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  • Writer's pictureArpan Dey

The Limits Of Metaphysics

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

I will just discuss some of my metaphysical ideas in this blog. This is not official metaphysics, simply my metaphysical arguments. So take it with a pinch of salt! Also, please note that I don't claim these to be my original ideas, many other people have probably ​​​​​​​thought along similar lines. And once again, it is very likely that my arguments are flawed. I have myself identified some of the flaws, and there may be other flaws as well.

To address very fundamental questions, we may begin with the reasonable assumption that at the most fundamental stage, no particular phenomenon should be preferred to occur over any other phenomenon. If this is not assumed to be the fundamental working hypothesis, we must explain why a particular phenomenon is more likely to occur. Explaining this fundamentally is extremely difficult because the problem of explaining what decided this order of preference would inevitably come up. And answering this question without some presupposition is impossible. You must realize that for our hypothesis to be called a fundamental one, we must base it on little or no presuppositions. If we say no particular phenomenon should be preferred to occur over other phenomena, we only need to explain the origin(s) of the phenomena (which may, please note, be impossible to explain), and nothing else. Before we think about the implications of our hypothesis, I should remind you that it is only a working hypothesis. While it is reasonable that this working hypothesis should hold at a fundamental stage, we have no means of verifying it. When we think of the implications of the hypothesis, we are faced with two options. Either nothing should have occurred, or every possible phenomenon must have taken place simultaneously, with no single phenomenon being preferred over the others. (By saying every possible phenomenon should occur, we actually mean that no phenomenon should be considered impossible.) This line of reasoning justifies that we must choose between nothing and everything. It is fundamentally acceptable that nothing should occur. However, this very appealing idea can't account for our existence. (While we can't say for sure whether reality exists objectively outside our minds, it must be understood that the option of nothing existing can't account for our experiences and must, thus, be ruled out.) The other alternative is that everything must have occurred. (Please note that the question still remains why everything occurred, and not nothing. You might ask why a fundamental system should not choose a easier and simpler option - NOTHING - if it's available, and instead choose a more complex option - EVERYTHING. The obvious attempt to resolve this problem will be to assume that choosing each option is a possibility, and in some other reality, the system has indeed chosen the easier option. But that would conclusively prove that what we are considering as the most fundamental stage is not that. Since a different reality at the same level must exist where the system has chosen the easier option. Though the easier option is “doing nothing,” the system must exist to fulfil just that. By the most fundamental stage is meant the single stage that exists at the most fundamental level, before which nothing existed and at the same level of which nothing can exist. If the latter assumption is false, it would mean that those two (or more than two) stages are emergent from some deeper stage, which would contradict that fact that nothing can exist before that stage.) So, it is obvious that every possible phenomenon that can occur at the most fundamental stage is well beyond the imagination of the human mind. If we assume this latter option to be the correct one, then at best, we can say that the paradoxical reality we find ourselves in is simply one of the infinitely-many possible worlds.

It should also be noted that for our fundamental working hypothesis to hold, these possibilities need to occur simultaneously. Why? If there can be no preference at a fundamental level, then possibility A can't be preferred to occur before or after possibility B. This means all the possibilities must occur at the same time. Also, suppose possibility A has already occurred in system A. This doesn't mean that possibility A can't occur in any parallel system. If we assume this to be the case, we would violate our fundamental working hypothesis. No possibility should be preferred to occur in one system any more than the other systems. Thus, all the possibilities must occur in all the systems, to not violate our working hypothesis. Before we proceed, it is important to define what exactly we mean by the most fundamental stage here. The most fundamental stage is simply the stage that can be achieved only in one way, and before that nothing existed. It is the most fundamental system that just came into existence, and is at the root of everything. Now, how exactly this most fundamental stage cropped up will perhaps always remain unanswerable. At this point, you see it is all pointless. True. I don't deny that. But building a bit more on our fundamental working hypothesis, let's see where it leads to, and what can we say about the fundamental nature of reality on the basis of that.

So first, there is a problem with our fundamental working hypothesis. We have argued that all possibilities must occur in all the systems. Now consider possibility A, which is defined as possibility B not occurring. It is clear that both A and B can't occur in the same system, since if A occurs, by definition B can't occur. So, all possibilities can't occur in all the systems because there are some possibilities which can't occur simultaneously. We violate our fundamental working hypothesis. We can, in some sense, resolve this by modifying our working hypothesis by saying all independent possibilities must occur in all the systems. Or, no event can be defined as some event not occurring. Nothingness can't be defined. But, this gives rise to a lot of problems, and doesn't satisfactorily answer all questions. Again, in the end, it is likely we would never be able to answer the most fundamental questions satisfactorily.

Allow me a few more comments on consciousness. First, we need to understand what consciousness is. Consciousness can either be a fundamental property of reality, or an emergence. Although I think the latter is more likely to be true, for the sake of argument let us assume that the most fundamental stage (about which we have been discussing in the previous section) was conscious. Of course, by consciousness here we do not mean anything akin to the human consciousness. We are simply generalizing the concept of consciousness. We can perhaps come up with a rigorous definition of the fundamental consciousness, if, and only if, our fundamental working hypothesis is wrong, which means there was some kind of preference at the fundamental level. Certain events occurred, and certain other events did not occur. We can define the fundamental consciousness to be the property of the most fundamental stage by virtue of which it caused certain events to occur and others not. But please note that this will be acceptable only if our fundamental working hypothesis is wrong. So, this is just one possibility.

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