As I stated in my last post, I have been reviewing my Western Civ the past few days. In the process, I have become reacquainted with some old friends from my college days. (As I earned a degree in philosophy, I consider Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to be old friends). In this case, it was something Plato wrote about that caught my attention: the essence of “cat.”
I’ll try to keep this as simple and short as possible while, at the same time, tying it in to several of my recent posts about language and the origin of the universe. Yes, my dear friends, the essence of “cat,” language and the Creator are all connected, and here’s how:
Plato posited that, if all things were material, and there is nothing but the material (as many modern atheists have argued), then how do we explain the fact that you understand me when I say “cat.” If this world were strictly material, “cat” would have no meaning. I would have to specify a particular cat or you could have no idea what I was talking about. Yet, as different as they are in their particulars, if I say “cat,” you understand I can be talking about a house cat, a picture of a cat or even a lion or jaguar. To Plato, this means that there must be something non-material that defines the “essence” of “cat:” what it means to be “cat.” What’s more, this non-material “essence” is universal: it applies to all cats, everywhere, at all times. From the necessity of this non-material knowledge, Plato posited that there must also be other non-material definitions for things such as morality and good/bad, desirable/undesirable. And that, my friends, establishes a universal concept of morality, and of good/bad, right/wrong. This is all connected to how we use language.
There is a corollary that I have written about here. In short, scientists have determined that there is some aspect of our “essence” that is not or cannot be explained in material terms. They discovered this when they found that they could mechanically manipulate all aspects of the human body through direct stimulation of the brain, but they could never do anything that the test subjects were not aware they were doing. If they caused the test subject to raise her arm involuntarily, she was conscious of it and would tell them she did not do it. Materialism has no explanation for how she could know this. What’s more, they were never able to induce or change a memory or affect a decision. Thus, they concluded that humans have – for lack of a better term – a soul. By definition, a soul is non-material, which means it cannot be explained in strictly material terms.
Both the “essence” of “cat” and the existence of the human soul speak to the existence of things beyond or outside the material existence of this four dimensional universe. And, if they can and do exist, then this implies that there must be a Creator, as a non-material Creator is the only way the material can be explained. This links us to my post on the Unmoved Mover, another argument created by yet another of my Greek philosopher friends.
Incidentally, my Greek friends did not define freedom as the ability to pursue whatever makes you feel good. They defined it as having the liberty to pursue the growth of our minds through better understanding the nature of the world around us. To them, objective reality was a given, and the ultimate “good” or “morality” was to understand it as best we can as individuals. The pursuit of wisdom and understanding was their highest ideal – not the “right” to free healthcare, birth control and joints.
How far we have fallen…