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Life – Consciousness

freedom tree sculptureUp to the present, a very wide range of world-concepts has been developed in the history of humanity. It could be said that we are faced with a multitude, a variety of alternatives, a pluralism which render it difficult for us to be able to identify, in the light of our need, a world-theory which is sustainable and effective. However, this attempt on our part will be made easier if we try to categorise the achievements, and approach systemically the framework of the world-theories and ideas on which these are founded.

The mania for modernism in thought may be fertile and useful, but it lacks the capability and effectiveness to address the totality of our needs. At the same time, the totality of our needs cannot be served by a museum of world-concepts in which these have been turned into 'static idols'. Plato himself, in his Laws, warns us about this when he urges us not to give an identity to the noumenon and not to immobilise it in a linguistic form, and so lose the 'idea' which lies behind it. Classical thought should not be regarded as a museum exhibit.

In our attempt to unite in a holograph the world-concept landscape - in order to avoid the fragmented confusion caused by the two television cameras that are connected to two monitors which track a single goldfish in an aquarium, as David Bohm would say - we shall try to distinguish between the basic groups of ideas from which world-theories are made up, using analogy, similarity, and the indicators of relations. By pursuing this road, we become more functional in our approach, just as, in any event, Plato proposes in the words of the Timaeus when speaking of the monitoring of the world-image.

The group of ideas on the individual, wholeness, Being, or quality
A first 'angle' from the triangular group of these ideas is that which shapes the bipolar group of ideas which are connected with quantity, that is, with the individual and the sum as wholeness, collectivity, or the multitude. These ideas have a field of application and expression in the depiction either of anthropogenic or of social and ecological systems, or of abstract logic systems such as mathematics. We can see them both as functional ideas and interconnectedness of ideas in the theory and science of physics and in the human sciences, from psychology to political science.

Whether we are talking about the individual and his relationships, or about wholeness and its laws, this bipolarity emerges as important and dominant. In the ideological orientations of world-theories we see preferences, fluctuations, and historical developments which sometimes polarise the issues by giving greater emphasis either to the individual or to wholeness, and sometimes polarise on the basis of the same value or principle, such as freedom. When freedom is systematised by democracy or the market in the economy, or when freedom is expressed in terms of the individual or of personalism, only then is it experienced and realised. In this bipolarity there are gradations of relations of solidarity both in the theoretical construct and in the experiential realisation. Freedom is not viable if the apprehension of the idea of freedom is limited only or chiefly to an emphatically competitive interpretation. The understanding of freedom cannot be sustainable when it excludes its co-operative, collective, and institutional aspect.

We see the same thing happening, correspondingly, in the approaches to biological structures, where, passing on from the individual to wholeness, systemic approaches arise, such as statistical physics, cybernetics theory, information theory, complex systems theory, or holistic theory.
In the approach of inductive or analytical emphasis, we have a preference for the constitutive character of the individual, whereas in the biological, more holistic and cybernetic approach to things, we have an emphasis on wholeness and structuring. Thus we see that an ontogenetic dynamic develops in this interaction or scale of relation and organisation between the individual and wholeness. These approaches can extend as far as the opening up of the concept of the individual to wholeness. Wholeness is not a multitude, but a primary concept and another quality of being. This finding limits the ontological and functional validity of the analytical and inductive reference.

In passing on from arithmetical and quantitative approaches, which in certain ontologies of classical antiquity - and elsewhere - and in the history of civilisation have been indivisible, a dynamic of quality becomes apparent. We pass, that is, from quantitative to qualitative concepts, or to qualitative expressions, theories, ideas, and concepts of Being. Here the third point which shapes the relation of analogy to ideas about Being makes its appearance, corresponding to that duality and triadism which we find in the Timaeus, just as, for example, in modern physics we encounter the particle and wave, which are complementary when viewed as a duality, and make up the cosmos as constituents in particle and wave theory, which is replaced by others with string theory.

Particle theory, in which bosons express primarily wave nature and fermions particle nature, is subject to other axiomatic exclusions, for example, as fermions are according to the Pauli Principle. But here again, this complementariness is indivisible in modern scientific ontology.

We can also find a similar perspective in the field of human sciences. In all these it could be said that we encounter allotropism of being as their basic principle; that is to say, another configuration, another constituent geometry, and a different nexus of relations determines for us an entirely different dynamic, an entirely different entity with a different process of evolution. We can see this both in the structure of DNA and in the organisation of a society with the same people, as well as in the cybernetic theory of information.
At the same time, behind this allotropism of being, the importance of dimension, of space as an aspect of ontology and of evolving, of space and of time, or of space-time, is apparent. If we manage to see the dimensions and constitutive structural concreteness or fluctuation in this network, the nexus, of being or of beings,  then, behind this principle of allotropism, the principle which represents dimension as a constituent of being emerges. This has been demonstrated, in part, in the field of modern physics and cosmology by the general theory of relativity, in the cosmological framework of the theory of Branes (Brane cosmology). However, we shall not linger further over the logic of this verification, nor shall we proceed under the pressure of a need for a verification of this group of ideas in the field of modern physical science or of the biological sciences, where the example of DNA as a basically fourfold allotropy is also characteristic.

We have to come to understand the necessity for a transcendental way of looking at the world, which is also suggested in psychological, sociological, and anthropological terms in the age in which we live by the need for alternative or exotic cultures.

It is this need which resurrects either certain world-theories which are classic, but also serve as an opposite pole to the materialism and mechanicalism of the scientific way of looking at things and of the technological age, or certain cultures which are exotic. These are, that is, classic cultures which deal in transcendence, or exotic ones which have more aesthetic and poetic characteristics and are governed by a psychology such as that of a Blake or a Hölderlin - by a poetic or aesthetic mysticism. Approaches, with a more general motif, involving an alternative understanding of the concepts of nature, such as those in Edgar Allan Poe's Eureka, or, in a more specialised framework, of light and vision by Goethe and Fechner, are typical in these cultures.
Apart from this, an overall framework for understanding is also necessary and useful as it broadens the intuitive horizons of the compatibility of our quests or of an organicity in the approach to fields / themes and ways, while at the same time reducing fixation on stereotypes in the passage from the general to the particular and from the authoritative to the new and different. It is clear that this field of relations must become more fruitful and more open.

The group of ideas belonging to our technological and institutional civilisation
Those world-concepts which have formed the heavy industry of our technological and institutional civilisation are of three categories, and here we deal with a second group or a second perspective of the grouping of ideas.

A. Theories of structural constituents
The first group is the 'group of ideas' of the 'materialist theory of Democritus' type. 'Theories of structural constituents' which deal essentially with constitution and structure have been diffused into the natural and biological science and have yielded and gained, in a utilitarian way, consensus, including through its economic structure in its technologically productive results.
Nevertheless, these do not constitute a full world-concept, and, often, inspiration, the leaps in the historical development of this world-concept have come from idealist or transcendental approaches. It should not be forgotten that this dualism is observable even in great figures in history, such as the alchemist and Platonist Isaac Newton, or Kepler, who believed that God created the world in accordance with a mathematical design. Convictions such as this are based on the teachings of Plato and Pythagoras, who marked major historic turning-points in the development of scientific systems and theories.  

B. Theories of logic and concepts of category reference, cohesion, and validity
The second group of ideas, the second basic axis, the second perspective of development of thinking on a world-concept is to be found by way of 'theories of logical category reference'. At the core of this model, for example, from Aristotle to Kant, lies the logical reference, which is also inherent in the development of the mathematical thought of the system of the quantitative, arithmetical, and geometrical system of imaging.

This is an approach which is based on the presumption of reflex thought and of the analogy between thought and the world, consciousness and the object of reality, whether this moves in the direction of Cartesian thinking about the way of looking at the subject, or it arrives at the more epistemological approach of positivism or the positivist approach. The basic axiom, the model for proposals, is that of logic and category, and is applied by adaptation whether our approach is to the interpretation of experience and of the structure of the cosmos, or to dealing with the problems of man and of society as to the production of institutions so that we can develop a theory of law, a rule of law, etc.

C. Theories of religion and of the ethics of co-existence and of systems of ontological and transcendental reference
In the third group of ideas, in spite of the obvious problems of its co-existence with the other two approaches above and their successes in handling issues, a need for a world-theory emerges as something which is clearly sought after, primarily because of the fact that man has a distinct need to experience his self as a subject, over and beyond the machine and matter; he has a need to experience himself as an entity with time-space continuity and the world as a cosmos with lasting meaning, free from the nihilistic conclusions of other world-concepts (nihilistic, that is, as regards the subject). This theory, of course, has always had to contend with the problem of the origin of matter, the origin of forms, in such a way as to be compatible both which its natural causality, and with the need for subjective transcendental reference.
Moreover, this system has also been served as an autonomous world-concept system, and has been realised in history in religion and the practice of religion, as well as in the field of individual experience, and through this it has also determined the evolution of systems.
It is the primary field of the generation of human behaviours, in parallel with their biological underpinning. We also encounter this in history as a determinant factor by means of,  for example, Weber's analyses of the 'Protestant ethic of capitalism' in relation to economic forms of behaviour, which are primarily interwoven with ideological codes, but which have, nevertheless, needed other systems in order to devise a morality of co-existence.

Furthermore, we see this 'symbiotic' morality developing anthropologically - in the sense of a religious code - in primitive civilisations and having inherent animist characteristics which suggest a leap forward beyond a biological, a zoological common tracing back of the symbiotic relation and of the development of symbiotic rules, especially when we are speaking of man and human society in its early stages, as we encounter these in aborigines of Australia, South Africa, early African societies, and societies of Latin America.
This cross-relation of ideas, this world-concept perspective, gives expression to man's need to satisfy his ontological reference. Apart from the theories of structural constituents and those of logic and concepts of category reference, we have also the ontological and the transcendental reference.

Meeting-points of world-concepts
It is a fact that an incompatibility remains - which, in the last analysis does not prevent the evolution of the sciences and their verifiability or their technological vindication - such as that, for example, of the experimental datum which has not been assimilated ontologically into some scientific theory, except as a paradox. An example of this is the EPR argument (the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen argument), or the quantum entanglement phenomenon, or even the case in which we do not have a model for coalescence of the fields, or we have this exceptional alternativity of world-images in modern physical cosmology, where the concept of dimension or the sub-stratum or of the field is rendered flexible in the mind, and invokes, by way of simile, the transcendental capability of the intuitive and abstractive imagination.

Similarly, but even more so, we should not be surprised or think that we must reject a transcendental-ontological world-concept or a corresponding group of ideas for the sole reason that it seems incapable of being reconciled with or adapted to established scientific / technological world-idol.

It is against this background that a critical dynamic between the groups of ideas is developing. We see how - let us say - Lewis Mumford approached the machine or the structure and the world-theory which is developing in science and technics as a form of myth. Critical fields of synapse between the systems are, then, beginning to appear. Such a point is the phenomenon of placebo drugs, whose effectiveness is now acknowledged, especially in the field of psychoactive drugs, but also in other more obviously physical and less psychosomatic cases, in spite of the relatively limited addition of research reference. These research projects have been incorporated into the products of pharmaceutical chemistry or of chemical engineering and technology.

What we see in the cases of placebo phenomena is, therefore, that the brain works as a system of encounter of interaction and of the critical relation between these approaches to world-concepts. We see that the way in which the subject experiences things is definitive - and even more so, his needs, or his needs for giving meaning to the world, which may suggest catalytic relations with the real. This is yet another argument in the direction of a holistic treatment of all the aspects of consciousness - for example, thought and emotion.

Ontological insecurity, whether this is as it has been studied within the framework of the world-theory psychology and psychoanalytical theory of Jung, for example, or is approached from the point of view of the sociological consequences of modernism by Giddens, again brings to light a necessity. After the tragic consequences of the militant totalitarianism of the Marxist materialist world-theory, it could be said that we should also waive the need to manipulate and restrict autonomies. But we must not waive the need to seek and develop relations.
This means, of course, that the transcendental ontological reference and world-concept should be capable of developing fruitful, co-operative relations with logical categorical references and with the constituent scientific and technological approach to things. We should not confuse, in any of these systems, the systems themselves with the currently established views in each of them, which practise their own militancy.

We must enter upon a new phase in which there is a culture of synthesis. While there are indeed exotic cultures and ontological approaches, we can find, by a process of close historical review, certain nodes which already have a dynamic for sustainability from within this third group. This group seems to be dominated - and justly so - by the work of Plato. His is a gigantic oeuvre which has elements of dialogue with the other systems. Plato was the first in Western civilisation to have dealt on a basis of synthesis with all the fields in relation to  man’s field, his psychological reality and evolution. He dealt with the issues which concern the city and its institutions, and, at the same time, with world-concept, ontological, and epistemological questions.

It is a body of work which has stood the test of history, and, in spite of the criticism that it has received favourable treatment in the course of history, we find that often the opposite is the case. For example, medieval religious intolerance focused more on Plato and Platonism than on Aristotle. Aristotle served as a tool in the organisation of a structure of religious ideas. Plato, on the other hand, because he defined the content of being and the cosmos, directly introduced dialogue as a method, and reflection as a means, so that he can be seen as a matrix for a transcendental freedom as opposed to dogmatism, and, at the same time, as a matrix for differentiations. For that reason the conflict was one of persecution. And this in spite of the fact that Plato's thinking on morals, his ethics, was a particularly fruitful influence on systems of religious convictions.
It is only to the extent that there was this fruitful encounter in Origen and in the early Fathers of the Church, before Christianity had acquired its cohesion as an establishment, that we can see this fertility of relations. This fruitfulness came to an end dramatically and symbolically with the repugnant murder of Hypatia and, later, with the closing of Plato's Academy.

Moreover, the Renaissance came with the return of Plato, either, in the case of Byzantium, with Leo the philosopher and mathematician, who marked its early stages, and, later, with Michael Psellus and the Enlightenment figures of the Fall of Byzantium, or through the Arab Enlightenment, where, of course, there was a broader co-existence of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, or with the Italian Renaissance and Humanism.

Plato made his return, effectively, while Scholasticism, which is in reality an inferior version of Aristotle, was being called into question. This began in the early phase of the Renaissance and Enlightenment with the instance of Roger Bacon and the era in which the first academies flourished in the West.
Plato, together with the fruitfulness of the school of Plato, was also brought to the fore by the adequacy of the Platonic world-concept on the part of the leading figures who supported it, in comparison with other similar trends, such as those of the Stoics and Stoicism. We see, moreover, major figures in the history of world-theories, such as Posidonius of the Middle Stoa, and at the Renaissance, with its different waves and its fertility over time, with important turning-points. In Platonism, those major figures of Plotinus and, later, Proclus, one of the late but most competent and distinguished commentators on Plato, are prominent.

Platonism, moreover, has been continued, it could be said, by scientists and by osmosis of Platonic thought on the part of modern figures in the world of science, such as Norbert Wiener, Heisenberg, etc. It also has characteristics which allow us to form a synthesis of domains such as religion, science, art, and politics. Platonism is also profoundly humanistic, and this is apparent in its dialogue and its topics, and, in the end, it has a content which we must render timely once again, since it has been buried beneath the dust of a literary approach which has had only slender ontological lived experiences or perceptions. For this reason, we must, and we can, take another look at the questions of Platonism.

We can find again those harmonics of ideas and of the living world, and, furthermore, see how truly Plato persists through time, as he is capable of enduring and emerging as a lasting agent of inspiration, far removed from any person-centred view of history, as a lasting agent of inspiration for modern trends in the fertilisation of ideas, of trends in ideas in the modern world. The theory, for example, that the cosmos as a great whole is a transcendental 'Living Being', which is beginning to show itself in holistic, ecological, and alternative approaches we encounter in Plato. It is a proposal which has been lost in the process of a medieval genocide of ideas, and it is only experiential mystical Christianity which has been able to retain certain features of it.
This approach, then, makes its appearance today as a reply and as a basic ideological world-concept current with a breadth of range, from the delimitation of the analytical and inductive and mechanocratic approach to its complete opposite. In a sense, Blake reacts from a Platonic position, but he is not aware that in part Newton, for example, or Rousseau were also fundamentally influenced by Plato.
There are, of course, items in Plato which now require fresh conceptual and semantic delving. Ontological excavations of the Platonic system, of Platonic thought, are needed, not so that they can be altered, but so that their dialectic can be brought to light again in a new historical landscape. Moreover, something of this kind was also Plato's own consistent expression and consistent approach in the Timaeus and at other points of his work.
Naturally, we can no longer operate with scholasticism and a verbalist museum mentality in the quest for an updated diachronic dialectic as regards Plato's thinking. It is in such a way that the philosophy of Plato has been apprehended as a basis for a mind-centred facile idealism, for the Berkeleyan arbitrary idealism - it has not been apprehended in an ontological / experiential sense.

One of the basic obstacles associated with the incorrect approach, over time, in basic world-concept perspective has to do, on the one hand, with a mind-centred totalitarianism which has functioned on criteria of rejection and incorporation, and, on the other, through an ignorance of the hypostasis of the consciousness and of its self-referentiality, in spite of the fact that approaches have been brought forward, such as those of Husserl or of Whitehead, which attempt to serve as a bridge in this relation between consciousness and reality in terms of the hypostasis. It could be said that this is an issue which can only be resolved through the experiential evolution of man – it cannot be dealt with by systems or schools of thought.   

Unfortunately, it is within this framework that Plato has been treated: either defensively or dismissively. And it is easy to impute ideological failures to ideas in the process of history - and not only ideas, but often distortions and deviations as well. Certainly the fact that later schools of thought, of interpretation, and proposal have arisen in history, such as Marxism, has been connected with the refutation of other approaches, particularly those of long duration such as the Platonic current of thought. These schools of thought operated with an aggressive negativity towards the thinking of Plato, in spite of the fact that points of intersection in common among them can be traced.

Clearly, these new trends which have been shaped in history - and this includes religions and ideologies and the scientific branch of thought - needed this initial optimistic fanaticism, which was, however, followed by its own tragic confutations.
And we are now aware of and can very easily document the failure of this optimism of Marxism from the point of view of anthropology. There is now historical evidence which has demonstrated the naivety of critically combative and optimistic approaches at the anthropological level.

In a similar way, naivety has been cultivated by scientific schools of thought, such as psychoanalysis, which have met with tragic refutations, such as those which started out and were spotlighted on the world stage by the uses of psychoanalysis in advertising (the case of Bernays is typical), down to paternalistic tragedies as manifested in the careers and end of prominent personalities such as Marilyn Monroe, or even the descendants of the Freud family.
Totalitarianism is, unfortunately an innate characteristic in the mind-centred, but also in the desiderative approach. What is required is that we should pursue a synthesis of approaches, with a blunting of inner totalitarianism, and of the totalitarianism as to the limits - the frontiers of the territory of this synthesis. For this reason, a new disposition in thought is needed.

In this context, Karl Popper's critiques of Plato are useful, critiques which were subjected by Popper himself to evolutionary steps by revisions such as those, for example, in his enduring quest for the affinity of the approach of Parmenides with the evolutionary process of the science of thought, and in relation also to the reading or re-reading of the sources of the classical philosophical apprehension, and of the classical texts, in which the work of Plato was fundamental.
Popper was exceptionally careful, sufficiently dialectic, and persistent in his approach to the classical sources and to their application to current events, not only in the field of political thought, but also in that of world-theory, as we can see from his essays. His searches were in many directions, and he did not disdain thinking on the grounds of the historical juncture. In this context, we can approach Platonism and Platonic thinking afresh, defensively and critically, not only in Plato's texts but more broadly.

In the course of history, the defaming of trends of thought founded on a fragmentary and distorted incorporation has been very easy. This is what happened with Classicism in Germany in the inter-War years in a monstrous way, when thinkers from Plato to Rousseau were credited with being contributors to this, whereas it is obvious from their texts that they did not consent or could not have consented to such an atrocious deviation.

Such a slander can very easily be directed against anybody: against Christianity in an obvious way by mention of the Holy Inquisition, about Marxism, obviously by reference to the gulags, against Adam Smith because of the monstrosities of capitalism. For everyone there is dark streak in history to the extent that this relation between ideas and the human state is imperfect, and to the extent that whereas the ideas themselves have to function as a group and be experienced dialectically - and, also, of course, in terms of experience, this does not happen.
The same pathological issues also apply to modern authoritative science, both in its theoretical and technological and practical applications.

We shall not, therefore, linger over this form of defamation of Plato. On the other hand, we must note that it is true that often apologists have harmed the philosophy of the classical authors by their inability to read them more perceptively, to escape from the superficial literary relation, to escape from the need to invoke prestige attributed to those classical thinkers, a prestige which they use for their personal ideological and class identifications and their own personal fanatical apologia for their lack of self-knowledge or for their academic 'authority and  reliability '.

It is worth noting also that another aspect of the problem which we encounter in classical thought is the gaps in, the incompatibilities in terms of epistemology. We find such incompatibilities even in purely scientifically informed thinkers also at the level of the conceptual citation of axioms, for example, in Euclid, but also in more modern thinkers; we need go no further than reading the textbook, scientific thought of the eighteenth or nineteenth century and even of the early twentieth. The same happens even now in the twenty-first, where in the course of the years we can see philosophy being dramatically revised, just as, for example, our knowledge of the planets, of planetary geology and of biology more generally is being dramatically revised.

Even more so in a world-concept approach, in an assimilation, we cannot and must not make sterile demands for 'perfection', in order for us to be able to recognise the fruitfulness of a broader horizon of thought.
This demand is the same as the demand for absolute precision, which is described both by Plato in the Theaetetus and by Paul Feyerabend in Against Method, as barbaric. The fruitfulness of this Platonic world-theory, in this sense, must be approached on the basis of the anthropological requirement for the ontologically transcendental, on the basis of this demand which is biopsychological in man, in the consciousness itself, for example, under the reference which we have made or even in the sense of existentialism, as well as in the sense of its phenomenological self-fulfilment, etc.     

Consequently, the necessity for this world-concept of synthesis, in all its broadness, emerges and not only in a sterile personalised way in history; it lies in the logic of the three approaches, which - as we have said above - is fundamental. Here, of course, someone could object and wish as to this positioning to put forward other, alternative approaches, such as that of Epicurus. His approach cannot be aligned affirmatively with these requirements of the third zone, of the third dimension, and tries to reject these requirements in a way similar to that by which Hilbert attempted to remove the impasses of definition of the Euclidean axiomatic definitions of concepts - but this undertaking is not appropriate, existentially and phenomenologically, or in terms of world-concept, to a living consciousness.
In a similar way, this is what psychoanalysis has attempted or genetics and neuro-science attempt as to the questions about consciousness. Thus, in spite of instrumental successes, the existential demand, the demand for being of man remains. Here we must be clear in our prospect of liberation, and leave the horizon open for the quest for this transcendental world-concept.

There is also a further reason for this attitude: very frequently, these disasters occur when we aspire to set up a complete closed system, such as that attempted in the early twentieth century by distinguished mathematicians and thinkers such as Hilbert, who were forced immediately afterwards into a tragic retraction. A typical case is that of Gödel and his theorems. We can see the same thing also in conflicts between mathematicians, such as those which have put tragic pressure on other scientists. And we are speaking of scientists with prestige and credibility, if we are to judge from the story of Kronecker with Cantor or others. For that reason, then, less certainty is called for at the level of the concepts themselves, as well as at that of systems. This also applies to the prejudice of the brain in the identification of existence with tangibility and visibility and the disjunction of abstraction and non-sensory perception from existence. What is needed is more reliance on experience, freedom, dialogue, and, above all, that we should avoid the self-frustration of a profound instinctive behaviour of the consciousness in the face of that which it experiences as a tragic - or otherwise – plexus of occurrences in life and death, in its self-referentiality and in its relation with the world and in the quest for what lies beyond form.

The twenty-first century should mean / indicate a now important process of evolution, an important mobilisation in the direction of transcendental ontology and cosmology, and of transcendental anthropology, which re-establishes, in essence, certain basic and fundamental recognitions, Platonic and otherwise, over and beyond any failed or outdated individual views, analogues of which are also in the making in contemporary scientific and technical established authority.

In the whole of our approach here, the problem about and the need for a correlation and an open dynamic between all categories of concepts and theories, and, in parallel, hierarchical, collective, and allotropic dialectic have become apparent.

Furthermore, the need for the existence of similar multi-dimensional, interior concepts and theories as to subjectivity, existence, and transcendence, in parallel with technically functional concepts and theories, has become clear.

Ioannis Zisis, writer

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