Insight

1.) The fundamental experience of knowledge is insight, which is clearest in the thrill of getting a glimpse of what something is. This is therefore the fact that any theory of knowledge has to explain.

2.) If insight requires an object fitting the description of a Platonic form, then there is no Nominalist or abstractionist account of insight.

3.) Take a simple case of an insight – teaching by example. While in the store you tell your three-year old that you need to pick up some fruit and she asks you what fruit is. You point out some apples, oranges, and grapes, an hope she gets an idea that will be clear enough to exclude the lettuce and radishes. The Nominalist explains that you’re trying to get her to use language correctly by trying to get her to understand how far the term extends. All you’ve done is increase her facility with a language – you haven’t given her any insight into apples and oranges but merely put a label on them that allows for use among social members. The “Aha” moment you’re hoping to achieve is one that empowers he to talk to others.

4.) The Nominalist explanation of insight explains some aspects of a nominal understanding. One isn’t learning anything about oranges when he watches a Latin speaker hold up one after another and say aurantiaco. All “getting it” or “seeing what it is” means in this case is gaining facility with the word. As Hume put it, this formation of a term beyond each of the particular things “proceeds from our collecting all their possible degrees of quantity and quality in such an imperfect manner as may serve the purposes of life.”

5.) Hume is right that the nominal understanding gives no insight into what a thing is and is made for the purposes of life. But one of the purposes of human life is to see what things are. The nominal understanding is a placeholder for insight.

6.) Newton had used the words “bodies” and “fell” his entire life. But what he saw in the apple was nothing more than bodies fall. Of course they do, but Newton saw what this universal meant: the moon is falling just as the apple is, the earth is falling towards the sun just as the moon and apple are. Einstein did not abolish this insight but developed it, as will any physics that is to come. Einstein’s elevator example is a way of indicating that falling is the natural state of bodies – what we call “resting on the earth” is in fact an acceleration inflicted on things which deforms them from the state they naturally tend to. It is only in falling that the body “rests”, i.e. exercises it immanent and perfecting powers. The seer rests in seeing, the body rests in falling.

7.) Describing insight as learning to use language is thus both ridiculous and impossible. Newton wasn’t ushered into further into the Anglosphere’s understanding of the term “falling”. He didn’t gain some new observation that he assimilated into his familiar experience of what happens to things when you drop them. The words, if anything, get in the way. One just sees apple, moon, and earth all doing exactly the same thing and forming a universal system. Darwin’s vision the animal either fitting into its environment or disappearing is the same sort of vision. Don’t talk about the words I used, look!

8.)  Calling Newton’s vision a hypothesis is an attempt to speak of it entirely in relation to what came after it. It neither accounts for the fact that he saw something, or that he chose to start with this hypothesis as opposed to that one. This attempt to universalize hypothesis – which couldn’t be done without insight – is requires overlooking the reality of insight. If there’s one blight on the thought of Hume through Kant through positivism and AI it’s that all of them rely on insight to construct theories that end up forgetting insight entirely.

9.) For Aristotle, this insight is just intellect or Nous – all reasoning comes from it and leads back to it. Reasoning mediates the insight that gives rise to it, and which it exists to give rise to. Insight is the fruits: they’re both the reason the tree exists and acts, and the source of the seed from which any tree arises.

10.) But it’s seems that Aristotle’s “abstraction from sensible matter” can’t explain insight. Abstraction either involves taking a unique form out of every phantasm or assimilating each phantasm to some given form. But it can’t be the first, because then we would need a form beyond all the abstracted forms to unify them; and it can’t be the second because it presupposes a form already abstracted.

Aristotle couldn’t solve the problem because he had no revelation of the Trinity. The higher some unity is, the more it preserves the distinction of what is unified. Each form abstracted coalesces into a single unity, so much so that it is a single nature, while still being this form. The Berkeley-Hume arguments against the possibility of abstraction are just failures to notice the characteristics of unity transcending the  merely natural sphere. Social animals are higher than non social ones because they have a shared life; human society is even higher because this shared life is also a sharing of the self; angelic society is even higher than this because it is not just a sharing of the selves but an interpenetration of selves that is entirely unmediated by anything non-personal (like the sound waves we use for language); and in the Trinity this unity even overcomes the division of one angels essence or species from the other.

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