Parabolic Estimative and the Formation of Tensions

Theme V
Article 4

Man does a parabolic estimative[1] (or parabolic thymesis), which consists of a comparative appreciation between what one has/is and the specific perfection of which man does not actually, but only virtually, possesses, as we have demonstrated, in Man Before the Infinite, as the origin and foundation of religion. Such aptitude cannot be included as an animal tension, since it transcends animality and reaches the theological.

Within the general reckoning of the scrutinized themes, it is convenient to note the following points (apprehended positivities), from different angles, which shall allow the formation of a final concretion:

  1. a) We can consider the selectivity of all existence – as we have indicated before – as a function itself, action of “choosing” according to affinities or schemes that are corresponding to the spheres of reality;
  2. b) However, we shall distinguish, from such cosmic intellectuality, the human intellectuality.

Human intellect, once considered within the same essential scheme of cosmic intellectuality, proceeds, by psychical means, the selection of facts through adaptation (assimilation-accommodation). Intellectual intuition apprehends, by comparison, similarities and differences, and other relations of causality and finality.

From such operation, the functional polarization of our intellectuality was sedimented into intuition and reason, also functional polarizations of the spirit, interconnected with sensibility and affectivity.

It is necessary to observe that creative imagination and the construction of new schemes, based on anterior ones, are a special characteristic of the human spirit, once we consider that humans can combine various and dissimilar schemes, compare them, and, with them, create new schemes without having a correspondent extra mentis suppositum as the schemes’ substractum, as in, for instance, the entities of reason, the works of fiction, etc.

Such activity is only possible within the psychological sphere, and, for the absence of who shall do it, cannot happen within the biological and the physical-chemical sphere. Even though, in these two spheres, there is selectivity, there is no ability to construct, with schemes, other schemes, without proper biological and physical-chemical modifications, since, in such spheres, the schemes are identical and coalesced with the facts itself.

However, psyche can create, with images, new images. Psyche can – and that is what Psychology calls creative imagination – give a new ordination to images so that they acquire a different meaning from when considered individually. There is, in creative imagination, the formation of fictional schemes, which could not correspond, as a whole, to a existing reference, such as in works of fiction.

A set of images coordinated in a way that forms a new imaginative structure, constitute a new scheme. And such has a meaning, since imagination is always semiotically (of semeion, symptom) referent to schemes of affective order and that is the reason we can judge the individuality and personality of someone based on the products of his creative imagination.

Therefore, we vindicate a deeper meaning to fiction. We shall firstly analyze the thought already exposed by other philosophers about fiction, so to start from there. Such study must happen in light of the study of hypothesis, which is a supposition, but founded on what is already known, so to establish, on its turn, what is not yet definitely known.

In Scholasticism, there was a clear distinction between fiction and hypothesis. The former was what does not really exist (ficta fictiones things), namely the unreal, to which, although, philosophy could not but acknowledge its important role, through the so-called fictio rationis (fiction of reason) or entia rationis (entities of reason), upon the operational development.

Posteriorly, its usage would be circumscribed to the fictions of imagination, from which not even the scientific activity was excluded, having received the magnificent study of Vaihinger. Such criticism came to a point that even the constructions of an abstract philosophy – that separates the composing aspects from the whole – were considered fictional, such as categories, auxiliary concepts – to a point in which Vaihinger considers everything as fictional, “as if” (als ob) matching reality.

Also the studies by C. Ogden lead to similar affirmations, such as to classify as absolute fictions of first order, matter, form, quantity, space; as absolute fictions of second order, quality and modification, and fictional entities, linked to relation, as diversity, identity, place, time, movement, existence, etc.

Indeed, it is sufficient to consider the formation of abstract schemes and their corresponding significant, the terms, in order to comprehend that all activity of reason is fictionalist, at least in this sector.

Now, concepts are practical, technical means for human beings to transmit, socially, thoughts, whether sensorimotor, intellectual or affective. It could be the case of going even further and conclude that fiction itself is fictional, what would be a – at least apparent – aporia.

Although, there is no need for such, since our study herein about the operations of our spirit demonstrate that we construct concepts – hence, fictional – but nonetheless indicate a foundation on reality. By considering it separately, for an operational necessity of our spirit to abstract, we are at risk of considering the abstraction (herein, the fiction) as if occurring autonomously, disconnected from the remainder of reality’s complexity.

From the moment in which we scrutinize what the concepts indicate, we comprehend that they have a deeper root within concrete existence itself, for such concepts have intentionality and refer to eidetic structures, of which things, in a certain way, imitate.

That being said, we are, now, ready to return to the anterior thought. We have viewed that our spirit functions by encompassing sensibility, affectivity and intellectuality; the latter two operating with functional polarization that are posterior to the spirit, although being impossible the existence of functions exclusively isolated from an other. Intellectuality cannot operate without an interconnection with affectivity, as well as the former and the latter with sensibility.

They are different stages of an overall process that unfolds into variables without losing its profound invariable groundwork of interconnection. If we can and have constructed intellectual fictions, we can also construct affective ones (poetic and aesthetic imagination, for instance), as well as ones of a sensible order (sensible hallucinations, etc) without having, between them, a separation.

Thereby, our aptitude for creative imagination, i.e., the construction of new schemes based on anterior ones, characterizes our spirit and is something that happens – totally – within it. The activity of the spirit consists in the power to construct new schemes over anterior ones, but with its peculiarly typical, characteristic and differentiating note that such schemes does not refer but only partially to composing elements of reality; such as the centaur, which, in totality, is fictional, but as a “body of horse” and “bust of man”, in separate, correspond to reality.

The spirit is the sole creator of fictions. The tensional schemes of other spheres, such as the physical, cannot create them. Therefore, such aptitude is the specific functional difference of the spirit, foundation of aesthetics.

Now, if that happens in such “sector”, we could never explain such aptitude by biological operations, i.e., reducing it to the biological sphere. Fictional schemes does not refer to realities of factual contents, since, on the contrary, would be real-real. If reduced to biological, it would be real tensions, and not fictional ones. Besides, the components would be incorporated in the tension, as occur in all that happens within biological and physical-chemical spheres.

The schematic tensional elements that forms the fictional does not incorporate within the whole, insofar as it can form other fictional sets with other schemes. Don Quixote is a fictional tension, but founded in real schemes, since man cannot imagine, in his schemes, what cannot be assimilable by him. We can talk about a color that is different than those that we know, but we could not represent it outside the field of our optical schemes.

Thus, there is a reality of fiction, and it can never be considered as an absence for not corresponding to a tensionally formed reality, but such reality has to be considered as founded on schemes in which the spirit gives a new tension (Don Quixote did not historically exist, but his entire psychology, soul, affectivity, etc. are based on real schemes).

We are now faced with two realities:

  1. fictional reality, founded on schemes;
  2. real reality, historically founded.

The first is always a reality in other, the second, a reality in itself. The first has levels of reality, whilst the second has not. The first can be gradually considered, as more or less, the second, as aut… aut, in an excludent manner, either… or.

Therefore, we can comprehend schemes that can correspond to a combination of fictional-real and historical-real, allowing us to consider them as gradations. We are left, now, with the work of distinguish, within the operation of the spirit, between the construction of merely fictional schemes and those “hybrids”.

In such case, we should consider as such hybrids the intellectual constructions of the spirit, since they do not only include entirely the historical reality, but allows a necessary extent of fiction, so to clarify the understanding.

Besides, the spirit, for instance, when creating spheres of knowledge, proceeds fictionally, but such spheres still have a historical-real basis, despite the ordering contribution of our spirit that coordinates in order to study. Therefore, science is our science and its construction is a hybrid of fictional-real and historical-real.

Now, if our spirit can create schemes and they do not occur as those of historical reality, and being such schemes news and founded on anterior ones (therefore, the new ones can constitute a third, etc), it is definitely clear that our spirit is fundamentally distinct from the remainder of the other tensional spheres already examined.

Such fictions have no correspondence as such, formally, to the historical reality, but to various historical realities (Don Quixote has a little of each and every man, more of one than of other, etc). Such fictions, we shall repeat, correspond to historical reality not as total tension.

The creative aptitude of the spirit could not belong to the physical order, otherwise it would incorporate and historically structurate such schemes of merely biological combinations.

Creative imagination creates something that is beyond, that transcends the very elements that it schematically utilizes, forming a new structure without projecting itself within the historical reality as such.

Since a) it cannot be the elements created by itself, b) reveal a certain order, c) such order subsists independently from its components, it reveals a creative activity that handles the schemes without incorporating them within the whole (they can even be part of other schemes), which implies the presence of a factor and a fulcrum for them, i.e., the spirit – not as a sum of psyche and its schemes, but as a tension that is specifically different and per se subsistent.

The Possest (which, for Nicholas of Cusa is the Supreme Being, the being that can, namely, God, as supreme tension) gives historical reality to everything It conceives (it “minds”), since It cannot transcend Itself once transcendence of everything. In this case, there was foundation and not mere fictionalism amongst the scholastics when they stated that the thoughts of God positively considered realities, real entities.

To sum up, human spirit creates tensions (that is subsistent in the spirit itself), independent, as such, of a historical reality. Such capacity separates mankind from everything else and makes it analogous to God, with the difference that God would give a positive reality to a scheme, entifying it historically, whilst human beings can only provide a fictional reality founded on our anterior schemes.

As we create within ourselves, the Possest creates within Itself.

We transcend, when creating. We create in transcendence, whilst the Possest, in immanence.

[1] The concept of parabolic estimative or parabolic thymesis (Pt., tímese parabólica) is essential to Ferreira dos Santos’ Concrete Philosophy, understood as the human ability to be oriented by the Supreme Goodness. Thymos, in Greek, means breath, soul, desire, heart, value. Parabolic, since a complete parabola has no endpoints, the focus does not lie in the directrix, such as an arrow that performs a curve towards the infinite and falls, reaching a lower target. It is this “movement” – and not reason – that makes mankind superior to animals. As explained by Olavo de Carvalho, “reason is nothing but the means of unification of knowledge, by which the mind, driven by thymesis, rises from the worldly confusions towards the aspirations for the Supreme Goodness. (…) Measured by reason, man is only qualitatively distinct from an orangutan. It is the aspiration for the best that makes us better”.