Canonical dilemmas of metaphysics I
To The Canonical Dilemmas
Anil Mitra ©
January 2019—February 2019
The Way concerns the best conduct of life in the immediate and the ultimate—in the real.
Here metaphysics is understood to be knowledge of the real. One way into metaphysics is vial dilemmas.
As the real and life are intimate, study of metaphysics is enriched by intrinsic and instrumental reasons.
And so the dilemmas begin with an existential challenge.
Even a desire to live—tacit and explicit—is expression of meaning. But when hope is tarnished or dashed, to deny meaning is a defense against doubt about meaning.
Hope and denial both show that we are not passive receptacles of meaning. Our active nature is expressed not just in passive life but in action—living in interaction with reflecting and choosing. To be effective this must be imaginative and critical.
A meta-question is essential. What is the meaning of meaning? It must have to do with being in the world. But the world is the whole—it has no outside. Meaning and its meaning are in and of the world—and that is where they are found. There is no ultimate external foundation.
The boundary of the question of meaning is the universe that is all Being. Therefore to begin to address the question of meaning it is essential that we arrive at the best description of the universe that we can.
This leads to the challenge that
Here are three limits
1. Knowledge is not the object. This is a base of the argument that metaphysics is impossible.
2. Substantial religious claims about the real are typically dogmatic and therefore unfounded except where they concern subjective matters, especially of the spirit.
3. The claims of science do not concern the real but are pragmatic and local. A worldview from science is unfounded but is often uncritically seen as justification for the formal view of science as essentially real and complete.
Let us restate the challenge as
However, doubt or denial that there is experience (subjective awareness) is itself experience.
Therefore experience of experience is an example of knowledge of the real.
Note that the challenge appeals to knowledge of the world to deny the world. That is, there is a world—even if it is only experience.
This claim has no basis. The claim ought to be that it is not knowable whether the world is only experience or its standard view as persons in and experiencing the world.
The variety of experience constitutes, at least, what is a world of experience that, if not what we call the world, is its precise analogy. However, if this were the variety of experience of person (i.e. what is called a person) of limited experiential capacity this would be a contradiction.
So if the world is only experience, it is a range of experience that far exceeds the experiential capacity of a person. The range of experience is the range of what is called the world or experience.
Within this range the world as experience is revealed as a society of persons (selves—but not to exclude animals) and other persons (other minds), in an environment that is categorially experiential but whose level and variety of experientially very low or even nil (where nil means factually zero but not categorially non-experiential).
The standard material view of the world as a society of persons in a material environment is factually indistinguishable from the above. However, the standard material view is categorially so distinct from the above that on strict materialism it constitutes a contradiction.
The contradiction may be removed as follows
1. World as experience allows that the world may be one pan-experiential world.
2. One possibility of that world is that it is a world or universe without (conceptual) limit—i.e. realization of all that is possible (i.e. logically possible and therefore consistent with science and reflective common experience). The universe would be then one with Identity and limitless variety, e.g. cosmoses without end both like and unlike ours, against a void-transient background; and it would be a universe with endless peaks and dissolutions of extent, duration, and Identity Our world is a world within that world. Since the possible is realized, our world and our being and identity would merge with the universal peaks and dissolutions.
3. A second possibility is that the universe is limited. The limited universe may be co-extensive with out world or greater (but less than the absolutely limitless).
The thought that an experiential world would be empty or non-robust is one of the reasons for the material view. However, we saw that (a) the material view is empty and only seemingly robust and (b) that whatever strength the material view possesses, falls out of the more comprehensive experiential view.
We saw that it is the experiential view that is true; and therefore it is the one that possesses whatever robustness the world has; which can be seen as robustness-within-fluidity.
But the world as experiential can hardly be a place of meaning
If, as is seen, the world is experiential then experience is the place of significant meaning (as an aside remark, it may also be shown that experience is also the place of concept and linguistic meaning; and that Being as the fundamental existent is experientially relational with many presumed objects being but pragmatic objects while there are also absolute objects via abstraction, e.g. the existence of experience and universe).
That is we do not and cannot know whether the universe is the empirical cosmos, a greater but limited universe, or the absolutely limitless universe.
But we can. Suppose the universe entered a void state—the complete absence of being. Any constraint on the void would be a contradiction for real constraints have being. Therefore every logically possible state would emerge from the void. However, that same void exists—for outside the manifest universe there is (only) absence, i.e. the void. Therefore the universe is the realization of logical possibility.
One principle was just identified—that the universe is the realization of logical possibility is named the fundamental principle of metaphysics or fundamental principle (as we have seen this is consistent with science and reflective experience; and since the possibility is ‘logical’ it is inherently self-consistent).
A second principle follows. This will in fact be a family of principles.
This could not be further from the truth, for
1. It illuminates the nature of the universe. It shows it to be ultimate. It shows our traditional pictures—religious and scientific or secular and non-secular—to be immensely limited.
2. It shows the foundation of the universe to necessity (foundation in some further being is no foundation for that being would be part of the universe; but we now see such foundation unnecessary).
3. It shows the necessity and one foundation for our empirical universe. It shows that our knowledge of the world, even if limited, is the best possible knowledge-in-the-present, and therefore our best tool at present for negotiating the universe.
4. It shows there must be a path to the ultimate and that our ‘immediate tools’, whatever our form, are the best tools for realization (it is understood that the tools including reason evolve with our form which—as the limitless possibility of the fundamental principle reveals—also evolves on the way to the ultimate.
Thus the metaphysical system that emerges from the fundamental principle is ultimate, pragmatic, and seamless. It meshes the fundamental principle with traditional and process knowledge and reason. It is named the perfect metaphysics.
The foregoing shows the envelope of meaning.
Naturally, in our limited form there is more to know, be, and become; as long as we are not at peak, meaning is in process.
However, we will achieve peaks (and dissolutions).
It has been shown that—
Individuals may use the perfect metaphysics, which includes knowledge and value, and their own powers of experience and reason as the best that they can do to realize an optimum in the range of the immediate to the ultimate.
There can be no greater meaning (in process).
Therefore the italicized paragraph provides a generic prescription of meaning. Of course that is far from all that can be said or recommended, but the rest, valuable though it is, is detail within the generic prescription
If life on this earth is not repetitious and dull, universal realization can hardly be dull.
But perhaps life on this earth is repetitious and dull and eternity would be more so.
However, the fundamental principle regarding limitless possibility, shows that there is ever freshness.
There will be pain and repetition at times but intelligent engagement is ultimate overcoming and optimum if incomplete immediate overcoming.
There is no meaning to life
This leads to a further challenge
We cannot hope to understand the world or universe
The essential objection is that since knowledge is not the object, true knowledge is impossible.
This challenge is therefore restated—
Metaphysics as knowledge of the real is impossible
However, there is experience and this is perfectly known—e.g., per Descartes’ cogito argument.
Knowledge that there is experience is hardly knowledge of the world
But experience would constitute a world
The world is only experience
Properly interpreted this leads to the conclusion that the world is experiential and the possible worlds range from an ultimate to our empirical cosmos.
The difference between the latter and the standard materialist interpretation is that the experientially inert of the latter is at least categorially experiential but low or nil in magnitude.
We do not and cannot know the extent of the world
A demonstration based in the void is given that shows the universe is the realization of logical possibility.
Thus we do know the extent of the world.
Metaphysics has no principles of reason
One principle was just identified—the fundamental principle that the universe is the realization of logical possibility.
A second principle follows.
The universe as the possible is pretty but without use. It is hardly a substantial metaphysics
The fundamental principle leads to the perfect metaphysics (a family of principles) that show the universe and persons to be of ultimate identity and that there is a path from the immediate to the ultimate.
The perfect metaphysics is a mesh of human knowledge and reason with the fundamental principle.
The issue of meaning remains unresolved
The foregoing shows the envelope of meaning and that for limited forms, meaning is and must be in process.
That seems repetitious and dull
The perfect metaphysics reveals the realization of ultimate identity to be ever fresh; and intelligent engagement to be the best overcoming of pain and dullness.