"The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits." G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Can't help but subject "Being" to logic

I certainly endorse an analytical approach to philosophy, but this is not the same as declaring oneself a rationalist. Recently however I've discovered that I may after all be falling within that category.

I have always endowed Being with a supreme status. That is, minds and their way of cognizing, perceiving and talking about Being and its manifestations have a somewhat secondary status. Gottfried Leibniz had introduced the principle of sufficient reason in aiding answering the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?". That principle is related to the anthropic principle which conditions the answer on the existence of intelligent life - us humans in particular . A related anthropic approach would be what I call the logical rather than the standard one with physical attributes criterion - there is something rather than nothing because we happen to occupy a possible world that actually exists - a necessary condition for the existence of beings that ask metaphysical questions.
This would be impossible in a possible world that happened to not be (physically non existent worlds are possible!). That is to say, out of the possible worlds there are those that are and those that are not. Those that happen to exist do not so necessarily i.e. it was possible for them not to be - a subtelty that Parmenides failed to see when he claimed "That which is, is and it is impossible for it not to be" - a modal fallacy identified by Aristotle.

Now that we have the sufficient logical layout, my problem can be clearly presented. It appears that although the question "Why is there something than nothing" has a partially satisfactory answer (in the negative sense, for it does not posit a positive cause to Being) in the sense that it points to the fact that we (physical beings) could not ask that question if nothing existed. Nevertheless, it follows (Alas! the point of my discovery that I'm a metaphysical rationalist) that in those non existent worlds it would be true to say that being is possible, since there is at least one possible world (namely the one we happen to inhabit - proof by inspection;) where being obtains.

The point is that it appears that ontological existence is a subset of modal (logical) existence. That being the case, plenty of worlds are not endowed with (physical) existence --- they don't acually exist, yet they posess modal existence and that is why we can talk about them - moreover some truths hold in those worlds despite them actually existing - "Being is possible" is one of such truths.

"Everyone knows that dragons don't exist. But while this simplistic formulation may satisfy the
layman, it does not suffice for the scientific mind. [...] Indeed, the banality of existence has been so
amply demonstrated, there is no need for us to discuss it any further here. The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical. They were all, one might say, nonexistent, but each non-existed in an entirely different way."
(Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad - Dragons of Probability)

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