Essential Concepts for Metaphysics and Cosmology
ANIL MITRA © April 29, 2013. REVISED August 05, 2014
Essential Concepts for Metaphysics and Cosmology
I see metaphysics as a definite study with a definite subject matter—whatever exists. In the modern era this subject has been cast under skepticism. Some reasons are as follows. (1) The gap between knower and known must be overcome before any claims of knowing things-as-they-are can be justified. (2) Many metaphysical systems of the past are hypothetical but unlike science have little empirical verification. In any case, unlike science, metaphysics purports to know things as they are and therefore what counts as justification in science might make a metaphysical hypothesis scientific but it would not make it true. (3) Political and economic theories that have roots in metaphysical systems are thought to be failures. For example, Marxism appeals to Hegelian dialectic and Marxism is today, in the industrial West, thought to have failed. (4) The above subject matter has come under science which is not perfect knowledge but which it, it has been argued, is the only knowledge.
Regarding (2), the inadequacy of past systems implies only the inadequacy of certain styles of metaphysics. Regarding (3), the failure of a political philosophy based on metaphysics in no way implies failure of the metaphysics. There is of course the further argument that all ‘grand narratives’ are inadmissible for various reasons—they are too sweeping, too little empirical and so on. These are reasons for failures of some systems but not reasons for inadmissibility of metaphysics as such. Finally, regarding (4) the argument is that since science is empirical whatever is not science is not empirical. How can we argue against this? First, while the method of science includes the use of data, today’s science is not complete knowledge of the universe. Perhaps tomorrow’s science will be metaphysics (for this to be an argument for metaphysics, tomorrow’s metaphysics will have to be shown to be empirical and not only that but according to standards more stringent that the empirical standard of science). Further, science is not strictly empirical. Scientific theories are conceptual projections over data and lower level concepts. Such conceptual projections are frankly empirical but are suggested by data and concepts and are required, for ongoing acceptance, to predict and be confirmed—or perhaps more accurately not be disconfirmed—by new data. Finally, some argue that science has reached into every known niche of nature and therefore it is essentially complete. The argument is not valid because it does not take into account undiscovered niches.
Therefore the remaining argument against metaphysics is argument (1) above.
Now the gap in (1) above is bridged in some cases. For example when I do not know ‘what is there’ I do know that something is there—even if it is only illusion. However this does not say much and therefore it seems that we may still be left with science as the only valid and useful knowledge of significance.
In narratives in the site http://www.horizons-2000.org I have shown much more than that we know that there is illusion—that there is a ‘real world’ as an object of knowledge and that starting from this point an entire and powerful metaphysics can be built up. This metaphysics is immensely powerful as foundation of knowledge and in showing the universe to be ultimate in the sense of variety. Further this ‘universal metaphysics’ is a container for all past, present, and future valid science. It is the envelope of all science.
Here we want metaphysics to be more than a discipline of knowledge. We want it to tie in to human life, to show our connection to the universe; and we want these connections to be shown in their experiential and active senses. The latter include goals and ambitions and what makes for reasonable goals and ambitions and how to achieve them.
Delineating an adequate system of concepts is not easy and this piece is a start. The purpose here is to show how the concepts and their system that follow are essential. Other narratives at http://www.horizons-2000.org are cleaner with respect to concept development.
What constitutes an adequate and minimal system of concepts for metaphysics and its foundation? How may the previous question be answered?
The issues raised above arise in developing a metaphysics. Answers occur incrementally in interaction with each other and the development. Here I will use my involvement with development of a metaphysics to state right away some criteria that a system of essential concepts for metaphysics and cosmology should satisfy:
1. The concepts shall refer only to what is there and to all of what is there. It is not necessary to include all detail but (a) the whole should be included in outline and / or principle and (b) we aim to maximize detail.
2. The abstraction of the previous item is good for neutrality of perspective helps avoid error associated with bias. However, it is also important to tie the metaphysics into our lives and goals.
3. The question of justifying what we develop shall not lie outside the development. The sciences study certain aspects of the universe; science as a whole is generally concerned with the empirical universe; therefore the method of science need not be a discipline within science. However, metaphysics concerns the whole which includes knowledge and action and therefore their ‘methods’ and justifications.
Outline of the section
BEING is what is there.
In some uses, ‘being’ would undermine our purpose; this sense of being however is neutral and fundamental as follows:
Even if we do not know what is there we know that there is something and Being captures this. From the outset we know, therefore, that our basic category is sound.
Thus understanding based in Being is not potentially misleading as are systems based in matter, mind, process, spirit and so on.
Further, ‘what is there’ includes the tie in to our lives; it includes ‘method’.
That does not tell us much but it does inform us that the categories we desire are included and not excluded as in some abstract approaches.
However, this is not enough—we want our study to be useful.
It turns out that Being is a natural foundation for a study of immense power.
The power is surprising at first but on reflection we can see that if we had a little more insight we might have expected it.
Finally ‘Being’ is instrumental to use in human life—as container to ‘presence to the world’ and as container for our goals and ambitions and whatever transformations we and our worlds may undergo.
EXPERIENCE is awareness.
Understood with sufficient clarity experience is the place and base of human tie in to self, other, world, and knowledge.
Understood with sufficient breadth it is container for meaning and method.
There is a version of a skeptical philosophy called solipsism that says that perhaps ‘experience is all there is’.
When Descartes argued ‘I think therefore I am’ he was arguing against such skepticism. His argument was incomplete for in fact ‘I’ cannot conclude immediately from there is something that feels to be my experience that there is experience or that there is a ‘me’.
Actually I can conclude that there is experience for even if the experience of experience is illusion, there is experience for illusion is experience.
How do I conclude there is an ‘I’ and a real world apart from experience?
I should first ask why it might be important to address these questions for they do not seem to have practical importance. I can even continue to do ‘metaphysics’ without answering the questions.
I see two reasons that addressing the questions is important. (1) Science is a practical discipline that does not yield perfect knowledge but yields knowledge that is good enough for some purposes. One point to metaphysics is that it is not like science in this way. It aims at perfection and so its uses are both greater and less than the uses of science. In consequence, we cannot tolerate any error—conceptual or empirical—in metaphysics. (2) In addressing the solipsist’s skepticism, we sharpen our ability to think clearly and precisely regarding empirical and conceptual concerns and this gain will serve us well in other issues. In general careful thinking about particular concerns has the potential to be useful regarding other concerns (this is perhaps one of the origins of logic and reason). Now it is important that the solipsist skepticism regarding metaphysics is but one criticism that must be overcome. This might dismay us into throwing up our hands and saying ‘it’s too much to overcome—metaphysics is too ambitious’. However, one approach is this. We may take up skeptical arguments one by one. Then at the end we will have to argue that we have considered and resolved all possible objections. Now this is where metaphysics, if successful, has an immense advantage over science. Knowledge is part of the world and therefore its study lies within metaphysics; however, knowledge is not part of physics and even though it is perhaps a subject within psychology as science the knowledge of knowledge within psychology is subject to criteria of science and therefore science cannot be self-founding. This makes the metaphysical gambit all the more tenuous but, if successful, all the more rewarding—even ultimately rewarding. Thus, already, just by thinking about skepticism we have gained immense insight.
The role of DOUBT is that it is an agent in making our concepts and methods precise.
But what precisely do I mean by ‘real world’? Above we saw that there is experience—it is a fundamental given in that it is the medium of our being in the world and without which the writing and reading of these words and the living of life would be robotic. In particular we observed that the illusion of the world and even the illusion of the illusion carry the name ‘experience’. So there is, it seems, a world that is real even if it is only experience.
By real world I mean something over and above experience.
In experience we think that there is a world that is the object of experience but whose existence does not depend on being experienced. The REAL WORLD is an actual world whose existence we may know via experience but whose existence is independent of its being experienced. Some writers use the term ‘external world’ but the term is misleading for it is not truly external to anything and, further, it suggests something false—i.e., that experience is not part of the (real) world.
Now how can we argue that there is a real world?
Let us define an INDIVIDUAL to be a system of experience that has experience of a real world but also the experience that ‘its own’ range of experience is essentially limited.
Then the following are simply alternate labelings of the world. (1) The world is nothing but experience. (2) The world is a system of individuals—one or more—each with limited experience of the world that is not their experience.
What would (1) be like? It seems hard to imagine but it is not a logical contradiction that there is an individual who is all experience.
Now (1) does not contradict (2) (this deflates the solipsist argument). Further, in regard to myself, either I am the ‘great experiencer’ or I am a limited form that has experience of the real world. The only way I can be the ‘great one’ is that I have no limits. In so far as we have limits we are individuals in and possessed with experience of the real world.
Now the fact that (1) and (2) are not contradictions sets up a conceptual situation where we might find—but have not shown—something like universe as mind. Would that be absurd? What would constitute its absurdity? The thought that my mind is a paradigm for the way the universe is seems truly absurd but for universe as mind to be absurd I would have to then think that my mind—animal mind—is the only form that can bear the label ‘mind’. Here we rather have a cake and can it too for we have concluded a normal realism but also shown that normal versus supernormal realism may be but alternate robust interpretations.
We have experience of the world—of things in the world which include things and experiences (experiences are special kinds of things).
Thus experience is a kind of relationship—between a ‘concept’ (mental content) and object; i.e. it includes the relationship that constitutes (linguistic type) MEANING.
It is within this experience that meaning is revisable.
Thus all knowledge and its method lie within experience.
It has been claimed that analysis of meaning is the source of knowledge. This claim has been properly refuted for while analysis is useful it can only illuminate what we already know. However when we allow synthesis of meaning we find that there is nothing more.
The METHOD or way of development of knowledge is (iterative) ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS OF MEANING.
In this section ‘concept’ refers to concepts that purport to refer to objects or states of affairs. A percept is a simple concept—i.e. single states (the distinction is easily seen arbitrary though useful).
A fact is a reading of a state of affairs. The immanent state is the FACT.
A law is a reading of a pattern. The immanent pattern is the LAW.
A law (theory) of SCIENCE is a concept projected over facts and other laws (over percepts and concepts). This is the traditional science as working universal hypothesis interpretation; as universal hypothesis science remains potentially revisable till such time as shown final; but since empirical niches can hardly ever be ruled out (as far as we know today) we cannot anticipate such a final time. Here I use a non-traditional interpretation: scientific theory as fact over a limited domain. In the latter interpretation scientific theories are not revised; however they are not universal. In the metaphysical development of http://www.horizons-2000.org it is shown that universal empirical science is impossible for limited forms of being. Thus the non-traditional interpretation involves gain in facticity but no loss in universality.
The distinction between fact and law (Fact and Law) is arbitrary.
The concept of LOGIC is as the following REALISM: it is the constraint on perceptual and compound concepts (that purport to refer to states of affairs) for realism and is occasioned by the freedom of concepts to disagree with one another, i.e. to violate fact and relations of realism among one another. Satisfaction of Logic is not of Being but a constraint on concepts for realism. Thus Logic includes science and traditional LOGICS or systems of deduction.
The method of science is by inference that is not necessary; logic however involves deduction. It would seem therefore that the grouping together of science and traditional logics is illicit. However the traditional comparison of the method of science with the application of logic is not appropriate. What should be compared is (a) the method of arriving at scientific theories and the way of arriving at systems of logic and / or (b) the application of science and the application of logic. The former kind of inference is ‘inductive’ and the latter is deductive.
Finally and importantly, Laws and Facts have Being for they are there (in the world and not merely in hypothesis or in some vague ideal space).
The constraints of Logic are restrictions on freedom of concepts for realism. They do not constitute limits on the world. They are in fact not of the world; Logic is not of the world as monadic; rather Logic is dyadic.
A LIMIT is a state that the world does not assume. A limit would be a constraint on concepts for realism over and above the constraints of Logic. In this Laws and Limits are the same but only different in perspective.
The UNIVERSE is all Being.
The present conception of Universe (unlike the physical or empirical universe) is definite. Use of Being and clarity already show power.
A further example of power. The Universe contains all creators and creation. If ‘CREATOR’ refers to an external power or agent then there can be none since the Universe is all Being (though not always specified ‘creator’ is usually understood to be external to creation). The Universe has no external creator.
The VOID is the absence of Being.
As complement to any element of Being relative to itself, the Void exists and may be seen as part to every element of Being including the Universe. This is pivotal but would not be true of, say, the traditional or quantum vacuums.
The developments starting with Being as what is there have been metaphysical in that the concept is perfect to the object. Here the power of this metaphysics begins to emerge.
Despite centuries of skepticism, we can now restore METAPHYSICS to an original meaning—the study of being as being.
Being, experience, Universe, and Void are known perfectly on account of their conceptions. It is not said, e.g., that the entire Universe is known in all detail. However as All Being it is known.
The Void has no Laws (it is the absence of Being).
If from the Void there is a state that does not emerge that would be a Law of the Void. Therefore every state emerges from the Void.
Therefore, in this sense, the Void has no limits.
However, since the Void is part of every element of Being including the Universe, all elements of Being are limitless.
Every element of Being is limitless.
This is the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF METAPHYSICS which is the founding principle of a UNIVERSAL METAPHYSICS. It includes that the Universe has no limits.
This seems to contradict our experience. I am an element of Being but my power seems limited. Such limits are probably part of temporary constitutions. They are NORMAL rather than absolute.
Power is not essential but is convenient to and appealing way to express absence of limits.
If POWER is degree of limitlessness, the Universe is ultimate power.
But what does this mean? I.e. what can we do with it in instrumental terms. If the elements of Being have no limits surely every concept except the impossible concepts are realized?
However, we know that the sciences and logics are approximations (in general). Now, however, from limitlessness, we can reconceive Logic as the condition of an ultimate realism.
I.e., Logic is the most permissive realism for concepts to have objects. Now, conceiving, REALISM as the most permissive realism:
Logic is Realism.
The object of Logic is the Universe in all its detail.
This object may be called the LOGOS.
The objects of Logic and of Realism are the same.
Thus Logic is immense and immense portions of it await discovery. It is potent for the valid sciences and logics lie under it.
What if the universal metaphysics is insufficient with regard to its proof? We have set it up so that it contradicts nothing; it merges smoothly with science and reason; and yet it is not mere tautology—it, apart from proof, is among the candidates for ‘post-scientific’ eminently reasonable. Why? There are alternate proofs and plausibility arguments. However, consider the possibilities for the post-scientific domain (which here means what is beyond current science)—keeping in mind that probable completeness of science does not account for undiscovered niches. The possibilities may be listed as (1) Current science is complete. (2) Current science is almost complete. (3) The Universe is limitless—as revealed in the universal metaphysics. (4) The truth lies somewhere between items 2 and 3.
Now item 1 is almost certainly wrong and 2 is likely to be wrong (e.g., from the history of scientific revolutions). We expect that science is not near almost complete. Therefore it is probable that the truth lies in the range of ‘quite incomplete’ to ‘absolutely incomplete’. There seems to be no reason that the truth should stop at ‘quite incomplete’. Symmetry alone suggests that 1 and 4 are the essential alternatives. Therefore 4—the universal metaphysics—is probable. The universal metaphysics is logically the container theory for all past, present, or future science and it now appears as the most probable container theory. It is a CONTAINER METAPHYSICS in the sense that all valid science must lie within it.
I define, with thanks to existential thought, EXISTENTIAL FAITH as that faith that maximizes our commitments and outcomes.
The best existential faith is not to believe the universal metaphysics. Perhaps ‘belief’ is outmoded. We sometimes think we have nearly full knowledge of the world in that science—we think—has probably uncovered all niches. We have seen this to be false. Further we cannot devote 100% or even, say 5%, material resources to action in light of the universal metaphysics. There is however an argument that some amount of resources should be devoted to it (think of all the resources devoted to religious cosmologies). However, the essential question is not about material resources but to the resources of psyche. The best existential faith regarding the universal metaphysics is perhaps living ambivalence—in both secular and the new universal tradition.
However, every element of Being is also ultimate in power. The elements of Being are EQUIPOTENT.
There is an apparent paradox. If two elements of Being are ultimate each can overpower the other. The resolution is that while in limited form there is no overpowering of each other; in unlimited form the different elements merge as one—as a single Identity.
One of our most elementary notions is that of sameness.
The (sense of) SAMENESS is a fundamental given.
Now sameness and difference are duals; each requires the other. Thus DIFFERENCE is also a fundamental given.
IDENTITY is (sense) of sameness.
From the fundamental principle, sameness and identity require no further foundation (in fact the principle founds and unifies the entire theory of objects—concrete and abstract; see http://www.horizons-2000.org).
The following conclusions follow from the fundamental principle:
The Universe has phases of acute, diffuse, and absent Identity and manifestation.
The individual realizes these forms.
What are the consequences for death?
What is death? Death seems as though it is the end of a material form (we think here that material form includes process and is not a mere collection of chemical elements). We also think of it as the end of identity (experience). The former is empirical but the latter, no matter how reasonable, is not. Therefore DEATH is the cessation of a material-process form. In contrast LIFE must be that process form and all its concomitants, especially experience and identity.
We conclude that death is real but not absolute; further life is not eternal but LIFE is eternal Identity.
Finally, life and death are gates to the ultimate.
Clearly pain and joy are real. What are pain and joy (I could use ‘pleasure’ rather than ‘joy’)? In an existential perspective they require no definition until we come up against some concern that requires careful understanding; therefore existential definitions may be deferred; we may note, however, that clearly pain and joy have something to do with life affirming behavior—pain shows us what to avoid, joy what to cultivate. Obviously there is more than that—e.g., to be functional pain should occur quite a bit before truly negative consequences and therefore optimal living and achieving requires us to learn about and sometimes live with some kinds of pain. From a functional perspective we may say perhaps simplistically that PAIN and JOY are negative and positive affects associated with conserving life.
What is important here is that (1) an existential perspective from the universal metaphysics gives meaning to pain and joy and (2) understanding of the role of pain and joy in the life of an individual is a learning process.
The notions are defined as follows: DURATION is marked by difference for a given identity; EXTENSION is marked by different identities.
The boundary between difference associated with one identity versus different identities is not precise.
Now TIME and SPACE are coordinate measures of duration and extension, respectively.
From the absence of a precise boundary between one versus different identities, the distinctions between duration and extension and duration and between time and space are also imprecise.
It is hard, however, to see that there are further kinds coordinates of difference.
From the concept of Being and Universe, extension and duration have Being and are in the Universe. They are therefore immanent in Being and must be RELATIVE rather than ABSOLUTE; i.e. they are not something apart from or outside Being as a whole. Locally, however, they may be as-if absolute.
An ATTRIBUTE is an aspect of identity that changes but is not a coordinate of difference. Thus color of an object may change and so color may associate to duration but does not (in this case) mark something other than duration; color may differ among different objects and so associate to extension but does not (in this case) mark something outside extension.
COSMOLOGY is the study of Identity, variety, extension, and duration of Being.
From the fundamental principle there is no limit to the extension, duration, variety, summit-peak, and dissolution of the manifestation and identity of Being.
The variety of physical type laws is without limit. Every physical type law, every cosmos is repeated without limit; this of course includes minor variations which do not require special mention; all this is subject to the Realism also known as Logic and which is the most liberal and true Realism.
The individual realizes the above. While in limited form however the approach to ultimate power is a journey without end.
We have seen that there is experience of experience, experience of self, and experience of world.
Experience is relationship. What of pure experience? At http://www.horizons-2000.org it is shown that pure experience is internal relationship.
Experience is receptive and active or afferent and efferent; and active experience is projection of upon the world as well as an essential element of action.
The modes of becoming are IDEAS and ACTION.
From the fundamental principle every atom is a cosmos, every cosmos an atom.
Thus ‘individual’ and ‘group’ are relative terms; however the distinction between them is not.
Whereas CIVILIZATION refers to human culture and community over time and continents, CIVILIZATION is the matrix of civilizations across the Universe.
Civilization nurtures the individual; the individual fosters civilization.
The vehicles of realization are civilization and the individual.
Civilizations provide disciplines—inherited learning; there are also disciplines of discipline, e.g. the scientific method.
The secular and the trans-secular
The disciplines are secular and trans-secular. the secular approach or SECULARISM is one that affirms that the world is, at least roughly, the world of common experience, that spirit is a projection but perhaps also a map to psyche, and that all values pertain to this life and this world for they are the only life and world. The trans-secular approach or TRANS-SECULARISM affirms a world beyond and, correspondingly, interprets spirit and value in terms that incorporate such extra-worlds.
What is our assessment of secularism and trans-secularism from the perspective of the universal metaphysics? First, science so far is immensely incomplete. Second, what is valid about trans-secularism is not the particular received beliefs and cosmologies but a search for cosmology (over and above the great scientific cosmologies). Third, the boundary between the secular and trans-secular is invested on both sides with a false realism. In the ultimate the boundary is like the boundary of death—practically real but not absolute.
Sharing and mentoring
From the fundamental principle there is no ultimate discipline. At the front, the ultimate resource is a decision to take the next step.
Also, SHARED ENDEAVOR is significant. Thus there are TEACHERS and MENTORS but no perfect MASTERS.
The PLACES of realization are the GROUND or primitive root and FABRIC or matrix of our world—the primitive (ground), i.e. NATURE and civilization—SOCIETY, CULTURE, the fabric.
Nature, society and culture, and ideas and artifact (of civilization) are MEDIATE POWERS on the way to the ultimate.
The ultimate is potential but not immanent in limited form.
Therefore realization must be a series of steps or INCREMENTS that are RISKS in ideas and transformation and whose sources are the disciplines together with experiment; and that are secured—STABLY ADAPTED—in experience, recollection, and artifact.
This MECHANICS or method is ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS OF BEING.
Realization for limited form is endless—it is limitless in duration, extension, variety peaks… it is a JOURNEY in Being; it is a balance of TRANSIENCE and ARRIVAL.
List in order of occurrence in the text
Bold font indicates a central concept.
Being, experience, doubt, real world, individual, meaning, method, analysis and synthesis of meaning, fact, law, science, Logic, realism, logics, limit, Universe, creator, Void, metaphysics, fundamental principle of metaphysics, universal metaphysics, normal, power, Realism, Logos, container metaphysics, equipotent, sameness, difference, identity, death, life, Life, pain, joy, duration, extension, time, space, relative, absolute, attribute, cosmology, ideas, action, civilization, Civilization, secularism, trans-secularism, shared endeavor, teachers, mentors, masters, places, ground, fabric, nature, society, culture, mediate powers, increment, risk, stable adaptation mechanics, analysis and synthesis of Being, journey, transience, arrival.
Absolute, action, analysis and synthesis of being, analysis and synthesis of meaning, arrival, attribute, being, civilization, container metaphysics, cosmology, creator, culture, death, difference, doubt, duration, equipotent, experience, extension, fabric, fact, fundamental principle of metaphysics, ground, ideas, identity, increment, individual, journey, joy, law, life, limit, logic, logics, logos, masters, meaning, mediate powers, mentors, metaphysics, method, nature, normal, pain, places, power, real world, realism, realism, relative, risk, sameness, science, secularism, shared endeavor, society, space, stable adaptation mechanics, teachers, time, transience, trans-secularism, universal metaphysics, universe, void.