Being as the first thing known

We know two things with great certitude: the exterior sensible world and our own selves by way of reflection. Depending on which we start with, we get very different views of being. Considered in light of the sensible world, “being” is whatever comes forth from the great, undifferentiated quantitative solid that forms the backdrop of all we sense and imagine. “Being” is either the formless gray extension that all things have in common, or each individual numbered thing that is cut off from that extension. Seen in this way, being is homogeneous or common, uniform, undifferentiated, and best revealed by a quantitative consideration. 

How different is the view we get of being when we consider our reflection on ourselves! Here, being is an intrinsic principle, existing prior to mere extension and using extension to express itself. Being does not arise out of the undifferentiated void, but is a locus of individuality that is somehow opposed to the sheer homogeneity of the merely extended. Here, being is an incommunicable self, not a division from a common homogeneous group.

Since both of these views are of one object, they must be complementary. There is a unity in the thing we are knowing, even if we know it best by two very strikingly different paths.

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