Historical and systematic considerations regarding the four most basic philosophical assertions
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One of the hall-marks of early Greek philosophy is that it commences with an awareness of certain basic aspects of reality. Reflecting on these aspects gave rise to recurrent issues, such as the problem of unity and diversity, the whole and its (cohering) parts as well as constancy and change - later on also captured in the opposition of being and becoming. Parmenides and his school characterized "being" mainly in spatial terms to which a metaphysical connotation is sometimes attached. Zeno, the Eleatic philosopher, best known for his paradoxes directed against multiplicity and motion, actually discovered the spatial whole-parts relation. Anaxagoras explored another significant insight in his claim that everything coheres with everything else. These developments paved the way for Aristotle to stipulate two criteria for continuity still reflected within contemporary set theory. What is noteworthy in this context is that the way in which Aristotle handled the problem of being and becoming caused him to restrict knowledge to conceptual knowledge, i.e., to knowledge constituted by universal features. According to this view of Aristotle what is individual withdraws itself from the grasp of conceptual knowledge. Then attention is given to some implications of the relationship between constancy and change, with particular reference to the nature of constant principles and the varying ways in which they could be applied in unique situations as well as to our awareness of identity. This analysis paves the way for an explanation of some analogical interconnections between different aspects. It also generated some crucial questions to the idea of a logic of change, followed by a concise assessment of the nature of monistic isms, specifically related to the aspects of number and space. In what then follows the distinction between concept and idea (conceptual knowledge and concept-transcending knowledge) is illuminated in order to substantiate the ultimate conclusion of the article regarding the four most basic "idea-statements" one can formulate about the universe. This is accomplished by showing that terms derived from number, space, movement and the physical aspects could be employed in a concept-transcending manner, expressed in the following four statements: (i) Everything is unique; (ii) Everything coheres with everything else (iii) Everything remains identical to itself; and (iv) Everything changes. One of the fascinating features of philosophical reflection is that the classical problems have a tendency to recur not only in philosophy but also within the various special sciences. That these problems are ultimately related to fundamental modes of explanation becomes apparent against the background of (early) Greek philosophy. Briefly analysing this legacy will enable us to highlight what arguably may be considered to be the four most basic statements a philosopher can formulate concerning reality.
- Faculty of Humanities