In our book Holonomics we have this quote from Plato’s Parmenides, one of his final works.
The one itself, then, having been broken up into parts by being, is many and infinite?
Then not only the one which has being is many, but the one itself distributed by being, must also be many?
Further, inasmuch as the parts are parts of a whole, the one, as a whole, will be limited; for are not the parts contained by the whole?
And that which contains, is a limit?
Then the one if it has being is one and many, whole and parts, having limits and yet unlimited in number?
Plato is discussing “the one and the many” and understanding this relationship is absolutely fundamental to understanding the core foundation of Holonomics. By exploring this question, our own ways of thinking can lose their rigidity and become more flowing in contemplation.
My own thinking on Plato has developed over the years through readings of Henri Bortoft and Hans-Georg Gadamer, who died at the age of 102, having studied and written about Plato in a career of over 70 years, writing that it was “ancient philosophy from which the whole of philosophy and its history disclosed itself to me”.
Although the majority of interpretations of Plato have focused on the Ideas as fundamental, Gadamer takes a different approach, understanding Plato as a much more fluid thinker, who has no single theory of ideas, but who rather is able to understand the limitations of each hypothesis.
As Bruce Wachterhauser observes in Beyond Being, Gader saw the focus of Plato’s philosophy as being ‘the one and the many’. What we have to do therefore is to not become attached to any one understanding of the Ideas, but to develop an ability to see the objects of knowledge as never showing themselves in a single, unequivocal way, but instead “one and the same thing will show itself differently in different contexts”.
Creativity, and inspiration come from a place where we can develop new ways of seeing and comprehension, so we need to develop a certain quality of mindfulness, where we acknowledge both our own situation in relation to the multifaceted nature of the things we are interested in.
Gadamer was a great friend and student of Heidegger, and through Heidegger, Gadamer learnt how to read Plato, but also through Plato Gadamer came to also critique Heidegger himself. At stake is the question of Being, and how we can ultimately know ourselves.
Gadamer takes his inspiration from Plato’s transcendentals of the Good, the true, the beautiful and the One, unity, identify and difference.
Gadamer claims that that the themes of the Good, the true, the beautiful and the One, unity, identify and difference, i.e. the transcendentals, are best approached “dialectically” through a thought-process that not only juxtaposes opposing viewspoints, but “separates” and “combines” these viewpoints in ever-changing syntheses or interpretations.
Wachterhauser, Beyond Being, p40
Many of us have our own conceptions of “the Good”. If life is so multifaceted, then our work to do good and our relation to the Good will “always be one of protracted enquiry, marked by struggle. The Gods may dwell in the full light of perfect knowledge, but we always contend in the half-light of limited understanding.”
You know, sometimes I see a lot of what I consider to be nonsense in the world. But then after having made these discernments the battle is then to not turn them into judgements. In order to achieve this continual state of discernment and not judgement, I find solace in Plato and Gadamer.
The struggle to develop the truest relation to the Good is continual. We are humans whose Being is one of ‘interpretation’ and due to the colossal task of developing our own relation to the Good means that most of the time we have to stay out of the fray, stay out of others’ nonsenses, and focus on our paths. We step into the fire to experience our own transformations, and when we manage to stay free of others’ interpretations, we avoid getting burned.