If there was no ambiguity about the nature of ‘the real’ there would be no need to single out or believe in the fact of it. As it happens, most of us live in a literal reality – our understandings being shaped by the words used to divine ‘the real’, with the intellect aspiring to truths couched in words of reason, echoing facts said to speak for themselves. Yet words are but foils for ‘the truth’, expounding a logic drawn from the precepts of which we explain our understandings – or is it understand our explanations? – in any case, being expressly validated as a outlook that defers to the facts, as if the facts tell us what to know. But this derived form of realism sidesteps the real task of philosophy – to expose the fictions and unseen contradictions generated by a reasoning that sees no greater truth than itself. For despite knowing that the reasons of today can turn into the regrets of tomorrow, we dutifully abandon our doubts and rationalise away problematic truths with ever more sophisticated forms of sophistry – thereby to convince ourselves that the rhetoric of reason remains our ultimate mentor – as if it is ‘the truth’ that abhors the contradictions – as if the intellectual impasse of contradiction also delimits the nature of ‘the facts’.
Every point of view is a microcosm of the bigger picture, which we do not see because of our focus upon the facts within our view. Nor can all the points of view in the world add up to that bigger picture, as if they can capture it all and perceive full-on the reality that remains greater in its inexplicable power to be – as if ‘explanation’ can equate to that power in which reality perceives itself.
Reality may be seen as a plurality of the physical and metaphysical, more especially because the ‘thinking makes it so’ – for whilst the physical world remains essentially insensible and objective the metaphysical becomes personal and subjective. This form of metaphysics is evident in the nature of thought thinking about itself: ‘I think therefore I am’ – knowledge being a state of mind discernible in the recognition of its own inferences. However, our obsession with the inference of a reality beyond inference leads us to infer that real knowledge belongs to external facts that know nothing, as if they can also explain for us the transition to a knowing universe and demonstrate that the fact of the knowing is a change of less significance than ‘the facts’, in the greater glory of their objective oblivion.
It seems, to those who care to look, that knowledge is a minefield of assumptions beginning with the mind’s inferences about itself. Not surprisingly, popular forms of factual knowledge purport to minimise the need for inference – so in knowing for sure that Paris is the capital of France we may also rest assured that other forms of factual knowledge will not lead us astray. But such knowledge masks its own deficiencies and our ignorance of a deeper truth – that all ‘knowing’ is built upon inferences fashioned into beliefs. Indeed it is belief, rather than fact, that is the patron of knowledge, actively tuning the known by turning and pitching one understanding upon and against another; and no matter whether it ends in agreement or disagreement, that end is mediated by belief because the facts can’t tell us what to know.
Belief and knowledge are more alike than we might imagine, yet we tend to believe that knowledge displaces belief, which is why the ‘knowledgeable’ are dumfounded by what others are prepared to believe in disregard of the ‘known facts’. However, the knowing adds something to those facts, and the conclusions we draw go beyond the facts, entering into the realms of belief by the fact that we are drawing conclusions, and in particular because we feel the need to do so. So whether or not we are ‘in the know’ we are all using beliefs of one sort or another to put that knowledge in perspective, and it is the perspective that determines what we are prepared to make of ‘the facts’. Of course belief and knowledge are not static, then it is a matter of belief whether we take the facts to be static – and in every discipline the basic facts are open to reinterpretation, or not, depending the beliefs upon which that discipline is founded, and by which means the discipline gains its purpose. Indeed, to know is to believe we know, but to truly know is to know we believe and that we ‘believe in order to understand’, knowing that knowledge is built upon the myths by which we ‘explain the inexplicable’.
Being is an agent of change – redefining the facts – introducing sensibilities into a nature without, realising meanings that are inexplicable in terms of a purposeless nature or in terms of chance having charge of order. Thus we occupy a nature that is the same and different – that has changed through one nature building on another – supplying new directions.
Then in what nature lies the belief that ‘nature’ defines our beliefs and governs the reality: that reality shapes itself, evolution creates and the runes of destiny are set in stone – as if life is somehow created by unliving powers, or the passive stones engineer their building and the undeniable presence of intention remains quite unintended?
The world can be seen as nothing but matter in motion, except we may see it otherwise – and it is the seeing that makes the difference, for without that insight the world remains nothing but matter in motion.