Anil Mitra © JANUARY 2018—March 2018
Prologue to The Way of Being
Longer version of the prologue will contain a discussion of the essentials of the human endeavor and how to approach it via (a) diffusion of ethical principle, (b) social science and philosophy, (c) institutions of culture, (d) planning, and (e) TWB / the ultimate.
It is an approach to being in the universe—to living well in the immediate and the ultimate
It is a personal and universal endeavor.
It has come to be based in
The principle can be stated in a number of ways—(1) The universe is the greatest in the most permissive sense of possibility (2) The universe is the realization of the logically possible.
In this use, ‘logic’ is most fertile rather than barren.
The principle will be shown self-consistent and consistent with science and experience.
It shows the necessity of our cosmos and science as one system of limitlessly many.
It results in equal emphasis of the local and the ultimate.
The prologue is a way into the narrative from the development of my thought and endeavor. Here, the personal is that which promotes the universal.
The way of being is a view of the universe, integrated with a way of living maximally in the universe—i.e. in this world and beyond
The view: the universe is the realization of all possibility; consequence for living in this world and the next;
There is much to work out—my sources – history of ideas and modification / enhancement via experience and reason; meaning; consistency and mesh with the tradition of culture and exploration
Every morning for 30 years… nature, people…
“This morning as I sit on my front porch, it is still dark, it is raining—there is a Pacific storm, I sense the hills in the distance, I sense the real.”
It is very relevant that though I enjoy ‘intellect’ my motive has not been primarily intellectual.
My first motivations are and have been experience of beauty and passion—especially for nature, people, and art—especially poetry, literature, and drama. These stand out as my first recollected experiences and have stayed with me as constants.
Intellect enters (1) As a means to seek and enhance beauty. (2) Intellect, creation, and reason beauty; and they are and enhance enjoyment of the world. But I have ‘intellect’ to take a toll—especially that criticism can be draining and detract from primary beauty. (3) As a way to share and contribute. (4) As balance to my emotional nature.
A second motive has been contribution to the world, especially the human world and human lives, and the world of ideas.
I see the human endeavor as living well in this world and the ultimate. It is about living within limits of this world but also about accepting none but necessary limits.
The narrative began with my personal interest in the endeavors of beauty and living well.
The way itself is of course a universal human interest.
My first interest in possibility was that it would help define the human endeavor. What are we capable of achieving? This suggested a further question—what is universally possible? We might not be capable of achieving it but it does in fact set a limit to our limits.
What are limits? The nature of the experience of limits is that we may conceive of doing, achieving, or building something but find that we are unable to do so. A limit in this world may be due to a lack of resources or essential—e.g., disallowed by the empirical laws of nature or the magnitude of the empirical universe. Those are limits of our world. There are also conceptions of a larger universe—that is not just the empirical universe. Its limits are universal limits.
My understanding went through a number of stages described below.
The standard view is roughly the world as experienced, without the adornment of myth or interpretation of philosophy.
In the standard view, the world is populated by individuals with experience (consciousness). Individuals have a degree of intelligence, knowledge, and agency. Some individuals experience their experience. They form conceptions of their (human) endeavor and communities that may enhance the endeavor. The world at large is not regarded as being capable of experience—only individuals have experience. It is a natural world in which matter, life, society, and experience have a place. At a material level, the world appears to be a place, not only of things, but of entities, interactions, and process.
Human individuals and societies have limits as suggested by experience. Their sciences and philosophy appear to confirm limits. A law of nature is both a pattern and a limit (other patterns do not occur).
The standard view is roughly the world as it appears to be.
However, in the world complex things seem to be made up of simple things and while some things change some appear to remain constant.
In search of understanding, thinkers have asked whether there is a single, simple, fixed substance that is the source of all complexity and change.
The substance view has difficulties—can there be a substance at all? While a single substance might be intellectually satisfying, it is not guaranteed that there is one—there might be two, many, or none—and it would have essential difficulties, e.g. how ultimate simplicity generates complexity and change and whether that is at all possible and how a strict substance can be sufficient; and in the case of more than one substance, how they can be essentially different, ultimately simple and yet interact or communicate. Thus, while it does appear that much complexity comes from simpler natural substances, it may, under appropriate causality / determinism, necessarily be the case that for manifest complexity to emerge there must already be a hidden complexity—e.g. atoms, molecules—in the manifestly simple. If there is an ultimate explanation / foundation it may necessarily be non-deterministic and non-causal (there are of course difficulties with indeterminism giving rise to order but these may and will turn out to have resolution).
Let us continue examination of the difficulties of substance. For example, suppose we seek a necessary explanation for our world. It cannot be in some given simple state for that state would then need explanation. It would therefore have to be in any state whatsoever including, conveniently but not necessarily, in a state of nothingness or the void—i.e., in no state at all. Further, from symmetry, there is no reason that our world as it is should be the only necessary (or even contingent) emergent from nothingness. Every possible state should emerge. What is more, such emergence could not be causal in the standard sense but part of the point to substance explanation / foundation is that it is causal / determinist and not random. Thus a necessary explanation, such as the one sought in substance, would be have severe difficulties and would in fact not be a substance explanation or foundation. We address and resolve these difficulties later and find that a substance explanation or foundation is untenable.
Yet, many thinkers have sought substance foundations and continue to do so. One of its appeals is its seeming simplicity and perhaps even purity—given an ultimate substance, understanding and foundation of the world is reduced to rationality (but also sterile). My process of understanding went through a substance phase.
The standard view lends itself to ontological or substance materialism. In search of understanding, I investigated materialism, found it wanting, not merely for its possible poverty but also rationally, e.g., as described below, and then looked at its classical alternate: ontological idealism—the view that the stuff of the universe is experience or mind-like.
A problem in considering materialism versus idealism is that the ultimate nature of mind and matter are poorly known in common experience and quite likely in science. Perhaps both mind and matter converge on an ultimate real; perhaps they are but elements in an ultimate real.
This leads to a neutral view.
The neutral view is the standard view with modifications—the entire world may be experiential in nature but individuals are heightened centers of experience while the experienced world as a whole is made of a primitive stuff that is both matter and mind-like. As described so far, this is not a definitive view but a framework to be filled in and perhaps to be made specific—via reason and not by mere positing positions.
There is an alternative to the neutral view—that the world is material but mind emerges from matter, e.g., at some level and kind of complexity. What favors the neutral view? On a materialism—matter is the only substance—in which mind is not present in matter, what can emerge is, even logically, as-if mind but not mind itself. Therefore, the only materialism that is possible for our world is one in which mind is already present in matter. Consideration of the alternative to the neutral view leads back, via reason, to the neutral view (if we accept a substance account), Thus what emerges is not experience or consciousness per se, these are already present in primitive form, but high level consciousness. What is the form of primitive mind? Given that experience is always experience-of, this will be seen also for even pure experience, it must be the effect in one ‘particle’, the ‘subject’ particle, not so much of the ‘object’ particle, but of the interaction. Whether it is present in all interactions, should be empirically determined. But is the world a substance world and what obtains regarding mind and matter in a non-substance world? The answer is briefly touched on below in the prologue but mostly deferred to the main narrative.
Because it does not emphasize either matter or mind or one over the other but finds them to be natural or part of nature, the neutral view is a form of naturalism.
The neutral view allows the standard view as a special case. It also allows a view in which the world emerged from nothingness.
It is not a dualism—substance or property. Rather, given that experience seems to be experience-of, the empirical material aspects of the world are a view from experience while the ideal aspects are the view within experience. Further experience is not outside the matter like aspects but is the inner aspect of the material (like) aspects in interaction.
The neutral view encourages a metaphysical approach from the concept of Being. As manifest in the world it may be seen as a kind of naturalism that makes no rigid distinction between the material, the living, and the psyche.
The difficulties of the substance view constitute one reason that some thinkers have sought a non substance foundation, e.g. one from Being. But some advocates of Being over substance, having rejected the distortions of substance and sought foundation from Being, assign to Being some properties that are of the world or of our Being, and so prejudicial to a foundation from pure Being. The present development will avoid that pitfall. However, having avoided the abyss of this-world-centrism, it will not rest in the merely universal. It will also find that, having determined to not be merely universal or abstract, the alternative is not just our world but limitlessly many worlds of limitless variety, magnitude, and peak of Being. The approach from Being avoids the prejudicial particulars of our world but should also proceed beyond from the abstract and universal to the concrete and particular.
The limits seen in experience and science are empirical but not necessary. Because science is empirical, its apparent limits are pragmatic rather than necessary.
Religion questions the limits of the standard or secular view. It has great symbolic appeal for many people but because its views, even those of Buddhism which is perhaps the least dogmatic of the major religions, tend to be dogmatic and/or posited and/or suggestive rather than derived, the views on universal possibility and reality of no religion have universal acceptance. On absence of dogma, it is worth mentioning Advaita Vedanta, a school of Indian / Hindu philosophy, that builds no concrete picture as in many religions, and builds in no a priori limits to the universe as in much modern thought, but finds the universe to be as in the earlier neutral view enhanced by eternal peaking and dissolving of Being in which individual beings merge. Is this peaking and dissolution a mere posit or can it be founded in rational / empirical thought? We answer this question shortly.
Systematic universal metaphysics may avoid the particular difficulties of religious cosmology but they too have generally been inspired and suggestive but not derived.
Cosmology under materialism
By greatest possible universe, I mean a concept of the universe as realizing all possibility. I do not mean the best of all possible worlds such as considered by some thinkers. ‘Greatest’ will be found to be a logical and not an axiological, e.g. ethical, concept. Note by the way, that the ‘greatest’ is logical is found below to be a source of ultimate richness rather than barren emptiness.
But what kind of possibility should this involve? If we think of possibility as the possibilities allowed by our natural laws then the universe is of the same nature as seen in the standard or secular view.
Imagine you have conceived a state that is not allowed by the natural laws of our cosmos. It is, in this sense of ‘natural’, naturally impossible. Is there a notion of possibility that may allow it?
The most permissive conception of possibility is logical. Let us see why. Given a conception of a state, if it is in conflict with the laws of logic it is not realizable whatever the laws of nature may be—or even if there are no natural laws at all. Why? Another cosmos may have natural laws different from ours—the other cosmos ‘breaks’ our natural law. However, logic may be defined as a conceptual system that can be violated only in an empty world.
The greatest possible universe is one whose only limits are logical. Though what logic requires is barren what it allows is the richest.
There is a speculation from the history of philosophy that whatever is possible will be realized.
In 2002 I proved what I call the fundamental principle of metaphysics—the universe is the realization of all logical possibility.
The proof, in outline, was (1) existence of the void, (2) the void contains no natural law, (3) the non-emergence of a possible state from the void would be a law, (4) therefore every possible state emerges from the void, and (5) the universe must be the realization of the possible. This shows that while causality and determinism may emerge in phases, the universe at large and the emergence of order are not causal-deterministic. It also shows that the void is not special—any state may fill in for the same function.
How then does order arise? From the void it must arise in (1) a few large steps, perhaps just one, which must be indeterministic or (2) incrementally. In the incremental case, once there is some form it has some residual indeterminism which is the generator of further change and further form arises via selection. This, i.e. adaptive incrementalism, is a paradigm introduced in biological evolution, and is an alternative to and source of the physical paradigm of dynamic process. While the process is not the necessary source of order, a metaphysical assumption—see the section on metaphysical possibility, argument, and condition—that single step origins are unlikely would make it the most probable or dominant source. Adaptive incrementalism negates the argument from indeterminism against emergence of order and particularly it negates the same argument against free will. On the other hand it negates the determinist argument against order and free will in showing that the universe is not indeterministic and that indeterminism is sufficient for order and free will. But how is free will and order possible under randomness—that is the argument from indeterminism against free will? The explanation has just been given and can be encapsulated, e.g.: the void ® form with residual indeterminism ® new forms ® selection of those forms that together with the old are adaptive. Creativity—order and free will and so on—arise at the intersection of form and indeterminism.
A consequence of the fundamental principle is what I shall call the principle of limitless identity—the universe has identity; the universe and its identity have no limits to their variety, peaks of being, extension, and duration; individuals merge with universal identity in peaks—as suggested in Advaita Vedanta; and, for any given state of the universe, there are greater states of sentience and sentient artifact.
This raises numerous questions—(1) What is metaphysics and is it at all possible? (2) Does not the fundamental principle violate science and reason? In answer to (1) the narrative develops a perfect metaphysics anchored in the fundamental principle and (2) it is shown that the fundamental principle requires the science of our cosmos and that it is founded in and helps found reason.
These and other questions are raised in the narrative to follow. Metaphysical questions concern issues metaphysics itself; of mind and matter—zero, one, two, or many such elements; space and time—original or immanent, one or two or more such measures; causality and determinism and so on; of the origins of the entire world of things and reason; and whether the answers should be merely posited by analogy with our world, and thus be one of many possible, or be derivable of necessity. The fundamental principle leads to a perfect universal metaphysics; it shows that there are limitlessly many cosmoses, limitlessly many natural laws (unless there should be a logical constraint on natural laws) and, regarding mind and matter, limitlessly many mind-like forms which must have a material substrate (the form), as well as limitlessly many non mental material forms. The universe is thus similar to but also quite different from its depiction in ‘modal realism’. Above all, from the human perspective and an original question of the prologue, what does it mean to live well? The metaphysics based in the fundamental principle provides an approach to understanding and answering the questions.
A reason for my interest in philosophy, science, and art has been their relation to action. A motive to develop the thought that emerged as the perfect metaphysics was my position that thought and action should not just be interwoven but that they are essentially incomplete without each other.
The perfect metaphysics shows and cements the essential nature of the interaction of experience and action.