European Philosophy and Religion in Millenniums lasting Dispute
Brigitte Dehmelt Cooper
Mit Worten laesst's sich trefflich streiten
The long lasting dispute in the European culture between philosophy and religion is maintained, because we are not following Socrates' reminder to define our words correctly. The dispue started already with Aristoteles, in spite of the fact that he praised Socrates' search for the "what" of all things as very important, since Socrates insisted that two conditions had to be fulfilled to achieve correct thinking: indukive arguments and universal definitions had to be established (1).
The first hurdle that had to be overcome is the word "induction", which Aristoteles used to show that wie abstract universal definitions from senseperceptions.
That is the beginning of this contracte dispute, which has mislead us to "kill God", and to declare all proofs of Him impossible.
Nieztsche is the European, who recognized the depth of that self-inflicted wound that threatens to destroy us and suffered from it till his mental derangement. He had been aware of the valuable characteristic of Western culture that consisted in " stretching the bow so tight"(2) that the divine could be reached, which means to be positive without intending to achieve utopia here inearth. Nietzsche knowe that Jesus Christus was the perfect "yes-sayer", and he himself wanted to become a "yes-sayer" too(3). But he could not find his way through the innner contradictions in our philosophy, they finally broke him. Mechanical technic with the help of physics had won victory over philosophy, a development Nietzsche did not welcome(4). Nietzsche had been mistaken, when he, together with Kant, considered Plato a dogmatist (5), in spite that Plato argued cohesively why the eternal reveals itself in timeless relations to us since their terms correspond directly, immediatley to each other. Nietzsch attacked our strive for certainty which we defend with logical judgments that in his opinion rely on a fictitious immediacy that argues from the uniformity of numbers that are equal to themselves.(6). He raather demanded that psychology shoud again become the ruler of all sciences, because it is the way to the basic problems(7).
Dogmen and doubts, which had been sustained the dispute through the use of ambiguous concept such as - induction, infinity, infinite divisibiliy, and the theolgians insistence on supenatural revelations-divided the seekers of truth into the hostile camps of the Platonist with their eternal ideas, the students of Aristoteles with their empirical naturalism, and the Christian theologians with their special revelations.
Here will be presented the reconciling explanation, how to come through the the pros and cons in our philosophy, by making a "return to the past", and so can point out why Aristotle's inexact judgment about Plato leads to this protracted conflict.
I)Aristotle criticized Plato with insuffcient reason for his use of the word "partaking- communion- between distincions (8). Aristotle did not observe that Plato taught two kinds of partaking: timeless partaking in relation that are there simultaneously, of which we are aware immediatly such as similar, equal, identical, different, and the partaking which is a process in time, as the relations of kinship, next after. Through this differentiation between relations Plato ist the founder of "scientific logic"(9), which is grounded in timelessnes, simultaeity, the absence of process. This is an important point against Kant, who asserted, that all our knowledge depends on time and space concepts. It is regrettable, that Plato's names for these two kinds of relations were not chosen very accurately when he called them "eikon"- image, copy and "syggenes"- kinship since both are connected to visual observations.
II) Aristotle did not notice Plao's attentitveness when he characterized the concept of matter aand space as "logismos nothos"(10). It kept Plato from categorizing physics with the "sciences"- episteme-as Aristotle had done who disregarded that it is not to be deduced from an ultimate principle. Aristotle made the unique assertion that the matter of the heavenly bodies is a "quintenssence" of eternal duration(11), which was very favorable to his naturalism. With it Aristotle reinforced the conviction of the natural sciences that material atom is an indivisiblity eternal, ultimate particle. Aristotle opposed Plato's attempt to reduce witt extension dealing geometry to arithmetic, because geometrical measurements are expressed in cardinal-numbers not all of which can be divided. The divisibility of geometrical forms involves geometry in the problem of indivisible and infinite cardinal-numbers, which Aristotle considered sufficielty validated with his acceptance of potential infinity and the indivisible atom. Plato never lost his insight that the method of pyhsics could, with the help of practical mathematics, only "save the appearances" through greater and greater precise appoaches to the correct measurement. He had introdice the concept of "megan aki mikron"- the great -small-, which does not get valid through bifurcation. It is not valid through cardinal-numbers but through the reality of rank differences of which we are aware through our own quatities and their timeless relations. They are expressed in ordinal-number to which cardinal-number refer.
The infinite divisiblity of extension, through which many divisions remain open, confirmed for Plato that the concept of matter remains "occult". He realized that the operation of division leads to the infintely divisible atom, that seems to vanish in an "infinite regress".
It is, threfore, no dogmatism of Plato to state that the unlimited, with its property of sudivision, is an ultimate principle, and when he accepts the concepts of limit and unlimited- peras and apeiron- as last principles from the Phythagorean, since they are not only applicable for time- and spaceconcepts.Plato was not confused by the undetermined, the un-countable concept of multitude and to confuse it as the valid definition magnitude, since quality determines too the validity of quantity. This becomes obvious when divisibility is not equated with "bifurcation", that generates equal parts by the process of cutting. Dividing wird ulimately not justifie through a time consuming process, but through subdivision, which confronts us in distinctions. Parts are not only due through the activity of dividing, nor are they recognized only through our five senses. They are distinguished implicitly in the "arch-division" of distinctions.
It is Kant's error to assert that arithmetic is operating with objects, that are not analysible into "logical concepts", but are known through our senses. Yet logical, timeless immediatele discerned concepts arenot invented by man, that do not keep him imprisoned in the region of time and space limited objects.
III) Platon was not Descartes, who with is "analytical geometry" ignored those numbers that through the difficulties of their infinite divisibility lead to doubts, since they are hidden in the assumption of decimal fractions. Descartes argumented against the covert skepticism in his position und for the validity of his logic, by calling on the reliability of God who will not deceive mankind.
The discrepancies in mathematics are in general much too little dealt with by philosophers. It is advisable to get acquainted with the discussions that accompanied the introduction of the decimal system, and the ensuing use of infinite numbers, as well as "new" numbers. Morris Kline gives a good overview of this development in European mathemathics. Regrettably he fails to show why Plato was on the right track. Our common disregard fo he iternal contradictin in mathematics, which extend to phlosophy proper, ist stengthened through the success this mathematical method brought to physics and technic in the Western world and the rest of all societies It seduced us into an invalid rationalism. The concept of order, with its characteristic of timeless sequence that is a consequence of is terms, is not correctly defined and analyzed, and the difference between arithmetic and geometry, between cardinal and realnumbers in the use of powers and square roots is not taken seriously.
This development in mathematics and physics has played the arguments Kant's reasoning through which he questions with his antinomies the beginning of the senseperceived, material world with the reasoning defying "run-through infinity". It served him to argu wih greater success against the certaity about the reality of the Creator God. He achieved the official conviction, that mankind can have no absolute knowledge about the reality of the objects of physics, mathematics and God. According to Kant "the thing-itself "cannot be known by man. It is the confusion which is dominant in the places of "higher learning and teaching", at the univesities that set the standards.
IV) Plato recognized and confirmed that the eternal- the divine- and with it also the Creator God- shows itself through our ability to perceive distinctions simultaneously. They are "obvius" for us. It is Plato's connection to a limited illuminism which does not loose iself in"transcendental moonshine", as Aristotle feared (12). The last, deepest, universal, and special properties are the principles. They are the "ground"-arche- the reasons that allow us to make valid inferences - deductions- from them. They contain also the properties of the logical relations, which are not merely "symmetrically" exchangable, but also "immediately" simultaneously, without time consumption discerned. They are Plato's relations to which he points in his "Parmenides"(13), which differ in their meaning of "similar" and "in the similarity of ", indicating "immediate there-being: like" and "sequential appearence: in the likeness of ". It is the "scientific grounding" of logic, since "science"-episteme- validates itself through ultimate principles that are not achieved through nor depending on reasoning.
V) Platon has "being" -ousia- not separated from "what is" -to ti- as Aristotle does, since every being simultaenously is its property, its "what". Every being is a unity of - takes part in- different properties. In Greek the word "ousia" was used for being and characteristic- essence. Aristotles distinction between being and characteristic became permanent through the use of the late Latin scholastic expression "exsitentia"- existence for being and the Latin"essentia"- essence for characteristic. The distinction between eternal, always there-being objects- called also things, and generated, into existence coming -in Latin exsisto- objects -things was disregarded, and was even strengthened through using the verb to exist for God.Socrates had warend us already not to misuse the word being with its verbal use is-was-will be(14), something Kant did not heed when he declared of arguments for the "existence" of God as erroneous tautologies.
Platon distinguished in the "what" of the characteristics -ousia- the ability to move from alone (15), which proved to be most important ability- dynamis-in the universe, because in connection with intelligence and he ability to know joy and to desire it constitues Plato's unity of the tripartite soul. This unity of the soul is also no dogmatic assertion of Plato, since identity and difference show their unity in the simultaneous relation of similar since both terms are united through their singularity. The perfect, good soul is recognized by Plato in the "Laws" as Creator God, as the supreme power that is responsible for the creation of the cosmos(15). God is the most important, the highest reality in the universe.
God is the He who unites according to His will that what can be combined, which has communion with each other, choosing its measurements and endows it with limited duration and places it with limited movement into the cosmos. The cosmos is the from God determied "moving image of eternity", of eternal things, to which belongs that what can be combined, called the possible, and that what cannot be combined, called the impossible. The time limited things of the cosmos takes part in movement through the intention of the eternal, called the divine power of God. The possible and the impossible are recognized by the intelligence through the intelligibility of the distinction of communion-partaking or the lack of it, that is mediated with the relations of similar and different. Intelligence imparts insight into timeless characteristics- arche-, that are all determining laws, identifying powers. Intellilgence teaches, informs us that God constructs the "good, since it is the valid, because it si he possible. God's perfection consists in His joy to create the valid that is possible as the good, sharing it with mankind, and through his ever lsting being that makes His ability to move Himself independent from any other dynamic power. The unity of His being is not under any possibility to be "deconstructed", as it happens to man, but must not happen, if God wills it. God is under no "need" and under no necessity to construct what He creates. He can rest or create. His ability to choose determines only that He must choose something that is possible, valid and thus good. What He chooses is His decision. That is His "freedom". God is always in the state of His choice. His state has eternal duration, He has no beginning and no end. He is under no limitation of time. Duration is a wider concept as time. It has different kinds, ewig or limited, whereas time is always limited, with at least a beginning. It has no meaning without that limit.
All this can be undersood by man. We can understand God, but this understanding, this knowledge never makes us equal to God. Intelligence does not make us into God. It only teaches us our absolute limitations. That is the task for intelligence, as Nietzsche realized in his alertest moments. It has nothing to do with rationalism, that becomes irrational when it tries to define and measure everything with cardinal numbers.The "divine" Plato understood it, and Nietzsche saw that Plato as no other philosopher worked to unite the good and the true, but Nietzsche could not unite it with the valid.
VI) Plato accepted poetic descriptions of God, when they stress His magnanimity, His care and His grace (17). He also calls God "the Father of mankind", whom He will not destroy when they act according to what is good and valid (18) and do not threaten the wellbeing of the society. Plato is the founder of ethical theism, which proves to be valid with critical reflections. Dogmatic axioms are not used as proofs. They are not needed for the truth of his theismus. Kant judged Plato as a dogmatist, since he did not discern him as the first critical philosopher of Europe (19), who anchors human knowledge in the metaphysic of timeless relations that hold between the intelligibility of distinction and intelligence. These relations are used immediately by men uncritically, since they are directly perceived. It is also important to keep in mind that Plato discriminated between philosophical and practical mathematic, because numbers are validated not through human counting, but through order of rank, from superior and dependent, that is in ordinal numbers known as first and second. This order of rank is known to men through his own conditions, in which room to choose, that is not to be equated with absolute freedom, and necessity are united.
VII) Plato acknowledges that we were and are not meant for this eartth. He reflected on the myth of that charioteer who through his own guilt tumbled from heaven onto earth (20), and on the myth of "ER" (21), in which a seemingly dead soldier regains his consciousness just before being put on the pyre. He reports of the experiences he had while being-out-of-his body. Plato touches with these reflections on the problems of guilt and man's responsibility after his bodily death.They are for him no "mysticism", since he recognizes in it the guilty infraction of men, whohrough their own doing tht is the imptuousness of his self-love, that demands satisfaction for his longings with which we succumb to the false "god", that is the principle of determinism, undercutting the characteristic of love as supreme condition, which demands room to choose, the freely obeying of its terms.
These are hints, which were grasped by Jesus, and through which he combined the biblical story of "Paradise lost" with "the kingdom of God" that is not of this world, and that he also called "Paradise". Jesus shows us the way, how Paradise can be regained through mankind's rueful admittance having been disloyal to God. It was Jesus calling to show mankind the way back to Paradise and to prepare the reconciliation between God and fallen men. He achieved it through his great love and loyalty to God and his love for mankind. He proved it with his painful death, the sentence of cricification, that he took on willingly. He took the "cross" of mankind's sinful disloyalties upon himself, something he did not deserve since he had not succumb to that sin.
Plato knew that the "Pure man would be put on the pole"(22). Plato's reflectionen prepared the way for Christ to unite the biblical insights of traditional Jewish ethical theism and its myth of the "Lost Paradise" to an universal truth, through a critically justified trust that validates our hope in God's loving Grace.
Neither Plato nor biblical theism demand a turnimg away from this world, since God has made man already a co-creator on this world. He gave us the joy of creation, which we all experience in Eros, that can and should be cultivated in art and artful technics. Through Jesus Christ the law of love that binds God and mankind together, became the supreme law. It has cultivated us and protects us from cynicism and nihilistic despair. The blessings of God come over society.
VIII) The differences between philosophy and religion, knowing and believing do not have to turn to hostility and disputes in these spheres of reasoning.They to are reinforced due to the theologians error to assert, that the truths taught by Christ far outreach all our understanding, and are true due to special supernatural revelations. They are articles of belief - dogmen- that must be believed. The Christian religion has burdened itself with the suspicion, that one should be forced to believe, since it helps the disloyal and rebellious ones to enter into Paradise also. This attitude contains an innere contradiction, which undermines faithfulness to truth, since one cannot and will not even be force by God to love Him. He respects the law of love and will not act contrary to it.
Religion, never-the-less, is not a matter of personal belief. It is rather the best understanding of the society to which one belongs to interpret the world and its relationships.The cosmos was for Plato not a "symbol" of the divine world, but rather the work of the good God, who creates what the absolute, eternal relations make possible, which means when God creates, the cosmos- and we with him, will be placed into space- and time-limits, through it we remain dependent on God for ever. That makes the cosmos not "bad" because it is not "perfect", since God can maintain that what He intends to maintain for ever. That is not impossible for Him. The cosmos is good as mentioned before, beacuse the possible is the valid and thus the true and the good. But it remains for ever second ranked, that is: for ever dependent on God.
The truth Jesus Christ is teaching all mankind is the insight that God's power and grace surpasses all distinctions and all created things. He is lord over all possible things and all things of nature dependent on Him. He uses what is possible and supports or calls back all creatures. Impossible "things" are impossible to be generated, they have neither eternal nor finite reality.
That is the insight, the result Nietzsche expected from philosophy, the love for wisdom. But he was not able to find it in the Christian religion, in spite of the fact that he often was so close to it.
In his "Froehliche Wissenschaaft" - his "Joyful Science"- (23) he sings to Sanctus Janiarius, the Roman god of Beginning, the verses:
It is the insight that clarifies our absolute conditions. It confirms that absolute laws, including the law of love, demand that characteristics and conditions are validly observed. They determine all things in heaven and on earth, and even God uses them for His creative act.
It is what the perennial philosophy teaches us, to which we have to return so we will experience the wonders of joy over and over from anew.