The immediate and the ultimate
Anil Mitra © JUNE 23, 2015—July 02, 2015
The distinction introduced below—the immediate versus ultimate realms of being and knowledge—is an ancient one dating back at least to Plato.
However, though thee distinction has been sensed and thought through it has not been properly understood. In Platonic metaphysics, for example, the ultimate is seen as knowledge of another world of perfection that stands above and provides the forms that are approximated in this world of error. Modern thinkers tend to see science as complete and thus deny an ideal world.
In essays at http://www.horizons-2000.org the universe is shown to be without limit and our cosmos is one of a limitless collection of objects. The abstract forms as well as the concrete objects lie in this one universe. In fact, the putative distinction between the abstract and the concrete is seen to break down (see the way of being-essential.html).
There is one world but we can have more than one image of it. In the history of ideas two ways stand out: they may be characterized as the immediate and the ultimate. These ways are characterized by differences of emphasis—i.e., what characterizes one is present but not emphasized in the other.
of the immediate and the ultimate
For patterns the immediate requires concept formation for the mere empirical is data without pattern or prediction. If the concepts are systematic over the empirical realm the system may seem complete where it is not. The appearance of completeness arises because the empirical is used to construct as well as test the system (and all that can be predicted is that the system probably explains more than is known so far but may fall far short of the entire range and variety of the universe). Thus a scientific world view based on current science is often regarded as near complete where it may be infinitesimal in relation to the universe.
The limit just stated is not essential to the local point of view but arises when, with apparent but not real warrant, it is taken as complete.
That local knowledge is imprecise, incomplete, and inseparable are not limits in themselves.
The essential limit on the local occurs when, divorced from the ultimate, it is seen as the whole.
As an example of ultimate knowledge consider the ideas of experience and the real world.
In its first meaning experience refers to awareness in all its forms (thought, perception, and feeling; receptive, active, and pure; quality, quantity, and so on).
Is there such a thing as experience? Let us first ask what the question means and why we ask it. It does not ask whether there are thought, perception and so on (the forms were given only as illustrative examples); what it asks is whether there is experience as such. We ask it because (a) under materialism some thinkers have argued that experience is impossible and therefore that it seems to exist is an illusion (this already suggests a rebuttal for illusion is experience) and, more importantly, (b) because asking whether it is requires us to clarify its nature.
Materialism suggests doubt regarding the existence of experience when it asserts that everything is material and that experience or mind are no part of matter. Under this strict materialism there can be behavior as though there is experience but not experience itself. However, there is no reason to hold this version of materialism. That everything is material does not require that mind is not an aspect of matter. In fact if everything is material and mind does exist then mind must be an aspect of matter or all of matter and so the meaning of matter would have to be less restrictive than the strict sense.
Thus the objection from materialism is removed. A materialist could now say that since it is subjective, experience is not fit for scientific study. However, that claim too would be wrong for while the content of experience may be subjective its existence is not. Objections from behaviorism may be dealt with similarly.
Removing the objections from materialism and the related behaviorism do not prove that there is experience (we noted that illusion is experience but we would rather give a more robust proof). To demonstrate that we must first clarify the term ‘experience’ means. Our experience is such a fundamental part of our beings that there are no yet more fundamental terms in which it may be described or defined. We can illustrate experience and find similar terms (e.g. awareness, consciousness) but cannot and need not define it in more fundamental terms. That is, we define it by pointing it out via examples and equivalents (the phrase ‘what it is like’ as clarifying consciousness is an equivalent).
In conclusion we have definite and precise knowledge: there is experience (the way of being-essential.html gives an entire system of definite and precise concept-objects; the aim here was to give an example).
Being defined as that which is and universe as all being it is shown in that the universe is the realization of greatest possibility—i.e. the universe is ultimate power.
This defines a universe that is and cannot have universal causation (but allows and requires local causation). Relative to a causal worldview this would be a limit but, instead, it points out that there is causation but no universal causation.
If I wanted to prove the existence of ‘God the creator of the universe’ I might simply point to the universe and say there… that is God. However there are two potential problems with this (a) since the universe is all being any god must be part of it which implies that the universe has no creation or cause by an external object (there are none) and (b) theists might now identify their particular notion of god with the universe as limitless power but the identification would be baseless. Thus these potential limits are really mistaken uses of the idea of universe.
A definite limit on the utility of the view from the ultimate is that while it refers to details it does not locate those details in our experience.
However, this is remediable. We can join the universal to the local. The essential limit on the ultimate occurs when, divorced from the ultimate, it is seen as the whole.
Now a potential limit arises. From limitlessness, the universe must have countless cosmological systems both like and unlike ours. Our science is valid only in our cosmos. We have no purchase on other cosmoses (and when we do there will be still further un-empirical realms). But we cannot have such complete knowledge (while our form is limited) and what is impossible is the nature of the universe rather than a limit on knowledge.
What is shown in the way of being-essential.html be shown is (1) a far greater picture of the ultimate than is developed so far, (2) that consequently our local kinds of knowledge are limited relative to ultimate knowledge but that this is essentially the case and so not to be seen as an intrinsic limit, (3) that the local is the ideal instrument in realization of the ultimate (each local form will be shed like the skin of a snake as its utility is spent), (4) that there is an ideal and in process join of local and ultimate knowledge that interactively empowers both—e.g. our knowledge of spacetime is from the immediate but invoking this shows the place of spacetime in the ultimate and improves local knowledge of it, and (5) this system is instrumental in realization by human being and civilization of the great picture referred to in item 1 above.
This joint system will be called the universal metaphysics.