For The Way of Being
For inclusion after modification
Anil Mitra © November 2017—August 2018
Comment. The canonical dilemmas provide a powerful approach to analysis and building up a true and reliable picture of the real.
Comment. The canonical dilemmas may be placed (1) here, (2) in the document the way-template.html > Appendix > Canonical dilemmas, or (3) in the this document canonical dilemmas.html. Currently they are only in item #3.
The dilemmas present alternative interpretations of the real. Attempting to resolve the dilemmas is a powerful approach to foundations—and is essentially methodological skepticism, enhanced by (i) a systematic outline of the world and knowledge and (ii) what is learned about method generally by considering the dilemmas together.
In seeking secure knowledge, doubt—acknowledging that security is not guaranteed—is essential. Both knowledge itself and knowledge of security can be doubted, so doubt helps illuminate both. Doubt is discriminatory, illuminating where security is perfect and where good but imperfect. Thus doubt is more discriminating than philosophical skepticism as the position that no knowledge is certain or that no knowledge is possible. That is, doubt is constructive and critical. That is, criticism is constructive; and this is argued further, below, in Dilemmas of knowledge or epistemology.
Let us begin the search for secure knowledge by considering experience—the term used here for consciousness, subjective awareness, or phenomenal awareness. What is it? Its essential characteristic is the subjective feeling in being aware. Is there experience? To doubt experience is experience—the medium of doubt is experience—therefore there is experience. Since our definition was really provision of synonyms, we have provided and ostensive definition; i.e. fundamentally, ‘experience’ names a given. The argument here is a tidied rendering of Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum”.
Given that there is experience, there is Being or existence for there is experience. There is also a world—for the world is just the entirety of whatever exists.
Since we can doubt that there is anything, if we want security, we should doubt it. However, doubting leads, in this case to certain knowledge. Perhaps there are other doubts or dilemmas that are also illuminating.
A skeptical attitude toward our standard ways of seeing the world is conducive to seeing the truth of the matter. The certain truth of the matter as far as we can tell may, of course, be entirely negative in a non committal sense (for to be certainly committed to the negative may itself not survive criticism).
However, some dilemmas or skeptical positions do have resolution. Further, when we see a collection of dilemmas together, we may find systematic errors in our skepticism and this may enhance resolution. In some cases we may find that seeming oppositions are merely different interpretations. Skepticism about reason improves reason. Skepticism about skepticism improves our understanding of its role and roles for imagination in critical thought.
Above all, where our common or even standard view of the world may be piecemeal and laced with doubt, viewing a range of skeptical positions and working with them simultaneously may result in a gestalt of reason and system (or paradigm).
That is, systematic skepticism may be a way to see the world as it is. Naturally, we must be skeptical about knowledge too but also skeptical about criticism of the possibility of knowledge. It ought not to be necessary to make this elaboration for knowledge is a real part of the world.
Doubt does not eliminate all doubt; but it helps make it clear what is certainly true and why, what remains uncertain, to what degree, and why; and the division between the certain and the uncertain; and the significance of the conclusions. Regarding significance, where doubt is not eliminated, doubt may show where it is problematic and where doubt as existential doubt is good.
There is a wide range of skeptical positions or dilemmas. The dilemmas that follow are all issues that I have faced over the years. Initially they were considered in isolation. However, I noticed that considering them as a system is more empowering than the net result of their separate consideration.
The aim and design of the system that follows is to support the building of a worldview that is (a) ultimate with regard to the world as well as knowledge of the world and (b) sees the immediate and the ultimate in intimate relation.
Our concern is metaphysics and action in light of metaphysics. Why a system of canonical dilemmas should be especially empowering is further considered below in Dilemmas of knowledge or epistemology.
A logic of the dilemmas and their organization? Is the selected approach a good one? Can it be improved?
The approach begins with (a) the most basic of questions of the world, (b) which are followed by questions of necessity, and (c) then questions of the contingent nature of the world. Is this a good approach?
The dilemmas begin with a repetition of the Cartesian dilemma.
1. Is there anything at all—i.e. is there Being; or are there beings; can we be sure? Can there be certainty regarding this (and other issues, as taken up below)? This is the Cartesian dilemma because the question of Being begins (at least) in the question of experience.
As seen above there is experience and there is Being.
2. Is the measure of Being something other than Being—or should it be Being itself?
But then what would be the measure of something else? A foundation in something else must be circular or endless regress.
The measure of Being can only be in Being. But how?
3. Is power or interaction, therefore, the measure of Being?
Yes, for the hypothetical Being without power cannot exist (for it does not even have meaning—in the sense that there is a definition or concept without an object). Experience is a case of power. The hypothetical Being with no effect on or in experience is effectively non-existent and we later see it to be simply non-existent.
That is, Being or beings do not exist in isolation (but it is not being said that experience or power create or cause Being or beings)
4. Beyond power, are space, time (or spacetime), and cause the most basic aspects of experience? Or are the basic aspects sameness, difference, and perhaps quality?
5. Is there more than just experience—a real or external world.
6. Is there a self associated with experience?
7. Does experience have substance? I.e. while experience has form which could be considered its own substance is there a substance or substantial substrate from which the experience arises? Must there be a substrate—or is this just perhaps the case in physical and certain metaphysical contexts?
8. Are there other minds?
9. For experience, external world, self, substance, and other minds, if existence is affirmed is a more inclusive interpretation of world as field of experience possible?
What is its significance? Does the more inclusive interpretation contradict the less inclusive or does the former contradict just strict materialism or strict physicalism? What is the significance of the more inclusive for Being—generally and in terms of the perfect metaphysics to be developed?
I name these issues canonical dilemmas because (1) we can progress toward resolution a priori to detailed experience (2) these dilemmas and others simultaneously makes their consideration simpler and can raise the power of a priori thought to a powerful level of understanding of the world not obvious in the dilemmas taken individually.
The foregoing dilemmas are ontological. The list of ontological dilemmas may be extended:
10. Does the world have a substantial nature or is the fundamental nature of the world just Being or existence?
This is a repetition of the earlier issue of the measure of Being, in the form of the suggestion that the measure has the alternatives of Being itself vs something else (e.g., substance).
Stated this way, the idea to found Being in something else, e.g. a special kind of Being, has absurdity. Something else raises the issues of what that something is, what its Being or kind may be, and what is the proof of our conclusions. To found Being in Being refers to nothing else. Of course Being is its own foundation. The question, now is whether this is mere tautology. We find it immensely powerful.
11. Should free will be defined as an unconstrained capability? Is there free will? Are free will and determinism compatible? What are the implications for physical determinism?
That is, is not the conception of free will the most important issue regarding free will—from which will flow an answer to the question of whether there is free will?
Does matter determine the nature of mind or vice versa? Or are experience and knowledge of mind and matter mutually informative?
12. Does physics decide the free will issue and other aspects of mind?
It is common today, to think that physics is determining regarding mind. This issue begins a train of thought, of which one consequence is that knowledge of mind—since it is first hand knowledge—is or may be determining of aspects of physics such as determinism and whether the physical is also the mental. In reflecting on this it is important to remember that physics is almost certainly incomplete and therefore its proper role is to suggest than to determine regarding mind. What an incomplete science says has conclusions for the real; what it does not say does not have such conclusions (yet conclusions from negatives regarding physical are often taken as universal negatives). For example, paradigms suggested by physics and materialism—non teleology, universal mechanist cause—are not required by physics but only absent so far in it and therefore unnecessary to the universe and even to physics so far (it is not implied or suggested that physics has or will have teleology).
What we would we be assuming to decide that it does—is essentially that physics is complete and that it is ‘everything’ (though not necessarily that everything can be computed).
Thus our knowledge of mind (and evolution, especially the creative aspect) may determine aspects of physics.
If mind is emergent and physics is complete in itself and over Being, then mind must be physical.
We can now see an aspect of how putting all the dilemmas together can be useful. First, there are parallels between the cogito and free will arguments (but of course they are not identical) and, second, we observe that if we regard physics in too reductionist a way, there can be no mind.
Further dilemmas enhance the development of metaphysics.
Dilemmas of ontology were about the fact and nature of Being. Here, modal ontology is about necessity. In the next dilemma the word ‘must’ signifies that the concern is with necessity.
13. Must there be Being and experience? Must there be beings and the void? Must there be the universe (see discussion of the concept of the universe under Dilemmas of concept and linguistic definition or meaning).
Is logic that which mediates the necessary aspect of the relation between experience and experienced?
Clearly, given experience there must be Being and the universe: from the fact of experience, the existence of Being and universe necessarily follow. However, do the necessities follow ex-nihilo? Should the consequence be necessary or merely probable, perhaps highly probable, or possible? And should it be ex nihilo or contingent?
Of course, there is a sense in which necessity ex-nihilo is most satisfactory. But must this be the case? That is, could it be otherwise?
If the universe must exist ex-nihilo, is it the existence of just some cosmos; or is all logical possibility necessary? From symmetry, it would seem that it must be the latter. All this also follows from existence of the void.
If the universe must exist, is the necessity temporal or logical? The latter merely says that existence is necessary but not that it is causal or temporal. If necessary, there is no need for a first cause. The logical necessity, if it exists, exists outside time and space and Being but is insubstantial and immaterial; that is, the location of its existence can be taken to be anywhere and nowhere.
If there is a principle of sufficient reason (PSR) is it causal or logical?
If the void exists or must exist it could not be otherwise (see arguments in the text). So is existence of the void necessary? The existence is argued in the text. However doubt remains and this is the fundamental dilemma of metaphysics.
14. What is logic? Is it as stated above, Is logic that which mediates the necessary aspect of the relation between experience and experienced? Is it about deduction? Or, given a system of descriptions and given fact pertaining to the universe is a logic that which is necessary regarding the system for it to be realized? And is Logic the maximal system of logics pertaining to the universe?
15. What is possibility? Is essential possibility physical and material? Or is physical possibility but one kind? What is logical possibility and its relation to reality? What is metaphysical possibility? Are there other kinds of possibility—e.g., natural, universal, sentient and other (see essays.html).
16. What is necessity and its relation to the actual and to possibility? Are there necessary facts? What is a necessary facts? Are all facts necessary? If so what is the distinction between the contingent and the necessary?
17. What are the essential constraints on the real? Are they defined by (1) All fact and all law, both contingent and necessary? Or (2) Only by necessary fact and law?
In #2 the constraint is limited to givens (e.g. the fact of the givenness of experience) and their logical consequences (e.g. Being, universe, and, as seen later, the void).
In #1 it includes also scientific fact and hypothetical (but tested) inference—which is reasonable in its application in our cosmos but not otherwise.
18. Does the void exist? Or is it a vacuous concept—or, as some people claim, not even a concept?
I call this dilemma modal because we do not observe the void and therefore need to prove or somehow show its existence. To regard reasoning that the void exists as sound, the reasoning or proof must be necessary and show necessity.
Can the void be conceived? If the void ‘cannot’ be conceived in pictorial or geometric terms can it be conceived in analytic terms?
Clearly, our laws of physics would not extend to the void; for they are not ‘nothing’.
Would the ‘laws’, e.g., of causality, mechanism, non-action-at-a-distance, non teleology, non-vitalism, naturalism, and so on extend to the void?
19. Is doubt entirely critical or is it also constructive?
Should or must it be constructive? Relative to what rational criteria?
It is both; it is deeply constructive for it is critical not only of first order knowledge claims, i.e. claims about the world as world, but also second order claims, i.e. claims about knowledge.
For example the naïve holy grail of knowledge is correspondence truth—the concept corresponds to the object (with more or less precision); next we could look at coherence and pragmatic ‘theories’. But why should pragmatism be seen as less than pure? And why, especially if it should arise naturally, ought a mixed ‘theory’, say correspondence-coherence-pragmatic theory be seen as impure? Why should giving up on perfect precision, even if perfect precision could obtain, be seen as impure?
Naïve first order doubt may impose these notions of purity and impurity, second order doubt may deliver us from their excesses. The perfect and ultimate metaphysics to be developed is a prime and ultimate example of perfect dual epistemology (according to an argued value).
More generally, doubt or criticism and imagination interact—each infusing the other intuitively and enhancing the other formally.
Is knowledge of the object? What does that mean? If or where not, how is it possible?
Is knowledge of the object possible? Should it be correspondence, coherence, pragmatic or mixed? What is perfection in knowledge? Is it possible? How is this affected by rationalist, empiricist, and Kantian (projective which includes the creation, contribution, filtering, distortions of ‘mind’) critiques? Are criteria of perfection, if possible, single or dual? Should the criteria be uniform over all knowledge? Or should there be criteria at all—if so for what aspects of knowledge? What is the nature of pragmatic – scientific knowledge in the realm of the immediate?
20. Is knowledge of the object? What does that mean? If or where not, how is it possible? Must the nature of knowledge be pure correspondence or pure coherence or pragmatism alone? If not is a dual account possible and ought we to consider such an account ‘impure’?
21. Is knowledge that is beyond the a priori essentially uncertain? Can it be synthetic? What are the realms of certainty? Is there a problem with uncertainty or is its acknowledgement empowering of our possibilities and realizations.
We will see that though Immanuel Kant’s synthetic a priori categories are in fact contingent, there is in fact a priori of immense significance.
22. What is the ultimate in realization?
23. Where does certainty obtain? Not at all? Regarding only the abstract?
We have seen and continue to find that (a) certainty obtains very generally regarding certain abstract though not non concrete concepts, e.g. Being, experience, universe. Existence of the void is on the border between certainty and doubt. That is, its existence may be regarded as and existential (meaningful, risk laden) proposition. Regarding pragmatic certainty vs uncertainty, we find that it is locally an important issue but universally the local uncertainty of the pragmatic does not render it imperfect in a value sense.
24. Do the various dilemmas that arise have only individual force or is there also force derived from the system of dilemmas?
This issue has been addressed in a previous item in the discussion of mutual implications of physics and experience in the section Dilemmas of ontology.
Comment. Examples have already been encountered.
25. Is a word the bearer meaning? Of fixed meaning? Or is meaning something else and flexible?
Here, for metaphysics it is sufficient to consider referential meaning. Analysis of linguistic referential meaning and its necessity and sufficiency for certain purposes is given in the text. For general purposes meaning must balance fixity vs fluidity. However, for a metaphysical system definiteness is essential. Fluidity must be allowed, however, when formulating, modifying or comparing metaphysical systems.
Are words and concept-objects rigidly attached? How much flexibility is there? Is there a range of flexibility depending on context?
26. Are words and concept-objects rigidly attached? Should they be? Or is the growth of meaning a search in a sign – concept – object space?
27. Should Being be conceived of as that which exists some ‘where’ in extension? Or should it be contrasted to becoming? And should it admit distinctions of higher vs lower beings; and distinctions of entity vs relation vs process and so on?
First, of course the concept should be precisely defined and consistently used. Second, it is crucial that the concept of greatest neutrality be used in the metaphysics. Here, the term will be ‘Being’. We will allow the distinctions by employing modifiers. This is discriminatory ability within abstract generality is immensely empowering.
It would negate this power if we were to now define other concepts at the level of Being (categories) narrowly or as committed rather than neutrality. With this in mind, let us now take up the concept of the universe. In defining all the fundamental concepts (categories) at the same level of neutrality, the metaphysics is open to be developed as ultimately powerful.
28. Should Being be conceived independently or in relation to experience? It is clear from the section on ontological dilemmas that the latter is efficient and necessary for realism.
29. How should the universe be conceived? Should or must the universe conceived of as (1) all that is observed, (2) all that is material or physical, (3) all Being over all extension (sameness, difference, and their absence), or (4) all Being and all non-Being over all extension?
Of course there is a certain freedom of definition. The concepts #1 and #2 empower certain real and pragmatic considerations. However, #3 or perhaps #4 is immensely empowering of and necessary to any complete metaphysics (and to not have it leads not only to incompleteness but also to confusion). Therefore, regardless of the term used, the concept #3 is useful. In this work ‘universe’ refers to #3 (and sometimes #4); I may use the capitalized version ‘Universe’ for this purpose. I will use the terms empirical universe, physical universe, epoch, cosmos, etc. for the lesser concepts.
The broad definition #4 allows the other considerations as special cases as and if they arise; however the narrower definitions do not allow #4 later. This and the consequent power of #4 are reason enough to select it. If we want the broadest and most powerful metaphysics it is necessary to select #4 in concert with the special conceptions where they apply to phases of the universe.
Now let us consider the void.
30. Should the void be defined in terms of physics? For example, it could be defined with reference to Newtonian physics, as empty absolute space and time? Or from General Relativity as the absence of space-time-matter? Or as the quantum vacuum? Or perhaps the void could be defined metaphysically as the absence of the concrete; in this case the void might contain abstract concepts. Or as a final alternative the void could be defined as the absence of Being altogether so that neither physical nor ideal nor formal are found in the void? In this case the void would not contain the abstracta such as logic, and potential Being (which would therefore reside in the real world).
Should we define possibility in terms of the concrete or physical? Or maximally as whatever may obtain in any world—i.e. according to logic-as-minimal-constraint-for-realism?
In line with discussion of Being, the universe, and the void, we define possibility in terms of logic. This of course allows consideration of less permissive and narrower possibility, e.g. physical law.
In summary we have considered efficient and necessary meanings for experience, Being (beings), the universe, the void, and possibility (logic, physical law).
31. Is our Being accidental? Are we alone? Essentially?
32. What is the source of significance and value? Is it found or created? Where does it lie?
33. Is experience the core of our Being? of all Being? Is it the place of both significant and concept meaning? Note here the merging of epistemology and value.
34. Is the aim of (human) being to live well in this world? To also aim at the ultimate? To live in this world, the immediate, and the ultimate?
35. Is the universe constrained only by logical possibility—and what is logical possibility? Or are their further constraints? And would the constraint only to logical possibility violate common experience and science? Can we argue to this single constraint heuristically? ‘Logically’? Or is such proof absolutely impossible (some would claim so, e.g. those who argue something from nothing cannot be proved)? Would proof resolve the dilemma of ‘something vs nothing’?
Here is a cosmological approach to universe as logical possibility. Enquire of the next physical theories—the ones after quantum field theory, general relativity, and the big bang cosmology. There are clues and directions of thought—e.g., quantum loop gravity, string theory, and adaptive systems multiverse theories—but no definitive theory. Suppose that new observations suggest hypotheses and a new theory is developed. What next? There is no guarantee that the next theory will be final (and of course universe as logical possibility would show that there will be no final physics). What is the limit to the sequence of theories? We do not know? Well, we do know even if we do not see—due perhaps to paradigmatic blindness: the limit is necessary logic or the logic of necessary relations (i.e. the logical structure of deduction).
But now consider that a current (2018) roadblock is absence of disconfirming observations for our present theories. The situation is likely to become more severe. It is conceivable if not necessary that there may be empirical limits to observation for observers whose constitution is of our cosmos. Is there a way out? Recall that the early Greek philosophers and, later, enlightenment and post-enlightenment philosophers, were able to deduce a priori metaphysical possibility by reason alone. What is a priori metaphysical possibility? Consider Democritus’ argument for atomism. It begins by assuming never ending divisibility. It concludes that then there is no finite smallest ‘object’ (a seeming paradox). It also finds that when the infinite division is complete, if there is no smallest object, there is no way to reconstitute the world. Now the reasoning is erroneous. Only if we expect objects all the way, need we be concerned that there is no smallest object. And, only if we are thinking (a) the world is a continuum like that of the real number system but that the putting together is a sequence like that of the integers (or even algebraic numbers) should there be a problem of reconstitution. For (1) if there is the possibility of division of a continuum down to the individual reals it cannot be a sequence numbered by the integers and (2) whatever that process is, there is a reverse process that is the reconstitution (if we regard the reverse as a numbered sequence, indeterminacies may arise but the reverse need not be a mere numbered sequence but more importantly it is not a process at all: the ‘cutting’ is conceptual rather than sequential and the smallest elements are the reals which already constitute the continuum). That is, Democritus conclusion results only if one makes certain metaphysical assumptions (in Democritus’ case they are tacit). Democritus’ metaphysical assumptions are not at all necessary or even useful (but in different situations it may be reasonable to supplement the bareness of necessity by metaphysical conditions).
This sheds light on what to do if and when the limits of being in this cosmos are limits on observation. The answer is that we turn to the a priori, the necessary, and the rational metaphysical. This may well be at least part of the future of physics. It also shows concretely why logic is the limit of the real—and a limit of all scientific theory.
Can we assert that the hypothetical Being that has no power (or effect on experience) does not exist?
36. If we can prove that the universe is the realization of the logically possible, does it follow that the hypothetical being that has no effect on experience does not exist? And would experience, then, rather than some mode of experience (substance, matter, relation, process, trope…), be the final measure of what has Being?
Comment. See the discussion of distinctions in the way-template.html not recognized by Being.
Comment. In the following it will be useful to admit universe as logical possibility for some purposes (this is proved in the text).
Are mind and matter real as usually conceived? What are the essential conceptions in this regard? Do these conceptions define substances or are they but two sides of Being?
37. Are mind and matter substances or but two sides of Being? Are there further attributes in the sense of Spinoza? Are properties limitless in number?
38. Are space, time, and Identity immanent or external to Being? Is there a universal Identity? Are its limits also the constraints of Logic? And then would it not follow that we are part of it—in fact or potentially?
39. What are the general and efficient cosmologies of creation? Is it essentially deterministic? If ‘logic’ indicates it cannot be, how does creativity arise from the non creative processes of random variation and selection.
40. Is it true that for any realization of the universe there is a higher sentient realization? If so is that alien to us? Or are we part of that universal identity—against materialist and Abrahamic paradigms? And should we therefore not incorporate a non Abrahamic but Vedantic-like notion of God to any ultimate cosmology?
41. Is the real question regarding the ultimate to accept some widespread and perhaps dogmatic version? Or is it to define (discover, create the concept of, realize) the ultimate? Is it to accept limits? Or to negotiate limits on the way to the ultimate?
And what are those concepts of the ultimate? Is it the fiction of Abrahamic religion? The non-God and Karma of Buddhism? Vedantic and Hindu monotheism vs Hindu Polytheism? Received pantheism and panentheism (and what is the meaning of those terms: i.e. pantheism as just nature worship or nature as divine).
Or is it the eternal ultimate of peaks and dissolutions always in process in which we partake? Can the ultimacy of our Being be anything other than necessary?
And limits? Given limitlessness, what should we do with the widespread thoughts “oh we are so limited and humble” and “we should not enquire into the ultimate”?
42. What is the process of formation of our cosmos? Is it efficient and probable or not so but still logical, e.g. a single step? The latter would seem to be extremely improbable relative to the efficient model. This would eliminate the pragmatic but not possible realism of an Abrahamic Cosmology or the five minute prior creation of our cosmos.