The Parmenides

 

Zeno, the favorite of Parmenides [‘Venerable and Awful’], a pioneer of the logico-mathematical paradox, describes his new treatise to Socrates:

It is…a defense of Parmenides against those who make fun of his ideas…this book is a retort against those who assert a Plurality…pays them back in the same coin with something to spare. For it shows that on a thorough examination, their own supposition that there is a Plurality leads to even more absurd consequences than the Hypothesis of ‘The One’.’

From Plato’s: The Parmenides.

 


The Parmenides is considered the most difficult of the Dialogues. That is because Parmenides, uniquely among his peers, was alert to the Self-Loop, and to which his modern interpreters are conspicuously innocent.

This and all other excerpts from Plato’s Dialogues are from the Hamilton and Cairns, Princeton, ’61 Edition.

Who Needs Philosophy?

 

Shūnyam is not Philosophy [from Philosophia, ‘Lover of Wisdom’]. It is the disembowelment of Philosophy and its high pretenses.

 


Professional Philosophy, the organized practice of getting paid to teach Philosophy, is less than 500 years old. Plato famously returned a coin to a student who asked what the tangible material benefits of such learning were.

Today, Business and Law Schools, supremely practical, once considered ineligible for inclusion in the sanctum of a Liberal University and its high calling, are the major, often exclusive funding sources for the entire institution.

See: ‘The Bottomless Pit of Nonsense

The Meticulous Farce

 

‘Art is a Lie that reveals the Truth’. So said Pablo Picasso. Did he really say that? I have no idea. But I like the picture.

When was the last time you heard someone shout out his window: ‘Listen here, Ya’ll! Here I am, an Independent and Separated Self!’

Does Sheila go to bed every night feeling complete knowing that she is an Independent and Separated Self?

What about the horsemen of the Argentinian Pampas? The resourceful pygmies of the African Congo? The smart men with their Hermes ties in the canyons of Wall Street?

The idea is ludicrous. Most people, except for those afflicted with the philosophical disease, men and women who spend a good deal of time in their heads, even think about it. If they ever do, it’s a cursory glance.

They don’t think about it; but for all practical purposes, they live and die in a world built on that presumption. The presumption of an ‘Independent and Separated ‘Self”.

A Modeled World; a representation, not the Real McCoy.

 


See: ‘Method and Model

‘I’

 

You will have more luck getting a roomful of Biologists agreeing on a definition for the word ‘Alive’, or Logicians for the word ‘Reason’, than you will with a roomful of Psychotherapists defining the word ‘Self’.

The Bio-Engineer knows it is a silicon-chip atop the neurons and between the firing synapse. The Geneticist sneers at this simplification at what is  clearly a Gene [imminent in its discovery].

We won’t even broach the Mystics for now. But a particularly famous one from India is: ‘The sense of ‘I-ness”, which means whatever you want it to mean.

We go low-tech. We ask the Grammarian. ‘Self’ is a complicated idea; so we start with ‘Subject’.

‘The Subject of a sentence is the person, place, thing, or idea that is doing or being something. It is what acts or is acted upon.’

Ego is Latin for ‘I’. The Cambridge definition reads: ‘Your idea or opinion of yourself’. Note the loop.

 

This ‘I’ business is covered in numerous later Posts highlighting its historical evolution from Fiction to Philosophy. But I present here an excerpt from my copy of the translation of the Vishnu Purāṇa [1840] by the remarkable Horace Hayman Wilson [First translator of the Rig Veda and the first occupant of the Boden chair for Sanskrit at Oxford]:

The sense of Ahankára cannot be very well rendered by any European term. It means the principle of individual existence, that which appropriates perceptions, and on which depend the notions, I think, I feel, I am. It might be expressed by the proposition of Descartes reversed; ‘Sum, ergo cogito, sentio,”

The Biggest ‘We’

 

This idea of ‘Self’ is a little bigger than your neighborhood New-Age group. It is not just for Vegans. It is the original question. And the final fault line.

Here is Samuel Huntington from his encyclopedic classic, ‘The Clash of Civilizations’, that sits on every Foreign Ministers bookshelf.

A Civilization is the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity… Civilizations are the biggest ‘We’. [And] cultural identity is the central factor shaping a country’s associations and antagonisms…

The question: ‘Which side are you on? has been replaced by the much more fundamental one: ‘Who are you?’ Every state has to have an answer. That answer, its cultural identity, defines the state’s place in world politics, its friends and its enemies.’

 


Professors, more particularly than most other professions, like to be formally identified with all decorations on display. And the late Dr. Huntington shouldn’t have to ask.

Albert J. Weatherhead 3rd University Professor and Director of Harvard’s ‘Center For International Affairs’

Hui-neng to Heidegger

 

The dominant East-Asian [Sino-Korean-Japanese] flavor of C’han-Zen was given to it by its 6th Chinese patriarch, Hui-neng [638-713 CE] and his ‘Platform-Sutras‘ [T’an-cheng].

From the first Nothing is!’ roared Hui neng. [The story goes that the illiterate Hui-neng awoke to this conviction upon hearing the Diamond Sūtra recited just once at a public-square.]

A recent, widely-publicized survey solemnly titled: ‘The most important unresolved question of all time’, came up with Martin Heidegger’s celebrated query [itself, a variation on Aristotle’s ‘ti on’]:

Why is there Something and not Nothing?’

Very helpful. Smart people say the darnedest things.