Levels of being as effecting unity

Reality is distinguished into levels by diverse forms overcoming multiplicity.

1.) Non-living. Forms in non-living beings don’t give rise to distinct individuals. By dividing this mass of granite or water you get more of the same. While dividing things at the molecular or atomic level makes a difference, and non-living being does at least require this minimal degree of overcoming multiplicity, the non-living never forms a this ontologically distinct from a what.

2.) Living non-cognitive. This level was once clearly defined as plant life, but we’ve become more aware of the ways in which plants assimilate information from their environment and so the lines between plant and animal life have become less sharp than they were in the past. Perhaps LNC’s are a logical impossibility, and if so skip to level 3.

An LNC is a form that at least gathers its own subjective and physical parts into a ontological unity, and so has a this really distinct from a what. This allows the LNC to act as a unique individual.

3.) The physically cognitive. Physical cognition occurs when the object known is a mix of an exterior object and the disposition of an organ. What colors animals see are a matter of both the reflective surfaces of the world and of the rods and cones of different animals’ eyes, what sounds they hear are a matter both of the vibrations physically in the air and the structures of different ears. This is also true of common sensibles: whether you sense something as moving depends on whether your organs are in motion relative to it, whether something is large or small depends on the size of the organism sensing it, etc.

Because physical cognition is a mix of subjective and objective factors it is not simply objective. The sense organ is incapable of teasing apart what is objective and subjective in its object. Because its object is constituted out of itself, all desire arising from physical cognition is concupiscent, meaning there is no rising above “me and mine”. This includes at least some of the lower levels of common goods like kin relations and co-operation, but any action rising above this cannot arise from physical cognition as such.

To the extent that physical cognition contains an element outside of the organism, the form of that organism unifies not just the physical parts of itself but also things outside of itself. Nevertheless, physical cognition does this in the minimal possible way, by having an objective part that is inextricably bound up with the physical dispositions – the subjectivity – of an organ.

4.) Cognition properly speaking. Cognition as such is objective, but this requires that the physical world be known without physical interaction. Simple objectivity of the world and spirituality are thus co-implicative, since on this line of analysis spirituality arises only as the term describing a knower with simple objectivity, or which knows objects simply speaking.

Human cognition is spiritual in the minimal possible way. Because we can meaningfully understand being and objects, we recognize at least some truths and goods not just for “me and mine” but for all things at all times and we can choose to act benevolently and sacrifice even when we can expect no benefits to kin.  All the same, the clearer we try to make objective knowledge the more it becomes dizzying and disorienting. We can know that one can divide knowledge from sense information, but the more we try to flesh out what this means the more we stare into the sun of a knowledge with no perspective, no distance from objects, which knows real existence by a concept (and not just an abstract nature) and which has no location in time or space.

Still, cognition unifies all being in themselves and so effects a fuller unity than physical cognition does.

5.) Disembodied cognition. Just as the eye sees all visible + the organ as positioned, structured, operative, etc, so disembodied cognition knows all existent things and unifies them in their concrete existence within itself. It is aware at once of the whole universe and all of its parts, along with all revealed to it by other intelligences. This does not give rise to information overload first because this condition is proper to physical structures, and next because anything aware of all being has the resources to deal with it.

In any given thought, disembodied cognition either knows all that it can know or not. If not, then its knowledge is temporal, not in the way that physical cognition is continuously temporal but in the way that the premises of an argument are distinct. Because of this division in thoughts, disembodied cognition can know something it is not thinking about, and so must choose between good and evil. The question of fixity in this state is one that raises questions of the nature of grace.

Disembodied cognition can know all that is given in being. It is not clear how much of the temporal order this includes. Relativity theory argues that there is always given perspective in which any two events are simultaneous, and if so any disembodied knower would know all events at all times. Nevertheless, it can know them only as given. While possible existence has being it can only be known to these intellects as inferred from a pre-known actuality, and it can know the thoughts of other intelligences only to the extent that they are revealed to it.

6.) Creative cognition. An intelligence that has all that it can know at once knows all that is knowable in a single thought. Because of this, it (a) unifies all things in itself like any intelligence but (b) unlike any other intelligence, it is incapable of failing to think of something it knows and so is incapable of evil. This intelligence alone is good first of all and per se. Because of this, the goodness of this being is the source of all other goods and so is the source of being as such.


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