Hypothesis of an apophatic anthropology

Human intelligence begins in a state that is impossible for anything which it knows: with the simultaneous presence of two contradictories in the single judgment of the principle of contradiction. Being and non-being, truth and falsity, affirmation and negation are present to it equally, as real to mind as the right hand and the left.

No one can quite see how contradiction would be a principle of things and if, like Hegel, we were to see it in this way, we see it as a proof that the world operated in a way that was proper to mind. Still, even the Hegelian vision does not put the contradictories together in act in the way we find them in the single statement of the principle of contradiction. The principle of contradiction does not move from subject to predicate like a thesis to antithesis; it makes both being and nothing present to itself and then denies this sort of presence to anything known.

Taken in this way, mind is other than being or non-being, since it is essential to it that both be co-present in a way they can never be in either what is or what is not. And so, for example, raising the question whether mind can cease to be is a category mistake – rather like asking whether predicates are vertebrates or whether an armadillo is a minor premise. For the same reason, it comes to the some thing to raise the question whether mind came to be, or what “relation” it has to known objects, like bodies or souls. Such “relations” are things of fancy, even if it remains true that ideas can cause things to exist and things can give rise to ideas. The mind-body problem amounts to what we take as the significance of the the problem being a category mistake.


  1. Chance Woods said,

    October 30, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    You may find Lenn Goodman’s recent book, Coming to Mind (University of Chicago Press), of interest in light of what you post here.

  2. November 1, 2014 at 3:57 am

    You begin by saying that human intelligence begins in a state which is impossible for anything which it knows. Now I take it that that state is the state of simultaneously being and not being, in the same respect, for that is the state which the principle of contradiction rules out as impossible. But isn’t it impossible for human intelligence to be in that state? The very principle at hand, that no being can both be and not be, in the same respect and at the same time, applies to the human intelligence, a being, as it applies to all beings.

    • November 1, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Read the second post in the series for clarifications on this point.

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