Absolute (philosophy)

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Absolute (philosophy)
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{{redirect|The Absolute|the Animorphs novel|The Absolute (Animorphs)||Absolute (disambiguation)}}{{Use American English|date=January 2019}}{{Use mdy dates|date=January 2019}}{{Short description|Concept of an ultimate being in philosophy}}The concept of the Absolute, also known as The (Unconditioned) Ultimate, The Wholly Other, The Supreme Being, The Absolute/Ultimate Reality, The Ground of Being, Urgrund, The Absolute Principle, The Source/Fountain/Well/Center/Foundation of Reality, The Ultimate Oneness/Whole, The Absolute God of The Universe, and other names, titles, aliases, and epithets, is the thing, being, entity, power, force, reality, presence, law, principle, etc. that possesses maximal ontological status, existential ranking, existential greatness, or existentiality. In layman's terms, this is the entity that is the greatest, highest, or "truest" being, existence, or reality. There are many conceptions of the Absolute in various fields and subjects, such as philosophy, religion, spiritual traditions, formal science (such as mathematics), and even natural science. The nature of these conceptions can range from "merely" encompassing all physical existence, nature, or reality, to being completely unconditioned existentially, transcending all concepts, notions, objects, (wikt:entity|entities), and types, kinds, and categories of being. The Absolute is often thought of as generating manifestations that interact with lower or lesser types, kinds, and categories of being. This is either done passively, through emanations, or actively, through avatars and incarnations. These existential manifestations, which themselves can possess transcendent attributes, only contain minuscule or infinitesimal portions of the true essence of the Absolute. The term itself was not in use in ancient or medieval philosophy, but closely related to the description of God as actus purus in scholasticism. It was introduced in modern philosophy, notably by Hegel, for "the sum of all being, actual and potential".{{CathEncy|wstitle=The Absolute}}The term has since also been adopted in perennial philosophy.BOOK, The Perennial Philosophy, Huxley, Aldous, 2009-01-01, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 9780061724947, New York, English, BOOK,weblink Systematic Theology. Vol. I., Tillich, Paul, 1951-01-01, University of Chicago Press,

Major conceptions

{{synthesis|date=November 2017}}In one conception the Absolute is the most true and intelligible reality. It can be spoken of and known. For example, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Absolute Spirit is the most true reality. It is thinkable, speakable, and exists in the objective world by comprehending everything, including people, states, and world history. In another, the Absolute might be conceived of as utterly outside of all other reality and hence unintelligible. It cannot be known or spoken about. Plato's Socrates says that "The Form of the Good" is "beyond being",Plato, Republic, Book VI, 508. implying that it is even beyond thought, language, and normal categories of existence.St. John of the Cross says:{{poemquote|text=He who truly arrives therecuts free from himself;all that he knew beforenow seems worthless,and his knowledge so soarsthat he is left in unknowingtranscending all knowledge.BOOK,weblink The Complete Works of Saint John of the Cross, Volume 1 of 2, Cross, St John of the, 2015-01-16, Waxkeep Publishing, English, }}In conception three the Absolute is seen as transcending duality and distinction. This concept of a fundamental reality that transcends or includes all other reality is usually (but not always) associated with divinity. While this conception initially seems contradictory, it has been highly influential. One way to understand this third conception is to consider the Tao Te Ching.{{poemquote|text=The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.The name that can be named is not the eternal name.|source=Tao Te Ching, 1}}These opening lines distinguish between two Taos. One is the "eternal Tao" (which cannot be named or explained) and the other "Tao" seems to exist in space and time (and can be named and explained). The eternal Tao is beyond existence and cannot be named or fully understood, while the other Tao exists and can be known. The eternal Tao is infinite; the other is finite. The eternal Tao is formless; the other is formed. The eternal Tao is transcendent; the other is immanent. The other "Tao" is an attempt to describe the "eternal Tao" in human terms; but such effort can never express the eternal Tao fully. He continues:{{poemquote|text=The nameless is the origin of Heaven and EarthThe named is the mother of myriad thingsThus, constantly without desire, one observes its essenceConstantly with desire, one observes its manifestationsThese two emerge together but differ in nameThe unity is said to be the mystery.}}In these lines, he further discusses the difference between the two Taos. The eternal Tao is "nameless" and is the origin of Heaven and Earth; this origin can be understood as an underlying metaphysics that cannot be described fully. The "named" Tao, on the other hand, is able to describe specific phenomenons that exist in space and time, hence it is the mother of myriad of things; it also can be treated as the humanly conceived concepts in the effort to describe our physical world. Later, he points out that both the "named" and the "nameless" emerge together from the same eternal Tao. This seemingly self-contradictory unity, of course, is said to be the mystery to be understood.

Cross-cultural conception

One or more of these conceptions of the Absolute can be found in various other perspectives. The following is a list of conceptions of the Absolute.Note that generally the list is ordered alphabetically, but some of the sublists are ordered by historical precedence: Catholic theology*Scholasticism and Thomas Aquinas: Thomism and Thought of Thomas Aquinas — Actus purus, Actus primusEastern Orthodox theology — Essence–energies distinctionOriental Orthodoxy — MiaphysitismProtestant theology — Five solae*Paul Tillich — God Above God Nicolas Malebranche — God Ishikism — Haqq-Muhammad-Ali Thales of Miletus — Arche, identified as the classical element waterAnaximander — ApeironAnaximenes of Miletus — Air (classical element) Pythagoras — Monad (philosophy), Dyad (Greek philosophy), Musica universalisHippasus — Fire (classical element)Philolaus — Harmony, Pythagorean astronomical systemArchytas — Cosmos, as an unlimited system Parmenides — What-Is, embodied and unified by The One, with nonbeing encompassed by The Void (philosophy)Zeno of Elea — What-IsMelissus of Samos — The One Anaxagoras — NousArchelaus (philosopher) — Air (classical element) and Infinity (philosophy), with the Nous, formed from the two principles, being the cause of all other thingsEmpedocles — The Perfect Sphere Antisthenes — GodDiogenes — PhysisDio Chrysostom — Physis Platonic Academy — generally Form of the Good*Old Platonic Academy**Speusippus — The Ultimate Principle, as the Absolute One**Xenocrates — Unity, in the form(s) of the World Soul and Zeus*Middle Platonic Academy**Arcesilaus — the unknown and possibly unknowable Aletheia/Truth*New Platonic Academy**Carneades — the unknown and possibly unknowable Aletheia/Truth**Philo of Larissa — possibly NoumenonMiddle Platonism — generally God as a Unity*Antiochus of Ascalon — Logos, which orders the cosmos, and Matter (philosophy), in the form of the four major classical elements, with Fire (classical element) being the greatest, making up stars and planets, as well as minds and even god*Philo — God*Plutarch — Monad (philosophy)/The One/God and the Indefinite Dyad (Greek philosophy)*Alcinous (philosopher) — God*Maximus of Tyre — God*Numenius of Apamea — The First God, which is a Nous embodying the Form of the Good*Origen the Pagan — The OneNeoplatonism — The One*Plotinus — The One*Ammonius Saccas — Nous*Porphyry (philosopher) — Porphyrian tree*Iamblichus — Monad (philosophy) and Nous*Julian (emperor) — Henosis*Hypatia — The One*Plutarch of Athens — Logos*Asclepigenia — The One{{dn|date=May 2019}}*Syrianus — The One{{dn|date=May 2019}}, Monad (philosophy), and Dyad (Greek philosophy)*Proclus — The One*Damascius — God*Simplicius of Cilicia — The One*John Philoponus — God Theophrastus — Motion (physics)Strato of Lampsacus — PhysisCritolaus — Physis, Eternity of the worldDiodorus of Tyre — A combination of Virtue with the absence of painAlexander of Aphrodisias — GodThemistius — God Metrodorus of Lampsacus (the younger) — AponiaZeno of Sidon — AponiaPhilodemus — AponiaLucretius — PhysisDiogenes of Oenoanda — Hedone and Virtue Nigidius Figulus — likely Monad (philosophy)Numenius of Apamea — The First GodApollonius of Tyana — Nous Pyrrho — Acatalepsia and AtaraxiaTimon of Phlius — Acatalepsia and AtaraxiaAenesidemus — AcatalepsiaAgrippa the Skeptic — AcatalepsiaSextus Empiricus — Ataraxia Zeno of Citium — God as the Universe, with Aether (classical element) as the basis of all activity withinAristo of Chios — GodHerillus — KnowledgeCleanthes — ZeusChrysippus — GodAntipater of Tarsus — GodPanaetius — GodPosidonius — Cosmic "Sympathy"Seneca the Younger — Nature, see Naturales quaestionesLucius Annaeus Cornutus — ZeusGaius Musonius Rufus — JupiterEpictetus — ReasonMarcus Aurelius — Logos, see Meditations Cicero — Summum bonum Chan Buddhism — Buddha-nature, ŚūnyatāJapanese Zen — Buddha-nature, ŚūnyatāVietnamese Thiền — Buddha-nature, Eternal Buddha, ŚūnyatāKorean Seon — Buddha-nature, Śūnyatā Nichiren Shōshū — Dai Gohonzon, Nichiren, and Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō Jōdo-shū — AmitābhaJōdo Shinshū — Amitābha, Buddha-nature, Śūnyatā, Sukhavati Nyingma — Samantabhadra the Adi-Buddha, embodiment of Dharmakāya, with Vajradhara as his emanationKagyu — Shentong, Mahamudra*Dagpo Kagyu**Karma Kagyu — Mahamudra, Avalokiteśvara incarnated as Karmapa**Phagdru Kagyu — Mahamudra**Taklung Kagyu — Vajradhara and Vajrayogini**Drikung Kagyu — MahamudraSakya — VajradharaGelug — Śūnyatā, Amitābha incarnated as Panchen Lama, Avalokiteśvara incarnated as Dalai LamaJonang — Tathāgatagarbha, DharmakāyaRimé movement — Samantabhadra the Adi-Buddha, embodiment of Dharmakāya, with Vajradhara as his emanation, Shentong, Mahamudra, Kadam (Tibetan Buddhism) — BodhicittaBodongpa — Vajravārāhī incarnated as Samding Dorje Phagmo Earliest influences (Yuan dynasty, 1277–1377)*White Lotus — Wusheng Laomu*Maitreya teachings — MaitreyaMing dynasty (1367–1644) and Qing dynasty (1644–1911)*Baguadao — Wusheng Laomu*Luo teaching — "True Void" (真空 Zhēnkōng), Wuji (philosophy), Zhēn (真 "Truth", "True Reality"), Gǔfú (古佛 "Ancient Awakened"), The Eternal Parents (無生父母 Wúshēng Fùmǔ): Holy Patriarch of the Unlimited (无极圣祖 Wújí Shèngzǔ) and Wusheng Laomu**Chinese religions of fasting — Wusheng Laomu**Yiguandao — Wusheng Laomu or the Splendid Highest Deity (Chinese: 明明上帝; pinyin: Míngmíng Shàngdì)*Church of the Highest Supreme — Wusheng Laomu*Sanyi teaching — Taiji (philosophy)Republic of China (1912–49)*Zaili teaching — Guanyin the "Only God of the Unlimited" (无极只神 Wújí Zhīshén)*Xiantiandao — Wusheng Laomu**Yaochidao — Queen Mother of the West*Guiyidao — The Holiest Venerable Patriarch of the Primordial Heaven (Zhisheng Xiantian Laozu)*Shanrendao — Dao*Tiandi teachings — The "Heavenly Deity" or "Heavenly Emperor" (Tiāndì 天帝)*De teaching — De (Chinese)*Yellow Sand Society — De (Chinese)Late 20th century*Xuanyuan teaching — Yellow Emperor*Way of the Gods according to the Confucian Tradition — Tao*Qigong — Qi, Yin and yang, Wu Xing**Falun Gong — Tao21st century*Weixinism — Kunlun (mythology) Way of the Celestial Masters — QiShangqing School — Yuanshi TianzunLingbao School — Yuanshi Tianzun According to Hippolytus — not-being GodAccording to Irenaeus and Epiphanius — the Unbegotten and Innominable Father Naassenes — The First Man (Protanthropos, Adamas) Marcosians and Marcus (Marcosian) — Tetrad Chinese Manichaeism — Shangdi/Míngzūn/Zhēnshén Shaktism — Shakti, Mahavidya, Adi Parashakti, Matrikas, Vishwambhari, Smarta tradition — Para Brahman, manifesting as Saguna brahman in the forms of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha, and Devi (Shakti), see Panchayatana puja Ganapatya — Ganesha, Mahaganapati, Thirty-two forms of Ganesha, Saura (Hinduism) — Surya as the Saguna Brahman Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha — Swaminarayan Narragansett people — Cautantowwit Huilliche people — Chaotroquin Ichma culture — Pacha Kamaq


{{synthesis|date=November 2017}}While these conceptions are superficially similar, they admit of multiple interpretations. Some philosophers, especially perennialists and pantheist philosophers, find great significance in the similarities between these different words and argue that various/all cultures past and present have an identical concept of the 'Absolute'.Other philosophers, however, argue that these concepts are not the same,BOOK,weblink Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Introduction, Yandell, Keith E., 2002-01-22, Routledge, 9781134827237, en, JOURNAL, Moser, Paul, 2009-01-01, Exclusivism, Inclusivism, and Kardiatheology,weblink Philosophia Christi, 11, 2, 293–308, since the Logos is rational and formal whereas Brahman is formless and irrational; and since Plato's Form of the Good is impersonal where the Christian God is personal; since Bradley's Absolute is a conscious experience whereas Brand Blanshard's Absolute is an unconscious, intelligible system.Perennialist philosophers such as John Hick argue that even if the concepts vary slightly, the reality of the Absolute reality behind the varying concepts is the same.WEB,weblink Hick, John {{!, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy||access-date=2016-04-27}}

Within religious traditions

{{synthesis|date=November 2017}}Philosophers such as Adi Shankara denied the Absolute any personal sense, whereas philosophers such as Ramanuja and Madhva, tended to identify the Absolute with a personal God. The Traditionalist School, via Frithjof Schuon, admits:}}Early Hinduism identified Brahman with Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The same immortal spirit was conceived of as functional in the world in three ways: creation, preservation, and destruction.WEB,weblink The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Draupadi-harana Parva: Section CCLXX, Ganguli, Kisari Mohan, Sacred Texts, The Supreme Spirit hath three conditions. In the form of Brahma, he is the Creator, and in the form of Vishnu he is the Preserver, and in his form as Rudra, he is the Destroyer of the Universe!, There was therefore no real contradiction between love of a personal God and an impersonal Absolute, although the latter was sometimes conceived of as "purer."WEB,weblink Nirguna and Saguna Brahman, Rodrigues, Hillary, 2015, Mahavidya, Until this occurs, "the world...even including Isvara (the Lord), is not ultimately true or real, but that ultimate reality belongs only to the infinite, eternal, unchanging, pure bliss consciousness that is Brahman...all that we see with our senses, even our private thoughts, Advaita claims, are not ultimately real" (Betty 216)., Shaivism, and most monotheistic Indian religions, gave God five functions: creation, preservation, destruction, concealment, and revelation. Shiva, as Brahman, would therefore act in the world as a personal God. Yet this distinction between the Absolute and Infinite, or Transcendent and Immanent is not entirely, in itself, absolute. Philosophers like Shankara believe that upon doing away with maya the entire universe disappears, including the notion of a personal God. Philosophers such as Madhva and Ramanuja, tend to propound an identification of the Absolute with God, whereas later philosophers such as Nimbarka and Caitanya, tended to identify the Absolute with a personal form of God (Krishna). Either way, all these claims, taken in context, tend to prove non-contradictory.The quote above, via Schuon, is actually fully represented within the Hindu tradition. Brahma, the creator god, is not worshiped within Hinduism. The only deities that are worshiped, are Shiva, and Vishnu. Both Shiva and Vishnu, by their respective devotees, are represented as having power over the following five functions: creation, preservation, destruction, concealment, and revelation. However, a further distinction is made by Shankara: God is not Brahman (the Absolute). Rather the appearance of God is still via the power of Maya. So there are in effect, three levels, which Schuon himself observes: Brahman (the Absolute), God as creator, revealer, and savior (AKA, Shiva or Vishnu), and finally God as creator (AKA, Brahma). Incidental reasons are given for Brahma's lack of worship, a Hindu myth attributes this situation to a curse by Bhrigu. Devdutt Pattanaik, an Indian author, gives some philosophical reasons. Ultimately the reason is actually inherent ("inherent" in the Absolute) and theological.

Relation of humanity to the Absolute

{{synthesis|date=November 2017}}Laozi taught that the Tao was not only the ultimate reality but the ideal of human life. Another conceptual similarity between various conceptions is that the ultimate reality also somehow reveals to humans the way to live. For example, Plato taught that the Good was both the source of reality, the highest object of knowledge, and the ultimate end of desire.C. S. Lewis explains the connection between the highest reality and human action in this way:BOOK,weblink The Abolition of Man, Lewis, C.S., Oxford University Press, 1943, 978-0-06-065294-4, United Kingdom, 17–18, {{Quotation|text=In early Hinduism that conduct in men which can be called good consists in conformity to, or almost participation in, the Rta—that great ritual or pattern of nature and supernature which is revealed alike in the cosmic order, the moral virtues, and the ceremonial of the temple. Righteousness, correctness, order, the Rta, is constantly identified with satya or truth, correspondence to reality. As Plato said that the Good was 'beyond existence' and Wordsworth that through virtue the stars were strong, so the Indian masters say that the gods themselves are born of the Rta and obey it. The Chinese also speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar. 'In ritual', say the Analects, 'it is harmony with Nature that is prized.' The ancient Jews likewise praise the Law as being 'true'. This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as 'the Tao'.|sign=C.S. Lewis|source=The Abolition of Man}}I. K. Taimni says:{{Quotation|Because the Ultimate Reality which is denoted by the word 'Absolute' or 'Parabrahman' (卍) is the very core of our being as well as the cause and basis of the universe of which we are part, we can no more get away from it than our solar system can get away from the sun round which it resolves and from which it receives everything which keeps it alive and moving. Although the Absolute is sometimes referred to by such epithets as the Void, Ever-Darkness etc. and is beyond intellectual comprehension, still, from the intellectual point of view it is the most profound concept in the whole realm of philosophy. The fact that it is called 'Unknowable' does not mean that it is beyond the range of philosophical or religious thought and something on which thinking is impossible or undesirable. The very fact that it is the heart and the basis of the universe should make it the most intriguing object of enquiry within the realms of the intellect. |I. K. Taimni|Man, God and the Universe|Chapter 1The phrase "core of our being" is Freudian; see JOURNAL, Bettina Bock von Wülfingen, 2013, Freud's 'Core of our Being' Between Cytology and Psychoanalysis, Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 36, 3, 226–244, 10.1002/bewi.201301604, }}Aldous Huxley says:BOOK, The Perennial Philosophy, Huxley, Aldous, Harper & Brothers, 1945, 978-0-06-172494-7, United States, 2, {{Quotation|text=Only the transcendent, the completely other, can be immanent without being modified by the becoming of that in which it dwells. The Perennial Philosophy teaches that it is desirable and indeed necessary to know the spiritual Ground of things, not only within the soul, but also outside in the world and, beyond world and soul, in its transcendent otherness 'in heaven.' ... God within and God without; these are two abstract notions, which can be entertained by the understanding and expressed in words.|sign=Aldous Huxley|source=The Perennial Philosophy}}Similarly, the Hindu Taimni describes the Parabrahman as unknowable by the human mind and unthinkable but the highest object of realization and the most profound object of philosophical enquiry.I. K. Taimni Man, God and the Universe Quest Books, 1974, p. 1-2Plotinus likewise taught that the goal of philosophy was to "contemplate the One".WEB,weblink Plotinus - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,, 28 March 2018,

Experiencing the Absolute

{{unreferenced section|date=April 2018}}Philosophers and religious adherents who aim to pattern their life after the Absolute reality sometimes claim to have experienced the Absolute. They report mystical experiences, feelings of oneness, transcendence of their everyday personality or of personhood altogether.

Representing the Absolute

File:Yggdrasil.jpg|thumb|200px|The Absolute represented as Yggdrasill in Germanic religion.]]The Absolute is conceptually defined as something inexpressible and perhaps unthinkable. This concept creates special problems for expression in words, poetry, mythology, and art. Writers, painters, storytellers, filmmakersCf. Terrence Malick's Tree of Life and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey are two good examples (one religious, one atheistic) of the use of contradiction to convey the Absolute in the final sequences. often use paradox or contradiction because of the "contradictory aspect of the ultimate reality".Dadosky, 2004. p. 86According to Mircea Eliade, the Absolute can be mediated or revealed through symbols.Dadosky, 2004. p. 85 For Eliade the "archaic" mind is constantly aware of the presence of the Sacred, and for this mind all symbols are religious (relinking to the Origin). Through symbols human beings can get an immediate "intuition" of certain features of the inexhaustible Sacred. The mind makes use of images to grasp the ultimate reality of things because reality manifests itself in contradictory ways and therefore can't be described in concepts. It is therefore the image as such, as a whole bundle of meaning, that is "true" (faithful, trustworthy). Eliade says :Dadosky, 2004. p. 100Common symbols of the Absolute include world trees, the tree of life, microcosm, fire, children,See George MacDonald's The Golden Key circles, mandalas, and the human body.

See also

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  • John Daniel Dadosky. The Structure of Religious Knowing: Encountering the Sacred in Eliade and Lonergan. State University of New York Press, 2004. {{ISBN|0791460614}}

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