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.
O depart foul client of mine gaze!
For ye are but the shadow of a Beech;
Your hidden stalk of Ivy stands
Amongst the golden fields of Wheat.
And when the Reapers make their rounds
Your cackling elder face doth greet
Those slicing, flaying sounds.
Tree! A day once came when, scythe in hand,
I wandered through our summer lands.
But the fields were now all scorching heaths
And the hallowed skies a thorny wreath,
That could have been thine crown.
I watched, as the warbling birds
Fluttered in light bars o’er the dry hills
To shelter in thine verdant head:
A mass of emerald scrolls.
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.
‘Tis ‘cursed luck that ‘pon the eye
Of newly blooded sight
The ancient ghosts should rise on up
O’er the sands so white.
The land infused with emerald skies
Their void and rapid essence,
Do tell of kingdoms gobbled up
By Time’s malicious presence.
O as I stand upon the rocks,
The granite, grit stained stones,
I look to yonder hill so high
Where lie the ancient bones
Of man and beast and godly kin
They all seem so alike,
In presence of that one so sly:
The Scottish Sea Wind Wight.
He stands upon the fertile cliffs
And gazes ‘pon the sea,
Yet only when the moon doth rise
Shall the spirit be at ease.
He glides about the murky caves
The ancient caverns sly,
With but a sword from bygone days
O where his death was nigh.
Condemned to hang for Treason’s vines
Which seeped around his lips
And plunged their vulgar poisons ‘pon
His serpentine like whip.
So lost is enraged spirit coy
He’s turned the land to dust
Where once the trees and waters sung
Even the sand doth rust.
And as I make my way up to
Where he did free the ghost,
The air around grows torpid fast
And hints at undead host.
The form I see by rotting wood
Is like that from some dream,
The rancid sort where Mortals are
Engulfed by Faerie’s stream.
A pure gaunt face, his eyes are hallowed
And sunken into bone,
And where they should have shone a blue
A tragic red doth roam.
He’s formless though he looks as man,
Yet I cannot so bring,
My eyes and mind to know of thing
That rules as Hade’s king.
Now the truth comes flooding back,
In rows of fiery gore,
The land is green, the rope is fresh
So that swift death’s ensured.
The Scottish Wight is soul of mine,
An essence yet to come,
And as I fall through open trap
I’m left to Devil’s Run.
A crackling star above the earth,
Diamond of mine gaze,
It rests amidst fair daylight’s frost
Simmering in the haze.
O I am lost, myself slung into Winter.
As I stride across the tangled seas,
Looking down into that inferno,
I spy the tangled wisps and maddened sprites,
The lunatics and beggars.
All did share those emerald foams,
Yet not is there one place for me.
So I plummet into the reddened eye,
Those places that the night holds fast
When all the good and daylight’s past.
‘Tis as though all the life’s gone from me,
What is left is some drained spirit
That watches the fair chains and cords
Of which our world consists.
For what, dear reader, is in a world?
Not simply a swelling of molten stone,
Nor the rustling trees and weeping lakes.
It must be us that’s in a world:
Our passage through Chronis
Until the frost lands devour us.
Those everyday happenings,
As we busy about,
Fretting about the things our lords never did.
Yet what are we once they’ve departed,
Flown back to the nothingness
From whence they came?
A low whirring of ghostly cogs
As they turn and slide but do not live.
They stare on out through silvered eyes
To see the land, yet not its hide
That must be worn to ‘scape demise.
I let the world slip away, returning to my soul,
In the hope that it will cure me.
Alas, Tomorrow’s morn’,
I wake afresh
O yet do I not awake anew.
The sullen face of Time and Sorrow
Cannot so be wooed.
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.