Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blogging through Markus Gabriel's Why the World Does Not Exist Pt. 4

This post completes my summary of Gabriel's introduction. Pt 1 is here, which sums up his discussion of metaphysics and constructivism. This set the stage for his own proposal, which is discussed in Pt 2, here, where I summarised his introduction of "new realism". Pt 3, here, introduces the notion of a plurality of worlds, different domains of existence. Today we canvas Gabriel's insistence that to ask about existence is to ask where something exists, which builds on Pt 3.

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

Less than Nothing

Metaphysics claims that there is an all-encompassing rule, world formula (seen in the history of metaphysics from Thales of Miletus through Karl Marx to Stephen Hawking). Constructivism, claims that we cannot know the rule. New realism, “attempts consistently and seriously to answer the question whether, in principle, such a rule could exist” (11-12).

To answer this question, and develop his wider argument, it is necessary to understand what it means for something to exist at all. The key, here, is to ask where something exists. So the apparently obvious question is that for something to exist, it should exist only when found in the world. But the world is not found in the world. Gabriel asserts that “the world cannot in principle exist because it is not found in the world” (12). It cannot be sensed, tasted or touched. Nor is our thinking about it identical to the object of its thought. This is to say that we “can never grasp the whole. It is in principle too big for any thought” (12). This leads Gabriel to suggest that all worldviews are equally misguided (13).

The upshot is that Gabriel can assert a lot more exists than would be expected. If I can imagine unicorns on the other side of the moon, then they exist. But obviously these things do not exist in the object domain of the physical sciences. The key question is where these things exist, “[f]or everything that exists, exists somewhere – even if it is only in our imagination. Again, the one exception is the world… What we imagine when we believe in the world is, as in the apt title of a recent book by the star philosopher Slavoj Žižek, so to speak, ‘less than nothing’” (14, italics mine).

Next, we turn to his first chapter, What is this Actually: the World?

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1 Comments:

At 3/02/2016 7:36 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

This part looks interesting...

"Gabriel asserts that 'the world cannot in principle exist because it is not found in the world.' It cannot be sensed, tasted or touched. Nor is our thinking about it identical to the object of its thought. This is to say that we 'can never grasp the whole. It is in principle too big for any thought.' This leads Gabriel to suggest that all worldviews are equally misguided."

It resembles my own questions regarding how questionable worldviews are, and why one need not view the world through a single "reality tunnel" as a lot of people do.

I have heard other philosophers point out that one cannot stand on a platform outside the universe and snipe at it. And also point out that we can't know the universe in itself because of the limitations of sensory data itself, which means the universe in itself is like the pincushion hidden by innumerable pins of sensory data. We can't come into direct contact with the universe in itself, we can only sense of it what the limitations of our senses and our brains can detect, and of course any instruments we can use to amplify those senses. Kant pointed out that the world in itself, the noumenal realm, is invisible to us since we only know the world via the phenomenal realm, phenomena we can sense and interact with.

I am not sure that 'Gabriel can assert a lot more exists than would be expected." Can he?

All one can assert is the limitation of human knowledge and perception. Though the famed biologist J.B.S. Haldane has a fascinating book of essay in which he stated, "The universe might be weirder than we CAN imagine."

 

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