The distinctions I would like to draw involve whether and how learning can be considered a private activity or a personal one, whether and how we can think of it as being achievable by realizing ones potentials or by appropriating and identifying with the role of an intellectual princeps or master, or less Aristotelean and perhaps somewhat more Platonic, whether learning is more a question of realizing through remembering than through appropriation, whether and how it can be achieved from the position or role of a subject by purifying itself from individuality, or as a complicated inversion of passivity/activity schemes by having itself absorbed into an collective objectivity. I will be concerned, in short, with what it entails to declare such subjectivity or objectivity, such personality or principality, as ‘good’ in the sense of communality.
If one maintains that to know something cannot become a characteristics of an individual without the individual thereby becoming a Master who needs to be held responsible for governing the respective subject matter by identifying with it, the troubling challenge is how to account for the obscure life-force or power distributing virtuousity, vitality, reality and corruption (decay). What could be, allegorically and in an overdrawn manner, be called the Aristotelean legacy thinks vital distinctions concerning individuals not in their essence, but in their accidentality as distributed by a quasi-econonomic interplay which he held constitutive for reality and its becoming. This interplay is an economics between privation and deprivation, driven by each individual which strives to realize its potential to the fullest. The complementary, no less allegorical and in an overdrawn label of a Platonic legacy on the other hand seems less dependent upon the assumption of some notion of life-force. Or perhaps we can say, that it’s role is occupied by a different actor – the collective, or generic, human soul. It too holds on to a principle of distribution in the obtaining or acquisition of wisdom, a principle which operates along the line of perfection and deficiency, instead of privation and deprivation.
The relation between wisdom and liberation are the themes in both versions of realism. Yet in one case, liberation means empowering individuality, while in the other it means disempowering individuality. At the heart of realist interests is the relation between the individual and the collective. While in our allegorical Aristotelian legacy, the full actualization of all potentials – the realization of all individuals to their fullfillement – would be the End of Reality, a world without desire and striving, the same scenario in the Platonic legacy would be the Beginning of a purified or proto-paradisic Reality.
Also in both cases, it is the question of the ‘good’ which provides orientation in learning. Yet it is radically differently conceived – we have the ‘the good’ as an idea, and its form illuminating our intellect like the sun illuminates our vision (Plato’s analogy of the sun). On the other hand, we have a numerous notion of ‘the good’ – it is not One Value, which emanates and illuminates thought from an Outside, but One Value integral to everything there is. It is exactly the character of its distributivity in the series of becomings which is thought to be constitutive for the nature of things, – as a sort of a totemic prime-number-ness uniting not specific kinships, but everything which is to be considered natural. As the univocity of an intra-mundane breath which we can learn to articulate if we cultivate our responsitivity and capacities of intellection. There is a nature of truth in the Aristotelian legacy, and it is this collectively shared naturalness which accounts for the capacity of symbolization to express affections of the soul truly or falsly.
While in this legacy of univocity we have an intramundane nature of truth, we have an extramundane ideality of truth in the Platonic heritage, which can proceed by analogies which render learning dialectic. Dialectics, most generally expressed, is the study of problems – it is how to find ways to proceed where there seems to be no way. With problems we usually name situations where we encounter aporia, Gk. ἀπορɛία , literally for ‘where there is no way’, Auswegslosigkeit, Ratlosigkeit, an impasse, lack of resources, puzzlement, doubt, confusion.
While the principal assumption of intramundane and numerous nature suggests to treat dialectics in terms of practical cunning – List – it treats possibilities in an almost agricultural sense. Possibilities here can be farmed, raised, conserved, through cultivating the intellectual fertility from which they spring. The capacity to find ways in situations of aporia is here correlated to the ‘stocks in conserved possibilities’ it can count on, there is no uniquely good or right solution to a problem. The way possibilities can be conserved is through contracting them – through symbolizations. Thus, the resources to solve a problem are treated in a conditional and economic way.
The principle assumption of extramundane ideality on the other hand treats the resources in an absolute way. The kind of cunning involved in dialectics here is a strategic and tactical cunning, not the practical one of a farmer or craftsman. Finding a way in aporetical situations is a question of occupying or appropriating ‘territory’ – it takes contingencies are badly governed subject matters, and the principles governing those fertile grounds as deficient in wisdom, as confused by overwhelming choratic immersion into the sensible world.
Both of these ‘formalizations’ of ‘the good’ are quantitative, but one allies the source of ‘wealth in goodness’ with form, continuous magnitudes, and analogical equivalence, while the other allies it with numbers, discrete multitudes, and monadic univocity. One follows the vector of increasing ‘wealth in goodness’ through re-collection and re-membrance, in the pursuit of purifying essentiality based on a politics which understands responsibility as evocation and conversion, to the cause of building a city, a polis, such that it may embody the ideal cosmic order. The other follows the vector of increasing ‘wealth in goodness’ based on an economic politics, and understands responsibility proportional to the potential and power one is able to realize.
As legacies, these two vectors insists within the entire corpus of Western philosophy. This is why it seems helpful to profile them in such abstract and overdrawn terms, with the purpose of using them for rendering contrasts visible and estimateable within our current intellectual landscape. Let me point out three fields which have been spelled out by the technologies of universal algebra and their code-based characteristics, namely information.