We shall devote the present lecture to pondering over the putative structure and contents of what must be held to be a most important and central zone of the ‘upper world’ we are speculating about: the zone which corresponds to the noetic cosmos or intelligible world of Plato and Plotinus and which seems not very different from the Dharmadhatu of Buddhism. This is a zone parallel to that of the floating meanings and notions which as we saw are constituted by our earthly thought in the upper regions of the cave. Only whereas we then were dealing with ectypal mental constructions involving much that was arbitrary and correspondent only with human approaches it is now our design to say something about the originals the archetypes which these intentional objects merely seek to copy. For us the two zones are necessarily distinct since the archetypes in question are not mere patterns and ideals of cave-thought but are thought of as given in a real experience which is never adequately ours in this present life and which is only by courtesy different from the archetypes it presents or contemplates. Things as abstractly seen by us in the cave may at times we hope coincide with things as they really are ‘yonder’ but we must also allow the possibility of wide divergence and inadequacy. The relation is that which Aristotle has described as holding between the active intelligence which ‘makes’ all forms and the passive intelligence which merely receives them; it is a relation we all feel to exist when we struggle to give a true account of anything to work out its deeper implications to penetrate to its essence to see it in a manner in which it not only becomes clear but also beautiful. It is we feel because there is a real eidetic order guiding our feeble adumbrations that our logical mathematical scientific axiological and aesthetic inquiries are at all possible.
Lecture VII | The Noetic Cosmos
The noetic cosmos that we are attempting to sketch can be held to be a high but not the highest zone in our upper world. It is not the mystical pole of the world where all things come together in unity but the world's first declension into diversity a sort of Arctic circle which we may for the purposes of our treatment place in the beams of an unsetting midsummer sun. At this level we are beyond sense and its compulsive illustration: all is defined graspable character or essence with no surd substrate beyond it requiring endless elucidation or analysis. At this level too we are beyond instantiation and its repetitious inanity though we are not beyond any degree of specificity of character or relative position or of spatial and temporal order and pattern. What we have is a world of
eidh of good forms which is not to say that the distorted and the deviant will not have an interstitial place among them. At this level also we are beyond all opaque separateness of conscious individuality and reference: what we have is an improved version of what Leibniz spoke of in his monadology mind as such with a single set of universalized contents specified in a set of mutually perspicuous complementary standpoints each embodying its own idiosyncratic emphasis. What we have moreover is a world where the splintered separateness of different intended contents is overcome in the unity of intending mind mind being precisely the medium in which what conflicts or falls apart in the instance can be reconciled in the thought. Our world is further a world where the distinction between intending reference and intended object while not done away with has lost the gulf-like connotations which transcendent instances promote: it has become like an exteriorization and an interiorization of the same phenomenon a case of the concave and convex so often spoken of by Aristotle. What we have said however requires careful point-by-point treatment as it is only too easy to be expansively empty in discoursing on such themes.
The points we are about to consider were to some extent thrashed out in the Platonic Academy which first hazarded the great inversion looking for what absolutely is not in the dark depths of a particularity which we opine rather than see but in the complete perspicuity of definite characters which are despite modern objection the very paradigm of the graspable and the clear and which seemed to be moving from that inversion towards a further theory of a mind which as real or more real than defined characters was able to unite and make fruitful use of them all. Echoes of that great discussion are to be found in Aristotle's supremely interesting accounts of Platonism in the Metaphysics and in the statements of commentators on these accounts: they are less clearly present in what may quite properly be called the exoteric dialogues to which modern Platonic scholarship has increasingly confined itself while it may also be said to have misunderstood much of their drift. Even the most sympathetic modern accounts of the world of forms see little more in it that the varied abstractions conjured up by thought and science rather than the basic blue-print of the empirical world.
We may here take a lead from the Platonic Academy and make the prime inhabitants the ground-level content of the noetic cosmos the patterns of things that exist by nature rather than by art defect choice chance accident mixture or any other distortion of ‘nature’ however much it may afterwards be necessary to find a place for the latter somewhere in the intelligible world. What primarily are there for noetic experience will not be bloodless categories or discarnate variables but the ‘natural kinds’ truly representing the structures of our material particles (of which Plato and Pythagoras and modern physics have alike given geometrical accounts going on from thence to their various compounds and complex admixtures proceeding to unitary organisms of various sorts and ending up with such living things as exercise the higher cogitative functions including some which perhaps have much more remote presiding connections with the realm of bodies than we have and ending up with the communities the ideal ‘republics’ which such beings may form. There seems no reason to depart from this basic Platonic position: the pattern of the well-formed unit the well-rounded self-sufficient thing is obviously the Alpha of the intelligible however little it may deserve to be its Omega. We first understand events acts virtues defects relations assemblages intentions categories in terms of it but not it in terms of the infinitely fine ontological dust that it raises. If it is possible to reverse this priority at higher levels of reflection this can only be if we sublimate the original priority at such levels. Logical atomism the process-philosophy associationistic psychology the sense-datum epistemology etc. all prefer to winnow this interstitial dust and are in the end stifled by it. True or metaphysical science always wins through the dust to those clear simple invariant patterns in which there is no reason to believe except that they specify reason itself.
It is important that we should here stress the element of sheer contingency of sublimated fact that we must think of as present in the noetic cosmos and which is analogous to the contingency down here in the region of individual encounter. That there should be such a pattern as that of the kangaroo as such or the kangaroo itself is as uncovenanted and surprising a fact about the ideal world as that there should have been those reduplicated individual kangaroos which astonished Captain Cook when he first saw them hopping around in Australia. The kangaroo as such we may hazard is quite different from the griffin as such to which we can only accord a highly secondary derivative status poised somewhere between the real possibilities which the genus Animal covers and the additions which exist only for mythological fancy. Such characters as colours odours etc. have likewise an obviously contingent status: their relations among each other are all necessary and essential but the characters themselves have no aseity. It is not necessary we may say that there should have been such characters at all. In this respect what we say about the prime forms in our noetic cosmos contrasts strongly with what we say about the more ultimate categories that they specify. The patterns studied in abstract arithmetic and sufficiently abstract geometry are patterns which it probably would not make sense to suppose absent from the noetic cosmos. All this will of course be wholly meaningless to modern linguistic analysis according to which it is sheerly arbitrary to attribute or not to attribute being to ‘entities of reason’ natural of factitious and which would find it highly artificial to attribute ideal being to some such abstracta and not to others. The procedure of science however argues otherwise. Though there are now no dodos being a dodo is felt to be a real pattern of organic being whereas being a griffin is not: notes too high for anyone's hearing are likewise genuine well-formed characters whereas colours lying outside of the colour-pyramid are not. It will be argued that the ‘existence’ I here attribute to forms or patterns is a mere generalized reflection of the existence of actual instances of such forms and that our knowledge of the former depends wholly on our knowledge of the latter. But there are collocations due to choice or chance which however much repeated as in the case of manufactured articles or lucky throws with unbiased dice do not point to a genuine pattern lying behind them and it is clear further that our knowledge of forms involves many elements of what some would call an ‘intuitive hunch’ whereas others would speak of ‘noetic insight’ but which in any case goes far beyond what experience lays before us. Our noetic insight is indeed valued for its use in predicting and controlling such individualities as we encounter down here and these too have an all-important role in testing its genuineness. But that they are thus important does not mean that prediction control or testing make any sense without invoking matters far beyond their purview.
The ideal contingency we have been considering also goes far towards explaining the de facto necessity of natural laws which would otherwise be extremely puzzling. Natural laws the main object of physical research are given as applying to possibles as well as actuals and as excluding all but a definite range from the former but they are also given as principles that might have been otherwise as necessities therefore whose necessity is not necessary but contingent. The difficulty is resolved if we revert from the crabbed modern notion of law to the old notion of the kind or species: laws are necessary as expressing how instances of certain natural species will behave in virtue of the essence or nature of such species. The existence of the instances and even more fundamentally of the species behind the instances is however in the last resort a contingent matter: there need not in fact have been such a prototype or species.
We may here deal with another view much canvassed in the Platonic Academy and descended from earlier Pythagorean speculation: the view which saw in the objects of the noetic cosmos the product of two factors of a dark principle of indefinite flowing quantity on the one hand capable of increase and diminution without limit and having varieties equal in number to the dimensions of space and time and perhaps some others and a principle of unity or limit on the other hand through which indefinite quantity was variously bounded thereby giving rise to all forms or ideal patterns. The metaphor of genesis involved in this account is confusing and unfortunate and means no more than that every form or species can be regarded as involving a limitation of one or more types of flowing quantity. To these types of flowing quantity we are told that Plato gave the names of ‘the many and few’ obviously the purely arithmetical dimension the long and short obviously the dimension of linearity the broad and narrow i.e. the continuum of surface-magnitudes and the deep and shallow obviously the continuum of surface magnitudes. If we cast our glance over a wide range of Platonic writings—and the Pythagorean doctrinal framework must have served as a thought-background to Plato's notions throughout his life—we find the Republic adding the swift and the slow to give an account of the movement of solid bodies (time as in the Timaeus being inseparable from regular movement) while in the Philebus many species of indefinite flowing quantity e.g. the hot and the cold are recognized all of which are counted by the basic principle of limit. To all the species of flowing quantity Plato gives the embracing name of the Great and Small signifying by this queer term not two things as Aristotle confusedly supposed but simply the basic property of continuous quantity that it can be added to or extended on the one hand or reduced and divided on the other without let or hindrance. And while this indefinite flowing principle is more unrestrainedly evident in the world of instances than in the world of pure natures the genius of Plato saw it as existing in a tamed overcome form in the latter. In all this construction Plato is propounding a philosophy of mathematics as interesting as that of Frege and Russell. Only whereas they start with finite magnitudes and assemblages and can never convincingly rise above them Plato starts with the infinite or indefinite as a first principle and by repeatedly limiting it tries to reach all finite numbers and magnitudes. (Though the precise detail of this construction was of course fantastic and even more fantastically garbled in our sources.)
What is however extremely fascinating and illuminating is Plato's view that all natures of natural kinds and their basic excellences can be given an analysis in terms of the two factors thus involved that they all can be reduced to ‘numbers’ not in one or other of the perverse senses given to this procedure by Aristotle but in the sense in which a reduction to numbers is a reduction to a set of precise proportions or numerical relations (an interpretation considered by Aristotle in e.g. Met. A 991b 1092b) a sort of reduction of which Plato gives examples in the structures of the elementary particles of fire earth air and water in the Timaeus in all of which as in many other instances there is a ‘schematization by forms and numbers’ (Tim. 536) which reflects a more ultimate schematization in the forms themselves.
It is clear even at the ordinary level of phenomenal givenness that nothing is more deeply characteristic of or essential to a natural species e.g. an animal or a plant than the characteristic proportions of its various parts and organs the characteristic rhythms of its responses and so on. Alter any of these continuously and ‘quantity’ soon changes into ‘quality’: one is confronted by quite a different sort of thing. And such proportionate structure applies to all the characteristic expressions of individual personality in physique gait speech writing facial expression etc. The form of the individual his ‘soul’ if one likes certainly consists in ‘numbers’ or numerical harmonies which would not prove its mortality as strangely argued in the Phaedo but rather its permanent significance or immortality. The only question that arises is whether the quality of things can be reduced without remainder to proportionate features of the kind indicated. As we saw in our first series of lectures this is one of the most difficult cruces in the phenomenology of body. We are both tempted to frame such a reduction and yet feel that all would vanish in emptiness were it carried through. (This is in fact Aristotle's objection to the whole analysis: that proportions are necessarily proportions of something to something.) The crux in question is best dealt with by holding that while there is an intimate relation of essence between quantitative relations and qualities permitting of quantification or arising out of quantification—a relation which inspires all theories of primary and secondary qualities—neither can without absurdity be reduced to the other but exists ‘in and for the other’. The forms in the ideal cosmos will not therefore have the purely numerical constitution which Plato thought they must have but will also embrace much splendour of quality.
Here too we may borrow one of Plotinus's happy emendations of Platonism and place in the realm of forms what are practically forms of individuals. The ideal world will have to have the violence done it of containing the same generic pattern many times over but only in so far as such a generic pattern appears variously specified or unspecified or set in different ideal contexts. We shall not have the artificial Aristotelian situation in which we acknowledge forms only of a certain degree of specificity e.g. Man but not anything more highly generic or specific e.g. Animal or Caucasian Man. We shall be allowed on this proposed construction to acknowledge an ideal pattern of Man in General but also to acknowledge ideal patterns of many sub-varieties of humanity such as are in fact acknowledged in valuable ethnological or psychological classifications. There is further no reason why we should not acknowledge ideal patterns which incorporate factors due to choice and chance: the contingently existent has an ideal status when considered as one of the ways in which an ideal genus can be specified or circumstanced and even considered as the way or as a way in which it has in fact been specified or circumstanced. Everything even the merely factual has an ideal status only a duly placed relegated one; an exemplified character is qua character different from an unexemplified one even if the difference is rightly seen as peripheral. There is further no reason against and strong reason for postulating an essence or ideal pattern for certain individual beings an essence representing a peculiar sort of being which the being in question alone instantiates which perhaps cannot be instantiated by another individual but which need not extend to all that it has is does or undergoes. Leibniz as is well known framed a notion of individual essence covering every circumstance however trivial in an individual's actual history or setting so that none could be thought different without substituting another individual for the one is question. This Leibnizian concept though legitimate is not what we here intend. We are endeavouring to frame a notion of an individual which permits us to imagine him or it differently qualified placed in differing situations and reacting differently to them perhaps faced by the free choice of others and reacting freely to them. Such a notion or
ei/doj will involve a distinction between features which are intrinsic to it and features which accrue to it externally which fill in the gaps it leaves open but which might have been differently filled. It is this conception of ideal individuality that following suggestions of Plotinus we should be advised to frame and to locate among the prime furnishings of the ideal world. The more inclusive individuality of Leibniz could be given the same interstitial status that we accord to other contingent specifications. We are here however faced by the interesting question whether all individual specimens of all kinds shall be held to have peculiar individual patterns or whether this is true only of some individual specimens of some kinds. One is moved to take some view of the latter kind. The nature of certain individuals whether human or animal is felt to involve something so enormously distinctive and such a close mutual ‘belongingness’ among its central traits as to qualify for genuine ad generis status whereas other individuals seem only contingently to specify or individuate possibilities characteristic of some more general essence or kind. Socraticity we feel was something sui generis but not so the habit of being this individual earwig. Possibly men and some higher animals are unique in achieving this sui generis individuality. The sort of point now under discussion is of course quite beneath discussion from the standpoint of modern analysis: we alone as linguistic arbiters can decide whether being Socrates constitutes being a peculiar sort of thing whereas being this earwig does not. But the fact that we do feel the issue to be discussable and even momentous does tend to show that it objectively is so and that for a suitable otherworldly noetic vision some soi-disant essences may well count as ultimate articulations of the noetic cosmos whereas others do not so qualify. Spinoza in his theory of survival sub specie aeternitatis has said much on these lines.
We are here led on to another major Platonic issue the relation of the forms or essences to goodness or value. The Republic teaches that it is the form of goodness or value which gives being to all the forms and also illuminates minds and makes them mindful of the forms in question: it has however itself a dignity beyond that of the forms and their being and presumably also since it gives cognizability to the forms while it is itself the source of all cognizability it is not known as the forms are known. This doctrine plainly implies that the forms are particular specifications of goodness or value ‘values’ in the sense in which we used the plural in a previous lecture marrying together indissolubly what modern philosophers prize apart as descriptive and evaluative meaning while goodness itself is neither a form nor known as forms are known only because it is (we may say) what it is to be a form and what it is to be knowable itself. There can be little doubt that from its first inception the axiological and mathematical sides of the Platonic view of the forms were firmly married as for the Pythagoreans and the good was always a mathematical as much as a value-concept being in fact probably identified with the Pythagorean principle of Limit which Plato possibly out of deference to the Eleatics renamed ‘the One’. What the Philebus states explicitly all earlier dialogues imply the Republic in particular by the close unity it institutes between mathematical and moral education that goodness consists always in some sort of ‘governance by numbers’ by precisely proportional measures and by numbers peculiar to the thing or enterprise on hand. What we have now ourselves to enquire is the extent to which we can endorse the construction of an ideal world in which descriptive content is thus closely wedded to value and in which both have a close connection with the Greek idea of a logos qua quantitative ratio.
We said in a previous lecture that the whole field of human abstraction is presided over by certain fundamental logical values which some whose conception of the ‘logical’ is narrow would possibly call ‘aesthetic’. We do not frame any and every abstract conception but only such as have clear and unchanging outlines or great unity and simplicity which also stretches to cover extreme diversity or deep ‘truth’ to the rich detail of instantiated fact etc. etc. (There are also logical values lying in opposed directions and not to be confused with mere fallings-short of the above excellences which in some contexts e.g. those of poetry or mysticism or philosophy have unusual importance.) What we are now maintaining is that the ideal world we are constructing should have as its prime members types which exemplify high logical values and this is in fact exactly how we do want to build it up. The forms which are thought to underlie natural kinds or to set patterns of law for the whole universe or the individualities which we think really distinctive are all characterized by an aesthetic salience and a fruitful simplicity as well as by deep relevance to changing instantial detail. The only difference in our attitude is that in our previous treatment we were treating the values which guide our abstractions merely as high-level needs of the thinking person which shape the objects of his intentions whereas now we are seeing them as the governing principles of a world which underlies and determines the multiplied instantial world of our sensuous encounters. We are holding in short that the same noetic cosmos which affects us with a desire or need for certain conceptions also affects the instantial world and makes it conform to this need that the need and the material which meets the need have an affinity derived from this common source and rendered understandable thereby. There are of course a vast family of non-logical values aesthetic moral hedonic energetic etc. etc. and these it might seem have no necessary relation to the values which make objects understandable and give them a firm place in the noetic cosmos. But these other values all have profound analogies and affinities with the values we have called ‘logical’ and they all also represent the way in which our thinking being detaches itself from contingent goals towards goals ever more generalized and shareable. The same craving for universality and necessity which leads us to build up a world of truth and logic by which all thinking persons will be bound also leads us to build up the other impersonal goals in question. These other non-cognitive values therefore reflect trends essential to the understanding of thinking man and therefore have logical or cognitive value as well as being peculiar types of excellence: it is impossible to understand what man is without seeing him in relation to the ordered family of transcendental ends that he cannot help setting himself and which all deviations from such ends likewise presuppose. And it is reasonable to hold that no collective or individual human structure can be truly understood except in terms of the specific values it frames for itself and which are its own collective or personal ideal. The good therefore presides not only over the whole noetic cosmos but also more specially over that part of this cosmos which embraces conscious purposiveness whether animal or human.
Any complete endorsement of a view which makes goodness or value preside over the whole noetic cosmos will however involve the acceptance of a view like that of the Pkaedo according to which being good is somehow a good reason for being or for being so with an added rider that it is ultimately the only reason for anything's being or being so so that all cases of the indifferent and the bad will have somehow to be accorded an instrumental goodness as being necessary conditions or inevitable consequences of what is per se good. This rather than the totally unacceptable view that evil is a mere case of defect or negation and so negligible is what will require reflective endorsement. A full discussion of evil will occupy us in another lecture: here it will be enough to stress that it is not good enough to locate departures from perfection in the region of instances and to explain their imperfection either by defects of instantiation as such or of some material involved in instantiation. This facile solution is inadmissible if only for the reason that an
ei=doj a general pattern is inherently and not accidentally a possibility of instantiation a point that Plato was coming more and more to see and that it therefore requires the realm of instances as much as the latter requires it. This is particularly obvious if we adopt a view which connects ei;dh general patterns with values for each value is inseparable from the demand that something should be and be not merely in some unfulfilled ideal sense but in the sense of the most full-fledged instantiation. Instances may occupy a lowly place in the system of things but this place is none the less indefeasible. Every deficiency and distortion therefore that can arise out of the instantiation of the prime members of the noetic cosmos must be inherent in those members and discoverable in the structure of that cosmos: what is discordant defective distorted hybrid must exist interstitially in the world of ideal patterns. This was perhaps obscurely seen by Plato when he drew back from a too confident exclusion of untoward and squalid elements from the dazzling realm yonder and when he was not afraid to admit the presence of the Great and Small the principle of unlimited quantity and to that extent of evil into the realm of forms. The imposition of the Limit on the Unlimited or to quote from another context of the Works of Mind on the Works of Necessity may have seemed a somewhat sorry enterprise down here but Plato must have seen it as mirroring a wholly successful enterprise yonder in which continuous quantity was quite dominated and therefore good. But whether or not Plato was thus fully percipient or was merely the purblind logic-chopper he is currently thought to have been it is plain that since possibilities of instantiation lie in different directions and conflict with one another in their realization and so lead to ugly clashes compromises colourless intermediates or one-sided victories there are boundless possibilities of evil in all instantiation and since the possibility of instantiation is inseparable from ideal being in ideal being itself. Even the ordered world of numbers has and must have its interstitial surds an evil well known to the Pythagoreans and also to Plato. We may add to this necessity of logical evil in the ideal cosmos the necessity which rests on contrast it being plain that the value and clearness of anything salient harmonious and pure depends on contrast with what is none of these things. And we may add the necessity which rests on resistance it being plain that all higher types of spiritual excellence involve the overcoming of opposed resistances as also the necessity which rests on freedom it being plain that the ‘values of the will’ are at their highest when choice is least trammelled and when pace Augustine and countless others a contrary choice of evil is both logically and metaphysically possible. When all these necessities are considered it seems plain that evil is in numerous distinct ways inwrought into the essential fabric of what is good and hence must be present in the paradigmatic as much as in the instantial order. Only in the former the patterns of what is hybrid confused ill-fitting deformed or perverse will have an essentially different rank and position from the primary patterns of generic and individual goodness; the distortions and defects in question have a place in that cosmos but only as distortions and defects which are as such wholly parasitic upon goodness and so no more than its inevitable shadows. The whole noetic cosmos and so indirectly the realm of its instances can therefore without absurdity be brought under the sway of the good what is edifying can also happily be recognized to be logically necessary and the programme of the Phaedo of finding the supreme explanation of everything in how it is good or best for things to be can therefore be realized. As to the further connection of value or goodness with proportion we may be indulgent to this characteristically Greek exaggeration. Quantitative considerations certainly enter into many of the least formula-bound cases of excellence but we have learnt from our romantic Gothic past to value the other element in the forms the unmeasured dark Platonic Great and Small. What exceeds all bounds and evades all compass is intrinsically precious to us since it is part and parcel of all that is intelligible.
We may now hold that just as the noetic cosmos includes innumerable legitimate and deviant specifications which descend indefinitely into detail so it will also contain patterns of higher and higher generality until we end up with those categorial patterns whose being has no element of contingency and whose relations inter se are all necessary or involve a priori probability. The a priori eidetic sciences of which phenomenology is one lie behind (we may say) the contingent eidetic sciences which provide the material for this actual nature. Generic forms are of course a different set of ideal entities from the sorts which specify them or from the generic aspect of the latter: the former are given apart from their specifications while the latter are absolutely one with them. This constant reduplication of ideal entities in differing contexts is what surprised Plato into his doctrine of mathematicals but the possibility of having ‘many-alike’ though embedded in different ideal contexts must be held to be characteristic of the world of forms. Everywhere one encounters a splintering which though not the last word in the matter is deeply characteristic of the ideal as opposed to the instantial world: there may be patterns which are in a sense complex e.g. the higher integers the forms of animals etc. but they are in a sense new patterns of which what we are inclined to call the separated elements are not really elements at all. The number Five being Five as such is obviously no part of the number Ten though logically presupposed by the latter and the genus Animal considered in its pure generality is in no sense part of the species Kangaroo. Entities of different levels just because they are so essential to one another are for that reason set wholly apart. It is a well-known principle in class-logic that classes just because they are no more than the collection of their members are therefore separated from the latter by a categorial gulf. It goes without saying that our noetic cosmos will include separated abstracta belonging to other categories than the individual or substantial and that these abstracta too will be of varying degrees of generality or specificity or of complexity or simplicity. They are the finely splintered interstitial dust necessarily generated by an original set of larger splinters and they necessarily generate a finer and finer dust in their own interstices in a manner that recalls the generation of various types of matter in Descartes’ vortical physics. They contribute to the ideal cosmos by giving to each facet of everything and to each facet of each facet an independent ideal position as by also giving an independent position to any and every case of union and connection that the cosmos embodies. The last point is of great importance. Though (from one point of view) essentially splintered the ideal world contains patterns of every degree of internal complexity and coherence: it must contain detailed specifications of any and every complete world of which our own world is (so far) only one among others. Here however we must guard against a profound mistake: the mistake of making the noetic cosmos a mere assemblage of possible worlds or Carnapian state-descriptions set side by side in some indifferent ‘logical space’. In our world abstract possibilities of structure and arrangement are plainly parasitic upon the sorts of things and the sorts of arrangements that are there and so too the infinite merely possible worlds of Leibniz and Carnap must be given a peripheral place surrounding a single world-pattern which is also the world-pattern the blueprint of our actual world. This unique actual world will have its unique model yonder much as Plato placed a single ideal living creature behind the one world in which our lots are cast and in fact derived the uniqueness of the latter from that of the former. Real being and truth make sense only where there is a single all-embracing content-informed highly coherent system into which all specific and individual facts can be fitted and this is as true of the ideal as of the actual world.
Our construction of the intelligible world has more and more assumed the character of the exploration of a mythical lumber-room in which almost anything may be discovered and where disorder rather than cosmos seems predominant. It is now time to lay greater stress upon the experience the blessed conscious life in which all this splendid variety is brought together and which alone gives it an ultimate hold upon our credence. The great inversion of Platonism whereby characters take ontological precedence over instances has a deep and liberating hold upon our view of the world: it substitutes as we saw the lucid and the graspable for the everlastingly obscure and elusive. Individuals there well may be and we may at times indicate them with our physical fingers or hold them in our physical hands but all that our minds can lay hold of in them is irremediably characteristic and universal. The great inversion is however unacceptable unless we can carry it further relating the characters thus distinguished to a mind that embraces them and unites them and which employs its intentions not so much to mediate transcendent references to instances as to put before itself ideal objects which exactly correspond to the scope of its intentions. When I think abstractly of being such and such and no more or of a such and such and no more or of such and such's being the case and no more I put before myself an object tailored to fit the approach the conscious light in which I might view an object so that object and approach can without absurdity be said to be the same thing differently regarded (like the concave and convex previously mentioned) and so that the intention is wholly adequate to and exhaustive of the intended object. The essential ambiguity of the word ‘concept’ has been often noted it being used to stand for the manner in which something is conceived by someone and also for a truncated something which precisely fits that manner. This ambiguity springs from the two-sided unity of pure thinking in which it is not really possible to have the intended without the intention nor vice versa. For ideal patterns while perfectly intelligible as intentional objects cannot be thought to have uninstantiated being except in and for certain intentions and it is because of this profoundly intimate relation of intention and intended that our knowledge of the latter can be so completely luminous and adequate. Ultimately all instances other than instances of mentality may need to have this purely intentional status accorded to them since they too never really have the completeness that their nature as individuals demands. This is however a fortiori true of the truncated universal objects of thought and perception which fall infinitely short of such completeness. The ideal world therefore points to a mental completion in which all its scattered objectivities whether truncated and abstract or ‘open’ and concrete will be intended and it is to such a view that we find Plato tending in his later dialogues Aristotle having recourse in his view of a mind as a place of forms while the whole notion becomes explicit in Plotinus's view of the Divine Mind as embracing and in a sense being the whole world of forms. Obviously no abstractum can be anything unless it illuminates by contrast and in countless other ways the systematic totality of other abstracta (and thereby indirectly the whole realm of instances) unless it forms part of a single grand total of discourse or dialectic both points made in Plato's Parmenides and his Sophist. The need for mutual relevance is precisely the need for a single embracing mind for it is only in such a mind that the essential splintering of abstract entities can be overcome. Mind is therefore no otiose contemplative subjectivity but the essential cement of the ideal world; it alone enables it to stand on its own legs to be a cosmos a unified world. We may note too in passing how by our passage to such a mind we begin to see the solution of the puzzle which has teased us so hopelessly thus far: the impossibility of achieving that exhaustive synthesis of possibilities or of ‘values’ in which the whole phenomenological cosmos was seen to culminate. The notion of such a complete synthesis is from the point of view of instantiation absurd: one cannot possibly realize the totality of possibilities both because there is no upper limit to such a class and also because there is no way of instantiating certain possibilities without excluding others. The independent subsistence of a set of abstracta were it conceivable might not involve a similar contradiction but it would involve a splintered side-by-sideness (or not even that) which certainly yields no genuine synthetic unity. But the thought of all possibles all values or even the thought of the unrealizable synthesis of them all has nothing impossible about it and its perfection may even be said to consist in the sheer impossibility of carrying out its content instantially. It is in fact to use the language of religious paradox the sheer contradictoriness of all that God intends (not of course of what God is) that places him infinitely above and beyond all of his creatures who all represent one-sided essays in instantial consistency. It is because divinity cannot make divinity that it is divinity. These readily misunderstood paradoxes apart we are led to place in the intelligible world a mind that holds it all together and for whom all its splintered and coherent fragments its realities and unrealities alone form a unitary picture. This is not a new view but we have tried to see it not as arbitrary and edifying but as categorial and necessary.
We must not however escape from one sort of instantialism only to fall a prey to another: the mind for which and in which all abstracta intentionally are must not be this mind or that mind not even a supreme mind set high above all finite minds and imparting light to them all. Such a supreme mind would merely be one mind among others however superior in origin and content and its exclusion of other minds even of their interesting one-sidedness would deprive it of any absolute or paradigmatic status. The mind that furnishes the cement of the intelligible world can be no less than mind as such an absolute that overlaps all distinctions of kind and instance and so a mind shared in varying degrees by all instances of mentality and ever more completely as they advance towards the mystical pole of all being. The conclusion to which we are irresistibly drawn has however its own deep difficulties. Does it not make the mind which we say illuminates the intelligible world a mere limit to actual minds an imaginary focus moreover where nothing actually is? And does it not make mind as such like the varying abstracta it houses a mere abstractum itself demanding incorporation in another mind by which it will be intended?
These difficulties must be embraced and turned into victories. It is a proper and happy truth that the mind which illuminates the intelligible world is nothing without the instantial minds that more or less adequately embody it and that it requires as they require it. Some of these minds seen from our elevation are practically indistinguishable from it as our minds may well seem indistinguishable from it from the lowly stance of domestic animals. And we may certainly hazard the suggestion that there is no degree of instantial approximation to it that is not somewhere or somewhen equalled or surpassed even though the sum-total of all such approximations may represent an illegitimate notion. But the relation of this universal or absolute mind to instantial minds will not be that of a mere intentional object to which their thought tends but of a goal towards which their being necessarily drifts: the peculiar intentionality involved in this case as better philosophers have stated is that of a nisus a zeal a burning love. And though the requirement is mutual the Platonic inversion is still proper: it is better to see in mind as such the cause of the nisus which informs instantial minds than to see instantial minds in all their purblindness and weakness as the celebrants of a strange theurgy or theogony in which the absolute mind first comes to light. The intelligible world is therefore presided over by a mind which is not anyone's mind but to which all minds set outside this world at varying distance in the sphere of instances aspire and by which they may be said to be inspired. Ultimate truth in this region seems as close to atheism as to theism (or vice versa) a fact evinced by the perennial wobble of enlightened opinion on the matter (meaning by ‘enlightened’ the view of Buddhas and Messiahs not of what are generally called ‘advanced thinkers’).
The elevation to universal mind or to mind as such must not however be so interpreted as to remove from the noetic cosmos all shadow of personal emphasis or point of view. Nothing that exists anywhere in the realm of instances can fail to have its ‘as such’ its paradigm yonder and so certainly also that strange multiplication of points of view in a sense overlapping yet in a sense exclusive which characterizes instantial mind. Mind as such does not merely have instances mutually indifferent but instances given as in possible communication with one another and this is as much ‘of its essence’ as any general feature of intentionality. The life of mind is always of objects but it is also always lived with others and the ideal cosmos must therefore preserve all real and thinkable differences of viewpoint and its intentional structures will be in every way as interesting as are its animals or its atoms. But in the intelligible world no such standpoint will be privileged: each will be a centre of everything much as in space every point is a centre for all space. Instantial minds as they ascend in latitude will therefore approximate more and more closely to the non-privilege or omniprivilege of mind as such: they will indeed see things from their own point of view but will mirror all other points of view so sympathetically that there will be less and less difference between the mirror-image and the reality. In the end it will represent a distinction without a difference whether we say that we have A sympathizing with B or have B sympathizing with A. This limit again exists only in approximation and makes sense only as the goal of instantial minds but this will not lessen the propriety of a Platonic inversion which treats it as much more authentic and more potent than the instantial minds which approach it.
Very similar things can be said if we consider the gradual vanishing of temporality which will obtain as we advance towards the limit constituted by the intelligible world and the mind that surveys it. Temporality can never vanish as long as there is instantial mind for we cannot as seen before divorce awareness from an ever varied achievement of salience: a thing must appear as this or as that and it must always appear as something different as long as we have it in mind. This does not however mean that as mind rises in latitude it may not more and more approach to a state indifferently describable as one of infinite acceleration or of ultimate arrest of experience. On either account succession draws ever closer to the punctum stans of eternity in which succession is merely a courtesy order in what is experienced as a unity. But the actual experiences at upper points on a world-line will be aeonian rather than eternal: they will sum up vast periods in unity but will still point beyond themselves to a past and a future. This again does not mean that there is something factitious about eternity: it can be thought of as more real and explanatory than the aeonian or non-aeonian experiences that approach or aspire to it. The aeonian character of high-level experience will as said before not involve any absurd decision of issues before they are decided only what we may call a sublime rush in which it is impossible to postpone or await the future a rush that from lower levels will always give the impression of a picture gradually enriched and augmented. And even in the sublime rush of aeonian experience there must we feel remain something of historicity. What must be supposed to be condensed in its near-momentariness is the sort of deeply theodicistic recasting of history towards which Hegel struggled a recasting in which all successful achievements as well as all failures will be seen as the necessary or necessarily contingent elements involved in the attempted instantiation of exhaustive perfection in a necessarily imperfect one-sided transient instantial world.
I shall conclude this lecture by reading you two passages which portray the noetic cosmos: the first is a well-known one from Plotinus's treatise On Intelligible Beauty (Enn. V viii 3 4) while the second is from an account given by Suzuki of certain untranslated portions of the Gandavyuha a portion of the Avatamsakasutra one of the great documents of Mahayana Buddhism. Both are highly alike in their content because doubtless both express precisely the same experience the same vision which may be said to lie obscurely behind all human experience and endeavour. Plotinus writes of the life yonder: ‘For all there is heaven: earth is heaven and the sea is heaven and so are animals and plants and men all heavenly things in that heaven. The gods in that heaven do not think meanly of the men it it or of anything else since all are of heaven and they go through that spacious land while remaining at rest. And life is easy yonder and truth is their parent and nurse their substance and sustenance and they see all things not such as are in flux but as have true being and they see themselves in others. For all things are transparent and nothing is dark and resistant: everything is inwardly clear to everything and in all respects light being made manifest to light. And each thing holds all within itself and again sees all in each other thing so that everything is everywhere and all is all and each all and the glory infinite. Each of those things is great since even the small is great and the sun yonder is all the stars and each star the sun and again all the stars. One thing stands forth in each though it also displays all.… Each there walks as it were on no alien earth but is itself always its own place: its starting point accompanies it as it hastens aloft and it is not one thing and its region another.’
I shall now read from Suzuki's account of certain passages in the Gandavyuha descriptive of the Dharmadhatu or region of essence. I have sought in vain for a full translation of them. ‘The Buddha of the Gandavyuha lives in a spirit world which has its own rules. In this spiritual world there are no time-divisions such as the past present and future; for they have contracted themselves into a single moment of the present where life quivers in its true sense.… The Buddha in the Gandavyuha thus knows no time-continuity; the past and the future are both rolled up in this present moment of illumination.… As with time so with space. Space in the Gandavyuha is not an extension divided by mountains and forests rivers and oceans lights and shades the visible and the invisible. Extension is here indeed and there is no contraction of space into a single block of existence; but what we have here is an infinite mutual fusion or penetration of all things each with its own individuality yet with something universal in it.… To illustrate this state of existence the Gandavyuha makes everything transparent and luminous for luminosity is the only possible earthly representation that conveys the idea of universal interpenetration the ruling topic of the sutra.… With the annihilation of space and time there evolves a realm of imagelessness or shadowlessness (anabhasa).… In the Gandavyuha there is no shadowmess; it is true there are rivers flowers trees nets banners etc. in the land of purity in the description of which the compiler taxes his human imagination to its utmost limits; but no shadows are visible here anywhere. The clouds themselves are luminous bodies inconceivable and inexpressible in number hanging all over the Jetavana of the Gandavyuha.… This universe of luminosity this scene of interpenetration is known as the Dharmadhatu in contrast to the Lokadhatu which is the world of particulars.… The Dharmadhatu is a real existence and not separated from the Lokadhatu but it is not the same as the latter when we do not come up to the spiritual level where the Bodhisattvas are living.’1
As you listen to this remarkable account you must reflect there is a temple in Japan the Todaiji temple at Nara dedicated to this amazing message of interpenetration. Unlike the dwellers in the upper world you will however be becoming worn out with all this glory. In my next lecture I shall try to relate it to the life of the human soul to the incarcerated and potentially free human person.
From the book: