Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Where there's a 'What', there's a Will. (What?)

My buddy Jacob combed over the argument from the earlier post, and critiqued some of the points (in a snazzy commented PDF document, no less). Per his request, I have clarified the points, and reworked the whole thing into a coherent whole (without, as yet, getting to #10, heh).

1. There is being. Stuff exists. We see things. There is something. You know, all that jazz.

2. Nothing is infinite. The atheists should be totally with me on this one. The believers will just have to trust me--after all, if God does exist, and he is infinite, he cannot be considered any thing, can he? Perhaps it will be argued that space and time (as commonly, i.e. Newtonianly conceived) are infinite. My response is, first, that the scientific jury is still out on that one, thanks to relativity and quantum physics and string theory and all that; and second, that even if they were, they would only be infinitely extended, not sheerly infinite. After all, space would be limited to its definition as space (or space-time, as the case may be) and not as anything else. Anything with a definition is thereby limited. The fact that we can mentally distinguish between space and time; or between these two things and the objects which are in them, but are not them, shows their limits. We can even conceive mathematically of non-space; we have given it a name: the point; and so with time--the instant. And though a point as no actual being in space, nor the instant in time (as Aristotle proved), we would not go very far without these things. Thus space and time must share the reality pie with the point and the instant.

3. (Rewritten) Every limit implies what is beyond itself. Therefore, every limit also implies a substratum, an underlying something, that spans whatever is inside the limit and outside it in order to make the limit itself intelligible. The easiest example is spatial. You have a balloon, and an intelligent ant inside the baloon. The ant would be conscious of a world outside the balloon because it understands space. Space is the substratum underneath the limits of extended matter. Inside the balloon, outside the balloon, and the space that encompasses both. A non-spatial example: logical validity. The logical validity of a modus ponens (If P then Q) syllogism can be breached--just like the rubbery skin of a balloon--when the terms P and Q are reversed. There exists a limit between validity and invalidity which is grounded by thought as its substratum. So the argument here is, wherever there is a limit, there is a substratum 'beneath' and 'beyond' the limit.

[Segue, formally point #4]. Let's be reductionists. Everything boils down to... whatever you want. Quarks? Fine. How about strings? Or maybe, let's say, dreams and illusions. Berkeley's spirits and ideas! Matter in motion? OK. Phonotic energy of the Big Bang? I'm right there with you. Point is that, it is always possible for the human mind to think of the whole world as being just one kind of thing. But what it comes down to, when we have a one thing that is, and the story ends, is the last limited thing! But whatever that thing is, we can make one critical observation of it: it's limited! But what about time and space? I have not forgotten those either. Supposing they discover that this "last thing," and time, and space, are all actually the same thing, (which is the familiar pattern of the physical sciences, after all) but even then this great 'Thing' would still be limited.

4 [formerly 5]. There is necessary being. You all saw that coming. The atheists may still be with me, too. Nothing inherently offensive about necessary being. All it is, really, the unintelligible 'What' which is behind, not merely being, but the very distinction between being and nothing. Underneath the limit between the only thing that is, and its opposite, is the ground of the possibility of them both. Thus, unintelligible as it is, we can make certain conclusions about it. For example, it can have no limits, either outside or inside of itself. That means it is infinite, eternal, one, undifferentiated, unchanging, unaffectable, undetectable, self-subsisting, etc. and so on. [This 'What' is the Last Substratum, when reductionism has brought the thinkable universe down to its barest limit: that which is, and that which is not.]

It came to me, writing #8, that some will say that this 'What' is in fact "nothing;" total non-being. Yet finally this option looks plainly impossible, because it is the equivalent of saying that the beings which "rest on" this "nothing" are self-subsistent--except that they have limits. The difficulty here is that these well-meaning opponents might be restricting themselves to the spatial analogy here. Why can't you have the ultimate substratum be simply "nothing"? First, because the "nothing" they are thinking of is not really "nothing"--it's empty space, and empty space is a "something". But empty space still cannot be the last substrata; it itself is constituted, limited, and circumscribed by a deeper 'What'. Second, consider the phenomena in #3 that every limit implies a triad. Inside the Balloon-Outside the Balloon-Space; Validity-Invalidity-Thought. You can not make a balloon out of empty space, and you cannot form arguments out of pure invalidity. Therefore, "nothing" cannot be the ground of limits, but merely the second term in a penultimate triad. (I call it 'penultimate' not to confuse it with the Trinity)

5 [formerly 6]. This "what" is constituitive or generative of everything that is. Beings--whether big beings or little beings or mental beings or the quarks, strings (whatever), are always and only ever interiorly constituted by something. In the ultimate fringes of our thinking, the only thing possibly constitutive of all those quarks-or-whatever, is the 'What' itself. Now, I included two possible choices of words here: "constitutes" and "generates." If I know my theists and atheists well enough, I can bet dollars to donuts that the atheists are going to gravitate to "constitutes" and the theists are going to prefer "generates." For the moment it doesn't matter; I just wanted everyone to know I was thinking of them. Aren't I nice?

6. This is a new premise. If this 'What' has no will, then its generation/constitution of other being is simple, total, and uniform.

7. (rewritten) If there is Necessary Being, i.e. a 'What', that is infinite, eternal, one, undifferentiated, unchanging, unaffectable, undetectable, self-subsisting, etc. and so on (see #4), and this 'What' is simply, totally, and uniformally generative/constitutive of all other being (see #5 & 6), then finite being is impossible. What I am describing here is a consequence of the assumption that the generation is simple, total, and uniform. The point that I am actually trying to make is that there is an unbearable contradiction here. Premise #7 appears to contradict premise #2. But since the progression from #2 to #5 appears to be deductively valid, then to avoid coming to #7, we will have to question whether this generation/constitution is simple and uniform. Until we do that, we must plow forward to the further consequences of #6.

8. (rewritten) If finite being is impossible, then all is one, and all is the 'What'. It is the simple question of what do you get when you add two infinities together (or rather, two infinite infinities, heh). There is no non-being, and therefore no difference--only the One. Just as colors are the result of the deprivation of light of some of its frequencies, so our fun worldly plurality is the result of finitude and limits. And without non-being, there is nothing to distinguish anything from anything else. Now, I know that some well-meaning folks of a Bhuddist or pantheistic disposition will be quite happy with this conclusion. Mysticism always tends toward monism. The problem is that, if this were true, there would be no mystics or Bhuddists around to discover it. The true Zen insight, however, is that 'I' do not actually exist... even I am an illusion, along with everything else. Yet this begs the question: whence the illusion? The One has no business with dreams. But going further, we must observe that, if there is no non-being, then there are no beings. In fact, there is nothing. We have contradicted our first premise.

9. If premises #1-#5 are all true, then the 'What' must have a will. Look again at #6. It is a conditional statement. Now let's make it into a modus tollens argument: If the 'What's' generation/constitution of being is not simple, total, and uniform, then the 'What' has a will.

To make everyone certain that I am not doing any mental jujitsu here, I will be more explicit, with a classic example.

P1: If it is raining, the streets get wet.
P2: The streets are not wet.
C: Therefore, it is not raining.

This is a valid argument, but it is possible for either of the first two premises to be wrong. For example, if the streets were covered, the first premise would be wrong, because it could rain and the streets would remain dry. Let us look at my argument:

P1: If the 'What' has no will, then its generation/constitution is simple, total, and uniform.
P2: The 'What's' generation/constitution of being is not simple, total, and uniform.
C: The 'What' has a will.

The most persuasive attack here will focus on the first premise. If there is a way for the streets to remain dry, even though the rain is falling, then first argument is false. Similarly, if there is a way for an absolutely unlimited non-concious undifferentiated ultimate substratum to constitute/generate finite being, then my argument is false.

Thus I place the field of argument as what the 'What' actually consists in. Yet it seems that this three-millenia old question. The very object of classical philosophy seems to have been the struggle to reconcile the Many with the One, finitude with infinity, and so on. Plato's The Good and Aristotle's Unmoved Mover are both attempts to reconceive the 'What' in a form conducive to generating/constituting, or explaining in some way, finite being. Yet they both say things about these "deities" that preclude them from being truly unlimited. They turn the 'What' into a thing.

But why will? In the previous draft of this argument, I said that we can know that the notion of will is the only possible imaginable phenomenon that can account for finite being, by process of elimination. I do not retract this statement, but I will suggest that there are other ways to know that it is will, too. But more later. I must pray, and sleep.

No comments: