ABOUT THE NEW WORLDVIEW
ANIL MITRA, © November 2014
About the worldview of this essay
The worldview of the narrative is a new one that centers on what is called the universal metaphysics. This section is an aid to reading and understanding this system.
The new worldview of this essay is simple, demonstrated, and consistent with what is valid in our traditional worldviews (in my use ‘tradition’ includes the ancient and mythic as well as modern scientific-rational views).
However, the new worldview shows show the universe to be far greater than the ‘universe’ of the traditions. Because of its newness the new view is likely to be unfamiliar and unexpected in its quality—it is likely to be counterintuitive to those who hold the standard secular view as well as to those who hold common trans-secular views. Because of the magnitude of the new view its proof may appear surprisingly simple and this may lead the reader to doubt the proof. And finally, because the view and its consequences are so different from tradition and expectation it may seem paradoxical.
The purpose of this ‘about’ section is to assist the reader through the potential difficulties.
It is important to recognize that main source of difficulty is likely to be unfamiliarity rather than complexity or intrinsic difficulty.
This subsection lists features of the new view that, when you are aware of them, should pave the way to understanding.
It is important that the view is new—that the contents of the narrative are not and do not intend to be a compendium of earlier thought. Some readers will be aware that some aspects of the view have been seen before. However, the careful selection of concepts that empower the demonstration, the proof or demonstration itself, and the magnitude of and confidence in the consequences enabled by demonstration are new.
The aim of the ‘journey’ is to discover the extent, duration, and variety of being in the universe and, as far as may occur, to realize what is good in the immediate and ultimate worlds.
Therefore, the fist part of the essay develops a view—the metaphysics—of the universe. As I said above this is not a compendium—it is not an overview or textbook on established ideas. I have put significant energy into learning about ideas from science, mathematics, religion, philosophy, and cultural systems other than ours but here I refer only to those that are useful to the present development.
The second part uses the metaphysics and what is valid in the tradition to develop and report on progress in a program of realization.
Consequently, this work is about action as well as ideas. One aim of ideas is that they do translate into action. This work undertakes that translation (and it further shows that the ideas are essentially incomplete without action). That is the program of action is not merely ‘pragmatic’.
One of the purposes of the programmatic part is to present a template that readers as individuals and as part of a civilization may use in their own action. Therefore the template is precisely what the term implies—a framework rather than a detailed system that attends to every detail and possible contingency.
Many readers will have some familiarity with the terms and ideas that I use. From the history of thought these terms have many senses and uses. The idea of ‘being’ is imbued by writers from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel and Heidegger with power and depth but always with shifting shades of meaning. Therefore the reader may approach the term with a thought such as ‘If being is deeply relevant to life, thought, and hope I should expect the idea of being to be elusive and perhaps difficult.’
In this essay I give simple and definite definitions of the important terms. To not attend to these definitions will result in a sense of indefiniteness in understanding; and to imbue the terms with more meaning than is in the definitions will result in confusion. ‘Where then’, the reader may ask ‘is the depth of meaning that we expect of a metaphysical understanding of the universe?’ The answer is that the depth is there. Perhaps the point to a simple definition of being is that it is neutral to what it excludes and neutral to what it explicitly includes. That is, the concept as introduced does not commit to specifics that, since they are without basis at outset, may later be found to be in error. But since being as introduced is not exclusive, it is open to later being found to properly include what is found true via experience and experiments with ideas.
‘Meaning’ in the sense of concept and linguistic meaning is important in its own right. Inadequate understanding of and attention to meaning has lead to much confusion and paradox. Proper understanding of meaning may lead to resolution of such paradox but, more importantly, to clarification of concepts and empowerment of the concepts to their most potent meaning.
However, the concept of meaning introduced here is not ad hoc. It is based on an analysis of what is necessary for concepts to have meaning at all and on what is sufficient for reliable and consistent meaning.
This sub-section is intended to illustrate the power of careful thought on meaning but may be passed over on preliminary reading.
We sometimes think of the meaning of a word, e.g. ‘tiger’, as defined by association and convention. Use of the word ‘tiger’ in our culture brings up images of actual tigers (or perhaps pictures of tigers that the reader has seen). However, for someone who does not know our language the symbol ‘tiger’ elicits nothing—it means nothing. That is, without ‘iconic’ or pictorial content there can be no meaning (this is thought to not hold for proper names but that thought is easily seen to be erroneous and has, in fact, been a source of paradox). What then do symbols (words, sentences…) do? They establish a core of efficient referral to common ideas that are useful in thought (when a single word or sentence refers to a complex situation) and communication (because of agreement by convention). That is we conceive meaning as a concept and its associated object or objects (if any) and linguistic meaning as further involving symbols that we associate with the concept-object.
Consider the liar paradox in the form ‘This sentence is false.’ If it is false it is true, if it is true it is false. That is of course (apparently) paradoxical. Consider instead ‘This sentence is true.” The second sentence is true if it is true and false if it is false… but which is it? The second sentence clearly but implicitly refers to its truth (i.e., to its own truth value) but reflection shows that it does not have an intrinsic truth value. The same is true of the liar paradox: the source of the paradox is that we assume the sentence to have a truth value.
Now consider another paradox. If unicorns do not exist then when I say ‘unicorns do not exist’, to what does the term unicorn refer? It seems that the assertion has no meaning. However, distinguish the concept from the object. The concept of the unicorn is that of a horse-like creature with a horn and perhaps with wings (as depicted in stories and film). Then, the statement ‘unicorns do not exist’ means that there is no object that corresponds to the concept of unicorn (i.e. there could be but there is not). Here, analysis of meaning has led to a simple resolution of what is called the ‘paradox of the non-existent object’.
Examples of such as these have led some writers to think that ‘analysis of meaning’ is a source of knowledge. Indeed it is a source of making explicit what is already at least implicit but it cannot be a source of new knowledge. But analysis is not the only thing we do with meaning when we use it (formally or informally). We are also creating meaning; this happens informally when we encounter new things in our world or when we create new things such as social constructs; it happens formally in science. Thus analysis and synthesis of meaning is a source of truly new knowledge. More precisely it is the creation of new knowledge.
While the meaning of individual terms is important, the system of terms of the new metaphysics is of importance in its own right. The system stands (or falls) together and, importantly, the system itself contains meaning (the meaning is the metaphysics and the universe that it reveals).
It is important to pay attention to the system. This is of course precisely what one does (or should do) when learning a new branch of mathematics or scientific theory.
It is important for the reader to pay attention to the consistency of the system. There are a number of aspects to consistency.
The first is internal consistence—the logical coherence of the ideas.
The second is external consistency: is the system consistent with fact and, particularly, is it consistent with what is valid in tradition?
The narrative deals carefully with these issues of consistency. In dealing with internal consistency, the narrative reveals new ways of looking at logic and science (in fact it provides reinterpretation of these terms). The narrative reveals a universe that is far greater than the universe of science. This may seem inconsistent with science but only because and if we think that there is no more to the universe than what is revealed in modern science. Now we often think that that is true but in fact there is nothing in science or its method that shows that there is nothing beyond its borders or that what is beyond its borders is ‘more of the same’. Thus the larger universe may, according to science itself, be immensely different in nature than our cosmos; and when the metaphysics reveals this to be the case there is no inconsistency with science; and further, where science is valid, the metaphysics agrees with it. What of logical consistency? The metaphysics says that the universe is the universe of possibility and here there is no contradiction for the meaning of possibility here is simply that which allowed by logic (but since our logics do not reveal all that is possible this entails a reconceptualization of logic which I signify by writing it as Logic).
What is this Logic? It is understanding of the universe as a whole; then: the sciences are the understanding (knowledge) of parts, divisions, or phases of the universe. What are the limits set on the universe by Logic? The idea of logic can be put thus: in our freedom of concept formation we have a freedom to exceed the bounds of Realism: we can form concepts and pictures that disagree with facts and with one another. Seen this way, Logic is the constraint of Realism on our concepts for them to be real (to refer to something); thus Realism and Logic are not limits on the universe itself: they are constraints on the freedom of concept formation (for Realism).
When readers pay attention to individual term and system meaning; when they satisfy themselves that the system is internally and externally consistent; and when they follow the demonstration of the new picture of the universe in its main contours and some detail they will find that their education in an intuition of the new picture will have begun.
I defined tradition above. Here I discuss an aspect of its more traditional meaning—the traditional systems of knowledge such as the narrative systems of hunter gatherers and the religions of the world that developed as part of the transition from earlier ways of life to that centered around agriculture.
The ‘earlier’ societies had knowledge at empirical as well as ‘mythic’ levels. These levels were interwoven. The empirical included knowledge of their environment—where and when to find food and so on. The mythical included what we understand and myth as well as codes of behavior toward the environment. Anthropological studies suggest that while the mythical was powerfully and usefully (e.g. as conservation practice) influential the views were not as concretely held as our empirical science. Therefore as precise truth the empirical-mythical systems do not meet our standards. Yet as systems that contained truth and were adaptive they are powerful. And, for a culture that is dependent on its environment but not controlling of it, the non-insistence on a compulsive kind of representation is adaptive.
Post-agriculture adapted differently. Agriculture gave us freedom and various factors—including time and competition—led to the development of sciences and technologies that enabled greater control. The way we have become requires this (even if science is not about control and is intrinsically about truth). Simultaneously our science and myth became detached. Thus the practical irrelevance of religion to the material aspects of our societies and thus, perhaps, the insistence of some of our religions on literal content. Of course there is truth to our science and truth to our religion (ethical and the insistence that experience is not everything) but these truths are not perfect in their implication for action. Science does not reveal all; religion lives with contradiction (and so does science when it insists it is complete).
How do the two kinds of systems compare? Is there an implication of cultural relativism? The latter depends on what is meant by the term. However that may be, what emerges is that (a) each total system is adapted to a certain niche, a way of life (b) neither is universal (which suggests relativism) but both have elements of the universal (which argues against relativism). In summary neither kind of system is fully or absolutely true but an argument for full cultural relativism minimizes both.
How do these systems compare or relate to the universal metaphysics? The metaphysics is a framework. It must agree with what is valid in all culture. But it shows a far greater universe and a far greater human being than we commonly conceive (we are the universe but not exclusively over, say, the animals; and note that the possible contradiction of two individuals simultaneously realizing the ultimate is not a contradiction for in the realization the two become one). But there is more. Since the universe is ultimate and must have limitlessly many cosmoses against a transient background, our knowledge systems are local adaptations—not to be desired or thought of as ultimate—but as one of a series of transitional systems on the way to the ultimate. Further, as brought out in the narrative, the mesh of the metaphysics and tradition is more than a juxtaposition (a) as just pointed out tradition is instrumental to the metaphysics and (b) the metaphysics frames and sheds much light on what in the tradition is relative and what is absolute.
The briefest proof is as follows. Being is the quality of existence; the universe is all being; the void is the absence of being (more precisely, it is the null domain). A Law is a pattern (the law is our reading of it). I.e., Laws have being. The void has no Law. From the void there is no object (whose concept satisfies Realism of universal logic and local science) that does not emerge. Therefore the universe is the universe of (Logical) possibility.
Does the void exist?
Therefore alternative proof and heuristic are desired.
Another proof: there is no distinction between existence and non-existence of the void…
A heuristic: laws pertain to being but not to the absence of being…
Given the potency of the universal metaphysics and its non paradoxical character (no contradiction of reason or experience—logic or science); given the various arguments for it; but also given its doubt, we do what we do in other similar situations where we have powerful systems of thought but doubts about them (e.g. implications of axiom of choice in mathematics). What is it that we do? Some prefer to not use the axiom of choice; others choose, given the independence of axiom of choice and standard set theory, to allow axiom of choice… to not reject ‘Cantor’s paradise’. That is, we admit the universal metaphysics as an existential attitude or alternatively as an action principle that optimizes the expected outcome.