LOVE: One of the “True” Human Prejudices

“I don’t want clever conversation.  I never want to work that hard.  I just want someone I can talk to.  I want you just the way you are.” (Billy Joel, “Just The Way You Are”)

Kevin Iannucci shown above. The actor has starred in a number of films and TV shows.

The title of this post is odd.  Perhaps it isn’t true, then, since truths should be observable and testable by anyone?  Certainly there are many human prejudices, so there is no big deal in singling out one. 

But then, “TRUTH” is said in many ways.  There are “true” friends, “true” here meaning “genuine” or “exemplary.” Conversely, I could say “1 + 1 = 2” or “The bed I’m writing this on is soft,” and those would be “true” in the sense of “correct,” though by moving to the chair in the other room my sentence about my bed is no longer true since it declares a state of affairs that is incorrect (I’m no longer sitting on the bed).  There are different kinds of “correctness,” such as it is correct for me that the book is boring, or “really correct” that the triangle is three sided. 

In the modern era truth in an exemplary sense meant truth as certainty, free from doubt, because from Thomas to Luther what was the important was to be certain as free from doubt about the salvation of the soul.  This was where Descartes got the ground of his philosophical method from. On the other hand, we speak of the great “truths” of the human condition like we find in the “meaninglessness” lamentation in Ecclesiastes, in this case referring to “truth” as what is “ownmost” to the human condition. 

Similarly, we speak of a “true work of Art” as Aristotle does in the Physics (Physics is ambiguous because for us it refers to the “natural,” but “physis” also means nature in the sense that fire/smoke naturally moves up, or he is naturally shy, denoting an inner principle governing something or its “nature.”).  “Art” is conspicuous here because when I say that DaVinci painting is art, I mean it falls under the general category of Art as does the child’s prized finger painting, but also that it is “truly Art,” is the very definition of Art.  And so, we have the idea of Art that a “definition” applies to it, as well as the DaVinci “re-defines” Art as an exemplar rather than just an example, which means it is the very “definition of Art.” 

In this sense I may say “Truly, that is a house!” of the spectacular mansion, in which case we understand the relationship between the universal concept “house” and the particular mansion in front of us = “exemplary”, the relation being different from abstracting from a bunch of particular houses to come to a vague universal concept. 

Of course, modern thinking doesn’t want to include my being-with-things in its way of knowing, and so usually restricts itself to truth in the sense of correctness that should hold regardless of the observer.  On the other hand, for the Greeks the phenomena were to be set forth in their full richness, and so this notion of the presencing of the universal was worthy of thought.  Homer said the Gods don’t appear to everyone enargeis, meaning one tourist might experience the waterfall as magnificent, while a local resident might just see it as background scenery or even a noise pollution nuisance.  Similarly the mansion might presence as an exemplary house for me, but gawdy for the next person.  In this regard Protagoras left us with this brilliant saying:  “Man is the measure of all things, of those that are, that they are, of those that are not, that they are not” (Pantōn chrēmatōn metron estin anthrōpos, tōn men ontōn hōs estin, tōn de me ontōn hōs ouk estin [cited in Plato’s Theaetetus, 385E ff.]). Heidegger called this “the highest principle of any philosophy.”  Heidegger translates Protagoras’ above saying “Of all things (those, namely, that man has around him in use and usage) man is (in each case) the measure, of what presences, that it so presences, of that, however, to which presencing is denied, that it does not presence.” For instance, if I am not there, exemplary houseness does not presence through the mansion, or houseness through the average house, or deficient houseness through the run down shack.

For Plato the Form of the Beautiful was exemplary Being, while the beautiful song was deficient Being (me on), not nothing (ouk on), but deficient in contrast to Beauty itself. Protagoras’ saying was not an egotism, because he saw the painting presencing to us beautifully, not beauty being an inner feeling I was having when observing the painting. Similarly, boredom is experienced as a characteristic of the book like plot, setting, and characters, though the next person need not experience the book in this way. Moods are basic ways we are outside of ourselves, what the Greeks called ek-static. Parmenides thus says in Heidegger’s translation “the apprehension of beings belong to being since it is from being that it is demanded and determines.” Heidegger explains the being is that which rises up and opens itself; that which, as what is present, comes upon man IE, upon him who opens himself to what is present in that he apprehends it. eg., Anger is not what is inside of me, but is a “being overcome by anger.”

So, in speaking of a true prejudice I’d like to separate it off from other more common set of prejudices, such as having a left prejudice or a right prejudice when experiencing political phenomena.  The prejudice I’m thinking of is much more basic and speaks to something fundamental about our world and history. 

The summer after I finished Teacher’s College I worked for Community Living with People with Intellectual Disabilities such as Down Syndrome.  One of the most profound moments of my life was when a person with Down Syndrome came to me crying and said he would never have a wife.  That put my difficulties in their place because imagine someone having an experience as fundamental as love but knowing they would never actualize it. 

Ask yourself, would you be in a romantic relationship with someone with Down Syndrome?  Now, imagine how someone with Down Syndrome must feel because of that “truth” of your Human Condition …

Protagoras (490-420 BCE)