Parmenides, (iv. the syllogistic approach)

1.) Being is that which intellect knows. 

This is the first principle. It can be taken in more than one way and not all ways of taking it are true. The exact sense in which I’m taking it will develop over the course of the explanation. I’m here understanding being as an object of a power, and I call that power mind so as to compare it with other cognitive powers. Just as color or shape are all objects of vision and sounds or motion are all objects of hearing, so too being is the object of mind.

2.) Being as an object of intellect is divided from the objects of sensation. 

What is sensed is always the act of an organ, and this is a mix of objective and subjective elements. The sense object is not simply the exterior being that acts on the organ, nor simply an ex nihilo construction of the organ itself, but is an inseparable mix of resulting from the two. This mix is not equally objective and subjective in all senses, or in each of the sense powers of various animals: sight is more objective than smell for us; in bloodhounds there is more of a parity in the objectivity of both. Nevertheless, a sense object does not exist in act apart from an organ to perceive it since the organ is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for its existence. But it is ridiculous to suggest that being does not exist in act apart from an organ to perceive it.

This preserves the best elements of the idealist/intellectualist and empiricist traditions. With the Empiricists, we insist that there is a necessarily objective element in sensation, with the idealists we insist that objectivity in the proper and fullest sense belongs to intellectual knowledge in opposition to sense knowledge. That said, we also agree with the Empiricists that one can discover the objectivity of intellect within sense knowing. We can really say that I see Joe or even I know he exists, I touched him; though we agree with the idealists that we can only make this judgment within intellect, even if it is a judgment about what is sensed.

3.) The being that is the object of the intellect is not being as such. 

If it were, then it would have intellect as a necessary condition for its existence, in the same way that color has an organ as a necessary condition for its existence. But, from (2) this is not the case.

4.) Being as such is divided from being as the object of our intellect because of the nature of the first principle(s) of our judgment. 

The first principle of our judgment is either contradiction or identity, but both understand being in relation to what I here call “the shadow” of being. Contradiction necessary relates being to what is not, not in the sense of relating it to absolute non-being, but simply because it must recognize this is not that. Identity consists in predicating some X of itself, but this is different from saying X exists, and and so identity must take things as indifferent to being or not being.

There is not an equality between being and its shadow – the first is the whole source of intelligibility for the second, but, given the first principles of our judgment, the two are necessarily correlative. Whatever being falls under our judgment has to be understood as having this double shadow of this is not that and the “X=X” is prior, and thus indifferent to, “X is”.

5.) There is a vision of being prior to all judgment. 

Any judgment presupposes vision, and being comes with a shadow not precisely as known, but as it falls under the principles of judgment. But this shadow could not even be recognized as a shadow unless there is some vision prior to the principles that give rise to it.

Now one sense of the word “knowledge” is whatever follows the first principle of knowledge, and one sense of this is whatever falls under contradiction and/or identity. If we work from this meaning, then being as such is not known, and it is inseparable from absolutely nothing at all. Indeed, it is impossible! And so by taking “the knowable” in this sense that we first might be tempted to have an apophatic account of being itself, similar to the Neo-Platonic “One”. But this is clearly incoherent, and the culmination of such indiscriminate apophatism is not mystical flights beyond being but the making-trivial of transcendence. This sense of knowledge is not the only one. Still, this sense of knowledge articulates a real totality outside of which there is nothing, and it does provide us with some insight into being as such.



  1. Pseudonoma said,

    November 28, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Before I begin I have to simply thank you for offering such an enthralling series of posts –particularly the dialogical format was pregnant with thought. But regarding the syllogistic approach above I wanted to remark on the following:

    “Any judgment presupposes vision, and being comes with a shadow not precisely as known, but as it falls under the principles of judgment. But this shadow could not even be recognized as a shadow unless there is some vision prior to the principles that give rise to it.”

    “Some vision”… which is also the most basic pre-judice, in the sense both that it is, as you state, a vision that is already had before all judgment and in the sense that all things are envisioned only after this vision. And should we call it a vision at all? It is more a pre- or a pro-vision than a vision. Consider the following:

    1.) The pre-objective nature of the vision:
    This ‘vision’ corresponds to nothing directly before us. This provision precedes anything that could be its object. (Of course you have already implied this this when you said “this sense of knowledge (judgment) articulates a real totality outside of which there is nothing,” as well as elsewhere — it was noted directly in connection with the limitations of the principle of identity).

    2.) The pre-subjective nature of the vision:
    But this provision not only precedes anything that could be its object, it also does not belong to or inhere in a subject like sight to the eye. The eye opens and begins to see, but it can also, as the power of sight, be in potency to the act of seeing. The eye also sees something and not something else. What about the “faculty” of this provision? It never closes its eyes. But that is not because it is a potency that is always in act. It is because it cannot be as a faculty at all –it IS this provision. Where the existence of the eye (even one which has always been seeing) is not the same as its act of seeing, the existence of this provisioning faculty IS its provisioning.

    3.) The pre-modal nature of the vision:
    The provision does not, like vision have a field of objects which it selects from. You have noted already that it is “ridiculous to suggest that being does not exist in act apart from an organ to perceive it” presumably because existence belongs to a being by definition. In addition I think there is another dissimilarity from the sensation of sight to be considered right away: what is actually visible preceded by what is potentially visible, but in the case of provision, what is actual AND what is potential are envisioned, since both in some way ARE. Everything that IS is always already envisioned, such that this provisioning is never enacted. In short, in the case of provision, the vision itself is pre-modal because it precedes both the potency of a faculty and the potency of a potential object, since the vision IS the faculty and it IS the perception of the condition for the very potentiality of the object.

    With these three essential characteristics in mind, the role of the act of judgment in relation to the a priori provision of Being becomes clearer: it is not the provision, but rather the judgment that may be likened to the faculty of sight, since what is always already provisioned is yet only potentially judged. Judging makes something explicit in what is provisioned, but like sight, it focuses on one thing only at the expense of another which lies in the shadow of something potentially judged.

    Now my main question for these remarks have been a preparation is this: does judging bring the light of its explicitation with it? Or does it only alter the distribution of the light? Does judging create the shadow or does it only condense it? Isn’t it true that before any judging, provision is at once permeated with light and shadow? The provision of Being is also a hiding of it. Only in this way is Being both obvious and unfathomed. To return to your statement:

    “There is a vision of being prior to all judgment” —and it is precisely in this priority that the shadow lies. We do not have the vision; we ALREADY have it.

    • November 30, 2013 at 11:20 am

      The vision I had in mind was whatever founds the act of judgment: judgment presupposes some multiplicity for us, and this resolves into different unities that are either more or less identified or excluded. Now this sort of analysis can only be analogous to the vision that gives us being, and so it makes sense to divide it from the vision that gives us things ordered to falling under the principles of contradiction or identity. I’m not talking about seeing some object that we then identify with itself or distinguish from others, but something more like a targeting vision. It seems to me that the analysis of being shows us that what we are targeting by the idea of being is never quite verified in the things that fall under our judgment, or that fall under our vision so far as they are meet for judgment. We are shooting at the moon though always and necessarily and ending up with something less. But this allows us to see or even to judge that our judgments are so limited, and in this sense there is a judgment prior to judgment.

      I want to put any hiding or limitation of being firmly at or after the first principles of judgment. I am uncomfortable building what I call the shadow of being into being itself, since it seems to me that if this were really the case then we would not even be able to speak about being or recognize it. Anything other that “facts” would have never occurred to us.

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