Mind, truth and commonality

I want to discuss a feature of ancient Greek thinking that is certainly alien to the metaphysical presuppositions of our age: namely, that mind/nous is not a faculty of our individual minds but a single, transcendent, common ground on/toward which our various intellects participate/relate. As thinkers we participate in it as much as we do our environing physical world. While each of us may hold distinct opinions about this or that, different knowers know the same thing and not just identical replicas of the same thing. Knowers live in a common (zynon) world, joined as they are to a common mind.

Think for a moment of how we might communicate the meaning of a word like “banana” to someone who doesn’t speak the language: Tarzan, let’s say. We would hold up the common object, the physical banana, pronounce the word “banana” and hope that Tarzan grasps the link between word and thing. A hard matter to accomplish, but certainly possible. Now, imagine trying to communicate the meaning of the word without the physical banana present in common between us. Try to teach Tarzan over the telephone without common access to a world of things. Now we can say “banana” to our heart’s content and never advance one iota toward communication. An ability to communicate presupposes commonality: either the commonality of objects between two people who don’t share a language or the commonality of language (which itself must originate in a common world.)

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The Relation between Knowledge and Understanding

Knowledge and Understanding are intimately related, and yet different, operations. In my post on The Phenomenon of Questioning, I made the claim that “Knowledge is parasitic on understanding — we can’t really know what is not meaningful to us…One may certainly have another type of relationship to someone/something that isn’t understood, but that relationship is not knower-to-known.” As a follow up, I want to explore a bit the differences and relationship between knowledge and understanding. I will be relying on some of the insights from my (more…)

Links to a Few Favorite Essays

A cold, grey, drizzly day in Augusta, Georgia today — a day that reminds me of my six months spent in the Aleutian Islands in 1990. The gloom was unrelenting. Soldiers stationed there during the Second World War often developed the “Aleutian stare,” eyes set at a thousand-mile focus as if looking through things. But I actually liked the Bering Sea environment — I think I was the only one of my squadron mates who did — for the simple fact that it was a great place to read.

As a balm for the gloomy days that face you, here are some links to some of my favorite essays, an off-the-cuff selection limited to what is available online:

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