ANIL MITRA © January 2017—January 2017



General discussion of definition of ‘universe’ and related terms

On definition

The concept of the universe



With remarks on the notion of definition.

General discussion of definition of ‘universe’ and related terms

In essays, e.g. The Way of Being, I have sought the best concepts-definitions on which to base a comprehensive metaphysics as knowledge of the real—of what there is. Since mind has been said to contribute to concepts and since knowledge must be based on experience, this concept has been criticized as impossible.

In The Way of Being, I argued for METAPHYSICS as knowledge of the real, for the UNIVERSE as all that there is over all difference and its absence, A BEING as part of the universe and so the universe is a being, BEING itself as the property of existing or what is common to all beings, and THE VOID as the null being.

How do I justify these definitions?

In the first place, let me remark that a justification need not be an argument that these are the best definitions for all purposes. Of course others may use other definitions but where we use terms that do not belong to the common context but belong in border contexts, we should define our terms to avoid confusion.

Of course to avoid confusion, we also want the terms to refer to something, for the system to be consistent, and, usually, for the definitions to bear some relation to common or technical use.

The essential particular justification for my choice is that they constitute a system that founds a true system of metaphysics, the UNIVERSAL METAPHYSICS, i.e. knowledge of what there is, that is ultimate (1) in capturing the entire universe as best it may be known (at least in framework and as best it need be known according to reasonable criteria) and (2) it reveals the universe as ultimate in the sense of being the realization of all possibility which includes that there can be no greater ‘all that there is’ than as in this system.

Of course this needs an appropriate concept of POSSIBILITY that is adequate to the task at hand; and it needs to be squared with experience and science and good common sense; and it needs to be shown as consistent (this includes the validity of the individual concepts as defined including metaphysics; and it is desirable that its categories include our fundamental categories of understanding and action. All this is done in the above essay.

Thus there is a clear sense in which the definitions employed are the best possible. If you reflect on heliocentrism, the claim that the solar system is heliocentric is of just this kind: it is not that the solar system IS heliocentric but the choice of heliocentrism is the best choice from the point of view of naturalness and usefulness.

Therefore I feel justified in saying as if they were facts that ‘Being is what there is’ (the difference between thing and property at the level of discussion being irrelevant) and ‘the Universe is all that there is’.

Of course, other definitions are definitely valid except (a) when they show the universe—or anything—to be other than as shown in the universal metaphysics (b) when they have no purpose beyond the universal metaphysics. Further they would be inadvisable if they showed nothing new but bought the concepts into conflict with those of the universal metaphysics.

On definition

The above elucidates (1) some principles of good definition and (2) what it means to say a definition that x is b, especially when other reasonable but lesser definitions could be given.

The concept of the universe

Consider the following argument.

  1. Definition and fact—possible because the definition is ‘naming’ (but the universe is God is not naming). The universe is all that there is.
  2. Therefore if there is a God, it is part of the universe.
  3. Therefore any God-the-creator-of-the-universe is part of the universe.
  4. Therefore there is no God-the-creator-of-the-universe that is outside or came before the universe.

I wrote the above four point argument as part of an answer on the Quora question and answer social network.

There was an objection that some major religions define the universe as all of material or contingent existence.

This raises complex issues of the nature of contingency and matter; but let’s bypass these at least for the moment and get to the heart of the objection.

It was therefore, the objection went, that my conclusion did not apply to God as conceived in said religions.

A response to the objection would go as follows—the following is an improved version of my Quora response.

  1. It still remains true that there is no creator of God and the material universe.
  2. Regarding God and material universe as the Universe, allows us to derive very interesting conclusions about origins (see Creation versus evolution). This is the point about definitional utility.
  3. The more comprehensive definition system shows a universe of which the above said religious god-and-universe is a small and shadow part.
  4. So, again, one may free to use lesser definitions. But to those lesser definitions correspond lesser systems which, upon which if you were to insist, then one would be insisting that the universe is far less than it is (if anything at all in the case that one’s definitions are inconsistent).

Let us state a simple conclusion. Regardless whether you define the universe as all there is or matter + spirit:

  1. In either case ‘all there is’ is unto itself without a creator. The second definition hides and confuses this and the outcome is misperception of the nature of the real.
  2. The second definition is further deficient in that we do not know the nature of either matter or spirit; and we do not know that matter and spirit exhaust all kinds in the universe.