12. The Field of Philosophy

Linus Kornberg thinks the seminar on evolution is mostly a waste of time, but his friend Margaret Benedict convinces him to return, if only for one last visit. He agrees because he is attracted to Margaret for some reason, even though they continue to fight over seminar issues. She argues that the field of philosophy might help solve their differences.

Kathleen has gone to the hospital to have her baby. She has been looking into possibilities for adoption.

Dean Barth has changed his attitude since he began the seminar twelve weeks ago. He is in a different place now, more eager to appreciate the outcome of evolution than to explain how it works. The sessions on art have brought him a strong feeling for the drama and beauty in this universe. He is awestruck at the magnificence of these changes in nature. He has not resolved the reason for the persistence of war and suffering, particularly in civilized nations, but there is something to praise about what has happened. He feels the majesty of these changes in nature.

This shift in the Dean’s outlook does not stop his desire to explain these changes, but this new attitude began during the seminars on art. He had gone last week to the Art Museum and looked at paintings by three Venetian masters of Renaissance art: Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, standing in awe, too, before their juxtaposed canvases. The three artists were contemporaries who conducted a conversation, of sorts, through their paintings. He studied the rich colorings and the sensual subjects. Then last night he went to hear Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. When he heard the chorus sing—“Oh friends, not these tones! Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing… and more joyful sounds! Joy! Joy”—he was moved to tears by the music. He is not a Christian, but he had been that moved nonetheless. 

Months ago he talked to his former student -- and now colleague -- Arthur James, in philosophy about his idea for holding an interdisciplinary seminar on the subject of evolution. The Dean has kept him informed on what has been happening in their class so that James would be prepared to lead one of the discussions, asking him to write a few notes for students to read ahead of his session. James’s notes then became a homework assignment to prepare students for the current class. Some students had complained to the Dean some time before that they still did not really understand literary theory and needed a review. So the Dean said to his friend Arthur, “You are the best person to make it clear. Write it down for them. Students also need instruction in the history of philosophy to see how that field connects with evolution.” 

Arthur is a handsome young man who has fun writing about technical subjects for mass audiences. He teaches with humor and spontaneity, and students love his classes. Arthur and the Dean are at very different stages of life, but their outlooks on the world are almost the same.


Dean: Welcome everybody. Today we have with us Professor Arthur James, a very dear friend of mine. As I explained last week when I emailed them to you, He has spent a few evenings drafting some ideas. Hopefully you have been able to read those notes by now.

I am having some hard copies passed out for those of you who did not bring a printout with you. Raise your hands if you need a copy. (The Dean hands out James’s notes.) Take a moment to look these over again, and then we will discuss them with Professor James.

Notes from the Night: Searching for Light

Arthur James


Thursday Night

I confess: I was one of the Dean’s students when I was on campus some years ago. I look forward to learning what you are doing in this class.

How can I summarize my perspective?

Well, like the Dean, I see great ideas standing in tension with one another–. Ideas in new contexts develop in meaning over time.

I will list some of these ideas and emphasize how they connect with evolution. 

The list below is off the top of my head. They could be called antinomies, binaries, or polarities. I learned them years ago from the Dean:

Being/Becoming, Unity/Plurality, Continuity/Discontinuity, Freedom/Order and Structure/Chaos, Mind/Matter, Feeling/Thought, Same/Different, Whole/Part, Inner/Outer, Human/Divine, Life/Death, Everything/Nothing, Interior/Exterior, Present/Past, Visible/Invisible, Femininity/Masculinity, Light/Dark, and Community/Individual, Concrete/Universal, Ideal/Real, Subject/Object, Quantity/ Quality, Real/Ideal, Complex/Simple, and so on

  That should be enough. I won’t have time to discuss them all, but you can ask questions during our class. The Dean tells me you have talked about binaries in your sessions, and I should offer my view about them.

 So here goes.

As I look back at them, I must say that neither side of any one of these binaries can represent the nature of the universe and its evolution. When one side is exaggerated or overemphasized, there will be a distortion about the true nature of things. Can you understand that?

For example, Quality and Quantity are very different from one another, even though some scholars have seen one side subsumed under the other. What examples can I give of this problem down through history?

The ancient philosopher Pythagoras learned how to translate Quality into Quantity when he saw how beautiful musical notes could be quantified. But a quantified tempo never substitutes for the quality of a sound. The sound of a musical chord is not reducible to numbers, like a 2:1 ratio. In the last century, psychologists tried to quantify intelligence by I.Q. scores, but they could never fully reduce this concept to a number. Quantity and Quality are different aspects of intelligence and linked, but one cannot fully explain the other.

There are other variations on those ideas listed above. Other pairs could be listed (e.g. Matter/Spirit or Body/Mind, and Form/Content), but my purpose here is to help you learn how to think. I am not writing a philosophy of evolution; I do not have a thesis about it. I am not creating a metaphysic. What am I doing?

I am giving you a way to think reflexively with the greater likelihood that you will get more truth out of your inquiry. The perspective I present is not dualistic, but a way to think about nature in its evolution. These are categories in philosophy that serve as a strategy to check whether you are on the right track. The binaries are guides, not to be taken as final principles that explain everything.

The Dean tells me you have discussed literary theory. And since some of those ideas overlap with philosophy, they need clarification. So, let’s start.

Postmodern Philosophy

You discussed structuralism, but the Dean says it was not clear to some of you. I begin by saying that my outlook on antinomies is different from that of structuralists. So, what is structuralism?

Well, structuralists search for binary oppositions in culture. For example, the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss argued that binary oppositions are found in all cultures, so for him binaries became a device for interpreting data in his fieldwork.  He saw binaries as fundamental to discovering “meaning” in human cultures. [1]

If you will allow me to be blunt—blunter even than the Dean (flashing him a mischievous grin)—and maybe what some will consider irreverent, then I must tell you: Levi-Strauss was a good man, but he was looking at cultures like a scientist, objectifying data. I look at binaries (antinomies) from a different standpoint. Objectivity stands in tension with Subjectivity. And that tension does not go away in your study of nature.

The Dean told me you have talked about the philosophy of Jacques Derrida. This fine man died some years ago, and it was a big loss to his followers … but not to everybody. He was very controversial. Yet apart from anything else, his work had the benefit of forcing many of us doubters to clarify how binaries work.

Let me tell you in what way.

First, Derrida criticized the core of philosophy: metaphysics. Good for him. He said that all of us should look at Logos. Logos cannot be explained because it defers the meaning of anything indefinitely. You will never get an exact answer to the meaning of any subject. You can see why it scared the heck out of philosophers.

What is logos?

I must tell you about Heraclitus, who set us on the track of this awful idea (and I’m only half joking). Along with Parmenides, Heraclitus was the most significant philosopher of ancient Greece -- until Socrates and Plato came along. In fact, Heraclitus could be the most fundamental thinker in history. That’s me talking, of course. But why would I say he is so important?

Heraclitus postulated a model of nature that created the foundation for all other speculation on physics and metaphysics. It was his idea that the universe is in constant change, and that there is an underlying order and reason for this change called —Logos. This term -- from his time on -- formed the foundation of European thought. Every time you walk into a science class, or an economics class, or political science course, everything you do in that class originates with Heraclitus's speculations on change. Now, what is Logos? Well….

 Logos is the union of all opposites.

So, any metaphysics— or final explanation of things—that would represent Logos turns into a circle. It becomes a terrible round of analysis from which no philosopher can escape. Logos cannot be deconstructed without losing Reason itself. What does that mean?

For Derrida the meaning of any text is more complex than you think. The author of any text or piece of writing is not the only source for determining what it means. In other words, there can be multiple legitimate interpretations of a text, with many layers of meaning. [2]

Derrida’s own writing came to be associated with the idea of “deconstruction.” His colleagues defended him from critics by saying that his work was a “method,” not a philosophy. Then he denied the idea that deconstruction was a method because that would make it a mechanical operation. Deconstruction is not a critique of writing in the traditional sense. [3]  

Well, I cannot give you all the details about this philosophy, or whatever we may call it, in my notes, but it is good to see the lesson it provides for your study of evolution.

Derrida saw that structuralists tended to ignore the details. They treated cultures as if they were composed of patterns – like iron filings moved by magnetic force. These patterns became the focus of their work. Patterns  (structures) became like some impersonal power that was not the result of human efforts. Human will was lost, and the individuality of particular cultures disappeared.

I recommend, on the other hand, that you should remember the human factor in your study of evolution. The details are important, not just the constants and the structures.

 The Dean tells me that you have considered hierarchy and structure as a “constant” in evolution. Well, this may be the case, but look at the irony in it. All “structures” and “hierarchies” have their opposites with their own realities. You see “change” and “equality” in opposition in their own right.

And so you cannot substitute “change” for “structure” as the fundamental key to nature.  Change cannot be the basic idea for explaining evolution, any more than structure can, or you will again distort the nature of things. Do you understand?

Derrida also said that you couldn’t reverse the hierarchy in a binary and get to the Truth. You could not elevate one side of a binary over another. Let’s say, you cannot claim Change is more fundamental than Structure or vice versa. You cannot assert that Femininity is superior to Masculinity or vice versa. You cannot elevate Community over the Individual or vice versa.

Any criticism of the hierarchy in a binary should not imply that the Truth could be found by reversing the hierarchy. Your new hierarchy will then require deconstruction. Deconstruction is the "moment" at which a binary opposition is thought to undermine its own authority. You realize suddenly that Order is not superior to Freedom. Then, you should know the reverse is also not true. Freedom is not superior to Order. These binaries are pretty equal in power -- very important to know in your study of evolution.

I hope you are able to follow me on this point. Subjectivity and Objectivity are both important but you cannot raise one side to be superior to the other. Do you follow me?

Simply put, you should not favor one side of a binary over the other. If you do, you invite deconstruction of your position.

All great ideas exist in a tension of contraries and opposites. Hence, Derrida suggested that we need a word to express this fact of difference as it keeps unfolding in nature and our universe. He proposed the word Différance as, "neither a word, nor a concept, nor a thing.” But now of course some scholars believe he got in trouble with Reason. How? [4] 

In his essay "Différance," Derrida says that this key word points to a number of diverse features that govern the creation of meaning. The first is “deferral,” which asserts that words can never fully signify what they mean; they can only be defined through an appeal to additional words, from which they differ even though they appear similar. Thus, “meaning” is forever "deferred" or postponed through an endless chain of signifiers. [5]

Do you see?

So, a “complete meaning” is always postponed in language; there is never a moment when a “meaning” is fully understood. Why?

A simple example would consist of looking up a given word in a dictionary. You find synonyms, and then you look up the synonyms found in that definition, and you keep going. The process never ends.

The 'a' in différance is a deliberate "misspelling," though the word sounds the same when spoken. Why the misspelling?

Derrida's neologism (différance) is an attempt to escape from metaphysics. Metaphysics has always prioritized certain concepts, as if they were the biggest and most important basis for explaining the universe. If you knew the history of philosophy, you would know that the big concepts in the past have been terms like substance, essence, soul, spirit, matter, becoming, freedom, sense-experience, language, science, etc. All “foundational ideas” would imply the highest value, but différance keeps asking what is absent. Différance is not reducible to any ontology or theology.

So how does this apply to your study of evolution?

As a philosopher I see binary concepts intertwined in this great puzzle of nature. For example, the binary concepts of “Same” and “Different” are mutually related; their “difference” cannot be resolved at an abstract level. You cannot privilege the abstract concept of Difference over the abstract concept of Same. Yet the word “same” is good to use in everyday speech. It allows you to have some relatively common identity among friends and thus to live effectively in daily life.

Students in this seminar, for example, may see each person as different, but simultaneously see everyone as the same, as “human,” let’s say. There is “sameness” about our being human in all our diversity. The fact that we are all human must be true for any quest to understand nature -- inside and outside. You cannot escape it.

 And there is “sameness” in all the diversity throughout the universe. If you look at a plant or a star, as a human being you must see and feel this sameness. “Humanness” is the common denominator in your quest to understand nature and evolution.

But you could have difficulty on this point in a conversation crossing between departments of a university. Scientists think that plants and stars are entirely separate from us, not connected in the least to our human nature. Are they right?

Look at all the atoms inside you that are also in the stars and all the carbohydrates in the plant kingdom that are in your body. Atoms and carbohydrates are different, but they also carry qualities that make up our humanness.

In all cultures there is this drive to divide, to separate, … and then again we search for unity.  Look around the campus. We stand in this tension of differences in our own university. Every president seeks unity within campus diversity. For me, the idea of “University” stands for finding Unity in Diversity.

Think about that.

You can say in philosophy that everything is “One,” and then say everything is “Different,” and be correct on both counts. Both statements are fine  in philosophy, even though they are not both true in the lower abstractions of daily speech. Both statements are fine at a very abstract level, that is, but they do not work well together in everyday conversation.

According to Aristotle, metaphysics deals with ontology, and first principles and the principle (or law) of non-contradiction are the firmest. Without the principle of non-contradiction we could not know anything that we do know. We could not find the borderline between the subject matter of any of the scientific specializations, for example, sociology or physics. We would not be able to distinguish between a human being or a rabbit, and what they are like in appearance, for example, pale or dark. According to Aristotle, the principle of non-contradiction is a principle of scientific inquiry, reasoning, and communication that we cannot do without.[6]

(Not much time left, I notice. The hour hand is moving toward midnight.)

In sum, I am proposing a way to think about evolution. But this is not a philosophy of evolution. Rather, I offer a special outlook for your work. Everybody should practice contrasting and comparing. This is the best way to understand the nature of things. It means looking for opposing ideas, and also—the tricky part!—opening your mind to both sameness and difference. This is the way you will be able to move between disciplines successfully.

So this is my strategy for thinking about evolution: look for the opposing idea of what you might otherwise consider the Truth. There is no master scheme anywhere that completely defines nature.

Keep the past, stay in the present, and still move into the future.

I’ve got to stop. But let me say one more word.

You must be excited about this subject. Your study is filled with mystery. Yes. It is a mystery thriller: we all die in the end.

But this does not mean that you cannot advance your knowledge while you are still alive. You can still ask: how is the universe changing while carrying something permanent within it? You can still ask: How is order found in chaos? You can still ask: How could a subject be found in an object? You can still ask: How is an object found in a subject?

So keep asking what—on the surface at least—seem like ridiculous questions: how are “opposing ideas” mutually involved, co-existent and related to one another. How are great antinomies linked with one another?[7]

Why do I insist on emphasizing this point, even past midnight?

We have seen too many mistakes in the past made by philosophers. Look at the list I wrote out for you above. How do certain great ideas get power over others? Well, Bishop Berkeley once said that Mind is more powerful than Matter. But over time we have seen that his philosophy did not work. Others have claimed that Change is more powerful than Permanence, but in light of what we know today, no single idea should dominate our explanation of this universe. In the spirit of Heraclitus, I say: great antinomies are mutually involved. You are after the union of opposites, a “synthesis of differences” at all levels of inquiry.

Friday Night

Let’s pick up where we left off. Are you ready?

“Matter” is not what your mind creates outside you, or itself. An idea of matter is not matter. Matter impinges sensibly (and sensuously) upon your body and consciousness. And your very body is matter, of course. The Idea by itself will not suffice to explain nature. Scientists must use empirical studies and sense data to get information. 

The Dean tells me you have looked into the arts and the humanities. Let’s see. How does this point apply to those disciplines?

 In the field of music, the idea of a chord will not suffice without hearing and feeling its sound. In psychology, a theory of feeling is not the feeling itself; the body must feel the feeling. In religion, a spirit must be felt to have any meaning; feeling involves the actual experience of the emotions. Feeling “evolves” through experience along with the mind and the body. Intellectual historians have shown how ideas are critical to a search for the Truth, but that history will not be clear without its details.   

What more can I say?

This perspective shows you how your study can become distorted, but also how the problem can be corrected. When one idea becomes a metaphysic, attempting to explain everything, a suffix ism appears. This has happened to many great concepts, such as “secular” and “science” and “objectivity.” Over-accented, “secular” becomes, disparagingly, secularism, which is merely a one-sided outlook. Science becomes scientism. “Objectivity” becomes, negatively, objectivism;  “subjective” becomes subjectivism. The helpful idea of “commerce” devolves into commercialism.  The idea of the “individual” becomes individualism.[8] 

                        And there are many other examples. The great idea of “universal” when over-valued takes on the restricted idea of universalism; the word “particular” when accepted as a doctrine becomes particularism; the simple term “matter” in its ideological expression becomes materialism; the great idea of “spirit,” as a system of belief becomes spiritualism; the excellent word “intellect” by overemphasis becomes intellectualism; the important concept “ideal” when applied to explain all things became idealism; “real,” overdrawn, becomes realism; the simple word “department”  can become the pejorative departmentalism; the important word “profession” when over-accented as a way of life  becomes professionalism; the fine word “feminine” when applied as a strong belief or a singular ideology becomes feminism; the wonderful idea of “human” turned into a belief called humanism.

                        (I’m sure the Dean has talked about these with you. Ask him more about this last point on humanism.)

Think of great ideas in complementary opposition to one another -- similar to those opposites in Yin/Yang philosophy. Each of the antinomies listed above has a relation to its opposition, one is never separate from its opposite, not totally. They can be complementary, or mutually involved, or in contradiction, depending on the way in which you look at them. How is this so?

The French sociologist Georges Gurvitch described the relationships that develop among antinomies: complementary, mutual involvement, ambiguity, polarization, and reciprocity.[9] 

Antinomies –like those I listed above -- change their connection over time. And they each change in their connotation, revealing more of our nature as formative ideas in the mind, yet also keeping something of the “past.” They become universal.


These binaries show their universal (i.e., non-historical) meaning as the same words (e.g., “self” or  “unity”) continue to be used over time. They have different contexts and meanings in history, but they also retain something in common.

The concepts of “Self” and “Freedom” in the time of Thales were both different and the same as they are today. Can you imagine that? Imagine how much you have learned about the concept of “self” since the time of Thales. And, I would add, how much you have changed in the concept of your own “self” between the time you were age ten and today! You change, but you cannot eliminate your past self or, more accurately perhaps, your idea of “self.”

The same is true for the idea of Freedom. So, what is going on here?

The concept of Freedom in ancient times was different from that of today, but the concept still retains something in common with its ancient sense. It still means “living without undue restraints on one’s action,” even though the idea of “freedom” carries so much more meaning for people today given the advance of democracy in society.

The meaning of the “atom” in physics is different from the meaning of word for the ancient Greek Atomists. The meaning of the Monad as defined by Leibniz was like the term as used by the Atomists, but also different. Yet, there is a root (or general) meaning in the fact that both atom and Monad refer to the smallest element into which all things can be divided.

Look closely at what Leibniz concluded, and you will see what I mean about giving overemphasis to one side of a binary. Leibniz was an idealist; he could not be a realist. This is different from the perspective I propose to you. I think the Dean would agree. These antinomies are mutually involved with one another.[10]

If I have time, I will write more about this tomorrow night.


Saturday Night

I do not have much time now. I am going to a late dinner party. But as I was saying: these polar ideas are irreconcilable in philosophy. That’s why I capitalize them. But, without capitals, they are part of our everyday speech—being, becoming, unity, plurality, etc. . They are words spoken on the street, and they are in the language of every department of the university.

We use the words “ideal” and “real” in their lesser abstract sense everyday. Is that clear? Well. What is an example?

Americans say democracy is an “ideal,” while some critics argue that democracy in the United States is not “real”. Too much oligarchy, the latter say. But it is still a democracy in relative terms. Both the ideal and the real are true.

So I want you to recognize that these principles of philosophy are used daily, but in philosophy they are non-historical; they have a meaning beyond specific times and places.

So the antinomies, or binaries, in philosophy are useful as a background for your study of evolution. They serve as a guide for talks with physicists, psychologists, linguists, composers, and biologists.

I think the Dean and I would agree on this. But I must go now. I don’t want to miss my dinner. I should be able to finish this tomorrow night.


Sunday Night

What to say in conclusion?

First, the tension between great ideas in philosophy cannot be resolved at their abstract level. I cannot repeat that enough.

 I say that, in philosophy, there is no Unity without Plurality (although at one time or another, one side may be hidden, unconscious). There is no Sameness without Difference (although at any point in time, you might not see how they co-exist). There is no Causality without Telos, Purpose. You may attempt to hide this fact by accenting one side over the other, but you will end up in trouble.

Why is this important to know?  What’s my point to you, as members of this class? Great antinomies rest inside all theories of evolution.

This last point tells us that science -- with its framework based on Matter as “real” and Causality (cause and effect) -- with no overall Telos (means and ends) -- cannot explain nature and evolution. By this I mean that there can be no “unified theory of everything” in science.  This  perspective  should be a caution for all of you. It’s a yellow light, so to speak. Each department in a university has its own perspective and would attempt to unify their theories. But any single department is limited to its own boundaries of understanding the nature of things. This problem of binaries plays out in every university department.

How, I ask again?

Let me illustrate this point in biology. I’m familiar with the case that the Dean told me you touched on in your session on biology.  I bring it up again now because illustrates how professors seek unity (consensus) in their own fields of knowledge.

The public thinks evolution is limited to the field of biology. So I can illustrate what happens when biologists face this binary of Unity versus Plurality.


Unity/Plurality: The Ball Game Tied in the Last Inning

After the Second World War, people rejected the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection, and so biologists wanted to find some unity to contravene the opposition to their theory that was claimed by Christian fundamentalists and “atheist communists.” In other words, during the last century biologists were fighting for the truth of evolution. They wanted to arrive at a unified theory, which they called the “Modern Synthesis.” The best thinkers in biology came together and stood by that agreement.[11]

The Dean told me that you referred to this case, and for me it illustrates the strength of the human drive for unity. It is a perfect illustration for me because I once studied biology.

The “Modern Synthesis” was a set of theories from different sciences that had joined to support Darwinian thought. It involved collaboration among leading biologists who called it a “unified theory of evolution.” It was to include all different “life sciences,”[12] 

This was a great synthesis in the 20th century, but now we face new knowledge in physics, which presents  a longer time span with the Big Bang than those scientists faced who came up with the idea of the Modern Synthesis. We must now go beyond Darwin. With your help, there will be a greater understanding of nature and evolution, but the search will go into extra innings, even beyond your lifetime. [13] 

It is 11:30 pm, but I must emphasize one more thing. A sense of “unity” in poetry and music is very different from the search for unity in science. Words, spoken, help explain nature, but they also carry a power to transmit feeling -- like energy, joy, confidence, and motivation. Words are also capable of bringing forth an emotional unity that can be felt as harmony. Speech has tones with quality, pitch, and intensity. The language of music is not just a set of ideas that unfold within one another. Great chords of sound must be heard unfolding from within one another. You should know this.

Music has unified people from time immemorial. It goes with religious rites and national anthems, which help to create community. “The Star Spangled Banner” is capable of bringing together the hearts of (almost) everyone in the United States. Go to a baseball game and experience it. My father was at the Woodstock festival of 1969, and he told me how the music unified the hearts of thousands. Music has the power to bring unity, but these examples are still relatively local. An emotional identity with people who are very different from us is still evolving in civilization.

In sum, humanness is central to your study of evolution. Ask the Dean, and ask me about this when I come to your class. Try me on the big binaries, like Subject/Object and Real/Ideal. Now it’s time for me to go to bed.


Dean: (to students) So you have the notes. Professor James is right here to answer your questions. But first I want him to speak about the history of philosophy. How did philosophy begin? (He goes to the blackboard and writes:)

History of Philosophy

Professor James: Yes, of course. Thank you.

The Dean tells me that you have been thinking about “synthesis” as at the root of change in evolution. Well, I should tell you that the Greek words philos and sophia were brought together to mean, “love of wisdom” in daily life. And that two-word synthesis was the beginning of philosophy in Greece ( smiles all around).

Where to begin? How many of you you have had a chance to read my notes? (Show of many hands. Meeting Professor James in person  is a new experience for students.  They see a ruddy, handsome face, curly blond hair, and bounciness in his walk and talk. He is wearing jeans and a Red Sox shirt, as if he were just coming from a ballgame. He smiles broadly. But what is a philosopher doing wearing a Red Sox shirt in class? Bob speaks first.)

Bob: Yes, we read your notes. Are you a Red Sox fan?

James: Oh, I love the Red Sox. They look like they are winning, and then they fool you at the last minute and fail to win the pennant. Just when you think they will be the champions, they lose. (Class laughs.) Yeah. But they keep comin’ back. If you want to make a difference in this world, as many people talk about doing, you should watch them. They know how to give the game all they’ve got and fail. It’s how you fail that makes the difference. (Everybody smiles at the colloquialism.) Anyone majoring in philosophy will be able to give you that kind of knowledge on how to fail …and be happy. (Class laughs once more and they are ready to go.)  

Dean: Hmmm. Yes. Well. Now tell us something about the origins of philosophy. Start from the beginning.

James: Okay. The earliest philosophers appeared about 500 B. C. E. In the West, there were Egyptians like Hermes Trismegistus, and in Greece there were Milesians, like Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Anaxagoras. In the East, there were such great figures as like Laotse, the Buddha, and Confucius.

Where to start? The ancient Egyptians thought the world was always becoming new. In fact, they believed in resurrection and some say reincarnation, the idea of dying and coming back. They linked this belief with the rites of Osiris, which is one of the cycles of initiation in Egypt. You should read The Book of the Dead. It’s about dying into another world. Life versus Death, that’s what evolution, is all about.[14]  

Yes. It’s binaries all the way down. (The class laughs because they have heard the expression “turtles all the way down.”)[15]

Moving on. In Greece, Anaximander, Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides were Pre-Socratic philosophers—early philosophers in the Hellenic region who preceded Plato. (Pythagoras was the first to be called by the term “philosopher,” and his system of thought exerted a powerful influence on Plato). They laid a foundation for philosophy based in the natural world. Aristotle said that Thales was the first person to think about principles around the substance of matter. Thales lived between 624 and 546 B. C. E. He traveled to Egypt to study the “science” of geometry.

It is reported that he learned Egyptian mathematics in Africa, and on his way back to Greece he calculated the distance of a ship at sea from observations he took from two points on land. He knew how to determine the height of a pyramid from the length of its shadow and predicted an eclipse in 585 B. C. E.

According to Aristotle, Thales saw “all things full of gods.” (Here you might see the first sign of pantheism in ancient times.) With this in mind, I’ll also quote Aristotle as saying that all the “particulars” in the cosmos were reflections of the “whole.” (The Dean suddenly remembers how they had referred to this notion in physics when talking about the hologram.)

 Anaximander – Thales’s contemporary -- was asked: What is the most difficult problem in philosophy to solve? He answered "To Know Thyself." Well. (James knows the Dean sees the notion of the “self” as important to his perspective on evolution.) Anaximander searched for the answer in natural explanations of the universe -- as opposed to the supernatural. That is, he looked at nature without assuming that gods were running the universe. (Alice is thinking that this could have been the first philosophy of “naturalism.”)[16]

Pythagoras, on the other hand, held that human beings have different bodies in distinct realms: a separate body for the physical, and other realms for the astral body and mind. He spoke of natural opposites—like the hot and the cold, the wet and the dry—something like the Yin/Yang philosophy in China. Human beings and animals were on the same journey, he said, but people were further along the road.

He thought that a physician could produce a proper blend of opposites in the human body. The physician’s job was to help the body become properly strung, and tuned to a certain pitch.

Dean: We have looked at the notion of string theory in physics and pitch in music. Pythagoras’s idea would have to be connected to this notion.

James: Good. Pythagoras also taught about opposites -- like the Many and the One -- and linked them to mathematics. The origin of the many things in the world—its multiplicity—came, paradoxically, from one thing, he said. (He writes “ONE” and “MANY” on the blackboard in capitals.) This antinomy was connected to the derivation of all numbers starting from “one” as a numerical unit.

Pythagoreans taught about a mathematical order operating in the cosmos in the ratios of musical scales and geometrical principles. They wrote about combinations of different eternal principles, like the Limited and Unlimited, Rest and Motion. The material world was imitating the mathematical world, they said. In effect, Pythagoreans were preparing the way for what Plato would see as “ideas” operating on a higher level than everyday life. Do you have questions?

Bob: Do you have a favorite Pre-Socratic philosopher?

James: I love them all. But, maybe it’s Heraclitus He wrote: “Everything flows, and nothing abides; everything gives way, and nothing stays fixed”; and “You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters and yet others, go flowing on.” 

But Parmenides said the opposite, “What is has no beginning and will never be destroyed: it is whole, still, and without end.” He spoke of Being as well as the universal fact of Becoming.

I must say: all these early Greek philosophers (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, and so on) showed a tendency to posit balancing oppositions, such as binaries, the One and the Many, Being and Becoming. [17]

Bob: Why do you like Heraclitus?

James: He led a lonely life and was self-taught. He was known as the “Weeping Philosopher.” He “held forth” on the unity of opposites. I hope you read my notes. Any questions?

Prof. Benedict: Tell us about reincarnation. Does that have something to do with early philosophy?

James: This was an early belief among people mainly in the East, but also a little in the West. Parmenides asked what happens to the soul after death. He thought that it must be transformed into other bodies. He agreed with Pythagoras that the soul lived on and is incarnated into another body after death. For him, death was just a “phase” in a cycle of rebirths. So in effect, evolution does not stop with death. Life goes on, into the “other side.”[18]

Parmenides was a Pythagorean who wrote poetry in the fifth century. He said that the whole truth could not be known through the perception of our senses. But together poetry and pure reason could lead to the truth. The perception of specific things—the doxa—was deceptive; indeed, we live in a superficial world of movement and change. All genesis-and-destruction is illusory, he said.

Parmenides saw a flow and flux, a perpetual becoming through life and death; all entities come together gradually to be more unified in the process. He saw a vibrant unity behind all oppositions: the flux involves a transformation between pairs of contrary principles, a dynamic, he said, that switches opposites into each other, so to speak. The universal in this flux is Logos. In Greek, this term—which could refer to an individual word or to the process of reason—itself was the beginning. (“Like the Big Bang,” Bob is thinking.)[19]

We arrive at eternal reality—aletheia— through Logos—pureness in reason, according to Parmenides’s way of thinking—not just through sense perception. I think this fits the Dean’s philosophy.

Benedict: I always find the Pre-Socratics fascinating. But now tell us more about philosophy in the East.

James: In China, India, and Japan, teachers like Lao Tse, Confucius, and Buddha were thinking in similar ways. Lao-Tse saw an underlying reality in all things, but to understand it requires emptying one's soul, requires one to focus on what he called "The Way." These ideas are laid out in the Tao Te Ching. (Professor James pulls a book from his briefcase and, opening it, reads:)


The Tao is like a well:

used but never used up.

It is like the eternal void:

filled with infinite possibilities.


It is hidden but always present.

I don't know who gave birth to it.

It is older than God.


The Tao doesn't take sides;

it gives birth to both good and evil.

The Master doesn't take sides;

she welcomes both saints and sinners.


The Tao is like a bellows:

it is empty yet infinitely capable.

The more you use it, the more it produces;

the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the center.


The Tao is called the Great Mother:

empty yet inexhaustible,

it gives birth to infinite worlds.

It is always present within you.

You can use it any way you want.


Yes. The philosophy of Yin-Yang assumes a single principle called the Tao—or the “Great Ultimate”— governing the universe. The Tao—or the Unnamable”—is divided into principles that complement and oppose one another, Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang accomplish changes in the universe through material agents, and are dialectically linked with one another. (Benedict beams appreciatively hearing this.)

Indeed, all change in the universe is explained by the operations of Yin and Yang. This includes the movements of the stars, the glandular operations of the body, the nature of foods, the qualities of music, the ethical dimensions of human beings, the progress of time, the operations of government, and even the nature of historical change.[20]

Dean: Okay. Now, jump ahead in history.

James: Some of you have already studied this, but here goes.

Plato built his philosophy from these first Greek philosophers. He said there is a universal form for each and every specific thing, and also qualities: forms for humans, colors, courage, love, and goodness. He was talking about universal Forms hidden behind particular things. He was asking questions like those of Heraclitus: how could a universal—“One”—be “multiple things” at the same time?

Plato wrote about Socrates’s method of questioning people in the marketplace. Socrates wanted people to think for themselves; he emphasized self-inquiry. He was like a midwife “birthing” ideas, helping to give life to the thoughts of others while holding true to his own. He said self-questioning was crucial to any quest for wisdom; in fact, it was for him a way of life.

… Let’s see, the Dean has said that the process of evolution “increases the inner powers.” I think Plato’s ideas might fit with that. And I think the effort of Socrates to advance self-inquiry fits Professor Parson’s notion of evolution in society. Evolution is a long-time increase in the power of “self-determination.”

Dean: Interesting. Let’s jump way ahead for the sake of time. We’ve already talked about Plato and Aristotle.[21]

James: But Plato’s perspective set up this tension between what is real and ideal in the world. He set the stage for all philosophers to follow for centuries.[22] The Dean nods an  “okay, but make it quick.”)

 From the late fifth century to the middle of the fifteenth century, great thinkers continued to question the nature of things. Boethius, Plotinus, Augustine, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, and Aquinas were aware of this Greek perspective on the soul as standing in tension to the material world...(The Dean interrupts).[23]

Dean: Let’s jump to modern philosophy and review ideas that seem pertinent to our study in evolution. (He goes to the board and writes:)

Modern Philosophy

James: Yes. I agreed to be brief. Let’s see.

Modern philosophy began with Hobbes, Descartes, and Newton, and continued with Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant. None of them knew about biological evolution, but their ideas all bear on what is relevant to your project. (Suddenly grins disarmingly.) See my notes!

The tension between great concepts — such as Matter and Spirit – is implicit in all of modern philosophy. These philosophers were threatening the medieval church with its powerful theology. Let’s see, who started this off?

In the sixteenth century, Thomas Hobbes wrote that the “natural state” of all bodies is motion; the universe is matter in motion. “Life” is motion in limbs, nerves, cells, and heart; human feelings, such as desire and aversion, are motions, either towards something or away from it.[24]

Rene Descartes in turn hoped to solve the conflict between science and religion. He wanted to advance the new “science of matter” with its special set of beliefs, and bring it together with religious thought. He started by doubting everything, but he could not doubt thinking of himself as a self, an I. And in thinking about himself, he knew he existed. What can I say in brief about Descartes, whose philosophy has had such a lasting impact on Western thought? He made real contributions to other fields, like mathematics and metaphysics, but he advanced that dualism his premise implied: a belief in God on the one hand and a belief in matter on the other, as though they were separate. Descartes started a philosophy of science and selfhood that created the quintessential modern problem: dualism. (The Dean nods for him to proceed.)

Gottfried W. Leibniz’s Monadology written in 1714 contained a theory that the universe consists of an infinite number of substances called monads. He wrote about the nature of monadic consciousness, the principles which govern truth and reason, and the relation of the monadic universe to God. But I wrote something about this in my notes.


Bob: What’s monad?

James: A monad is a substance that cannot be divided into parts. A compound substance is an aggregation of monads. And monads differ in quality; no two monads are exactly alike. Each monad has its own individuality, with its own internal principle of being. A monad may undergo change, but this change is internally determined.

Here is an interesting point: Since changes in the properties of any monad are not externally determined by other monads, perhaps monads could be part of the Dean’s notion of self-determination.  

Dean: Leibniz is interesting. He holds a pluralistic perspective—monads are unique from one another—inside his idealism. He reduces the universe to centers of force, which are ultimately spiritual in their nature. Every center of force is a substance, an individual, and different from other centers of force.

Benedict: Well. This is similar to some aspects of Eastern thought. The viseshas, for example, are the ultimate atoms in the Nyaya and Vaiseshika in the Hindu philosophies James: I did not think of that. Each monad is striving to attain clearer and clearer perception. In other words, there is an attempt of the monad to come to a consciousness of greater perfection in itself. Monads are present everywhere in the universe - in people, animal, and plant, and even in inanimate matter.

Dean: Right. For Leibniz there is no dead matter. Matter is endowed with life. Monads show degrees of hierarchy among themselves. And there is a rise in the consciousness of perfection to humankind. In “matter” the monads are comparable to being unconscious; in human beings they become self-reflective. Every monad reflects in itself the entire universe. 

Benedict: How did Leibniz see monads in a hierarchy?

James: The degrees of clarity in which the monads reflect the universe differ according to the position they occupy in a great hierarchy, which, again, is determined by the degree of clarity in their perception. Their positions are determined by the intensity and clearness of their consciousness. (Kornberg has been growing fidgety, restless. He thinks this talk is “whacky.”)

Benedict: What about the past and future?

James: Leibniz tells us that the past, present, and future of things can be seen in a single monad; the knowledge of the constitution of a monad would give us knowledge of the whole universe. In the hierarchy of monads there are infinite degrees, from the lowest to the highest, a gradually ascending series of spiritual entities or forces with no jumps or leaps of any kind between one monad and another. God is the highest Monad. (Kornberg is so restless now, that at the word “God,” he rises straight up from his chair, ready to walk out. “This is a waste of time”: his voice sounds half-strangled. But when Prof. Benedict whispers, “Wait!” he sits back down.)

Dean: So they evolve from the inside? (He is thinking of the Big Bang and its self-origin.)

James: The monads of Leibniz are directed by an inner necessity, and not by outward compulsion. Monads are windowless essences. One monad cannot influence another. True knowledge is unfolding from within, not received from outside. The possibilities of a monad are hidden within it, as a tree is latent in a seed. It is a process of self-realization through the inner potentiality of a monad.

Dean: We have discussed how the higher stages of evolution include and transcend the lower ones. Is the whole life of a monad a long chain with many links in the stages of self-transcendence?

James: The past remains in the present, which is then transcended again in the future.

Actually, we have some reminiscences of Aristotle here -- the succeeding stages in the evolution of a monad are the results of its preceding stages. No action from above (or outside) is necessary for its evolution. Though one monad is different from another, each monad bears a harmonious relation to all the other monads.

Dean: This sounds like the work of Alfred North Whitehead. For him too, the universe is an organism.[25]

 James: Yes, Leibniz tries to reconcile the concepts of mechanism and teleology. Explained mechanically, a strict law and order can govern the physical realm, but the universe is directed by the final aim towards which it evolves. For Leibniz, science and mechanics are rooted in higher metaphysics; the mathematical and mechanical laws of the physical realm point to God as their ultimate goal.

Dean: And so Leibniz wants to bring science and religion together as an organic whole. He wants every fact or event to have a reason why it exists or happens in such a place and at such a time.  (This discussion is exciting for James and the Dean, but now several members of the class are stifling a yawn. Suddenly students are shocked awake with a blast:)

Kornberg: I can’t stand this.  Leibniz was Dr. Pangloss, a born idealist, full of optimism. Sure. He could afford to be optimistic; princes supported him financially. He could imagine we live in the best of all possible worlds. He was dreamer. (vigorously shaking his right index finger) Shame on you, Professor James, you know better. (Embarrassed at Kornberg’s attack, Benedict ducks her head, but he is continuing at full throttle.) Students, you should read about Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's novel Candide. I’m saying that Leibniz was like Pangloss; neither of them could face reality. In Candide, Voltaire makes a fool out of people who believe this stuff.

James: (James is versatile, sees Kornberg’s point, and speaks quietly in turn.) We are talking about a great mind at work. Leibniz was one of our greatest mathematicians.

Dean: Yes (in defense of James). Leibniz is a co-inventor of calculus. (to the students.) In the 17th century, calculus dealt with infinitely small quantities. Leibniz’s metaphysics matched this monad theory.

Kornberg: But monads are nothing more than figments of Leibniz’s imagination. They have no extension in space. Every finite object consists of an infinite number of monads – like "angels"! Look, Dean, you can’t think this is rational! It’s just bizarre, pure and simple.

James: It is bizarre, but you should look at the work of philosophers very carefully. They do hold truths – even though they might miss the whole truth. Mathematics consists of figments of the imagination with no empirical foundation. But it too holds truths. And as you know, chemistry is dependent upon math. (Kornberg is set back for the moment, and he knows it. He sits, but fuming.)

A fundamental principle in Leibniz’s work is theidentity of indiscernibles.” Leibniz is saying that if we cannot "discern"—or distinguish—two things from each other, then they appear to be the same thing. But even physical objects that seem to be indiscernible—like electrons, which are taken to be absolutely identical in quantum mechanics—would be different for Leibniz. This is because their history is different, which means that the rest of the universe appears slightly different from their perspective, so to say.

Dean: So the “identity of indiscernibles” is a very good principle to look at. But anyone who believes in the reality of space as Professor Kornberg does, and who does not believe that electrons contain a representation of the rest of the universe, should know that identical objects—such as electrons—can be individuated by their history and spatial location. (James stops to think through this sentence and nods in agreement. Most of the students look downright baffled.)

Benedict: I agree. Leibniz is an idealist; his ideas are limited to what’s inside his head. He does not take external matter seriously, but works by reason alone. And we have already established that the outside physical world is real.  He is part of the movement of German Romanticism.  

James: Yes. And so I thank you: you make my case for me. These binaries are all in tension. But you need to look at the details of philosophy. You learn from the details. Details get you closer to the truth.

Benedict: But your own philosophy tells me that you can never get to the whole truth. That is pessimistic.

 (The Dean is thinking privately about how far he has come since he first studied philosophy as a student. He had once imagined that the past is explainable by ideas. But the experience of human life on earth – all the physical sufferings and its joys – “goes beyond ideas alone,” he now reminds himself.) 

Dean: We are learning about ideas that apply to evolution. This is very helpful. Professor James, please proceed. 

James:  Baruch Spinoza lived in the 17th century and was at first convinced that body and mind are separate substances, but he later decided that they were a single identity. He claimed, finally, that everything in Nature is one Substance, and there is only one set of rules governing reality. God and Nature were two names for the same thing, the single substance that underlies the universe. Since all things are determined by Nature, all lesser "entities" are modifications; each material thing, therefore, is a manifestation of divine essence. (The Dean knows the concepts of “substance” and “essence” were later critiqued in philosophy, but this discussion spawns a new idea for him. He is wondering whether ideas could be summing up in Reason the actual energies in the universe. Could Reason at this higher level of consciousness be representing, or enacting even, the nature of physical energy? This is new.)

Dean: It strikes me that energies in the universe are behind the reasoning of these philosophies. Could philosophy be a higher explanation of these propensities in nature? Could this inclination to find Unity in philosophy be expressing the inclination for physical gravity in nature? Could this pursuit of Unity symbolize a predisposition in the universe, perhaps its driving force – to bring all things together by synthesis? (Professor Benedict is moved by this thought and strikes the knee of Kornberg who is listening closely. She whispers, “He’s got it.”)

James: Could physical gravity be the first manifestation of that tendency of people in civilization to gravitate toward one another, to bond? Are the forces of nature summed up in a philosophic quest for Unity in Plurality? (As James and the Dean speak, students have begin moving their heads first toward one, then the other,  as if they were watching Roger Federer and Andre Agassi play tennis in the U.S. Open.)

Reason owes its existence to the evolution of atoms, but it is also expressing the nature of those energetic forces as they appear in the mind at this late level of consciousness. Hmmm. (Professor Kornberg gravitates in his chair a little closer to Benedict, sitting nearer, but not too close. The Dean nods to Professor James “ continue with the history.”)

James: Now from the mid-17th to early 19th centuries the work of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, Kant and others kept up this debate between what is real or ideal. It focused on “reason versus perception, sense”; or, I might say, “rationalism versus empiricism.”

Which is the source of truth?

This question sounds ancient, like the Greeks’ problem, right? But these new battles gave us more insight into old conundrums.

Locke argued that people are not born with innate knowledge, but are like a tabula rasa, an empty slate, as though everything becomes known from sensory experience.

Bishop George Berkeley attacked Locke's view of knowledge and proposed a different system: esse est percipi, that is, “to be is to be perceived.” He said that matter is just a mental representation in our mind.

David Hume then assailed Berkeley's views of reality and argued that Reason cannot give “certain knowledge.” Indeed, there is no proof of causality in nature; hence, the safest route to truth and knowledge is a skeptical outlook on the whole nature of things. Hume was the first philosopher of the modern period to develop a naturalistic philosophy. But the tension of differences remained profound: Mind (rationalism) versus Matter (empiricism).


Benedict: I think that concepts are vibrations beyond scientific measurement. Vibrations are the common denominator in this story of evolution.

(Her remark sets the Dean to thinking again: in music the vibrations in major and minor chords play against one another to make a symphony. Musical ideas may explain the resonance of a chord, but the sound of that chord is a different kind of “knowing.”)

James: (He keeps going.) Immanuel Kant worked hard to combine the two sources of reason and sense, as both legitimate sources of truth. He rejected the assertion of empiricists that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience. Concepts—such as causality, necessity, and unity—enable us to have knowledge of the world, he said.

Now Dean (looking at him), you know this: for Kant, the natural world of things-in-themselves is unknowable; laws govern the world of appearance, the phenomenal world. (The Dean nods and starts to ask Ann to speak on this point, but James quickly continues.)

That Kantian position seemed to settle the argument for a while, but in the 19th century, Schopenhauer, Fichte, Hegel, and Marx became the new masters of thought. Schopenhauer held that the driving force of reality is Will, not reason. To understand reality he said, we need to look inward, not outward. (The Dean nods him on.)

 G. W. F. Hegel now becomes the inveterate optimist. He proposes a dialectical approach to truth in which positive assertions are followed by negations, which in turn are followed by a synthesis. The Idea itself becomes the source of knowledge. He changed the picture of reality from being pretty much a constant—like substance—to one of constant change. His dialectic was powerful, but it was grounded in idealism in the main—the Idea—which came under contention again by realists and materialists…

(Kornberg has moved an inch away from Benedict. He knows a lot about this history. It is old stuff. She senses the move and smacks his leg, whispering: “We can talk later.” Kornberg then places his arm on the back of her chair. He does like her energy.

The Dean looks like he could fall into doze. He once taught philosophy. This is old stuff to him as well. He drifts off into a daydream about how a chord progression in music might work like the progression of ideas in philosophy, but jerks his head up suddenly when he hears:)

There is a progression here. Karl Marx took Hegel’s notion of the dialectic, based on ideas -- that is, Hegel’s transition of consciousness from a lower to a higher condition -- and turned it upside down into a physical process of constant material, economic change and evolution. He accepted the idea of a progression, but proposed that material-based “class conflict” had characterized society from the beginning of civilization. He attacked religion and those in power. Religion, for him, was a myth perpetuated by the class structure. (James notices that the Dean is somnolent but keeps on lecturing. In fact the Dean is reflecting on past sessions, the lines of a Rumi poem wafting through his mind: “I died from animal and became man...Then why fear your departure through death?”)

The advent of Marx looks like the death of Hegel, but philosophy now took different paths. One path became dogmatic, a battle between communism and religion. Fortunately, there was another outcome.   Nineteenth century philosophy also generated social science. Did you cover this?  

Parsons: Yes. We saw advances in a philosophy of science. There were Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, and John S Mill. (James nods.) Comte wanted to focus on scientific methods, on observation and experimentation. Herbert Spencer had a philosophy of evolution at the same time that Charles Darwin was studying it. Darwin published The Origin of Species, and this started a debate between religion and the philosophy of science. (They both notice that the Dean’s eyes are closed—he’s actually dozed off—but James nods and Parsons proceeds.)

Spencer argued that all phenomena could be explained in terms of evolution. A principle of continuity existed throughout evolution, he claimed, from apes to humans and civilization. Spencer’s philosophy was interdepartmental and unique. It included psychology, sociology, history, culture, ethics, and political theory. [26]

James: But not everyone in philosophy took this path. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre were all concerned with “the meaning of life,” not the struggle for survival. They thought questions about life and death were more important. In fact, some of them rejected all established ideas and convention. (He looks at the Dean. Should he shake him? No, not yet….)

Now human existence is seen as lacking objective meaning, without purpose, without any comprehensible truth, or any essential value. A spirit of nihilism was written into Nietzsche's The Will To Power. There is no longer any proof for the existence of a higher creator. A  "true morality" does not exist. Nietzsche wrote about the “death of God” and argued that neither truth nor facts exist; everything is only “interpretation.” Nietzsche raised questions about the purpose of existence itself. This was a turning point in philosophy.

Parsons: What happened?

James: Existentialism appeared. “Existence precedes essence.” In other words, there's no meaning, no value or truth to life a priori—I mean, by anything that could be known without reference to human existence and experience.

Existentialist ideas were written into such novels as Kafka's The Trial, Hesse's Steppenwolf, and Sartre's Nausea.  In these ideas you can see tenets of ancient philosophy—like “life versus death” and “being versus becoming” and “thing” versus “no-thing”—reappearing.

(The Dean’s right hand has been waving slightly in the air to some hidden rhythm. Now he wakes up out of “nothing,” wondering where he is. He’d been dreaming that he was in Symphony Hall. Students have noticed the wafting hand, that he had dozed off, and now smile. The Dean smiles too, contentedly, and James continues.)

 Martin Heidegger was born in 1889. One day he was sitting alone in a cabin, just thinking thoughts. He said to himself: “nothing” is not anything, and yet it's not “something” either, nor is it the negation of something. Ordinary logic is no help to us, he said, because it regards all negation as derivative from something positive. So, Heidegger proposed we should abandon logic in order to explore the character of “nothing,” as the background out of which everything emerges.

Dean: (Now awake.) Nothing! Physicists talk about the Big Bang as having started from nothing.

James: Yes.  And I would say that Heidegger’s ideas are not only relevant but relate in important ways to that premise. When we contemplate “Nothing” in itself, Heidegger said, we notice the vitality of our moods. “Nothing” can produce in us a feeling of Angst, of anxiety and dread. A deep feeling of dread is the most fundamental human clue to the nature and reality of “Nothing.” Heidegger’s idea of death evokes a fear of nothingness. We come into the world alone and exit it alone.

(Parsons’ hand shoots up in protest. He is disgusted with Heidegger. Heidegger had no “sociological perspective”.)

Parsons: (blurting out) But Heidegger joined the Nazi Party. His philosophy is dangerous. (to the Dean) You should speak up.

Dean: Heidegger had problems... All of these philosophers – from Descartes to Kant, Marx and Husserl to Heidegger – had problems. But Heidegger was very influential. He cannot be ignored. He influenced Jean-Paul Sartre, among many others. Based on his reading of Heidegger, Sartre wrote Being and Nothingness in 1943. Tell us about that.

James: Sartre puts forth a philosophy of existence. He writes of a being-in-itself for objects. Scientists do not look at objects as “being.” In Sartre’s existentialism, being-in-itself contrasts with the “being” of persons, which he describes as a tension between being-for-itself and being for others.

Dean: In other words, “being-in-itself” refers to objects in the external world - a way of existing that simply “is.” It is not conscious so it is neither active nor passive. It harbors no potentiality for transcendence. (Kornberg, a “being in himself” so to speak, considers this discussion a waste of his time. He looks at his lecture notes in preparation for his physics class that follows this seminar. And the Dean realizes that there is danger that this will become primarily a conversation between James and himself.)

Dean: Let’s stick to evolution. What is significant?

James: Sartre says that emotion is a spontaneous activity. There is no meaning to our life a priori, he says; the deepest human striving finds us in a random and contingent world. This causes anxiety. There is also anxiety in the inevitable fact of death. (The Dean is very much awake. He remembers Rumi: In all this evolution, “why should one be anxious or fear death?”)

Dean: Sartre’s view on emotions is interesting. We talked about how emotions are summoned through dreams and art. Intuition is also important. Speak about intuition and evolution, if you will.

James: Henri Bergson argued that intuition is deeper than the intellect. In his Matter and Memory written in 1896, and Creative Evolution in 1907, he tried to integrate the findings of biology with a theory of consciousness. He considered intuition—not reason and the intellect—to be the highest human faculty. (“Yes,” The Dean says.)[27]

In Creative Evolution, Bergson argued that the “inventive urge”—not “natural selection”—is at the heart of evolution. Man's intuition has developed as an instrument of survival in evolution. Am I right?

Dean: Yes. And more. He said the “ultimate” is found in the “living process.” Intuition helps us get to the larger truth. 

James: (respectfully, to his former teacher) Ah! You have some Bergson in you!  (He does not get an affirmative in return.)  Bergson sees evolution as a creative project. According to him, the essence of evolution is an elan vital. Elan vital is a “growing and flowing” process, not a thought structure. All existence is moving through a succession of states that are never at rest where they are. The intellect tends to work mechanistically, he argued; it constructs rigid rules and systems that cannot accommodate the rolling evolution of all things in this universe.[28] (The Dean shakes his head to indicate he is not a Bergsonian, even though, admittedly, he likes him.)

Benedict: (wanting to involve Kornberg.) On the other hand, science kept gaining ground in the late 19th and 20th centuries. And philosophy took science very seriously. Right?

James: Well, yes. We can see this in the work of Peirce, James, Royce, and Dewey – and the rise of pragmatism. These Pragmatists had a very different perspective than Bergson. Did you discuss them?

Dean: No. Go ahead.

James: Charles S. Peirce. He developed the view that “truth” is “the effectiveness of an idea” -- when it is used as a hypothesis and is tested through experimentation. William James elaborated on this doctrine. Metaphysics, he thought, is the enemy of a pragmatist; the goal of pragmatism is to be clear and precise in one's thinking.

John Dewey did not think of himself as a pragmatist, but he was close to that way of thinking. He called his philosophy "instrumentalism." Dewey held that experimentation (social, cultural, technological, philosophical) could be used as a relatively hard-and-fast arbiter of truth. Dewey respected religious institutions, but rejected any belief in some “static ideal,” like a theistic God. Only science could advance the human good; no religion or metaphysics could form a valid foundation for morality and social values. Dewey said that God "denotes the unity of all ideal ends arousing us into desire and action."[29]

Well. There are too many 20th century philosophers to discuss here. They all bring a new perspective on evolution. (James’s liveliness of thrills students.)

Bob: Who are they?

James:  Eminent thinkers – for now I can provide a list of names only. (He writes again on the board):

Theodor Adorno, Louis Althusser,

Roland Barthes, Michael Bakhtin,

Jean Baudrillard, Walter Benjamin,

Kenneth Burke, Jacques Derrida,

Terry Eagleton, Stanley Fish, Michel Foucault,

Hans-George Gadamer, Anthony Giddens,

Antonio Gramsci, Jurgen Habermas


(pausing to think before he continues) Let me see…


Donna Haraway, Max Horkheimer, Julia Kristeva,

Herbert Marcuse, Maurice Merleau-Ponty,

Richard Rorty, Edward Said, Charles Taylor,

Ludwig Wittgenstein… and others.


The ideas of these thinkers all bear on evolution, but I do not have time to discuss them.

Dean:  Okay. Let’s go back to your notes. Students, look at the copy I gave you. Do you have questions about polarities? This notion, as we have reiterated, goes all the way back to the Big Bang. (The Dean goes to the blackboard and writes:)


Polarities and Evolution

Dean: Professor Kornberg, remind us of how polarities operate in chemistry.

Kornberg: A voltage has polarity. A magnet also has polarity: One end represents the "north" and the other the "south." The spin of an entity in quantum mechanics has a polarity - positive or negative. 

 Dean: Okay. (Looking to James:) Professor James, please tell us about polarities in the work of philosophers. This notion has been with us, theoretically, since the beginning of time.

James: In philosophy polarities are important because they are hidden within each other. The word “Subject” for Hegel is deeper and more expansive than the way it is used in everyday speech. His Subject was what Christians call God, Moslems call Allah, and Jews call Yahweh. It is what the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse called Tao, the Unnamable, and what Buddhists call “Nirvana.” While all of these differ in some specific characteristics—the Christian God, for example, is portrayed with human traits—they all refer to an ultimately unknowable source of creation. So Hegel’s Subject is the end and the beginning, the summation of evolution.[30]

(Kornberg looks unhappy. The Dean points for him to speak.)

Kornberg: This is speculation…obvious and unadulterated! (He speaks with such authority that it embarrasses Benedict, but she loves a skeptical mind.)

Dean: How? (He is upset, anticipating a debate on “reductionism.”)

Kornberg: Nature is not all based on polarity, and not all things are equal. Electrons are not always shared equally between two bonding atoms: one atom might exert more force on the electron cloud than the other.

A non-polar compound, for example, occurs when there is an equal sharing of electrons between two different atoms. Non-polar compounds include fats, oil and gasoline.

James: Read my notes! (He says it with his own authority, like “Read my lips!”) Not everything in nature is polar and contradictory.  You may recall that I said: “According to Aristotle, the principle of non-contradiction is a principle of scientific inquiry, reasoning, and communication.”

Dean: Yes, (looking at Kornberg) we have said that not all things in nature are equal. Hierarchy has existed from the beginning of time. But we are working now at a very complex level.

Professor James, this polarity of Subject and Object is complex. How does one side unfold within the other?

How does the outer world as we know it unfold within the inner world? How does a mind evolve through matter, and then reveal nature at some higher level in the body? 

James: These are problems that are relevant to evolution. (Students—Ann and Jerry, Barbara, Bob, Alice—lean forward as if to say, “Tell us more.” “Isn’t this what’s happening for me with my baby?” Kathleen wonders.)

Did you discuss this?

Parsons: Yes. (He is happy to speak.) Hegel did not see how a mind could be shaped by the organization of society. He did not understand how the institution of the state could help shape a mind. He had no direct perspective on how evolution happens through the structures of society.

James: Okay. The institutional forces of society never became a reality for Hegel, never a power in themselves. (He did not know about sociology.)  Hegel missed seeing how the earth and the structure of society were part of evolution.[31] He did however see evolution as a logical spiritual development that underlies every domain of reality, because it is in the order of thought itself.

Kornberg: Not everything is based on polarity. 

James: You are right, from one perspective. The class should be aware of Aristotle and his principle of non-contradiction.

At lesser levels of abstraction, these terms— Subject/Object—do not unfold within one another. They belong to the category of mutual exclusion, of “either/or”: A spoon is not a knife. The everyday meaning of a “subject” in its lesser abstraction is different from Hegel’s meaning.  To get into Hegel’s mind, you need a greater degree of abstraction.  In my notes, I proposed that at that level the two concepts—Subject and Object—are mutually involved; one cannot exist without the other. In everyday speech the word “object” can refer to inanimate things outside us, which are non-polar; but at this philosophical level, the pair Subject-Object is intertwined.

Dean: We talked about knowing all things through participant observation.

James: You might say that the participant is the subject, but then, what is the object?  How can I put it?

Charles S. Peirce defines the notion of an object as anything that we can think of, anything we can talk about, an entity, and a thing, a being. An object can have properties and bear relations to other objects.  The word “object” is the most general of nouns. 

 In the Dean’s perspective, I think, this is the way their nature is revealed: People who look at an object find out more about themselves as a subject. (The Dean smiles.)

Bob: I don’t understand. (Benedict muses about how the object might be realized in the astral body but says nothing.)

James: So watch the levels of abstraction. At higher levels, if we to lean too much toward one side of an antinomy -- we miss something true on the other side. If you ignore “subjectivity” and elevate the notion of “objectivity” as the only ground for truth, you do so at your risk. Or, if you search for community at the sacrifice of individuality, you lose uniqueness. These are great themes in philosophy that call for resolution.

This is the wisdom of your quest as I see it: one side may be lost from sight or become unconscious, but it cannot ever be lost entirely -- or abandoned for the other.

Dean: The question of the individual and “the other” has been discussed among philosophers for decades. It began with recognition of the Other in Hegel and the concept of “the other” in Edmund Husserl and Martin Buber.

And now Richard Kearney has approached the problem of “otherness” through the field of hermeneutics. He emphasizes the importance of “understanding” in one’s relation to the other in everyday life. Understanding requires a sense of Otherness and is essential to understanding one’s self.[32]

Parsons: So, in this perspective on evolution, we have said that knowing is social, inter-subjective. (Kornberg winces. He is of another mindset where empirical work is not subjective.)

Dean: Okay. Students, other questions on polarities? 

Barbara: I’m in political science. You listed Order and Freedom as polarities. This is a problem to solve in my field. Governments must connect “order” with  “justice.” How could social “justice” connect with the universe? How could justice start in nature and evolve?

Dean: Well. That’s a big one. Justice is based on Freedom and Order. They are always together. Does this polarity have its roots in nature? (The Dean goes to the board and writes:)

The Origins of Justice in Nature

James: Well. Think through the logic. Justice should not be isolated as though it did not come from nature. (This idea is new to the class. Mary gasps at the assertion. She has never thought of a connection between them.) Justice is affiliated with Order by its principled mutuality with Freedom.

Kornberg: (Alerted) Justice has nothing to do with Nature. (controlling himself to be polite) I am sorry; but this is nonsense.

James: (with equal authority) Think again. The logic. Justice is social, and Nature is social. Justice has something to do with equity and symmetry in nature. These are some of your constants in physical evolution.

Dean: Right. We talked about symmetry in the science of nature. And we talked about it in the arts. Professor Kornberg, remind us about symmetry, if you would.

Kornberg: Hmmm. (Silence. He is flabbergasted to be asked to contribute to what for him is such an absurd discussion.) Well, before anything else, I have to say that this may be the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard inside the confines of this room: Nature in the same breath with Justice!… And now you want me to say something about symmetry. Okay, “molecular symmetry.” We classify molecules according to their symmetry. With the principle of symmetry in science, we can predict a molecule’s chemical properties—its dipole moment, for example. Every textbook on physical chemistry has a chapter on symmetry. And there are studies on the functional “equality” of molecular structures.[33]

James: Ah. So we might say that justice began with symmetry and equality. The elements began in nature. It began in the structure of atoms and molecules. 

Kornberg: Well, you might say it, but I don’t.

Dean: (continuing nevertheless) Equality. Hmmm. Tell us how equality started in nature. (Looking toward Kornberg, who is silent. Then, conciliatory) Look, none of the rest of us believe we have all of the answers. We want—we need—your expertise.

Kornberg: Well, I guess just about everybody knows Newton’s Third Law: "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Whenever a particle A exerts a force on another particle B, B simultaneously exerts a force on A with the same magnitude in the opposite direction. These two forces act along the same line.

James: Does this scientific “law” appear throughout the universe? 

Kornberg: We talk about black holes formed from the gravitational collapse of a star. You will find there the principles of equality and equilibrium.

Dean: How does this work? Could you remind us?

Kornberg: A star is created when huge, gigantic gas clouds bind together due to attractive forces. This forms a hot core. The energy produced is so great when it first collides, that there is a nuclear reaction: the gases within the star start to burn. Hydrogen gas is usually the first gas consumed in a star, and then other elements such as carbon, oxygen, and helium are consumed. This chain reaction fuels the star for millions or billions of years, depending upon the amount of gases there are.

Here’s the point. The star manages to avoid collapsing at this point because of the equilibrium it has achieved. The gravitational pull from the core of the star is equal to the gravitational pull of the gases, which causes these forces to form a type of orbit. But when this equality is broken, the star can go into several different stages. (Benedict gives Kornberg a friendly nudge for cooperating with the Dean and speaks:)

Benedict: This is the beginning of Justice as a set of physical principles.

Kornberg: (protesting) But this exactly where you lose me: a human style Justice has nothing to do with Nature, even if there is evidence of symmetry—and even of equality—in Nature.

Benedict: (She forges on, blithely.) From there, it continues to unfold in all its complexity—and yes, it is complex (flashing a smile in Kornberg’s direction)—into the symbolic life of society.

 At the start of civilization you see the goddesses of Justice emerge. Some of the ancient goddesses represent equanimity and equality. Already they carry the equilibrium, the Scales of Justice on their shoulders.

The Egyptians referred to their goddess of Justice as Ma'at. She carried a sword with an ostrich feather in her hair to symbolize Justice, and assisted Osiris in the judgment of the dead by weighing their hearts.[34]

Dean: So we do agree, at least, that equality and symmetry are built into nature. And many, though not all, of us (nodding deferentially to Prof. Kornberg) agree that they are principles of evolution, transcending their earlier simpler physical forms. They evolved and transcended into the earliest phases of civilization, appearing as goddess images.

Parsons: Ah. Eventually they become ideas that are institutionalized into laws and courts. (Alice says Wow!)

Dean: The concept of Justice as it might evolve in principle over time in nature would make a neat doctoral dissertation, too complex for us to pursue in this session of our class. Let’s pick the subject up again later, maybe in religion. Students, do you have more questions?

Bob: I’m not clear yet about some of the fundamentals. Is philosophy rooted in ideas – or was it rooted in the brain?

James: I say it began with principles of synthesis and transformation. But only as we were able to perceive these principles through consciousness did they become reality for us. Philosophy evolves through self-reflection and is rooted in human experience. 

Parsons: And the “self” is rooted in social interaction, carried through memes and families. It is both subjective and objective. The objective “self” is passed on collectively through the life of communities, oral history, myth, and libraries.

James: Yes. One aspect of our self-experience is felt through our senses and understood through our mind. Philosophers work with that. Philosophers now also make use of quantitative research – such as opinion polling. They are doing “rigorous” quantitative research to aid their ideas.[35]

Parsons: But I don’t think that human experience is the basis for understanding evolution. Can you experience an atom? An idea? Can you experience “society,” I mean as a whole?

James: We experience their effects. We conceptualize them. Look.

William James, my namesake, saw experience and consciousness as fundamental to knowing itself.  He said that there was a (signing quotes) “continuity of consciousness in experienced relations.” That lies at the heart of “radical empiricism,” which is a concept he introduced.

Bob: Is everything we know connected to experience and consciousness?

 James: In 1909 William James described the importance of “experienced relations.” Here is a memorable quote from him: "The only things that shall be debatable among philosophers shall be things definable in terms drawn from experience." He says—again I quote—“ the parts of experience hold together from next to next by relations that are themselves parts of experience." [36] 

So philosophy in his outlook must be based on experienced relations, and any kind of relation that is experienced must be counted as “real” as anything else. Feelings are as real as the stars in the sky. (Ooo! Mary thinks, as she has continued puzzling over the primary question of the course: “Who are we?”)

His great study of religious experience is based on this assertion. So James is a bridge for conducting a dialogue between science and religion. (Kornberg is scowling. He’s sure he will skip the next class discussion, on religion. This one has wasted too much of his limited time.)

Dean: I remember. William James wanted to get rid of all the “dualisms” that had developed – mind/body, subject/object, thought/thing, representation/represented,  consciousness/content.

James: Dualism in the modern period began with Descartes's Meditationes de prima philosophia. Descartes claimed that everything is made of different substances --body and soul. It’s time to move beyond dualism.[37]

Kornberg: Professor Parsons is certainly right about one thing, anyway. The atom exists outside consciousness. Atoms are real outside of “us.”

James: Consciousness is now a major subject in philosophy. We have whole conferences on it. But you cannot know the atom outside without consciousness. (The Dean nods his head forcefully.)[38]

Kornberg: I can say that electrons tunnel across 23.5 trillion synapses of the brain, but there is no evidence of their connection to consciousness.[39]

Benedict: That’s because you cannot see consciousness. You are like a fish in water: You cannot see the water. When consciousness becomes an object to itself, it is gone. You see an object but do not see consciousness. Yet, it is there, hidden in the subject. (She moves an inch away.)

Dean: Professor Kornberg, can you see consciousness in the brain – from the outside? (He looks to Kornberg to draw his fire and as “the authority” in his field who is present for them now.)

Kornberg: Neuroscientists can see the signs of short-term memory. They can show how memory is based on a certain sequence of stimuli.[40] (Benedict is thinking, “He did not answer my question about seeing consciousness.”)

During sleep, memories are reactivated and processed within the brain. Sometimes you can hear sounds, words, and see colors in a dream.

Benedict: But can memory be recalled by chemistry? You must be conscious to remember. (Kornberg says nothing.)

Parsons: Memory is a function of society. It is not just inside the brain; it is stored in public libraries, government records, and educational textbooks. I agree with the Dean. Each department in the university creates its own truth. This is why we are in this seminar. [41]

(He looks to the Dean who is asleep. Parsons is startled—How could that have happened so quickly? The Dean is dreaming of a voice: “Where did I come from? What am I supposed to be doing? My soul is from elsewhere. I'm like a bird from another continent. This room where I am sitting is an aviary.  The day is coming when I fly off,  but who is it now in my ear hearing my voice?  Who says words with my mouth? Who looks out with my eyes? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer. Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.”) For me, departments are like nations that write their own histories. We all live in birdcages, inside “collective egos.”   

James: (to Parsons) Well, remember. Sociology is embedded in objectivity.

Parsons: We have our own field of inter-subjectivity. It’s called “phenomenological sociology.”[42] (Benedict senses a storm rising and speaks forth on behalf of the Dean.)

Benedict: Now I have a question for you both. Tell us: What is “real”?

James: (sensing the question as another “test”) Take an artist like Rembrandt as he is painting Jan Six. Rembrandt feels those colors: the portrait on a canvass is one thing, but what he feels is another and “real.” Take Mozart as he plays an augmented seventh. His music sheet is one thing—an object, a written chord, played on visible keys—but it brings a feeling that becomes more real to him than the piano. (She worries that a new battle is brewing. The Dean is stirring.  James sees his head rise and looks toward him, hoping he will make a point.)[43]

Dean, you told me how the class has been discussing emotions as evolving, as “real.” Human emotions begin with primitive energies, but transcend those -- through evolution – to become deeper and more complex. We are no longer as bound by Neanderthal emotions as we once were. The flight-or-fight response of Neanderthal is still there in the amygdala but we are so much more complex. What is “real” is evolving from within.

Benedict: (Filling in for the Dean who is only slowly waking up. She wants the Dean to learn what is being said without embarrassment.) Professor James: You were not here when emotions were discussed as part of evolution. The word “emotion” evolved as a self-conscious interior condition.[44] (James looks perplexed.)

 The word evolved from what was observed outside as “motion.” You see things move. It was a metaphor, a word-invention that shifted attention inward. The concept of “emotion” evolved from the description of phenomenon that was viewed outside, but could now be recognized as happening “inside” as well – somewhat similar to what could be seen outside. Emotion, which happened inside, however, was invisible to the eye.

(She nudges Kornberg but keeps her eyes averted from him:) People had to see the phenomenon first as motion outside, before they could communicate about a feeling they shared from inside. (The Dean realizes what they are talking about. He senses her support for his argument that evolution leads toward greater interiority.)[45]

Dean: You can see the evidence for this in the evolution of language. Kenneth Burke writes that the basic strategy of metonymy is to convey some intangible state in terms of the tangible. We speak of the “heart” rather than of our emotions.[46]

James: (Looking again to the Dean.) You taught me about Kenneth Burke. Burke speaks about the development of identity. That is what makes something real. It doesn’t matter whether it is the piano or the “feeling” of music. (The Dean goes to the blackboard to write):


Dean: Right. Burke takes "identity" as his key term for what is real. He says “identity” is fundamental to being human. “We are both joined and separate,” he asserts, “at once a distinct substance and consubstantial with another."[47] (These terms are esoteric for the students. “What is consubstantial?” Alice whispers, but the Dean is too engaged with what is being said to hear her.)

Burke’s “philosophy of identity” goes beyond these oppositions of human subjectivity and objectivity. We said earlier that a lion could identify an antelope. Atoms can identify other atoms.[48]

 James: Burke says the experience of separateness makes us feel guilty about the differences between others and ourselves. A spirit of order and hierarchy goads us on; identification is compensatory to division."[49]

(This talk is now between professionals. Almost all of the students have given up trying to follow what James and the Dean are saying, and minds wander. Bob wonders if Professor James really goes to Red Sox games. Jane notices paint on his trousers and wonders what James could be painting… Could it be portraits with oils? Mary sees his bare arms flexing with muscles and feels “turned on.” The Dean realizes they are speaking a language “separate” from the class. Students cannot “identify.” He wants to “compensate” for this division; that is, he wants to “communicate” better.)


Dean: In order for us to understand each other, we must have some common identity. Burke calls it “consubstantial recognition.” It’s all about getting to common standards. (He looks toward Benedict.)

As an anthropologist, you are aware of this: Musicians have standards. Scientists have standards. Faculties have standards. In any communication there must be standards.[50]

Benedict: Right. This is a community enterprise; it must be a dialogue based on equity. In this class period we have had less interchange with students than in any of the others, and yet faculties should think along with students as equal in this quest. That’s justice.[51]  

Dean: But wait, Arthur, I asked you for a history of philosophy in plain terms. We will run out of time if we try to keep going now. Let’s all keep this in mind for the next session. (He asks everybody to stand and stretch for a minute, goes to the blackboard and writes:)

 Quick Summary

James: Quick? No! It would be a review of things we’ve already covered from a different angle.

Begin again?—where? Hmm. Greece. Here is my favorite guy…Heraclitus.

Heraclitus introduced the concept of “a union of opposites.” This is the principle that governs the universe.[52] (The Dean thinks, “ A propensity to synthesize, yes.”)

Early philosophers like Heraclitus believed that there was some equity between the great binaries. So, I think that each side plays within the context of the other. One side – like the Subject -- may be lost to consciousness —without our attention, and perhaps we are unconscious – but still it is within the action of the brain, still reachable. The brain may be unconscious, and consciousness remains potently within it.

Let’s see. The antinomies—like Subject/Object and Unity/Plurality, and Life/Death—are mutually involved in nature.

Benedict: I must ask: Could there be a paradox here? Could there be some imbalance? Could each side be interdependent with the other, and yet one side tend to be slightly more powerful in the long run? Is the Subject more powerful than the Object? Could Life be more powerful than Death -- in the long run? 

Dean: Oh! Students could write a dissertation on those questions. The problem is evidence, documentation. 

James: Well, students can read my notes. Antinomies in philosophy are not an either/or proposition; one is not  supreme over the other. And the subject cannot totally subsume the object, as some Hegelian philosophers have seen it. It is not the ideal over the real. It is not freedom over order. It is a mutual working out of these antinomies in practical studies of evolution…

(The Dean wonders whether the students have re-connected with James sufficiently, and so he interrupts.)

Dean: Yes, evolution is a working out of the differences between elegant antinomies. Invention is the name of the game -- right from the beginning. OH MY! (Looking at his watch.)

Our time is up. How can we conclude? What are we doing? What’s our purpose? Where are we going? Professor James, can you sum up the “purpose” of it all?

James: Real quick?! (Arthur James lets out a belly laugh. As if he could sum it all up in fifty words or less! But he thinks fast.)

Socrates said the purpose of philosophy is to gain self-knowledge. Plato said the purpose of philosophy is the discovery of reality -- through dialectical thought. Aristotle said we should begin with “awe and wonder” -- about the causes and principles of things. Rene Descartes said the purpose of philosophy is to clarify truth by first being skeptical. John Locke said the purpose is to analyze ideas “locked” into the mind. Herbert Spencer thought “evolution” is now the basis for philosophy to find unity of thought among faculty in all disciplines. There you are. That’s the means… and the end. (He smiles.)

Dean: Thank you. Thank you all. See you next time. Goodbye. Enjoy the rest of your day!


Professors Benedict and Kornberg walk across campus. They are on “new ground” so to speak. They talk about how particles and atoms appear to be the physical foundation from which all things are born and transcend. They have their differences, but more and more resolving them, or agreeing to disagree.

 Margaret Benedict thinks consciousness is composed of vibrations at a higher level on the electromagnetic spectrum than what Linus Kornberg calls “physical.” Those vibrations could be a “final cause” attracting everything. She thinks there is change in the frequency of vibrations in different stages of evolution. It looks like an increasing frequency from particles to atoms to cells, and finally to human consciousness. 

Linus Kornberg does not fully disagree. He is sympathetic enough to say to her now, “I do not know. We do not have the technology to measure what you call ‘higher’ vibrations, but someday someone may get there.”

 Margaret says to herself: “I think we are getting closer.” They reach a point in their walk where he says: “Let’s have dinner tonight.” She nods and smiles, wondering: “Is this a means to an end? Or, could ‘dinner’ be an end in itself?”

The Dean will see a physician tomorrow about his health and tendency to become tired. It is embarrassing to doze off in class, not only once but twice! But this very night the Dean will fall asleep and hear a voice say: “Look at how love fuses with the earth, giving it life. Why are you so busy with ideas about this project? Why talk at all? Look at water, fire, earth and wind; they are mingled just for you. You will never be afraid of death because your heart is filled with bliss.”



[1] Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist who founded the basics for structuralism. The central tenet is that human life is not intelligible except through its network of relationships, making the sign and the system (or structure) in which the sign is embedded primary concepts. A sign -- for instance, a word -- gets meaning only in relation to, or in contrast with, other signs in a system of signs. The signifier and the signified are the components of the sign, which itself is formed by the associative link between the signifier and signified. Signs can exist only in opposition to other signs. That is, signs are created by their value relationships with other signs. The contrasts that form between signs of the same nature in a network of relationships are how signs derive meaning. Saussure said, in effect: The moment we compare one sign with another as positive combinations, the term “difference” should be dropped. Two signs are not different from each other, but only distinct; they are simply in opposition to each other. The entire mechanism of language is based on oppositions of this kind, and upon the phonic and conceptual differences they involve.  A binary opposition is the “means by which the units of language have value or meaning; each unit is defined against what it is not. This was the beginning of the concept of “binary opposition” as a “Western propensity” to organize everything into a hierarchical structure. Terms and concepts then become related to positives or negatives, with no apparent latitude for deviation: i.e., Man/Woman, Black/White, Life/Death, Inside/Outside, Presence/Absence, and so on.  Saussure rejected the substantive subject in favor of a relational one. So, the binary opposition is a “structurally derived” notion that shows the human inclination to think in terms of “relation,” hierarchy and “difference.” Ferdinand de Saussure, Writings in General Linguistics, Edited by Simon Bouquet and Rudolf Engler (Oxford University Press, 2006).


[2] Derrida reveals the problematic character of binaries. He states that all of Western thought forms pairs of binary opposites in which one component of the pair is privileged, arresting the interdependent play of the system and marginalizing the other component. By means of deconstruction, Derrida employs a strategy of “decentering,” that is, destabilizing the primary term so that the secondary term temporarily overthrows the hierarchy. For example, in the case of the Speech/Writing opposition, where speech has been deemed the privileged medium of meaning by Western philosophy, Derrida shows that writing comes before speech, thus inverting the standard hierarchy. But Derrida acknowledges that this practice in fact merely reinstates the hierarchical structure, recognizing that the new hierarchy is equally as unstable as the old one. Thus, the only remaining option is capitulation to the complete free-play of the binary opposites in a non-hierarchical way. By focusing on the system itself, in a synchronic analysis, structuralists cancel out history. Most insist, as Levi-Strauss does, that structures are universal, and therefore timeless. Structuralists can't account for change or development; they are uninterested in how literary forms may have changed over time. The critique of binary oppositions is part of post-feminism, post-colonialism, and post-anarchism, which argue that the perceived binary dichotomies between Man/Woman and Civilized/Savage have perpetuated and legitimized Western power structures. See Sorcha Fogarty, “Binary Oppositions,” The Literary Encyclopedia (Cork: University College, 1960).


[3] Some deconstructionists see value in Derrida’s “method” and propose three steps. The first step would reveal the asymmetry in the binary opposition, suggesting an implied hierarchy. The second step would reverse the hierarchy. The third step would displace one of the terms of the opposition, often in the form of a new and expanded definition. This would reveal a larger truth about the nature of things that keeps expanding.

[4] The French word différer means both "to defer" and "to differ." Derrida first articulated the thought of différance in his discussion on Edmund Husserl. It was then elaborated in other works, notably in his essay "Différance" in Husserl’s Theory of Signs, trans. David B. Allison (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973); and "Différance," in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, 1982); Positions, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971).

[5] This statement suggests a condition for all possibilities of meaning, even that “meaning” may have no meaning. But according to Derrida, différance is not mystical or transcendental. He describes it as a "quasi-transcendental" concept. The difference between words both “engenders meaning” and forever defers meaning; différance serves as both the condition of possibility and impossibility of meaning. For more on this, see Rodolphe Gasché, The Taint of The Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 317.  Geoffrey Bennington, Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 267-283. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998) p. 84.


[6] Aristotle's most important discussion of the principle of non-contradiction occurs in Metaphysics IV.


[7]  M.I.T. linguist Noam Chomsky suggests that placing one thought inside another is the basis for learning language. Introducing new ideas is a process of “recursion,” the cornerstone of all human languages. One could create sentences of never-ending variety by introducing new thoughts into a learned sentence structure. See John Colapinto, “The Interpreter: Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language?” The New Yorker, April 16, 2007. Colapinto says, “Chomsky and other experts use the term to describe how we construct even the simplest utterances. “The girl jumped on the bed” is composed of a noun phrase (“the girl”), a verb (“jumped”), and a prepositional phrase (“on the bed”). In theory, one could continue to insert chunks of language inside other chunks ad infinitum, thereby creating a never-ending sentence (“The man who is wearing a top hat that is slightly crushed around the brim although still perfectly elegant is walking down the street that was recently resurfaced by a crew of construction workers who tended to take coffee breaks that were a little too long while eating a hot dog that was . . .”). The capacity to generate unlimited meaning by placing one thought inside another is the crux of Chomsky’s theory. This is what he calls (quoting the early-nineteenth-century German linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt) “the infinite use of finite means.”


[8] The “idea” of the “individual” came into prominence at the end of the 18th century. At that time it developed into individualism as a system of belief and was challenged by other great ideas in the 19th century. The idea of “social” became socialism, while other commanding ideas, like those pertaining to “capital,” became capitalism. The idea of “utility” became utilitarianism. The concept “legal” taken to an extreme became legalism, etc.  And so it goes today. The concept “instrumental” becomes a specific philosophy, instrumentalism; the principle of “progress” becomes progressivism; the idea of the “state” in excess becomes statism; the term “nation,” exaggerated, nationalism; the notion of “industry” becomes industrialism; and so on. These isms signify that a great idea has become a limited doctrine.

Such great words are more complex than the ism word that turns such concepts into beliefs. Analytically speaking, the word "social" depicts the entire human condition, referring to the way people relate to one another. See Raymond Williams, Communications (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962); Writing in Society (London: Verso, 1984).


[9] For more, see Severyn Bruyn, “The Dialectical Society,” in Cultural Hermeneutics, 1974.


[10] Charles J. Ryan says that the ancient Greeks held concepts in similar ways but their views were quite materialistic compared with the subtle and highly transcendental content that distinguishes Leibniz's monadic theory. Leibniz “spiritualized matter” and concluded that "pure reason" or thought is greater than sense perception. Leibniz went so far as to declare that interior thought-processes could truly reveal wider universes (or 'planes') of being than are available to the senses. Leibniz's philosophical monads so closely resemble the modern scientific concept of the primary particles that compose the visible universe that it is difficult to draw a vital distinction between them. Neither the monads nor the primary particles of electrons, protons, neutrons, photons, etc., “which combine to form the 'organizations' we call atoms -- can be adequately observed by our physical senses.” But we can establish their existence by experiments that show the effects they produce. We can see what they can do, but this does not explain what they are in themselves. Charles J. Ryan, “On the Monads of Leibniz,” Sunrise Magazine, (Theosophical University Press, October 1963.)

[11] Harvard biologist Ernst Mayr records how differences among specialties played out over four separate periods: from 1859 to 1899, 1900 to 1915, 1916 to 1936, and 1937 to 1947. He shows how “the synthesis” was created, and why Darwin's original theory--that evolutionary change is due to the combination of variation and selection--is as solid at the end of the twentieth century as it was in 1859. Ernst Mayr, The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology, with a New Preface (Harvard University Press, 1998).


[12] These scientists included R. A. Fisher, Theodosius Dobzhansky, J. B. S. Haldane, Sewall Wright, Julian Huxley, Ernst Mayr, Bernhard Rensch, Sergei Chetverikov, George Gaylord Simpson, and G. Ledyard Stebbins. This “synthesis” resolved conflicts among different branches of science: genetics, cytology, botany, morphology, ecology and paleontology, a major reconciliation of difference. The Modern Synthesis brought together the traditions of Darwin and Mendel, so that evolution within a species could be explained. The agreement stated: diversity within a population arose from the random production of mutations, and the environment acted to select the fittest phenotypes. Those animals capable of reproducing would transmit the genes that gave them their advantage. These genes included those encoding enzymes with better rates of synthesis, and globins with better oxygen-carrying capacity. It was assumed that the same kinds of changes (gene or chromosomal mutations) that caused evolution within a species also caused the evolution of new species. If a new phenotype were to be produced, there would need to be an accumulation of these mutations, and a mechanism of reproductive isolation to enable them to accumulate in new ways. This “unity” was a political tour de force at the time, because all scientists could defend their position against fundamentalist Christians (supporting Creationism) and Communists (supporting Lysenkioism). Lysenko supported Lamarck, the 18th century French scientist who argued for a theory of evolution before Darwin. Evolutionary scientists rejected Lamarck’s theory because it was not as solid an explanation of evolution as Darwin’s theory of natural selection.


[13] The new knowledge comes from physical chemistry. Chemists explain evolution from a molecular standpoint. Richard Dawkins, for example, believed that the gene was the real unit of selection rather than the species. And then new specialties emerged, like embryology and developmental biology, with other fields of genetics. Some scientists held that biological evolution should be reduced to chemistry, where Natural Selection does not even apply. Scott Gilbert says that developmental biology brings to evolutionary biology a new understanding about the relationships between genotypes and phenotypes, and a new understanding about the close genetic relationships between organisms as diverse as flies and frogs. In a sense, developmental biology complements the population genetics approach to evolutionary biology. Scott Gilbert, Developmental Biology, (Sinauer, 2003). See A. Lima-de-Faria, Evolution Without Selection (Elsevier, 1988.)


[14] The Book of the Dead is the name given by Egyptologists to a group of mortuary rules written on sheets of papyrus covered with magical-like texts and illustrations. These were placed with the dead in order to help them pass through the dangers of the underworld and attain an afterlife of bliss in the Field of Reeds. Some of the texts and vignettes are also found on the walls of tombs and on coffins or written on linen or vellum rather than on papyrus. Pythagoras spent time in Egypt studying its philosophy, and according to Herodotus (bk. ii, § 123), he "adopted this opinion as if it were his own." Quoted in James Bonwick, Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought (London: Kegan Paul, 1878, 1956 reprint), 80.

The ancient historian Herodotus also writes of “transmigration,” saying that the soul passes through various animals before being reborn in human form. It is quite clear from The Book of the Dead and other texts that after death the soul itself undergoes experiences in the Duat (Dwat) or Underworld, the realm and condition between heaven and earth, or beneath the earth, supposedly traversed by the sun from sunset to sunrise.  For more, see Bika Reed, Rebel in the Soul (Inner Traditions) revised 1997.  The text was first translated (into German) in 1896 by Adolph Erman as "A Man Tired of Life in Dispute with his Soul." Dr. Helmuth Jacobsohn, a Jungian psychologist and Egyptologist, examined the text critically in Timeless Documents of the Soul (1968), and published his own translation and commentary as "The Dialogue of a World-Weary Man with his Ba."


[15] Thomas McEvilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought (New York: Allworth Press, 2002. Ramses Seleem, The Illustrated Egyptian Book of the Dead, Godsfield Press, Ltd. 2001).


[16] Anaximander lived between 611 B. C. E. and 545 B. C. E. The earliest Greek philosophers came from the Ionic coast of Asia Minor in what is now Turkey. Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes lived in the trading port of Miletus. Aristotle said that the first philosophers thought that principles were in the form of matter: “The element and first principle of the things that exist and from which they first come into being and into which they are finally destroyed, its substance remaining and its properties changing” (Metaphysics 983). The precise character of the “primary substance” is not clear. Thales emphasized water. Anaximenes emphasized air. Heraclitus emphasized fire. Anaximander saw an indefinable "apeiron" (or Infinite) underlying all four. Thales believed that all things were full of divinities. Anaximander held that the primary substance was divine and taught that the it preceded the gods. See G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); and Jonathan Barnes, Early Greek Philosophy (Penguin, 1987.)


[17] Parmenides affirmed a “One” that seems to admit no opposites. Heraclitus accented “becoming,” while Parmenides emphasized “being.” For Parmenides, that is, it was impossible for One Being to become many. Parmenides’s doctrine appears to be in dramatic opposition to Heraclitis’ doctrine that everything is in flux. However, these two doctrines can also be seen as twin approaches to teaching two sides of the same idea: namely, that reality is not just a plurality of static entities. For Parmenides, the only reality is the One, and the diverse appearances that we sense do not truly change because they do not truly exist in the first place. For Heraclitus, the diverse appearances “change”; and therefore opposites do not exist independent of each other, thereby pointing to their unity in the One. Neither Heraclitus nor Parmenides provided a full solution to the connecting of “being” with “becoming.”


[18]  See Richard Hooker, http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/HERAC.HTM

[19] Heraclitus established the term Logos in Western philosophy in reference to the fundamental “order of the cosmos,” but it also means “disorder” and more. The sophists used the term Logos to mean, “discourse,” and Aristotle applied the term to “an argument from reason.” After Judaism came under Hellenistic influence, Philo adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of St. John in the Christian New Testament identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the Logos through which all things are made. The Gospel identifies the Logos as God—or theos, providing scriptural support for the trinity. Heraclitus viewed the world as perpetual transformations of things into their opposites, governed by a Logos that could be expressed only in contradictions. Heraclitus speaks of a "Unity of opposites," that starts with the idea that opposites cannot exist without each other. There is no day without night, no summer without winter, no warm without cold, no good without bad.


[20] Lao-tzu mentions the yin-yang polarity in chapter 42 of the Tao-te Ching: “The created universe carries the yin at its back and the yang in front; through the union of the pervading principles it reaches harmony.” Tao-te Ching, Lin Yutang's version. (3) James Legge: I Ching—Book of Changes (Gramercy Books, 1996), p. 43.


[21] Plato is known for his Allegory of the Cave, in which he asks us to imagine prisoners chained underground. They have never been outside and face a wall without being able to look at the cave entrance. Animals, birds, people, and other objects pass by the entrance, casting a shadow on the wall inside. The prisoners think the shadows on the wall are reality. But one man breaks free from his chains and runs out of the cave to see the real world. He now knows that the real world is far grander than the shadows he had been looking at. He sees real birds and animals, not just their shadows. He is excited and goes back to tell his fellow prisoners about the real world. But to his shock, they don’t believe him. In fact, they are angry with him. They say the shadows are reality; the escaped prisoner is crazy for saying otherwise. Plato claimed that the world outside the cave was the world of ideal Forms, while the shadows on the wall represent objects in the physical world. The escape of the prisoner represents enlightenment.


[22] In other words, most people are like prisoners in the cave, but good philosophers are like the man who escapes the cave and sees with true knowledge. Plato’s theory of Forms implies that the world of matter is an imperfect reflection of this immutable, transcendental world of ideas. Knowledge is a process of remembering that the objects of knowledge are ideal and unassailable. Plato’s idea of Form is of a non-spatial and non-temporal world outside of time.

In Plato there is a form for every object or quality in reality: for example, there are countless trees in the world, but the Form of “treeness” is at the core, the essence of all of them. For more, see "The Great Ideas: A Synopticon of Great Books of the Western World; Chapter 28: Form." Great Books of the Western World II (I of the Synopticon). (1952). Also Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.,  526-542.  Page 528 states that the terms “Form” or “Idea” get capitalized according to the following convention: when they refer "to that which is separate from the characteristics of material things and from the ideas in our mind."


[23] These “great thinkers” all advanced ideas about a transcendent world of Truth and Virtue and an acceptance of immutable Forms. In the Western world, a new religious movement had taken hold in which Jesus became the great Form, the integral Logos, the ideal of humanity.


[24] Thomas Hobbes lived from 1588 to 1679.

[25] Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (The MacMillan Company, 1929); Chapter X: Process, 317–328.


[26] It was Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." (Darwin came to use the expression in later editions of the Origin of Species.) Spencer had evidence for this phenomenon from his study of biology (Principles of Biology, 2 vols. [1864-7]), arguing that there is a “gradual specialization in things--beginning with biological organisms--towards self-sufficiency and individuation.” For Spencer human life was on a continuum with natural history and the culmination of a lengthy process of evolution. He saw a parallel development of mind and body, without reducing the former to the latter.


[27] Bergson’s concept of time influenced William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Santayana, and writers like Péguy, Valéry, and John Dos Passos. Whitehead expanded Bergson's notions of duration and evolution, applying them  to organic life in the physical realm.


[28] In other words, Bergson says that in the river of life, there can be no enduring substance. Everything is changing and goes beyond, or exceeds, itself. We can never find “immutable things” anywhere in the universe. Even consciousness is not fixed, not unchangeable. It is a living, moving, growing and evolving process. Consciousness is the essence of the elan vital, which is the great Reality. It is impossible to know Reality through logic and science. It is known only by intuition, which is a direct vision and experience that transcends intellectual processes and scientific observations and reasoning.



[29] Thomas Alexander, John Dewey's Theory of Art, Experience, and Nature (New York: SUNY Press, 1987); Raymond Boisvert, John Dewey: Rethinking Our Time (New York: SUNY Press, 1997); James Campbell, Understanding John Dewey: Nature and Cooperative Intelligence (Open Court Publishing Company, 1995).


[30] Immanuel Kant led Hegel in this direction. The “subject,” Kant said, is that which “perceives,” and the “object” is what is “perceived.” Kant thought of the perceiver as the subject, as within the mind; for him, space and time were categories of the mind. But for Hegel this “mind” (Geist, in German) stood in contradiction and negation. Contradiction and negation create a dynamic, Hegel argued. So at every point in consciousness—that is, in the appearance of history, philosophy, art, nature, society—there is more and more development, until a final  (rational) unity is reached. That final Unity preserves all the contradictions as phases and sub-parts by lifting them up (Aufhebung) to a higher Unity. This Unity (or “whole”) for Hegel is in a Mind that can comprehend all of these phases and sub-parts as steps in its own process of comprehension. Hegel saw evolution as a logical spiritual development that underlies every domain of reality. It is in the order of thought itself. But only in the later stages of “mind-development” does the process come to full self-consciousness. This consciousness of the totality is not something outside the mind, primarily because it comes to completion only through an inner understanding of itself.



[31] Central to Hegel's conception of knowledge and mind was the notion of “identity in difference.” This means that the mind externalizes itself into various forms and objects that stand outside of it or are opposed to it, and that, through recognizing itself in them, is "with itself" in these external manifestations, so that they are at one and the same time mind and other-than-mind. This notion of identity in difference, which is intimately bound up with his conception of contradiction and negativity, distinguishes Hegel's thought from that of other idealist philosophers.


[32] Richard Kearney sees hermeneutics as taking a critical approach to the relation between self and other, which at best involves a critique of both parties of engagement. Understanding requires a double critique to prevent the “other” from becoming too transcendent or too immanent, too far or too close, because either extreme would ruin any genuine understanding between the self and the other. See Richard Kearney’s study on the role of “Philosophy at the Limits.” On Stories (2002), Strangers, Gods and Monsters (2002), and The God Who May Be   (2001).


[33]  Kirk Peterson and John P. Lowe, Quantum Chemistry, (Academic Press, 2005). Donald A. MacQuarrie and John D. Simon, Physical Chemistry: A Molecular Approach (University Science Books, 1997). Manisha Goel, Deepti Jain, Kanwal J. Kaur, Roopa Kenoth, Bhaskar G. Maiya,

Musti J. Swamy, and Dinakar M. Salunke,

“Functional Equality in the Absence of Structural Similarity: An Added Dimension to Molecular Mimicry,”

 JBC Papers in Press, August 14, 2001. See the Structural Biology Unit, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi 110067, India and the School of Chemistry, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad 500046, India.


[34] "Legal Symbols of the Anglo-American Legal Tradition," 11 The Guide to American Law: Everyone's Legal Encyclopedia, Appendix D, 685, 687 (1985).


[35] Published papers in the movement on experimental philosophy date from after 2000.  Joshua Knobe, "What is Experimental Philosophy?" The Philosophers' Magazine, viewable at http://www.unc.edu/~knobe/ExperimentalPhilosophy.pdf.

Edouard Machery, "What are Experimental Philosophers Doing?" viewable at http://experimentalphilosophy.typepad.com/experimental_philosophy/2007/07/index.html.


[36] William James, The Meaning of Truth (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1909),   xii-xiii. See The Principles of Psychology (New York: Henry Holt and Co.); William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, A Study in Human Nature. (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.); Pragmatism. A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking. Popular Lectures on Philosophy. (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.)


[37] James wanted to get beyond the old dualism of body versus consciousness. In place of this dualism he proposed “pure experience.” He said that organism, nature, nervous system, brain, and cortex are all inextricably tied up together in massive ongoing interaction.  The essence of this old dualism lay in a reification of consciousness and a separation of consciousness from its content. The scientists who followed Descartes, he said, saw things empirically, as though they were not experiential. Scientists following Descartes looked on the universe as pure matter, viewing objects as mechanical and animals like clockwork robots. Descartes claimed the certainty of rigorous logical reasoning, and thought in mechanisms, as in automatic reactions by animals and the human body: signals of light punched eye nerves. But James looked to experience itself as the source of knowledge. Descartes viewed all “signals” as material particles that pushed against sense organs, mechanically causing animal actions deterministically; so that animals reacted more as billiard balls to other billiard balls, and less as thinking things or robots responding to information signals.

[38] The word conscientia first appears in Latin juridical texts by writers such as Cicero. Here, conscientia is the knowledge that a witness has of the deed of someone else. In Christian theology, “conscience” stands for the moral conscience in which our actions and intentions are registered, and which is only fully known to God. The term “consciousness” derives from Latin conscientia, referring to moral conscience. Medieval philosophers like Thomas Aquinas describe conscientia as the act by which people apply practical and moral knowledge to their actions. So René Descartes used "conscientia" in a way that suggests psychological consciousness. John Locke may have been the first to use the modern meaning in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

[39] For more on this debate, see Evan Harris Walker, The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life (Basic Books: 2000). Bruce Rosenbaum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).


[40] M. Beauregard, J. Lévesque, and P. Bourgouin, “Neural Correlates of the Conscious Self-Regulation of Emotion,” Journal of Neuroscience 21: RC165: 1 (2001). B. Libet, “Cerebral physiology of conscious experience: Experimental Studies,” in N. Osaka (Ed.), Neural Basis of Consciousness (Amsterdam & New York: John Benjamins, 2003). For more, see articles in Biological Psychiatry.

[41] Andrew Abbott, Chaos of Disciplines (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. (New York:Anchor, 1971).

[42] Thomas Scheff, et al. Goffman Unbound: A New Paradigm for Social Science (The Sociological Imagination), Paradigm Publishers, 2006.

[43] An augmented sixth chord contains the interval of an augmented sixth above its bass. The chord had its origins in the Renaissance. It was advanced in the Baroque period, and became a part of the musical style of the Classical and Romantic periods.

[44] The Oxford English Dictionary shows that emotion begins with an image of “motion” seen as outside in reference to movement from one place to another. (1603 Knolles, History of the Turks. “Emotion as association with Thunder in the air.” (1755, Porter XLIX). Emotion is associated with horses, etc. Later, the term becomes connected with “feeling,” which is more sensitively developed. See 1791, Boswell on Johnson (anno 1752), “Love is not a subject of reasoning, but of feeling.”

[45] Benedict is extrapolating from her study of Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (University of California Press, 1969). The English word “emotion” is derived from the French word émouvoir, which is based on the Latin emovere, where e- (variant of ex-) means 'out' and movere means 'move'.


[46] Kenneth Burke, On Symbols and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).


[47] The term “consubstantial” refers to how people form an identity (as self) with various properties (or substances), including physical objects, occupations, friends, activities, beliefs and values. This happens when two “entities” are united in substance through common ideas, attitudes, possessions or properties. The concept of common “identification” is virtually synonymous with consubstantial. As people share substances, they come to identify with others. As people speak each other's language, they become consubstantial.

Burke defined rhetoric as "the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to introduce in other human agents." Rhetoric is "rooted in an essential function of language itself, the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols." According to Burke, to overcome our division and our guilt, we look for ways in which our interests, attitudes, values, experiences, perceptions, and material properties are shared with others, or could appear to be shared. These instances of "overlap" make us "consubstantial" with others. We continually seek to be associated with certain individuals or groups (and not others), attain some position in the hierarchy of social relations, and relieve ourselves of the guilt we bear. Kenneth Burke, Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University California Press, 1950).


[48] Fichte and Schelling tried to unify subjectivity and objectivity. Fichte started from “subjectivity” and Schelling started from “objectivity” and nature. Brady Bowman “Identity and Difference: Studies in Hegel’s Logic, Philosophy of Spirit, and Politics,” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy - Volume 22, Number 3, 2008 (New Series), pp. 229-231. “Identity over Time,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, March 2005.


[49] Op. cit. Burke, p. 22. Burke wants us to understand the processes by which we build social cohesion through the use of language. So, Burke sees in processes such as “identification” the working out of the daily (mundane) processes of social life, as well as the larger, significant choices that may lead to our corporate destruction or salvation.


[50]  Op. cit. Burke, p. 41. Within this perspective, “identification” involves at least three types of processes or states: 1) the process of naming something (or someone) according to specific properties; 2) the process of associating with and disassociating from others --suggesting that persons (and ideas or things) share, or do not share, important qualities in common; and 3) the product or end result of identifying --the state of being consubstantial with others. It is the associating process, whereby individuals persuade others, or themselves, that they share important qualities in common, that is the focus of the present discussion.

[51] “Dialogue” is not the same as “dialectic.” Plato saw the dialectic as pure thinking that went beyond any particular situation. He described how Socrates started with people's opinions, but at some point in the dialogue people began working with “forms” that are theoretical principles leading to the highest good. For Plato the dialectic is the art of logos, which Heraclitus saw as the overall rational structure of Nature.

[52] Gustave Mueller at the University of Oklahoma presents a sophisticated argument on why “Being and Becoming” co-exist as abstract ideas. Gustav Mueller, “On Being and Becoming, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 10. No. 3, July, 1943, pp. 149-162. Buddhist and Taoist philosophers developed a similar view in the "Tao," as the cosmic law, close to the Greek notion of Logos.