Quora Answer: Are there Meta-levels of Being? If so what are they?

Here I will explain my answer to this question which goes to the heart of the nature of Continental Philosophy to my mind.

There are myriads, it seems, kinds of Being discovered in Continental Philosophy. How can we understand them all. One route I have taken is to understand them in terms of the theory of Higher Logical Types of Russell. It was abandoned by the Analytical Philosophers, so perhaps we can use it to understand the menagerie of kinds of Being in Continental Philosophy.
This is a long story, but to try to put it as concisely, when Husserl distinguished Ideas from Essences he basically inaugurated the search for the various kinds of Being because Heidegger took up this distinction and said that Dasein had two modalities of Being present-at-hand (Pure Being) and ready-to-hand (Process Being). This opened the flood gates and from then on out everyone seemed to have their own set of distinctions with respect to Being, and that is one of the reasons that Continental philosophy is so hard to understand for Analytical Philosophers. Because they eschew phenomenology despite the relation of Frege to Husserl they cannot understand why there could be anything in Being except pure unity and totality and thus they are still caught up in the illusion that Being is an undifferentiated plenum. In Continental Philosophy however phenomenologists have looked into experience and found certain distinctions go so deep in our experience that they actually partition Being into different modalities and this is all based on the realization that essences are not simple ideas as Descartes thought but are completely different from ideas which are abstract glosses, while essences are constraints on attributes of things that determine the limits of their whatness. So there is a separate essence perception according to Husserl and that is not mediated by the glosses of ideas but another path of access to what is. We can look at abstract categories of things, or we can look at the phenomenal manifestation of things as noematic nuclei which have both external and internal coherence. The internal coherence is the essence of the thing. Once we make this distinction based on what we find in experience, then we can say that it is a priori and that it actually partitions Being itself into modalites of the being-in-the-world of Dasein as Heidegger does.
But then Heidegger discovered that once you make a distinction that goes that deep all the way down to partition Being as it is experienced itself, then the distinction cannot be the same as the two other parts of Being, so we need a third kind of Being to distinguish the first two. Heidegger calls this Being crossed out and Derrida made his mark by exploiting this idea and called it Differance (differing and deferring), Merleau-Ponty called it the Hyper-Dialectic between the Process Being of Heidegger, and the Nothingness of Sartre, which is the inversion of Heideggers concept of Being. This explosion of kinds of Being worried Heidegger and he sought a different way to approach Being that did not lead to what seemed an infinite regress of kinds of Being. Once we had Hyper Being (as I call it following Merleau-Ponty) then it is clear that there must be a dual to that too, and so Merleau-Ponty posited that there was Wild Being also. Once this was identified then Deleuze and others tried to create a philosophy at that level, but this is very difficult because the higher you go into the meta-levels of Being the harder it is to think what they are and how they are different even though the differences are fundamental.
The real revelation was that when Heidegger went back to Aristotle he could see that the kinds of Process Being that he was proposing was already there in concepts like truth as aletheia rather than verification. And amazingly we can see in the Timaeus that the idea that there is a third kind of Being exists there explicitly, and we can even see traces of Wild Being in that work. So these kinds of Being were known in antiquity but forgotten in the tradition as it moved from language to language and basic concepts were redefined. Once it was discovered that the ancients knew about these kinds of Being then the doubts about them evaporated. But still it was not clear how they were related to each other.
My idea which I expressed in my first dissertation was that they are meta-levels of Being, in the sense of Logical type theory of Russell (via Copi). Thus first you have Ontological difference between Being and beings, then at the first meta-level you have Pure Being which is the kind of being that Parmenides talks about. But at the second meta-level you have Process Being that Heraclitus talks about. Plato is always contrasting these and looking for some way to mediate between them. But at the third meta-level things start getting strange as you can see by both Derrida and Plato’s treatment of the third kind of Being. And this is the point where most people bale out, because it is too hard to think of something that is always slip sliding away as Paul Simon said. And when we think of the dual of Hyper Being which is Wild Being then it becomes almost impossible to think what that fourth meta-level might be. But various continental philosophers have given it a try the most notable of which is Deleuze.
What I think is convincing in this regard is the fact the higher logical type theory is there to resolve paradox when we break the rule that a class cannot be a member of itself. Type theory resolves almost all paradoxes, but at the expense of infinite levels of types, each of which are partitioned. We get to these higher level by repeating the same word over with different meanings each time. For instance, Gregory Bateson talks about Learning, Learning to Learn, Learning to Learn to Learn, etc. When we look at Being we notice that there are meta-levels of Being, and are also shared aspects that change at every meta-level like Truth, Reality, Presence and Identity. Thus there are layers of types and then partitions of the types at each level, creating differences in what is the same, i.e. Being, the great Paradox, or even Absurdity that appears only in Indo-european languages. Everyone has their own interpretation of what Being means. But we all use it when ever we speak about the standing something has within the world. So at the same time it is the most empty and most full concept, and thus it is nihilistic.
Is this arborescent? We can see it as merely a differencing within difference of the Same. Thus it is precisely the same thing that Deleuze is talking about when he differentiates meta-levels of difference. What we can say is that these are the most radical differences that can be thought at the most basic level within the Indo-European worldview. And oddly enough it is the basis for the Caste structure that is endemic in this worldview and because the Castes each have their own gods this is the fundamental distinction that is seen between the Indo-european gods, for instance those that appear in the Vedas. Thus the fragmentation of Being can be seen as the differences between the gods in Indo-european worldview. And that means that basically this difference that was rediscovered by Continental philosophy goes back as far as we can go within our Western Indo-european worldview, and so that makes it amazingly persistent, and that persistence is what is captured in the concept of Being itself. I try to explain this in my book The Fragmentation of Being and the Path beyond the Void.
Once we realize that Being is inherently fragmented with the most radical differences that can be thought then we have to look at those differences not from the point of view of Being reflecting on itself, and seeing its own self-difference, but in terms of pure difference per se. And what we see as discontinuities between the kinds of Being are glimpses of the bedrock of existence beneath the fragmented scaffolding of Being. Then we realize that because each kind of Being is getting harder to think, so that the fifth becomes impossible that we are not in an infinite regress, but in fact what happens is that at the fifth meta-level there is a phase transition and we find ourselves in Existence rather than in Being. So Existence is at the core of the Western worldview. And Existence can be interpreted as empty as in Buddhism or void as in Taoism. What is strange is that there are dual interpretations of nonduality. And if this is the case there must be something distinguishing them and it turns out that this is the fifth meta-level of Being the singularity I call Ultra Being. Thus we get this strange inversion in which Being which is projected illusion actually distinguishes between different interpretations of Existence.
What is important about this is that it means we can start the dialogue with these non-western oriental traditions on a common ground, and that existence is at the core of our world view too, hidden by the veils of Being. Thus it is possible to have a true nondual existentialism within our worldview. The kinds of Being that seemed to be stairs to nowhere, actually end up outside of Being altogether. And so there is at the core of Being a way to connect to Non-being. The hierarchy of the meta-levels is imposed by logic and the mind in the confrontation with paradox and absurdity (extreme paradoxical paradox) like in Kierkegaard. Buddhism and Taoism are very sophisticated nondual philosophies. Our tradition is completely dualistic, and has excluded as Other the nondual that appeared in the Western tradition as the heresy of Islam. But what is strange is that the Western worldview has a door to nonduality at its core. And so it is possible to think the nondual and realize its relation to the duality of Being. The duality of Being first expresses itself in the opposites of Pure and Process Being, but these then in turn have their own dual which is Hyper and Wild Being. This inherent quadrature comes to an end in the singularity of Ultra Being. All the kinds of Being essentially transform the Aspects (Reality, Truth, Presence and Identity. But we can also identify Existence as Neither Aspect nor anti-Aspect, and the Quintessence as Both Aspect and Anti-aspect. The quintessence shows up in ideas like the Philosophers Stone, the substance that transforms all other substances. Existence takes account of the aspects but says that it is other than them, i.e. it is nondual with respect to them.

Posted February 2, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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