On light, vision and knowledge

There is light. Light enables vision of a world in flux and in perceiving the world we desire to know it, to move towards absolute knowledge of it. Yet whence that light and where does that world exist – are we in it or is it in us? What is the method for knowing it? How do we bring into play the full range of our capacities? As a materialist or as an ‘idealist’? As one who holds that objective reality or matter is primary or as one who holds that consciousness or ‘mind’ takes precedence? What is the difference between ‘X is idealistic’ and that X is philosophically committed thus? Can we not use the lesson in that distinction to overcome a crippling impediment to the development of our knowledge, thereby enhancing both our ability to know the world and the potential for greater harmony in our lives in relating with it?


4 thoughts on “On light, vision and knowledge

    • Hello Phyllis, thank you for your question. In my belief, the question which underlies all others is ‘Which precedes or which is the product of the other – matter (the philosophical concept for objective reality) or consciousness?’ Materialism holds that matter is primary and that consciousness is its product. This is consistent with science. I define mysticism as the belief that one can attain unity with an ‘absolute’, however one defines it (Cusanus referred to God, the ‘absolute’ and the ‘Maximum’), or a form of knowledge not attainable otherwise, through contemplation (from the Latin ‘templum’). Mysticism has made and continues to make an immense contribution to all areas of Western culture – William Franke’s excellent two-volume anthology On What Cannot Be Said traverses the history and exemplifies the extent of this influence. Of particular interest to me is the intuitive form of thought employed in mysticism (and how this relates to materialism), its sensitivity to the unity of the world and its profoundly creative orientation. In earlier posts, I have applied a materialist analysis to cosmopolitanism and skepticism. You may find of interest the series I am posting from Lenin on matter, Engels on dialectics and a series of posts I will be making from Hegel on dialectics. Best regards, Phil


      • Thanks for the decoding. I find it hard to wrap my mind around consciousness being the product of matter and how that is consistent with science. Does science really say anything about consciousness? Hope you like to dialogue. If not, I’ll just read your posts and see what I can glean. Regards, Phyllis


      • Hello Phyllis, Thanks for your reply. The study of consciousness is a major area in scientific research – much of the most advanced work on the subject, with an instinctively materialist orientation, is being done in the United States. The English psychologist Susan Blackmore thinks that consciousness only exists when you look for it. She says ‘See how long you can remain conscious’. But this is not consciousness of the external world, it is the brain’s function of consciousness reflecting on itself (I am aware that I am aware – although Blackmore’s is an interesting and worthy experiment). The subject of consciousness is extremely important in mysticism. The Enneads of Plotinus are a study in the spiritual progress of consciousness – 1500 years before Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. In mysticism, consciousness is concerned with the progress towards unity, in the process of ‘seeing’, of seer and seen (‘knowing’, ‘knower’ and ‘known’). With regard to dialogue – I set this blog up not only to get my views ‘out there’, but, and particularly, to dialogue. Since we all have different perspectives, dialogue is the way forward. We can all learn from each other, so thank you for having an interest in my views. What is your view on consciousness? Best wishes, Phil PS: To be intrigued is to be a philosopher!


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