Sunday, February 28, 2016

Blogging through Markus Gabriel's Why the World Does Not Exist Pt. 5

This post begins my summary of Gabriel's first chapter. His introduction is summarised in four parts, all of which can be read here.

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

Chapter I. What is this Actually: the World?

You and the Universe

In this chapter, Gabriel philosophically investigates the question “where does everything actually take place?” He illustrates his argument by pointing out the difference between planets and galaxies on the one hand, and living rooms on the other. Because physics “concerns itself not with living rooms but, at best, with physical objects in living rooms”, it is fair to say that living rooms “are simply not found in physics, though planets are” (22-23). This leads to the conclusion that “living rooms and planets do not belong to the same domain of objects at all” (23).

It is important to understand that a domain of objects is a domain which contains particular kinds of objects “in which rules obtain that link these objects with one another” (23). Gabriel offers the following examples of object domains: politics (which includes voters, community festivals, tax dollars et cetera) and whole numbers (which includes the numbers seven and five). This is to say that object domains are not necessarily spatially defined.

But the most important thing to come from all of this, first, is that all objects are found in object domains, and that there are many different object domains. If, for example, I want to visit an office, it would be confusing object domains to suggest that the domain of the office concerns electrons and chemical bonds. Indeed, the “physical or chemical analysis of a particular point in space-time taken from the office is no longer an analysis of the office” (24). So, to say that my office is located in the universe is not quite correct. The universe is merely the domain of objects of natural sciences, especially physics. The office may include some of this, but also other domains.

All of this allows Gabriel to address a common claim that humans, because they are small specks in a massive universe, cannot be meaningful, significant or important. For genuinely, it does not matter to the dead galaxy, whose light is only just reaching us, whether or not I ate breakfast this morning (26). A best case scenario is that we are “one biological species among others in the universe” (26), moving around simply to increase our own chances of survival. But the real reason for a sense of insignificance that the size of the universe and its indifference to humanity might lend us …

“…depends much more on the fact that we mix up completely different object domains. The universe signifies not merely a thing but also particular kind of perspective… The universe, as large as it is, is only a part of the whole, part to which we have access by the specific methods linked with modern science” (26).

And this move is a mistake. “It would be exactly as if one were to think that there are only plants because one studied botany” (27).

All of this means that there are “many objects which do not exist in the universe” (27). The universe is merely one ontological province among others. But this does not mean “that the other object domains exist entirely outside of the universe, which would be a completely different (and false) theory” (27). Indeed, this leads into a more extensive argument which I will detail in the next post. It tackles the obvious materialist objection, that all the object domains Gabriel sites (offices, living rooms et cetera) belong very well in the universe because they consist of matter (which is studied by physics). 

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2 Comments:

At 3/02/2016 7:13 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

The philosophy of language combined with philosophy of science tends to make ontology look like a language game.

I doubt anyone can sit in their seat and "know" that all the distinctions and definitions they came up with based on their own language and cultural milieu are the only ones or the true ones or that they are Platonic archetypes that exist in the mind of God or some everlasting realm. I think one has to work hard to know the world, one has to accumulate knowledge about the world by getting your hands dirty experimenting not sitting, devising new techniques to see ever further and gaze into ever smaller realms. Lastly, one should always question language, since no word equals the thing just as no map equals the territory and no model equals reality. It is easy to see that no map equals the territory because you would have to unfold such a map to reveal a 1 to 1 scale perfect duplicate of the territory in order for it to equal the thing, and even then, it would not be the thing, but have to exist in a different place, so it would constitute thing2, a clone of the original thing. And obviously words in general are slippery things, words come and go over time as the Oxford English Dictionary demonstrates, or they change pronunciation or add or subtract meaning or get added or subtracted from other words. And no mathematical model equals reality which can easily be seen when you compare Newton's laws of gravity which work on one scale with Einstein's that work on another. New equations are needed on different scales, because no one can actually see all of nature and all of the forces in nature at once and form an equation that explains it, hence we try to untangle a single squiggly line of force from nature at a time, and devise a mathematical equation that models those lines of force or moving objects. But then when more lines of force are added that can change how the original squiggly line of force moves, meaning a new equation has to be devised to model the newly observed interaction of lines of force or objects. Math itself is not supernatural either, because all fields of math start with certain rules, just as a board game starts with rules, and fields of math unfold as the game is played starting with certain premises. Math branches out starting with the original self-axiomatic rules of each field of math. Humans also are good at seeing when things are similar or different from one another, when a cloud looks like a human face, or when equations or results in different fields of math or science resemble one another. Humans notice when A resembles B or not. Animals share this ability on a more rudimentary ability from amoeba detecting prey out of all the rest of the things in their environment, to cats detecting when it is sunny or when it is raining. Where there is a supernatural basis to everything, or whether the cosmos is run like a kingship or corporation, from the top down, or via a more expanded democratic means like countless internet nodes and connections and internal complexity are all good questions. But ontology doesn't seem to get one there by some magic ontological word bus.

 
At 3/02/2016 7:23 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

This ontologist you are reading does not seem to have caught up to the fact that "matter" is just one word for one way humans used to view the cosmos. Materialism was a popular concept and phrase back in Dalton's day of the indivisible atom. Today we was seen the sub-atomic levels, and experimented with turning matter into energy. It would be trued to call one's self today a "matter-energyist-quantum or maybe string theorist, et al" since no single word encompasses all we know today about the cosmos and all the present questions concerning both the sub-atomic realm and the realm of what currently lay beyond sight of our telescopes. Though the recent discovery of gravity waves was fascinating. I'm not sure but I think that quantum gravity hypotheses might have taken a bit of a jolt by the discovery of literal waves of gravity which also was evidence of gravity being a literal bending of space-time as Einstein hypothesized over a century ago.

 

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