The Inseparability of Epistemology, Ontology, and Logic

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The Effect of Western Dualisms

Since Greek times, Western philosophy has separated subjects from each other. These include epistemology (how we know), ontology (what exists), and logic (relations between propositions). The separation relies on two dualisms. First, the dualism of mind and body in which epistemology pertains to the mind and ontology to the body (even if the mind is recognized in the ontology it is only to say that it is separate from the body and hence plays no significant role in the understanding of the body). Second, the dualism of this world and the Platonic world in which ontology pertains to this world and the logic governing this ontology resides in the Platonic world.

Thus, we arrive at three separate subjects, namely, epistemology, ontology, and logic that respectively belong to three worlds—the mental world, the material world, and the Platonic world. As long as these worlds remain separate, the Platonic world rules over the mental world and the material world. The mental world can at most rule over the material world as it tries to create many models of the material world within the confines of logic. The material world cannot rule over the mental or Platonic world. Nor can the mental world rule over the Platonic world. The worlds, therefore, have a strictly hierarchical relationship. At the top is the Platonic world, below it is the mental world, and at the bottom is the material world.

Some people might say that Greeks did not explicitly recognize the mind. They just thought of the material world as substances. The mind-body dualism is also a later Cartesian addition, and it did not exist during Greek times. All this is true. But it doesn’t mean that Greeks did not speak about thought and reasoning and did not separate it from the world. The Greeks called the mind psyche and it existed although not as a mental substance as in Cartesian dualism. The mind as thought and reasoning remained separate from the material world even though it was not explicitly recognized in an ontology. What remains rather obscure is if Greeks ever gave serious attention to knowing the self. The study of the psyche, mind, self, soul, and so on, was never given great emphasis in Western thinking until the 18th century when German Idealism was born. After that, there was a flurry of philosophies talking about the mind, but never applying the principle of Greek logic to such study.

If we follow the Greek notion of logic ruling over the whole world, then logic must govern epistemology too because knowledge in the mind pertains to the ontology of the body and since the ontology is governed by logic, therefore, the concepts being used to describe the body must also be governed by logic.

The Problem in Thinking of Logic

Let’s now look at the problems arising from the separation of these three worlds. Let’s begin with the application of logic to the mind. Thinking about the mind isn’t logical because the same idea can at once exist in many minds although the same body cannot exist simultaneously in many places. The Principle of Identity uses positioning in space to identify one thing. If the same thing can be at many places at once, then it would be many things, leading to the contradiction that “one thing is many things”.

Therefore, the logic by which we think of bodies in Greek thinking cannot be extended to the mind. If that body-bound logic happens to be the only logic applied to the entirety of reality, then we can never logically think about ideas or the mind that creates them. Thus, even as we assume that logic must govern all thinking in order to obtain knowledge, the first principle of knowledge (namely, that many people can know the same truth), is patently contradictory to the first principle of logic—i.e., Identity.

Similarly, we cannot think of logic itself using logic because thinking assumes a difference between knower and known—the former is the mind and the latter is the body. If a thinker starts thinking about himself, then calling the self-thought bad would mean that the thinker is itself bad. All his criticisms of thoughts about himself become his personal criticisms of himself and should be disregarded as the thoughts of a bad thinker. Likewise, if logic is used to speak about logic, then any logical criticism of logic that itself employs logic will result in self-contradiction. Logically speaking, we must reject all self-contradictory claims. Thus, we can never logically criticize logic while using logic for criticism.

In this way, even if we can see that the logic used for the body cannot be extended to the mind, we cannot criticize it logically because such criticism of the logic using logic will just produce self-contradiction and cannot be considered a valid argument. This is how bad logic becomes irrefutable if we have accepted that logic for thinking about all future things. We cannot even step out of logic to criticize it.

Separation of Theoretical and Practical

To summarize the separation of worlds, logic in the paradigm of Western thinking resides in the Platonic world and can be applied to the material world by the mind but logic cannot be applied to the mind itself. The application of logic to the mind denies the possibility of knowledge since one idea could never exist in more than one mind. Thus, if one man knows something, then nobody else can know. We cannot even criticize logic for this flaw using logic because criticism will result in self-contradiction.

To justify this limited role of logic (i.e., that it can be applied by the mind but can’t be applied to the mind), Aristotle additionally created a separation of theoretical and practical forms within the Platonic world of forms, thus dividing the material world also into two groups. The theoretical forms (such as triangles, circles, squares, etc.) reside in the material world, in the mental world, and in the Platonic world, and can be comprehended through logic, arithmetic, geometry, and so on. The practical forms (such as art, music, poetry, dance, etc.) also reside in the three worlds but logic, arithmetic, and geometry do not apply to them. We can precisely say if something is a circle or not. But we cannot precisely say if something that someone calls music, poetry, dance, or art is definitively a practical form or not.

The separation of theoretical and practical forms becomes necessary because logic doesn’t apply to everything in the specific sense that we cannot precisely say what something is or is not. If we cannot apply that basic Principle of Identity, the Principle of Non-Contradiction and Principle of Excluded Middle also don’t apply. Thereby, the Platonic world, the mental world, and the material world are split into two haves—logic doesn’t apply to any practical form and its use must be restricted to theoretical forms.

How Western Thinking Is Impersonalist

Matter could never exist in the mind or in the Platonic world. Similarly, the mind could not exist in the Platonic world because there is only one of everything in the Platonic world. If the mind could ascend to the Platonic world, it would become a pure mind, and there can only be one pure mind. All the individual minds would have to be merged into a single mind for those minds to ascend to the Platonic world. There could not be many individual minds thinking pure thoughts because that would mean that each mind had become a separate individual Platonic world, creating infinite such Platonic worlds.

Aristotle’s thinking thus breeds impersonalism in the sense that individual minds are separate only as long as they are impure minds. The moment they become pure they must merge into a single mind. The individuality of each mind is therefore an illusion that can be sustained only while it is impure. If the mind dies at the death of the body, then there is no ascendence to the Platonic world in the afterlife. If the mind merges with the other minds into a single Universal Mind, then individuality is ephemeral.

Since the Greek separation of logic, epistemology, and ontology is used universally in the West, hence, all Western thinking is at its root one of two things—(a) materialistic in the sense that there is no life after death, or (b) impersonalist in the sense that going to the Platonic world means merging all minds. As time passes, therefore, the use of the Greek separation of subjects can only result either in materialism or impersonalism. Either the mind dies at death or all minds merge into a single mind after death. The separation of the minds into many individuals can at best be called dividing an ocean into many pots filled with water. Death must destroy the individuality of a person by breaking the potted minds.

Christianity’s Double Standard

Isn’t it surprising then that for over 2000 years Christianity has used a double standard—(a) each mind is individual, and (b) all minds must think exactly the same because truth cannot be more than one? The reason this double standard exists is that Christianity borrowed Aristotelian ideas to create a rational system, never realizing the eternal separation of three worlds (material, mental, and Platonic) and the eternal division of forms (theoretical and practical), restricting logic’s use to the material world. When the universalist ideas of Aristotle—which he had restricted to theoretical forms (triangle, circle, square, etc.)—were extended to the whole of reality, then they were extended to the mind (or the soul) as well. As we have noted, the mind can use logic to think about matter but logic can’t be applied to the mind.

Now, owing to universalism, there could not be more than one Platonic truth. Everyone who believed in something else could not be correct. This immediately led to exclusivism in religion, simply by extending the idea that circle, triangle, and square have one definition, hence, religion must have one definition. Any other definition could not be true. Acknowledging any other religion means falsifying one’s own.

From an Aristotelian perspective, religion should have been treated as a practical form which means it is not dealing with circles, triangles, squares, arithmetic, and geometry so the principles of logic that were restricted to theoretical forms should not be extended to religion. But Christianity extended the use of Aristotelian theoretical forms to religion, in total contradistinction to what Aristotle had prescribed.

The double standard resulting from this extension is that there are multiple minds thinking the same thing, going to a Platonic world of pure minds, where there cannot be more than one instance of purity. Any variation in any mind thinking slightly different from each other would mean that there are multiple definitions of circle, triangle, and square. Since that is not permissible therefore every mind must think of identical ideas. Why then would we call them separate minds when separation of minds means that there is at least one unique idea in each mind that does not exist in any other mind in the same way?

On one hand, Christianity upheld Greek Universalism to destroy all alternative ideas. On the other, it talked about individual freedoms to think and create, justify and refute, competing in the marketplace of ideas, which led to hundreds if not thousands of theories, claims, and ideologies. Under Universalism, all except one idea must be false. In so far as each person thinks something different, they are unique minds that cannot be fitted into a Universalist worldview. If they die, then all of them cannot go to the Platonic world. At most one person can even go to the Platonic world—if he has the correct idea. Otherwise, all the minds must be merged into a single mind to destroy all kinds of individualism and free choices.

And yet, Christianity has upheld the radical double standard of universalism and individualism. The former allows one to destroy and refute all ideas except one’s own. The latter allows one to create their own new ideas. If someone accepts another person’s idea, their individuality has been subordinated to a universality. If instead, they assert their individuality, it comes at the cost of universality. Universalism and individualism cannot be true simultaneously. However, Christianity upholds this double standard in a unique way—my claims are the universal truths whereas every other claim is a complete falsehood.

The result of this double standard is that all Western thinking has always been exclusivist and will remain so until the age-old dogmas of three separate worlds, theoretical vs. practical forms, universalism, and individualism, the application of logic to matter but not to the mind, and the contradictory idea of many minds existing in the Platonic world even as they cannot exactly agree with each other in this world, are collectively and summarily discarded. That of course would be the end of Western civilization.

The Use of Extra-Logical Thinking

We have to use some extra-logical thinking to imagine a post-West scenario. That alternative way of thinking is found in the Vedic system. Therein, there are infinite individual minds both in this world and the supposed Platonic world or spiritual world. Both these worlds are idea-like rather than object-like in the sense that the same ideas can exist in many minds—the idea is one and yet it is in many places. Since logic cannot deal with one thing that is at once many things, therefore, we have to call this extra-logical. We can never subsume this thinking under Aristotelian logic rooted in object thinking. We have to begin with mind-thinking in which the same idea can exist in infinite minds so it is one and many at once.

The body must also be just like an idea—namely, that the properties of the body (such as taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight) can also exist in many places so each property would be simultaneously one and many. And yet, each body can be a unique combination of ideas, namely, a unique composition of the properties such as taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. Some of these unique combinations can be called the truth while the other combinations must be called myths. The temporary combinations can be called myths while the eternal combinations must be called truths. The properties are eternal and true. But the combinations of these properties also need to be checked—if they are truths or myths.

To do that, we have to apply the same principle as we apply to test the truth and myth of ideas. Remember, both minds and bodies are just like ideas. They are truths if they are consistent with some Absolute Truth and they are myths if they are inconsistent with some Absolute Truth. This is how we test for validity of ideas in our minds—if something is inconsistent with an irrefutable truth then it must be false, but if it is consistent with the irrefutable truth, then it must be true. Thereby, we don’t reduce all truths to just one truth. There can be infinite truths if they are consistent with an Absolute Truth. There can be infinite myths as well if they are inconsistent with an Absolute Truth. The principles that we apply to truth and myth in our minds can now be applied even to bodies and individuals because they are all ideas. Thereby, we don’t have a dualism of mind vs. body or this world vs. the Platonic world. We just have the dualism of truth vs. myth based on whether it is consistent with the Absolute Truth.

Something consistent with the Absolute Truth can be found both in this world and the Platonic world. But something inconsistent with the Absolute Truth can only exist in this world and not the Platonic world. Therefore, the truth can “incarnate” in this world, but the myth cannot “incarnate” in the Platonic world. By seeing the truth incarnate in this world, we can become consistent with it and ascend to the Platonic world. If we reject that truth incarnate in this world, we must remain within this world.

The Necessity of Alternative Logics

To uphold this alternative worldview, we have to think of an alternative logic that is modeled after the nature of the mind and ideas rather than the ideas of the body and objects. The essence of that logic is that one thing can be present in many places. The same idea can exist in many minds. The same properties of taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight can simultaneously exist in many bodies. That is the breakage of all the principles of Aristotelian logic—(a) the Principle of Identity is false because the same thing is in many places, (b) the Principle of Non-Contradiction is false because one thing is many things and many things are one thing, and (c) the Principle of Excluded Middle is false because the same thing is one and many.

These are not strange properties. Everyone knows about these properties every day when they think of minds and ideas. They are falsified only when we elevate the thinking of bodies and objects to universal thinking, eliminate the possibility of ever understanding the mind, and separate reality into the Platonic world, mental world, and material world, such that the minds can either die or merge in the Platonic world, followed by the creation of contradictory double standards of universalism and individualism.

Therefore, the problem of logic comes down to just one thing—namely, Aristotle created a system of three worlds, two types of forms (theoretical and practical), the universalism of theoretical forms and individualism of practical forms, which were then repeatedly mixed to create endless confusion, all rooted in the simple system of logic that was itself derived from thinking about material objects. If we get rid of Aristotelian thinking, then all the problems can be solved. Of course, it will end the Western civilization too. We can anticipate that those attached to Western civilization are the opponents of the Vedic alternative because it is in all fundamental respects opposed to Western civilization.

The Inseparability of Multiple Subjects

The Aristotelian model of subject separation—articulated initially as ontology, epistemology, and logic—has been the foundation for the continuation of such separation in the form of dozens of modern departments of knowledge such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, economics, sociology, law, political theory, and so on. When the worlds are not separate—since a truth consistent with the Absolute Truth can exist in this world—then why should the departments be separated?

If we model reality like mind and thoughts, then ontology is mind and thoughts. Epistemology is not about knowing some material object. It is also a property of the mind expressed as thoughts and it is true if it correctly understands the other mind and thought, and it becomes true if it is aligned with the Absolute Truth. Likewise, logic can be used on the mind and thought to check if they are consistent with the Absolute Truth. Thus, epistemology, ontology, and logic become identical subjects when we talk about mind and thought. They are separated when we talk about material objects when pure forms reside in the Platonic world which then governs the material world, and this logic of Platonic forms—embodied as arithmetic and geometry—cannot be applied to the mind because the same idea is in many minds but the same object cannot be in many places. The separation of epistemology, ontology, and logic is itself materialism and their inseparability is itself spiritualism or the nature of mind and thought.

When we take out the foundation of this separation that began with Aristotle, then we start merging many subjects together. There is no such thing as physics because reality is mind and thought. The thing that is physics is also the thing that is psychology. The thing is psychology is also the thing that is biology. The thing that is the biological study of organisms is also the study of the cosmos as a bigger organism with trillions of smaller organisms within it just like organisms within our bodies. Likewise, society, economics, and government are simply the regulation system of mind-like organisms.

The moment we get rid of Aristotelian trialisms, dualisms, and contradictions, knowledge begins to coalesce into one subject of mind and thought. There are infinite types of minds and thoughts, so let us not think that this coalescing makes life trivial. It is indeed very complex. But it is no longer a collection of contradictory subjects. Complexity can be addressed. Contradictions cannot be addressed. Factually, epistemology, ontology, and reasoning are one subject. Mind, matter, and rationality are one subject. Religion and science are one subject. But only if we model everything as mind and thought.

Cite this article as:

Ashish Dalela, "The Inseparability of Epistemology, Ontology, and Logic," in Shabda Journal, July 16, 2023,