Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Blogging through Markus Gabriel's Why the World Does Not Exist Pt. 1

Markus Gabriel, Gregory S. Moss, trans., Why the World Does Not Exist (Cambridge: Polity, 2015)

The Preamble: Thinking Philosophy Anew

Gabriel, as his “first principle”, attempts to outline a new philosophy in this book, “which follows from a simple, basic thought”: “the idea that the world does not exist” (1). This is not to say that nothing exists at all, but rather to claim that everything exists except one thing: the world.
Second, this book presents new realism, which is the name Gabriel gives for the age after postmodernity. This leads into an explanatory digression about the difference between metaphysics, constructivism, and new realism.

Appearance and Being

Metaphysics is defined as the attempt to develop “a theory of the world as such. Its aim is to describe how the world really is, not how the world seems to be or how it appears to us. In this way, metaphysics, to a certain extent, invented the world in the first place. When we speak about ‘the world’, we mean everything that actually is the case, or, put differently: actuality” (2). Metaphysics claims that there is a world behind the one that appears to us, and that in order to find out the way the world really is, we need to subtract the interpreter.
However, postmodernity responds by claiming that “things exist only insofar as they appear to us”, so there is no way of getting behind the interpreter (3). Gabriel notes that some, like Richard Rorty, might leave open the possibility that there might be something “behind the world as it appears to us” (3), but this would play no role for human beings. Rather, we increase solidarity amongst humans by giving up the search for Truth or Reality.

But this postmodernity is actually a single variation of a much more general approach, namely constructivism. We construct all facts, including scientific ones, by means of language games. “There is no reality beyond our language games or discourses; they somehow do not really talk about anything, but only about themselves” (3). Gabriel speaks of Immanuel Kant in this regard, and offers the example of colours. Though elementary particles, they appear to us as colours. This is to say that the world is completely different from the way it appears to us. Kant was even more radical for he claimed “that even this assumption… – about particles in space-time – is only a way in which the world, as it is in itself, appears to us. How it actually is, that is something we could absolutely never discover” (4).

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