Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Ideas Cannot Conceive Themselves

I feel sure that I am nowise unique in having struggled for years with the difficulty of the ontological status of the Platonic Forms. On Plato’s account, so far as it went, the Forms subsisted in a different realm – indeed, a different sort of realm – than our own. I could see well enough that, as immutable, that Realm must be more actual than our own. But, what is that Realm, where is it (is that even an appropriate question to ask?), and what relates it to our own? Indeed, how could a purely formal realm link up at all to our material world? I found I could not even begin to think about it.

The whole thing fell neatly and simply into place when I learned of Saint Augustine’s Neoplatonist suggestion – in retrospect fairly obvious, as are all great truths – that the Realm of the Forms is the Lógos: the eminently concrete Second Person of the Trinity, to whom I may at any moment speak, and who to me at all my moments speaks, as (among many other things) the very Word of all speech, and himself the forecondition of his angel Mercury.

This was all implicit in Aristotle, of course – the greatest of all Platonists.

But Augustine had the good fortune first to unfold and then publish it – so far as I know, anyway.

The Forms do *not* subsist isolate, independent, and in a purely formal “realm” (whatever that might be). They subsist rather and only as ideas in minds. But this is nowise to suggest that they are but mere figments or fictions or heuristics of our imaginations, as Ockham or Kant, immured despite their profound mysticism and deep insight in the terms of this world, might suggest. No. The Forms have their first and original and palmary archetypal instantiation and conception in the eternal – and so, supernally concrete – mind of God. We derive our own apprehensions of the Forms from our apprehensions of his mind; and, so doing, partake it; partake him; participate his life.

In principle, this participation is no different that what we do with each other, and with all the other creatures of our mundane environments, at every moment of our lives. Indeed, all such moments take their momentous initial urge toward becoming this or that first from the urgent love of the Son toward his Father, who is the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. The difference between my participation in my son, or for that matter in this present whiskey, and my participation in God, is of degree, not of principle. Nevertheless a participation in some finite actuality, such as those in which we routinely and consciously engage – this whiskey, this post, this evening – is so different in degree from our participation in the infinite actuality who is the source and end of our very being that we are forced to admit – happily! – that it constitutes a difference in kind.

It is like – nay, it just is – the difference between 5 and infinity. Both are quantities. One of them is only a number.

There is at any rate no mystery about the Realm of the Forms. It is what the Lógos comprehends, and, comprehending, is. It is the Father. Through his Son, and by his Spirit, it informs and so forms all things.

And this is why abstract mathematics is so spookily manifest in physical reality.

I should not neglect to mention that the notion that ideas can be concrete only as apprehensions – which is just to say, as *acts* – of concrete minds has its most useful (or, at least, most frequent) application not in metaphysics or theology, but in daily life. To wit, most recently and absurdly: “Antifa is just an idea.”

There are no mere ideas. Ideas are always aspects of concrete, actual minds; and minds are always concrete implementations of ideas; so that an idea can affect nothing at all except as an act of some mind. Antifa is an idea *of certain persons,* who have *chosen* to carry it somehow into practice – whether to burn and destroy, or to name and understand that burning and that destruction. It has otherwise no reality at all.

3 thoughts on “Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Ideas Cannot Conceive Themselves

  1. Pingback: Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Ideas Cannot Conceive Themselves | Reaction Times


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