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Metaphysics for All

Interviews with Bruno Bérard

Bruno Bérard and Annie Cidéron

Publication in English forecasted in 2024 by Angelico Press

This book is in French and in Italian (March 2024), pending release in English (2024). Here key elements in English:

These twelve interviews, written with Annie Cidéron, have the sole purpose of making metaphysics accessible to all. This discipline is in turn confronted with other sciences, religion, sex, matter, mysticism, esotericism, various metaphysicians… making it possible to answer the question “What is metaphysics?” in a final interview.

Contents

  1. Metaphysics and Science
  2. Metaphysics Biography
  3. Metaphysics and Religion
  4. Metaphysics and Metaphysicians
  5. An Adventure into Metaphysics
  6. Metaphysics and Mysticism
  7. Metaphysics of Believing
  8. Metaphysics of Sex
  9. Metaphysics and Matter
  10. Metaphysics and Esotericism
  11. Metaphysics and the Post-Mortem
  12. What is Metaphysics?

Excerpt

To believe or to know?

We often oppose the believers who believe and the scholars who know. “Believing” would therefore come under religion and “knowing” under science. But it is not that simple. Can we believe in something we know nothing about? Similarly, do we really know something we do not believe? It is therefore an illusion to think that believing and knowing are mutually exclusive.

AC. But don’t we have the cognitive order that goes from ignorance to knowledge via belief?

BB. In fact, it is necessary to add to the cognitive order the volitional order, that is to say the assent which implies the will (Borella). It is even demonstrated that any proof necessarily is a belief.

AC. How so?

BB. There is this perpetual confrontation between these two fundamentally disjoint domains in the order of rationality: words and things, speeches and facts. “A proposition will be proved if, after having been established by a recognized method, it is the subject of a belief”. We have in fact these two disjoint elements: the statement to be proven and the objective device for testing the statement. A first necessary belief, subjective, is that of the recipient of the proof in the effectiveness of this one, the second, intersubjective, is that of the well-foundedness of the procedures of the proof (Fernando Gil, 1937-2006).

AC. Indeed, but these two necessary beliefs are rarely put forward in science.

BB. Because the technical or practical efficiency serves as a proof. In any case, we see here that believing and knowing are inseparably combined. When Kant says “I had to suppress knowledge, to find a place for faith”, it seems to me that this irreducible combination is missing.

AC. Remind me of his reasoning?

BB. He postulates that the metaphysical objects: Myself, the World and God, are unknowable (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781), but, although they are empirically unknowable (one cannot see, feel or touch them), it is reasonable to postulate them as morally necessary hypothesis (Critique of Practical Reason, 1788).

AC. It’s balancing act!

BB. Unstable, as soon as one is no longer subjugated by rationalist construction, or reduction if you will.

The next distinction in our approach to believing is between knowing and cognizance.

Knowledge or cognizance?

To go straight to the point, I would say that knowledge is built, cognizance is a given.

AC. You need to tell me more.

BB. The world of knowledge itself is paradoxical. On the one hand, what we know is that we know nothing (Socrates/Plato; Montaigne, 1533-1592), but, on the other hand, the accumulation of knowledge is obvious in sciences, technologies, craftsmanship. This is because theoretical knowledge always remains plausible hypotheses, while practical knowledge is irrefutable.

Cognizance is something else, entirely! It is ungenerateable, it is a pure acknowledgement (Borella): there is cognizance! That is the intellect—which comes from the outside (Aristotle), as we have said—the understanding that happens, the meaning that reveals itself.

AC. This is what Meister Eckhart says: “The intellect is uncreatable as such”!

BB. Exactly! cognizance is the transcendental condition for any cognitive act. This is the example, already mentioned I believe, of the light that infuses a crystal. Is it produced by the crystal? And if not: how to distinguish the intellect from the light it receives? (Borella). We will conclude that the intellect, in its superhuman essence, is uncreated and uncreatable and that “the cognitive content of the intellect exceeds the degree of reality of its manifestation” (Borella), as already quoted.

To believe is therefore to give one’s assent to a statement that one takes to be true. It can be, for example, a family relationship or water that boils at 100°C; either we will give our confidence to a testimony, or we can verify it empirically by ourselves.

AC. Suffice to say that for the vast majority of knowledge we trust testimonials, even if they are very indirect. But what if it is about cognizance?

BB. It is the simple awareness of the power of intelligence, compared to the simple reason (Plato), of the supernaturality of the intellect or of intelligible forms (Aristotle), of the ingeneretability of meaning or the “semantic principle” (Borella). These are also the examples mentioned during a previous interview: the experience of the thought of the greatest (St. Anselme) or God as the source of the thought of God (Descartes).

If intelligence is indeed “supernatural by nature” and “of metaphysical essence”, if “the intellect already is a divine something” (Borella), the knowledge we are talking about is access, by the nature of this intellect, to what goes beyond man.

Notice of publication

We may be surprised to learn that metaphysics is a science, developed by the very founder of science: Aristotle. The rigor of his scientific discourse thus completes what Plato established once and for all before him: a metaphysics by access of the intelligence to what goes beyond Nature and to the meaning of the things of the world and of life.

Confronted with religion, sex, mysticism, death, matter, belief… metaphysics then appears obvious and, like M. Jourdain discovering he talks in prose (Molière), everyone discovers himself, like any human beings, to be a “metaphysical animal” (Schopenhauer).

These interviews, almost casual conversations with Annie Cidéron, provide an easy approach to metaphysics and may lead to adopt the approach, if desired.

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