Hyponoetics - Philosophy of Mind

This blog discusses ideas and concepts that I am currently thinking about for my book on Hyponoetics as an integral philosophy of mind and matter.

Ocean-Wave Analogy

Nov 13, 2022 - Category: Ontology  Metaphysics - Tag: Reality  Potentiality  Hyponoesis  Actuality

To gain a basic understanding of the concept of Hyponoesis, the following analogy may be helpful: when we speak of the ocean we do not think of single drops of water that make up the ocean, but just of water as the primary substance. However, when we look at the surface of the ocean, we can make out an infinite number of constantly changing waves, spumes (sea form) and water droplets. If we were only aware of those surface forms and not of the underlying ocean, we would come to think that all these forms exist independently from each other. A wave in the Atlantic Ocean is completely different from a wave in the Pacific Ocean. However, they have something in common, but it's not their distinct shape, it is the substance of water that is the same in both the wave and the ocean. The ocean produces all those waves, spumes and drops of water – although only for a short, ephemeral moment. However, the ocean always exists as the underlying entity that makes the transient life of waves and water droplets possible in the first place.

In more philosophical terms, we can call the ocean potential, because it is capable of manifesting any conceivable form actually (on the surface), but it contains that shape in itself only potentially. The wave or water droplet is, however, an actual form, because it has an individual and distinct shape and can be differentiated from any other wave or water droplet.

Take the ocean as Hyponoesis, as the primary totality of everything that exists or can be conceived to exist. Take the waves, spumes and drops of water as the individual entities (forms) of our world, that is, living beings, material things, intelligible objects of our thinking, emotions, etc. Hyponoesis is the underlying reality that appears as the endless representations of our perception and cognition.

The definition of an ocean includes its surface. The surface is inseparably connected to the ocean, it is not just part of the ocean, but the ocean is defined by the surface just as the sky is defined by the horizon. Neither the ocean, by itself, nor the surface, by itself, has any meaning outside of the context of their mutual interdependency. There is always a surface that consists of waves and drops of water which represent the actualized forms of the water that itself is the ocean. Similarly, the actualized forms of Hyponoesis, mind and matter, are Hyponoesis in its actual and not in its potential aspect (cf. quantum physics: quantum foam, bubbling sea of energy). See also my theory of Hypoperastics.

The ocean can be said to consist of an almost infinite number of water drops. Each water drop has an individual and unique form. But these forms do exist only potentially, because whenever we look at the sea, we cannot make out any water drops separate from the ocean. Actually, only the ocean exists, that is, water. Potentially, however, this indefinite mass of water contains these potential forms of water.

This ocean-wave analogy basically refers to the ancient philosophical problem of the one and the many. Is reality ultimately a unity or a plurality? And how do the two relate to one another? I hope that my philosophy of Hyponoetics provides a tentative answer which is not unique to my philosophy but is rather shared by many thinkers throughout the ages, especially thinkers of the idealistic turn.

Here are a few quotes from other thinkers and writers who have used this ocean-wave analogy to explain the nature of reality:

The world in its boundless variety of things and events was thus contemplated by Spinoza in a monistic perspective. Everything in the universe...must be seen and can be understood only as a modification of the one infinite, eternal Substance. All finite things are like waves of the boundless sea.
[Radoslav A. Tsanoff: The Great Philosophers, Harper & Row, 1964, p. 301]
Is the ocean composed of water or of waves or of both?... I think the ordinary unprejudiced answer would be that it is composed of water. Similarly, I assert that the nature of all reality is spiritual, not material nor a dualism of matter and spirit... Interpreting the term material in the broadest sense as that with which we can become acquainted through sensory experience of the external world, we recognize now that it corresponds to the waves not to the water of the ocean of reality.
[Sir Arthur Eddington: New Pathways in Science, Macmillan 1935, p. 319]
Like the ocean, Brahman appears in two aspects. Pure Brahman is like the calm ocean, without a ripple. Saguṇa Brahman [the conditioned, limited Brahman, Brahman with attributes] is the ocean agitated by the wind and covered with foaming waves. The ocean is the same, whether it is peaceful or agitated.
[Charles A. Moore: Essays in East-West Philosophy, University of Hawaii Press, 1951, p. 243]
...the zero-point energy of the vacuum appears as a vast omnipresent ocean of infinite energy, and all other forms of energy - thermal, gravitational, and so on - appear as the thinnest of films upon the surface of this fathomless sea.
[B. Alan Wallace: Choosing Reality, Snow Lion Publications, 2003, p.21]
As a first approximation, the perennial philosophy describes the Ultimate as a seamless whole, an integral Oneness, that underlies but includes all multiplicity. The Ultimate is prior to this world, but not other to this world, as the ocean is prior to its waves but not set apart from them.
[Ken Wilber: Up From Eden, Quest Books, 1996, p. 7]

see also video What is Hyponoesis?