Ontology and epistemology

…for Being, which is analogous, and in which beings are proportionately and not generically one, in so far as it always expresses a proportion to its Act-to-Be, which to-Be is diverse, [such Being] holds everything known in a concept under the formality of essence within the intelligibility of the ultimate Act-to-Be; and thus Being is an absolute principle of human cognition. (Muller-Thym, ‘The To Be which Signifies the Truth of Propositions’, 1940)1

As Aquinas indicates everywhere, there is a proportion between the modes of Being and the modes of our human knowing. (Joyce, Aquinas, and the Poetic Process)

In his preface to Where Is Science Going?, Albert Einstein insists: “There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.” (Take Today, 128)

The last citation illustrates the implication of epistemology in ontology for Einstein and, indeed, McLuhan. Since “there is no logical [step by step, linear] way to the discovery of these elemental laws” — just as “there is no logical [step by step, linear] way” to the learning of language by a child — the possibility of making these leaps at all and of their succeeding to communication and even to “the discovery of (…) elemental laws”, rests upon a prior translative or metaphorical “resonance of (…) existence itself” (TT 7): the gap is where the action is!2

Only because there is an “order lying behind (…) appearance” (but one that expresses itself in and as appearance), and only because this order is that of “the resonating interval” (whose transitivity equally grounds (or is) the relation of ontology and “appearance”), is it possible for humans to learn to communicate with each other and to come to recognize “elemental laws”.3 For while understanding is never perfect, neither of words nor of the various things we study, so that both of these may be further investigated forever, it remains true that we do learn to communicate and do learn to know.


  1. Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Meeting of The American Catholic Philosophical Association, Vol XVI, 230-254, 1940, 231-232). ‘Being’ has been capitalized as have ‘to-Be’ and ‘Act-to-Be’, which have been hyphenated as well.
  2. See here: Absent such fundamental ’relation beyond ourselves’, humans could never have begun to use language in the deep past and could not learn language as children even now. The mystery is that a capacity (for relation beyond itself) can be awakened in a child in a process that could not take place unless this capacity were already operative. Here is McLuhan to John Snyder, Aug 4 1963: “…we are already moving in depth into a situation in which learning becomes a total process (…) from infancy to old-age. The pattern by which one learns one’s mother tongue is now being extended to all learning whatsoever. The human dialogue itself becomes not only the economic, but the political and social, fact.”  (Letters 291)
  3. “Elemental laws” operating in the physical — and in the experiential! — domains.