A star-spangled spanner and a hypocritical, Sinophobic, toady culture

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Australia’s newest warplane, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter…Israel is the only country allowed even a partial role in repairing its electronic systems.

Brian Toohey, ‘A star-spangled spanner in the works: how US secrecy controls Australian weapons’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 25.05.20

The loss of Australian sovereignty within the American alliance is rarely raised amid the current alarm about whether the US is a reliable ally. Successive prime ministers have given the US a de facto veto over whether Australia can use its own weapons systems to defend itself.

At the same time, they have allowed Australian forces to become so tightly integrated into the Pentagon’s that it presumes Australia will automatically participate in a horrendous new American war, even when it’s an illegal act of aggression like the invasion of Iraq.

The erosion of our national sovereignty has not occurred suddenly. A Parliamentary Library research paper warned back in 2001 that American restrictions meant Australia could only use its advanced weapons for a short time before they became inoperable. Since then, Australia has become more reliant on complex weapons systems whose sensitive components have to be sent back to America for maintenance and repairs. Perversely, American secrecy prevents Australian personnel from learning how to perform these tasks.

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‘Let’s disengage from China…slowly and carefully.’

The US also denies Australia access to the computer source code essential to operate key electronic components in its ships, planes, missiles, sensors and so on. Israel is the only country allowed even a partial role in repairing the electronic systems at the heart of the troubled-plagued F-35 fighter planes Australia is also acquiring.

Although there is nothing new about the possibility the US won’t always come riding to Australia’s rescue, President Donald Trump’s erratic behaviour has sparked a growing awareness that nothing is guaranteed.

Even more conventional US presidents will act in what they see as their own political interest and some version of the national interest rather than always committing American blood and treasure to defend Australia. Many otherwise hard-headed Australian politicians and commentators reject this reality, despite the lessons of history.

In 1963, Bob Menzies’ coalition government was keen to commit Australian forces to a cross-border war against Indonesia in Borneo. Menzies wanted an assurance from then US president John F. Kennedy that the ANZUS treaty meant the US would supply troops to support Australian forces. Archival records show Kennedy told Menzies that the American people had “forgotten” about ANZUS and no troops would be supplied.

In 1999, John Howard wanted president Bill Clinton to provide “boots on the ground” to help an Australian-led force quell violence sponsored by Indonesia in East Timor. Clinton refused.

Drawing on these lessons, an official National Security Update in 2007 stated it was the Howard government’s policy that we must be the “sole guarantor of our own security” and that it was “not healthy for a country to become dependent on another for its basic defence”. Although the defence minister Brendan Nelson wrote a supportive introduction to the update, no subsequent government has attempted to implement this policy.

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The Mongolian Octopus: his grip on Australia 1886

A policy of greater self-reliance requires full access to all relevant computer source code. Resources would need to be devoted to beefing up Australia’s electronics industry to allow the defence forces to operate far more independently than presently. But this doesn’t mean all defence equipment has to be built in Australia – that would be prohibitively costly. Funds could be freed up by greater use of relatively low-cost drones and by scrapping mega projects such as the ludicrously expensive French/Australian submarine relying on US electronics. When eventually delivered sometime after 2035, the submarine will almost certainly be a financial and military disaster.

Meanwhile, there is no need to overreact to China’s imposition of an 80 per cent tariff on imported Australian barley. China began action in the World Trade Organisation in 2018 against Australia’s alleged dumping of barley.

The University of Adelaide’s Simon Lacey points out that currently Australia has anti-dumping action under way or proposed against Chinese wind towers, glass, electric cables, chemicals, herbicides, A4 copy paper and aluminium products, as well as steel.

China has now pointedly switched to buying more barley from the US to meet Trump’s demand that it imports a lot more from America.

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Images: top/middle/bottom

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

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Men gargle saltwater to prevent infection at the War Garden at Camp Dix (now Fort Dix) in New Jersey, c. 1918

‘First cases reported in deadly Spanish flu pandemic’, History, 05.11.09

Just before breakfast on the morning of March 4 1918, Private Albert Gitchell of the U.S. Army reports to the hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, complaining of the cold-like symptoms of sore throat, fever and headache. By noon, over 100 of his fellow soldiers had reported similar symptoms, marking what are believed to be the first cases in the historic influenza pandemic of 1918, later known as Spanish flu. The flu would eventually kill 675,000 Americans and an estimated 20 million to 50 million people around the world, proving to be a far deadlier force than even the First World War. 

The initial outbreak of the disease, reported at Fort Riley in March, was followed by similar outbreaks in army camps and prisons in various regions of the country. The disease soon traveled to Europe with the American soldiers heading to aid the Allies on the battlefields of France. (In March 1918 alone, 84,000 American soldiers headed across the Atlantic; another 118,000 followed them the next month.) Once it arrived on a second continent, the flu showed no signs of abating: 31,000 cases were reported in June in Great Britain. The disease was eventually dubbed the Spanish flu because people erroneously believed Spain was the epicentre of the pandemic.

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A woman wears a sci-fi looking flu nozzle attached to a machine c. 1919. It’s not clear how it worked or if it had any health benefits.

The flu showed no mercy for combatants on either side of the trenches. Over the summer, the first wave of the epidemic hit German forces on the Western Front, where they were waging a final, no-holds-barred offensive that would determine the outcome of the war. It had a significant effect on the already weakening morale of the troops—as German army commander Crown Prince Rupprecht wrote on August 3: poor provisions, heavy losses, and the deepening influenza have deeply depressed the spirits of men in the III Infantry Division. Meanwhile, the flu was spreading fast beyond the borders of Western Europe, due to its exceptionally high rate of virulence and the massive transport of men on land and aboard ship due to the war effort. By the end of the summer, numerous cases had been reported in Russia, North Africa and India; China, Japan, the Philippines and even New Zealand would eventually fall victim as well.

The Great War ended on November 11, but influenza continued to wreak international havoc, flaring again in the U.S. in an even more vicious wave with the return of soldiers from the war and eventually infecting an estimated 28 percent of the country’s population before it finally petered out. In its December 28, 1918, issue, the American Medical Association acknowledged the end of one momentous conflict and urged the acceptance of a new challenge: fighting infectious disease.

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Hegel’s ‘Reason’ – the cognition of God who is Absolute Reason

The rose in the Rosicrucian cross is a concentration of mystical meanings including that of unfolding Mind. ‘To recognise reason as the rose in the cross of the present and thereby to enjoy the present, this is the rational insight which reconciles us to the actual…’ Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Preface.

‘Philosophy in general has God as its object and indeed as its only proper object. Philosophy is no worldly wisdom, as it used to be called; it was called that in contrast with faith. It is not in fact a wisdom of the world but instead a cognitive knowledge of the non-worldly; it is not cognition of external existence, of empirical determinate being and life, or of the formal universe, but rather cognition of all that is eternal – of what God is and of what God’s nature is as it manifests and develops itself.’

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‘Besides, in philosophy of religion we have as our object God himself, absolute reason. Since we know God who is absolute reason, and investigate this reason, we cognise it, we behave cognitively.’

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G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion Vol. I, Ed., Peter C. Hodgson, Trans., R.F.Brown, P.C.Hodgson, J.M.Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2007, 116-7, 170

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Hegel’s cultural supremacism and the myth of Western ‘Reason’

The rose in the Rosicrucian cross is a concentration of mystical meanings including that of unfolding Mind. ‘To recognise reason as the rose in the cross of the present and thereby to enjoy the present, this is the rational insight which reconciles us to the actual…’ Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Preface.

‘(The Oriental spirit) remains impoverished, arid, and just a matter for the understanding. For this reason we find, on the part of Orientals, only reflections, only arid understanding, a completely external enumeration of elements, something utterly deplorable, empty, pedantic, and devoid of spirit, an elaboration of logic similar to the old Wolffian logic. It is the same with Oriental ceremonies.

This is the general character of Oriental religious representations and philosophy. There is, as in their cultus, on the one hand an immersion in devotion, in substance, and so the pedantic detail of the cultus – a vast array of the most tasteless ceremonies and religious activities – and on the other hand, the sublimity and boundlessness in which everything perishes.

There are two Oriental peoples whom I wish to mention, the Chinese and the Indians.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume I: Introduction and Oriental Philosophy, Together With the Introductions from the Other Series of These Lectures, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009, 106

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Hegel’s Rose of ‘Reason’ on the Rosicrucian Cross

‘To comprehend what is, this is the task of philosophy, because what is, is reason. …To recognise reason as the rose in the cross of the present and thereby to enjoy the present, this is the rational insight which reconciles us to the actual, the reconciliation which philosophy affords to those in whom there has once arisen an inner voice bidding them to comprehend…’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Trans. T.M.Knox, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979, 11-12

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Image source

Right of assembly now illegal

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Jarni Blakkarly, SBS, ’Melbourne refugee protesters fined $43,000 for breaching coronavirus rules’ 10.04.20

‘Victoria Police has arrested one refugee advocate and fined dozens of others a total of $43,000 for breaching coronavirus stay at home orders by conducting a protest outside a Melbourne hotel housing refugees and asylum seekers.

The protesters on Friday formed a car motorcade to protest the situation faced by the men inside the Mantra Hotel in the northern Melbourne suburb of Preston, where they say the men are in danger of contracting COVID-19.

The men inside the hotel have themselves been protesting their crowded conditions and what they say is a lack of personal hygiene supplies, such as hand sanitiser.

Protest organisers said the demonstration was done in cars so that all protesters maintained their required social distance at all times.

The Refugee Action Collective’s Lucy Honan was one of those issued a fine by Victoria Police for participating in the protest.

“We were told that we had breached the stay at home direction. We said we are there for compassionate reasons. Compassion and care is one of the reasons you can leave the house,” she said.

“It’s completely egregious and hypocritical. You have people inside the detention centre unable to physically distance, that’s why we were there, and instead of using those health powers to agitate for their freedom, the [Premier Daniel] Andrews government has used police to quash protests,” Ms Honan said.

Victoria Police told SBS News 26 demonstrators were fined for failing to comply with the chief health officer’s orders, while three were issued with traffic infringement notices.

While Victoria Police respects the public’s right to protest, these are extraordinary times and the health and safety of every Victorian needs to be our number one priority at this time,” a police spokesperson said.

Protest organiser Chris Breen was also arrested at his home prior to the protest beginning. He was charged with incitement and is due to face court in August.

He told SBS News he was taken to the Preston police station where he spent nine hours in custody while police obtained a warrant to seize his phone and home computers.

“It’s absurd. People can drive to Bunnings, to get a haircut, to go to your holiday house in Victoria, but we aren’t allowed to drive around the block to highlight the deadly conditions for refugees,” Mr Breen said.

“Health rules around coronavirus can’t be used to shut down safe protests,” he added.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

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Source

The Pilgrim’s Progress

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‘Now, because it has only phenomenal knowledge for its object, this exposition seems not to be Science, free and self-moving in its own peculiar shape; yet from this standpoint it can be regarded as the path of the natural consciousness which presses forward to true knowledge; or as the way of the Soul which journeys through the series of its own configurations as though they were the stations appointed for it by its own nature, so that it may purify itself for the life of the Spirit, and achieve finally, through a completed experience of itself, the awareness of what it really is in itself.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Trans., A.V.Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977, 49

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 3.29.29 pm

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Hegel and Nicholas of Cusa – part six

G.W.F.Hegel (1770-1831), Anonymous

What Hegel read but never acknowledged and what all the academics missed. Why?

09.12.13

From Johann Gottlieb Buhle, Geschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, in six volumes, Johann Georg Rosenbusch, Göttingen, 1800, volume 2

p. 67 ‘Neoplatonism…’
p. 73 ‘Plato, Plotinus…’
p. 75 ‘Plato and Plotinus…’
p. 76 ‘Neoplatonic…Plotinian philosophy…’
p. 77 ‘Neoplatonic…Neoplatonic philosophy…’
p. 79 ‘Porphyry’s commentary…’
p. 81 ‘Nicholas of Kues, a village in Trier’
p. 122 ‘Neoplatonism…Kabbalism…’
p. 139 ‘Plotinus…Porphyry, Numenius, Amelius.’
p. 157 ‘Hermes Trismegistus, Zoroaster…Magic, Astrology, Necromancy…’
p. 170 ‘Plotinus…Neoplatonism…’
p. 172 ‘Plotinus…’
p. 268 ‘Averroes…’
p. 324 ‘Plotinus…’
p. 342 ‘the Cardinal Nicolaus of Cusa…the Philosophy of Nicolaus of Cusa…De docta ignorantia…De coniecturis…De sapientia…’
p. 367 ‘Kabbalistic legends…Neo-Pythagorean, Neoplatonic and Neo-Aristotelian philosophy…’
p. 368 ‘Aus Nichts kann Nichts entfrehn’
p. 379 ‘Zoroastrian philosophy…’
p. 380 ‘Emanationism…’
p. 445 ‘Jakob Böhme…’
pp. 445-446 Buhle discusses Böhme’s philosophy

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Nicholas of Cusa, anonymous portrait drawn from Cusa’s tomb in Rome n.d. The portrait was offered to Klibansky by the Cusanus Gesellschaft in 1964, and is now part of the Raymond Klibansky Collection.

Cusanus’ texts referred to in volume 2 of Buhle’s History

De concordantia catholica (On Catholic Concordance, 1434)
De docta ignorantia (On Learned Ignorance, 1440 – Buhle discusses)
De coniecturis (On Surmises, 1441-2 – Buhle discusses)
De Ignota Litteratura (On Unknown Learning, 1442-3 – Johannes Wenck)
De quaerendo Deum (On Seeking God, 1445)
De dato patris luminum (On the Gift of the Father of Lights, 1446)
Apologia doctae ignorantiae discipuli ad discipulum (A Defence of Learned Ignorance from One Disciple to Another, 1449)
(Idiota) de sapientia (The Layman of Wisdom, 1450 – Buhle discusses)
Epistolae contra Bohemos (Epistles Against the Bohemians/Hussites, 1452)
De visione Dei (On the Vision of God, 1453)
De mathematica perfectione (On Mathematical Perfection, 1458)
Cribrationes Alchorani (Cribratio Alkorani, A Scrutiny of the Koran, 1461)
De venatione sapientiae (On the Pursuit of Wisdom, 1463)
De apice theoriae (On the Summit of Contemplation, 1464 – Cusanus’ last work)

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Texts by Cusanus in the contents of the critical edition of his works, from Peter J. Casarella, Ed., Cusanus, The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 251

I. De docta ignorantia
II. Apologia doctae ignorantiae
III. De coniecturis
IV. Opuscula I: De deo abscondito, De quaerendo deum, De filiatione dei, De dato patris luminum, Coniectura de ultimis diebus, De genesi
V. Idiota de sapientia, Idiota de mente, Idiota de staticis experimentis
VI. De visione dei
VII. De pace fidei
VIII. Cribratio alkorani
IX. Dialogus de ludo globi
X. Opuscula II: De aequalitate, Responsio de intellectu evangelii ioannis, De theologicis complementis, Tu quis es (de principo), Reparatio kalendarii cum historiographiae astrologicae fragmento
XI. De beryllo, Trialogus de possest, Compendium
XII. De venatione sapientiae, De apice theoriae
XIII. Directio speculantis seu de non aliud
XIV. De concordantia catholica
XV. Opuscula III: Ecclesiastica: De maioritate auctoritatis, De auctoritate praesidendi, Dialogus concludens amedistarum errorem, Opuscula bohemica, Epistula ad rodericum sancium, Reformatio generalis
XVI. Sermones I
XVII. Sermones II
XVIII. Sermones III
XIX. Sermones IV
XX. Scripta mathematica
XXI. Indices
XXII. Indices

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English translations of the texts of Cusanus by Jasper Hopkins

Hegel and Nicholas of Cusa – part five

Jakob Schlesinger, ‘Bildnis des Philosophen Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’ (1770-1831), Berlin 1831, Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

What Hegel read but never acknowledged and what all the academics missed. Why?

09.12.13

From Johann Gottlieb Buhle, Geschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, in six volumes, Johann Georg Rosenbusch, Göttingen, 1800, volume 2

pp. 341-353 continued

De sapientia, a work in three books, is a commentary on De coniecturis. It is in dialogue form, an imitation of the similarly titled dialogue of Petrarch.1 A Layman and an Orator (professor of rhetoric) meet in the Roman Forum; the former scoffs at scholastic learning, the latter defends it. The author makes a third person, describing the external setting of the dialogue. In the third book a fourth person makes his appearance, a renowned philosopher from outside Rome, present there for the Jubilee, whom the Orator meets by chance. Nicholas, speaking in the person of the Layman, presents in a popular form his theory of the numbers as the beginnings of knowledge. He begins with the observation that the people in the Roman Forum are counting money, weighing goods, measuring out commodities. How are they able to do this, he asks the Orator. And he proceeds to expound his philosophical system of numbers in its application to God, the world, and the soul. These dialogues demonstrate once again that the gift of setting out philosophical concepts in a comprehensible, popular manner was one utterly denied to Nicholas. Before long the Layman is speaking in such mathematically mystical terms that the Orator would be fully justified in throwing back at him the rebukes he himself suffered for his scholastic learning at the beginning of the dialogue. How much more appropriate and interesting is the Petrarchian dialogue that Nicholas is seeking to imitate! That Nicholas gives himself the role of the Layman is not so much due to contempt for scholastic learning, which Petrarch indeed shared, but to Nicholas’ desire to present his philosophy as one of non-knowing, as merely the outcome of speculation, as he called it, and thus opposed to the supposititious knowledge of the rhetoricians and philosophers of his time; for the renowned foreign philosopher too is brought by the Orator to the Layman and has to submit to his teaching.

Tomb in S.Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, with the relief ‘Cardinal Nicholas before St Peter’ by Andrea Bregno

Nicholas deals in particular with the numbers as the most appropriate signs of the nature of objects in a treatise of which the compendium has been transcribed;2 as he further expounds his theology in the treatises De visione Dei (On the vision of God), De Dato Patris luminum (On the gift of the Father of lights), De quaerendo Deum (On seeking God), De venatione sapientiae (On seeking for wisdom), and De apice theoriae (On the Summit of Contemplation).3 These last treatises differ from the aforementioned in being even more thickly interwoven with Alexandrine mysticism; in them Nicholas adopts much of the mystical theological enthusiasm of Dionysius the Areopagite, one of his favourite authors (as he is of most philosophers of the Middle Ages as well as of Nicholas’ own day), whom he follows almost without reserve. Nicholas further shows himself a fiery zealot on behalf of Christian Catholicism against the Muslims and the Bohemian Hussites. In a separate work he undertakes a comparison of Christianity with the religion of Mohammed,4 proves the Koran a forgery, and defends Christianity against the reproaches of the Moorish philosophers, in some cases from passages of the Koran itself. The Bohemians or Hussites are the target of four Epistles. His remaining works are concerned with mathematics, astronomy and physics.5

Part five/to be continued…

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Notes

1. The opening of the dialogue is just like Petrarch’s, except that the Layman and the Orator, as the author notes, go to a barber shop to continue their philosophical discussion undisturbed (Vol. 1, fol. 75). I would draw attention to the following passage of the dialogue: ORATOR. Quomodo ductus esse potes ad scientiam ignorantiae tuae, cum sis Idiota? IDIOTA. Non ex tuis, sed Dei libris. O. Qui sunt illi? I. Quos suo digito scripsit. O. Ubi reperiuntur? I. Ubique. O. Igitur et in hoc foro. I. Immo etiam dixi, quod sapientia clamat in plateis. O. Optarem audire quomodo? I. Si te absque curiosa inquisitione affectum conspicerem, magna tibi panderem. O. Potesne hoc brevi tempore efficere, ut qui(d) velis degustem? (ORATOR: Since you are a Layman, how are you able to be led to a knowledge of your ignorance? LAYMAN: Not from your books but from God’s books. O.: Which books are they? L.: Those that He wrote with his finger. O.: Where are they found? L.: Everywhere. O.: Therefore, even in this Forum? L.: Yes, indeed! I have already said that wisdom proclaims itself in the streets. O.: I would like to hear how it does so. L.: If I saw that you were not motivated by idle curiosity, I would disclose to you important matters. O. Can you at this moment bring it about that I sense what you mean?) — We see that the Layman speaks as the scholar ought to speak, and the scholar as the Layman ought to. In Petrarch the converse is the case. In the second book or dialogue the Rhetorician goes looking for the Layman, finds him circa templum aeternitatis (near the Temple of Eternity), and the conversation resumes. In the third dialogue the Rhetorician meets the Philosopher, a stranger, on a bridge over the Tiber and takes him to the Layman, who is carving wooden spoons in the basement of a house. The Layman is of the opinion that if the stranger is a true philosopher he will not despise his occupation. The Philosopher replies that Plato too is said to have painted now and then.—Nicholas appends to each dialogue the time it took to complete. The first was written in one day in July 1465, the second in two days in early August, and the third and longest near the end of August.

2. Vol. 1, fol. 169

3. Ibid. fol. 99, fol. 193, fol. 197, fol. 201, fol. 219

4. Cribrationes Alchorani libb. III (A Scrutiny of the Koran) (3 books)], Vol. I, fol. 126ff.

5. Nic. Cus., Epistolae contra Bohemos (Epistles against the Bohemians), Works, Vol. III, fol. 5

English translations of the works of Cusanus by Jasper Hopkins

Hegel and Nicholas of Cusa – part four

The rose in the Rosicrucian cross is a concentration of mystical meanings including that of unfolding Mind. ‘To recognise reason as the rose in the cross of the present and thereby to enjoy the present, this is the rational insight which reconciles us to the actual…’ Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Preface.

What Hegel read but never acknowledged and what all the academics missed. Why?

09.12.13

From Johann Gottlieb Buhle, Geschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, in six volumes, Johann Georg Rosenbusch, Göttingen, 1800, volume 2

pp. 341-353 continued

Nicholas of Cusa’s system is once again a pantheism which was at the same time intended as a theism, and thereby destroys itself. It betrays a bizarre mixture of mathematical and logical concepts. The divinity to Nicholas, as to Ficino, was really the logical concept of the highest order, conceived through the mathematical concept of the absolute (not relative) maximum, which precisely because it excluded all plurality therefore coincided with the concept of the absolute minimum, the absolutely simple and, insofar as it must include the highest being, absolute perfection; yet it was no more and no less than a purely logical concept, to which nothing objective corresponded. Hence the concern that Nicholas expresses that we may not understand his concept of the maximum in sufficiently pure and abstract terms; hence too his advice first to purge ourselves of all circles and spheres, that is, of all material attributes. He must surely have suspected that notwithstanding all his purges, the understanding yet cannot conceive the maximum bereft of material attributes as something real, for without them the concept dissolves into nothingness. But for Nicholas this suspicion did not really crystallize in a clear form. As long as he expresses his concept of God and his identity with the world in mathematical terms, his theology sounds even more pantheistic than Ficino’s; in essence, his and Ficino’s system are the same, as one can see from the relation in which he places God to the world—an equally theistical one. Thus the same errors underlie his system and Ficino’s.

Nicholas’ ideas as presented here also dominate the other works mentioned above. Some clarifications of them can be found in the Apologia doctae ignorantiae discipuli ad discipulum (Defence of learned ignorance by a student to a student), appended to Nicholas’ De docta ignorantia (On learned ignorance).1 It is addressed by a student of Nicholas to a fellow-student, against a work published by Wenck under the title Ignota literatura (Unknown learning), which argued with great passion against the nature of Nicholas’ conceptions. We may regard it as a production of Nicholas himself, as the author merely relates to his fellow-student Nicholas’ reaction to Ignota literatura and his judgements on the objections it contains. Possibly it is in fact Nicholas’ work, in which case it is the form in which he chose to defend himself.

Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), detail of relief ‘Cardinal Nicholas before St. Peter’ on his tomb by Andrea Bregno, church of St. Peter in Chains, Rome

De coniecturis, in two books, is not, as one might expect, concerned with speculations or with probabilities and their bases, but contains a theory of the human cognitive faculty in general, considered from the viewpoint which Nicholas adopted, appropriate to his metaphysical system. Absolute truth is unattainable to man; praecisio veritatis inattingibilis, as Nicholas puts it; thus all human knowledge is merely probable, a speculation; and an investigation of the principle of speculation in the human mind is therefore an investigation of the cognitive faculty in general. Here too Nicholas’ philosophical language is the same mathematical–mystic language as in De docta ignorantia. In my opinion his idea of the human cognitive faculty can be best grasped from the following passage, which I quote here in his own words: Coniecturas a mente nostra, uti realis mundus a divina infinita ratione, prodire oportet. Dum enim humana mens, alta Dei similitudo, fecunditatem creatricis naturae ut potest participat, ex se ipsa, ut imagine omnipotentis formae, in realium entium similitudinem rationalia exerit. Coniecturalis itaque mundi humana mens forma existit, uti realis divina.—Ut autem mentem coniecturarum principium recipias, advertas oportet, quomodo ut primum omnium rerum atque nostrae mentis principium unitrinum ostensum est, ut multitudinis, inaequalitatis, atque divisionis rerum unum sit principium, a cuius unitate absoluta multitudo, ab aequalitate inaequalitas, et a connexione divisio effluat; ita mens nostra, quae non nisi intellectualem naturam creatricem concipit, se unitrinum facit principium rationalis suae fabricae. Sola enim ratio multitudinis, magnitudinis ac compositionis mensura est; ita ut ipsa sublata nihil horum subsistat. — Quapropter unitas mentis omnem in se complicat multitudinem; eiusque aequalitas omnem magnitudinem; sicut et connexio compositionem. Mens igitur unitrinum principium; primo ex vi complicativae unitatis multitudinem explicat; multitudo vero inaequalitatis atque magnitudinis generativa est. Quapropter in ipsa primordiali multitudine ut in primo exemplari magnitudines et perfectiones integritatum, et varias et inaequales, venatur; deinde ex utrisque ad compositionem progreditur. Est igitur mens nostra distinctivum, proportionativum, atque compositivum principium. — Rationalis fabricae naturale quoddam pullulans principium numerus est. Mente enim carentes, uti bruta, non numerant. Nec est aliud numerus, quam ratio explicata.2 (It must be the case that speculations originate from our minds, even as the real world originates from Infinite Divine Reason. For when, as best it can, the human mind [which is a lofty likeness of God] partakes of the fruitfulness of the Creating Nature, it produces from itself, qua image of the Omnipotent Form, rational entities, which are made in the likeness of real entities. Consequently, the human mind is the form of a speculated rational world, just as the Divine Mind is the Form of the real world. …In order that you may recognise that the mind is the beginning of speculations, take note of the following: just as the First Beginning of all things, including our minds, is shown to be triune (so that of the multitude, the inequality, and the division of things there is one Beginning, from whose Absolute Oneness multitude flows forth, from whose Absolute Equality inequality flows forth, and from whose Absolute Union division flows forth), so our mind (which conceives only an intellectual nature to be creative) makes itself to be a triune beginning of its own rational products. For only reason is the measure of multitude, of magnitude, and of composition. Thus, if reason is removed, none of these will remain. …Therefore, the mind’s oneness enfolds within itself all multitude, and its equality enfolds all magnitude, even as its union enfolds all composition. Therefore, mind, which is a triune beginning, first of all unfolds multitude from the power of its enfolding-oneness. But multitude begets inequality and magnitude. Therefore, in and through the primal multitude, as in and through a first exemplar-multitude, the mind seeks the diverse and unequal magnitudes, or perfections, of each thing as a whole; and thereafter it progresses to a combining of both multitude and magnitude. Therefore, our mind is a distinguishing, a proportioning, and a combining beginning. …Number is a certain natural, originated beginning that is of reason’s making; for those creatures that lack a mind, e.g. brute animals, do not number. Nor is number anything other than reason unfolded.) — We see here the reason why Nicholas chose to describe his philosophical system in mathematical terms: he found in numbers and numerical relations the principles of the cognitive faculty itself. It would take up too much space here to detail the manner in which he developed these principles. In doing so, too, Nicholas often loses himself so deeply in his mathematical mysticism that his theory, at least to me, becomes quite incomprehensible. However, anyone who wishes to study Nicholas’ system in its full internal detail and relations must regard De coniecturis as preparatory to it, even though Nicholas himself places it after his metaphysics and to some extent bases it on the latter.

Part four/to be continued…

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Notes

1. Nic. Cus., Opera (Works), Vol. 1, p. 35

2. Nic. Cus. de coniect. Book I, ch. 3.4, Works Vol. I, fol. 42

English translations of the works of Cusanus by Jasper Hopkins