John Niemeyer Findlay's double series of lectures, The Discipline of the Cave and The Transcendence of the Cave, aim to convince the reader of the inseparability of the transcendent from everyday life. The first series, The Discipline of the Cave, begins this task by describing the inadequacy and deceptiveness inherent in epistemologies which do not adequately take the transcendent into account.
The first lecture, ‘The Furnishings of the Cave’, serves as a generalised introduction to the entire series of lectures. Findlay sketches an ambitious program, not proposing to discuss Plato’s cave metaphor as such, but rather using it as a point of entry into a much broader investigation of the human predicament. The second and third lectures, both entitled ‘The Methods of Cave Exploration’, examine the methods, both phenomenological and dialectical, brought to bear on this proposed investigation.
The fourth lecture, ‘The Cave Foreground: The Resting Face of Bodies’, begins the phenomenological investigation with a discussion of the physical reality of bodies. This is followed by the fifth lecture, ‘The Cave Foreground: The Moving Face of Bodies’, which shifts the focus of consideration from the spatial to the temporal properties of solid bodies, and, by extension, to the phenomenon of time itself. The properties thus discussed are problematised in the sixth lecture, ‘The Dissolution of Bodies’, which draws on modern physics in order to discuss some of the immediately observable puzzles and contradictions connected to a solid body’s motion through space and time.
The seventh lecture, ‘Further Antinomies of Bodies’, shifts the method of investigation from phenomenological to dialectical, pursuing the opposition between the divisive and connective properties of spatio-temporal bodily existence, including the antinomies of quality, partialism vs. holism, and mechanism vs. chemism and vitalism. Findlay concludes that solid matter, even approached through a dialectical method, is deeply deceptive.
From this conclusion, he turns in the eighth lecture to ‘The Realm of Minds’. This chapter focuses primarily on the relation of mind to bodily phenomena, whereas the ninth lecture, ‘The Realm of Minds Continued’, focuses on higher-order phenomena. Finally, the tenth lecture, ‘The Dissolution of the Realm of Minds’, applies the dialectical method to the phenomena previously discussed, concluding that the world of the mind, of ‘communicating egos’, is no less deceptive than the realm of solid matter.