Levels of Being

Parmenides provided us a view of reality where there are only two choices: something either is or is not. In his view it makes no sense to speak of “levels of being” it is preposterous. Plato, however, recognizes an “in between” which is situated between is and is-not between Being and non-being. How is that possible one might ask?

What if we take seriously that, “to be is to be intelligible,” and we conceive of being as related to awareness? Things can are ‘seen’ and apprehended more or less clearly. perceiving-the-world-3-of-9-13-638Therefore the content of awareness can be more or less ‘true’ or ‘real.’ Eric Perl emphasizes that the ‘in between status’ of things must be understood as “different modes of givenness and apprehension (Perl, Thinking Being, p. 35).” Things perceived by our senses are given to awareness and as such are neither reality itself by itself but neither are they nothing or non-being. They are in between Being and non-being. They are real insofar as they have an identity, a ‘common look’ given to awareness. They are non-being insofar as they are not these ‘common looks’ themselves by themselves.

The distinction is not between two metaphysical entities additional to one another, but is rather analogous to the distinction between a thing and as seen in a mirror and the same thing as seen by itself.”

Eric D. Perl, Thinking Being, p. 37.

The mode of apprehension related to reality itself by itself is knowledge, the mode of apprehension for reality as it appears, is given to awareness, is opinion. This is not a distinction between two levels of being as such, but higher and lower ways in which reality can be apprehended. To close with a clarifying explanation from Perl:

The distinction between knowledge and opinion, therefore, unlike that between knowledge and ignorance, is not a simple opposition, but is rather a distinction between the perfect and therefore paradigmatic apprehension of reality, and a less perfect apprehnsion of reality.

Perl, Ibid, p. 37.

Once more it appears that the two-world theory of Platonism does not necessarily follow. Being as form simply means that to be is to be intelligible. Being itself by itself is what gives identity to things so that several things can present a ‘common look’ to awareness. Forms do not force a dualism upon us as is supposed by the two-world theory of Platonism.

Fr. Gregory Wassen

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