Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Blogging through Markus Gabriel's Why the World Does Not Exist Pt. 3

Please see Pt 1, which sums up the beginning of Gabriel's introduction, particularly his discussion of metaphysics and constructivism. This set the stage for his own proposal, which is discussed in Pt 2, where I summarised his introduction of "new realism".

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

The Plurality of Worlds

Gabriel argues that the world is much bigger than the universe (which is the object domain the natural sciences). For the world includes things like dreams, unrealised possibilities, thoughts about the world and so on. This leads to what he calls “a first step in the right direction” in his definition of “the world”. It is the:

“…domain of all the domains mentioned above [governments, dreams, object domain etc.]. Consequently, the world would be the domain in which there exist not only all things and facts [a word he will define and deploy later in his argument] which occur without us, but also all the things and facts which occur only with us. For ultimately it should be the domain that comprises everything – life, the universe, and everything else” (9).

But, and this is the main thesis of the book, the world, so understood, does not and cannot exist. Further, and lest he be misunderstood, “I claim not only that the world does not exist but also that everything exists except the world” (9).

He offers a preliminary illustration to make his claim understandable:

“Let us imagine that we meet friends for dinner at a restaurant. Is there a domain here that encompasses all other domains? Can we, so to speak, draw a circle around everything that belongs to our visit to the restaurant?” (9)

Gabriel elaborates the very different domains involved at this point. There are different customers, invisible bacteria, hormonal fluctuations, moods, and events at the subatomic level to name just a few. Importantly, he makes a claim about things being disconnected. These worlds are not necessarily influencing one another, but are independent (“It is simply false that everything is connected” [10]). Thus, and this is the key argument, “there are many small worlds, but not the one world to which they all belong. This does not mean that the many small worlds are only perspectives on one world, but that only the many small worlds exist” (10). The world as a whole cannot exist as little as there is a connection which encompasses all connections. There is, Gabriel claims, “simply no rule or world formula that describes everything. This is not contingent on the fact that we have not yet found it, but on the fact they cannot exist at all” (11). Why? “[T]he world cannot in principle exist because it is not found in the world” (12).

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