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 world
views 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?
Labels: Markus Gabriel, Why the World Does Not Exist