Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Philosophical Act: Part II

Now we understand that whoever philosophizes transcends the "work-a-day" world.

But where does he go? Pieper says that both the world of work and the "other realm" belong to man. This leads us to the question, "What is the nature of the world of man?"

A world can be defined as a "whole field of relationships." This implies that only a being that has an ability to be in a relationship has a world. Further, a relationship can only exist when there is an "inside." This is what gives the being the ability to have a relationship, to be "in" a relationship. True relationships join the inside with the outside. Thus, a pebble can not be in a relationship and does not have a world. The higher the level inwardness ("the more comprehensive and penetrative the ability to enter into relations") the more profound the world.

This makes a lot of sense to me. It's like when I meet someone and call my sister, "Ugh, they live in a dark world." Obviously they live in the same world I do, but in the "other realm" of transcendence, their world is quite different than mine.

OK, so the pebble has no world. Pieper says that the plant has a world but its the lowest world because it can not reach beyond "what it touches in its own vicinity." The world of the animal is greater than the plant because different from the plant the animal has sense-perception. (Animals can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.) But "the environment of animals are not the whole expanse of nature but resemble a narrow, furnished apartment," said biologist Jakob von Uexkull. A fascinating example of this is the crow. It is imaginable that a crow could see a grasshopper which is very desirable for a crow whenever the grasshopper comes into the crow's view. But this isn't true, according to Uexkull, a crow is unable to see a grasshopper at rest. Further, a crow does not even recognize the form of grasshopper. (Wow!) Crows are only able to see moving things! This is why insects can play dead. "Since their resting-form does not at all appear in the sense-world of their predators, they escape that world completely and securely simply by lying still (grasshopper: play dead! :), and can not be found, even if they are actively sought." The field of relations, the "world" of the animal is really only its selective world or environment. And it is confined to it.

OK, so this is really interesting, right? But I thought we were talking about the philosophical act? Here's how it relates, which of course leads to another question:

What is the relating-power of the human being? Is it no better than the crow? (Of course, the answer is self-evident by the fact that I am given the ability to inquire about this in first place, right?)

Just as the world of the animal trascends the world of the plant, so we human beings, by virtue of our higher relating-power (known as the intellect...another word for "spiritual" by the way, something else I just learned) transcend the world of plants and animals. "Western philosophical tradition defines spiritual knowing as the power to place oneself into relation with the sum-total of existing things." The essence of this power is the ability it has to "be in relation with the totality of being." (As opposed to the "partial" worlds of the plants and animals.)

What does it mean to say someone has a great personality? It really means that this "inwardness" ( the power of "living-with-oneself, of "being-in-onself" of "independence" of "autonomy") of the person, the deeper it is, the stronger the correspondance with the field-of-relations (the world), the fuller the reality of the world is made known to the "I."

So what kind of world is the world of man? (This was the original question...)

Pieper says, "Man's world is the whole reality, in the midst of which the human being lives, face-to-face with the entirely of existing things--but only in-so-far as man is spirit! (Side note: Keep in mind that man is uniquely body and soul, flesh and spirit. We are not saying here that the body, the material, are bad (this is heretical to Christians) but only that it is not the totality of who we are.)

So then the other question we were asking was, "What does it mean to philosophize?"

Pieper answers that Philosophy is "to experience that the nearby world, determined by the immediate demands of life, can be shaken, or indeed, must be shaken, over and over again, by the unsettling call of the "world," or by the total reality that mirrors back the eternal natures of things."

To philosophize then is to take a step into coming face-t0-face with this world. "To direct one's view toward the totality of the world."

And, "you cannot ask and think philosophically without allowing the totality of existing things to come into play: God and the World."

This is what is distinctive about philosophy!

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin