Thursday, 15 November 2018

Man or woman: Thinking in Categories or thinking of Beings

I find a basic unsatisfactoriness in the usual way of thinking using categories - for example the debate whether each man has a body and soul; a body, soul and spirit - or just a body. For me, the argument bogs-down on what changes, what stays the same - what happens over time.

What happens over time seems (since the earliest records of Ancient Greeks) to be the problem with all categories - the reason for developing them, and the reason why they so seldom 'work'. It is, indeed, the basic problem of the philosophical tradition - how to talk-about anything (in a philosophical way) without getting into difficulties about change and not-change.

I think the problem comes-from the very roots of denying what is obvious to pre-conscious children - that this reality is one of Beings; and Beings are real in a context of time. What makes a Being is something to do with 'development'/ growth/ life.... we don't have a single category that works properly because of the problem with categories.

But if we start with Beings, and stick with Beings; we realise that the inadequacy of categories is precisely that they do not include this basic experience of entities that both remain themselves and also change through time.

It isn't a mystery or a paradox; not is it a logical problem - that is what Beings are. A Being may even metamorphose unrecognisably - caterpillar to pupa to butterfly - while remaining the same Being. A Being may exchange all of its molecules while remaining the same Being. This is built-in knowledge - and the problem only arises from trying to fit it into time-less categories.

The same with individuality... Something about modern thought pushes people into categories; and then these categories lead to further problems because they have blurred boundaries, they overlap, they change, they are perspectival... yet we don't spontaneously have a problem with individual people, once we get to know them - we regard each as a Being, and don't expect Beings to fall into categories.

As an example... What about sex, man and woman?

Well, we recognise that invididual human Beings are either a man or a woman; but we don't spontaneously create categories of men or women by using definitions, into-which each Being must be put... Man or woman is something that each person is - the beings neither derive-from nor are allocated-to categories.

And because Beings include time, then we don't expect a being to change from man to woman or woman to man; and if they appear to do so, then we may be confused about which they really are - but not about the fact that their state of Being is (if only we knew) one or the other.

The knowledge comes to us not in the form 'there are two categories that all humans must fall into, either man or woman' - but that we know many individual people, and each is either a man or a woman; or else we aren't sure which - but would prefer to know (if we want to deal with them).

We begin with Beings - and I believe that we should end with Beings, as the basis of our understanding of reality. That will means dealing with individuals, not categories - and as such, many of the intractable 'problems of philosophy' (and of Christian theology) simply dissolve. (Including the [pseudo-] problem of the Trinity.)

There remain the problems of living; but the problems of philosophy that have tormented thinkers of about 2500 years are seen as illusory; although, probably, struggling with them was valuable and perhaps necessary.

We began by unconsciously accepting the reality of a world of Beings; our task now is to choose to accept that this world really-is of-Beings.