From the unreal to the real.
|Dec 27, 2005|
Can the Real ever be understood directly, or are we human beings fated to a limited understanding, enfolding the Real in partial perspectives? The ancients, whether Indian or Greek, thought that the Real could be understood, even experienced directly. They always admitted the possibility of full and complete enlightenment. On the other hand, the world (Logos or Samsara) may have seemed to some ancients as being irredeemably fallen.
We modern people invert this scheme on its head. In our worldview, the individual human/finite-being is central, whether in science or in literature or philosophy. Kant, for example, made explicit the modern idea that noumena, things as they truly are, are beyond the scope of the human intellect. We are confined to our prison. A biologist might add that this prison walls are determined by our genes and just as a dog cannot understand the Riemann Hypothesis, human beings cannot understand certain things because of the limits of our cognitive capacities. Colin McGinn has argued that consciousness is one of those things, a phenomenon that we are too stupid to understand, even in principle.
Is it possible that both the ancients and the moderns are right in their own sphere? Perhaps the ancients made the mistake of dichotomizing the finite and the infinite and the moderns made the mistake of identifying ourselves with the finite. It is in this dialectic between the finite/human and the Real that I see a contribution by modern inquiry, which is why I never felt comfortable with any traditional religious stream, howsoever profound.