Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 903

You did something more. You learned different forms of philosophical argument. First you learned the epistemological argument, then you learned the dialectical argument, the historical argument, the quintessential metaphysical argument, finally the causal argument.

What is the epistemological argument? All argument in philosophy starts with facts. Where there are no facts there are no philosophical arguments. All the arguments start with certain facts. Epistemological arguments starts with a fact of the nature of thought. From the nature of thought you derive a conclusion; that is an epistemological argument. You make a statement that all thought is of this nature. That is the first statement. In any epistemological argument the first statement would be that the nature of thought is such and such and because of that reason the conclusion is this. That is the nature of epistemological argument. All argumentation is derivation, you imply, you bring out what is inside the fact. You fathom the depth of the nature of thought and you derive a conclusion – you bring the jewel out of the ocean of thought and put it forward. That is the epistemological argument.

"The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation, – for it survives the longest periods of scepticism and returns after every banishment, – is also the highest which his thought can envisage." This sentence is an epistemological argument. It tells you what is the highest that thought can envisage. It gives you the argument of the nature of thought. And the argument is conclusive: is, there is no it seems, probable, no such words at all. It is a complete argument; it is a complete conclusion. "The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts … is also the highest which his thought can envisage." This argument is an epistemological argument. If you examine the nature of thought then you find it is equivalent to "the earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts". There is no escape from it. If you really go to the highest thought only one thing will come: God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. It is the earliest preoccupation of men and also the highest and it returns again and again in mankind. You climb the highest level of thought and having reached, you look up, inevitably you will see God, Light, Freedom and Immortality. This statement is an epistemological statement.

What is the historical argument?

"The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, – God, Light, Freedom, Immortality." Sri Aurobindo says that if you look at history you go first to the earliest records of mankind. Then you look at today. You see the earliest past and you see today. From there you now derive conclusions for the future. Historical argument tells you what was in the past, what is the present and then you derive a conclusion for the future. That is the historical argument. Very simple!

There is a difference between epistemological arguments and historical arguments. Historical arguments are never conclusive. Whenever you make a historical argument, the future may seem to be probable, may show a big probability. Historical argument gives you a sense of the highest possible probability. It never gives you complete conclusiveness. You may say that it is the weakness of the historical argument but it is also its strength because it can never be dogmatic. It always keeps you open; open to the future.

"The earliest formula of Wisdom". He does not say is also the formula of the future. See the language that Sri Aurobindo uses. "The earliest formula of Wisdom" what is the word that Sri Aurobindo uses? Promises! The word promises is not conclusive. He does not say will be or shall be. But it is only promises, which gives you the highest probability. It promises that the future will be the same formula.

Whereas in epistemological argument he does not say –– promises. Such an argument always gives you a categorical statement, it affirms without doubt. It is doubtless. It is. "The earliest preoccupation of man … is also …" He does not say seems. The epistemological argument is based upon the nature of thought. Whenever there is something based upon nature of thought the conclusion is always categorical. If you are really a good historian, you may forecast, which is good, but you cannot say shall or will or is, you will say it seems, probably, promises, most likely to happen. That is the nature of historical argument.

What is a dialectical argument? The second paragraph contains a dialectical argument. We have defined the epistemological argument as an argument which states the nature of thought and derive a conclusion from it. The historical argument states the past, the present and derives a conclusion about the future. Similarly dialectical argument states a fact but a fact of contradiction. And having stated a contradiction it derives a conclusion. A contradiction means there is a thesis and there is an antithesis. And having seen the thesis and the antithesis, and the contradiction between the two you derive a conclusion, which is a synthesis. So the nature of dialectical argument is presentation of thesis, antithesis and derivation of synthesis.

If you read the second paragraph what does it say? "These persistent ideals of the race are at once the contradiction of its normal experience and the affirmation of higher and deeper experiences which are abnormal to humanity and only to be attained, in their organised entirety, by a revolutionary individual effort or an evolutionary general progression." So Sri Aurobindo states a contradiction. These persistent ideals are contradicted – God, Light, Freedom, Immortality – by normal experience of mankind. It is a contradiction between the ideals and normal experience, thesis and antithesis. The entire second paragraph is an attempt to resolve this contradiction. Thus the entire second paragraph presents a dialectical argument.

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