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50 Shades of Eleatic Grey

Updated on February 12, 2015

[ Along this journey I've started to question: "What if - darkness is where we find light. What if - there is no black and white- and Only shades of grey. What if there are no 'answers', and Only questions. What if - there is no such thing as 'insanity', Only a deep need For 'Humanity'. What if - we changed our need of wanting to 'fit' in society to the need of embracing 'all' of who we are. Maybe the truth hurts - but to not feel alive kills." ]

— Christine Trinh

Parmenides of Elea, 6th century B.C.
Parmenides of Elea, 6th century B.C. | Source

In the quote above, our friend Christine

has touched on a seminal problem from Greek philosophy, which took place in (what has become in our world an obsolete) Mind...

For the Greeks however, the problems of philosophy were not academic exercises culled from books, but problems of life, culled from direct living, not unlike Christine's inquiry.

And this living was very direct indeed, with war being a constant preoccupation for the male citizens who elected to go to wars that they would fight themselves.

Parmenides introduced the problem

of the scattering of consciousness into exclusive categories of black and white with the concomitant effects of flaying limbs (including multiple heads) which indicates that consciousness was understood — at least by this forefather of metaphysics and the poetic hexameter verse he wrote in)— to be embodied below the neck....

And the problem is neither trivial nor is it a problem confined to mathematics which can be solved by the discovery of a "calculus" — that was only one minor application. The pre-Socratics were anything but trivial!

The problem presented itself thus:

how can you get a world and knowledge of it if the categories of thought that present it are forever either entirely synonymous and/or antonymous to each other. You obviously cannot. There must needs be an intermediate ground between the pure categories that is the breeding ground of the grey shades where everything (is known to) happen(s).

But if each sub-division of the pure categories introduces new "purities" ad infinitum, then human consciousness is forever trapped in nominalist ignorance. Essentially then, knowledge (of the world) becomes memorising vocabulary. And all learning is reduced to memorising dictionaries (of language, commerce, mathematics, biology, etc...); And, you can never get a "science" or "episteme" simply by naming things...


At some point synonyms and antonyms

had to link for the "chemistry" of understanding to take place. At some point "I am and I am not" had to interweave... The goddess who instructed Parmenides counseled him to avoid the Way of Thinking What is Not (as an absolute pure path of enquiry)... However, this enlists the negative way as a subset to the Positive Way of What Is ( as Plato well explicated in The Sophist ); Unfortunately, this also compromises the power of naming What Is, so even though the interweaving of the antinomies (likewise with Yin and Yang) gets us beyond nominalist blindness, the shaded world of greys it introduces can never bring us to an absolute objectivity vis a vis the world we inhabit.

For this reason the Buddhists claim (as per Nagarjuna) and rightly so, that true scientific knowledge is not possible ( a lesson we have yet to learn from our very own Emmanuel Kant )...

Everything is essentially, as Christine intuited: Poetry.


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