We are all fond of metaphors, or similes — be it life, career, or any conversation. For most of us, the metaphor of gadgets, not their inner working, is imperative, also important. Well, to cull another allegory — the ancient Greeks always thought that the mind worked like a catapult. This was not because the catapult-contraption was made of wood and rope.

The philosopher Aristotle contended that the mind was the establishing principle of the body: “That is why we can wholly dismiss as unnecessary the question whether the soul and the body are one: it is as though we were to ask whether the wax and its shape are one.” His guru, Plato, on the contrary, believed that the mind represented a dissimilar kind of substance from the body, just as much as other Platonistic philosophers embraced and eulogised the idea. Yet, the fact is Aristotle holds as much ground today, as he did over 2,500 years ago, with his doctrine, not just standpoint, of the mind being the process rather than a distinct, if not detached, object. You’d think of a modern metaphor in the context. The quintessence of artificial intelligence (AI), including its research, celebrates this Aristotelian precept and percept — as computation.

There has to be a reason for everything, including metaphors. The philosopher Immanuel Kant based all our hopes and aspirations on reason, and nothing else. He “purged,” or dismissed, all alternatives as varying forms of delusion, although he alluded grudgingly that our reason was restricted in its latitude, or range. He believed that our “true self” mirrored our frame of mind. This, he observed, reflected the most fundamental, or essential, philosophic, or metaphysical, questions — whether or not our answers to such questions were beyond our perimeter of thought and/or rational interpretation, or grasp. You’d think of this contextual awning as a cascading paradox in Kant’s writing, because if reason, as he admitted, is our best, also strong, friend, it could just as well fail, most often in the end. This leads us to one big question: how can knowledge of the ultimate be ever possible? Or, how could it also ever serve as the foundation for all our hopes, or goals? 

This leads us to delve into what the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel articulated as the conception of the self with a relational underpinning — where the self is linked as a “thing” fixed within its relational essence. This may appear as being contrary to intuition, or common sense expectation, too. Yet, it provides a resourceful platform for understanding the self at the causal level as a solitary entity that also depicts harmony. You’d think of this whole facet as being a part of the relational equation. Or, you’d embark on the idea of what Kant visualised as ‘two-worldly’ living, founded on the limitations of reason. The best part of this metaphor is modern science allows us to clasp appearances, what with the idea of reality being earmarked as our article of faith. This, yet again, follows the Kantian model of metaphysics — what with its natural proclivity for reason that also includes our soul, or prana, in Eastern philosophy.

Philosophy is the exposition of two encasing modes: a roadmap to knowledge and also compendium to living. The latter emerges from a precise appreciation of human existence. In terms of our journey through life, it drives us from Dante Alighieri’s darkness to light and from appearance, as the Indian philosopher Madhvacharya underlined, to reality. What does this connote? That our voyage would only be fruitful when we liberate ourselves from the shackles of “self-subjugation” to freedom.

(The writer is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author)

Rajgopal Nidamboor