The description of the book is simply "An ontological work." The work itself is a philosophical system written in the form of a personal letter. It contains many ambiguous references to other historical systems of thought within it.
The nature of unity and multitude is treated of in the book, as well as the nature of thingness and nothingness. The question of "Why?" both initiates and concludes the book, and may be taken as one of the work's primary focuses.
The Division of the Parts
Unity is divided into three (3) parts, with the second part containing an additional seven (7) subsections. These ten (10) segments, each of approximately equal length, together make up the body of the work.
The First Part
Part 1 deals with the nature of thingness and nothingness.
Beginning with the challenge of skepticism, Part 1 counters that the reader can indeed "know for certain that something exists" due to sensation. A distinction is then made between thingness and existence, wherein thingness may cease to exist, but "nothingness" exists in such a way that it "cannot not be."
Since one cannot have a concept of non-existence -- this being taken as a contradiction of terms -- but can indeed have a concept of nothingness, Part 1 concludes therefore that nothingness "Is."
The Second Part
Part 2 begins with the notion that thingness is mysterious, for "how can we have something from nothing?"
Nevertheless, we do know that something exists. After defining the thing as "the measured", Part 2 asserts that all things are measured in three ways. Because this assertion is universal, the reader may conclude that the unmeasured Being of Part 1, through which all things exist, is also triune.
Seven sections follow this assertion, in which examples of the three-in-one nature of things are discussed.
In this first subsection to Part 2, complex numbers are said to be produced through a continuation of simple numbers. Doubling and squaring are two kinds of continuation meriting particular attention, since together they produce so many numbers. Geometrical figures are taken as manifestations of those "continuations", and the coexistence of the three dimensions of space -- a kind of "largest thing" -- is made note of.
Light is then mentioned as a special kind of thing, in that it is "first in things."
Section II describes the "smallest things," as well as the concept of unity in multitude, and the nature of water.
Stating that the "smallest things" are found in pairs, examples are made of quarks and leptons, and of the weak and the strong forces of physics. These examples seem to support the argument that even the smallest things cannot exist without parts and relations.
Opening with observations on gravity and the electric charge, the writer goes on to briefly summarize the building of quarks to molecules to the continents of the earth. Comments are also made concerning growth, including the fact that seeds grow from land, water, and light.
Section IV returns to numbers and ratios, while highlighting optics, music, astronomy, and generally the nature of perception.
All things, it is stated, are composed of their ratios. Communication through light waves and sound waves is made possible through the transference of ratios from source to receiver. Even though a message may remain constant, its presentation is held to differ as it relates to the recipient. The ratios of "twos and threes" found in music, astronomy, and optics demonstrate the simplicity of nature.
Section V begins with birds and fish, and the nature of evolution in creation. It touches upon the makeup of creatures from atoms, to cells, to organs, with brief references to genetics.
It then moves to the nature of wisdom, signs, and proportions. The claim is made that "the understanding of the universal is, through its approximation in many particulars, impressed upon the mind." A distinction between the natures of knowledge and wisdom follows.
The section concludes with thoughts on art, the will, and the communication of signs.
Section VI focuses on the nature of the will.
The author writes that humans actually "move matter with our minds," but that "our hands put on an impressive show as our concept materializes before our eyes" in a "theatre of life." There is also mention of a "general will, in which we each specifically have a share."
The movement of the general will is then traced through individuals, families, and nations, with an analogy made to the parts of a human body.
Time is made reference to once again, and an analogy is given between the two life necessities of food and shelter. Life is further analyzed as a story and a "terrible struggle", and the reader is warned against forgetting to live.
The section closes with a series of statements concerning reason, conscience, motion, the will, and the "Creator."
Section VII first reflects on and recounts the previous sections: "So have I written of primacy and continuity, multitude and flux, unity and growth; and I gave written of these as they relate to us too, brother."
The writer then moves to a brief contemplation on the nature of knowledge, and implores the reader to "not be afraid to acknowledge mystery."
The Third Part
Part 3 begins with the word "Love."
This word -- and paragraph -- could be taken as an explanation, an imperative, or both. What follows are three additional paragraphs containing brief phrases, or imagery, separated by commas. The first, for example, is "invincible kitten," and the last, "ours not to reason why." There are forty-nine such phrases in each of the three paragraphs.
The "Knowledge of Nothing"
Demonstration of the Existence of God
References to Love
- Perhaps you mean to assert that knowledge of nothingness itself is not beyond our grasp.
- ...the thing is the measured, and we are the measuring type.
- And indeed the universe is established through relations as through objects, for harmony in the multitude preserves the being of a thing; and even as the smallest thing cannot exist without parts, so does this world subsist through its relations.
- Were it for a lack of time, we would not see a world where all things stand still, but rather one in which all movements are entirely present.
- ...though our entire world may be made dark in the blink of an eye, yet it was not by our will that we saw light to begin with.
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