Posted on: March 4th, 2009 Florensky & Pickstock (indirectly, perhaps) on the Trinity

In “Letter II” of his The Pillar and Ground of the Truth one of the things Paval Florensky is actually doing is providing some arguments, based in reason (as opposed to revelation) for the Christian doctrine of God as Trinity.

He does this in part by arguing negatively against secular ways of “knowing:” “The knowledge that Pilate (in John 18) lacked, the knowledge which all mankind lacks is above all the conditions of certitude.”

He then considers three basic attempts people have made to try to attain these “conditions of certitude:” the sensuous-empirical, the transcendental-rationalist, and the subconscious-mystical.

All pretensions to certainty, be they sensuous-empirical, transcendental-rationalist, or subconscious-mystical, are ultimately only asserting that something is given. “My sense perception is my sense perception. The sun shines because the sun shines.” This, in turn, reduces down to A=A, which is givenness in general. This tautology pretends to be necessary and universal, but in actually, in space and time, it destroys being. If A=A, then not-A=not-A, and so A comes to be defined in terms of not-not-A. So all connection between things, including the connection of being, is destroyed. Hence, tautology, A=A, destroys all being and rationality.

“Where there is no difference, there can be no connection.” Enter Pickstock, who argues that “context is everything,” that meaning comes in connections. (Hence the senselessness and the nihilism of asyndeton.)

“Where there is no difference, there can be no connection. There is therefore only the blind force of stagnation and self-imprisonment, only egotism. Outside of itself, every I hates every I, and, hating, I strives to exclude every not-I from the sphere of being. And even the I hates itself, I, over time: the present I hates the past I, etc.”

This state of senselessness is an unavoidable antinomy of human ratioality, which Florensky describes another way: “… it turns out that the rational is at the same time unexplainable. To explain A is to reduce it to “something else,” to not-A, to that which is not A and which therefore is not-A. But if A really is satisfies the demand of rationality, it it is really rational, ie, absolutely self-identical, then it is unexplainable, irreducible to “something else”…. Therefore, A is absolutely non-reasonable, blind A, opaque to reason.

Florensky is saying that real things, reality, life, is inot in accord with “rationality,” but with reason, by which he surely means (something like or related to) logos, the divine logos.

The alternative to A=A is indirect discursis of reason, which posits a chain, a regression of reasons, which either “dream of eternity” or ends in God. But this is only marginally better than the above.

One is an impenetrable wall; the other an uncrossable sea.
What does all this have to do with the Trinity? Florensky’s critique of these three rational systems does not hold for the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity does not simply reduce down to A=A. Florensky shows, that when the church Fathers (surely he has in mind the Cappedocian Fathers) said that God is one ousia but three hypostases, they were in effect saying that A=A and that A=notA.

Are the things in the world connected? This, the problem of the one and the many, is the age-old problem of philosophy. Florensky’s ultimate answer is going to be: “Yes, the things in the world are connected, because the “things” or the hypostases in God are connected. This connection, in the language of ontology and metaphysics, is called essence or ousia. But, as we have seen above, in order for there to be such a connection there also must be difference. And, in God, there is: three distinct persons, three distinct hypostases in harononious plenitude.

Pickstock is correct: context is everything; meaning is in the connections.

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