December 3, 2011 7 Comments
Aristotle, Plato, Egypt and the Structure of Reality
Immanuel Kant wrote at the close of his Critique of Pure Reason as follows:
In respect of the origin of the modes of ‘knowledge through pure reason’, the question is as to whether they are derived from experience, or whether in independence of ex-experience they have their origin in reason. Aristotle may be regarded as the chief of the empiricists, and Plato as the chief of the noologists. Locke, who in modern times followed Aristotle, and Leibniz, who followed Plato (although in con-considerable disagreement with his mystical system), have not been able to bring this conflict to any definitive conclusion. However we may regard Epicurus, he was at least much more consistent in this sensual system than Aristotle and Locke, inasmuch as he never sought to pass by inference beyond the limits of experience.1
In that paragraph Kant summed up the history of the division of philosophy into two camps with rival focii: the empirical tradition, descending loosely from Aristotle, emphasizing the immediate present, and the Platonic “noology,” stressing the permanence and eternality of the transcendent beyond, mirrored in the mind itself, which reflects the world’s own inherent, ideal structure.
However, which of these two thinkers, if either, is more correct? Is it possible to posit an external, essential structure to the world that supersedes the immediate, empirical experience? How would such a realm be demonstrated? The nature of these questions certainly extends beyond the scope of this paper, yet what I will claim is that Plato was more correct that Aristotle. In fact, though Aristotle’s pioneering work in ethics, logic, politics and aesthetics cannot be overlooked, some of Aristotle’s own insights actually work to make the case for the claims of Plato, as I will argue. This becomes particularly apparent when one considers the question of the infinity of God and numbers, which Plato and the Pythagoreans appear to have inherited from Egyptian Memphite and Hermetic traditions. Interestingly, modern mathematical theorists and quantum physicists are coming to the very same conclusions the ancient Egyptians posited: that reality is, at base, much more than is visibly present, including higher and lower dimensions, as well as possibly a base, inherent mathematical essentialism behind the world we experience. In effect, this means Aristotle’s empirical left turn from the Platonic Academy was in error.
Aristotle’s empiricism becomes most problematic when dealing with mathematical entities. Aristotle argues against mathematical objects having a separate existence as Plato claimed, as follows: Read more of this post