On essences

Monday, 21 April, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

This is a translated version of an older Trilema article, Despre esente.

Before getting into the topic with which I baited you previously, we still have to do a short periple among the fields.

To ti en einai, "that which is to be" is a concept systematised in this bizarre form by Aristotle, but which for sure existed in the mind of man before him. We simply call it "essence", and do not define it, preferring to presume it's clear for everybody what it should mean, and then act as if this actually were the case. Actually... since we've come this far, let's try this, as an exercise in personal development : give yourself a moment and form a definition of essence.

Ready ?

Good. Let us mention in passing that the latin word essentia is born exactly of the need of Aristotle translators to somehow note this frighteningly difficult to translate concept, so they need'nt crack their skulls open with periphrase (peri phraseion ? :D)

So what is the essence ? Because if we shall speak of it, we should say what it is (we could, of course, claim mystery, but wouldn't that be a pity ?). Before definining it, let us extend a hand and pinch its nipple a little, through a joke. Do you know that one when Joe buys a car, and John asks him what color is it ? And Joe answers that "You know in the morning when the Sun's coming up and the whole sky's sorta red and pink and orange and all colors and sorts of red ?" "Aye" "Well, just like that but green."

Essentially, Joe's right, should we find it within ourselves to neglect the major fucking impediment that the rules of transforming from an essence to the other aren't given implicitly, essences not being matters material (for anything material, the rules of transformation from form to form are given implicitly, through experience, which is why "just like that only bigger" or "just like that only narrower" implicitly carry meaning in all contexts).

Essences are the unmediated content of being. Being also has mediated content, two excellent examples being matter and notion. Real objects manifest for the senses through the intermediation of matter, which interacts in certain manners with certain receptors, giving the impression of color, of thickness, smoothness, sweetness and what else you will. Ideal objects manifest for the senses through their notional content, which also interacts in certain manners with certain receptors, giving the impression of truth, of depth, of what else you will. Essences alone interact, if they do, unmediatedlyi.

Let us then cut the knife : in our definition, "being" is a notion, which makes it then an ideal object. It carries the flesh of its meaning, which allows it to interact with our minds. How is it then possible for this "essence" to be the unmediated content of... a mediated content ? Here's then an excellent metaphysical question, which will clearly show to you in action those things we were discussing in our previous article.

So then : the answer comes from whence the apparent trap comes itself. The definition in metaphysics does not work in the authoritative sense of science. The definition in metaphysics works as a metaphor, and pulls its sap from the power of suggestion. Just like that, except green, just like being, except without mediation.

Clearly such an approach may seem absolutely unacceptable, going from ridiculous to ignoble or even irrational. The minds of people are different and to some metaphysical thought is simply inadherent. It's not a crime, it happens.

First and foremost it's to be understood that it isn't the fault of metaphysics. Some grasp it easier, some have to work at it harder, some never grasp it. Going to war against it, taking it out of the rolls of acceptable preoccupations for a respectable gentleman is not muchly different from holding "all women are whores". "All women", like any other noun qualified by the universal identifier denotes... an essence. And the rapport of a real object to an essence always describes... the real object. Never the essence. You understand what I mean.

Mankind has always had a fear of nudity. The immediate, the unmediated is abrasive for the human spirit, it strikes fear, it terrorizes. Seeing how essences have not even skulls and crossbones, let alone that they don't have the pleasant tit of matter, but they even lack the bones upon which this tit could rest, obviously the situation had to be rectified. And rectified it was, through personification. From the profoundly human need of covering in some manner the unmediated of the essence were born Aphrodita and Athens, Enyo, Echo, Tethys and so forth.

And now, that we're finally done with the definition, we can finally move on to what I was about to tell you.

———
  1. I should perhaps say "immediately", which'd be strictly speaking the correct word. It'd also be confusing. []
Category: Trilenciclopedia
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