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2. The Fundamental Desire For Knowledge

2. The Fundamental Desire For Knowledge

TOPIC
Compare 
Thought-Content with World-Content  

 "Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we find again the unity from which we have separated ourselves. We will see later this goal can only be reached when the task of scientific research is understood on a deeper level than is usually the case." TPOF 2.0

Wall Of Separation
As children we felt ourselves to be One with Nature. But as soon as we begin to have thoughts, we question the world and desire answers. The mental process then splits our world into two parts: the outer perceived-world and our inner thought-world. In the building up of our thought-content we erect a wall of separation between ourselves and the world. The universe appears to us as two opposing sides, Self and World. Our childhood unity is lost and we confront the world as separate individuals.

Feeling Harmony And Unity
But we never lose the feeling that we belong to the world, that the universe is a unity embracing both Self and World. This feeling for harmony makes us strive to bridge the separation and guides our return by expressing satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our attempts to reconcile the two sides. While I am seeing Nature outside of me, I feel something more of Nature within me. This feeling precedes the appearance of inner truth that is pressing toward manifestation.

Bond Of Connection
While it is “thought” that separates us from the world, it will be “thought” that reconnects us with it. Our life is a continuing search for the unity between ourselves and the world. Religion, art and science all pursue this same goal. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we restore our lost childhood bond of connection —on a higher level. Inner truth resolves the separation between Self and World because inner truth belongs not only to the Self, but also to the World. Only inner truth can satisfy our desire for knowledge.

STEP #37 (2.1)
Compare Material World with Materialism

Material World
World-Content: The attention of the Materialist is on the physical world. He forms thoughts about the phenomena of the world in terms of Matter and physical processes. This gives him two different kinds of facts: the material (physical) world and the thoughts about it.

  

Materialism
Thought-Content: The Materialist attempts to explain the world with thoughts about matter and physical processes. He attributes the power of thinking to Matter, rather than to himself. He tries to understand thought by regarding it as a purely physical process. He credits mechanical, chemical, and organic processes with the ability to think.

Shift Problem Away From Self
Desire For Knowledge: One-sided Materialism can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the world. The Materialist shifts the problem away from himself. He sees no need to reflect on his own nature, so the same problem—feeling separate from the world—keeps coming back.

STEP #38 (2.2)
Compare Spiritual World with Spiritualism

Spiritual World
World-Content: The Spiritualist’s attention is on the Spiritual World. The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) any independent existence and conceives it as merely a product of Mind (the Self). He considers the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself.

Spiritualism
Thought-Content: The Spiritualist has no interest in the Material World and its laws. Matter, they say, is only the manifestation of the underlying spiritual. The physical world is never found in all the spiritual theory he achieves by his own spiritual effort.

World Is A Closed Book
Desire For Knowledge: As long as the one-sided Spiritualist remains in spiritual theory, his mind does not produce knowledge of the world or action in the world. The world is a closed book to the Spiritualist, unless he establishes a non-spiritual relation to it.

STEP #39 (2.3)
Compare External World with Realism

External World
World-Content: The attention of the Realist is on the external world that surrounds him. To know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and acquire experience. Without experience the Mind can have no practical content.

Realism
Thought-Content: Experience gained in the external world provides the mind with practical knowledge needed to successfully carry out action. With this experience we are able to realize our intentions with the help of physical things and forces.

Ideals Lacking
Desire For Knowledge: We are dependent on the external world to get things done. But the one-sided Realist may lack the ideals needed to satisfy our need to accomplish meaningful things.

STEP #40 (2.4)
Compare World Of Ideas with Idealism

World Of Ideas
World-Content: The attention of the Idealist is on the world of ideas and ideals. He attempts to connect with the world by constructing a system of ideas out of himself, without regard to practical experience.

Idealism
Thought-Content: A one-sided Idealist attempts to derive the whole edifice of the world from the “Ego.” What he accomplishes is a magnificent thought-structure of the world without any content of actual experience. A purely Material World has no meaning. The Idealist looks for a progressive tendency within the external world. 

Cannot Do Away With External World
Desire For Knowledge: The one-sided Idealist cannot do away with the external world just as the Materialist cannot do away with the Mind.

STEP #41 (2.5)
Compare Material World And World Of Ideas
 with Materialistic-Idealism

Material World And World Of Ideas
World-Content: This next view, Materialistic-Idealism, accepts both Materialism and Idealism. It’s attention is on the Material World and the World of Ideals. By accepting the view of Materialism it denies the Mind by declaring all phenomena in the world—including our thought—to be the product of physical-processes. 

Materialistic-Idealism
Thought-Content: By also accepting a view that is a variation of Idealism, it denies the external world by saying sense-perception only gives us sense-effects, not true copies of the world. These sense-effects given to us in perception include the thoughts we project into the world. Thus, everything we perceive—including the brain and its physical processes—is actually the product of thought.

The Paradox Of Materialistic-Idealism
Desire For Knowledge: Materialistic-Idealism accepts both Materialism and Idealism. In doing so, it denies both the Mind and the external world, and finds itself within the contradiction of a dissatisfying paradox. Thought is produced by physical processes, and the physical processes (as perceived) are produced by thought.

STEP #42 (2.6)
Compare Indivisible Unity with Two-Fold Manifestation

Indivisible Unity Of Matter And Mind
World-Content: Science has shown how Matter and Mind are already united. Things in the world are indivisibly united with the laws (thought) that govern it. Brain scans demonstrate that our brain-processes are indivisibly united with our thought-processes. Quantum physics shows that Mind is connected with Matter all the way down to the simplest level of subatomic particles.

Two-Fold Manifestation
Thought-Content: Even though Mind and Matter are found to be united in the world, the important question is, How does this unity come to manifest itself to us in a two-fold way? We become conscious of the world by looking outside. We become conscious of our thought by looking within. The world and our thoughts about it do not at first appear to us as an indivisible unity, but are divided into two separate parts. We have to unite our thought-content with the world-content.

Problem Originates In Consciousness, Not The World
Desire For Knowledge: Nothing is gained by seeing the world as an indivisible unity. This shifts the question away from the problem, which is our dissatisfaction with the split that originates in our consciousness between the world and our thoughts.

STEP #43 (2.7)
Compare Contrast Self with Mystery Of Nature

Contrast Self With World
World-Content: It is in our own consciousness that we first encounter the basic and primal polarity. As soon as we begin having thoughts about the world, we break away from the mother ground of Nature and contrast ourselves as “Self” in opposition to the “World.” We observe the world and form our own opinion about it that initially separates us from the truth and others.

Mystery Of Nature
Thought-Content: A poet expressed the human condition in this way: “We are surrounded by Nature, yet we are strangers to her. She constantly speaks to us, yet she does not reveal her secrets.” We are surrounded by a world that we can observe. But even though we can see the world, and have thoughts about it, it remains a mystery to us.

Nature Within
Desire For Knowledge: “Human beings are all within her, and she in each of them.” Nature expresses itself to us in observation and in thought. To make the world-content into our thought-content we must look deeper within ourselves to find the Nature (thought) within us that corresponds to the Nature (world) outside us.

STEP #44 (2.8)
Compare Feel Estranged with Feel Belong

Feel Estranged From Nature
World-Content: We live within the world of Nature yet feel estranged from her.

Feel We Belong To Nature
Thought-Content: We also feel that we belong to Nature. This feeling of belonging to Nature means a connection still exists. The outer working of Nature also lives in us.

Feel Nature Within
Desire For Knowledge: While I am seeing Nature outside of me, at the same time I feel something more of Nature within me. This feeling is the key to finding a connection with Nature once again.

STEP #45 (2.9)
Compare Nature Is Within with Knowing Nature Within

Nature Is Within
World-Content: What is the path back to Nature? It is true we tore ourselves away from Nature as soon as we became conscious of having thoughts, but a part of Nature remains deep within us. By seeking out the essence of Nature in us, we will discover our connection with her once more.

Know Nature Within
Thought-Content: We can find nature outside us only if we first know her within us. Spiritual dualism fails to do this. It considers the human mind a spiritual entity entirely foreign to Nature and attempts somehow to attach it on to Nature..

Path Of Inquiry
Desire For Knowledge: What corresponds to nature within us will be our guide. This marks out our path of inquiry. We will probe into the depths of our being, to find there the conceptual counterpart that corresponds to Nature.

STEP #46 (2.10)
Compare Merely ‘I’ with More Than ‘I’

Merely ‘I’
World-Content: The investigation of our own being must bring us the solution to the problem. It is not enough to say of our inner life: Here ‘I’ am merely ‘I’.

More Than ‘I’
Thought-Content: We must find a place within, where something new is added to our being. We must reach a place where we can say: Here is something more than ‘I’.

Unity Restored
Desire For Knowledge: By looking within an element is discovered that belongs not only to the Self, but also to the World. A concept that arises from within our inner nature is our own, but at the same time, it belongs to Nature. By linking the world-content with its corresponding thought-content, our childhood unity that was once felt, is restored on a higher level by means of thinking.

STEP #47 (2.11)
Compare Conscious Experience with Terms Representing Experience

Descriptions Of Consciousness
World-Content: This presentation is not meant to be academic or scholarly. We have been concerned with simple descriptions of what we all experience in our own consciousness.

Terms Represent Actual Experience
Thought-Content: The terms included such as 'Self', 'Mind', 'World', 'Nature' etc. are not being used according to their precisely defined academic definitions found in Psychology and Philosophy. Instead, they are being used to represent actual experience.

Guide To The Conscious Experience Of Cognition
Desire For Knowledge: One of the keys of study here is to use the descriptions given in the book as a step by step guide to become conscious of one’s own processes of cognition.

STEP #48 (2.12)
Compare Everyday Life with Life Without Interpretation

Description Of Everyday Life
World-Content: Ordinary consciousness does not know the sharp distinctions of scholarship. The purpose here has been solely to record the facts of how we experience everyday life.

Life Without Interpretation
Thought-Content: To object that the above discussions have not been scientific would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism.

Experience Of Consciousness
Desire For Knowledge: I am not concerned with how scholarship has interpreted consciousness, but with how we experience it from moment to moment.

Next Chapter
In the next chapter, “Thinking As A Means Of Forming A View Of The World”, we will look within and investigate the essence of Nature given to us as thought. What is thinking and how is it done?

BOOK TEXT

2. THE FUNDAMENTAL DESIRE FOR KNOWLEDGE

Two souls, alas, dwell within my breast,
Each withdraws from and repels the other.
One is bound to earth with primal, passionate zest,
Clinging with every fiber of its being;
The other soars, spurning the dust,
Ever wings its voyage to lofty meadows of the blest.
(Faust I, lines 1112-1117)

2.0 Striving For Knowledge
[1] With these words Goethe expresses a characteristic deeply rooted in human nature. The human being is not a self-contained whole. He always demands more than what the world itself offers. Nature gives us needs, among them are some left to our own activity to satisfy. Abundant are the gifts we have received, yet more abundant are our desires. We seem born to be dissatisfied. A special case of this dissatisfaction is our desire to know.

We look twice at a tree. The first time we see its branches at rest, the second time in motion. We are not satisfied with this observation. Why, we ask, does the tree appear first at rest and then in motion? Every look at the natural world raises questions. Every phenomenon we meet is a new problem to be solved. Every experience is a riddle. We observe a creature similar to the mother animal emerging from the egg, and ask the reason for this similarity. We observe a living being grow and develop to a certain degree of perfection, and seek the underlying causes. Nowhere are we satisfied with what nature displays before our senses. We look everywhere for what we call an explanation of the facts.

[2] The something more we seek in things, exceeds what is given to us in immediate observation. What we add splits our entire existence into two parts. We become conscious of our opposition to the world. We place ourselves over against the world as an independent being. The universe appears to us as two opposing sides: Self and World.

[3] We erect this wall of separation between ourselves and the world as soon as consciousness lights up within us. But we never lose the feeling we belong to the world, that a bond connects us to it, and that we are beings whose place is not outside, but within the universe.

[4] This feeling makes us strive to bridge the opposition. And in the final analysis the entire spiritual striving of humankind consists in bridging this antithesis. The history of the spiritual life is a continuous quest for the unity between ourselves and the world. This aim is pursued equally by religion, art, and science. The religious believer is dissatisfied with the world of mere appearance. He seeks in the revelations granted him by God, the solution to the world problem which his Self sets before him. The artist seeks to embody into his material the Ideas of his Self, in order to reconcile the spirit that lives in him with the outer world. He, too, feels dissatisfied with the world of mere appearance and seeks to build into it that something more which his Self, transcending mere appearance, contains. The thinker seeks the laws at work in the world of phenomena. He strives to penetrate with thinking what he learns by observing. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we find again the unity from which we have separated ourselves. We will see later this goal can only be reached when the task of scientific research is understood on a deeper level than is usually the case.

The whole of what I have described here is found historically in the contrast between the one-world view, or Monism, and the two-world view, or Dualism. Dualism pays attention only to the separation between Self and World brought about by human consciousness. Its whole effort is a futile struggle to reconcile these two sides, which it calls Mind and Matter, Subject and Object, or Thought and Appearance. The Dualist feels there must be a bridge between the two worlds, but is incapable of finding it.

Monism pays attention only to the unity and tries either to deny or to slur over the opposites, present though they are. Neither of these two points of view can satisfy us, for they do not do justice to the facts. The Dualist sees in Mind (Self) and Matter (World) two essentially different entities, and cannot therefore understand how they can interact with one another. How should Mind be aware of what goes on in Matter, seeing that the essential nature of Matter is quite alien to Mind? Or how in these circumstances should Mind act upon Matter, so as to translate its intentions into actions? The most absurd hypotheses have been propounded to answer these questions. 

The position of the Monists, so far, has not been much better. They have tried three different solutions. Either they deny Mind and become Materialists; or they deny Matter in order to seek their salvation as Spiritualists. Or else they claim Mind and Matter are inseparably united even in the world’s simplest entities, so it is not surprising to find these two forms of existence present in the human being, since after all, they are never found apart.

2.1 Materialism
[5] Materialism can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin by forming thoughts about the phenomena of the world. So Materialism starts with thoughts about Matter and material processes. In doing so, it already has two different kinds of facts before it: the material (physical) world and the thoughts about it. The Materialist tries to understand thought by regarding it as a purely material process. He believes thinking takes place in the brain in much the same way digestion takes place in the animal organs. Just as he attributes mechanical, chemical, and organic processes to Matter, so he credits it in certain circumstances with the ability to think. He overlooks that all he has done is shift the problem to another place. The Materialist attributes the power of thinking to Matter, instead of to himself. And this brings him back to his starting point. How does Matter come to reflect upon its own nature? Why is it not perfectly content to be the way it is, and simply go on existing as it is? The Materialist has turned his attention away from the identifiable subject, from his own Self, and instead occupies himself with the nebulous and indeterminate nature of Matter. Here the same problem comes up again. The materialistic viewpoint cannot solve the problem, it can only shift it to another place.

2.2 Spiritualism
[6] What of the Spiritualistic view? The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) any independent existence and conceives it as merely a product of Mind (the Self). He considers the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself. From all that it achieves by its own spiritual effort, the physical world is never found. This conception of the world finds itself in difficulties as soon as it attempts to produce from Mind any single concrete phenomenon. It cannot do this either in knowledge or in action, as long as it regards its own nature as exclusively spiritual. It seems as if the Ego had to concede that the world would be a closed book to it, unless it could establish a non-spiritual relation to the world.

2.3 Realism
If one would really know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and acquire experience. Without experience Mind can have no content. Similarly, when we carry out actions, we have to realize our intentions on the real, practical level with the help of material things and forces. In other words, we are dependent on the external world.

2.4 Idealism
The most extreme Spiritualist or, better said, Idealist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to derive the whole edifice of the world from the “Ego.” What he accomplished is a magnificent thought-structure of the world without any content of actual experience. As little as it is possible for the Materialist to do away with the Mind, just as little is it possible for the Idealist to do away with the external world.

2.5 Paradox Of Materialistic Idealism
[7] A curious variant of Idealism is the view of F. A. Lange presented in his widely read “History of Materialism.” Lang accepts that the Materialists are right in declaring all phenomena in the world, including our thought, to be the product of purely material processes. Conversely, he also accepts that Matter and its processes are the product of thinking.

"The senses give us only sense-effects... the effects that things have on them, not true copies, and certainly not the things themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses themselves together with the brain and the molecular movements within it.”

This would mean our thinking is produced by material processes, and material processes are produced by our thinking. When translated into concepts, Lange’s philosophy is a conceptual paradox. This makes it an equivalent to the tale of the bold Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

2.6 Indivisible Unity
[8] The third form of Monism is the one that finds, even at the simple level of the atom, Matter and Mind are already united. But nothing is gained by this either, for here again the question that actually originates in our consciousness is shifted to another place. How does the simple entity come to manifest itself in two different ways when it is an indivisible unity?

2.7 Polarity Of Consciousness
[9] Contrary to all these points of view is a fact that must be emphasized. It is in our own consciousness that we first encounter the basic and primal polarity. It is we, ourselves, who break away from the mother ground of Nature and contrast ourselves as “Self” in opposition to the “World.” Goethe has given classical expression to this in his essay “Nature”, even though his way of speaking may sound at first completely unscientific. “Living in the midst of her (nature), yet are we strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays not her secrets.” But Goethe also knows the other side: “Human beings are all within her, and she in each of them.”

2.8 Feeling Nature
[10] It is true we have estranged ourselves from Nature, yet at the same time we feel we are within Nature and belong to her. It can only be that the outer workings of Nature live in us too.

2.9 Knowing Nature Within
[11] We must find the way back to her. A simple reflection can show us the way. While it is true we have torn ourselves away from Nature, we must have retained something of her in our own being. We must seek out this essence of Nature in us, and then we will discover our connection with her once more. Dualism fails to do this. It considers the human mind a spiritual entity entirely foreign to Nature and attempts somehow to attach it on to Nature. No wonder it cannot find the connecting link. We can find nature outside us only if we first know her within us. What corresponds to nature within us will be our guide. This marks out our path of inquiry. We will not speculate about how Nature and Mind interact. Instead, we will probe into the depths of our own being, to find there the elements we retained in our flight from Nature.

2.10 Something More Than ‘I’
[12] The investigation of our own being must bring us the solution to the problem. We must reach a point where we can say, “Here we are no longer merely ‘I’, here is something more than ‘I’.

2.11 Description Of Conscious Experience
[13] I expect some who have read this far will not find my presentation to be in accordance with "the present standing of scholarship." I can only reply that so far I have not been concerned with scientific results of any kind, but rather with simple descriptions of what we all experience in our own consciousness. The inclusion of a few statements about attempts to reconcile Mind and the World have been used only to clarify the actual facts. For this reason, I have not found it necessary to use terms such as 'Self', 'Mind', 'World', 'Nature' etc. in the precise way that is usual in Psychology and Philosophy.

2.12 Facts Of Everyday Life Without Interpretation
Ordinary consciousness does not know the sharp distinctions of scholarship. So far my purpose has been solely to record the facts of how we experience everyday life. To object that the above discussions have not been scientific would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism. I am not concerned with how scholarship has interpreted consciousness, but with how we experience it from moment to moment.

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© Tom Last 2017