On Aesthetics and Existence

Suppose there were some sort of nonhuman, rational being wandering the earth and observing human life.  This nonhuman, we will call him a ‘metahuman’, has nothing in common with humanity except reason alone.  He doesn’t experience the same desires that we do, nor possess the same needs.  In fact, let us say that he is subject to no desires or needs whatsoever.  As he makes his way through our curious little planet, he encounters a good number of phenomena with which his rationality is perfectly reconciled.  By virtue of being rational, he understands that a being must act in promotion of its own sustainment; this is simply a manifestation of adherence to the core principle of rationality–noncontradiction.  And so it comes as no surprise to him that people eat food.  A quick explanation of the natural science behind the human anatomy allows him to understand this act as rational and noncontradictory to existence.  He is also at ease when he sees people working for money to buy that food, exercising to help maintain the body in other ways, and getting married to help maintain the population.  With all these things, I believe our metahumane friend would be quite satisfied.

There is, however, an aspect of the human experience that I suspect might not sit as well with him.  That aspect is human philocaly, the love of beauty.  Upon extended observation of human living, I believe he might find himself asking, “why do these creatures so fastidiously obsess themselves with matters of absolutely no relevance to their existence?”  “Why,” he might ask, “do the sit for long hours watching the sunrise?  why do they drive themselves mad over the colours of oils on canvases or arrangements of sounds over time?  The time they spend on these things could be better spent working for food, eating food, exercising, or reproducing.” It seems that art is a superfluous facet of human existence.

However, while such an observation might vex our metahuman, if he is capable of being vexed, I do not think that he should outright object to it.  There is, after all, nothing inherently self-contradictory about art.  Art is, by all means, rationally permissible, but what the metahuman would understand, and we must realise, is that, ostensibly, art is rationally unnecessary.

It seems that art neither opposes nor promotes human existence.  And for the metahuman, a being’s existence is the first step in a deductive proof that merits his or her actions.  By taking existence as a given, the metahuman can prove that a human being must eat and exercise and must not undergo self-imposed starvation or deprival of exercise because such do’s and don’t’s are rationally necessary.  All behaviour that a being exhibits is only made possible by his or her existence, and so, in order to be rationally sound, none of such behaviour may oppose that being’s existence, for to do so would be to create, as it were, a contradiction in the normative ‘proof of actions’.  In other words, there is a logical fallacy in a chain of reasoning that reads, “A exists, therefore A acts, therefore A does not exist”*.  Likewise, there are certain actions that a being must take in order to sustain existence, which may be called ‘rationally necessary’.  Obviously, to neglect to do such things is to passively oppose existence and to, therefore, once again create a logical fallacy.  Ergo, all rational beings are demanded, by their reason, to avoid actions that oppose their existence and execute those that promote it.

However, in a sense, art neither promotes nor opposes human existence.  No one has ever starved from musical malnourishment (though I have had nightmares …) nor died of prolonged exposure to oil paintings.  It seems then, at least prima facie, that art has no baring on the metahuman’s proof of actions.  Hence, how it should be handled in the formal proof becomes quite a difficult matter.  Occam’s Razor might suggest that we remove it by default, but this seems a mere ‘easy way out’ of a question that rests on empirical evidence which powerfully suggests alternatives. The very fact that humans do indeed partake in the enjoyment of art seems to suggest that Occam’s Razor cannot be here applicable for one of three reasons: (1) humanity is not rational after all, as demonstrated by her irrational aesthetic passions, (2) art is a necessary part of the proof of actions in some more nuanced way than we have yet understood, or (3) art is necessitated by something other than the ‘primal premise’ in the proof of actions.

(By ‘primal premise,’ I mean existence; the jargon is intended to portray the analogical link between this and the Primal Cause Argument for the existence of God.  It is supposed, under the Primal Cause Argument, that given the existence of the universe and humanity, within the context of causality, a ‘primal cause’ that came first and without a cause of its own is a metaphysical necessity.  Our currant discourse takes the existence of humanity as the ‘primal premise’ in a proof of actions that demonstrates the rational necessity of self-sustainment.  This link will be important later on.)

Of course the first of these three reasons is, in its present form, utterly absurd because it denies the existence of human reason, on which it is dependent, as evidenced by its classification as a ‘reason’.  However, we might refine it a bit to say that, while humanity is capable of being rational, art is an example of her departure from rationality, however exceptional such a behaviour might be for her.  But that is a rather lame explanation of art, especially considering the fact that this blog purposes to demonstrate that beauty is a fractal construct of reason.  Therefore, we will be finding that the better option is either two or three.

In order to consider the reason for human philocaly, we must begin by considering the reason for human philosophy˚.  As it turns out, human philosophy is indeed rationally necessary, however its necessity is less clearly linked to the ‘primal premise’.  If belief is–as many have considered it to be–the act of depending on a supposed truth, then human beings have no choice but to believe in some things and not in others.  By sitting here, typing this post, I am believing that my computer will not explode in my face and kill me.  I am counting on that fact.  If I were to believe that my computer is going to explode, then my act of writing this post would be irrational, as it would be opposing my existence.  Hence, in order to be a rational being, I must believe certain things and not others (which, in this case, means that, given my sitting here typing, I must believe that my computer will not explode and not that it will).  This is because the rationality of an act (i.e. its promotion and non-opposition of existence) is dependent on certain suppositions that surround the act–that is, we must ‘count on’ or ‘believe in’ certain supposed truths in order for the action, or more accurately, the intention behind the action, to be classifiable as an action (or intention) of self-sustainment.  But the only rational way I can arrive at a belief is by way of philosophy.  In other words, it is irrational to count on the veracity of a given supposition without reason to do so.  Hence, the existence of reason (which is simply a more specific facet of the ‘primal premise’) is self-sustained by philosophy.  And so, philosophy is rationally necessary.

Recall from the previous ALUC posts that art, the discourse of emotions, is really an extension of philosophy, the discourse of reason, in that emotions are fractal constructs of rational processes.  Therefore, it seems that art may be necessitated by the mere fact of philosophy’s necessity.  If we are required, by reason, to rationally deliberate truth in order to arrive at rational beliefs, then why would we not also be required to do the same emotionally?  Human engagement in art is, in this sense, simply a way of making use of all methods of discovering truth available to the human.

Now would be a good point in the essay to point out a flaw in our model of reason thus far; I think I’ll do just that: The average Christian or reasonable thinker reading this post has already been quite troubled by the whole idea of self-sustainment.  We Kantian moralists, who make up most of the world, like to think that morality is an extension of rationality, and as such, must be governed by the laws of reason.  Therefore, the idea that reason would incessantly demand our constant attendance to self-sustainment is troubling to the Christian who believes that self-sacrifice is the core principle of all morality.  Hence, it seems our model has been all too simple.

Allow me, therefore, to do a bit of remodelling.  In Computer Science (the science of programming computers) there are conceptual entities called “objects”.  An “object” is something that sits out somewhere in the computer’s memory and can be called to perform tasks or can be acted on by other objects.  The particular tasks that a given object might be able to perform are decided on by the programer, and the possibilities are nearly endless.  However, one task that an object can never perform is self-deletion.  This is because of the logical fallacy that we have been discussing; it simply doesn’t make logical sense for something to destroy itself, and computer science reflects this inescapable normative principle.  However, sometimes, as you might imagine, objects do in fact need to be deleted.  For this task, the system itself must be called.  In other words, to delete an object, we must act not within the object’s personal scope, but within a larger scope that contains the object, which is called the system in the case of computer science.

A very similar phenomenon occurs in life outside of computers.  Sometimes there comes a point when objects need to be deleted, persons need to die.  At such a time, the principle still holds that a moral agent cannot delete himself, but a larger scope must be called on for his deletion.  So far, we have discussed the proof of actions as a self-contained system of rationality—something that is demanded to be non-contradictory with itself.  But if reality is fractal, then this “larger scope” that we are calling on must actually be self-similar; it must be similar to the “proof of actions” construct which it contains.  Hence, the deletion of a person must be appealed to the primal premise not of a proof of actions contained within the person, but of such a proof contained only by the scope of reality itself.

If you’re wondering what such a primal premise could possibly be, recall the disgustingly long and tastelessly obtrusive parenthetical element above in which the link between a ‘primal premise’ and a ‘primal cause’ was alluded to.  Herein lies the point: if the self-similar construct that is reality contains moral agents with proofs of actions that are premised on the respective existences of those agents, then reality itself is a massive proof of actions that is premised on its own existence (and since its existence is premised on its primal cause, we may say that this is the primal premise of the universal proof of actions, and consequentially, is the universal analogue of a moral agent’s existence).  Hence, the first line of the universal proof of actions reads: “Reality is.”  And because reality is subject to logic, all following lines must be non-contradictory to the existence of reality—or more specifically, to the existence of the primal cause and its particular nature.

And so, we appeal to this universal proof of actions for the deletion of a person; however, even within this larger scope, the deletions of persons is irrational.  Because reality is fractal, the principle that a moral agent cannot be deleted (which originates within the scope of the agent himself as a principle of self-sustainment) is reconstructed in larger, congruent scopes by necessity, including the scope of reality itself.  So the fact that there come occasions when persons must be deleted poses a serious threat to the logical soundness of the universal system (reality).

However, notice the phrase “a person must be deleted”; this implies that the deletion of the person is logically necessary.  Hence, we have a contradiction.  The principle of non-deletion that is perpetuated up through the self-similar system demands that persons are never deleted, however, sometimes reality demands that they are (e.g. in the case of war).  This tells us that something went wrong earlier in the proof of actions; some phenomenon has opposed reality and defied logic.  We will explore the phenomenon in a later post.  At present, we must merely understand that there is a contradiction, and that the contradiction must be fixed.  Logic demands that something be done in the universal proof of actions in order to correct the error.

So allow me to present the contradiction clearly:  Two moral agents are placed on a metaphysical see-saw, but only one is allowed to step off, leaving the other to go hurling down through the endless abyss of nonexistence (that is, of death or whatever the particular situation calls for).  Each moral agent is demanded to preserve both himself (by his own proof of actions) and the other agent (by a congruent construct of the other agent’s proof of actions).  It’s quite a pickle.  The only rational solution is the beautiful mathematical principle of Substitution.  One of the agents must choose to substitute his own primal premise with that of the other agent; that is, he must value the other agent’s existence in place of his own.  People less esoteric and nerdy than myself call this “love”.

That is exactly what has happened in the case of the universal proof of actions.  As a consequence of some error, humanity got set on a chain of reasoning that leads directly to death, but because it is logically necessary for man to keep on existing, the Primal Cause himself made the Grand Substitution.  The existence of man was substituted for the existence of Reality, causing all the equations to boggle about as reality demanded its own destruction and the very principle that called  for the deletion to be made was set to be deleted, reversing the error and undefying logic.  All this, we know, must have happened for two reasons: (1) it is the only possible solution to the contradiction, and (2) it maintains self-similarity with other proofs of actions (e.g. when a man sacrifices his life for his country).

As a result of all this, Substitution has become a principle of logic.  It logically necessary (and therefore morally right) for persons to sacrifice themselves for others because Reality has sacrificed itself for them.  The principle of Substitution trickles down to latter iterations of the universal fractal in this way.  For that matter, I might point out that logic is simply defined by whatever the Primal Cause does.  In other words, self-sustainment is logically necessary because the Primal Cause exists and continues to exist, and self-sacrifice is logically necessary because the Primal Cause sacrifices itself; every action that the Primal Cause takes is imitated in every smaller scope of reality due to its self-similar structure—that’s what logic is.

So logic is defined by the actions of the Primal Cause.  This might leave us wondering: why does the Primal Cause act in the way it does?  Or to put it more bluntly, what defines the actions of the Primal Cause?  The only answer I have for this is “the Primal Will”.  The “Primal Will” is the end of the line in the determining of actions.  The Primal Cause does what it does simply because that’s the way things Absolutely are.  Christians and non-christians alike might find interesting what the Bible has to say about this.  In Revelations 4: 11, it say, “You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive Glory and Honour and Power, because you created all things and through your will they exist and were created”.  Where I have translated “through your will,” the ancient Greek reads “διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου” which we might also translate “because of your pleasure”.  So in one sense, we understand that things are the way they are because they ought to be (because it’s God’s will), but in another sense, they’re just that way for the fun of it (because of God’s pleasure).  Either way, the verse contends that He is to receive glory and honour for this—God’s will or pleasure is absolutely Good.  However, what this means is that as intricate and difficult to decipher as reality is, the fractal is that way in part because that is how it ought to be, but also simply for the mere fun of it.  God choose to create, to love, and to die for that love for the sake of his good pleasure, his θέλημά.

Now that was a pretty long tangent.  Remember, this post is about philocaly.  And so I ask what is art if not the highest form of Substitution available to man?  Art is the surrendering of one’s self to beauty, the giving of one’s soul to all of humanity.  An artist is demanded to be courageous and bold; he must wildly surrender everything with which his creator has endowed him to the creation of something beautiful—a love letter to humanity.  When he performs this creative task, he is acting rationally and in congruity with his maker’s primal act of creation and self-sacrifice, which was conducted under the Καλός Θέλημά (Good Will or Beautiful Pleasure, Καλός being the word from whence we get ‘philocaly’ – the love of beauty; the love of good).


* Obviously an application of the transitive property to this statement makes it read “A exists, therefore A does not exist,” which, needless to say, is utter nonsense.

˚Just when you thought those ivory towers couldn’t grow any higher and the thinkers inside them couldn’t become anymore distanced from the real world, the philosophers start philosophising about philosophy.


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