Bumble, Carpenter, Honey, etc…
They all look like bees, for they all are, and yet they are each different. What does it mean for us to recognize sameness and otherness? Prompted by a passage from Plato’s Meno, we began to wade into the mystery of the one and the many.
Modern Science fixes all bees within a species. This is a taxonomic distinction based in biology. But the term ‘species’ hearkens back to a philosophic source.
Remarkably, philosophy does not have to mean abstract or abstruse. We find in ancient philosophy just the opposite an exploration of reality grounded in ordinary intuitive experience.
‘Species’ comes from the Latin spec, ‘to see or to look’ which was chosen by medieval’s to translate Aristotle (who was himself following Plato). The original Greek word Aristotle and Plato used can be transliterated as ‘eidos’ and is the philological parent of the Latin ‘video’ (I see). Most people are familiar with this term being rendered as ‘form’
For Plato, a look or form describes both what made a thing what it is (as in a bee) and allowed one to know it as such. Accordingly, a bee participates in a certain look which makes it what it is. And it is by this look that one recognizes a bee as such. Thus it is by looking that we know what something is.
Thus Plato connects the ordinary act of looking with the extraordinary reality of being, a reality which presents the aspect of the one and the many!
But it is at this point that one must reexamine what is meant by looking and by seeing. Perhaps the next post will be a chance to explore this.
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