Scire and sápere as two ways of understanding the relation between Existence and the One

Thoughts on the topic
starting from Nicolaus Cusanus

Marco Moschini (University of Perugia)

The topic of Existence is one of the most pivotal issues of philosophy. Its presence can be found in all thinkers, though it acquires a more remarkable significance for those philosophers who have directly or indirectly focused on the metaphysical issue, no matter whether they thematize or criticize it.

One configuration of the problem belonged to Plato and to all of Platonism, which inherited such a theme from original philosophy. To summarize, it is possible to say that in such metaphysical perspective, the topic of Existence is seen as the set of the given, of things, as the series of finitude, as the concrete presence of multiplicity, and the One as its basis and support, its foundation, its principle. I believe we never distanced ourselves from this configuration in the history of metaphysic; rather, I believe that this topic has always been re-weaved again. It was the perspective of the debate metaphysic/philosophy that always set the philosopher into tracing the starting point of philosophy; in such a quest, it is impossible not to meditate upon the question of finitude and the infinite, of one and many.

To collect the whole corpus of thought on such a topic would mean to write the history of Western philosophy. In this contribution of mine – very easily – I mean to present the question as it is, at the heart of the thinking and exposition that belonged to one of the greatest speculative and metaphysical minds in the history of Western philosophy; a voice that was easy to acknowledge as one of those testaments at the basis of metaphysics. It is not the case, here, to go in the discussion about the overall and specific reading of Cusanus’ thought; here, it is the case of restating how a close examination of Cusanus’ thought could somehow clarify some of the features of contemporary thinking. I will thus try to collect some causes for reflection from Cusanus’ thought about the topic of existence and one. I will try to outline some excerpts that would make possible understanding the topicality of speculative contribution of the philosopher to our current re-thinking of metaphysic. But I will not go through this by means of a closer examination of one specific text by Cusanus; rather, I will start from some reflections provided by an overall reading.

Why Cusanus? Because it is unquestionable that he, as a thinker belonging to the fruitful period of humanism, was able of encapsulating ancient thinking and the medieval tradition, and with his very peculiar speculative nuances was the herald of future speculative horizons and suggestions. His originality, complexity and the depth of his thinking saw that his presence can still be traced in many contemporary philosophers. And for this reason, many have conversed with Cusanus’ thinking[1]. Starting thus from the structure and results of Cusanus’ overall thinking, it is possible to draw themes that are still valid for addressing the topic at hand: the relation between existence and one that entails dealing with the ontological relation between finitude and the infinite.

Particularly, I believe that the most remarkable, and speculatively most interesting, contribution from Cusanus can be traced in the harbinger in his thinking of a kind of dialectic that would be further retraced – independently from the Cusanian antecedent – by the great synthesis achieved by German idealism of XIX century.

I am not afraid of declaring Cusanus’ thinking a dialectic thinking; as a matter of fact, it seems clear to me how Cusanus, in the expressive dynamics of his speculative vision, is led from the topic of docta ignorantia to the one of coincidentia oppositorum; and we should not underestimate the way in which he deals with the central topic of his vision in a dialectic manner: that is, the conciliation of the opposites, namely the conciliation of the ostensible dualism of being and existence. Behind the suggestion of a conciliation of the opposites (coincidentia oppositorum), I see the surfacing (with features not unknown to the previous medieval speculation) of a composition of the topic existence and being, eternal and temporary, one and many, that would not be merely efficient, but also able to explain the dialectic value of the whole, a great ontological tradition of Western thinking.[2]

We cannot forget that such a special kind of dialectic thinking is at the same time ontologically grounded; it shows, exceptionally, the radical metaphysicality of such an approach to the question. It is not possible to hide the fact that the question of existence and one, existence and being, is solved in the history of thought in manners that often differ from each other, especially in contemporary thinking. Often, existence is shown as a concrete presence, often tragically touched by finitude, that because of its very reality rejects its substantial beyond; so, existence is often read as a condemnation to finitude and to its irredeemableness. Other interpretations, on the contrary, show the substantial interaction of existence with being that gives it sense and meaning; and being draws from existence its way of showing itself. Two opposite cases with a remarkable series of consideration between them.

The last stance that sees existence and being as connected together is what I now call metaphysic. Indeed, in this contribution, the focal point of the reflection is the ontological bond between beginning and began, between one and many, which I believe is the pivotal topic of that ontometaphysics that characterizes a good part of Western philosophical tradition. So, often in the question between existence and being comes to play the acceptance or not of metaphysical or non-metaphysical relation of the problem. In the onto-theological tradition, I see Cusanus as one of its most interesting and relevant voices.[3]

Particularly, the question of existence/being, finitude/the infinite, becomes in Cusanus the starting point for a confrontation with its opposite, and an understanding of their reciprocal belonging. The structure of Non-aliud is wonderful, whereby the philosopher recognizes in the world, in existence and in the things the trait of an always other multiplicity (Aliud).[4] Such otherness of otherness diffused from the things of the world, the other because it does not have in itself any otherness and thus is characterized as nonaliud (not-other) that can only be understood as imbued with meaning. It is indeed clear that its “not being other” is at the basis of understanding otherness; otherness thus shows itself not as a predictable presence, but as different from its contrary that it, in turn, justifies.

It is still though inextricably connected with the beginning within the difference. If this is true, it appears as well as the truth of the contrary: the beginning without the otherness of things could not be defined “Not-other”. The ascertainment of the fundamental otherness of many things of the world completes itself only with the vision of an absolute and beyond the finitude that is at their foundation and constitutes their being unity. But finitude (Aliud), in the dialectic confrontation with the infinite (Non-aliud) leads to a rereading of finitude itself underneath some sort of eternity – as Spinoza would say – for which finitude will always appear, as Cusanus says, as a “Non-non-aliud”. A “not-not-other”. Existence, its otherness, can only be the otherness comprised within its beginning, one, eternal, and thus at the same time, existence can only show itself as a trace of this eternal and therefore not only just otherness but, in the diversity of the bond, showing itself as that that is not otherness.

Cusanus already figured out such a dynamic in his first work De docta ignorantia, where he expressed the dimension of the Absolute, the contracting, the Absolute-contracting. In his mature age, he greatly perfected this dynamic reaching, in my opinion, the expression of a complete and mature speculative dialectic. Therefore, in outlining the structure of his thinking, Cusanus found himself doubtlessly shaping a thought that was fully relevant to the dialectical question of the relation between multiplicity and one.

At the heart of a dialectic perspective that would put on the table every expression of its ontology. An ontology developed around the absolute certainty of the concept of God/One as foundation of every notion of reality, both for what concerns being and thinking. The research for a dialectic structure for the relation of God and many will then always be the reference point of his thinking.[5] I think I can see very clearly, in the full development and overall vision of Cusanus’ thinking, how the demand and the need for such a reflection is always the following: to understand on the one hand, and to go beyond on the other, while at the same time keeping a higher vision, every single possible multiplicity that arises from finitude. This going beyond can only happen in the mind, if the mind is indeed in full practice.[6] It is a theoretical need that shaped his whole speculation. Maybe a consequence of a dialectic-figural structure he never gave up.

In his successful speculative effort, it is worthy to follow Cusanus to draw some considerations, and the first is that if on the one hand the Multiple shows itself to us in its fragmentation, as apparently irreducible and substantially far from a vision of unity; on the other hand, this same multiplicity with its questioning presence compels us to a positive understanding of its being present. And this structure, that is in fact understanding, can only be with a sort of transformation of thought itself, that from logic science becomes consciousness and knowledge of the One, as Cusanus’ suggests, accordingly with the whole medieval thinking, particularly Bonaventura’s.[7] Bonaventura, no less than Cusanus, asked for a speculative purification of the mind for allowing an upward recognition of the entire reality in its foundation.[8] A mens that, gathering all the spirit’s forces, would be able to read the whole reality as inside God. It is impossible not to imagine the influence of Bonaventura’s thinking on Cusanus.[9]

How can this transformation in the way of thinking take place? How can we face reality in the presence of the One not as contradictory, but recognizing in it the origin that is still tightly bound to its originated? Should we achieve the consciousness of One and being only as a sort of easy solution for the dilemma posed by finitude’s transience?

To recover the finite elements of existence and one, I believe that the speculative path traced by Cusanus would be convincing – that is, being cannot be retrieved without retrieving the world. The world and existence are the conditions for retrieving the one, and not their contrary; they are in an opposite position, but not in a reciprocal alienation nor contradiction. An opposition that asks for conciliation. There is the need, though, for a world that should be discovered and experienced not anymore as a place where the finitude emerges, with its all “many things”, but as a space where we are called to experience the essential unity of reality through multiplicity and, at the same time, to state the one through multiplicity.[10] The finite dimension of the world is a concrete dimension; but really this world is not the only concreteness we experience. There is also the concreteness of the thinking mind in an ontological way, namely: within the dimension of being, we look at the world and we understand it not as a simple object, but as part of a manifestation of it. Because of this, in thought, the relation of existence and being appears as the most complete reality. Existence not as a series of indistinguishable, but as the arising – on the basis of being – of a series of elements that carry with them the features of their foundation.

To grasp then the reality of men, Cusanus’ thinking suggests we should not move our attention from one object to the other, but from things to being. This would be a very easy, if not a simplistic game. Indeed, being would seem once again an object and not a foundation; an “object” for a “subject” and thus a “thing” as the others that we would presume to comprise in the one. Here, it is not the case of finding ways out but of soaring to a qualified way of loosening the thick tangle of finitude’s reality, to discover in it the ontological dynamic underneath.

The sensible capacity seems to complete all, instead it represents only a part of understanding the whole. The mind, thus, is called to a second, profound transformation: if finitude requires unity, it should also require that this unity would assume the features of a concrete possibility, of an always present conscience of possest (can – is). Moving, inside conscience, from a sort of figural way with which the world shows itself, to the certainty that the world is concrete not because it is a symbol, but because it is rooted in its foundation. Moving from partiality to entirety: this does not mean to nullify things, but to make them true.

Unforgettable are the charged pages dedicated by Cusanus in De docta ignorantia to argument the passage from the absolute to the contracting, and from the contracting to the absolute and then reaching the absolute-contracting which is the crossing point in the contradiction between finitude and the infinite. A passage, a sort of transition, a conciliation that leads from the figure to certainty and from multiplicity to unity without losing anything of the speculative power of the figure and without losing anything of the richness of existence.[11]

But such a passage entails theoretical risks: if in thinking there is a coexistence of an elementary way of understanding the presence of the multiple and a way of composing its contradiction in a superior unity, do not we risk that everyone could imagine tight bonds between these two ways, bonds that are, instead, to be ruled out? Do not we have an opposition between the experience of finitude and the conscience of one? Do not we have a contrast between reason and knowledge? And with this, some critical objections on the speculative question between existence and one and their thinkability come forth. Cusanus does not seem to elude such points; instead, he deals with them, proposing the implementation of this changing of conscience, encouraging a resolute exit from what we will call logic, the calculating logic of reason that is used with ordinary things, but not with speculation. Exiting “reason”, unilaterally understood, we could solve this crucial question. To exit from the mechanical truism of the rationalist logic and to put ourselves not in the irrational or illogic, but in a new logic.[12] A new way of speaking about the given, and not a new way of understanding it. On the one hand, scire with its logic and its environment, on the other hand, sápere with its logic and its world.[13] We cannot go through or move from the level of scire to the one of sapere and vice versa if we do not experience the differentiation and alienation from one to the other way of seeing reality. Reason and intelligence, experiencing and knowing are outlined as two legitimate levels, but not consequential, thus the risk of rationalizing the discourse about unity, nullifying multiplicity, but nullifying multiplicity by dissolving it in a discourse too abstract is avoided through the separation of two types of logic: the one of experience and the one of knowledge. Cusanus does not mean to build a critical version of the relation between scire and sápere, but intends to reassure us in the difference, proximity and legitimacy of the two orders of understanding reality.

They are not mutually exclusive, but are in legitimate co-presence. One or the other faculty of experiencing and knowing achieve their proper uses and conclusions; obviously not just sápere, for its nature and essence, can achieve metaphysical conclusions which each thinking being must achieve. Only in the field of knowledge the question of one is intertwined with the question of existence; in scire, instead, it is explained and “experienced” only in the material, exterior form of existences’ fragmentarity.[14] The legitimacy of the levels of sensibility, rationality and intelligence is indisputable.[15] Here, it is to understand that man is called to experience things on the one hand, and at the same time he is also called to understand them in their figural essence. The thinking being is immersed in the world and thanks though to the sense, to the incontrovertible certainty that comes from “knowing” the truths of the one, that is testified by docta ignorantia, it finds itself on a quest and chasing what already is, but what it has not yet possessed.

The quest for the sense of the multiple, through and beyond the notional, means for Cusanus to take on the task of conduct independently as the job of the wise: to be able to grasp in the unifying principle of the supreme being and supreme good, that is God, the whole reality not just as present but also as has been and as will be. The prophecies and the “statement of the saint prophets” as “philosophers’ sharpness” intersect and are equal in the only exercise of knowledge. There is no philosophy and there is no prophecy if there is no higher desire of the deepest thinking about being, about reality’s foundation and about the whole reality. To be called a philosopher means to safeguard this quest: the quest for the sense of the whole, to rediscover the moment in the one, every moment in the one.[16]

It is obviously impossible to imagine two separate levels of knowledge. The degree of knowledge is the degree of the mind where the absolute, the one, reflects itself, and where multiplicity gathers in the unity of the can-be in entirety and unity. The degree of scire (of experiencing) is the degree where the presence of the multiples is found. In this last degree, we have the world’s incompleteness, the awareness of its fragments, but at the highest degree the same world, the same reality, the same multiplicity is understood in its entirety as “existence”, as real presence, only in its foundation. Existence because being gathers it in unuum, and unuum that is present in the presence of existence itself.[17] Man, in his mens/intelligentia, is the first recipient open to this awareness of facts understood qualitatively in a different way.

Man is the place of the epiphany of the concrete; the place of consciousness of the bond between the opposite, between time and eternal, between one and many. This delivers to man a higher task even: namely, to make expressible the inexpressible; to testify to the world’s positivity. There is no knowledge that could not ask that, until the last degree, in a certainty of truth’s exciding excess, the same truth could not make real the experience of existence, of the moment, of the thing.[18] The mind that evaluates nature’s division and its diversification, grasping the temporality and the space of the world’s multiplicity, counts only – according to Cusanus – negatively towards the only positive knowledge that is the knowledge of the absolute foundation: God (Scotus Eriugena).

If the world is the presence of the fragment, the same series of its contraction, which is also the series of opposites – of all possible opposites – and the same fragment asks for a knowledge that, besides the rational instruments with which these things are evaluated, could refer to something other from them and that with such other they could be reconciled until they become true. This moving from the “other” to the “beyond” requires a knowledge though that is based on the parameter and on the same basis of the definitive parameter of the same beyond: it asks that the same principle would not present itself, but would also be the same parameter of the mind. The world, with its contradictions and oppositions, asks for a coincidentia only possible in its ontological foundation.

The world appears in its finite figures, in the multiplicity, and these are understandable only with an adequate knowledge. It is within being that the unitary and comprehensive sense of things’ entirety is understood.[19] Multiplicity and otherness are forms, a figure of diversity and diversification of being which in its fullness welcomes and founds, unifies every multiple and makes possible the understanding of the empirical division. The world is a series of figures that show themselves in their reciprocal otherness and in a continuous series of a given position, and objects that are none other than the contractions of the founding unuum that is being.[20]

Cusanus thought the speculative solution of the uniqueness of being as the necessary qualitative starting point to go beyond the finiteness of understanding finitude itself. Only the world, and only its retrieved view under unity, can in some way give reason to the series of determination, of finite things and of the world itself. There is the “one” that is the ultimate contraction of all contracted. It is ultimate not in the chronological sense, but in the sense that from it every other contraction originates and gets sense and in it falls down again. It is only through the effort of understanding the world and its otherness and different and ostensible seriality that we can gain certainty of being that is tending towards the unity and manifestation of the one at the same time.

It is the path that for Cusanus has marked all philosophy. Philosophy is the quest for understanding the passage from unity to multiplicity and from multiplicity to unity.[21]

What is characteristic of thinking is that it never stops at the finite appearance, at the verification of the finite and its transientness. Many figures are really multiples but always the figure of the same dynamism and movement of being and existence. Every understanding of the world and of the figure should transform into a process of understanding the origin and the one. It is about going beyond the finitude, through figurality, to its unifying sense. To go beyond: it does not mean to move forward as to scout an unknown field. The contraction invites us to move beyond not through a path, but through the recognition of truth by taking on its parameter which shows itself indeed beyond figures, to the sense that they require.

It is a truth that is obvious in the world’s figurality; a parameter of the multiple itself. This is the reason why I am fascinated with how Cusanus often calls the reality of things of the world, the series of things: he calls them “distinctio”, “divisio”, “alteritas”. But to these terms, that outline the early surfacing of reality, Cusanus always counterposes other terms such as “compositio”, “coincidentia”, “unitas”.

These are terms in opposition, conflicting, but it is an opposition, a conflict that is the same where things found themselves when not composed of their opposite which unites them – namely, the one. Surely, words such as antagonism or contrast are risky, but it is not an effective risk when seen from the standpoint of the dialectic composition entailed by the term coincidentia[22].

These terms, insistently put in front of each other by Cusanus, find their meaning in the same nature of knowledge that our philosopher meant to indicate: namely, in moving forward of thinking and the mind itself. Thinking, indeed, does not think the division, but the unity that fulfils it and from which it is required. Multiplicity is experienced through senses but its reality is intelligently thought in its unity. The mind grasps the true bond between one and many, a bond which is ontologically unbreakable. A bond that finds its origin only in the concreteness of the idea of God, who is indicated by Cusanus as the origin of every being and of every thinking.

The evidence of Principium essendi et intelligendi that is God, as a foundation and origin of reality and intelligence, does not just carry out the mind’s compositional action, but it can also make it significant. The evidence of this principle allows for the purification of the mind that recognizes the levels of thinking and it is able to put the action of scire and the action of sápere in an orderly way to the quality of thought and of what is experienced. The mind finds itself autonomously and always competent in this reality of the principle.[23] In the always eternal principle, it does not matter anymore how the world should be according to the standards we gave ourselves in the logical distinction, but it becomes mandatory to assume, recognizing it, the world in its full reality as presence and co-presence of things in the same principle, a gift to accept and understand.[24] The world’s visibility is thus a distinctive element in mental and metaphysical retrieving: still a useful and great lesson from Cusanus.

  1. M. Moschini, Cusano nel tempo. Letture ed interpretazioni, Roma 2000 and Ibid., Il destino storiografico di Cusano, in A caccia dell’infinito. L’umano e la ricerca del divino nell’opera di Nicola Cusano, C. Catà (ed.), Rome 2010, p. 303-337; D. Moran, Nicholas of Cusa and Modern Philosophy, in J. Hankins (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance, Cambridge 2007, pp. 173-192; H. Schwaetzer – K. Zeyer (edts.), Das europäische Erbe im Denken des Nikolaus von Kues. Geistesgeschichte als Geistesgegenwart, Münster 2008.
  2. S. Grotz, Negationen des Absoluten. Meister Eckhart, Cusanus, Hegel, Hamburg 2009. See also: M. Moschini, Il pensare e la realtà. Cusano e Hegel, in Il pensare. Rivista di filosofia, I (2012), pp. 70-88.
  3. W. Beierwalters, Platonismus im Christentum, Frankfurt a.M. 2013; Platonismus und Idealismus, Frankfurt a.M. 2004.
  4. Nicolai de Cusa, Directio speculantis seu de non aliud. Ediderunt Ludovicus Baur et Paulus Wilpert. Lipsiae: in aedibus Felicis Meiner, 1944. Part of Nicolai de Cusa opera omnia iussu et auctoritate academiae litterarum Heidelbergensis ad codicum fidem edita; XIII.
  5. P. Bolberitz, Philosophischer Gottesbegriff bei Nikolaus Cusanus in seinem Werk: “De non aliud”, Erfurter Theologische Schriften, Leipzig 1989; see essay in the volume edited by K. Reinhardt et al., Nikolaus von Kues. De non aliud. Nichts anderes, Aschendorff, Münster 2011.
  6. Here, Cusanus’ reflection becomes deep for what concerns the reconstruction of the concept of the possible as not bound to contingency, but to the need to exist of every being. He will forge neologisms to divide this double concept of the possible. It is the main theme of De Possest. Nicolai de Cusa, Opera omnia iussu et auctoritate Academiae Litterarum Heidelbergensis ad codicum fidem edita, Bd. XI, 2: Trialogus de possest, R. Steiger (ed.), Hamburg 1973.
  7. M.C. Rusconi, Thierry von Chartres. Die Einteilung der spekulativen Wissenschaften und der Begriff forma essendi in “De possest” und im Kommentar “Librum hunc”, in Das europäische Erbe im Denken des Nikolaus von Kues, H. Schwaetzer, K. Zeyer (eds.), Aschendorff, Münster 2008, pp. 285-302; Th. Leinkauf, Nicolaus Cusanus und Bonaventura. Zum Hintergrund von Cusanus’ Gottesname “possest”, in Recherches de théologie et philosophie médiévales, Vol 72, Fasc 1 (2005), pp. 113-132.
  8. E. Mirri, L’Itinerarium mentis come Itinerarium Dei, in Doctor Seraphicus, XXVI, 1976, pp. 15-32. From the same, the fundamental entry “Itinerarium” e “mens” in Dizionario Bonaventuriano, E. Caroli (ed.), Edizioni Francescane, Padova 2008.
  9. H. Benz, Der (neu)platonische Aufstiegsgedanke bei Bonaventura und Nikolaus von Kues, in Wissenschaft und Weisheit, 64, 2001, pp. 98-128; W.J. Hoye, Die Vereinigung mit dem gänzlich unerkannten nach Bonaventura, Nikolaus von Kues und Thomas von Aquin, in Die Dionysius-Rezeption im Mittelalter. Internationales Kolloquium in Sofia vom 8. bis 11. April 1999 unter der Schirmherrschaft der Société Internationale pour l’Étude de la Philosophie Médiévale, T. Boiadjiev, G. Kapriev, A. Speer (eds.), Turnhout, Brepols 2000, pp. 477-504; G. Federici Vescovini, La ‘dotta ignoranza’ di Cusano e san Bonaventura, in Doctor Seraphicus, 40/41, 1993, pp. 49-68.
  10. Frequent and wide is Cusanus’ reflection about the world and its vision. It is possible to say that we can find this theme in all of his works. And such considerations were not free from criticism. G. Cuozzo, Raffigurare l’invisibile. Cusano e l’arte del tempo, Mimesis, Milano 2012; D. Albertson, Mapping the Space of God: Mystical Weltbilder in Nicholas of Cusa and the Structure of De ludo globi (1463), in Weltbilder im Mittelalter. Perceptions of the World in the Middle Ages, Drucker bzw. Verlag, Bonn 2009, pp. 61-81; G. Cuozzo, Mystice videre. Esperienza religiosa e pensiero speculativo in Cusano, Torino 2002; G. Brand, Nikolaus von Kues – einer der wahrhaft Großen im Geist. Über die Begegnung des Naturphilosophen Johannes Reinke mit der Welt des Cusanus, in Jahrbuch für den Kreis Bernkastel-Wittlich, 2001, pp. 147-151; G. von Bredow, Participatio singularitatis. Einzigartigkeit als Grundmuster der Weltgestaltung, in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 71, 1993, pp. 216-230; G. Cuozzo, ‘Mystice videre. Esperienza religiosa e pensiero speculativo in Cusano, Torino 2002.
  11. Speaking of which, it is clarifying a passage of a less philosophically commented work from Cusanus, but which instead testifies in a very intense way to his philosophical thinking. It is the dialogue De Genesi. In this work, the philosopher deals with the theme of nature and reality of the world and man. In a page, the talking Corrado provides a synthesis of Cusanus’ previous discourse, while they were debating. From this passage, it is clear that the theme of the passage is from the figure to certainty, and from multiplicity to one. “Nescio cui aliud videri possit quam quod maxime refert attendere sanctorum prophetarum simplics fecundissimas traditiones et philosophorum argutias. Nam magna facilitate hoc compendio similitudinis eo ductus sum, ut rerum ordinem pulcherrimum intuear, scilicet quomodo corporalia sint ob sensibilem discretionem et sensibilis discretio ob rationalem, rationalis ob intellectualem intellectualis ob veram causam, quae est universorum creatrix. Video enim apertissime in praemissio paradigmate omnem naturam servire intellectuali sicut eius assimilationes, ut ipsa sit signaculum verae et absolutae causae atque ut sic omne ens eius medio attingat fontem sui esse, Nam quid quaerit omnis sensibilis inquietatio nisi discretionem seu rationem? Quid quaerit omnis raciocinatio nisi intellectum? Quid quaerit omnis intellectus nisi veram absolutam causam? Idem omnia quaerunt, quod est absolutum, sui signaculum extra intellectualem regionem reperitur. Non enim reperitur quiditas orationis docentis nisi in regione intellectuali, in qua causa vera resplendent. Dicente mathematico omnem triangulum habere tres angulos aequales duobus rectis etiamsi ‘quai est’ discipulus capiat, quousque causam veram non concipit, non intellegit, patefacta causa quiditatem intelelctus intuetur. Ita video in intellectu repslendere causam. Solus igitur intellectus habet oculum ad intuendum quiditatem, quam intueri nequit nisi in causa vera, quae est fon somni desiderii. Et cum omnia appetant esse, in omnibus est desiderium est secundum esse, ut rationabilia rationabiliter, sensibilia sensibiliter, et sic de aliis esse appetant et hoc quidem optime. Onia igitur optimumsed suo mdo desiderant. Unum et idem est absolutm bonum, ad quod omnia vocata esse omnium desiderium ostendit. Cusano, De Genesi, IV, 168/170. From now on, Cusano will be cited in the edited text of the Opera Omnia of the Heidelberg Academy in the Meiner edition of Hamburg.
  12. Precisely in this sense one must read Cusanus’ continuous critiques and the very severe anti-Aristotelian and anti-scholastic passages.
  13. A very well-known distinction that T. Moretti-Costanzi has recently proposed is a different – but substantially identical – picture with the concept of philosophy’s purity. See T. Moretti-Costanzi, La filosofia pura, in Opere, E. Mirri, M. Moschini (eds.), Bompiani, Milano 2009.
  14. Et quoniam ipsa rationis alteritas est et sensus unitas, ipsam sensibiles alteritates complicare atque explicare manifestum est. Hinc discurrit a complicatione et explicationem logice seu rationabiliter inquirendo idem in diversitate. Idem enim est in conclusione syllogistica quod in praemissis, sed complicative in maiori, explicative in conclusione, medio quidem modo in minori. Hinc ubi conlcusio est complicans, maior est explicans. In ratione igitur via complicativa est, quia unitas sensibilium akteritatum, similiter et vis explicativa, quia alteritas intellectualis unitatis pariter et unitas sensibilium. Coincidentia igitur complicationis et explicationis rationale caelum ambit. Quare illa rationalis complicatio explicatioque non sunt de bis oppositis, quae solum in intellectuali unitate coincidunt. In divina enim comlicatione omnia absque differentia coincidunt, in intellectuali contradictoria se compatiuntur, in rationali contraria, ut oppositae differentiae in genere”, in Cusanus, De coniecturis, 239.
  15. Obviously, these are Augustine’s conscience levels, that are renovating themselves in Cusanus’ thinking in the form of speculation on the one and the many.
  16. Aut forte propinquiorem comparationem in te ispo reperies. Tuus etenim intellectus maxime est idem sibi ipsi, quia ipsius idem absoluti signaculum. Hic non nisi in ratione relucet. Variae enim rationes intellectum assimilant, aliae lucide et clare, quae ideo ostensive seu demonstrative dicuntur, aliae persuasuvae debiliter et umbrosae, quae rethoricae sunt, aliae mediocriter. Dum igitur intellectus identificando ad se mundum sensibiem vocare contendit, ut in sui assimilatione surgat, per rationem ipsum nititur. Et quia variae possunt esse specifice differentes discretionis seu rationes sensibilium, in quibus sensibilia ad assimilationem intellectus elevati possunt ut aut visibili modo vela udibili seu gustabili, odorabili vel tangibili, hinc coelum visus exsurgit et coelum auditus et idem de aliis, ut sensibilis nundus visibili modo discrnatur, hoc est ad assimilationem intellectus assurget, quod fit per discretionem in visu visive existentem. Igitur coelum visus virtute visiva refertum spiritu proprio rationali et discretivo regitur et movetur, ut per hoc, quod spiritus oculo intente adest, visiva discretione fruatur, in qua intellectum participiando delectabiliter vivat. Idem de ceteris sensibus concipito”. Cusanus, De Genesi, IV, 187.
  17. I highly recommend H.U. von Balthasar, Das Ganze im Fragment. Aspekte der Geschichtstheologie, Johannes Verlag, Einsiedeln 1990.
  18. Video satis aperte potuisse inquisitores generis rerum deficisse, qui ista non considerunt. Nam quidem ex eo, quia senseruntdurationem mundi ratione immensurabilem, iudicarunt ipsum aeternum, cum aeternum sit idem absolutum, inattingibile omni duratione, cuius inattingibilitas in immensurabili duratione plus patescit. Mensurare enim rationales, quae temporalia attingunt, non attingunt res a tempore absolutas, sicut auditus non attingit quidquam non-audibile, licet illa sint et ei inattingibilia”. Cusanus, De Genesi, II, 155.
  19. Attende igitur ad idem absolutm et statim videbis quoniam ipsum idem absolutum, quoniam idem, hinc aeternum. Non potest enim esse idem absolutum ad lio. Nam cum, ut ais, idem aptum natum sit facere idem, hinc et aliud. Absolutum igitur idem ad alio quomodo esset?”. Cusano, De Genesi, I, 144.
  20. C. D’Amico, “Unum neque idem neque alterum”: novedad y tradición en las nociones cusanas de identidad y alteridad, in Nicholás de Cusa, identidad y alteridad. Pensamiento y diálogo, J.M. Machetta, C. D’Amico (eds.), Biblios, Buenos Aires 2010, pp. 249-260; J.M. Udina, La distinción entre ratio e intellectus y la coincidentia oppositorum en Nicolas de Cusa, y sus Huellas y Vigencia en la Modernidad, in Coincidencia de Opuestos y Concordia, Los Caminos del Pensamiento en Nicolás de Cusa, Soc. Castellano-Leonesa de Filosofía, Salamanca 2002, pp. 179-188; B. McGinn, Unitrinum Seu Triunum: Nicholas of Cusa’s Trinitarian Mysticism, in Mystics: presence and aporia, Chicago 2003 (Religion and postmodernism), M. Kessler (ed.), University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2003, pp. 90-117; W. Beierwalters, Denken des Einen: Studien zur neuplatonischen Philosophie und ihrer Wirkungsgeschicht, Klostermann, Frankfurt 1985.
  21. Resumendo itaque, quae tacta sunt, principium esse uniternume t ipsum aeternum manifestum dico hunc mundum ad uniterno principio ide esse, quod est. Nec sunt multa principia, ut patuit. Non multa non potest nisi unum concipi; ante igitur hunc mundum et multa principium, quod est non multa. Sicut igitur ante multa non multa, sic ante ens non ens et ante intellectum non intellectus et generaliter ante omne effabile ineffabile. Negativa igitur principium omnium affirmationum: primcipiumenim nihil est principiatorum”, Cusano, Tu qui es – De Principio, 34.
  22. See M. Moschini, Il principio e la figura. Ontologia e dialettica nel pensiero di Nicolò Cusano, Carabba, Lanciano 2008.
  23. Ut autem ad apprehensionem intenti inducaris et mentem coniecturarum principium recipias advertas quoniam, ut primum omnium rerum atque nostrae mentis principium unitrinum ostensum est, ut multitudinis, inaequalitatis atque divisionis rerum unum sit principium, a cuius unitate absoluta multitude, aequalitate inaequalitas et conexione division effluat, ita mens nostra, quae non nisi intellectualem naturam creatricem concipit, se unitrinum facit principium rationalis suae fabricae. Sola enim ratio multitudinis, magnitudinis ac compositionis mensura est, ita ut ipsa sublata nihil horum sbsistat, sicut entitate infinita negata omnium rerum entitates pariter constat esse negatas, quapropter unitas mentis in se omnem complicat multitudinem eiusquae aequalitas omnem magnitudinem, sicut et conexio compositionem. Mens igitur unitrinum principium primo ex vi complicativae unitatis multitudinem explicat, multitudo vero inaequalitatis atque magnitudinis generativa est. Quapropter in ipsa primordiali multitudine, ut in primo exemplari, magnitudines seu perfectiones integritatum varias et inaequales venatur, deinde ex utrisque ad compositionem principium”, Cusano, De coniecturis, I, I, 6.
  24. About this theme, cf. R. Belinger, Philosposphie der Kunst. Zum homo-creator Motiv des Nikolaus von Kues, in Perspektiven der Philosophie, XX, 1994, pp. 13-30.

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