Vital factors

No fact exists alone.  Every perceptible fact is the manifestation of a state of existence relative to the existence of other facts.  Thereby every fact is distinguishable by what it is and isn’t, including the ‘fact of existence’.  Then life is and is not a prominent feature of the way things are – because reality amounts to a continuum of changes that can be traced backwards as a convergence upon what was and forwards as a divergence from the past.  Consequently, whatever importance can or cannot be attached to the nature of ‘things in themselves’, it remains a fact that the difference they make is set within a wider reality.

In every case, we may perceive a fact in terms of its origins in something else – that is, relative to some other fact identifiable as its cause.  But even then we can never see an ‘original cause’ as it is, on its own, since every cause is manifestly incomplete in the absence of an effect.  In turn, effects are seen to make a difference when it becomes apparent that things differ from the way they were – a difference which at first contrasts with the state of ‘the cause’ as it was and afterwards with ‘the effect’ as it furthers a succession of changes.

However, causes do not explain existence.  For instance, we do not find the nature of life in the non-living states of its precursors; and it is only after its appearance that we can begin to look for its causes there.  So we perceive life as a fact that is wrapped up in a continuum of factors which we cannot explain fully in terms of the way things were – because of the essential ingredient of change. Therefore we can neither explain this vital factor retrospectively as an ‘originating cause’ nor in terms of the difference ‘it makes’, which becomes consummate only in the wake of things yet to be.

Mike Laidler

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Certainty and doubt

A point of view affords but one certainty, that there will be others who beg to differ.

It is a fact that money really doesn’t make money even though lots of people can testify to the converse.

‘Certainties’ are intellectual over-compensations for a world we do not understand.

Doubt is the only certainty, the only anchor-point for reflection.

Doubt is a signal to ourselves that we are thinking for ourselves.

Certainty in the absence of doubt is like a cause in the absence of an effect (incomplete).

Every legitimated certainty entails the suppression of a legitimate doubt – evident only when we bother to think about it for ourselves.

Faith has no integrity without a doubt to be vanquished.

It’s not the philosophical musing over certainty and doubt that wastes our time and efforts, but our failure to do so.

Of ‘known unknowns and unknown unknowns’ we can be more certain of the latter.

We make of experience statements of fact which we make do with until we know better.

The fact of what someone has said about a fact is our least certain measure of it.

Assurances of certainty are dubious – firstly by the fact that they need to be given and then by the fact that they are taken as sureties.

Certainty is our attempt to reduce the unimaginable to the imaginable.

Morality is a conviction made of a wish.

In practice, certainty and doubt have more to do with the meaning of a fact than the fact of it.

History is shrouded in uncertainties, even as we witness it unfolding before our eyes.

Logic is a pact with certainty that we impose on the world.

Contradiction is the only certainty to be made of language.

We receive no certainties from experience that we do not first offer-up to it.

Certainty involves the suspension of doubt – and despite appearances, no one can truly furnish you with a certainty any more than they can do your doubting for you.

Without doubt it is easy to think that there is no more to us than the fact of the brain thinking for us.

We identify with images of ourselves by looking upon ourselves in order to discover who we are.

The world of perception is bounded by what perception brings to it and reshaped by what we think about perception.

‘I think therefore I am’.  I doubt therefore I think.

Mike Laidler

Needing to know

Green is the colour of nature (photosynthesis) in reflecting the one colour it doesn’t need.

Things seen as causes of consciousness depend on an eventuality that is conspicuously more than those causes.

We know by the fact of knowing as much as of the fact of the facts known.

The fact that an objective world can be separated from our subjective world in an act of knowing owes to the fact of the subject, not the object.

It is a myth that science can explain the bigger picture by subtracting everything from the picture in order to identify an original cause.

Causality is a contextual reality in a context that now includes our line of sight.

The universe is incomplete in all its objective causes and states – which can now be seen as a prelude to the presence of an extensive subjective dimension.

Facts speak to us only insofar as we select them for that purpose.

Science remains a natural philosophy insofar as it doesn’t exist without the need to know – which an objective world doesn’t seem to share with us.

No fact exists on its own, especially a known fact – and the world alone is not enough to account for the fact of knowledge.

Science changes the world through the thinking by which the world became more than it was.

Every perceived fact is a fact made of perception.

It is not the facts that generate a truth or falsity, but our values – our vested interests held in a point of view.

It seems unthinkable that we need to think outside the world that ‘science has given us’ in order to see a world in which science represents but one form of thinking – in which thinking makes science what it is.

We become victims of our own prejudices in judging ourselves by the scientific standards we impose on the world.

Mike Laidler

Philosophy versus science

There is no contest, not because they are doing different things, but because they are indispensably complimentary when it comes to the big project of trying to understand the essential nature of existence – and it would be naïve in the extreme to say that one can work without the other.

Stereotypically, science explores facts whilst philosophy explores ideas; however, there is no known fact or truth that is independent of its conceptualisation, and the ‘known evidence’ simply reiterates the problem of getting to know – for in order to make progress we need to constantly re-evaluate the evidence, which never was independent of our values. Indeed progress seems to require cohorts of dedicated scientists and philosophers who are passionately involved in their version of ‘the truth’.

Furthermore, values can prejudice our perceptions, including our approach towards knowledge and its ‘value-free’ content – since an understanding is not something to be recognised outside itself, nor does a fact discover its own relevance. But we don’t think of a scientific fact as beholding to its personal relevance for the discoverer, though it is impossible to detach the personal from any aspect of human endeavour. Yet it is assumed that a philosopher’s work can be entirely personal to them and of little or no wider significance until others happen to discover some meaning in it for themselves.

Mike Laidler

What is infinity?

Perhaps there is more to it than any unbounded extension in the dimensions of matter, space and/or time – for even the galaxies are not necessarily infinite, let alone the timeless tracts of primordial possibility.  And we can also encounter ‘it’ as a diverse property of content and form in number, geometry, language, music, art, literature and thought.         

Then perhaps the indeterminable limits of our concepts hold the key to the ‘redefinition’ of infinity as an infinity of differences, which science now posits, in part, with the theory of a multiverse.

Nonetheless, the concept of infinity presents the mind with a paradox, since the definition of infinity, by definition, defies definition.

Mike Laidler