I find it necessary for the greatest truth-teller and the greatest deceiver to share a common property, that is, they are both trusted by the masses and one cannot be distinguished from the other.
In which is demonstrated its impossibility Picture an ancient tarn enclosed on all sides by mountains and trees, hold in you mind the keen shimmer of the water, the murmuring of the oaks and the injustice of the northern winds. Now strip all of this away, the mountains and lake vanish along with the trees, then the very face of the Earth is swept from reality. The stars all vanish along with the other celestial bodies in the sky so that all we are left with is a blank void, a nothingness of sorts. Except what we are left with is something very real, the passing of time and the reality of space is still undeniable is it not? There is also the potential for the reintroduction of corporeal entities, not to mention the fact that the scene of this blankness is still comprehensible to our minds. There are those amongst us who would reduce this already reduced form of reality even further to the point at which the dimensions of space and time disappear and we are left with what is referred to as nothingness. But this appears to be a completely flawed notion, not only does the reduced reality of blank space give rise to the idea of nothingness in a mind, the idea of nothingness is not even that. The comprehensive faculties of the mind can make no sense of it whatsoever and it can only be described with respect to what is not there. If we ask: what is nothingness? an adequate response might appear to be, it is the absence of all things, or the absence of reality. This brings us no closer to understanding what nothingness is and, since we cannot comprehend it or give a satisfactory account of it, we might think those who believe in the possibility of it to hold an unsubstantiated belief. And yet the problem is even worse than this. Some would go as far as to claim that, not only is nothingness possible, it is also ‘easier’ and more sensible than reality. Hence the arrival of the question: Why is there something rather than simply nothing? Simply nothing? Why there is nothing simple about it! In fact this very notion of what is simpler or easier being the case implies the existence of a mind (of God) for whom it is easier for, and this may not be true to the way in which Nature works. Already the befuddlement that we as human beings come under the influence of when thinking of concepts such as nothingness seems to remove all rights for us to talk of it as something that is simplistic and easier than reality, even if mind did play such a crucial role in Nature. But we can go further than this. Although the possibility of nothingness seems unlikely, due to its incoherency and the precariousness of how it is derived, this in no way refutes its possibility; simply because we cannot understand it does not mean that it is impossible. Therefore we must determine a way of knowing whether or not the possibility of nothingness is ruled out entirely. What do we know then? Well we know that either nothingness is the case or reality is the case and that both of these cannot be so. We also know that reality, in some form or another, is the case, due to our various sense perceptions of things which imply a beholder and a perception. We can therefore be sure that nothingness is not the case. Yet this does not mean that it could not have been the case. So we must go deeper. All things must arise due to necessity, be that by a direct cause, such as one billiard ball knocking into another; a causal framework, that is, a universally governing law of Nature that causes things to exhibit certain properties; or causation by pre-programming, such as in the case of fundamental particles (which I do not believe could ever exhibit truly random properties since I have yet to see a coherent system that explains how it could occur). We may therefore deduce that all that happens is necessary. If, therefore, reality is so, then it follows that reality is necessary. We know that reality is so and that therefore it is necessary. Now if reality is necessary and either reality or nothingness is true, then it must be so that nothingness is impossible by necessity. This arises due to the fact that there is only one correct solution to the problem and that, just like in mathematics, that correct solution makes all other solutions impossible by definition. 2 + 2 could never be anything other than 4 by its very nature, this is also the case here since only one solution is coherent (reality) and the incorrect solution (nothingness) arises due to our misinterpretation of the correct solution (the error by which we assume it is possible to strip reality away completely and be left with something that, although incoherent, is possible). Therefore the idea of nothingness is made impossible by reality. Reality’s necessity makes the impossibility of nothingness an impossibility by necessity. Why this is the case however is far more difficult to explain, perhaps it has no explanation. I believe that this brings the realm of Philosophy entirely into reality itself, and this may seem to be a truism and yet since the development of modern physics we seem to have begun to view our universe with less significance than we did before due to the possibility of the nothingness ‘before’ it. If the idea of nothingness is but an impossible misunderstanding then our reality’s philosophical significance is restored. This will be helpful in the justification of other theories.
There are blank faces under the leafy moon tonight,
Charred spoons lay scattered on the sandbanks
Whilst pumpkins, pale as sick vultures, tumble
Down to the river,
Making blubbering splashes as they hit the frothy currents.
What is this starlit place?
Wait! A figure glides along the waters.
It has wide marbles for eyes
That trickle lost light from their deepest vaults.
A moon spirit lost in the stygian night.
Etched in the Neolithic dawn,
The hexed belt of Orion;
‘Twas then but a symphony of Azure
To the tribal enchantress,
In ecstasy amongst her heterodox forces.
From the splintered lute
To the strains of Pachelbel,
That Dust, taught by the ark,
Doth climb the steep crags
From the abandoned pits
Out into the surreal daylight;
They blink in Ambiguity’s glare.
Is it but a mirage, their newly found glow?
Were they lured by some fall’n angel
To hasher nights?
To eons where the lofty spires
Do rise up o’er the billows
To howling zeniths.
Our crowns wrapped in frantic heights,
The visionaries conjure a new philosophy:
Those celestial Craftsmen
Become the ticking engines of One greater.
Chords of Scorpius woven into orbit
By Aristotle’s euphoric cries
Now I stare out through a window,
A plane sketches the open clouds,
In the calm, I believe it sounds:
A stir in the ether;
The burning of the Alexandrian vaults
In Rome, as Zeus takes up his bolt.
In light of my last post (‘On the Nature of Morality’) I thought it fitting to present an alternative argument for the origin of our morality, this one with a very different approach to goodness than the first.
We need to establish what goodness is in order to create any reasonable system of morality, if we cannot do this then the system is not based on reason as such. We can begin with the observation that some acts are seen as intuitively wrong (e.g. murder, theft, lying), not always for the sake of anything else, simply because we see these things as wrong.
But what is wrong? And for that matter what is good? A satisfactory substitution for the idea of goodness is something that stimulates positive sensations upon the moral faculties. This is how we know that some acts are inherently wrong or right. Some acts are moral, some are not. So some acts stimulate the moral faculties, some do not. There must be a distinction between these, some quality that some acts possess but others do not.
All things appear to have a cause even if this is not strictly speaking the right way to look at the world. So all things in reality can be related to a cause even if it is not a true cause. We can postulate goodness and badness as real entities in themselves that lie within some actions. This is what causes the stimulation of the moral faculties (the stimulation must have what can be identifiable as a ‘cause’). These are known as Moral Carriers.
It makes more sense for all these Moral Carriers to have the same origin since they cause similar stimulation of the moral faculties. Whatever is the source of goodness is which has infinite potential (if all morals acts contain good then we could in theory have an unlimited number of them – hence we need a large source of goodness). It is therefore reasonable to postulate the existence of infinite goodness.
Such a source of goodness cannot have a spatial existence since it lies outside of the sensual realm. We could never hope to place infinite goodness somewhere since this would be completely illogical. Therefore the nature of this goodness must also be divinely simple hence goodness cannot consist of quanta. Therefore the only way goodness can be present in the sensual reality is if infinite goodness is reflected dimly in certain acts in our realm. There are certain intensities of this reflection and this is why some acts are more moral than others and some are more striking to us.
The reason goodness must be innate therefore is that we cannot comprehend that which has achieved infinite extension. Moral goodness is a reflection of infinite goodness. This has achieved infinite extension. Just as we cannot explain the infinite, we cannot explain a reflection of it. We must just know what moral acts are.
Is it not so that all acts are followed by a consequence? Even if causation is but a product of the rational mind the world nevertheless appears to follow this law and I have yet to see an exception to it, thus the notion of cause and effect is a part of the way in which we view the world, its objective truth does not matter when we are considering morality.
It must also be so that no act could ever possibly be moral unless it was followed by either a good or bad consequence, and by good in this context I refer to it in the sense of progression and the pleasures. Repeat an act often enough and it will be remembered, the same goes to the consequence that follows. If the act of shooting citizens is repeated often enough the consequence that follows (the death of citizens) will become remembered as being directly associated with the act of shooting. Now I ask, does a child who has never fired a gun before, nor has been told of the implications, know that the act of firing will be directly followed by death? He will not (for the sake of the example we shall say that the child also has no foreknowledge of the affect that sharp moving objects have on people). It must be the case then that the child learns to associate act with consequence. The approach is inductive and such a relationship cannot be known a priori.
We can apply this approach to the whole of ethics, indeed it soon becomes clear (under this idea) that the raw act in itself is nothing to do with morality, it is the association of the act with a good or bad consequence. Of course there are cases where acts are difficult to distinguish from consequences. Murder is now called an act, one commits the act of murder, but the ‘act’ of murder can, as we have seen, be separated into the act of shooting (or whatever method is used) and the resulting consequence of the victim dying. It is the same with all ethical dilemmas.
This relationship between act and consequence I have called Moral Induction and leads to the formulation of a moral act (that which is a synthesis between act and consequence).
Moral Induction leads to the formation of universal maxims that are regarded as unchanging and objective. Over the course of a finite number of examples the act of murder is created, due to the negative consequence of the act there becomes something inherently wrong with murder, it is seen as a bad thing. However, this law is formed by an inductive method and hence it can never be proved beyond a doubt that it is objective. To do this we would need to see if the act of shooting was always associated with the consequence of death (or something equally bad), but this is impractical not to mention wrong. There is a much easier method to test the objectivity of such a moral law. We need only ask: are there ever any examples where the act of shooting (or something equally violent) do not lead to a bad consequence? Indeed it is possible to think of some, and from a utilitarian perspective pleasure need only outweigh pain for it to be so. If there are examples that disprove the objective law that a moral act is good or bad then the moral act is not objective and must be inductive. This is the case with all ethical dilemmas and hence morality is based on a finite number of observations and outcomes. Even though some circumstances disprove the law we will begin to associate act and consequence (and hence the goodness of the consequence with the act) if it happens enough times and is overall seen as good or bad.
It must be so then that things are only good or bad in relation to their effect on sentient beings. There is no moral worth in doing an act if it does not relate to the pain or pleasure of sentient beings. In saying this it appears that morality is a flexible thing, dependant on personal experience and circumstances. The innate sense of morality we feel when considering or doing a moral act arises from Moral Induction and is simply related to pain and pleasure – there is nothing objective in such morality. This being the case, might it not be possible to create a perfect society through tools such as education and psychology? Ethics does not have to be about the way the world ought to be, it could equally be about the way we want the world to be.
A continuation from yesterday’s post (Faith: A double edged sword), it has occurred to me that all the disciplines which attempt to understand the nature of the world we live in have a common factor that was not necessarily always present throughout history. It is the assumption that any chosen discipline, of a certain level of academic vigour, has the potential to uncover all that there is to be known in the certain sphere of knowledge that it pursues.
But this is simply not the case, do we really believe that human beings, creatures that have existed for a minuscule amount of time in contrast to everything else, have developed the sufficient cognitive ability to comprehend all that is knowable and put an end to speculation on metaphysical and scientific matters?
This is sheer arrogance and the extent of this arrogance becomes clear when one examines the idea of a conceptual scheme. At the foundation of our ability to reason and conceptualise rests an underlying system which results in the basic formations of logic and grammar. All humans possess the same conceptual scheme (even the speakers of other languages, they are still based on the same, logical foundation) whereas other organisms such as squirrels and rabbits do not possess the correct categories of the brain to be able to conceptualise in such a way. In fact, evidence suggests that the conceptual scheme can be lost if certain parts of the brain are damaged and hence providing strong evidence for such categories being produced by the brain and not being independent of it.
If this is the case then our conceptual scheme (that which we base all our disciplines upon) is nothing more than a product of evolution, hence we cannot even claim that tautologies are correct, they may simply be how we view the world. Our conceptual scheme could have quite easily turned out differently if our evolution had been influenced by other factors. It is even possible that extraterrestrial lifeforms that have developed a conceptual scheme possess one that is a complete deviation from our own. We could never hope to understand any form of language they might possess since their minds would not even be logical in the way ours are.
This raises this idea that there are some things that we simply cannot know, in other words, forbidden knowledge that exists beyond human comprehension. Our ancestors had such ideas of secret knowledge being possessed by the divine, perhaps we could learn a thing or two from their age old beliefs. For it is only when we accept our limitations that we can truly make progress in a discipline.
I have on occasions, and no doubt have done so alongside many others who are skeptical of religion, criticised the believe in metaphysical concepts, such as God, due to their heavy association with and dependence on faith. Although there exist many arguments which set out to prove the existence of such metaphysical phenomena, the truth of these matters usually comes down to a personal belief for most people; the truth no longer becomes what is important where religion is concerned, more what we would prefer to be true. Christianity claims to offer salvation through Christ, and Buddhism reincarnation. Religions are often criticised for being based on human inclinations and desires, the easy way out of the quest for knowledge and an appeal to the common man. And in many ways this criticism casts a black shadow upon belief in transcendent entities and afterlives, what we desire does not necessarily correlate with what is objective and knowable about the world. But what seems absolutely unacceptable is the arrogant assumption that the disciplines such as the sciences and philosophy are not open to this same criticism.
Consider the sciences, they are empirical by their very nature since they use the senses to make observations about the world. But their method depends upon the assumption that our senses are in fact correct and that the information we receive from them is true and objective. Given the variety of criticisms that can be thrown at this assumption by the skeptic, we must accept that what we really do, when we carry out the scientific method and make statements about the world, is take the fact that our senses give us reliable, truthful knowledge on faith. The very thing we might criticise a follower of Christianity for doing.
Similarly in philosophy we make the assumption that our conceptual scheme (the elementary principles including the basic building blocks logic and grammar which our mind possesses) is true and objective. If our own conceptual scheme is simply a product of evolution then we cannot say with certainty that it allows us to know anything meaningful about the world around us. Following this idea even tautologies could be doubtful since their truth might only be specific to our own conceptual scheme. When we formulate a theory in philosophy we must have faith that our conceptual scheme is more than simply a subjective byproduct of evolution.
All disciplines require a certain degree of faith in order for anything of use to be acquired and for any matters of truth to be discerned. It would, then, be wrong (and not to mention ignorant) to criticise religion for having elements of faith to it since all our endeavours inevitably do the same. So long, of course, that the faith is not of the blind and irrational sense (that is, refusing to even listen to propositions which suggest the opposite of personal belief). So long as one is not utterly consumed by faith to the disregard of all else, we cannot, intelligently, criticise religion for such an attribute. Perhaps instead of doing so we should concentrate more on making the certainty of our own endeavours and disciplines more concrete and less dependant on that which we condemn others for wielding.
To claim that Universals, such as Justice, have an independent existence outside of the cognitive is to assume a certain type of connection between the mind and reality which is suggestive of some form of design and purpose of which we are the final end since the gulf must be reconciled between both the cognitive and existential conceptions of universals. Such a claim could only be held as true if the existence of some intelligent deity is postulated, and since we cannot do this seeing as such a proposition is neither a tautology nor empirically verifiable, it must be the case that such statements involving Realism are neither true nor false either. They have no factual significance.