Animals have intentions that transcend the proper information of sense: when a bird looks at a stick or a worm it receives more information than just color and shape. If animals only saw color and shape and motion, they wouldn’t move to any one thing any more than another. As far as we can tell, however, these intentions only transcend the information of sense as such by revealing something that exists in relation to the animal. “Food” and “predator” and “mate” and “shelter making” are all defined in relation to the animal which is sensing. The animal world is rigorously and perfectly Ptolemaic: all that is known is essentially related to the one knowing as an absolute center.

The human world contains this animal world and something more. We not only can look at something and see “food”, we can look at it and see “apple” or “fish”. A bird can see something on the ground and see “house part”; we can look at the same thing and see “twig”. What we see need not be understood in relation to us. We need not place ourselves at the center of the universe.

In the measure that we fail to transcend imagination or our merely animal cognitive powers, we will understand all things in relation to ourselves as opposed to seeing what they are. One very noticable thread in the history of the sciences (though not the only thread) is the gradual ascent to a vision of the universe that is harder and harder to imagine. In this line of development, the series mythic poets, Presocratics, Aristotle, Newton, Einstein is one where each member steps further away from a world where the causes are given to sensation or imagination.  The only science which was ever developed more or less at once and in perfect order is the one that is wholly contained within imagination- geometry.


  1. November 5, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    very, very interesting.

    what comments (if any) do you have on so-called ‘altruistic’ behaviours of chimps/bonobos/orangutans, etc.? Could these be the beginnings of ‘non-Ptolemaic’ knowing?

  2. November 6, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Two answers: no, and I don’t know.

    No, because the sort of intentions discussed here are ones that reveal the object as it is in itself, and which are therefore only of value to those who want to know “what things are”, which, as knowledge, is simply the principle of speculative science. Chimps show no evidence of needing any such principle or having one.

    I don’t know, since there has to be some way in which chimps are closer than,say, mosquitoes to having what only human beings have, but I don’t know if altruism is the feature of their activity that establishes this.

  3. November 6, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    whereas my former evolution-resisting ideology required me to recoil at the thought of chimps being ‘near’ humans in any way, I’m now able to even celebrate their abilities.

    I saw a vid of a chimp ‘counting’ here. I think ‘counting’ might be a bit of an anthropomorphisation, but still purty durn neat 🙂

  4. November 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    oops link didn’t work:

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