BEING AS BEING AND COMPLEMENTARY REFLECTION BY EMMANUEL EFEMETTA, JOSEPH NKANG OGAR

ABSTRACT

The fundamental issue that has engaged philosophers over years now is the attempt to give a conclusive meaning to one seemingly difficult though simple word “being”.  This seems a Herculean task, moreso, because of the diverse ways in which, and perspective from which the notion has been conceived.  Parmenides, according to history, championed the first ever ideas of being, as what is, is, and what is not, is not.  Since this historic and philosophic statement, many other philosophers have reacted variously, either to say that being is what is experiential or ideas, absolute or even as becoming as the case may be.  This has further generated other questions or doubts which border on whether being as being is one or many.  One thing common sense tells us is that, ours is a varied being is one or many.  One thing common sense tells us is that ours is a varied world.  But this does not mean that  things have nothing in common.  Things cannot be different from one another in some way unless first of all they are.  Being as being in the Parmendian sense suffices here.  Whatever is, is being.  And being as much around us, every thing that exist is being.  The onus of this paper is to show that all beings are aspect of one undivided transcendent unity, reliable through a philosophical project known as complementary.  Complementary reflection, as an intellectual mechanism propagates and justifies the oneness and its undividedness of being as much as its level of manifestation.  This paper focused on, first exposing being in its historic perspective, kinds of beings, the notion of being and subsequently a position that pictures complementation in all manner of being through complementary reflection.

 

INTRODUCTION

                It is believed by many with evidence of recorded history that Parmenides just fettered the subjective of being to a philosophical examination and he attempted some answers to what being exactly is.  His answer seems tautological.  What is, is, and what is not, is not.  But this is more than a tautological. However, what Parmenides is saying is that whatever is real is being.  Being, he points out, is one, unchanging and eternal (Edward 273).  Opposed to Parmenides is Heraclitus who thought that potency is illusory because all things as he claimed, are changing.  Empedocles believed that being is many, indestructible and uncreated.  He was concerned with the primary constitution of being not with its essences.  Plato believed strongly that the beingness or the essence of being is in the world of ideas and that whatever manifestations we have of the forms are mere shadows of what things are in the ideal world (Onyeso 115).  According to Aristotle, the object of metaphysics is “Being as Being” or “Pure Being”, hence he describes being as the foundation and unity of all things.  He goes further to identify Being with God.  Pure Being or Being qua being, for Aristotle, is God that this explains why Aristotle also calls metaphysics theology.  He maintains that since the object of metaphysics is Being aqua Being, and Being qua Being is God, it follows, as he points out, that God is the object of Metaphysics as a science.  This idea is summed up in Aristotle’s conception of metaphysics as “wisdom” (Sophia) or first philosophy.  This led him to again define metaphysics as the science of the causes of all things (being).

                These causes for Aristotle are the material, the formal, the efficient and the final (Coreth 18 and 19).  Aristotle has another understanding of being and he affirms that being as being is discoverable in the material universe.  For him, to be is to be a particular substance.  Essence means the real nature of something not its accidental qualities.  Thus all things are either substances or effect of substances.  In effect, there is something beneath everything despite the qualities and this is the essence.  He points out that essence is a universal which is a way of knowing about all the members of a particular group or class.  Humanity, for instance, stands for man, animality for lower animals, etc. Aquinas followed Aristotle.  For him there is no existence without essence and essence is actualized in existence.  Essence and existence serve as act and potency of being.  Existence helps in the actualization of essence.  In short, Aquinas almost followed Aristotle in echoing the “essence must mean something common to all the nature through which different beings are placed in different genera and species” (Aquinas 27).

                Essence is the basic nature or quality of a thing (Webster, 198).  In the modern period of philosophy, Descartes saw being as something dualistic namely thought and extension, each dependent of the other.  For Spinoza, being is monistic, being is one and it is pluralistic.  Hegel argues that being is realized in the absolute spirit.  For him to say that a thing is, is indeed to say nothing at all about it.  He maintains that the idea of being has no content, for the moment it is given content, it would no longer be the concept of Pure Being but the concept of something.  For him, being is a concept expressed in our judgement of experience, and it must be noted that Hegelian Absolute in the rational culmination of historical experience, not a power beyond and outside it (Edward 275).

                Heideger, one of the rare minds in philosophy, affirmed that being is traceable only and through Dasein, thus there can be seined (multiple things in the world) but there cannot be sein (perhaps to be equated with Aristotelian Being though  penetrating and transcending particular beings is nonetheless deeply immanent in and dependent on them with no further transcendent unitary source (Ihejiofor 4).  However, before the Heidegger, Hussel pointed out that every being is a phenomenon.  And J.P. Satre claimed that being is the sum total of all beings but not in the sense of Heidegger’s sien.  Also in the complementary period of philosophy Alfred North Whitehead insisted that the study of metaphysical truths as being qua being is uncovered in process (Omoregbe 212).

                From the above historical exposition, it is obvious that being aqua being is of different categories and manifests at different levels.  It is on this basis that I consider it pertinent to examine the various kinds of being.  Ontology specifies three kinds of being that cut across the sciences and they signify the whole of being (Aquinas 34).  There are Real Being, Idea Being, and Logical Being.  Real Being is there whether we are aware of it or not and it is subdivided into:

                Actual being exists; possible being leads existence but is not intrinsically impossible to exist.

                Substantial being does not require the assistance of another to exist.  Accidental being cannot exist in itself but in another.

                Necessary and contingent being:  the non-existence of a necessary being is impossible while contingent is one whose non-existence is possible.

                Absolute being can be thought of or can exist without reference to another.  Relative being on the other hand can exist or be thought of only in reference on another.

                Finite and infinite being:  Reality of a finite being is limited it perfection whereas actual infinite being has a reality without limit.

                Ideal Being: it deals with the sensible and intellectual.              

                Logical Being:  the purely logical idea of a being is the empties of all notions.  Logically, it has the widest extension and the least comprehensive.  It mans so little that it means anything.

 

THE NOTION OF BEING

                A closer scrutiny of being as examined in the historical exposition, from the pre-Socratic philosophers to the contemporary, re-echoes the fact that, the question of being is still a philosophical problem in search of solution.  As one would also observe, the development of being in each stage of thought and level of conception has been beset with inherent controversies.  Moreso, it shows that the philosophical question, “what exactly is being?”, and the attempt at defining being is indeed one of the most Herculean tasks one can grapple with.  However, Parmenides’ historic interpretation of being as ‘what is, is; and what is not, is not,” meaning further that whatever is real is being, and also that being is one, unchanging and eternal, will suffice here.  According to Webster Dictionary, Being is anything that exist conscious existence or the astrial nature of a thing (58).

                Copleston uses the term being to mean the present participle of the verb “to be” which gives rise to one concept common to all actual existent beings.  Since there are alike with one another, being is a noun designating a thing which exists or is at least capable of existing or designating the totality of that which all things has in common (Onyeso 26).

                Metaphysical enquires essentially engaged in the study of being as such; and an aspect of metaphysics called ontology treats of being.  Being as being or being which we are concern here with, springs from the verb “to be”.  Hence, being is very much around us.  It is everywhere.  It follows therefore that we secure a direct idea of being from what exists around and about us namely; chair, fan, house, tree, table, man and all that.

It is also on the basis of the above definition that Aristotle derived the knowledge of the supersensible from the knowledge of sense objects.  Aquinas in the same vein insisted that the immediate object of metaphysics is being as being.  In other words, being as such may be caused by extrinsic or intrinsic causes of each particular being.  Topically therefore, metaphysics as the science of being as being, has as its object all reality visible and invisible.  Whatever exists, as in all particular domains of beings.(Coreth 19).

The notion of being in metaphysical or ontological circle is used in the sense where “Being” means existence and in all senses where being means being as such or that which is common to everything that exists.  Being unequivocally, therefore, is one and undivided as implied in Parmenides historic interpretation.  In this case, every being thus has unity in as much as it is that one thing, incapable of existing as multiplication of itself.  For unity means undivideness.  The unity of being is called transcendental because it is limited to no class of things, but belongs to being as such, whatever can exist, can exist only in as much as it can come into existence as that one thing.  This position finds relevance in the law of identity which upholds that a thing is that thing which it is.

By ontological status and ontological relation of being and essence, there is a complementarity between being and essence in their relationship.  Essence is actualized in existence and there can never be essence without existence to any being.  In the case of God who is the absolute being essence is identical with his existence.  It follows also that the ontological (transcendent property) of being is meant certain supreme modes common to all beings with different phases of being itself implicitly included in its concept.  Beauty includes both truth and goodness for in every case it is the actual knowing of the being which occasions its pleasure.  And this is characteristically a posteriori.  A priority God who created all beings that are good must be infinitely good.  Therefore, ontological good is being in as much as it is act and this good is identical with being.  The transcendental one or unity is the first property of being and is being in itself which is undivided.

 

BEING AS BEING AND COMPLEMENTARY REFLECTION

                This explanation captures the crux of the philosophy envisaged by Asouzu, known as complementarity (Asouzu 2004).  It is revolutionary in outlook, such that it intends to give a new world order, which will enhance development in Africa and beyond.  It propagates a position which castigates the re-occurrence of Hobbersian state of nature in this century and nearest future.  Topically, complementarity as a complementary outlook recognizes being (whatever exists) as moment of being in the world.  This individual existent, he posits though seeks expression diversely, are aspects of the transcendent unity.  In this sense therefore, being as such, should consider mutual dependence as sine qua non for unity with essence.  Here, being is undivided but one.  Comlementarity through its complementary reflection seeks to harmonize and complement all being, existing things, man etc. in a common relation, to one another.  In a nutshell, the basic assumption in that of actualization of all being as such.  It is in this that all missing links of reality can be accommodated and considered fragments still useful in the joy inherent in the experience of all beings.

                This idea of complementarity permeates G. Marcel and M. Heidegger’s treatment of being, when they say that the worth and dignity of any individual or being is guaranteed when one being (existing) recognizes the existence of others (Omoregbe, 73, 77), but marks its departure by situating the joy of being in the mutual dependence as transcendent unity of consciousness.  Thus, through its intellectual mechanism, complementry reflection shares in the metaphysical ontological search into the nature of being in the most profound, universal, total and comprehensive manner.  In this direction, however, Asouzu attempts to grasp a unique method of solving issues in contemporary time with a critically anayzed African approach which will enhance harmonic co-existence among all existent realities.

                According to Godwin Onus Idakpo, the peripatetic’s conception of being is founded on the principles of complementarity, this is in view of the fact that they consider the metaphysical science of being qua being as the study of the reality of being from the stand point of other beings.

                Similarly, African metaphysics basically sees reality as the manifestation of Being which has special relationship with all existent beings, objects, or subjects (Uduigwomen 154).  The implication of the above conception of being by both the peripatetics and African is that the Joy of Being in each case is realizable only in mutual dependence on each other.  This complementary foundation is also the basis of African communalistic humanism, which is further expressed in the African believe that unity is strength.  In indubitably agree with Asouzu that complementarity is originally African.  This is basically because in our own country-side, Itigidi and Yala, the sayings “Nta nta bini ete lequo ge piele” “Nsim si lowa” (meaning that a goal or objective jointly pursued suffers no defeat) and in Yala Onu is lowa means (there is success and strength in unity) have since been the foundation for all the successes or victory the communities have attained over the years.  This saying castigates contradiction just like in complementary reflection, as a limiting factor towards human development and actualization of the joy of being.

                Hence, it sees non-contradiction as a criterion for harmonious, mutual co-existence of all being (man).  This African perspectives of complementarity in summation has been expressed variously as harmonious monism, collective-egoism as well as I ma, because we are (Asouzu 103).  This conception of being is also expressed by Gowin Sogolo thus; once the conception of man is understood, not in the sense of some universal characteristics (essence) which all men possess, but as a way in which man is perceived by a given community, his relation to other living being and his role among other men.  It is in this sense that the African conception of man may be seen to be different from, say, European conception of man, (Sogolo 190).  In other words, man in African perception is seen not as existing in isolation to others, but exists in total complementary mutual dependence and cohabitation, to achieve set goals.

                According to Robin Artfied, it is necessary to point out the possibility that none of such conceptions may reflect the true nature of man (Sogolo 190).  This could be true in out opinion, f the Hobbersian state of nature is anything to go by.  Moreso, the fact that comtemporary attributes of man speak more of egoistic than altruistic tendencies, Art Field’s position might hold swsay.  However, it is on this basis we consider Asouzu’s vision as encapsulated in his complementary approach to topical and life touching issues as revoltuonary which seeks to overcome historical hobbersian human nature and its anti-complementary character, by charting a new course for human development.

                In Bantu ontology as quoted by Idjakpo, Being is the force or spirit.  It is the permeation of the force or spirit in all things that is responsible for what is.  Hence, for Africans, being is not something mysterious but that all being represents aspects of reality (Uduigwomen 154).  It follows therefore as Asouzu maintains that, for the traditional African, complemenarity belongs to the realm of foundation for unity of consciousness and being as precondition for authentic existence and mutual co-existence in society.

                Plato, though believes in two different existence of being (that is, beingness of the world of forms and particular or material world, unequivocally reconciled the beings by sounding that the particulars participated or are shadows of the one original which manifests diversely.  This reconciliation points out the complementarity in Plato’s notion of being.  Descartes saw being as something dualistic namely thought and extension, each independent of the other.  However, the comlementary element in Descartes idea of being is epitomized in his effort to locate the meeting point or interacting  point at the pineal gland, where the mind and body affect each other through mutual dependence.  All discrete attempts through epiphenometaialism, parallelism interaction to explain out the mutual dependence of mind/body they remain highly dependent.

                According to Aquinas, any conceivable reality is either act, or potency.  Act and potency help to explain the various aspects of being.  A being that its own act of “to be” is obviously superior to a being that has its own act of “to be” proportionate to its own nature.  God or pure Act is its own act of “to be”, other creatures like Angels has a “to be” proportionate to his nature of pure spirit.

                Man on his own part has an essence composed of matter and form, and the “to be” a man corresponds to the essence of man.  This idea of being by Aquinas is complementary in the sense that though there are various aspects of beings, the finite (being) recognizes the superior infinite being devoid of contradiction, and relates in mutual service towards upholding the transcendent unity of consciousness in which their reality is founded (Asouzu 148).  Hence, in sevice, all aspects cohere and uphold their individuality and distinctiveness.  Thus, confirms the idea that anything that exists serves a missing link of reality in view of the unifying foundation of consciousness.  This sums up in the expression that in Africa, reality is taken to be the manifestation of being which has special relationship with all existent beings, objects or subjects (Uduigwomen 154).

 

 

CONCLUSION

                From the historical exposition of the idea of being, we can say that everything we see in our world really exists.  Everything we see around, exists in relation to every other, as Hegel would put that, reality is the unfolding of the absolute (mind).  Nothing exists in isolation and this mutual relationship goes to give the idea of the unity and undividedness of being captures the crux of complementary reflection, a philosophy which propagates non-contradiction as a condition necessary for human co-habitation and development.

 

 

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