From AnthroWiki

Chorism[1], also Chorismus or Chorismos (Greekχωρισμός chōrismós "separation"), is a philosophical term that has only been established since the beginning of the 20th century and was formulated by critics of Plato's theory of ideas. It refers to the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the eternally unchanging and unified world of ideas, which can only be grasped purely intellectually, and the multiplicity of individual things that can be experienced sensually, are transient and changeable. Plato himself attempted to bridge the separation between the world of the senses and the world of the mind, first through the principle of participation (methexis) and later increasingly through imitation (mimesis).

Aristotle already pointed out this problem and spoke out against ideas that could be experienced separately from things. They are not real, but only mentally separable from the things whose essence they constitute. This also applied to the human soul, which was the form of the body, and even to the purely mentally comprehensible mathematical ideas, which, however, could only be realised in the things themselves.

This point of view of Aristotle was also held by Thomas Aquinas in scholasticism. The ideas were realised in the things themselves as "universalia in re" and man could only experience them in the things, i.e. sensually-empirically, and lift them out of these as "universalia post rem" through abstraction. But they are certainly present in God's consciousness as the actual and unchanging, timelessly real thoughts of creation as "universalia ante rem". Man, however, could not grasp them in this way because of his limited capacity for knowledge. In the medieval universal controversy, Thomas thus represented a "moderate realism of ideas" and opposed the nominalists, who saw in ideas only more or less arbitrary summary names for things of a similar nature.

„Plato assumed for all things ideas which exist separately from the things themselves according to subjective being, and after which these things were named on account of their participation in their being, namely the ideas. Socrates, then, would be called "man" because an idea subsists separately from him in subjective being; similarly, it would be called "man" in the case of the horse, colour, and so on. For all these things, which participate in one and the same genus, there existed for Plato an independent general idea for themselves. Thus he also established an independent idea for the "One", for "Being", and called this idea the "One" existing for itself, the "Being" existing for itself. But this itself, which out of itself and for itself is the One and the Being; this he called the highest good; and according to this each of the things had unity, being and was good. And because "being" is the same in fact as "good," he called that "for and in itself good" God; and asserted that all other things are good only through participation in this good which is in itself external to them; things, therefore, have purely in themselves no goodness at all, and are called good according to nothing that is internal to them, but solely according to the independent idea "good," which exists outside them, as something is called measured according to the external measure.

Now this opinion of Plato's may be wrong as far as the genus of things is concerned. But this is true without any qualification, that there is a highest, first good, which is "being" and "good" by virtue of its essence. Aristotle also agrees with this. On the basis of the first good according to its essence, every thing can be called good, in so far as it is similar to it, even if remotely and very imperfectly.

Thus every being is called good, 1. by virtue of divine goodness, for this is the exemplary, the operative, and the purpose-cause of all being; 2. by virtue of the resemblance to divine goodness which exists within creaturely being; and this, as a formal cause in the thing itself, is the cause of its being called good; it is its own goodness in the thing, as Augustine and Boëtius point out. Thus there is a goodness which is external to things, and according to which they bear the denominatio extrinseca: "good". And there is a goodness in every thing itself; namely, that in which it is similar to the primordial principle. On the one hand, therefore, there is a goodness according to which all things are called good; on the other hand, there are many kinds of goodness according to which things are called good by themselves.“

Thomas Aquinas: Sum of Theology I Questio 6, Articulus 4 bkv

According to Rudolf Steiner, the ideas and their sensuous (or supersensuous) appearance are inseparable in reality. The gap between them - the chorismos - is only artificially torn open by human consciousness, but can be overcome by the act of cognition. According to Rudolf Steiner's «Philosophy of Freedom», reality is not given to man directly, but flows to him from two sides, namely through observation and thinking. Only by combining the two halves, which are always inseparably connected in reality but are initially only given separately to human consciousness, in the act of cognition, i.e. by penetrating perception with the corresponding concept, does the human being advance to full reality.

„It is not because of the objects that they are initially given to us without the corresponding concepts, but because of our mental organisation. Our total beingness functions in such a way that for every thing of reality the elements which come into consideration for the thing flow to it from two sides: from the side of perception and of thought.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 90)

„The concept of the tree is conditioned for cognition by the perception of the tree. I can only lift a very definite concept out of the general system of concepts in relation to the definite perception. The connection of concept and perception is determined indirectly and objectively by thinking of perception The connection of perception with its concept is recognised after the act of perception; but the connection is determined in the thing itself.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 145)

The fact that reality is not given to man directly, but initially only in the form of two unreal halves, which he must actively connect, establishes his I-consciousness and enables him to be free.


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  1. Frede, Dorothea „Chorism”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 19 July 2021.