Monday 17 July 2017

Sure knowledge is based upon direct apprehension of a situation of absolute simplicity and clarity

I have seen a convergence of several strands of my interest in 'intuition' and metaphysics.

The surest, indeed the only sure, knowledge we have comes from our direct apprehension of a situation of absolute simplicity and clarity: nothing can be surer than this; and it can retrospectively validate a system of metaphysics which is that such direct knowing is fundamental.

It seems that - for instance - Wittgenstein's method (all through his work, including both early and late) was to strive (by multiple attacks on a problem) to attain exactly this situation. In his early Tractatus he called it 'showing' as contrasted with saying - he meant that knowledge should be based on that which is so simple and clear that it can be comprehended and known wholly and instantly. His last work - On Certainty - is the most comprehensive and sustained example of the 'method' - trying again and again to attain exactly the right question, the right example - so that 'certainty' can be understood all-at-once.

Goethe's concept of observation and experiment was identical at root: he strove in his science to attain a clear and simple view of the phenomenon so that it could be grasped whole. An ideal experiment was aiming at exactly the same - purposively creating a situation of clarity and simplicity when observation did not yield it. 

(The usual idea of an experiment is to contrive a controlled observation to test an hypothesis. But this merely evades the idea of where true hypotheses come-from - Goethe's deeper insight in that true hypotheses come from this intuitive clear-simple apprehension.) 

Socrates questioning can be seen in the same light - not as 'dialectic' (whatever that might be supposed to mean, I have never been able to understand it) - the attempt to frame the problem so lucidly that the answer becomes obvious (or else to show that the usual way of framing it, the usual form of questions, do not yield such a situation, but only contradictions and complexities).

Rudolf Steiner (much influenced by Goethe) likewise regards 'pure' thinking as aiming at just this: his intuition refers to a simple view; his use of the term clairvoyance has the literal meaning of clear-seeing.

This 'method' is absolutely general. It can and should be applied to all forms of knowing - whether logic, science, ethics, metaphysics, religion or whatever.

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