Philosophy and “knowledge”


 
  Days back, under the heading of What is philosophy, while trying to distinguish between the concepts ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’, we fell into a trap of our own making: the trap of language and its uses (in general, semantics). If one is not careful with words, the concepts encapsulated in them may be blurred, imprecise, even when the intention and meaning are subjectively correct; in this case there may only be an approximation to what one wants to say, or, worse still, confusion. We had written that ‘knowledge’ appears to be passive, whereas ‘understanding’ is active, an act ("and is a better term in what concerns the seeker after Truth"). Well, we take it all back with a mea culpa, realizing our confusion with the terms chosen ("what we really wanted to say is… ": how does this sound?). We still maintain, though, that the knowledge that is Wisdom cannot be transmitted, and for this there is no need to find support in Plato, the Greek philosopher. ‘Knowledge’, ‘understanding’, ‘comprehension’ are words that can be used generally indistinctly, and depending on the context – the difference being only one of nuance in given cases. In what we wanted to say it would have been much easier, simpler and precise, to use the word ‘intuition’, ‘intuitive knowledge’ – which is not other than metaphysical knowledge – to contrast it with other kinds of knowledge.
 
  We were considering a knowledge that is direct, immediate (an "apprehension" of the Truth), and which may be called a ‘vision’ (through the "eye of the heart" – by those who are "knowers", who have that capacity). By its nature this is the knowledge that pertains to philosophy (not in the modern sense of this term, of course). That is, Knowledge of Truth, of Reality (the same thing). If there is no Truth there is no philosophy, and all thinking is in vain. Philosophy, which is a vocation, tends, at least, to that kind of knowledge: "seeing" the nature of things behind the veil of appearances (what Frithjof Schuon calls "the metaphysical transparency of phenomena"). Needless to say, one can have a "theoretical" (*) knowledge of philosophy, of metaphysics (no real difference between the two) without actually affording that vision. In this respect, one can extend one’s knowledge (horizontal dimension) or deepen it (vertical), to the point of it becoming  virtual knowledge, at the threshold, since it would then be, in this last case, a matter of degree.      (*) (theoria: contemplation, in its original meaning)
 
  We had referred – in that previous entry about philosophy – to what is, or seems to be, problematic with respect of the term ‘philosophy’. The master of spirituality and metaphysics of this past (and the current) century we have just mentioned, wrote the following: "We prefer the term sophia to that of philosophia, for the simple reason that the second term is less direct and because it evokes in addition associations of ideas with a completely profane and all too often aberrant system of thought."             (more on this in the near future)
 

About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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