or her genitors.

With the family name, the broader context of giving birth is put to the fore. Not only is the ego named so-and-so outside its own free will, but neither can it choose its own family, and the behavioral patterns which are theirs. Propelled by anterior causes outside its actual field, a person's name reflects nurture and the differences introduced by the family's application of certain maxims or the absence thereof. Hence, the delicate process of education demands responsible parents.

In approaching children, love and care are essential. Although moral, they lack maturity and need to be guided properly to acquire a healthy ego and grow into their own-Self. This crucial period (from conception to adolescence) has to be protected by maxims which guarantee the adequate development of actional, affectional and cognitive possibilities and this in terms of goodness, beauty and truth.

In adulthood, privacy, intimacy and the possibility to keep secrets are important. Here, personhood develops in terms of a reality-for-me, the direct circle of interaction and communication. Privacy implies sacred time & space. It must be possible to withdraw from others (seclusion) and to be alone for prolonged periods of time undisturbed. Education must also offer this, for the social ego is only the outer persona or mask of the ego. If too much emphasis is placed on it, and freedom of attention of others is absent, interior life pales and inner depth will be lacking. To be able to retreat (and to be taught how to do so) are crucial for the ego to realize its own motives, drives, desires, feelings & thoughts. This realization has a direct impact on action and cannot be replaced.

Intimacy is the privacy of a close relationship, either in friendship or in partnership (work, love, marriage). Here, detailed knowledge resulting from a long association is acquired. Familiarity and friendship are very pronounced, and so glances beyond the persona are possible. The danger of this is clear. If the so-called "friend" is a crook, as may happen in life, vital information will be thrown on the street and much suffering may be intentionally caused to persons.

A secret, or a piece of information not generally known which should not be told to others, belongs to the privilege of the person and groups of persons. If secrets are impossible, the weaknesses of personal life are unprotected.

Maxims organizing personhood are meant to protect own-ness and satisfy the humanization of the ego. To be able to develop a reality-for-me, an exclusive, original perspective or view is the only way for the ego to discover its propensities, motivations, drives, desires and dualistic conceptualizations. As in the course of the process of socialization much of the private own-ness of the ego is sublimated in abstract terms (cf. supra), this view often represents the opinions of parents & peers. Because of the power of the desire to exist, the ego recaptures own-ness and affirms its hold on consciousness (in volitions, affects & cogitations). Most of adult life is seeking a path to return to the lost affectivity of early youth. That is why adulthood does not presuppose maturity, although the opposite is recommended. Fairness is not yet care.

17. Health.

To be able to mature, the human needs a long life. If this life is cut short, negative sedimentations have been allowed to interchange with gross material circumstances, although the latter can and should be avoided as much as possible.

Health is more than a good and strong physical body. It is a state of mind allowing one to dramatically decrease the process of aging and prolong one's natural life-span.

To acquire this healthy state of mind, the human needs to discipline his desires (lust and unlust) & their mental sediments (acceptance and rejection). This work is emancipatoric and the practice aims at health and longevity.

Undercutting desire will take out the root, liberating the mind from the cage of fear & hope. This is a long-term project, involving the intuitional layers of cognition. These work with creativity, i.e. the intelligence "of the heart" instead of cerebral conceptualizations. These are supported by the direct experience of Divine union (cf. "unio mystica" or "samadhi"). To be able to create new mental operators, making it possible to alleviate the effects of identification (affirmation, acceptance) & denial (negation, rejection, repression, etc.), is the immediate, short- & intermediate term aim.

Personal hygiene, diet, environments, sexuality and a good private life are wholesome foundations. To seek the best in each of these areas will protect & prolong life. If excellence lacks, restoration may not be full, but nevertheless effective.

The maxims covering health also bring out the good of the whole range of frail and weakened human beings. They aim at a state of wholeness encompassing the Earth and its kingdoms of life. Clearly humanity is still lacking the power to implement this perspective worldwide, although a lot of good is done. For limited materialists, health is the continuity of the ego-system, although far better is possible. Identifying with a caricature of the own-Self, circular consciousness is limited by and to the physical body. As a result, because of the unwholesome attitudes, the body suffers more and the natural span of life cannot be extended, on the contrary. This hampers maturity.

The health of the other kingdoms of life on this planet is also part of the responsibility of the human, acting as a care-taker. The purity of the natural elements, the diversity of plants & animals are a wealth to be cherished and protected worldwide. Loosing it would trigger the end of civilization as we know it and plunge humanity into tragedy. Hence, the diet of the human has to be adapted to the ecological balance of the Earth.

In terms of health-care, medical science should not instrumentalize life and treat human persons (even unborn ones) as objects to be manipulated. The medical profession needs philosophy, psychology and sociology to deal with birth, illness & death, for the root-cause of most afflictions are mental, as is the greater part of healing (cf. placebo). To work with the materialist model at the exclusion of other approaches, limits the healing-potential of the medical profession.

In principle, abortion and active euthanasia are moral evils. In each case, the inviolability of life is harmed and the deontological principle is replaced by a teleological pursuit. Stem cell research can never be systematic, as its object should never be acquired in such a way.

18. Family.

Family is the extension of private life and of the self-love of ego's. Insofar a person has family, much of what characterizes this close communal life of the clan is unwilled by the ego, although eventually it may contribute and make changes. Orphans may be adopted or, in adolescence, choose a surrogate family.

It happens, as a reaction against past regulations imposed by some kind of families, that during adolescence, a "soul" family is identified. This seems to offer a break from the "usual" and this may well be so. But often, when adulthood arrives and the irreversible "return to childhood" happens, these "soul" families are uncovered as fantasies, and there is that what remains.

What happens during early family-life defines the ego-complex. This conditioning cannot be taken out or reversed. Whatever it is, early life has to be accepted as it was. Mother & father, as depth-psychology evidenced, and later school & peers, constitute the reference-groups from birth to early adulthood. Adulthood is precisely this remembrance of the best of childhood. The own-ness of ego must be experienced before it can be relinquished. The sooner this happens, the faster happiness is actual.

Of all human institutions working within Project Fairness, balancing intent and duty in conscience, family-life is the most excellent. Their core value being unconditional love, families offer a secure and potent way to sediment goodness and transmit its benefits. Although biologically defined, human families may supersede the natural law (of male, female & child), but only insofar happiness, fairness and rightness are not thereby endangered.

19. Property.

Property, or the right to use, change and sell goods & services, defines the social status of any family. Differences between families has determined the stratification of social formations since the beginning of the Neolithic (ca. 10.000 BCE) and sedentariness, when the piling of material goods became possible.

Language, goods and services were the tools fashioning societies, small kingdoms, kingdoms and empires. In this process, families have been the nucleus of all economies. For to transfer property, trust and secrecy are necessary. The larger the fortune, the bigger the mystery, as international corporate business amply proves. Given most humans have families, property is intrinsically linked with this selfish expression of ego's own-ness and humanization.

There are two problems with property. The first occurs when there is poverty anywhere on Earth. The second is the outcome of a careless and unenlightened (ignorant) abuse of natural resources and bio-diversities. Both lead to more poverty for everybody.

People need to differentiate from other people. Property is the tool. That all humans, animals & plants are well-off, while some humans are rich and/or extremely rich, is acceptable.

Discovering the lunacy of its own-ness, the ego may mature by stepping outside the circularity of its excellent but sordid ways and so invite another, more sublime perspective, namely that of the own-Self, the unique, individual imprint, form or idea (cf. "eidos") within consciousness of its own luminous root, nondual light-awareness. The "eidetic" reduction needed is to directly discover this bright remainder within consciousness. The ego-system must be disequilibrated by moving beyond the lusts & unlusts of affects, feelings, etc., beyond the affirmations & denials of discursive thought, conceptualizations, rational mind, etc., and beyond the action & inaction of volition.

Discovering the own-Self is connecting to the interconnected network of human aspirations, hopes and heavens. Care for all sentient beings is the sign of calling. At this point, material wealth is coupled with generosity and the active assistance of good work.

20. On the secular state.

Thanks to the secular state, property is no longer the sole asset of families, companies and religious institutions. The state is a crucial instrument to redistribute wealth. Indeed, huge differences in income and accumulated wealth increase poverty. To make peace, the nations must work as a global network of care-takers.

It is vain to underestimate the power of the Beast and its fantasies. Human nature being what it is (if not bestial, then guilt-striken or amoral), the state (even the democratic one) and the academia may be transformed into market instruments and the Plutocracy which eventually destroys itself. The fragility of our situation has not yet dawned, and geo-sentimentality blocks global awareness and this to our great peril.

To curtail traditions makes them stronger. Churches are rebuilt. But slowly can politicians change the mentalities of their peoples. At times U-turns are necessary, although even titans are unable to uproot deep entrenched beliefs. These forces try to dismantle the state. Only a strong state will be able to uphold the Plutocratic principles of the human animal.

Brutal communism and wild capitalism are examples of the extremes. In democracies, despite the free market of chosen goods & services, there are things which are not for sale and principles which cannot be changed by way of vote (like the integrity & sanctity of vegetal, animal and human life).

21. On death.

All things come to an end.
A phrase adults often repeat ...

Instead of hiding and condemning death, we might accept and study the phenomenon. Some say we experience death only once. Other claim we forgot how many times we already did. Who remembers his own birth ? While sleeping we come near to oblivion for many hours. Even awake, attention slips away and these tiny moments of confusion & blur seem so many lost spots in the stream of consciousness.

On the one hand, for the conceptual materialist, death is the end of the physical support of consciousness, blackening out and disintegrating with it. Nothing is left and nothing is known, as in the so-called "darkness" of deep sleep. As if we died every night.

On the other hand, if, ex hypothesi, consciousness operates independently from matter and information, then the deep-mind of the own-Self, with its own, characteristic subtle luminosity & refraction, supported by its own, inner light-root, is not affected by this disintegration of a gross, temporary physical vehicle (allowing for a partial rebirth, namely of this own-Self).

Consciousness aware of the own-Self is then beyond the tragedy of material separation. If this is so, consciousness may prepare for death and consider the merit it needs to guarantee the further clarification (annihilation, recollection) of its own-Self to the point of the light-awareness of enlightenment (during this life or just after physical death).

May all sentient beings achieve this liberation and the final enlightenement to which it leads.

Suggested Reading

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Chapter 4

A Neurophilosophy of Sensation

"Experience is not what happens to You ; it's what You do with what happens to You."
Aldous Huxley


I : The organs of perception.

01. Smell : the nose feels the air.
02. Taste : tongue and water.
03. Touch : bending & stretching from top to toe.
04. Audition : the pressures of air.
05. Sight : the eye as the space of photons.
06. Naked perception : stimuli & preliminary codation.
07. Natural perception : space, time, integration & projection.

II : The sensuous cortex :

08. The sensory areas : perception & its cortical processing.
09. The association areas : the final integration of perception.
10. The angular gyrus : symbol tools.
11. The prefrontal cortex & empirico-formal concepts.
12. Sensations in epistemology, ethics and esthetics.
13. The argument of illusion.

I : The organs of perception.

"Each of us believes himself to live directly within the world that surrounds him, to sense its objects and events precisely, to live in real and current time. I assert that these are perceptual illusions, for each of us confronts the world from a brain linked to what is 'out there' by a few million fragile sensory nerve fibres. These are our only information channels, our lifelines to reality. These sensory nerve fibres are not high-fidelity recorders, for they accentuate certain stimulus features, neglect others. The central neuron is a story-teller with regard to the afferent nerve fibres ; and he is never completely trustworthy, allowing distortions of quality and measure, within a stained but isomorphic spatial relation between 'outside' and 'inside'. Sensation is an abstraction, not a replication, of the real world."
Mountcastle, 1975, cited in Popper & Eccles, 1981, p.253.

the preliminary codification

The neurophilosophy of the
transport of information from the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) to the CNS (Central Nervous System), studies the afferent, sensoric, incoming impulses from the five senses, crucial to distinguish perception from sensation.

The efficient neurological cause of perception is called "transduction" ("to lead across"). This is the logic by which a receptor cell, exposed to an environmental stimulus, causes an electrical response. On a deeper level, the overall functioning of the brain is thus underpinned by complex flows of electric charge (from the Greek "electron" or "amber), which, together with magnetism, shapes the fundamental interaction known as electromagnetism (next to universal gravity and the subatomic strong & weak forces). E
lectromagnetism implies the simultaneity of electrical & magnetic forces. The magnetic field is caused by the electric current or motion of electric charges. The electromagnetic field is the space which exerts a force on particles possessing electric charge, in turn affected by these particles and their motion.

Sensation is defined as the faculty through which the external world is perceived. Hence, the sensory system is two-tiered : on the one hand perception, the raw, naked immediacy of the receptor organs for smell, taste, touch, audition & sight, the "doors of perception" at the periphery of the olfactory, gustative, soma-esthetic (or somato-sensory), visual & auditory systems of the CNS. On the other hand sensation, the end result of an array of central neural systems committed to process the coded form of the impulse perceived by the receptors, like the secondary & tertiary sensory areas, the spatial association area situated in the posterior parietal cortex (of both hemispheres), the angular gyrus in the inferior parietal lobe, sitting at the juncture of the tactile, visual & auditory areas, the limbic system (for emotional coloring) and the Ascending Reticular Activation System in the brainstem for the general arousal-level of the CNS.

Human Brain
Peripheral Nervous
System (PNS)
Central Nervous
System (CNS)
receptor organs
afferent pathways
synaptic relays
primary to tertiary areas, gyri, the limbic etc.
experience appearance

The transmission of afferent impulses is never direct but by synaptic relays, changing the massage into a "code". In every neuronal relay station, this coded impulse is modified. Although each sense has its primary receiving area laid out as a cortical "map" (cf. the Brodmann areas), the neuronal relays from the PNS to the CNS cause the preliminary "codification" of the raw impulse hitting the reception surface of nose, tongue, skin, ears and/or eyes. So when the impulses in some sensory pathway reach the primary sensory areas in the CNS, preliminary codification has already taken place (cf. Kant's distinction between experience, "Empfindung" versus appearance, or "Erscheinung").

"In general it can be stated that the intensity of the stimulus is encoded as frequency of discharge of impulses."
Popper & Eccles, 1981, p.252.

from perception to sensation

Mental states are either based on sensation or are non-sensational.

Sensations have a clear bodily location and possess "raw feels" or qualia, defined by the five-tiered sensory input of the five physical organs of sense (smell, taste, touch, audition and sight). More or less spatially defined, sensations are always the experience of a conscious subject. Without this conscious experience, sensations are not.

The distinction between sensation and perception is important. Sensations occur to a subject of experience, and manifest as nose-consciousness (smelling), tongue-consciousness (tasting), skin-consciousness (touching), ear-consciousness (hearing), eye-consciousness (seeing) & the concert of these. They represent the final, "constructive" result of a process starting with naked, "unconstructed" perception. Sensations happen to an empirical ego (largely processed by the prefrontal lobes of the neocortex) with a unique perspective on the ongoing, sensational & non-sensational stream of functional differences or "energies" within consciousness.

Perception is three-fold. The root of perception is the impulse affecting the receptor. Next, the afferent relay to the CNS is coded, finally projecting the coded impulse in the primary sensory area. Because these perceptional data are introduced through sensory pathways to which consciousness has no direct access, perception is, paradoxically, non-sensational. To clarify this idea, the neurophilosophy of the primary, secondary & ternary sensory areas will be helpful.

Non-sensational mental states have no distinct, outer events associated with them. These mental states, also emerging without one being conscious of them, may be classified as :

  • quasi-perceptional states : hallucinating, dreaming, imagining, trance-visioning ;

  • emotions, feelings : the complete range from utter disgust to sublime bliss, from violence to peace ;

  • conative states : wishing, wanting, intending, trying, acting ;

  • cognitions : thinking, reasoning, knowing, conceiving, understanding, intuiting.

01. Smell : the nose feels the air.

The earliest organism abided in chemical substances signaling food, poison or sex. In humans, externally located neuronal cell bodies are concentrated within the nose. These nasal-located neurons, like those of other, more ancient creatures, analyze the pheromonal, olfactory and chemical nature of the environment for data concerning food, sex, the weather and the like. Over the course of evolution, only two groups of primal sensory cells formed like-minded cells : the olfactory lobe and the optic lobe. With the expansion and axonal-dendritic interconnection of these lobes the modern brain emerged.

the olfactory bulbs & optic vesicles of the neural tube
from Bear, Connors & Paradiso, 2001, figure 7.10 p.182.

We do not smell with the nose, but with a small, thin sheet of cells high up in the nasal cavity. This olfactory epithelium, about 10 cm², has three main cell types : (a) olfactory receptor cells, or neurons with axons of their own penetrating into the CNS, (b) supporting cells, similar to glia, helping to produce mucus and (c) basal cells which are the source of new receptor cells. Indeed, the receptor cells continually grow, die and regenerate in a cycle lasting ca. 4 to 8 weeks. The olfactory epithelium and the retina of the eye are both literal extensions of the brain. The olfactory system gave rise to the evolution of the primitive amygdala and rudimentary hippocampus ca. 500 million years ago. Because odors are inherently slow stimuli, rapid timing of action potentials is unnecessary to encode the timing of odors. Rather, temporal coding, based on the timing of spikes, is supposed to encode the quality of odors, and transduce the chemical stimulus into an electric charge. Temporal patterns of spiking would then be the logic behind the olfactory coding.

In lower mammals olfaction is the dominant sensory input, but in humans it became subordinate to sight, hearing and somaesthesis. Humans are relatively weak smellers. A smell is detected when about 10 trillion molecules of one of the ca. 30.000 or so available odor molecules enter the nose and stimulate receptor cells. Humans are able to detect and remember ca. 10.000 odors. Each of these cells express only one of the 1000 types of odorant receptor genes. Dogs have more than 100 times more receptors in each square centimeter of the olfactory epithelium, which may be over 170 cm².

Olfactory receptor neurons send axons into two olfactory bulbs, full of neural circuits with complex dendritic arrangements, reciprocal synapses and high levels of various neurotransmitters. Olfactory information is modified by inhibitory & excitatory interactions within the structures of the bulbs and between them. Neurons in the bulbs are also subject to modulation from systems of axons descending from higher areas in the brain. The output axons of the olfactory bulbs run through the olfactory tracts and have a complex distribution, the principal termination being in the piriform cortex (or olfactory cortex), the primary sensory area of olfaction, thus making various direct connections to many structures of the limbic system, the "nose brain". From there, the axons go to the thalamus on to the neocortex, were conscious recognition of smell occurs in the orbito-frontal cortex right behind the eyes.

This anatomical feature makes olfaction unique, for all other sensory systems first pass through the thalamus before projecting into the neocortex. Only olfactory connects with a primary sensory area directly related to temporal lobe structures & the limbic system.

The limbic system has been referred to as the "nose brain". The afferent axons stimulate this system directly, without the
thalamus or "universal gateway" of the CNS. Indeed, the spinothalamic pathway is the major route by which afferents (registering for example pain or temperature) ascent to the neocortex. The thalamus is thus the gate through which information carried by sensoric axons enters the CNS. Here, these afferents are pre-processed to branch out to the relevant cortical areas & the limbic system.

The unicity of olfaction is clear. Like all sensory systems, it makes use of a method of preliminary codation to relay information to the CNS, but unlike any other system, it branches out in the limbic system before being pre-processed in the thalamus and relayed to the neocortex and its primary sensory area in the forebrain.

Olfaction directly connects with emotion and the latter evolved from feeding, fighting, fleeing and sex.

02. Taste : tongue & water.

The olfactory system is related to eating and assists the gustatory system. Flavor can only be detected if both nose & tongue are used together. Although completely independent of the taste buds localized along the tongue, both system may have started out as one chemoreceptive system becoming distinct over the course of evolution. In reptiles and many other animals, an auxiliary olfactory organ is located within the roof of the mouth. But, in this case too, the two systems are separate. Indeed, some food, although smelling good, may taste terrible and have no nutritive value. The taste test allowed for additional differentiation, although some stuff smell & taste great whole still being poisonous.

Both smell & taste are chemical senses using a variety of transduction mechanisms to recognize the large amount of chemicals encountered. For an omnivore, a sensitive and versatile system of taste was essential to survive. Some taste preferences, like sweetness, is innate, but experience strongly modifies these instincts. The body has the capacity to recognize a deficiency and adjust this by causing cravings for particular food. We recognize four basic tastes : sweetness, saltiness, sourness & bitterness.

Although we mainly taste with our tongue, the palate, pharynx and epiglottis also participate, as well as the olfactory system. Scattered about the surface of the tongue are small projections called papillae (or bumps), shaped like ridges, pimples or mushrooms. Each papilla has hundreds of taste buds, composed of ca. 50 - 150 taste receptor cells, only about 1% of the tongue epithelium. Taste buds have also basal cells surrounding the receptors and a set of gustatory afferent axons. A person has ca. 2000 - 5000 taste buds, while exceptional people have as few as 500 or as many as 20.000.

As is the case for the other sensory receptors, papillae tend to be sensitive to only one basic taste and only at some critical concentrations just above threshold is a stimulus evoked. This does not mean sweetness is only tasted with the tip of the tongue. The tongue map implies certain areas of the tongue are more sensitive to the basic tastes than are other regions, while most of the tongue is sensitive to all basic tastes. Single receptors show small differences in response, and subtle distinctions are made in the brain. When a taste receptor cell is stimulated by an appropriate chemical, its membrane potential changes, either depolarizing or hyperpolarizing. This voltage shift, or receptor potential, causes the cell to fire action potentials.

The neuronal coding of taste is not based on specific receptor types, axons and neurons. Taste buds are broadly tuned to stimuli and this is the case all the way into the CNS. Receptor cell inputs converge onto afferent axons, and each receptor synapses into a primary taste axon also receiving input from several other receptors. One axon may combine taste data from several papillae. This is called population coding, used throughout the sensory and motor systems of the brain. This seems to be an architecture already at work at the level of the action potential of the neuron, making a combined decision based on all
stimulating (yes) and inhibiting (no) nerve impulses influencing it (cf. the "democratic neuron").

The main flow of taste data is from the taste buds to the afferent gustatory axons, into the brain stem (medulla), up to the thalamus and finally to the neocortex. In the brain stem, the axons synapse with the gustatory nucleus and diverge from there. The thalamus sends axons to the primary gustatory area, the cortical area in the anterior insula of the cortex (in the parietal lobe).

03. Touch : bending & stretching from top to toe.

The experience of touch starts at the skin. Most sensory receptors in the somatic sensory system, are mechanoreceptors, sensitive to physical distortions such as bending or stretching, enabling the body to feel, to ache & to chill (in the context of this paper, the term "somatic sensation" is avoided). Present throughout the body, they monitor all contact with the skin as well as pressure in the heart & blood vessels, stretching of the digestive system, urinary bladder and force against the teeth. The axons branches characterizing each mechanoreceptor have mechano-sensitive ion channels, not well understood.

As the largest organ of the body, the skin is richly innervated by axons part of the vast network of peripheral nerves. In the visceral system, primary afferent axons bring information from the somatic sensory receptors up the spinal cord, only synapsing in the dorsal root ganglia (or cuneate nucleus at the base of the head). Information about touch or vibration of the skin takes a route to the CNS entirely distinct from pain and temperature stimuli. Indeed, some of the axons terminating in the root ganglia start at the skin of the big toe. At this point, the information is still represented ipsilaterally (right side body, right dorsal nuclei). But axons from these cells arch and decussate. From this point onwards, the somatic system of one side is concerned with sensoric data deriving from the other side of the body.

After only one synapse, the afferent impulse travels to the thalamus & the cerebral cortex. At each of two relays (root ganglia & thalamus), the opportunity for an inhibitory action is given, sharpening the neuronal signals by eliminating the weaker excitatory stimuli. By this inhibition, a precise localization of touch stimuli becomes possible.

Somaesthetic or
somatosensory processing occurs in the cerebral cortex, namely the parietal lobe. The primary somatosensory cortex occupies an exposed cortical strip, the postcentral gyrus. The somatotopy of this gyrus has been called a homunculus (or "little man"), a mapping of the body's surface sensations.

04. Audition : the pressure of air.

Sounds are audible variation in air pressure caused by moving air molecules. When an object moves away, air is made less dense (rarefied). Many sounds produce periodic variations in air pressure. The frequency of sound is the number of compressed patches of air passing by our ears each second. One cycle is the distance between two successive patches. Sound frequency is expressed in hertz, or the number of cycles per second. The auditory system responds to pressure waves over the range of 20 - 20.000 Hz, decreasing with age & exposure to noise of the high-frequency end (a low organ tone is about 20 Hz, while a high note on a piccolo is about 10.000 Hz). Intensity of sound is difference in pressure between compressed patches of air, and determines the loudness we perceive. The higher the intensity, the louder the sound. The intensity range is remarkable, for the loudest sound leaving our ears undamaged is about a trillion times greater than the intensity of the faintest sound heard.

The ear has three main divisions. The structures from the funnel (pinna) to the eardrum is called the "outer ear". The tympanic membrane and the ossicles constitute the middle ear and what lies behind the oval window is the inner ear. These structures of the auditory pathway play the following roles :

  • pinna (or funnel) : helps collecting and localizing sounds ;

  • auditory canal : extending ca.2.5cm inside the skull ending at the tympanic membrane ;

  • tympanic membrane : the eardrum ;

  • ossicles ("little bones") : a series of bones or transferring movements of the tympanic membrane into movements of a second membrane covering a whole in the bone of the skull called the oval window ;

  • cochlea ("snail") : behind the oval window, this is a fluid-filled space containing the apparatus transforming physical motion of the oval window membrane into neuronal responses. This involves a frequency analysis of the patterns of sound waves and their conversion into the discharges of neurons. The auditory receptors converge mechanical energy into a change in membrane polarization (cf. the organ of Corti, consisting of hair cells, the rods of Corti and various supporting cells).

Once the inner ear generates the neural response to sound, the signal is transferred to and processed in nuclei in the brainstem, and sent to a relay in the thalamus, finally projecting to the primary auditory cortex in the temporal lobe (Heschl's gyrus). Both audition & sight start with sensory receptors connecting to early integration stages (retina for sight and brain stem for audition), relay to the thalamus and then to the sensory cortex. Nevertheless, given there are more synapses at nuclei intermediate between the sensory organ and the cortex, the auditory pathway appears more complex than the visual pathway. However, the cells and synapses of the auditory system in the brain stem are analogous to the interactions in the layers of the retina. All ascending (afferent) auditory pathways converge onto the inferior colliculus of the midbrain. The right cochlea projects mostly to the left primary auditory area, and vice versa for the left cochlea.

Neurons processing sound information are timing machines. They are designed to preserve & analyze very rapid neural signals encoding small but meaningful variation in sound signals. A trained pianist can distinguish between two tones of 1000 Hz and 1001 Hz, or the detection of a difference of only 1 μsec in the wavelengths ! A single action potential lasts about 1000 times longer. The detection of a sound source in the horizontal plane with a precision of 2° is possible, demanding the discrimination of 11 μsec difference between the time it takes a sound to reach their two ears. Many auditory neurons in the brain stem have an architecture & physiology optimized for speed and electrical conduction. This precise localization is also necessary to report position and movement of the head (the vestibular system). Indeed, both the auditory and vestibular systems use hair cells to transduce movements.

05. Sight : the eye as the space of photons.


The majority of the light hitting the surface of the Earth comes from the Sun, and this is only a fraction of what our star disperses into outer space in all directions. Light, electricity & magnetism are all electromagnetic radiation. The electric and magnetic fields oscillate at right angles to each other, while the combined wave moves in a direction perpendicular to both of these two field oscillations.

Light, of constant speed in empty space, may be conceived as moving packages of energy called photons. Paradoxically, a photon is a particle of electromagnetic radiation. Light is both particle-like & wave-like. Whether light moves like a wave or as a particle depends on how it is observed (cf. the importance of the experimental setup in the two-slit experiment).

In a digital camera, both aspects of light are addressed. The lens of the camera refracts (bends & focuses) incoming waves of light. These waves are made to hit a charge-coupled device (CCD). This is a light-sensitive integrated circuit storing & displaying image-data. Each picture element (pixel) is converted into an electrical charge related, by intensity, to a color in the color spectrum. Subatomically, this intensity is measured by light photons kicking electrons out of the silicon contained in the bombarded surface. These electrons are finally detected by electronics interpreting the number of electrons released and their position of release from the silicon to create an image.

The length of a light wave λ is the distance between successive peaks or troughs, its frequency ν is the number of waves per second, and its amplitude is the difference between peak and trough, related to the intensity or brightness of a wave relative to other light waves of the same wavelength. Light features a simple relation between its speed (c), wavelength (λ) and frequency (ν), namely (1) ν = c/λ. Since λ, the wavelength in Ångstroms (1 Ångstrom = 10-10 meter), bottoms the fraction, frequency is inversely proportional to the wavelength. Light with a smaller wavelength has a higher (larger) frequency and vice versa.

White light is made of different colors or wavelengths. When passed through a prism, it spreads out in different colors (cf. the rainbow of the visible spectrum). This phenomenon shows how all possible wavelengths become manifest. "Hot" colors such as red or orange consist of light with a longer wavelength, and these have less energy than "cool" colors such as blue or violet.

Color λ
(*1014 Hz)
 (*10-19 J)
violet 4000 - 4600 7.5 - 6.5 5.0 - 4.3
indigo 4600 - 4750 6.5 - 6.3 4.3 - 4.2
blue 4750 - 4900 6.3 - 6.1 4.2 - 4.1
green 4900 - 5650 6.1 - 5.3 4.1 - 3.5
yellow 5650 - 5750 5.3 - 5.2 3.5 - 3.45
orange 5750 - 6000 5.2 - 5.0 3.45 - 3.3
red 6000 - 8000 5.0 - 3.7 3.3 - 2.5

In physics, a quantum (plural : quanta) is an indivisible entity of energy. For instance, the photon, being the unit of light, is a "light quantum". In empty space, a photon moves at a constant speed, has no rest mass and no charge. Einstein (1879 - 1955) found the relationship between the energy of light E and its frequency ν to be : (2) E = h × ν, h being Planck's constant, or 6.626 × 10-34 J·sec, used in the quantization of energy. The energy of electromagnetic radiation is proportional to its frequency. Emitted at high frequency (or short wavelengths) it has the highest energy. (1) & (2) give E = h.c/λ, with c = 299.800 km/s (the speed of light in empty space).

Light rays travel in straight lines until interacting with the atoms & molecules of the atmosphere and objects. These interactions include reflection, absorption & refraction.

Reflection is the bouncing of light rays off a surface. Most light we see is reflected off objects. Striking a mirror perpendicularly will reflect light 180° back upon itself, at 45° a reflection of 90° occurs, etc.

Absorption is the transfer of light energy to a particle or a surface of molecules. Black surfaces absorb the energy of all visible wavelengths, while some compounds absorb a limited range of them and reflect the remaining. "Violet" absorbs long wavelengths but reflect a range of short ones centered on 430 nm (4300 Å), perceived as "violet".

Refraction is the bending of light rays traveling from one transparant medium to another. Striking a surface at an angle will bend the light toward a line perpendicular to it. This bending occurs because the speed of light differs in the two media, passing through air more rapidly than through water. The greater the difference between the speed of light in the two media, the greater the angle of refraction.

the visual system

A large part of the cerebral cortex is involved with analyzing the visual world captured as the electromagnetic radiation visible to our eyes. In the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from Gamma rays to AC circuits, the visible spectrum of rainbow colors lies between wavelengths of 400 & 800 nm (1 nanometer = 10-9 meter = 10 Ångstroms), in other words, light visible to our eyes has wavelengths between 4000 - 8000 Ångstroms.

The structures involved in all steps of the visual pathways are complex. The eye is an organ specialized for the detection, localization and analysis of light. The gross anatomy of the eye is as follows :

  • pupil : the opening allowing light to enter the eye and reach the retina ;

  • iris : surrounds the pupil, and is pigmented to provide the color of the eyes. It contains two muscles varying the size of the pupil (one makes it smaller when it contracts, the other larger) ;

  • cornea : pupil & iris are covered by a glassy transparant external surface, lacking blood vessels and nourished by the fluid behind it, the aqueous humor. It is continuous with the sclera, the "white of the eye", forming the tough wall of the eyeballs ;

  • extraocular muscles : inserted into the sclera, they move the eyeball in the bony orbits of the skull ;

  • conjunctiva : membrane folding back from the inside of the eyelids and attached to the sclera ;

  • retina : a sheet of closely packed visual receptors (ca. 107 cones and 108 rods) at the back of the eyeball, on which an image is formed ;

  • optic nerve : carries axons from the retina and exits the eye at the back, passes through the orbit and reaches the brain at its base, near the pituitary gland.

The conversion of light energy into neuronal activity happens in the retina. The basic flow of light in the retina is from the photoreceptors to bipolar cells to ganglion cells. The only light-sensitive cells in the retina are the photoreceptors, while all other cells are influenced by light via direct or indirect synaptic interactions with these. The ganglion cells are the only source of output from the retina. They alone form action potentials. The actual conversion of electromagnetic radiation into neural signals occurs in the 125 million photoreceptors at the back of the retina. They convert light energy into changes in membrane potential, using biochemical cascade.

influence of light/dark contrast with identical gray

Each cell has four regions : an outer segment, an inner segment, a cell body and a synaptic terminal. Light-sensitive photopigments absorb light and trigger changes in the membrane potential of the photoreceptor. Rod photoreceptors have a long, cylindrical outer segment, while cone photoreceptors have a shorter segment. Rods are 1000 times more sensitive to light, while there are three types of cones, each containing a different pigment, making them sensitive to different wavelenghts of light. Only the cones are responsible for our ability to see color.

The axons of the ca. million ganglion cells travel in the optic nerve. About 10% of this retinofugal projection courses from each eye to the midbrain (the superior colliculus), while most of them innervate the thalamus, and from there go to the primary visual cortex or striate cortex in the occipital lobe (the nonthalamic targets of the optic tract involves about 150.000 neurons). The optic nerves exit the left and right eyes and travel through the fatty tissues behind the eyes and pass through holes in the floor of the skull. These nerves from both eyes form the optic chiasm, which lies at the base of the brain, anterior to where the pituitary gland dangles down.  In this chiasm, optic nerve fibers cross from one side to the other (decussation). Hence, the left visual field is viewed by the right hemisphere and the right visual field is viewed by the left hemisphere. The actual viewing happens in the primary visual cortex.

From the striate cortex, a ventral stream of information projects into the
inferior temporal cortex, where the highest integration of visual function & analysis occurs. This is the end station of a system of recognition of specific and particular shapes and objects of interest, both cognitively as well as emotionally, for interconnected with the amygdala, hippocampus, limbic system and the autonomous nervous system.

06. Naked perception : stimuli & preliminary codation.

"If the doors of perception were cleansed,
every thing will appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up,
till he sees all things thru' narrow chinks of his cavern."
Blake, 1790/2, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

The receptor organs of the sensory system are fed by impulses based on chemical substances, collisions & frictions, air pressures and electromagnetic radiation. These impulses are the first cause of perception, nothing else. Stimuli are the direct, external changes caused by a narrow band of material objects on the surface of the receptor organs of the sensory system.

Molecules alter the chemistry of nose & tongue. The mechanics of stretching & bending triggers somatosensoric responses. Each second, compressed patches of air pass by our ears. Variations in electromagnetic energy stimulates the retina. Take away these stimuli or disable the receptor organs, and perception is either absent, partial or impossible. The receptor organs are the "doors of perception" ...

Without perception, no interpretation of perception and no sensation. To be physically in touch with our environment, evolution provided five doors. Although more may be available (cf. imagination & mind), sense perception is the primary fact of physical experience shared by all humans at birth. It is nominal and the cause of sensate objects.

"Literary or scientific, liberal or specialist, all our education is predominantly verbal and therefore fails to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the Humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else's."
Huxley, 1957, p.59, my italics.

We first smell, taste, touch, hear and/or see (perceive) and then consciously experience odor, taste, feels, sound & light (sense). Throughout the sensory system population coding is used, implementing a threshold for combined action-potentials. This procedure enables broad responses.

Between the moment the receptor organ changes (stimulus) and the actual conscious sensation (response), two levels of interpretation exist : automatic & processed.

  • automatic interpretation from receptor organ to thalamus : evolutionary, biological software integrated in the hardware of the brain, involving transduction, coded relays & reception by thalamus ;

  • processed interpretation from thalamus, primary sensory cortex to prefrontal cortex  : evolutionary software plus userware (volitional & processed), able to change software & influence hardware, calling for the secondary sensory cortex, the association areas, the angular gyrus & the prefrontal cortex.

In each receptor organ, a particular transduction is operational  from, on the one hand, chemical (smell, taste, touch), mechanical (touch, audition) or electromagnetic energy (sight) to, on the other hand, encoded sequences of electric voltages running through neurons and their axons and dendrites.

  • smell : transduction of chemical stimuli (odorants) by temporal coding (the timing of spikes) ;

  • taste  : transduction of chemical stimuli by membrane potential changes, either depolarizing or hyperpolarizing (voltage shift) ;

  • touch : transduction of mechanical and chemical stimuli by membrane potential changes & mechanoreceptors (with mechano-sensitive ion channels ?) ;

  • audition : transduction of mechanical energy by a change in membrane polarization ;

  • sight : transduction of electromagnetic radiation by a change in membrane polarization.

The axons of the olfactory bulbs run through the olfactory tracts and project directly into the olfactory cortex. This happens without passing through the thalamus first, as is the case for taste (gustatory afferent axons), touch (somatosensoric axons), audition (auditory nerve) & sight (optic nerves), projecting into the neocortex by thalamic relay.

Smell is an exceptional sense, able to swiftly trigger massive limbic responses. Indeed, its primary sensory cortex belongs to the primitive cortex, which is part of the limbic brain, the nose brain. Olfactory afferent input and its projection into the primitive regions of the cortex (piriform cortex) is nonthalamic, making smell unique among the senses. This cortex has three layers, the neocortex six. From this old piriform cortex, many connections to many structures in the limbic brain are made.  Many parallel pathways mediate the olfactory functions, such as odor discrimination, emotions, motivation & behaviours from reproduction, feeding to imprinting and memorizing.

The role between odorants and emotional memory (hippocampus) is pertinent. The olfactory system is the outer organ of the play of emotional tensions between inhibiting and exciting. It heralds danger, sexual activity & a feeling of well-being (cf. the role of pheromonal communication between animals). Conscious smelling is mediated by pathways between the medial dorsal nucleus of the thalamus and the prefrontal cortex.

Both transduction & the axonal relay (by way of synapses) as well as the thalamic relay are important automatic interpretations, each altering the code, upgrading it from (1) receptor (from receptor neurons to thalamus) to (2) integrator (thalamus).

It took millions of years for receptor neurons to be able to receive & transduce. This "automatic" level of perception is called "naked" because it touches, so must we think, the absolute (or "Ding-an-sich"). Reality-as-such & ideality-as-such, the Real-Ideal, is onefold and crucial in logic, epistemology, ethics, esthetics & ontology. Naked perception is the truth-core of realism. The latter is methodological ("as if"), not ontological. This means it does not operate as ground, foundation or hypokeimenon of thought, knowledge, goodness & beauty (cf. Chapter 2). By way of method, we accept certain physical stimuli out there cause changes in the receptor organs, effectuating a chain of events relayed, in a coded format, to the thalamus.

Insofar as stimuli cause material changes, transduction causes neuronal information to be relayed to the thalamus.

07. Natural perception :
time, space, integration & projection.

To reach the neocortex and become conscious sensation, all afferent sensory inputs directly (taste, touch, audition, sight) or indirectly (smell) enter the thalamus. The thalamus is the gate, integrator and translator of various inputs processed into a form readable by the neocortex. As a projector, the thalamus relays selectively to various parts of the neocortex, and one thalamic point may reach more than one area of the cerebral cortex.

At the level of the thalamus, reptilian & mammalian software takes over. B
efore entry into the neocortex, this "inner room" or "storeroom" (of a Greek or Roman house) receives the neuronal messages of the five senses. This sensory information is spatio-temporalized, integrated and finally projected into the primary sensory cortex, while the intensity of the flow to and fro the neocortex is monitored and if necessary inhibited.

Through this inhibition, the thalamus rules the flow of sensory (and other neuronal) information to the cerebral (neo)cortex and
acts as a highly state-dependent "reducing valve" or central sensory gate. This is done by the reticular nucleus, a sheet of acetylcholine inhibiting neurons, covering the whole of the dorsal thalamus. This sheet contains nerve cells gathering information from dendrites draping the outer surface of the thalamus, sampling the activity between thalamus and neocortex. Cortical excitatory states descend and excite the reticular nucleus, blocking perception. Brain stem excitatory states ascend and inhibit the nucleus, allowing more sensate messages to flow to through the thalamus into the neocortex.

Higher mammals have a larger pulvinar ("cushion"), the back of the thalamus. In humans, it occupies one quarter of the thalamus and is the essential thalamic counterpart of the sensate association cortex covering the back of the neocortex. Functionally, it seems to make the initial contribution to the process of automatically grasping & holding items in our visual & auditory space or salience. This allows them to become of meaningful interest. So the thalamus also computes our initial level of attention. And there is more : the medial dorsal nucleus assists frontal scenario's, the anterior nucleus brings in sensual gratification, the intralaminar nuclei stimulate, the lateral genicular nucleus "sees", and the reticular nucleus is a shield (Austin, 1998, pp.263 - 274).

This "automatic" level of perception is called "natural" because our brain shares it with all higher mammals. In humans, the thalamus acts not only as a receptor and an integrator-projector, but also as the initiator of a series of higher cortical functions.

The neocortex is never directly informed about the afferent data provided by both naked & natural perception. Conscious sensation is a posthalamic process.

II : The sensuous cortex.

The cerebrum (measuring about 11 m²) is divided into four lobes, situated underneath the corresponding bone of the skull :

  • the frontal bone of the forehead covers the frontal lobe ;

  • the temporal bone (temple) defines the temporal lobe ;

  • the parietal bone (caudal of the central sulcus making the posterior border of the frontal lobe) covers the parietal lobe ;

  • caudal to the parietal lobe, under the occipital bone lies the occipital lobe.

the cerebral lobes
from Bear, Connors & Paradiso, 2001, p.207.

Gray cortical matter is found in the cerebral neocortex, a thin layered sheet of ca. 209 neurons lying just underneath the surface of the cerebrum.

Parameter Value
number of neurons ca.1009
number of cortical neurons ca.209 (*)
surface of neocortex ca.11 m²
connections per neuron ca.1000
cortical synapses ca.240 trillion (*)

(*) Koch, C : Biophysics of Computation, Oxford University Press - New York, 1999, p.87.

In the human, the neocortex is the set of neurons of the cerebrum where sensations, voluntary movement, learning, speech & cognition converge. Here consciousness & the sense of "I-ness" are mediated. It shares several common features with all vertebrate animals :

  • neurons are arranged in layers or sheet, mostly parallel to the surface (the human neocortex has 6 layers) ;

  • the layer closest to the surface is separated from the rest by a zone lacking neurons ;

  • at least one cell layer contains pyramidal cells with large, apical dendrites extending upwards & forming multiple branches ;

  • the cerebral neocortex has a cytoarchitecture distinguishing it from the basal telencephalon. The latter has neuronal structures directly underneath the neocortex. The subcortical networks of this "deep" telencephalon interconnect the neocortex with the diencephalon (differentiates into thalamus & hypothalamus), the limbic system.

Computing all higher order operations is the "nominal" mode of working of the human cerebrum and its specific, bi-modal approach : two hemispheres processing one integrated cerebral activity from two different angles. Abstract thoughts can be thoroughly mediated after the axonal bridge between both, the corpus callosum has been completed (cf. Piaget's "formal-operatoric phase" after the age of 10).

Contrary to the reptilian, mammalian and all other cortical brains on Earth, the neocortex of Homo sapiens sapiens is exceptional in size, wiring & function. Of all mammals, humans have the most "uncommitted cortex" at birth (Penfield, 1975), i.e. fewer neurons with, in their hardware, instinctual patterns built-in. This implies the human brain is made for organic neuroplasticity (the more difficult a task, the more cells process it) and also has great ability to learn and individualize.

The bi-modality of the human
brain is horizontal & vertical.

unique human hemispheral specialization
after Joseph, 1993, p.44

On the horizon, there is the joint project of the two cerebral hemispheres : cerebral activity is called to be an integration of a duality. This is accepting the difference while opening up as many neuronal alleys between the hemispheres (cf. the "concordia discors" of thought - Chapter 2).

Vertically, the neocortex (or upper telencephalon) and the basal telencephalon perform different tasks (note : in left handed people, the directions should be reversed). The basal telencephalon is part of the limbic system. It is essential in the relay of information down from and up to the neocortex and adds "emotional color" to what comes in and goes out. Especially the amygdala play a crucial role in this, while the association of memory & emotion is noteworthy.

  • left hemisphere - neocortex : higher order verbal operations ;

  • left hemisphere - basal telencephalon : emotion/word associations, digital memory ;

  • right hemisphere - neocortex : higher order visuospatial operations ;

  • right hemisphere - basal telencephalon : emotion/imaginal sensations, visual memory.

08. Primary & secondary sensory area :
perception & its cortical processing.

The stretching & bending human body (touch) is constantly afloat in a pool of chemicals (smell & taste), air pressures (hearing) and electromagnetic radiation (sight). The chemical senses (smell & taste) produce odors & tastes, the mechanical senses (touch & audition) feels & sounds and the visual sense transforms radiation into pictures of the world around & outside us. Through them, an experience of the immediate environment becomes possible.

The relay from stimulus to perception seems rather "automatic". Although the inputs of the sensory organs are transduced, then relayed to the thalamus to be finally projected into the neocortex, what enters the cerebrum at any given moment is very likely the coded effect of the state-altering stimuli received. Perception is based on the S-R (Stimulus - Response) format, whereby the same stimulus, in ceteris paribus, causes the same response. In neo-Darwinian logic, these forms are the outcome of the countless "trials & errors" of evolution, eliminating inadequate paths and keeping the fittest. An imperative algorithm is implemented and "somehow" stored in the cells. This is like software permanently encoded on the hardware, reacting in tune with biological and electromagnetic laws.

The research of Kaas (1995) et al. suggest the primordial neocortex (existing to some degree in all living species) consists of three types of cortex, called the "primary sensory cortex", the "secondary sensory cortex" & the "motor cortex". These receive input from the thalamic nuclei relaying data from the basal telencephalon & the cerebellum and send outputs to motor control neurons in the brain stem & spinal cord.

  • primary sensory cortex : receives as first signals from the ascending sensory pathways, relayed by the thalamus and project these into the secondary sensory areas ;

  • secondary sensory cortex : very interconnected with the primary sensory areas, as it were assisting computation ;

  • motor areas : concerned with the control of voluntary movement.

09. The association areas :
to the final integration of perception.

The cortex proceeds by shaping a three stepped "neuronal sensation ladder" :

  • primary sensory area : processing the thalamic projection and the decodation of its information ;

  • secondary sensory area : assisting decodation.

In the human brain, even after assigning primary sensory, secondary sensory, primary motor & secondary motor areas to the neocortex, a considerable amount of bark, particularly in the frontal & temporal lobes, remains : the association areas.

  • association areas : process the recent, human development of the primate cortex, namely the ability to symbolize & interpret in terms of unobservable mental states. Conscious sensation compute here, for sensations are interpreted (reconstructed) perceptions.

In these association areas of the human neocortex, sophisticated processing mediates higher order functions & operators. These areas contain neurons able to "associate" or "gather together" neural states from various parts of the brain, not only the neocortex. Information from the sensory areas, memory systems and the diencephalon (emotional states) is put together and integrated in order to optimalize the possibilities of the nervous system and execute, process, compute, mediate & enhance a conscious sensation of the world. Some of these areas are interconnected with the amygdala, hippocampus, limbic system and the autonomous nervous system.

the functional areas of the human cerebrum
adapted from Bear, Connors & Paradiso, 2001, pp.208 & 642.

Four "association areas" have been discovered :

  • visual association area : inferior temporal cortex : highest integration of visual function & analysis - end station of a system of visual recognition of specific and particular shapes and objects of interest, both cognitively as well as emotionally - interconnected with the amygdala, hippocampus, limbic system (olfactory cortex) and the autonomous nervous system ;

  • spatial association area : posterior parietal cortex : highest integration of analysis and integration of higher-order visual, auditory and somaesthetic (touch & body position) information - three dimensional image of the body in space - distinction between what is at arm's length (bodily sense) and what is further away (the world) - some neurons motivate and guide hand movements, including the grasping of objects within grasping distance ;

  • verbal association area : angular gyrus, at the junction of the posterior-superior temporal and the occipital-parietal lobes : area of the highest integration of all sensory input, with rich interconnections with all other association areas - processes abstract thought and their relation to words (Wernicke & Broca in the left hemisphere) - conceptual comparisons, ordering of opposites, naming of objects, higher logical operations ;

  • volitional association area (also : attention association area) : prefrontal cortex, frontal lobes : receives fibers from all sensory systems (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell), but has few connections with the primary sensory areas - very interconnected with the limbic system (emotional responses), verbal and spatial association area (conceptual thought and egocentric spatiality) - coordinates highly complex movements and is the "seat of the will" for all goal-oriented behaviors, actions and intentions - able to focus on important tasks through redundancy (screening out superfluous input) - planning, imagining, deciding and attention regulation throughout the cerebrum are computed here, but a complete functional picture is far from clear.

The association areas allow us to "experience" in a conscious way, and integrate all higher order functions, such as cognition, affection, volition and consciousness. In the formal & critical modes of thought (cf. Chapter 2), circular consciousness circumambulates a sense of personal identity. At best, this empirical ego is present & attentive of itself and its environment in every cogitation, affection and/or volition. This is the "subject of experience" confronted with an "objective" fact and its extra-mentality (resulting from causes seemingly outside the perimeter of the ego).

Although both subject and object of experience seem unconstructed, the neuronal processing enabling their manifestation betrays a modular sequencing. Insofar as the sensory system is concerned, the association areas bring in a wide range of inputs, from emotional coloration to verbal, spatial, volitional, imaginal regulations. This brings to the fore the constructed, fabricated, mediated, derived, conditioned, assembled, mapped nature of sensation. To express sensation, cognition, affection, volition & consciousness, a wide range of neuronal areas are addressed. Indeed, at the higher levels of the nervous system, neuronal activity is secured by neurons arranged in colonies or modules, making neuronal parsimony highly unlikely.

Eccles (1981, p.361) speaks of "neuronal prodigality", linking the processing of consciousness not with psychoneural identity, but with "reading out from the multitude of active centres at the highest level of brain activity, namely the liaison areas of the dominant cerebral hemisphere. The self-conscious mind selects from these centres according to attention, and from moment to moment integrates its selection to give unity even to the most transient experiences. Furthermore the self-conscious mind acts upon these neural centres modifying the dynamic spatiotemporal patterns of the neural events. Thus we propose that the self-conscious mind exercises a superior interpretative and controlling role upon the neuronal events. A key component of the hypothesis is that the unity of conscious experience is provided by the self-conscious mind and not by the neuronal machinery of the liaison areas of the cerebral hemisphere." (p.362).

Sensation, the final integration of perception, involves interpretation and construction. Sensation is the result of an active modulation of the perceived inputs. Hence, conscious sensation can not do away or eliminate these interpretations, for consciousness does has no direct experience of perceptions, but only of sensations.

An interesting neuronal pathology called "blindsight" makes this very clear. Normally, primary & secondary visual areas are so integrated we are unable to isolate the particular role played by each in our day-to-day visual processing. But when the primary visual cortex is lost, the secondary cortex reveals itself as blindsight.

When patients lack the function of the primary visual cortex on one side of the cerebrum, then their consciousness (mediated by the prefrontal cortex) seems "blind" to events taking place in their visual field on the opposite side. So far nothing special. But this is not the same kind of absolute visual loss as when an eye is gone or the optic nerve is severed. This blindness is relative. For if a moving stimulus is offered to their blind field, then patients point at the target even though unable to consciously see it. In other words, forced to guess about whether a stimulus is present in their blind field, some observers do better than chance. Their secondary visual enables the ability to respond appropriately to visual inputs while lacking the consciousness of having seen them.

The hierarchy at work in the sensory system makes the distinction between perception & sensation pertinent.

10. The angular gyrus : symbol tools.

In the human cerebrum, the angular gyrus and hemispheric specialization are quite unique. Hominoids and other non-human mammals lack an angular gyrus and their artistic, tool-making & symbolic capacities are limited to hammering rock & throwing or manipulating leaves, sticks & twigs (Fedigan, 1992).

The angular gyrus, at the junction of the posterior-superior temporal and the occipital-parietal lobes, is crucial in all constructional tasks, in the control of sequential hand movements, in the manipulation of external objects and internal impressions, but also in naming. Joseph (1982, 2000) evidenced how the evolution of this area allowed humans to engage in complex creative, symbolic and artistic activities. Devoid of this gyrus, humans develop apraxia, the inability to perform tasks involving interrelated steps and sequences.

Besides naming, this gyrus is also involved in word finding and grammatical speech organization, "and is in part an extension of and links Wernicke's with Broca's areas" (Joseph, 1993, p.357).

This is the cortical area of the highest neuronal integration of the perceptions of the five senses. Rich in interconnections with all other association areas, the angular gyrus processes abstract thought  (the "form" of identities & relationships) and their relation to words in terms of speech & the coordination of the making of correct acoustic sounds or phonemes (cf. Wernicke & Broca in the left hemisphere). Conceptual comparisons, ordering of opposites, naming of objects, higher logical operations etc. are mediated by this area. As the verbal association area, this gyrus integrates perception, naming and organizing as well as the production of the spoken word. In humans, perception is used to categorize and talk.

For Joseph, the angular gyrus evolved over the course of the last two millions years and this in parallel with the evolution of handedness and tool technology. Given the relationships between right handedness, the left hemisphere and language, he conjectures speech production also gradually arose over the same period. This explains the explosion of tool-making by the Cro-Magnon, who possessed an angular gyrus and large frontal lobes.

For the Neanderthals, tools were use-specific. Handedness was not yet that developed (in manipulative tasks, they still helped themselves with their mouth). Vocalization probably in its infancy.

"... it is with the evolution of the Cro-Magnon, the angular gyrus and expansions in the frontal lobe which provided the neurological foundations for tool design and construction, the ability to sew and even wear clothes, and the capacity to create art, and pictorial language in the form of drawing, painting, sculpting and engraving. It is the evolution of these tissues which enabled human beings to not only create visual symbols but to talk about them and create verbal and visual symbols in the form of written language and religious imagery."
Joseph, 1993, p.360.

During human evolution, hemispheric specialization was probably a response to the unique demands made by language, speech and tool construction, in short, infusing material media with conscious meaning, enabling a lasting "sediment" or "glyph". Symbolization is glyph-making insofar as the sediment or material carrier or calculator is lasting enough to bridge a new generation of listeners & talkers.

Making & manipulating tools, identifying certain sounds with sensate objects (
naming), as well as grammatical order are all processed in this unique cortical area. This highest neural processor of language & speech (directly related to the areas of Wernicke & Broca), is associated with handedness & tool-making. Talking & listening are the most powerful tool of the Homo sapiens sapiens (cf. the nearness of the auditory cortex).

11. The prefrontal cortex & empirico-formal concepts.

sensory areas / frontal lobe schematics
from Gloor (1997)

The exceptional evolution of the human frontal lobes materialized language (symbolization), tool technology & art. Branched to a wide array of modules, they are the "senior executive" of the brain (Passingham, 1993, Fuster, 1989) and are primary in regard to all aspects of imagination, creativity, speech, language (via Broca's area) and symbolic thinking. In the frontal lobes, the coordination and regulation of attention, individuality, memory and cortical activity is at hand. Intellectual, creative, artistic, symbolic and cognitive processes get executed. They subserve the expression of melodic-emotional and vocabulary-rich grammatical (well-formed) speech. Consciousness and the sense of "I-ness" or personal identity (cf. the first person perspective of reality-for-me) also compute in these frontal lobes.

At this level, conscious sensation, as the experience of a sensate object by the subject, is processed. This sensation is based on what the secondary sensory areas, motor areas, angular gyrus & other areas relay (and not so much on input form the primary sensory areas). Hence, sensation is a highly fabricated phenomenon, sharing characteristics with reptilian and mammalian emotional responses to certain perceptions, i.e. adding interest (brain stem and thalamic valve), emotional coloring (limbic) and, in the case of the human, symbolic interpretation (verbal association area) before conscious experience (prefrontal lobes).

Already in the thalamus, state-sensitive flow-reducing processes are at work, allowing the system to  cancel the "automatic" response of the afferent pathways (from receptor organs to thalamus). These highly complex mechanisms, sensitive to a gentle push, opening & closing major neuronal pathways at a moment's notice, are in number present in the neocortex. Each of these association areas accommodate a particular cortical software, dealing with a modular representation of a set of problem-solving information-items. By constantly interacting (cf. the ongoing, interdependent cortical process) and relaying information to the prefrontal cortex, they allow for a higher order computation of a hierarchy of operations, in casu, of sensory inputs.

Nominal conscious sensation of Homo normalis is the neural product of two vectors : perception & interpretation. The conceptual mind cannot experience an object of sensation without interpretation (identifying, naming, associating, etc.). This is normal and nominal in the waking state. Maybe consciousness is to be "expanded" or "altered" to include what is today only "unconscious" ? Can the liaison brain be more than the frontal lobe of the dominant cortical hemisphere ?

Next to the congenital codation from receptor organs to thalamus (in accord with the S-R model), highly state-dependent cortical networks or modules invite free will (and volition) to alter ongoing procedures (based on the brain's actual & past functioning). Directly influencing the probability-fields of wide populations of neurons (cf. Popper, 1982), consciousness (via the prefrontal cortex ?) may perhaps alter the fabric of the brain itself, if not at least influence it for the better.

Consciousness superimposing probability fields does not violate the physical conservation laws (for m = 0), but, ex hypothesi, co-determines the final momentum of matter & information and this hand in hand with the deterministic evolution of the physically determined vector, either as material states (particles, forces) or material glyphs (material states infused with meaning). Each nondetermined choice needs many sensitive & state-dependent states to influence, alter, modify, etc. the most likely outcome (the automatic result). In a constructive sense, this calls for many nondetermined choices to alter the determined result so all involved may benefit from it. Sensation, the end result of the sensory system, is therefore not automatic, but very user-specific, implying an "internal process". The latter includes consciousness as well as its executive cortical modules.

perception is S-R : S (stimulus) - R (response) model
sensation is S-I-R: S - I (internal process) - R model

Empirico-formal knowledge is a valid (corroborated & consensual), factual, discursive, conceptual & propositional interpretation of perception (cf. Chapter 2). The paradigm of science consists of a system of valid concepts. At the core, a series of axioms are articulated. Great tenacity is displayed not to change them. The closer one comes to the periphery, the more accepted verisimilitude diminishes and statements less display the appearance of truth.

Ideally (Quid Juris ?), scientific truth (a dyad) cannot be absolute truth (a monad), but only the best of relative truth, arrived at by the interplay of experimentation & argumentation (testing & arguing). Scientific knowledge is not eternal, but an interdependent, dynamical display of differences (energies). It is a provisional, conventional, fallible, conforming knowledge, a system of synthetical judgments a posteriori, but the best available today to conceive, grasp, hold, posit, conceptualize, categorize, etc. as true, at least for today. A scientific paradigm is an object of the world of information, the creative sum, mandala or "Gestalt" of material glyphs concerning both the integration of perception (angular gyrus), conscious sensation and individual consciousness, the subject of experience (prefrontal lobes). The way of the conceptual mind is in all cases a "concordia discors", an armed truce of sorts.

Every observation, experience or sensation is theory-dependent. Science, bound to a logic of finitude, cannot step outside itself and eliminate the limitations of its own frame of reference (the heuristic task of metaphysics). In a chaotic situation, fixation, petrification or fossilization are hazardous. The best we can do, as conceptual rationalists, is to let object & subject, testing & arguing go about and at some point judge by way of proposition.

Although sensate experience is a "stream" and not a sequence of static frames, direct observation hic et nunc is ephemeral & anecdotal (individuum est ineffabile). One cannot conceptually hold on to it, it comes, stays a few moments and ceases. By fast repetition, the steady illusion of an identical object is created. In fact, conscious sensation (experience, observation) and its conceptualization (form) are fabricated. In conscious sensation, conceptual frames and perceptions are simultaneous and f
astened (so they cannot be isolated). Conceptualizing sensation, science produces empirico-formal knowledge about sensate objects.

12.  Sensations in epistemology, ethics and esthetics.

Wittgenstein wrote :

"To perceive a complex means to perceive that its constituents are combined in such and such a way. This perhaps explains that the figure can be seen in two ways as a cube ; and all similar phenomena. For we really see two different facts. (If I fix my eyes first on the corners a and only glance at b, a appears in front and b behind, and vice versa.)"
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.5423, my italics.

With "internal process" (I), both sensation & consciousness are targeted. Sensation is the end result of a hierarchy of codes, beginning with transduction and ending as a clear & sustained conscious presence in the face of sensate objects. Sensation is the place where consciousness meets the world "out there". Conscious sensation of "this" object as "that" (volitional association area) is mediated by conceptual thought and the abstract order (verbal association area). The sensory system serves the cortex, offering afferent information to be processed. In particular, sensoric input is processed together with handedness, tool-making, symbolization, audition & speech. This verbal software is connected with all association areas of the cortex. The  prefrontal lobes confirm the presence of these pre-sensate objects to a subject of conscious experience, making them sensate.

In the phrase : "I see You.", the neuronal sequence is reversed. First, there are dynamical visual perceptions of shapes & colors moving from the receptor organs to the thalamus and "named" by way of the angular gyrus ("You"), then this "You" is actually "seen" by a subject of experience ("I"). This seeing and this subject of experience seeing are simultaneous.

"You" "see" "I"
angular gyrus
association area
association area
afferents from receptor organs sensations my

So to consciously observe an object, is to grasp it and hold it before a subject of experience. Sensations are always conscious and they are because resulting from a complex inner process, involving all association areas.

"All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds thence to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason for working up the material of intuition & comprehending it under the highest unity of thought."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B355.

Kant's theory of knowledge is in tune with the neurophilosophy of sensation. First there are perceptions ("Empfindungen", "sinnliche Anschauung" or "Sinnlichkeit") relayed to the thalamus, integrating & spatiotemporalizing them as phenomena ("Erscheinungen"). The latter are projected in the primary sensory cortex to be recognized by the verbal association area and the attention association area as object-knowledge. Kant's categorial scheme, although it does have general characteristics (the neuronal structures of the areas), does not yield synthetic propositions a priori (cf. Kant's acceptance of foundationalism), but a series of conceptualization (of sensations), or perceptions molded in an individual cognitive framework a posteriori. The higher order organization of the mind by reason, is executed by the prefrontal lobes.

Although the pair perception/sensation plays a fundamental role in epistemology, it is not without importance in ethics & esthetics. In both, the need to distinguish between the input of the senses (perception) and the irreducible interpretation of the conceptual mind (sensation) is crucial and calls for a critical analysis of sensation. We cannot accept our sensate information at face value, but distinguish between the "raw" sense-data we are bound to affirm and the elaborate appearance of sensate objects in simple to complex conceptual frameworks.  Although the conceptual mind is unable to eliminate interpretation to witness the absolute data, it can introduce elaborate comparisons and try to integrate information from as many subjects of experience as possible. Insofar as an intersubjective consensus is at hand and sensations are repeated over and over again, the subjective margin may be reduced, although never completely eliminated (the scientific language game has no privileged access to naked perception).

13.  The argument of illusion.

For Shankara (788 - 820), the main representative of Advaita-Vedânta and an important renewer of Hinduism after the success of Buddhism in India, "mâyâ" (deception, illusion, enchanting display) is a universal principle inseparably united with Brahman, the absolute.

As universal ignorance or cosmic illusion, "mâyâ" draws a veil over Brahman and so confuses our vision, making us witness diversity rather than unity. Because of illusion, we consider sensate objects to be separate entities with definite characteristics. Here we are in error, and witness illusion rather than true reality. The origin of ignorance is the superimposition of unreal objective conditions on what is truly at hand (adhyâsa). Moroever, the transfer of an object (a sensate not-I) along with its accidents to the subject (the I), is deemed false knowledge ("avidyâ"), mixing up reality with unreality, incapable of distinguishing transient from intransient and real from unreal. In the famous simile, we fear a coiled snake, while it is only a rope. In the Vedanta, the key is always to discriminate (viveka) between the real (Brahman, the absolute) and the unreal (mâyâ, the relative). This eliminates ignorance.

To take away "avidyâ" brings enlightenment (samâdhi), destroying past & future "karma" (or operational causes). Only the "karma" already bearing fruit, sustaining this present life has not yet vanished. The "jîvanmukta" ("one liberated while still alive"), witnesses how he experiences activities caused by "prârabdha karma" (which can not be prevented), but continuously without mixing up reality.

Critical thought (cf. Chapter 2) also draws a radical distinction between absolute truth and relative truth, between the Real-Ideal (Kant's "Ding-an-sich") and scientific empirico-formal propositions a posteriori. Avoiding dogmatism (the unchangeable yes) & skepticism (the unbreakable no of dogmatic negation), criticism (the open maybe) also steers away from dogmatism or skepticism regarding absolute reality :

  • dogmatic affirmation : absolute truth and conceptual rationality overlap (cf. fideism, idealism, spiritualism, realism, materialism, logical positivism, scientism). There is only the conceptual mode of thought to penetrate the absolute ;

  • skepticism or dogmatic negation :  absolute truth cannot be known (the divide cannot be bridged). There is no mode of thought enabling the recognition of the absolute Real-Ideal.

Universal illusion cannot be identified, for positing "mâyâ" turns it into something particular, contradicting its universality. Neither can we exclude universal illusion by assuming "being" equals "being known in thought", for then we move ad hoc from what we assume to be the case to the affirmation of being as knowable as such (cf. the critique of foundationalism). We assume the mental coincides (represents) the extra-mental and move from this assumption to the affirmation this must be the case. This move is unlogical. Classical metaphysics makes this category mistake (assumptions are not certainties). Metaphysical realism (mind corresponds with reality) and metaphysical idealism (mind makes reality) are extremes to avoid.

Although we must assume facts are the place where conceptual rationality & the absolute coincide, and must think the ultimate consensual correspondence (or Real-Ideal), we cannot eliminate the possibility conceptual rationality is self-deluded and, as an illusion-machine, superimposes its own dual display upon the world it sensates and experiences, living out, as if on stage, its own projections in the "mirror" of the world "out there". In other words, in order for knowledge to be possible, we must suppose the absolute to be knowable, even if this is not the case or only partially so. Indeed, conceptual knowledge could well be illusionary, i.e. altogether different from the Real-Ideal. How can this not humble the true scientist ?

Neurological executants are skilled cortical performers backing this interesting state of affairs. The neurophilosophy of sensation clarifies the difference between perception and sensation. The objects we sensate appear as they do because of our interpretation and, as long as conceptual rationality is at hand, this cannot be put to rest or eliminated. This "interpretation" is not something "added" to perceptions, and, by some method, subtracted. The association areas process the construction in which the sensate objects appear as entities (cluster of events) with accidents (quantity, quality, relation, modality, etc.) and this by a subject of experience. Before they "enter" these areas, they have not been introduced to the overall modular activity of the neocortex, the concert of interpretations with the attention area mediating the will of the conductor. Once this happens, the end relay of perception transforms into sensation, for there is interpretation (fabrication) and a subject of experience facing a sensate object of experience.

S(ensation) = P(erception) . C(onceptual)I(nterpretation), with I ≠ 1.

The argument of illusion can be explained in objective & subjective terms :

  • objective : the subject of experience never faces the totality of changes caused, so we must assume, by particles & forces acting as a constant stream of stimuli on the surface of the receptor organs ; they are unconscious. Only after a series of complex, unconscious alterations (transduction, relays & integration) is the cortex informed (primary sensory area), in its own language, about the perceived states, events, occurrences & objects. But, this thalamic projection, in accord with the language of the cerebrum, into the neocortex is not yet sensation. This it only becomes after the afferent pathways enter the verbal association area, immediately connecting them with the attention association area (while the primary sensory area has few connections with the prefrontal lobes !). Our sensations, because of their irreducible and pertinent interpretative, constructive, conceptual, personal nature, could be a kind of fata morgana or mirage, composed of distorted sensory items. Ambiguity is the least one can say of the direct observation of sensate objects ;

  • subjective :  the most objectifying operator of consciousness, namely cognition or mind, works in various modes. In the ante-rational mode, sensate objects appear in contexts and have no meaning outside these. In rational, conceptual thought, which is formal, critical and creative, the theoretical connotations grasped by the subject of experience make it impossible to witness sensate objects devoid of interpretation. Even if so-called "subjective factors" are reduced or eliminated, it cannot be conceptually known whether a collective mirage is at hand or not. Likewise, in creative thought, the higher Self cannot be designated without its ideas and although a panoramic view is established, at best, observation is but the view of one individual own-Self. Finally, although nondual thought recognizes the nature of mind directly and hence moves beyond interpretation, its wisdom is non-verbal and/or poetical and shows in what is done & not done (cf. Does the Divine exist ?, 2005, Behaviours, 2006 & Intelligent Wisdom, 2007).

A last word about unsubstantiality, the lack of inherent existence or "substance", i.e. "sensate objects" existing in and for themselves. If sensation is fabricated perception, then clearly the category of "substance" refers to the mental habit of attributing "eternal" states to sensate objects, for perceptions are a flowing stream of impressions, not fixed objects existing solidly in and of themselves, from their own side. This "nature" of things is therefore a conventional halting of the ongoing stream of changes which is totally dependent of a decision ad hoc by some subject of experience or a community of such subjects. Paradigm paralysis is precisely the inablility of the scientific community to reckon the spatiotemporality of perception and sensation. Of course, conceptually, we must assume "something" causes perception, but in fact this is probably only a stream of differential inputs, (vector) products of differences or energies.


Because decontextualized, the empirico-formal knowledge of science is not iconical but formal. Beyond ante-rational thought, it is not bound to images and their particularized, concrete conceptualization (as in proto-rationality).

The rational cognitive activity of science is critical and pursues the sustained production of knowledge (cf. Chapter 2).

nondual symbol-of-no-symbol natural light
of mind
creative in-between
symbol & meta-symbol
threshold between rationality & meta-rationality
critical meta-symbol transcendental ego
formal symbol empirical ego
threshold between rationality & ante-rationality


icon imitations



threshold between reason and the irrational
myth signal libido

To experiment and to argue about propositions positing connections between phenomena, i.e. to test a proposed hypothesis, scientists rely on sensate & mental objects. The empirico-formal propositions of strict science are mental objects representing facts, and the latter refer to sensate objects.

Sensate objects depend on, so we must think, perception and the five senses. Sensate objects are however problematic. The architecture of the physical process of perception betrays multiple "translations" of the original stimuli. Even if the natural, "automatic" processes are isolated, the impact of the posthalamic projections remains huge on the final result and necessary to compute conscious awareness of sensate objects. The impact of interpretation on perception can therefore not be overlooked. Not only because it is so vast, but also because it cannot be taken away without stopping conceptuality, leaving the domain of possible symbolisation (as in nondual cognition).

(1) A sensate object is a direct conscious experience derived from a P(erception) based on a sensory system and its receptor organs ;
(2) S(ensation) is being presently conscious of a sensate object
as it is experienced (grasped, designated, imputed, posited, possessed, etc.) by a subject of experience ;
(3) S = P(erception) X C(onceptual)I(nterpretation) ;
(4) Nominally, CI ≠ 0, referring to sentience ;
(5) CI is a conceptual display of the natural state of the mind ;
(6) Hypothesis : insofar the luminous emptiness of the mind is perceived, CI = 1 and S = P ;
(7) but devoid of Mental objects there is nothing to name.

Humans are equipped to perceive only a fragment of the physical world. The sensate world is an interpreted codification of the perceived world. The conventional world we experience is not what it seems. For example, although co-constituted by conceptual interpretation, it truly seems independent from the empirical ego. Like the objective causes making the Moon seem very big, this illusion is not eliminated once discovered. While we may understand "reality" is not what it seems, we behave as if it is precisely as it looks. Fooling ourselves, we turn fiction into our realities (idealities).

Although words seem to refer to stable entities "outside there" or "in here", anything we name for the sake of efficiency and conventional, worldly reasons, cannot be found. Only a vast functional interdependence between aggregates of phenomena can be identified.

Mental objects are intra-mental and differ from sensate objects. Although linked with sensation, they can be present in the absence of sensoric input (cf. sensoric deprivation).

Mental objects are complex theoretical symbolical constructs of the mind. They have action, feeling, thoughts, sensate objects or conscious awareness as direct causes. Even articulated in a formal language, as in science, these constructs are part of a community of sign-interpreters. The mental objects of science are intersubjective.

Finally, the argument of illusion.

Knowing things seem what they are not, consider we live in something resembling a dream. For sure, this differs from dreams, but can it be regarded as existing from its own side, as it appear ? If we accept, for the sake of argument, perception as the basis of designating sensate objects, then these objects are the product of this basis and the conceptual interpretation.

As sensate objects appear insofar perception & interpretation are simultaneous, the stability, permanence or substantiality of the sensate world is open to doubt. The flexibility or plasticity of Nature is dreamlike. The sensate world appears to be a stable object, but under analysis fails to reveal substance or sufficient ground. It appears as existing on its own, independent of subjects possessing it. It kicks & kicks back (Popper). It has tenacity (Oger). These are however only functional states, themselves constantly arising, abiding & ceasing. In fact, if there were substances, they would not be able to communicate. Once interconnected, there is no longer isolation, own-Self or any sense of being from its own side. Substance is process.

An ultimate substance is not found. A stable sensate object cannot be identified. Although there is a regularity in Nature, thinking it unveils the mechanism of mind and vice versa. No groundless ground arises.

If the conventional world of sensate and mental objects is not what it seems, namely a stable world-order composed of substances interacting with each other, then like dreams, it may be called illusionary. This implies our faith in the guarantees offered by the facts is unwarranted. Critical vigilance is ongoing.

To nondual cognition to eliminate these paradoxes.

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Chapter 5

A Philosophy of the Mind and Its Brain

against materialism & spiritualism
in defence of nondualistic interactionism
case study : the power of suggestion

"Mentality is a real and autonomous feature of our world".
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"Philosophy must therefore assume that no true contradiction will be found between freedom and natural necessity in the same human actions, for it cannot give up the idea of nature any more than that of freedom."
Kant, I. : Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, 3:56.

"Observations not only disturb what is to be measured, they produce it."
Jordan Pascual, quoted in Rosenblum & Kuttner, 2006, p.103.

"Although our minds may be essential to the realization of a particular reality, we cannot know or decide in advance what the result of a quantum measurement will be. We cannot choose what kind of reality we could like to perceive beyond choosing the measurement eigenstates. In this interpretation of quantum measurement, our only influence over matter is to make it real."
Baggot, 2004, p.256, my italics.

"All things work together."
Hippocrates : De Alimento, 4.

"The many become one, and are increased by one."
Whitehead, A.N. : Process & Reality, § 32.

The problem, therefore, is not merely that science is being used illegitimately to promote a materialistic worldview, but that this worldview is actively undermining scientific inquiry, leading to incorrect and unsupported conclusions about biological and cosmological origins."

Beauregard, M. & O'Leary, D. : The Spiritual Brain, HarperOne - New York, 2007, p.27.

Table of Contents



I : Beyond Materialism & Spiritualism.

1. The Epistemology of Materialism.

1.1 Reduction of the Subject of Knowledge.
1.2 The Naive Inflation of the Real.
1.3 Prospective Materialism.

2. The Metaphysics of Materialism.

2.1 Greek Atomism.
2.2 Objectifying Essentialism.
2.3 Newtonian Physicalism.

3. The Criticism of Materialism.

3.1 Criticism of Observation.
3.2 Criticism of Common Sense Realism.
3.3 Criticism of Materialist Dogmatism.

4. The Epistemology of Spiritualism.

4.1 Reduction of the Object of Knowledge.
4.2 The Naive Inflation of the Ideal.
4.3 Spiritual Obscurantism.

5. The Metaphysics of Spiritualism.

5.1 Greek Pythagorism & Platonism.
5.2 Subjectifying Essentialism.
5.3 Monarchic Transcendence.

6. The Criticism of Spiritualism.

6.1 Criticism of Personal Experience.
6.2 Criticism of Fideist Idealism.
6.3 Criticism of Spiritualist Dogmatism.

7. An Ontology b
eyond Materialism & Spiritualism.

7.1 Criticism : Cutting-Through Appearances.
7.2 Ontology : Panexperiential Occasionalism.
7.3 Functional Domains of Explanation.

II : The Mind/Body Problem.

8. Positions.

8.1 Ancient Egyptian Shamanism : Hylic Pluralism.
8.2 Platonic Dualism & Peripatetic Hylemorphism.
8.3 Cartesian Interactionism.
8.4 Occasionalism.
8.5 Psycho-Physical Parallelism and Panpsychism.
8.6 Physicalism : Analytical Behaviourism and Identity or Central State Theory.
8.7 Eliminativism, Epiphenomenalism and Behaviourism.
8.8 Functionalism.
8.9 Anomalous Monism, Supervenient Emergentism.
8.10 Panexperientalism.

9. Functional Interactionism.

9.1 Solving the Mind/Body Problem ?
9.2 A Triadic Model of What Works.
9.3 How Brain-Mind Interaction Happens.
9.4 The Endlessness of Brain and Mind.

10. Suggestology.

10.1 The Power of Suggestion.
10.2 Spiritual Paths of Suggestion ?
10.3 Aqua Magica : Healing with Dyed Water.

Epilogue : Taking Our Own Power Seriously.

Suggested Reading


"Our reasonings are grounded upon two great principles, that of contradiction, in virtue of which we judge false that which involves a contradiction, and true that which is opposed or contradictory to the false. And that of sufficient reason, in virtue of which we hold that there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason, why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us."
Leibniz, G.W. : Monadology, §§ 31-32, my italics.

In the ontological assumption of naturalism, the world (all possible events) or "Nature" is a single all-embracing spatio-temporal system. Being quasi-determinist and self-enclosed, all events are probabilistically determined solely by other events in Nature, not by an absolute "hypokeimenon" ontologically transcending it.

Until recently, and starting with the Greeks, naturalism was mostly essentialist and concept-realist. Objects had a substantial ground, base or foundation. Concepts conveyed absolute reality. Substance denoted whatever remained identical with itself, i.e. a thing depending upon nothing else for its existence than itself. Conceptual thought had direct access to this ultimate reality, either by remembering ("anamnesis" - Plato) or by abstracting ("intellectus agens" - Aristotle).

Designating one (ontological monism), two (metaphysical dualism) or more (metaphysical pluralism) foundational substances did not alter the view of Nature as consisting of entities inherently possessing their properties from their own side. When this essentialism, to explain Nature as a whole, posited a supreme "substance of substances", it either viewed it as transcending the world (cf. a supreme idea of ideas or an Unmoved Mover) or identical with it (cf. the Stoic "pneuma"). But the notion these sufficient ground existed by its own right, without the need besides itself, remained. In the Greek mind, isolated objects were more important than connected ones. This Olympic mind fed substantialism. Process naturalism eliminates it.

Indeed, with the advent of quantum mechanics, this substance-like view, mostly coupled with a strict causal determinism, was replaced by a process-like view, one embracing relativity, probabilism and a whole spectrum of law-like determinations (like neo-causality, interactionism, holistic determination, etc.). In this non-essentialist approach, all phenomena are impermanent events, arising, abiding & ceasing. Caught in an endless process of ongoing creative becoming, they do not possess an unchanging, self-identical core in and of themselves. Interconnected with all other phenomena, each event is devoid of own-nature, i.e. empty of an essence exclusively attributed to it, characterizing and distinguishing it from all other events in an unchanging, eternalizing way (cf. Emptiness, 2008 & Ultimate Logic, 2009). Things are what they do, not what remains after eliminating the accidents.

The objects of Nature are no longer characterized as substances (or self-powered entities, properties or states), but as processes (P) which go the way of occasions (o1, o2, ... om). Every existing object A or A is characterized by a set of occasions O = {oA1, ... oAm} making A unique. This set constitutes the occasion-continuum of A. Everything outside the occasion-horizon of A does not constitute A. Of course, certain occasions constituting A may also constitute B, while the occasion-continuum of each A remains unique.

Can we do more than accept ox as a logical primitive, a given ? Following Whitehead (1861 - 1947) and his "quantum ontology" :

(a) occasion o
x, an instance of the set of occasions O = {o1, ... om}, is an atomic & momentary actuality characterized by "extensiveness" ;
event e
x, an instance of the set of events E = {e1, ... en}, is the nexus of occasions, and
entity en
x, an instance of the set of entities En = {en1, ... enp}, is the nexus of events, while "entity" and "object" are synonymous.

"The core issue for both Whiteheadian process and quantum process is the emergence of the discrete from the continuous."
Stapp, 2007, p.88.

Entities and events are occasions interrelated in a determining way in one extensive continuum, and an actual occasion is a limiting type of an event with only one member.
Nature is built up of occasions. Events are aggregates or compounds of occasions. Entities are aggregates or compounds of events.

Extensiveness is what occasions
x have in common. This extensive plenum of the continuum of each occasion can be :

(a) spatial : as in the case of geometrical objects ;
(b) temporal : as in the case of the duration of mental objects ;
(c) spatio-temporal : as in the case of the endurance of sensate objects.

Mentality, besides materiality, is an autonomous feature of Nature, one interconnected with matter and information. To comfortably argue the point, one needs to back how the non-material, non-corporeal, non-physical aspects of Nature interact with (co-determine change in) the material operator of spatio-temporal systems composed of occasions, each having material, informational and self-determinative features.

The proposed naturalism is therefore not a materialist naturalism. Neither is it a spiritualist naturalism. Both half-truths are rejected. It stays within the order of Nature, introduces no "transcendent significant" (Derrida), posits no transcendent, constitutive idea beyond the series of natural determinations (Kant) ; not on the side of the material, nor on the side of the non-material operators of Nature, namely information & consciousness. If a supreme "logos" is considered, then merely as an immanent architect, but not as a transcendent creator. Rather a subtle fire than a transcendent spirit, a Caesar of sorts overtowering Nature (monotheism). Valid metaphysics is necessarily immanent. Transcendent metaphysics and its poetry, being non-conceptual and nondual, is, while influencing the subject of experience, ineffable in an excellent & exemplary way. Hence, although transcendence is not rejected and may be cognized, it is deemed non-conceptual, nondual & ineffable.

Materialism is a form of naturalism whereby the spatio-temporal system is identified with matter only, precluding other possible factors or operators within Nature (like the mind). Ontological materialism posits matter as a substance, while process materialism rejects occasions feature anything else besides matter (the latter is merely a logical possibility, for process thought promotes a physico-mental view).

We must distinguish between classical materialism (Democritus, Leucippus, Lucretius, Hobbes, Gassendi) and contemporary materialism. For classical materialism and its essentialism, Nature is nothing but collections of self-contained, indivisible atoms in the void. In the XVIIth century materialism became a form of mechanism. Nature as a gigantic clockwork. The language to describe this became more and more logical & mathematical. Material entities were viewed as solid, inert, impenetrable, conserved, substantial objects, possessing their properties from their own side (inherently) and isolated from other material occasions, events & entities. This own-nature could be conceptually known. These ideas became the cornerstones of the Newtonian worldview. Classical materialism has been proven wrong. Contemporary physics promotes process (not substance), discontinuity (Planck), relativity (Einstein), wave-collapse (Bohr, von Neumann, Schrödinger) and interdependence (Bell). Hence, adjacent materialism holds the view the single material, empirical operator is what a true & complete physical science says about it. This form is called "physicalism".

Physicalism or behaviourism is a materialist form of naturalism claiming all occasions, events, entities, processes, properties, relations and facts are those studied by physics or other physical sciences. The latter are considered to be able "in principle" to develop suitable bridge concepts linking its vocabulary to chemistry and molecular biology, entailing credible approximations of all their established laws. Physicalism is not necessarily essentialist, as functionalism shows. But in all cases, only material occasions are accepted as the fundamental building blocks of Nature.

operator/ontology essentialism process
matter materialism
non-material classical
all stuff hylic pluralism panexperientialism

This table compares, in the context of naturalism, the kind of stuff introduced (material, non-material or both) with the ontology at hand (accepting substances as in essentialism or not, as in process thinking). Let us review these six monisms :

● classical materialism accepts substances (things existing from their own side, possessing inherent nature) and posits a monism : only matter is the fundamental stuff. Contemporary physicalism corrects this : only physical realities as given by physics are the sufficient ground of Nature. The physical universe is mechanical, gravitational, thermo-dynamical, electromagnetic, relativistic and quantummechanical ;
●  functionalism thinks relationships and so process, change, transformation, but only in terms of what physics has to say. It endorses physicalism and so monism, without accepting essentialism. Non-substantiality or the absence of autarchic, self-powered material monads embraces process, grasped as a dynamical system of functions and interdependent factors, whereas essentialism fixates and eternalizes ;
● classical spiritualism accepts the "substance of substances" (a point at infinity within or without Nature). This actual infinity is the ultimate substance the human mind is able to cognize. Hence, absolute knowledge is possible, for "revealed" to the absolute mind. Matter is created by spirit. Also here a single sufficient ground is conjectured ;
● in the Mind-Only school ("Cittamâtra") of Buddhism (cf. the Yogâcârin School, "practice of yoga school"), absence of inherent existence is acknowledged except for the absolute mind. All phenomena are other-powered, i.e. dependent on conditions & determinations outside them, but the absence or lack of duality between perceiving subject and perceived object is taken to have own-nature ("svabhâva"). Except for the absolute mind, all is other-powered. All phenomena are merely manifestations of this monadic absolute mind ;
● hylic pluralism posits a multitude of substances, a hierarchy organized in static ontological levels (planes, worlds), with at the bottom the coarsest forms of matter and at the top the most refined forms of spirit. Matter is a materialized spirit and spirit spiritualized matter. A single ontological ladder unfolds, a "scala perfectionis" or universal "Tree of Life". While all beings form one continuum, the differences between them is relative ;
● for panexperientialism, espousing process and pluralism, each actual accasion has various aspects or attributes, like matter, information & consciousness. These phenomena or domains are organically organized in ontological strata. All phenomena are made up of occasions, the building-blocks of the organic dynamism of Nature. Because each occasion is executive (hardware), informational (software) and to a degree participatory (userware), it shapes novelty and is an individual. Occasions always interconnect and become events and entities. Thus individualized societies and non-individualized compounds arise. Human consciousness allows for an inner life and conscious experience, manifesting a high degree of freedom and choice.

"The panexperientialist philosophy (...) says that individuals at every level have their own power, so that, although much of the power of the atom is found in its subatomic particles, the atom as a centered whole has power that is not reducible to that of its parts. The same is said of, for example, ordinary molecules, macromolecules, cells, and animals, with the power of the animal as a whole being that of its soul."
Griffin, 1997, p.147.

Applying the last position to neurophilosophy, I argue interactionism hand in hand with monism. The brain is a spatiotemporal material entity, defined by space, time, mass, force, etc. Adding the perspective of organization, it is a compound of matter (hardware) computing code or information (software) attended by the conscious mind (consciousness) or not (unconscious). The human mind (and in a lesser degree the mind of all higher primates) is an extraordinary society of occasions, a temporal, mental entity, determined by sensations, volitions, affects, thoughts & (self) consciousness, a cognizing awareness, capable of solving problems by operating signals, icons and symbols in a well-ordered way, a intentional, percipient participator, a meaningful conscious choice, a wave-collapsing observator, etc. The human mind interacts with the body and its information precisely because, on the most fundamental level, it is not made out of ontologically different "stuff" than the brain. Neuronal events are occasions. Mental intentions are also occasions. That distinct logics accommodate the distinctness between these occasions is clear. But this does not necessarily implies there is an ontological difference (another kind of being, made of different stuff). The key to this interactionism ? All occasions are material, informational & sentient.

Given brain and mind, the central question is how to relate both ? Let us first touch a few logical, epistemological, ontological, physical, phenomenological & ethical issues involved here.


What about the pivotal difference between a monist or a non-monist central axiom ?

Monist logics privilege a single principle or monad. Examples are materialism & spiritualism. The latter understand matter as the lowest degree of spirit, while for the former spiritual activity emerges out of matter. Panexperientialism discovers a deeper layer, for both material (physical) and non-material (non-physical) things are occasions. An occasion is an extensive atomic & momentary actuality caught in process.

Non-monists logics always introduce more than one fundamental ontological principle (a duality, triplicity, quaternio, etc.). Duality, with its powerful reflective capacities, introduces otherness. This is a first step outside the monadic & monarchic continuum, adding alteriority as a new unity. But herein lies the weakness of dual systems : now two principles are generated. How to reconcile their ontological difference in a single Nature ? How can they interact, and if they do, how ? The power of duality is felt in epistemology. Reflection on the structure of thought itself reveals a binary structure, erected on the principles of the transcendental logic of thought itself, the norms of valid empirico-formal propositions and the maxims of an efficient production of knowledge (cf. Clearings, 2006 & Criticosynthesis, 2008). A trinity of factors brings in the first logical closure, and by adding a third principle, duality is not longer "locked" in singular division, no longer the nature morte of the "dead bones" of formal logic, but indeed becomes an "unlocked", plural process capable of thinking the manifold. In many ways, triadism is equipped to deal with manifolds.

Applied to neurophilosophy, monadic logics, like those used in materialist neuroscience, affirm the material brain to be the single last principle. All other operators (like information & consciousness) end when the brain dies. A contrario, spiritual systems will think the brain as materialized spirit, and affirm the "spiritual core" of the mind is the single last principle. Introducing a tertium comparationis, we may apprehend the brain as the executive computer (hardware) processing mental objects (as software) attended or non-attended by conscious choice (userware). These operators are at work on a cosmic level, as well as each and every occasion.

For the monist, the validity of the first principle must be argued well. Can everything be explained by the privileged monad ("matter" in materialism, "spirit" in spiritualism, "occasions" in process thinking) ? If so, then by Ockham's Razor we keep it simple. But if a single case can be found where the principle does not apply, then a forteriori monism is wrong. For the non-monist, in particular the essentialist, the validity of the interaction between ontologically different principles must be strongly backed. How, in this case, can this material brain interact with the distinct and different non-material mind (and thus experience a non-cerebral impact) ?

Logically, monism coupled with essentialism has difficulty explaining the manifold, its multiplicity, variety, differentiation, complexity, richness & interconnectedness. A single static factor lies at the heart of this approach. So certain aspects of the manifold (of Nature) cannot be explained. One either accepts the combination to be a failure or one continues to try to explain the manifold anyway. The combination fails because of essentialism. Thinking a single dynamic factor solves many of the problems. In the West, process-monism is rather recent. Although we find traces of it in Greek philosophy (Heraclites) and a first draught in Leibniz, elaborated by Whitehead.

Logically, substantialism (essentialism) should be avoided. From functionalism we integrate the interconnectedness between phenomena. But not in the exclusive sense of materialist functionalism. There may be other aspects of the same thing also working functionally. Idealist solutions (like Mind-Only) cannot be reconciled with how matter behaves. Panexperientialism couples process with a pluralist view on the distinctness of occasions (not their ontological difference !), embracing, in principle, endless distinguishing attributes, aspects or operators, but reducing these to the three known to function today : matter (hardware), information (software) and consciousness (userware). Regarding the latter, the crucial distinction between consciousness per se and human conscious experience (or inner life) should not be missed. On this planet, the human mind is an extraordinary continuum of occasions, the only one capable of featuring inner life & conscious experience. A single occasion evidences the smallest possible degree of sentience.


Epistemology answers two questions : How is valid knowledge possible ? and How can knowledge be produced ? The first question brings in two disciplines : transcendental logic, uncovering the logical structure of conceptual thought itself, and theoretical epistemology or theory of knowledge, unveiling the normative structure of empirico-formal knowledge and its validation. How a particular research-cell produces such knowledge is summarized by the maxims of applied epistemology. Together, this trinity of factors covers the rationale of valid conceptual knowledge and its production.

Neurophilosophy makes use of the epistemological study of sensation, explaining how sensate objects arise. How do we sensuously perceive, interpret & sensate our outer environment, and what is the role of this in the validity of our knowledge ? This calls for the difference between "naked" and "natural" perception.

Let us consider naked perception first. The receptor organs of the sensory system are fed by impulses based on chemical substances (smell, taste), collisions & frictions (touch), air pressures (audition) and electromagnetic radiation (vision). These impulses are the first cause of perception, nothing else. Stimuli are the direct, external changes caused by a narrow band of material objects on the surface of the receptor organs of the sensory system. This perception is called "naked", because we must assume a direct influence of the outer physical world on the sensitive surfaces of the receptor organs. These organs effectuate a decisive transformation of the signal (called "transduction").

Indeed, in each receptor organ, this transduction is operational  from, on the one hand, chemical (smell, taste, touch), mechanical (touch, audition) or electromagnetic energy (sight) to, on the other hand, encoded sequences of electric voltages running through neurons and their axons and dendrites :

  • smell : transduction of chemical stimuli (odorants) by temporal coding (the timing of spikes) ;

  • taste  : transduction of chemical stimuli by membrane potential changes, either depolarizing or hyperpolarizing (voltage shift) ;

  • touch : transduction of mechanical and chemical stimuli by membrane potential changes & mechanoreceptors (with mechano-sensitive ion channels ?) ;

  • audition : transduction of mechanical energy by a change in membrane polarization ;

  • sight : transduction of electromagnetic radiation by a change in membrane polarization.

This transduction implies an automatic interpretation from receptor organ to thalamus. To do so, evolutionary, biological software is present. This is integrated (a) in the hardware of the receptor organ (transduction), (b) in the peripheral nervous system (coded relays) and (c) in the brain (thalamus).

Natural perception happens at the level of the thalamus, where reptilian & mammalian software takes over. Before entry into the neocortex, this "inner room" or "storeroom" (of a Greek or Roman house) receives the neuronal messages of the five senses. This sensory information is spatio-temporalized, integrated and finally projected into the primary sensory cortex, while the intensity of the flow to and fro the neocortex is monitored and if necessary inhibited. This "automatic" level of perception is called "natural" because our brain shares it with all higher mammals. In humans, the thalamus acts not only as a receptor and an integrator-projector, but also as the initiator of a series of higher cortical functions.

Finally, when all this information is projected in the neocortex by the thalamus, the last level of interpretation occurs, and this one is not automatic. Sensation, the final integration of perception, involves interpretation and construction. Sensation is the result of an active modulation of the perceived inputs. Not only the projected is computed & recomputed, but associated with all known neuronal networks and finally synthesized, labelled & named. Hence, conscious sensation can not do away or eliminate these interpretations, for consciousness has no direct experience of perceptions, but only of sensations.

S(ensation) = P(erception) . I(nterpretation), with I ≠ 1.

The neurophilosophy of sensation clarifies the difference between perception and sensation. The objects we sensate appear as they do because of our interpretation and, as long as conceptual rationality is at hand, this cannot be put to rest or eliminated. This "interpretation" is not something "added" to perceptions, a thing, by some method, to be subtracted. The association areas of the neocortex (receiving the data projected by the thalamus) process the construction in which the sensate objects appear as entities (cluster of events) with accidents (names & labels such as quantity, quality, relation, modality, etc.), i.e. as sensate objects possessed by a subject of experience. Before they "enter" these areas, they have not yet been introduced to the overall modular activity of the neocortex, the concert of interpretations with an attention area mediating the will of the conductor, the pilot, the swimmer, the conscious self. Once this happens, the end relay of perception transforms into sensation and its objects. And with them there is always interpretation (fabrication, naming, labelling) and a subject of experience facing & possessing sensate objects of experience.

These epistemological considerations on perception bring to bare how naive realism, the cornerstone of essentialist materialism, positing the identity between perception and sensation or the reducibility of interpretation is flawed. We have no direct access to any sense datum. It also shows how spiritualism, claiming the mind creates its objects, cannot be reconciled with the fact all sensation is rooted in naked & natural perception, i.e. the recording of something stimulating ...


The metaphysical study of existence or ontology asks  : What is the sufficient ground of all things ? and What kind of things are there in existence ? For the monist, there is only one sufficient ground allowing for various, distinct kind of things. Distinguishing objects does not lead to designating another sufficient ground.

The possibilities of cognition itself determine what can be known. In the past, the view determining how knowledge is possible & how it can be increased was rooted in the sufficient ground given by ontology. Materialism claimed the real to be this "hypokeimenon", while spiritualism affirmed it was the ideal. Hence, the possibilities of cognition were determined by an ontological choice made ad hoc. Criticism has done away with this, showing how epistemology is a normative discipline, not one based on a metaphysical description of the world. It benefits ontology, before engaging in any kind of speculation about the fundamental nature of objects, to first consider the two principles of transcendental logic, namely the division between the transcendental object and the transcendental subject of all possible thought.

Let us consider a few materialist (realist) tenets without the restrictions imposed by transcendental logic.

1. Physical reality is the only reality.
2. Physical reality originates from totally impersonal natural forces.
3. This reality functions without the intervention of any immaterial force of any kind.
4. Life & consciousness emerge in the material universe purely by accident.
5. Every typical "human" feature is determined solely by what happens in the body, in particular the brain, and forces acting on it from the physical environment.
6. When the body dies, consciousness dies.

Applying the principles of transcendental logic, this set of ideas cannot be accepted for the following reasons :

1. Because all possible thought happens in the dynamism between an object of knowledge and a subject of knowledge, the statement only physical reality exists involves a "contradiction in actu exercito", for the subjectivity or community of subjectivities making the statement are kept out of the equation when it is uttered. Like somebody closing a door and saying "the door is open", a logical error is at hand. As there is no "Archimedic point" outside the "concordia discors", or the domain of the interaction between object & subject of thought, one simply cannot make such a statement. Indeed, it presupposes an absolute view, one no thinker is logically and practically able to assume.

The alternative ? Logic forces us to assume both object & subject.

2. Again, how does one know "totally impersonal forces" are at hand ? The same counter-argument works. But there is more. Lots of recent sciences (like cultural anthropology, observational psychology & physics) posit an intimate connection between observer and observed, destroying the "strong" statement physical reality only originated from impersonal forces, i.e. exists without any interference from the side of subjectivity.  Reality operates physical & non-physical entities.

"To perceive a complex means to perceive that its constituents are combined in such and such a way. This perhaps explains that the figure can be seen in two ways as a cube ; and all similar phenomena. For we really see two different facts. (If I fix my eyes first on the corners a and only glance at b, a appears in front and b behind, and vice versa.)"
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.5423, my italics.

3. Is the act of observation by itself a material force ? If it were, then it would be possible to describe this act in purely public terms, i.e. exclusively using a third-person language of some kind. But this is not the case. In fact, as the famous "cube" of Wittgenstein (a Gestalt switch) shows, here attention defines observation, and the structure of "my" or "your" attention must contain private indexicals to describe it. If it contains a single private indexical (and in fact it contains more), then one cannot say all observation is purely public and therefore purely physical.

4. Hoyle (1986) concludes random events and change occurrences are insufficient to account for the complexity of living organisms. He compared this chance with the event the junk pieces of a Boeing 747 would completely reassemble by a single gust of wind ! So, we can either choose to investigate the possibility of natural higher-order at work in the universe or believe in the ongoing mathematical miracles of a blind nature morte. Likewise, Maxwell (1831 - 1879) pointed out the contrast between the evolution of species, featuring biological changeability, and the existence of identical building blocks for all observed actual physical entities. Calculate the odds of spontaneous emergence, given the effectiveness of Newton's laws on the mesolevel (the inverse-square law of gravity being optimal for the becoming of the Solar system), our knowledge of what happens in stars (in particular the production of carbon and oxygen) and the cosmology of the Big Bang ! Doing so, a choice has to be made between either a (natural) intelligent design (which does not necessarily imply creationism of any kind) or a monstrous random and blind sequence of accidents producing a gigantic complexity, which seems rather unlikely. Finally, although mathematically, the equations of physics, representing the fundamental architecture of the order of the physical world, also produce outcomes when other quantities of the same natural constants are put in, the world would be lifeless and barren (instead of a haven for incredible complexity) if even a small amount of these values would be changed. This points to the weak anthropic principle : life & consciousness were pre-planned to emerge and the physical world accommodated this.

5. This positions can be attacked by the same logic used above. Human consciousness, intention, intimacy, personal life, "reality-for-me", the first-person perspective etc. all involve private indexicals, i.e. words referring to components of mental states. They imply a special ostensive definition featuring private access only. Moreover, they are completely defined by other words alone and thus private ostension is coupled with semantic isolation. Indeed, these are the only words available to talk about human sentient experience. Hence, unless a human being has actually experienced the referent of one or more private indexical, no understanding of it is possible. The brain however, is described by public indexicals. They too are always definable by description, but never completely by other words alone. Their description requires a normal ostensive definition, i.e. a verbalization including at least one non-private component. Hence, they can be intersubjectively validated, while private indexicals only privately.

This is the symmetry-problem handicapping the reduction of mind to brain. For if mind is fundamentally only brain, then nothing belonging to mind should not belong to brain. If a single instance of mind can be found which cannot be reduced to or be made to "emerge" from brain, then mind involves another distinct (not different) working principle than matter and the brain. And this is precisely the case. Mind is private, brain is public and any reduction is henceforth problematic. Moreover, besides this lack of symmetry between brain and mind, there is a semantic problem. The "meaning" derived from brain is a manifold or plurality, while the mind cannot be apprehended without some experience of unity, of a plurality brought to unity and conscious of itself as a unity. This distinctness points to the presence of at least two ontological operators or aspects, not only one.

6. Of course, if "mind" is but another word, function, secretion or emergent property of matter, then the demise of the manifold defined as "brain" is also the end of the mind and its conscious apprehension of itself. In that case, volition, emotion, thought & (self) consciousness disappear when the lifespan of the brain is exhausted. The mind stops being secreted or determined by the dead brain, and so, mutatis mutandis, the mind stops being mind. If however, the case can be made brain and mind belong to two different sets, worlds, aspects or operators of the same universal occasion-continuum of Nature, then another situation may be at hand. The elements of the brain return to the physical order to be recycled, while the future of the mind may be different. As this moment of consciousness is followed by the next moment, the moment consciousness is not longer interacting with the brain may also be followed by another moment of consciousness, albeit disembodied or subtly embodied.

"When finally a brain stops acting altogether, or decays, that special stream of consciousness which it subserved will vanish entirely from this natural world. But the sphere of being that supplied the consciousness would still be intact ; and in that more real world with which, even whilst here, it was continuous, the consciousness might, in ways unknown to us, continue still."
James, 1989, pp.85-86, my italics.

Let us now consider some spiritualist (idealist) tenets without the restrictions imposed by transcendental logic.

1. Non-physical ideality is the only reality.
2. Physical reality originates from personal natural forces.
3. Physical reality functions with the intervention of immaterial forces.
4. Life & consciousness emerge in the material universe by transcendent design.
5. Every typical "human" feature is determined solely by the universal mind.
6. When the body dies, consciousness survives (there is life after death).

Apply the principles of transcendental logic on ontological speculations :

1. The object of thought cannot be "taken out" and replaced by a mental monad. Doing so contradicts the fact all possible thought and all possible knowledge are always about something, i.e. must presuppose an extra-mental reality in order to be called "knowledge" at all. Hence, non-physical ideality cannot be the only reality, for then all facts would be solely defined by our theories and in no way possess, so we must assume, the credentials of "reality-as-such" or the absolute state of affairs in the world.

2. The fact physical reality has its own domain is clearly demonstrated by the advancements in science, in particular physics, chemistry, biology & cosmology. Here, natural forces are at work (at least at the macro- and mesolevel of existence) independent & separate from any conscious observer. While on the microlevel the observer, by the very act of observing, participates in the collapse of the wave-function (cf. Bohr, Van Neumann), it is not the case the observer determines what is present before the collapse or is able to cause a particular outcome after the collapse. The observer merely "makes" reality to actualize, but not what kind of reality.

3. Although one should not a priori deny the possibility of co-determining non-physical agents like information & consciousness, the principle of parsimony forces us not to multiply entities when simpler explanations are possible. Besides material execution (matter), we may -in the case of human beings- reckon with theoretical abstraction & validity (theory - information) and percipient, sentient participation (consciousness).

4. Creationism goes one step too far. Although a natural higher-order intelligence can be rationally explained (cf. Ockham on the First Conserver or Kant on the "architect" of the universe), one logically cannot step outside the natural order and posit a transcendent Being (a Creator-God) without seriously crippling reason and moving beyond discursive thought. On purely fideist grounds one may believe as one pleases, but this does not necessarily produce correct & valid thinking, quite on the contrary. The debate regarding intelligent design must, as Kant clearly pointed out, stop at the natural order and never move beyond it. We should therefore not try to explain the world from a transcendent perspective, one per definition no concept can cast, but limit ourselves to explaining the natural order in natural terms.

"The utmost, therefore, that could be established by such a proof would be an architect of the world, always very much hampered by the quality of the material with which he has to work, not a creator, to whose idea everything is subject. This would by no means suffice for the purposed aim of proving an all-sufficient original Being. If we wished to prove the contingency of matter itself, we must have recourse to a transcendental argument, and this is the very thing which was to be avoided."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B653.

5. Clearly the brain influences the mind. There can be no discussion about that ! Although the driver of a car is not the car, the way the car moves about influences the driver and his decisions. An ongoing interaction is at hand, not a unilateral causation (from mind to brain, or from brain to mind). Stating the mind always takes precedence over the brain (denying downward causation) is neglecting the fruits of hard scientific labour and cannot be justified. But logically too there are problems. Only by negating the facts of natural evolution can one blind oneself for the fact so many human features are close to primate behaviour. If the universal mind would be the "model" used to profile humans, then clearly this mind is also reptilian & mammalian ?

6. Considering the possibility consciousness may switch from "body" after ending its interaction with its brain (accepting the driver leaves the car and asking what happens next) is not the same as "filling in" what happens after the demise of the brain with stories of an afterlife resembling this-life. How many religious systems have not viewed the afterlife in terms of what we know of our life here on Earth ?

"Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good, for one of two things : - either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say a private man, but even the great king, will not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others. Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain ; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this ? If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and other sons of God who were righteous in their own life, that pilgrimage will be worth making. What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer ?"
Plato : Apology, 32.

These considerations show how both ontological materialism and ontological spiritualism, being extreme, antinomic positions, are off-track. Materialism cannot explain the presence of the mind, in particular consciousness, and spiritualism cannot explain the executive effectiveness of matter. Accepting all occasions as individuals endowed with (potential) materiality, code & sentience allows one to think process & multiplicity, as well as explain interactionism without the use of different ontological principles, but adhering to one only, namely occasions and their multiple distinct aspects.


Is it surprising, given the long dogmatic hold of Catholic spirituality on free study and the success of physics since Galileo, Kepler & Newton, XIXth century science embraced a metaphysical research program dedicated to materialism ? Despite German Idealism and Protest Philosophy, Marxism and logical positivism followed their lead. The success of the Industrial Revolution spawned a belief in endless growth and the end of human suffering thanks to technology. Mental events were but "superstructures" erected on a materialist base, and in such a view, "downward causation", or mind influencing body (brain) was impossible. The Newtonian model reduced all determinating factors (lawful relationships between events) to causality, absolute time, absolute space and an "atomic" perspective. Newton himself knew this worldview conflicted with the nature of light (was it a particle or a wave ?), as well as with his own law of gravity. For not only was F = G m1.m2/r²  not a causal law (but one based in interaction or a mutual, simultaneous influence), but, more disturbingly, how could F travel in a vacuum ? Newton rejected "actio-in-distans", but found no better conjecture.

The two "clouds" seen by Lord Kelvin in 1900 in a lecture entitled "Nineteenth-Century Clouds over the Dynamical Theory of Heat and Light", proved to herald the end of classical physics. The fact the speed of light was a constant (Michelson-Morley experiment) and the discrete, jump-like nature of the radiation spectrum of a black body (with no optical emission), respectively heralded special relativity and quantum theory. A constant light speed made the "ether" impossible. This was a special medium supposed to be at rest with respect to absolute space (of which it was the materialization). In 1887, it became clear there was no "ether wind", i.e. the velocity of the laboratory had no effect on the measured speed of light. Moreover, in Newtonian physics, the distribution of the luminous energy as a function of the frequency (or wavelength) or spectrum of radiation, was conceptualized as continuous, and so jump-like radiation in "quanta" did not fit in.

Classical physics had used visual concepts like position, velocity, space, time, force ... Mathematics had provided added precision but this without altering their common sense meaning, one close to our experience of the meso-level of reality. With the work of Maxwell, these visual concepts began to be replaced by more abstract notions, like that of an electric or magnetic "field". The mathematics involved here was more than merely a translation of our common view, but the only form making these new concepts explicit. Maxwell's physics became a series of mathematical relationships among quantities, describing their connections and their dynamics. Mathematical language started to take precedence over other forms of common sense understanding. The "two clouds" pointed to two phenomena making things much worse.

Special relativity, discovered by Einstein in 1905, rejected both absolute time & absolute space. Distance (space) and the passing of time depended on the motion of the observer measuring them ! Moreover, although Einstein's relativistic theory of gravitation explained the great question unresolved by Newton (namely how the force of gravity propagates in a vacuum), it did so by introducing concepts inaccessible to common sense. Gravitation propagates gradually at the speed of light, and it does so in space-time, an entity connecting space & time as a result of motion. Mass was reduced to being a "curvature" of this space-time. All came down to non-Euclidian geometry.

Given space and time had never been clearly understood and the relativistic effects only happen at great speeds, relativity seemed to invite us to retain a common sense view, one in which matter could still be seen and touched. Indeed, in Einstein's special and general relativity, physical objects continued to possess their properties inherently (independent from observation) and each object was Einstein-isolated from other objects. But the notion objects could be positioned in absolute space & time was relinquished. Distance and time depended on the observer ...

Quantum mechanics had to relinquish both, introducing the observer and non-locality. Doing so implied the "very small" was ruled by a set of laws contradicting our common sense view on physical objects.

"Let us only add that, despite the many efforts to discredit it, quantum mechanics has always come out on top, and that today it may be considered as a completely accurate theory, even when experiments involve distances between particles of one-billionth of an angström, or energies thousands of time that of the proton's mass energy. The agreement between theory and experience has in certain cases reached over ten significant digits, a precision unequaled in any other scientific domain."
Omnès, 2002, p.146.

Although it took the best part of the previous century to decide whether quantum theory could be replaced by a theory deemed "more complete" (read : less weird), by the beginning of the '80 non-locality had been experimentally demonstrated (Aspect) and so "saving" the classical view on physical reality, devoid of non-locality, was made contra-factual. The principle of superposition (saying a elementary particle is scattered over the experimental setup as a whole) and non-locality (positing interconnectedness) invites an interpretation reintroducing the observer as well as action-at-a-distance. In other words, physical properties are co-established by observation and not a single physical object is isolated from other objects. Despite the many efforts to discredit quantum theory, it is considered to be a completely accurate theory.


Traditional philosophical phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger) feels called to go back "to the things themselves", the true nature of phenomena. Because this is viewed in terms of  an "eidos" or essence of something existing inherently, it remains essentialist (substantialist). Put aside this epistemic claim of conceptual access to the absolute nature of things, viewed substantially, the importance given to intention & the "first person" perspective can not be overlooked.

Indeed, private indexicals, i.e. words referring to components of mental states always involve an ostensive definition featuring private access only. This special definition, precluding public access, makes private access unique. The semantic isolation of these indexicals reflects the intimacy of the first person perspective. Each and every observer is a unique vantage point. Unless a human being has actually experienced the referent of one or more private indexical, the experience cannot be conceptualized. To be intersubjectively validated, public indexicals always refer to at least one non-private component. The second and third person perspectives are intersubjective & social communities of sign-interpreters.

Clearly most if not all of mental life is described by private indexicals. A refined description of this inner experience conveys the contours of the immediate intimacy between the conscious observer & participator and its objects. This personal experience is valid in terms of relevance, not significance. But precisely here (auto)suggestion & placebo may be used to the advantage of the wellbeing of individuals.

Although each personal experience is unique, phenomenology may discover common patterns of existential functioning. These point to a common heritage, evolution and autoregulation in the domain of consciousness itself. The latter is viewed as an infinite continuum of interconnected streams of consciousness, each with its own dynamics, ongoingly participating with the whole.

Phenomenology as the study of the first person perspective, of its intentionality, introspection, attention, (self)awareness & cognition, helps to clarify state & contents of human consciousness. Taking personal life serious, it elucidates origin, process and aim of the percipient participator. This is the "userware", deciding when, why & how to use information ("software") to manipulate matter ("hardware"). Active in a domain (or subworld) of its own, human consciousness interacts with both matter & information. These factors or operators are irreducible to one another. They are each independent aspects of the same occasion-continuum. Each works by its own kind of determinations & conditions. Human consciousness differs from all other known types of consciousnesses in terms its inner life & conscious experience. It slowly emerged, constituting its own "realm" or "world" within the occasion-continuum of Nature.


Even if we reject Nature to possess an inherent sense of justice, fairness & goodness, then we must at least accept the possibility of an actual conscious choice. If the word "conscious" is taken serious, then one must, and not only in principle, be able to choose without outside determinations. Suppose this is rejected, then a sense of goodness -as necessitated by ethics- cannot be established. Freedom of choice is a moral imperative.

One cannot designate free choice without introducing a non-determined factor. For even in its probabilistic, conjectural format, science works with lawlike determinations and conditions. The choice suggested by ethics must then fall outside these and if the world is deemed to be only material & informational, then one cannot grasp what the status of that choice might be. Only by accepting moral choice belongs to the world of human consciousness and the first person perspective, able to interact and so influence the other operators, can an "inherent" sense of justice be given its place. Nature is just, perhaps not in terms of matter & information, but surely insofar as consciousness, as creator of meaningful self-determination, is at work. This naturalism rejects an ontological difference, integrating the three known distinct operators in a single spatio-temporal natural system, with a single first ontological principle of process : all things are occasions. Moreover, within the domain of consciousness it is crucial to distinguish between human and non-human consciousness. Although we may, following Leibniz, designate potential, sleeping & dreaming states of consciousness to other individualized societies (like atoms, molecules, minerals, crystals, plants & animals), only human consciousness has inner life and conscious experience.

Let me briefly summarize the salient points of process ontology.

Actual occasions are the final things of which Nature is made up. They are also called "drops of experience, complex and interdependent" (PR, 27). In process thinking the notion of "substance" (monad) is changed into that of "actual occasion". Substances (monads) are closed, self-referential, and with inhering qualities. Occasions are open and other-powered, existing interdependently. They are also called "individuals". Organic process philosophy abandons the substance-like notion of actuality. Because the characteristics of an actual occasion are reproduced in a prehension, togetherness among actual occasions is possible. This fact is called a "nexus", the coming together of a multitude of actual occasions.

Immediate actual experience can thus be grasped by way of these three : actual occasions, prehensions & nexus. Occasions are extensive, atomic and actual. They feature spatiality, temporality (duration) and spatiotemporality (their extensive continuum), cannot be further divided (their atomic nature) and constitute immediate actual experience (they exist in the moment). Prehensions exhibit the most concrete elements in the nature of actual entities. Because all actual occasions prehend other actual occasions, they are all part of the universal process. Involving each other by reason of their prehensions, real, individual and particular togetherness is possible. These facts of togetherness are nothing more than societies of actual occasions.

For Whitehead, the ultimate metaphysical principle is "the advance from disjunction to conjunction" (PR, 32). Because of their prehensions of each other, actual occasions always come together, and this togetherness brings about the production of novelty, for actual occasions are disjunctively "many" in process of passage to conjunctive unity. "The many become one, and are increased by one." (PR, 32). This production of novelty by togetherness (resulting from the prehensions of actual occasions) is "concrescence", whereas "creativity" is the principle of novelty. "Creativity introduces novelty into the content of the many." (PR, 31). Hence, an actual event is a concrescence of actual occasions, and an actual entity is a concrescences of actual events. At each step of this increased togetherness, creative advance is at hand. And because actual occasions prehend other occasions, all actual occasions form facts of togetherness and produce creative advance & novelty.

This complex network of interrelated occasions, events & entities forms societies or interrelated actualities or individuals. On the one hand, societies of individuals are formed unaware of their own individuality. Examples of these nonindividualized societies are rocks, stars, oceans, cars, nation states, etc. These are merely compounds. Although the individuals forming these do experience themselves as a unity, the aggregate itself does not. A star does not grasp itself as a star. On the other hand, societies of individuals are formed in various degrees aware of the individuality of the whole. Examples of these individualized societies are minerals, plants, animals, humans. In the case of humans, two extraordinary features are added : conscious experience & inner life.

Although all individuals experience a certain degree of unity, including actual occasions, particles, atoms, molecules, etc., not all society of individuals experience this sense of unity. This because no dominant occasion can be identified. Panexperientialism posits all individuals have a degree of self-determination, spontaneity and experience of unity, but some cannot -being part of a nonindividualized society- extend this beyond the confines of their own individuality. Remember : the molecule in a rock thrown at a cat is more analogous with the cat than with the rock ... Panexperientialism does not attribute consciousness to all concrescences (as in Spinoza's panpsychism), but only to individuals (actual occasions) and individualized societies of individuals. In doing so, it does not designate the same degree of consciousness to all individuals and individualized societies. It singles out human consciousness as the most complex society, one able to develop a first person perspective (inner life) and a direct conscious experience of itself and its environment.

"Evidently, there are enormous gradations between consciousnessess, depending on the elaborate or primitive nature of the structure on which they can learn : the set of impressions which an ant or a microscopic animal or a plant receives surely show much less variety that the sets of impressions which man can receive. However, we can, at present, at best, guess at these impressions. Even our knowledge of the consciousness of other men is derived only through analogy and some innate knowledge which is hardly extended to other species."
Winger, 1967, p.182.

Finally, returning to actual occasions, and precisely because of their prehensions causing creative, interdependent togetherness, we may posit each actual occasion to exhibit limitless potentialities of which three are known : each actual occasion has the potential to (a) execute, effectuate and compute (matter), (b) organize, abstract and validate (information) and (c) project self-determination, prehension and unity of experience. These operators, aspects or attributes of each actual occasion bring about its creativity, spontaneity or novelty. Of course, the degree with which this is realized depends on the complexity of the togetherness. If, to paraphrase Leibniz, in a single actual occasion, these aspects are merely potential, they "sleep" in nonindividualized societies, "dream" in certain individualized societies (like plants), are "awake" in others (like animals) and may be conceptualized in the most evolved (like humans).

As all phenomena, entities or objects (whether mental, informational, or material) are fundamentally actual occasions prehending other occasions, the interaction between the various aspects of occasions, events & entities is less problematic than in the case of metaphysical dualism. Indeed, in process ontology the distinctness of the attributes is not rejected, but there is no ontological difference. If this were not the case, as in dualism, then it becomes highly problematic how two (or more) different kinds of things (not aspects of the same thing) can communicate. How can the non-material mind interact with the material brain if both matter & mind are different substances, i.e. made out of different "stuff" ? As the act of prehension is fundamental to each and every actual occasion, the prehension of the brain by the mind and the prehension of the mind by the brain poses less difficulties.

The core issue to be solved is to stay in tune with thermodynamics. This is difficult (but not impossible) when the interaction is viewed in terms of the manipulation of the energy of the brain. Avoiding this, we may conjecture the ongoing prehension of the brain by the mind to happen by way of probability-fields altering the likelihood of certain neuronal events (in particular large, interconnected populations or modules of neurons) As these fields (like the photon) have no mass, there can be no infringement of the law of energy-conservation. The ongoing impact of the living brain on the mind can be viewed as the power of its physical inertia on the possibilities of the mind to read neuronal events or change them by way of altering the probabilities of certain features of the neuronal societies populating the brain (in particular at the synapses). Of course, other conjectures  can be made, but the "problem" facing ontological dualism (namely bridging the gap between distinct and different entities) is not at hand.

Panexperientialism also offers a way to integrate the results of parapsychological research (in particular ESP and PK) and psychosomatic science, while offering vistas to understand hypnosis, (auto)suggestion & placebo (nocebo). Moreover, in terms of OBO's (out of the body experiences), and life after death, it also allows fruitful speculative insights.



The world (all possible actual occasion, events & entities) or "Nature" is a single all-embracing spatio-temporal system. Nature is quasi-determinist self-enclosed, meaning all events are determined solely by other events in Nature.


Matter is the sole "stuff" out of which Nature is made. Matter is the set of spatiotemporal physical objects possessing mass, energy and force (ontological realism).

essentialist materialism

Material objects possess their properties from their own side.

physicalism (behaviourism)

Physicalism or behaviourism is a materialist form of naturalism claiming all occasions, events, entities, processes, properties, relations and facts are those studied by physics or other physical sciences.

logical positivism (logical empirism or neo-positivism)

Neo-positivism combines empiricism, rooting valid knowledge of the world in observational evidence, with deductions in epistemology and mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs. It is materialist, validating knowledge by way of a correspondence theory of truth.


The way the material universe works is only explained by efficient causation effectuated by way of push. There must be a physical force and a material medium through which this force travels.


Functionalism always relates, connects or associates a non-analytical object with other synthetic objects in a functional, efficient way, i.e. one involving an effective determination or lawful connection of some kind (like efficient causality).


Spirit (mind) is the sole "stuff" out of which Nature is made. Spirit (mind) apprehends its object directly, without using means, or by ideal concepts creating their objects (ontological idealism).

essentialist spiritualism

Spiritual objects possess their properties from their own side.

hylic pluralism

The world-system is a layered manifold of occasion-continua, each with their own degree of freedom, order & material executants. These societies interact and form an ontological hierarchy or pluriversum of coarse, subtle and very subtle beings. Human existence as we know it manifested on the coarse plane of this gigantic manifold. More subtle levels of existence are possible.

process philosophy

Nature is a manifold of actual occasions, ongoingly entering by prehension in each other's evolution, causing concrescence and fostering creative advance. There are no substances and no "substance of substances", only processes.


The universe works and a unity of creative togetherness, creating strands of interrelated occasions, events and entities. The total organization of Nature rather than the functioning of individuals is the determinant of life processes.


All individuals, starting with actual occasions, experience themselves and their environment in varying degrees. As they form larger wholes functioning as aggregates of individuals, individualized and nonindividualized societies of actual occasions emerge. The former experience themselves as a unity, the latter not. Panexperientalism only refers to individuals and individualized societies.

ontology (immanent metaphysics)

The study of being qua being. This branch of metaphysics deals with untestable but arguable propositions about why there is something rather than nothing, about the origin of the cosmos, about life and about consciousness. It is called "immanent metaphysics" because these propositions never move outside the confines of the world-system, i.e. do not posit transcendence.

occasions, events, entities

Actual occasions are the "stuff" constituting all things. They are actual, not abstract, atomic, not plural and feature spatial, temporal or spatiotemporal extensiveness. An event is a concrescence of occasions. An entity is a concrescence of events.


Prehension is the capacity of all individuals to enter in the process of other individuals, either by sensoric, non-sensoric or mental ways. Non-sensoric prehension is the fundamental capacity of actual occasions to be together with other occasions, events & entities.


The togetherness of two or more occasions is more than merely the addition of another relation between occasions, but a creative interaction resulting in a larger, richer whole. This creative entry of occasions in the ongoing process of other occasions feeds the creative advance of Nature.

ontological operators

Each occasion and so every  event & entity, operates three irreducible aspects of existence : matter (hardware), information (software) and consciousness (userware). The first is physical, the last two non-physical.


Each occasion, in accord with physics, operates a series of energetical events and physical objects characterized by mass & momentum.


Each occasion, in accord with logic, system-theory & functionalism, operates a series of codes, theories, notions, ideas or information.


Each occasion, in accord with panexperientialism, operates a degree of self-determination, spontaneity and experience of itself as a whole. While this sentience is operational in occasions and individualized societies of occasions (like atoms, molecules, plants, animals, humans), it is not in nonindividualized societies (stars, oceans, rocks, tables, cars, etc.). Human conscious experience is a rare, refined kind of consciousness.


The human mind and its living brain are two distinct but not ontologically heterogeneous occasion-continua mutually influencing each other. Because all occasions operate three ontological operators (albeit not with the same complexity, order and degree of conscious experience), the interaction between mind and body is non-dualistic.

I : Beyond Materialism & Spiritualism.

Let ab initio, free study in general and the metaphysical background of neurophilosophical research, study & reflection, be as uncommitted as possible. This means ontological operators, or aspects of actual occasions, events, entities & states of existence should not beforehand be reified into substances, i.e. ontologized. Ontologizing the conditions of the possibility and advancement of knowledge also leads to epistemologies unable to think the possibility of knowledge without logical self-defeat (cf. Clearings, 2006). Likewise, the prolegomena to any possible metaphysics receives from the normative disciplines (the "hard core" of philosophy) the directive to consider the totality of what exists, without focusing on the existence of the occasion from its own side, inherently itself, above any possible determination & conditioning. Metaphysics must consider process before essence, becoming before being.

To achieve this, avoid both poles of essentialism : ontological materialist & ontological spiritualism. Avoidance means one is aware of the extremes, but remains focused (also thanks to this awareness), in the "middle way". This is the way of how things appear when they are merely observed withough the presence of any world-thought or image-thought in the field of consciousness (as seen from the moment hic et  nunc), allowing the vision of their interconnectedness & non-locality (not being fundamentally ontologically separated from other previous, simultaneous and future moments) to transpire. This view does not isolate the thing "as it is" and "what it does", but attends to what it does, discovering how things emerge from what they did, do and will do, the continuum of becoming. This process-based metaphysics was developed in the East, in particular in Taoism & Buddhism.

A remarkable synthesis is forthcoming, one integrating matter, information & consciousness. Although in this synthesis, physicality remain fundamental (cf. the role of "efficient causation", encompassing all known conditions & determinations pertaining to an occasion), the role of consciousness (the subjective factor) is not denied, but integrated in these objective conditions (cf. the role of "final causation" in self-determination, creativity, valuation and the experience of conscious unity, entering efficient causality & producing novelty).

"The subject reflects the world in a specific activity, reproducing objective phenomena in subjective forms (knowledge). While the subject can only know its own products, the very process of subject-mediated world transformation is objective, and the universality of the subject ensures that there is nothing in the world that could not be involved in the subject's activity."
Ivanov, P.B. : "Consciousness as a Relation between Material Bodies.", in : The Ontology of Consciousness, MIT - Cambridge, 2008, p.253.

Let us argue this Middle Way, using epistemology, metaphysics & criticism.


1. The Epistemology of Materialism.

Can materialism be coupled with non-substantiality, i.e. with the process-nature of all things ? Or, does singling out matter (or physical objects) always lead to the notion the "stuff" defining matter exists from its own side, own-powered, i.e. autarchic and with an inhering nature ? Suppose criticism prompts materialism to divorce essentialism, is process-materialism then possible ? This would be a view embracing non-substantiality and the primacy of matter. Historically, materialism never explained itself that way. In the West, and this until the quantum, substantial physical objects were always viewed to exist from their own side only.

In process metaphysics, material process alone is "efficient". But without "finality", it would be "vacuous", without real novelty. As this conflicts with observation (cf. Progine and the negentropy in complex, chaotic dissipative systems), another type of causation must be present. Is this physico-mental instead of physical tout court ? Moreover, mentality not being supervenient as it was in non-reductive physicalism. Because of downward causation, final causes entering efficient causes, and of upward causation, efficient causes changing the impact of valuation, a more balanced view results.

"The panexperientialist version of physicalism can affirm this belief because its 'physical entities' are physical-mental entities, and because there are various levels of such entities, one level of which is that of the dominant occasions of experience constituting the human mind."
Griffin, 1998, p.237.

The epistemology of materialism, explaining itself as an ontological materialism, is the story of how the conditions on the side of the object of knowledge are reified to become the exclusive ground of knowledge, justifying concept-realism. The facts, the something at hand, is substantialized, reified, "eternalized" and inflated into a real, objective world "out there" effectuating change by way of physical laws, and this independent of the subject of knowledge, merely acting as a passive (empirical) registrator.

1.1 Reduction of the Subject of Knowledge.

To be able to explain the world as a system of physical objects, ontological materialism has to either eliminate the subject of knowledge or reduce it to a passivity unable to infringe upon the supposed monarchic objectivity of the real world.

Most serious materialists understand one cannot eliminate the subject of knowledge without violating the logic of the transcendental subject of all possible thought. Only those less trained in these subtleties of epistemology make bold statements to the effect that because everything is material the subject of knowledge does not "really" exist, but is merely an illusionary appearance. These are not all too careful. To identify the subject as such, valid knowledge becomes impossible. Hence, most materialists agree the subject of knowledge is primarily passive. How a totally passive subject of knowledge is able to abstract anything becomes unclear (even Aristotle had to introduce an "active intellect").

1.2 The Naive Inflation of the Real.

The object of knowledge, identified with the real-as-such, is given a direct access to the outer world. Even Kant retained a kind of quasi-causal relationship between things-as-such and the cognitive apparatus. The notion observation and its theoretical connotation are simultaneous eludes them.

"The hardest of hard data are of two sorts : the particular facts of sense, and the general truths of logic. (...) Real doubt, in these two cases, would, I think, be pathological. At any rate, to me they seem quite certain, and I shall assume that you agree with me on this. Without this assumption, we are in danger of falling into that universal scepticism which, as we saw, is as barren as it is irrefutable."
Russell, B. : Our Knowledge of the External World, Mentor - New York, 1956, p.60.

Theoretical connotations, theories, metaphysical backgrounds, ideas, notions, values etc. are not considered as co-constitutive of facts. Facts are monolithic and in all ways extra-mental. This position leads to untenable logical problems. For one, the view is self-defeating, for the naive realist is unable to explain how he is able to validate naive realism. Meta-objective problems are not seen.

1.3 Prospective Materialism.

In a superinflation of ontological materialism, the proposed success of the view is promoted well over its possible expiration date. For although one may posit a naive access to the real, one cannot therefore possibly know what future research & experiment will discover. Perhaps matter is not the sole substance after all ? Perhaps there are no substances at all ? Perhaps matter is merely one of the operators, factors or elements running the system proposed by naturalism ? etc. Of course, if physical objects are viewed as solely determined by their initial position and momentum, then -theoretically at least- all that can possibly be known about these objects will eventually be known. For then, all possible futures only depend on what is known on the basis of the initial condition, the momentum and its differential equation. The logic of prospective materialism works because it is a gross reduction of contributing factors.

"Promissory materialism is a peculiar theory. It consists, essentially, of a historical (or historicist) prophecy about the future results of brain research and of their impact. This prophesy is baseless."
Popper & Eccles, 1981, p.97.

Prospective (or promissory) materialism also claims all problems facing materialism today (like validation, intentionality, conscious experience, free choice etc.) will also be solve in the future. And this only by positing a sufficient physical ground. As this, per definition, cannot be demonstrated today, why bother ? Perhaps this will not be the case.

Let us observe what there is to be observed.

2. The Metaphysics of Materialism.

The metaphysics of materialism is a series of untestable but arguable statements affirming matter (or physical objects as described by physics) is the fundamental "stuff" of Nature.

2.1 Greek Atomism.

The fact objects can be split into smaller objects and the latter can be divided up again, etc. forces one into considering the ultimate division, i.e. one leading to an object no longer divisible. This is the "atom". Visualized as an inert, solid, impenetrable object existing from its own side, i.e. as a substance, all things are then said to be made up of atoms. All objects are merely aggregates of colliding atoms.

Greek atomism was assimilated to Newtonian physics. Only at the end of the XIXth century became it clear atoms had to be divisible. Moreover, as the radiation of dark objects showed, the continuity-hypothesis associated with the Newtonian approach of radiation could not be maintained. This lead Planck to reluctantly introduce the "quantum". The framework of classical physics (the equations of Newton and those of Maxwell) could not be reconciled with a planetary view on the atom (a nucleus, composed of neutrons & protons, around which electrons revolve). Indeed, the speed necessary for an electron to stay in a stable orbit around the nucleus (like a planet around its Sun) would cause it to radiate and so loose energy, triggering the collapse of the orbit, making the electron crash against the nucleus. In the classical theory, electrons would be stable only for only a billionth of a second !

When quantum theory saw the light, the atom was further divided in electrons, protons & neutrons. It took only a few decades to discover these could be further split too. Today, a whole array of elementary particles adorn the equations of physics. They are so elusive and transient, one cannot longer visualize them. They spring out, interact and then return to the quantum vacuum field. Indeed, before they are observed, they are in a state of quantum superposition (eliminating any possibility to grasp them conventionally), and depending on how they are measured, they manifest different properties ...

Despite these recent developments, matter -viewed as stuff which kicks and kick back- remains the cornerstone of materialism, albeit not in its atomic form. All atoms are impermanent.

2.2 Objectifying Essentialism.

Besides atomism and/or the focus on material events, materialism embraces objectivity at the expense of the subject and is mostly (if not always) essentialist, considering material events as possessing their properties from their own side, isolated from (but interacting with) all other events.

These isolated material objects with their inhering properties constitute reality and this reality is objective, i.e. not influenced by subjective considerations. Moreover, a direct access to this reality is provided by our senses, delivering data to the mental objects of the categorical scheme of cognition, producing its empirico-formal statements of fact (propositions).

The truth or validity of statements of fact is organized by way of the correspondence theory of truth according to which valid knowledge corresponds with reality-as-it-is. Verification is inductive or falsificationist, but in both cases facts are extra-mental, bearing nowhere the seal of our theories, theoretical connotations, ideas or notions. The subject of knowledge is either illusionary or reduced to a passive registrator & organiser (as in neo-positivism).

Although realist objectivism has been comprehensively criticized elsewhere, let us consider the case of the sense-data theory, claiming all valid knowledge is based on the "hard data" given by particular "facts of sense". Empirical justificationism posits these "sense-data" as "certain, context-independent & neutral". However, claiming something is certain involves a valuation which can never be a sense datum. The same can be said of the so-called "neutrality" of the "sense-data" and their supposed "context-independence". How can this be known ? Not by way of sense-data and so the justification of knowledge on the basis of sense-data alone can not be accomplished. As there are no context-independent sense-data, this form of justificationism (based on naive realism) is self-defeating.

2.3 Newtonian Physicalism.

In Newton's system, materialism, realism and objectivity come together. With his idea of absolute time and absolute space, Newton's observer has no impact on the flow of time or the structure of space. The world is an object "out there" in which the observer operates as a "ghost in the machine". The gigantic clockwork of this mechanism is independent from the observer and the physical conditions defining him or her (like mass & momentum). The reference-system is absolute.

With special relativity, absolute space and absolute time were abolished. With the quantum, continuity had to be relinquished, for Nature jumps. With chaos theory, high-order determinism emerged, and non-linear systems were discovered everywhere. In fact, linear systems, insensitive to small changes, are the exception. Recent physical theories predict even protons, after a very long time, eventually decay, eliminating the idea of material stability. All material processes are impermanent.

Applied to psychology, the Newtonian view can do no more than search for ways to explain mental objects in terms of physical ones. The brain secretes thoughts like the kidneys urine ... This reduction leads to an impoverished view on subjectivity, as shown in Freudianism and behaviourism (to mention two conflicting theories of mind). Although the scientific study of conscious experience is still in its infancy, a few important points are clear : (a) material events are public whereas mental events are private, (b) material events define a manifold whereas mental events emerge as part of an experience of unity, and (c) objectivity & subjectivity are necessarily linked, causing contradictions in any system trying to operate only one (reducing or negating the other).

If physical and mental events are characterized by a different semantic field and are not symmetrical, it may be the case they cannot be reduced to one another. This is the point made by panexperientialism, positing an occasion-monism, but attributing to each occasion three irreducible ontological operators. Insofar as information can be related to the structure of matter, a kind of hylemorphism pertains. Glyphs (signs in the form of signals, icons & symbols) can be defined as well-formed states of matter, intimately linking matter & information. But this functional approach is not an exhaustive definition of information, leaving out the existence of purely abstract objects, like those pertaining to mathematical spaces (extensively used in quantum theory). Taken together and viewed functionally, matter & information constitute the "form" side of all occasions. Panexperientialism needs to explain how this form aspect interacts with the sentient aspect. This leads to an interactionist explanation of the communication between, on the one hand, consciousness, and, on the other hand, matter and information. This is not an interaction between two different kinds of things (or substances), as in ontological dualism, but merely two distinct aspects of a shared substratum, as in ontological monism.

3. The Criticism of Materialism.

"The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections : that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied."
Winger, 1967, pp.176-177.

In a general sense, "criticism" is a philosophical approach of epistemology focusing on putting down proper divisions, frontiers, limitations between the two sides of the transcendental logic defining the a priori principles governing the possibilities of conceptual thought. Criticism avoids affirming one principle at the expense of another (as in dogmatism), and also avoids negating one of both principles (as in scepticism). Avoiding the extremes of dogma & skepsis, criticism proposes a three-tiered model of the possibilities of knowledge : (a) principles of  correct conceptual thought (transcendental logic), (b) norms of valid knowledge (theoretical epistemology) and (c) maxims of effective knowledge-production (applied epistemology). Given epistemology is not a descriptive but a normative discipline, throughout this model, ontological illusion is avoided. In other words, these principles, norms & maxims are never considered as the sufficient ontological ground of knowledge. Not reified, they are merely discovered by thought reflecting on its own conditions & possibilities.

A crucial argument against the reduction of all events to the physical, is the resulting impossibility to posit principles of valid inference, for the latter a forteriori do not belong to the domain of the material (but to the realm of logic, theory or information). Physicalism is therefore self-defeating. It cannot claim to be supported by rational arguments, for the latter -if materialism were true- do not exist. Indeed, particles & forces do not deal with validity. This is a stronger version of the weaker argument, already formulated in Greek philosophy, stating the claim all things are merely material cannot be made by a purely material entity (for sentience does not belong to matter). Making such a claim involves a "contradiction in actu exercito". Hence, either one accepts materialism and then one has to refute rational argumentations and their logic & principles of validation, or one has to accept materialism cannot be true and so is incomplete, calling for another aspect covering its own validation (not of matter as a single monad, but merely as the executive aspect of reality, one working hand in hand with a "logos" distinct from material conditions).

3.1 Criticism of Observation.

"Quantum theory has observation creating the properties of microscopic objects. And physicists generally accept quantum theory applies universally. If so, wider reality is also created by our observation. Going all the way, this strong anthropic principle asserts the universe is hospitable to us because we could not create a universe in which we could not exist. While the weak anthropic principle involves a backward-in-time reasoning, this strong anthropic principle involves a forms of backward-in-time action."
Rosenblum & Kuttner, 2006, p.206.

In the XXth century, observational psychology, linguistics, cultural anthropology, comparative studies, but also (transcendental) logic & theoretical epistemology discovered the subject of knowledge cannot be eclipsed. Observation happens in the framework of theories, theoretical connotations, ideas & notions. Both are simultaneous. It is not the case sensoric data are first and theories later. The subject of knowledge is a sign-interpreter, and the community of sign-interpreters co-define what is consider a fact and what not. Hence, facts are not exclusively extra-mental, but hybrids with two facets : one theoretical, and another, so we must assume, extra-mental. Besides experiments, testing and observation, scientific research also calls for theoretical work, argumentation and a provisional consensus. Especially in quantum physics this is the case, for without the theoretical twists and turns of mathematics, a lot of particles & relationships between particles would never have been discovered.

3.2 Criticism of Common Sense Realism.

Common sense realism presupposed a direct access to reality-as-such. However, this is a metaphysical claim, not a scientific one. Moreover, it cannot be properly argued. It is metaphysical because it can only be backed by arguments, not by factual evidence. There is no "Archimedic point" or ideal vantage point "outside" the dialectic between object & subject. All what happens takes place as an occasion part of the field of consciousness. So nobody is able to directly observe the subject of knowledge has this assumed direct access to reality-as-such. How could this be observed without this being the observation of a particular subject ? Moreover, how to argue this. In order to identify this "direct access", the distinction between "direct" and "indirect" must be made, and this is not based on empirical observation but on logic. Consider these points.

Firstly, transcendental logic shows one cannot eclipse the subject of thought without introducing contradictions. The reduction itself shows the presence of an active subject, not a mere passive registrator. Secondly, theoretical epistemology discovers how facts are co-determined by theories and so are not monoliths but hybrids. Thirdly, applied epistemology finds how the production of knowledge is co-defined by the opportunistic, local rules-of-thumb of the research-cell competing with other researcher facilities.

"It appears that there exists only one concept the reality of which is not only a convenience but absolute : the content of my consciousness, including my sensations."
Winger, 1967, p.189.

The neurological study of perception clarifies the distinction between pre-thalamic perception and post-thalamic sensation. All perceptions have to be multiplied by a wide array of interpretations before they can be identified by the subject of knowledge as sensations. Hence, a direct access between the subject and "its" perceptions does not exist. While the sense organs themselves alter the impulses they receive into perceptions, the latter are again altered and pre-processed by the relays to the neocortex. Finally, when projected in the neocortex by the thalamus, these pre-processed afferent impulses are computed by primary & secondary sensory areas before being named, labelled and identified by the subject of knowledge. Naive realism is therefore to be abolished.

3.3 Criticism of Materialist Dogmatism.

Rejecting the fundamental argument against materialism (the fact it eliminates the possibility of validating itself, i.e. is self-defeating) leads to dogmatism. This is affirming the position ad hoc, without any good reason, even quite on the contrary. Often this dogmatism is fed by promissory materialism, the view all problems will be solved by future materialist research anyway. Clearly a rational person has to refute this position thoroughly. It is based on bad argumentations, rejects clear normative principles, norms & maxims and runs against what is known from observational psychology and the neurology of perception. It can only be maintained by coupling it with authoritarianism, and this is exactly what has happened. In that case, the difference between materialist science (scientism) and fideist religion is small. Both adhere to their positions without any evidence and reject good arguments because they cannot accommodate the cherished ideas. As such, both exemplify they own weakness, herald of their final demise.


4. The Epistemology of Spiritualism.

It goes without saying spiritualism faces the same problems as materialism, albeit reversed. While materialism does not wish to attribute an irreducible status to the subject of experience, spiritualism tries, in vain, to assimilate or eliminate the object of experience, i.e. the fact valid empirico-formal knowledge must be knowledge about something extra-mental. The third person is not just a linguistic category for plural, non-dual communication between minds. Its public feature reflects (a) the intersubjective (already given with the second person) and (b) objective facts, deemed to represent reality-as-such.

Ontological spiritualism is in flagrant opposition with the tenets of Western physical science. Neither can it be reconciled with the physico-mental (or psychophysical) view of process metaphysics. In the latter, physical objects are not reduced to the mental, but viewed as an independent, causative, irreducible & autonomous physical societies of actual occasions. Ontological spiritualism has been (a) historically very prominent (from the beginning of civilization in the Neolithic and earlier -Shamanism- to the advent of the Renaissance) and (b) lurks as a danger, a trap not to be fooled by again.

The rejection of an independent mentality leads to a "vacuous", nature morte of "disjecta membra". So to avoid this absurdity, the mind needs to be reintroduced. But this does not mean the physical is denied to play its role as some extra-mental thing. The subject is not made to constitute the object. Denying this leads to the horror chambers of falsehoods, the "scandal" (Kant) of philosophy.

Briefly exploring this option, in particular the points to guard against.

4.1 Reduction of the Object of Knowledge.

Idealism, in its classical ontological form (Fichte, Schelling & Hegel), or in its more sophisticated format (Frankfurter school), denies the object of knowledge to exist without the subject. An epistemology without an object ensues. The truth of propositions does not in any way depend on an objective state of affairs identified as an extra-mental, empirical physicality, but merely on the consensus established between all involved sign-interpreters of what they call "physicality" or "fact", whatever that is. As knowledge is deemed to be exclusively symbolical, i.e. dependent on language, theories, ideas, notion, etc., it is considered besides the point to propose any direct access to "reality", as in empirism or realism. Hence, all valid knowledge is historical & relative. How avoid scepticism ?

Either reality-as-such is directly ontologically dependent on the conditions of the mind, for the absolute spirit (absolute subject) creates and then confronts Nature (as in Hegelianism) or this reality of otherness is deemed inaccessible to knowledge, for the latter is merely an intersubjective convention or language-game. Accepted is the tenet saying third person knowledge always calls for valid empirico-formal propositions informing us only about reality-for-us. This kind of "pure" transcendental idealism was aimed at by Kant, although -to fire up the categorial scheme- he had to designate a "quasi-causal" influence on the senses. In a transcendental, consensus theory of truth, knowledge happens in language systems, and only argumentation & consensus drive the theory of truth validating propositions. But, the critical theory of truth at hand, is not a "pure" transcendental theory, it is  not a description, but a norm assuming facts do possess the credentials of reality-as-such.

Clearly both ontological and epistemological idealism cannot avoid a fundamental contradiction. If all knowledge is merely intra-mental or part of an intersubjective communication leading to conventions, then "reality" is reduced to an (inter)subjectivity. Facts are merely theory-driven. What we experience as factual evidence is nothing more than paradigmatic knowledge established on the basis of subjective mentation (either on a gigantic scale, as in ontological idealism, or epistemologically, as a consensual theory of truth). But how can knowledge not be knowledge about something and remain knowledge ? How to couple this "insight" with the evidence of science and our common sense ?

The idea of conceptual knowledge is based on critical, normative epistemology, and its principles, norms & maxims must confirm both object & subject of thought. Do otherwise entails a fundamental contradiction. The subject of thought is also an object possessor and not only an intersubjective language-producer. Conceptual, scientific knowledge must always be about something outside the realm of the mind, for if this were not the case, then how  can one say it refers to a state of affairs ? Although we may (and must) reject the possibility concepts directly represent reality-as-such, we cannot (without eliminating the possibility of thinking knowledge as knowledge about something) accept knowledge to be merely an intersubjective convention. It must also be knowledge about an extra-mental something, albeit so must we think to safeguard the possibility of conceptual knowledge itself.

The nugget of gold found in realism (knowledge is about something) cannot, without severe problems, be eliminated by idealism. The nugget of gold of idealism (knowledge is sign-based & intersubjective) cannot, without contradiction, be eliminated by realism. The "concordia discors" of conceptual thought is the "factum rationis" one cannot escape.

4.2 The Naive Inflation of the Ideal.

Inflation of the subject is ontological and epistemological. In the former case, the object is constituted by the subject, in the latter, the possibility of knowledge is grounded in the subject of knowledge, the intersubjectivity of the community of sign-interpreters.

In ontological idealism, the object-possessor becomes an object-creator. The object is only a form of subjectivity, a "projection" of the subject-as-creator. Eventually, this supreme subject may be is identified with the Divine. Then it is placed outside the world, transcending its conditions & determinations. Concrete reality is downgraded. The process of becoming, with its variety, differentiations and constant changes, are merely reflections of the eternalized, unified and substantial "ideas" (as in Platonism).

In a "pure" transcendental epistemology, the definition of reality and facts depends on linguistic conventions. Theoretical structures constitute the "reality" captured. If reality-as-such is considered at all, then it remains unknown. Knowledge is purely intersubjective, and so consensus constitutes truth. Observation and its theoretical connotation are not simultaneous. What we observe "appears" because of prior (inter)subjective structures. Theoretical connotations, theories, metaphysical backgrounds, ideas, notions, values etc. are considered as constitutive of facts, monolithic and intra-mental.

This position leads to untenable logical problems. For one, the view is self-defeating, for the naive idealist is unable to think knowledge as about some real thing extra-mental. Hence, this cannot be knowledge at all, but merely a gigantic form of subjectivity.

4.3 Spiritual Obscurantism.

Religious systems often cherish ontological idealism. It can be found in Ancient Egypt, in Hermetism, in Brahmanism and in the three "religions of the book". God created the world "ex nihilo", i.e. without being limited by any "outside" conditions. As an absolute, free Spirit, God -by His creative command- made the laws of Nature as well as all outer objects.  His transcendent omnipotence sustains the world. As a Caesar of sorts, this monotheist God could change the laws of Nature whenever He likes (miracles). Hence, the independent study of reality was deemed unnecessary & heretical, for God revealed what He expected from His human creatures and the only thing necessary was to comply. With deism, a correction was introduced : God no longer changed the laws of Nature !

This fideist mentality led and leads to obscurantism. Not only does it hinder the free study of the world and its objective conditions (often contradicting revelation), but it also narrows down the spiritual emancipation of humanity, reducing "my" spiritual responsibilities to those of "our" religion. In this way, "my Lord" is replaced by "our Lord" and the personal relationship with the Divine is forced, often "de manu militari" within the narrow confines of spirito-communal dogma's invented by a male elite to indoctrinate the community and safeguard its political, economical and social power. Free, laic thought was and is the direct enemy of this spiritual obscurantism and we may thank the great thinkers of the European Enlightenment to have liberated us from our chains and the limitations we ourselves enforced upon our mentality.

Historically, realism and materialism can be explained as extreme reactions against this blatant, mind-wrecking ignorance. But as we always remain dependent of what we reject, the time has come to free ourselves from the limitations we self-imposed when fighting this sordid obscurantism. Has it not been overcome by contemporary science & philosophy ? The advancement of science will precisely be determined by the measure with which it is able to move ahead without being encumbered by rejecting spiritual obscurantism and without pulling down its critical safeguards. To reject both ontological materialism and ontological idealism is the core feature of this measure. The task is to foster the correct, open limitations (criticism), and to reject the emphatic "yes" (dogmatism), as well as the enforced "no" (scepticism).

5. The Metaphysics of Spiritualism.

Grosso modo, the metaphysical view embraced by spiritualism is not satisfied by merely designating a universal mind or "logos", but it tries to describe this in terms of an inherent order, structure, architecture etc. organizing the world. This supreme mind and its order exist inherently, from their own side. The material world is a mere reflection, densification, or manifestation of this primordial spiritual mentation. The first texts proposing such a view were composed in Ancient Egypt (cf. the Memphis Theology at the end of the Ramesside Period). In Greek philosophy, two proponents of this view influenced the Western mind for centuries : Plato (428 - 347 BCE) & Pythagoras (ca. 580 BCE, island of Samos, Ionia - ca. 500, Metapontum, Lucania). Before Thomas of Aquinas (ca. 1225 - 1274), Plato had a very prominent impact on Plotinus (240 - 270 CE), neo-Platonism and Augustinian thought, whereas Platonism itself was strongly influenced by the Eleatic school (cf. Parmenides of Elea, ca. 515 - 440 BCE, a pupil of Xenophanes, ca. 580/577 - 485/480 BCE). The latter was inspired by Pythagoras.

Why these systems are classified as "spiritualist" is because they not only identify the non-physicality, but attribute to it a fundamental role, and this to the point of letting Divine thought & speech create all things.

Shabaka Stone : LINE 53 (Memphis Theology)
(hieroglyphs in red are reconstructed)

"There comes into being in the mind. There comes into being by the tongue. (It is) as the image of Atum.  Ptah is the very great, who gives life to all the gods and their Kas. It all in this mind and by this tongue."

eart" may be translated as "mind" and "tongue" as "speech". The simultaneity of the mental (subjective) and the material (objective) sides of the cognitive process, is indicated by the use of symmetrical writing (cf. the use of a double column at the beginning of the text).

The "heart" of Ptah is not yet a Greek "nous" devoid of context, i.e. an abstract, rational Platonic Mind. It is too early for that. Rather, the contents of mind (meaning of the words uttered) simultaneously move Ptah's tongue (the words uttered). Formal and material poles come together in Ptah's continuous actions, the overseeing "Great Throne" of Ptah.

The mental process suggested here is ante-rational & proto-rational, and aims at establishing a solid case for the ongoing creative speech and ontic supremacy of Ptah as "the very great" (while allowing, consistent with henotheism, other deities to exist as such "in" Ptah).

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made."
Gospel of John, 1:1-3.

In a philosophical discourse, the spiritualist ontologies propose an absolute subject (Schelling). One of the consequences of this absoluteness, is its capacity to encompass the object of knowledge exhaustively. As in Anselm's ontological proof, the notion existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone, leads to the tenet the absolute subject creates the object. This asymmetry downgrades physicality & its becoming, turning it into an illusion ("mâyâ"), a mere shadow, reflection or echo, passively receiving the influence of the sculptor. Underneath these options, a prejudice against constant change, dynamism & transformation is felt. Coupled with an Olympic spirit, a substance-based absolute subject sees the light. The commoners are looked at from a very high vantage point. They seem little moving points. One does not realize each perspective is relative.

In a static spiritualism (Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Augustine, Spinoza)
, the absolute subject is an eternal, self-referential, isolated, singular Divine "substance of substances" or "idea of ideas". This "summum bonum" is the most abstract capstone of a hierarchy of ideas. For in Platonism, in tune with the Greek sense of autarchy, the ontologically superior is also morally better. In the monotheist theologies, this static absolute subject is equated with God, thus emphasizing the question how one can relate to such a remote God ? Mystification, Divine grace nor blind faith make the critical mind rest.

In a dynamic spiritualism (Heracleites, Qabalah, Hegel, Bergson), the absolute spirit, in order to ultimately spiritualize, freely externalizes non-physical Nature. A dialectic process is thereby defined, implying an eternal return of the same and an itinerary, or the stages of a process. As Nature plays her part and plays it well, this spiritualism embraces the physical. It is not hostile to Nature and willingly integrates becoming. It remains a form of spiritualism (and not for example process thinking) because the absolute subject remains before the object, bringing in an asymmetry. In spiritualism, the whole immanent process of Nature and spirit must be understood as embraced or taking place in an ontological realm transcending Nature. Nature is not self-sufficient. Without the transcendent God-as-Creator, not a single physical phenomenon would exist. When thinking in terms of process, Nature is a self-sufficient system, the sole realm of actual occasions, of concrete things. There is no other realm than Nature, than actual occasions. This does not preclude Nature operates distinct ontic levels, allowing one to distinguish between concrete and abstract. But these are not two different ontological planes. The abstract level, side, aspect of Nature transcends the concrete (the spatiotemporal), but not Nature herself.

5.1 Greek Pythagorism & Platonism.

With Pythagoras of Samos , the son of an engraver of gems, we encounter the first Greek "school" of thought, a teaching in which religion, mysticism, mathematics and philosophy were allowed to interpenetrate each other and orchestrate a totally new symphonic whole, one having a decisive influence on Greek thought as well as on Greek architecture. This school was so unique, that Pythagorism may well be called the second major orientation in pre-Socratic philosophy next to Milesian materialism as a whole. Unfortunately, none of the writings of Pythagoras have survived, and Pythagoreans invariably supported their doctrines by indiscriminately citing their master's authority. It is difficult to distinguish his teachings from those of his disciples, neither legends from historical fact.

However, he is credited with the theory of the functional significance of sacred numbers in the objective world and in music (obtained by stopping a lyre string at various points along its length - the octave (2: 1), the fifth (3: 2) and the fourth (4: 3)). Other discoveries attributed to him, like the incommensurability of the side and diagonal of a square, and the Pythagorean theorem stating the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle equals in area to the sum of the squares of the other two sides (well-known in Egypt and Mesopotamia), were probably developed only later by the Pythagorean school. 

The teachings drew a large following in the Greek colony of Croton in southern Italy, were he went to live. A kind of Freemasonry "avant la lettre" rose among the aristocracy. It was a fraternity with Pythagoras as its "master". Its members had a lot of political power (based on "areté" and "ponós", excellence and effort), but were eventually massacred in a riot long after Pythagoras had died. The followers spread the principles and caused Pythagorism (or "Pythagoreanism") to become part of the Greek world. Iamblichus quotes his master, who had said : "number is the rule of forms and ideas, and the cause of gods and demons".

The problem of describing Pythagorism is complicated by the fact the surviving picture is far from complete, being based chiefly on a small number of fragments from the time before Plato and on various discussions in authors who wrote much later - most of whom were either Aristotelians or neo-Platonists. In spite of these historical uncertainties, the contribution of Pythagorism to Western culture has been significant and therefore justifies the effort, however inadequate, to depict what its teachings may have been.

The character of original Pythagorism is controversial, and the conglomeration of disparate features it displayed is intrinsically confusing. Its fame rests, however, on some very influential ideas, and likely most of these prevailed in the school of Croton :

  • the metaphysics of number and the conception reality, including music and astronomy, is, at its deepest level, mathematical in nature : Pythagoras' sufficient ground is not a cosmic substance but an inner organization or structure coupled with a liberating, salvic intentions, albeit ascetical & philosophical ;

  • the use of philosophy as a means of spiritual purification : a lover of wisdom is more than an intelligent person aware of problems and their solutions, for his pursuit of wisdom must be a window to the immortal soul, the light of which draws him near to the original and fundamental level of reality : the mathematical order of being whispering a hidden, mysterious language of silence, with a code available to the initiate only ; 

  • the heavenly destiny of the soul and the possibility of its rising to union with the Divine : Pythagoras is not satisfied with the mundane, immanent perspective, for the Pythagorean philosopher is before all the rest a lover of unity and its experience, implying transcendence, trance, osmosis etc. ; 

  • the appeal to certain symbols, sometimes mystical, such as the "tetraktys", the Golden Section, and the harmony of the spheres : symbols are the residue of spiritual experiences and contain a code to trigger co-relative experiences later ; 

  • the Pythagorean theorem : mathematics and the solution of particular problems are the "purest" way to encounter the immortal soul, for its language is that of sacred number ; 

  • the demand members of the order shall observe a strict loyalty and secrecy, the order is a private affair and has no "outer order".

For Plato, strongly influenced by Pythagoras and the Eleatics, there is a real, Divine world of ideas "out there" or, as in neo-Platonism, "in here", a transcendent realm of Being, in which the things of this fluctuating world participate. Ideas are the unchanging aspects of a thing.

Obviously then, truth is the remembrance ("anamnesis") of (or return to) this eternally good state of affairs, conceived as the limit of limits of Being or even beyond that. These Platonic ideas, like particularia of a higher order, are no longer the truth of this world of becoming but of another, better world of Being, leaving us with the cleaving impasse of idealism : Where is the object ?

The Platonic ideas exist objectively in a reality outside the thinker. Hence, the empirical has a derivative status. The world of forms is outside the permanent flux characteristic of the former, and also external to the thinking mind and its passing whims. A trans-empirical, Platonic idea is a paradigm for the singular things which participate in it ("methexis"). Becoming participates in Being, and only Being, as Parmenides of Elea (ca. 515 - 440 BCE), inspired by Pythagoras and pupil of Xenophanes (ca. 580/577 - 485/480 BCE) taught, has reality. The physical world is not substantial (without sufficient ground) and posited as a mere reflection. If so, it has no true existence of its own (for its essence is trans-empirical). Plato projects the world of ideas outside the human mind. He therefore represents the transcendent pole of Greek concept-realism, for the "real" moves beyond our senses as well as our minds. To eternalize truth, nothing less will do.

5.2 Subjectifying Essentialism.

Besides focusing on the structure of the ideal mind or community of minds, spiritualism embraces the subject of knowledge at the expense of the object and this in an essentialist way, considering the absolute spirit as existing from its own side, isolated (but interacting with) all other minds.

Ontologically, the object is created, generate or produced by the absolute mind, and so reduced to a mere illusion. An subjectifying essentialism emerges. The absolute mind constitutes reality and only the mind. The truth or validity of statements is not dependent of something outside the mind, but wholly determined by this "Divine mind" or, in a more intersubjective approach, the "consensus omnium".

The monotheisms, Platonizing their revelation, embrace this kind of view willingly. God, as an absolute, perfect spirit isolated from the world, is a self-sufficient fountain of truth. Empirical data have a lesser status, in any at all.

5.3 Monarchic Transcendence.

In the henotheism of Ancient Egypt, the radical ontological difference between the creating and the created can already be found. The former (natura naturans), consisted of the light-spirits of the gods and royal ancestors (the "akhu"), residing in the circumpolar stars, untouched by the movement of rising and setting, shining permanently from above. These spirits did interact with their creation (natura naturata) by means of their "souls" ("bas") and "doubles" ("kas"). The Bas represented the dynamical, interconnective principle, ritually invited to descend and bless creation by way of the offerings made to their Kas. These resided on Earth in the cult-statue hidden away in the dark "naos" or "holy of holies" of the Egyptian Temple. Only the king or his representatives could enter this sacred space and offer the world-order ("Maat"). This exclusivity was the result of the fact gods only communicate with gods and the king was the only "Akh" or deity actually living on Earth. So he alone could make the connection. The transcendent nature of the deities, their remote presence as well as their exclusive mode of interaction, point to a mentality stressing their monarchic transcendence, and, mutatis mutandis, the ontological difference between the eternalized world of the deities and the chaotic, everchanging world of man.

In the Cannibal Hymn, the deified king is described as :

"He has revolved around the whole of the Two Skies.
He has circled the Two Banks.
For king Wenis is the Great Power that Overpowers the Powers.
King Wenis is a Sacred Image, the most Sacred Image 
of the Sacred Images of the Great One.
Whom he finds in his way, him he devours bit by bit."
Cannibal Hymn, Utterance 274.

The Greeks, no doubt also influenced by Ancient Egyptian thought, confirmed this state of affairs. The ontological difference between the world of becoming and the world of being was preluded by the views of Anaximander and Parmenides, and finally synthesized by Plato. The world of being consisted of unchanging, inherently existing "ideas", constituting the entities populating the world of becoming, radically separated from the former. Only the elite of contemplative philosophy had access to this world of being ... With the ontology of the One (Plotinus), this radical transcendence was finalized. Self-sufficient and autarchic, the One is a "substance of substances". Its Olympian nature is beyond any doubt.

Both Augustine (first third of the 6th century – 604) and Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) accepted this view and adapted it to Christian theology. The ultimate God-as-substance created the world "ex nihilo", and was believed to be the ontological "imperial" root of all possible existence. This God is distinct (another thing "totaliter aliter") and radically different (made of other kind of "stuff" as the world). By identifying the mind of God with Plato's world of ideas, the Augustinian Platonists had to exchange Divine grace for enlightened, intuitive reason. Thomist Peripatetics introduced perception as a valid source of knowledge and so prepared the end of fundamental theology, the rational explanation of the "facts" of revelation.

For Thomas Aquinas, the relation between God and the world is a "relatio rationis", not a real or mutual bond. This scholastic notion can be explained by taking the example of a subject apprehending an object. From the side of the object only a logical, rational relationship persists. The object is not affected by the subject apprehending it. From the side of the subject however, a real relationship is at hand, for the subject is really affected by the perception of the object. According to Thomism, God is not affected by the world, and so God is like a super-object, not a subject (ps.-Dionysius would say a "hyper-object") ! The world however is affected by this object-God, clearly not "Emmanuel", God-with-us. Hence, the relationship between God and the world cannot be reciprocal. If so, the world only contributes to the glory of God ("gloria externa Dei"). The finite is nothing more than a necessary "explicatio Dei". This is the seen as the only way the world can contribute to God.

In this line of reasoning, the monotheist God, like a Caesar of sorts, is omnipotent and omniscient. This means God knows what is possible as possible, what is presently real as real and also the future of what is real (predestination). Moreover, God can do what He likes and so is directly responsible for all events (cf. "insh'Allah"). These views make it impossible not to attribute all possible evil, like the slaying of the innocent, to God ! Such a theology turns the good God into a brutal monster or proves the point He cannot exist (cf. Sartre). Finally, free will cannot be combined with this view of God as the sufficient condition of all things, for freedom only harmonizes with a view of God as merely the necessary condition.

This radical ontological difference between God and the world influenced the Cartesian ontological rift between the material body and the incorporeal mind. Indeed, the latter was deemed to be able to understand God. If not, Descartes (1596 - 1650) would not have been able to back his fundamental intuition "ego cogito sum" with his proofs of God, and a "malin genie" could have tricked him after all ... As the mind had this contemplative capacity (we find in Plato, Plotinus and Augustine) to directly (intuitively) access the radically transcendent "mind of God", it could a forteriori not be made of the same "stuff" the world  (body, brain) was made of. Hence, ontological dualism (positing two ontologically different substances) was inevitable. Clearly both mind & brain were then posited as distinct entities, but on top of that they were also considered different in nature.

With the failure to explain "intuitional knowledge" (cf. Spinoza's "verum index sui"), Kant's rational distinction between a constitutive (ontological) and a regulative (epistemological) use of the ideas of reason & the disruptive inflation caused by German Idealism (triggering Protest Philosophy, Marxism and Positivism), a direct (non-physical) access of the mind to absolute truth was deemed impossible. In this context, epiphenomenalism (reducing to mind to a by-product of the brain) rose. Hence, the study of the mind was deemed impossible without the study of physiology and the brain (cf. Freud). Making mind part of Nature implied materializing it !

Contemporary neurological materialism is the XXth century adaptation of this. With a new ontology and an alternative definition of "mind", such radicalization is perhaps unnecessary ... Crucial here is to understand that while mind and body are distinct entities, they are made of the same ontological stuff. So mind and body are not ontologically different.

6. The Criticism of Spiritualism.

6.1 Criticism of Personal Experience.

Thinking the possibility of valid scientific knowledge, or a third-person perspective on the world, does not eliminate personal experience, but neither does it inflate it. Although a third-person view is based on a set containing the first-person perspectives of individual observers communicating what they experience, the intimacy and so private nature of the observation of each empirical ego can per definition not be open to scrutiny, except by introspection and autoreflective activity. These two mental operations indeed offer ways to alter inner states of mind, experiencing these changes directly & intimately. While this can be communicated, no other subject devoid of the same results of introspection will truly understand what is being said. Likewise, if one has never tasted honey, no description of the experience will suffice to communicate what it is like. Individuum est ineffabile.

The distinction between reality-for-me and reality-for-us is pertinent. Science deals with the latter. But also intersubjectivity is not enough. For if we identify valid knowledge with intersubjective consensus, the objectivity of knowledge can no longer be thought. If all we know is merely intra-mental, then there is not such a thing as knowledge about something. And if knowledge is not that, then knowledge can no longer be called "knowledge" at all. Hence, while subjectivity is a necessary condition, it is not sufficient to explain the possibility & expansion of knowledge.

Idealism reifies the subjective conditions of knowledge to the point of allowing these to constitute objectivity. While the consensus catholicus is a regulative idea, one helping the intersubjective dimension of knowledge to take shape, it does not define what valid or true conceptual knowledge is all about.

6.2 Criticism of Fideist Idealism.

Of course, faith in the conditions imposed by a supposed Supreme Spirit cannot satisfy rationality, based on communication, argumentation and the establishment of a reversible consensus.

While we should not dismiss the experience of mystics, and should accept the "visio Dei experimentalis", one cannot move a step further and a forteriori welcome the conceptual superstructures erected on such a personal experience. Any conceptual structure must be open to argumentation and rational validation. If not, it should be dismissed as invalid metaphysics.

6.3 Criticism of Spiritualist Dogmatism.

Dogmatism is merely the emphatic confirmation of an absolute spirit at the expense of the objective data offered by, so must we assume, extra-mental reality. The assumption that facts must, besides theory-dependent, be somehow extra-mental, i.e. possess a theory-independent side, is rejected on descriptive grounds (as in Hegel's dialectical, phenomenological process of the Spirit and its Nature).

But the assumption is normative. Criticism does not affirm or claim facts are extra-mental, but can do nothing else but normatively assume this to be the case. Not to do so would cripple our understanding of the conditions of possible conceptual knowledge and its development. How can knowledge be possible if it is not about something else than the subject ?

Dogmatic affirmation mostly takes the form of a community of "blessed" individuals able "by Divine grace" to understand this Supreme Spirit. This empowers them to enforce their view upon the members of their spiritual community, if not on humanity at large. The "language of science" is not a "sacred" language, one spoken by "high priests". The language spoken by science & normative philosophy must be open, critical and flexible.

Valid conceptual knowledge is hard to get. This fact humbles the scientist as well as the philosopher.

7. An Ontology beyond Materialism & Spiritualism.

To ask metaphysics to empirically prove its speculative insights, is like asking a dentist to transplant a heart. Metaphysics does not deal with experiments, tests and the validation of propositions by way of facts. The only two ways to validate its speculative statements are logical clarity (correctness or well-formedness) and argumentative backing. Its aim is not to conquer new factual ground, but to encompass as many valid speculations & scientific facts as possible to formulate a comprehensive view or Gestalt on all possible objects of thought. And should it surprise valid metaphysics, while allowing speculation, backs its arguments with science ?

Besides offering a grand synthesis, metaphysics is the "heuristic assistant" of science. Working in the background, metaphysics formulates a research programme inspiring scientific research to venture into new domains and try out novel connections between its objects. Invalid metaphysics will do poorly at this, leading science away from new crucial experiments. Valid metaphysics is the wise guide of science. It accommodates the manifold of scientific knowledge by devising a synoptic, unified, detailed, descriptive and explanatory account, providing a comprehensive framework for understanding the world and our place within it.

Insofar as this object is "merely being", metaphysics is ontology, the speculative study of being qua being. As ontology, metaphysics is immanent, meaning it stays within the confines of the "world" or "Nature". Moving beyond this, as in transcendent metaphysics, posits a transcendence, an actual infinity, inviting paradox and other inconsistencies into conceptual thought. As a non-conceptual approach, its core is nondual and ineffable (although, this much can be said, cognitive in an unsaying, mystical way). Together, immanent and transcendent metaphysics encompass the totality of all possible things.

Immanent metaphysics poses four fundamental questions : Why something rather than nothing ? Why the universe ? Why life ? Why consciousness ? Answering these four by way of a single well-formed set of interconnected statements backed by scientific fact and arguments, is the aim of ontology.

In the present context, two opposed metaphysical options have been scrutinized and found mistaken. Irrespective of the historical reasons why these extremes saw the light, we cannot accept these monisms because they fail to incorporate all possible known facts. This is their limitation and hence their insufficient capacity to answer the fundamental questions of ontology. Materialism is unable to explain the self-evident private nature of personal experience. The elements of its set are all public ! Moreover, personal experience is unitary, while the disjecta membra of matter (at least on the macro- and mesolevels) define a manifold. These a-symmetries make it impossible to accept materialism as a valid metaphysical system. Likewise, spiritualism is unable to explain the self-evident influence of public events on private life. The elements of its set are all private (subjective) or social (intersubjective). Knowledge can no longer be thought, for it is never about something but always in some way about "me" or "us". Moreover, the same a-symmetries hurt the system : here we have a unitary experience unable to explain the manifold.

It seems as if this antinomy points to a lack of depth & extension in both positions. They fail to find a common denominator for both mind & matter and so continue to create conflicts at the surface. They lack a broad perspective allowing both mind & matter to co-exist, and so are forced to either completely reduce the other polarity or reject it as illusionary and so unworthy of consideration. In both cases, their view on the world is crippled and the resulting metaphysical background is unable to invite new experiments & the articulation of a better scientific theory.

Both materialism & spiritualism are invalid metaphysical research programmes. As such, they hinder the advancement of science. They should be replaced by a more comprehensive view.

7.1 Criticism : Cutting-Through Appearances.

On both sides of the cognitive spectrum encompassing object & subject of knowledge, reification causes extreme positions to engage. Insofar as the logical condition of simplicity is satisfied, these extremes are monisms (for only one fundamental principle is imputed), entertaining reductionism (for one side of the spectrum is explained by the other side). In a more confused logical choice, both sides are acknowledged, triggering ontological dualism.

The last option faces the task to explain how different kinds of stuff interact ? Given no common denominator is in place, different entities a forteriori have no doors. Then how to bridge the ontological difference and maintain Nature is a single substance ? The communication between fundamentally different kinds of things possessing their properties inherently is bound to be problematic.

But monism itself is not deep and extended enough to sufficiently grasp the totality of Nature. Logical simplicity (numerical singularity) needs semantic fields to become operational. By reifying the two sides of the transcendental conditions of conceptual thought itself, these traditional answers did nothing more than skim the surface, uncomfortably satisfied with the chosen view.

Ontological materialism posits a real object, ontological idealism an ideal subject. The real object causes real influences, the ideal subject constitutes its object. Both grounds (real objective or ideal subjective) are self-sufficient and possess their nature or essence from their own side. Materialism looses sight of the theory ladenness of observation. Idealism becomes more self-engrossed, forgetting knowledge must also be about something else than mentalities.

Two reification are to be abolished : the extreme of positing sense-data as the bedrock of science & knowledge and the extreme of attributing object-constituting characteristics to ideal, (inter)subjective formations. A deeper stratum of experience must be found to counter both claims, namely Nature as a material substance versus Nature as substantially mind. One must cut-through the appearance of the world as a material entity as well as the mirage of the world as the product of mind.

Cutting-through is deontologizing both sides of the cognitive spectrum. Ultimate logic teaches there are no substances. All objects of perception/sensation and all subjective states are impermanent, transient & ever-changing, caught in ongoing process of interdependent happenings or occasions. When both the experiencing "I" and the experienced "other" are without permanent, eternal & never-changing inherent properties, cutting-through means apprehending all entities as made up of actual occasions, atomic & momentary actualities characterized by "extensiveness".

To understand what these actual occasions are, one has to prioritize activities over substances. The contrast between process & substance is rather considerable. In the categories of Aristotle, substance, quantity, quality & relation exist inherently. Likewise, space, time, matter & momentum are absolute. In essentialism or substance philosophy, discrete individuality & separateness are linked. A fixity within a uniform nature defined unity of being. This allows for descriptive & classificatoric stability & passivity.

Process categories bring in process, quantitative features, topicality & relational interconnections. Spatiotemporal location and inner state are relative. Not a single property exists form its own side, self-powered.  Here, interactive interrelatedness, wholeness and self-determination are linked. Novelty goes hand in hand with unity of functional typology (law). Productive fluidity & agency (activity) ensue.

7.2 Ontology : Panexperiential Occasionalism.

In the organic totality of Nature, an actual occasion is the smallest unity of process. Each momentary occasion extols a perpetual va-et-vient between two modes of existence : an objective mode, in which it only exists for others ("esse est percipi"), and a subjective mode of existence, in which the actual occasion is none but subjective experiential properties ("esse est percepere"). In the first, objective mode, a physical experience is at hand, explained in terms of efficient causation. In the second, subjective mode, a mental reaction ensues, bringing about final causation.

"... if we consider processes of collapse as representing the objectivized aspect of actual entities, the agreement between Whitehead and quantum mechanics is perfect."
Malin, Sh. : "Whitehead and the Collapse of Quantum States.", in : Eastman & Keeton, 2003, p.80.

Actual accasions, contrary to Leibnizian monads, do communicate with other actual occasions. In terms of logical order, an actual occasion "begins" with an open window to the past, showing previous events, the efficient causation of the past world on it. Next, it reponds to (a) this past actuality but also to (b) its own inner & dynamic current ideality drawing possibilities out of what was received and weighting the options in order to favour a single outcome. By doing so, the actual occasion exercises final causation, showing self-determination, spontaneity & self-determination. The difference between efficient and final causation is analog to the difference between actual and potential in quantum mechanics, brought about by the "collapse" of the wave-function (Heisenberg, von Neumann), turning an infinite number of possibilities into a single one.

While taking a decision ends subjectivity, the actual occasion does not perish. Its end as subjective experience is the beginning of its existence as efficient cause on subsequent occasions, being the physical past entering their event-horizon. Actual occasions are therefore never in "one place" or "solitary", but a forteriori enter in each other's process (togetherness) and so define continua of occasion-streams. They are interconnected momentary events, not isolated (Olympic) enduring substances.

"The past actualities generate potentialities for the next actual occasion, which specifies a new space-time standpoint (region) from which the potentialities created by the past actualities will be prehended (grasped) by the current occasion. This basic autogenetic process creates the new actual entity, which, upon its creation, contributes to the potentialities for the succeeding actu