Without further ado…
@cole_tucker: Do you think that Neoplatonists would have eschewed hero cults, and other rites of offering not to the gods? It seems that offerings of those type would not play the same role as those discussed by Simplicius in your quotes. On the face, it seems that since the Gods are a privileged category beyond Being itself, the individuals without such status would not be able to "assimilate and subordinate us to them."
Neoplatonists are very supportive of hero cult; post-Iamblichus constantly refer to triad of angels, daimons & heroes after Gods. Heroes have a key role to play helping fellow mortals connect to certain deities more effectively. It's a more or less constant misapprehension regarding the Platonists, that they are prescriptive against certain practices. Generally speaking, this is not their style; they seek to understand and justify existing cultic practices, not prescribe them. It is also a common misunderstanding that Platonists want one always looking higher up the hierarchy and worshiping fewer Gods.
In reality, henology is anti-hierarchical. Hierarchy is on the side of Being. Each plane of Being is illuminated directly. Angels, daimons and heroes in each God's series are catalysts for participation.
@vajramrita: Ontology and henology.
A favorite topic of mine! When Harman says "the true chasm in ontology lies not between humans and the world, but between objects and relations," I would argue the distinction between henology and ontology is what is actually at stake, henology=objects, ontology=relations. This isn't just a question of getting historical filiation right, either; I believe that some of the weakness of OOO [Object Oriented Ontology] comes from trying to make henology do what ontology does.
@vajramrita: Relationship, difference & identity, as the cause of objects isn't an ontology. What would modernity call it?
I consider pure henology a sort of Platonic structuralism, an analytic doctrine as opposed to an account of what there is.
@vajramrita: what in Sanskrit is referred to as 'prasanga', possibly, just to indicate a mutual understanding.
I gather that prasanga is akin to elenchus. That's not what I had in mind, though elenchus is the heart of Socratic dialectic. It might be said that the elenchus operates by virtue of the negativity of the "One Itself".
Platonic henology has two parts: the inquiry into pure unity from the Parmenides, and the "structuralism" of the Philebus. What is truly important is to recognize that henology is not an inquiry into "how all things are one", but rather, into how all things are units. Hence the sense of "object" in OOO corresponds to the henological sense of "unit/unity/one". Henology is not a kind of substance monism, but rather is precisely about what OOO calls the "withdrawn" nature of objects. From a henological viewpoint the unit-nature of a thing is conceptually "empty" but an existential positivity.
@vajramrita: Morten (the_eco_thought) has indicated to me in person that this "withdrawn" nature alludes to Buddhist sunyata. A common misunderstanding of sunyata is its assertion of the non-existence of a thing. Not so. I would dare to suggest that sunyata has no place in an ontology as it has no bearing on the actual being of a thing.
It does seem like a potentially analogous situation. Compare Patricia Curd's revisionist reading of Parmenides himself as "predicational monist" rather than "numerical monist"; i.e., Parmenides is not concerned with how many entities there are, but with what kinds of units they are.
June 30-July 10
@t3dy: Can henadology offer any insights into the Dawkins/Pinker vs. E.O. Wilson debate on the units of selection in evolutionary theory?
No, because henology/henadology is not an ontology. I sometimes find that people think that hen(ad)ology asserts that what is more individual is more basic/real, in other words, they take it for an individualistic ontology. In reality, it is a mode of analysis. Some people think that I ought to be valuing units in an aggregate over the unity of the aggregate, but it's about recognizing both unities, and understanding different modes of unity.
@t3dy: So you don't think that it can offer insight into the problem as a mode of analysis? Do we need ontology to do theory units?
If the debate concerns what is the unit basic to some set of concepts, perhaps it could; but if it concerns what units are basic as such, it is an ontology that is demanded. But aren't the parties to the dispute rather looking for an empirical resolution?
@t3dy: It's not about privileging any mode of unity?
There is a logical priority of, e.g., proper names over class terms, and all sorts of relative priority in and among complex units, but I would distinguish this from ontological doctrines about "what there is", if for no other reason than degree of formalization. Any substantial monism, for example, has a certain common logical structure.
I've been thinking more clearly about this question you raised about the Dawkins/Pinker/Wilson debate; I think that henology does have an ethical/critical perspective on such theories, which centers on the question of reductionism. Henology attends to the inverse relationship between explanatory breadth and explanatory depth in a discourse. I might suggest a principle complementary to Ockham's razor, speaking to a theory's falling short of the necessary multiplicity, that is, the multiplicity necessary to the theory's intended scope. A purely instrumental intervention can be strongly reductive, but there is a different measure of theoretical adequacy. This is what I was getting at in my Deleuze essay, which is almost as far as I have gotten so far in henological ethics.
Conversation with @ajnabee concerning some lectures by Deleuze. (The lectures are here: http://www2.univ-paris8.fr/deleuze/artic
In the lecture, Deleuze speaks of Gods "staging themselves in depth", of "Zeus to the 5th power", etc. There are three ways in which henads deploy themselves "in depth". First, in the difference between a henad and its powers, that which Damascius calls the "minimum difference". Next, in the configurations of henads in noetico-noeric "space", which is the basis of geometrical as well as narrative spatiality. (Bruno is quite faithful to this nonindifference of shape.) Finally, there is the hierarchical disposition onto planes of activity, which is ultimately based upon nodes of contradiction, that is, incompossible narratives force separations between planes. Hence the Orphic Zeus, in a dyadic relationship with Phanes, expresses the relationship between the demiurge and intelligible form, while Homeric Zeus is in a triangular relationship with Poseidon and Hades, dividing the sovereignty of Kronos. The individual operates simultaneously in multiple incompossible "worlds" ultimately because s/he embraces inconsistent powers, powers that can only be actualized in incommensurable worlds. (Deleuze doesn't understand the doctrine totally correctly, but means the full Olympian pantheon becomes active in the hypercosmic, which is the fourth hypostasis if one counts (1) Being, (2) Life, (3) Intellect, or in some similar fashion; or counting the One as first, "Zeus to the 4th power" means the Intellective Gods, through whom "difference" is produced.)
I've been looking at the account of "Pythagorean" ontology in Sextus Empiricus (Pros Physikous ii.248-309). Most scholars think that this passage incorporates at least some of the "unwritten" doctrine of principles of the Old Academy. I'm particularly interested in the deduction according to "conception" (noesis) in 263 & sqq. "Of beings, they say, some are conceived absolutely [kata diaphoran], some according to opposition, some according to relation." Absolutes are units; opposites are dyads of which only one may exist at a time; relatives necessarily coexist, and also have a mean. So here we have a progression just like the progression point, line, plane, only in a wholly different register.
These modalities (?) are then brought under the principles of the One and the Indefinite Dyad. The One is the principle of self-existent things (units), naturally; but opposites are assimilated to the single opposition equal/unequal. This opposition, however, is split, with manifestations of presence coming under equality, and this under the One, while manifestations of absence come under the unequal, and this manifests the Indefinite Dyad. "Equality, then, is brought under the One, for the One first of all is equal to itself, but inequality is seen in excess and defect, for things of which the one exceeds and the other is exceeded are unequal." The "unequal" is a mode of being associated with a purely relational positing, a triangulation.
When early Platonists (reportedly) said that Ideas are "numbers", it is clear that they did not mean arithmetic as we know it. It is important to remember that the Greek term arithmos, "number", also means "series". This is in fact what the Platonists meant, that Ideas are not discrete items, but series. This is in accord with the holistic concept of the Ideas that prevailed in the later Plato and the Old Academy. Indeed, I do not think that Plato changed his doctrine regarding Ideas; the scope of the earlier dialogues was merely different. "Ideas" are a necessary heuristic device to orient our discussions; that does not imply their substantiality. In fact, as I have argued, when the Ideas seem most present "in themselves", in the "supra-celestial place" of the Phaedrus, they are actually present as attributes of the Gods. In our own lives, the Ideas are dependent moments of the experience of beauty. In an important sense, Beauty is the sole "Platonic Idea". When it is a question of the being of the Ideas themselves, we encounter this notion of seriality. The value of the account in Sextus Empiricus is that, unlike Aristotle, he doesn't hylomorphize the doctrine of principles. You can't make any sense of the doctrine of principles as long as you approach the One and Limit as "form", the Dyad as "matter". Sextus, I am sure, is closer to the Academy when he treats the One as principle of absolutes, the Dyad as principle of relatives. The primary "Ideas" are numbers inasmuch as they are pure possibilities of relations of units. Our mistake is to think that such relations must be abstract, quantitative; but the primary units are not lean, they are thick. The primary units are the richest, the ones that can sustain the dialectical emergence of every other quality. Ironically, Plato's written account is richer than the so-called "unwritten doctrines", a reason I've never liked the term. In Plato, we have the One, expressing the absolute value of any unit—for we can begin from any unit. Then we have Limit and the Unlimited, what is called in the doxographical accounts the One and the Dyad. The doxographical "One" is Plato's Limit, the ontic one: the individual as a limit of intersecting series, while the Unlimited, the Indefinite Dyad, the Great-and-Small, are these series as constituting the ontic unit. The ontic unit as thus constituted is the Mixture. So the complete set is One, Limit-Unlimited, Mixture. This the "formula", so to speak, for any unit, any thing, any object.
Reading Algonquian myths right now: http://tinyurl.com/d4gp24y
In the myths about Wiissaakechaahk, the trickster, I hear Plato's sophist, who is angler, hunter, but most of all crafter of appearances. In the Cratylus, of course, the sophist is an attribute of Hades, the 3rd demiurge, demiurge of images. In the Book of Thoth, the writer is hunter, fisher, trapper of souls, and of course, crafter of images. Hence the so-called trickster is a creator of images that trap souls: a writer? I'm unsatisfied with the terminology of "trickster" deities, an anthropological term with which we've become too comfortable. The entertainment value of these myths overwhelm for us their ontological significance.
If myths in a given culture ground a practice of semiotics, we ought to phase them in, phase out the universalizing semiotics. Hence, ideally, I should in future writings on Egyptian thought attempt to introduce semiotic categories from the Book of Thoth. (Won't be easy in practice.)
@earwulf: But perhaps their ontological significance is exactly the existence of "entertainment value" as a distraction?
I think rather that the wry nature of these myths speaks to the characteristics of the plane of being generated in them. I have argued similarly regarding myths about divine "wrath", that they concern mortal being in its essential "wrathfulness", the "wrath" of contingent coming-to-be and passing-away, as in the "penalty" spoken of in the Anaximander fragment.
@earwulf: Do you mean that they are self-referential? Pertain to the sphere of imagination of the myth-makers and story-tellers?
No, I read myths as immediately ontologically productive.
@theclockworm: mythological relativism, eh? Tall order, but worth effort and study.
It's an ideal that the universalizing structures be as thin as possible, otherwise they become the ontology.
@theclockworm: Even if structures of crit are semi-universal but language isn't, we're reminded the provenance is theirs not ours
I've tried to articulate a metaphysics where that plurality (e.g., of languages) is primary, yet which is still a metaphysics.