Is Love Irrational?

More specifically, could love be radical without being irrational?

Ever since the mystical romanticism of nineteenth century western culture, it has become fashionable to regard love as an irrational human sentiment.  People seem to like this notion because it gives love a special place in philosophy: love is not the sort of thing you can write a long philosophical treatise on (or can you?), but instead it is a subject for great poems and works of art.  Of course, this understanding completely disregards any art that may be inherent in the genera of boring treatise writing, which is entirely surpassed, it is supposed, by the capacity of an ardent poet.  Indeed, this superior position seems to be where such a notion of love is placed; it is not merely irrational but super-rational, transcending and exceeding the limits of the human intellect into some supposedly higher, metaphysical realm of unintelligible emotion.

Some readers might think this notion is less novel than I have made it out to be, and perhaps a brief look at gothic love poetry—by which the romantics were allegedly inspired—would reveal so much.  But let me respond to all such objectors with the position that the culmination of that poetic school is actually the dolce stil nuovo—a highly rational understanding of love.  Indeed, there is very little mystical about medieval mysticism.  But enough arguing with my imaginary antagonists; let’s look at an early renaissance passage.  This comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, wherein Eve has just eaten the forbidden fruit and Adam is now throwing a mild hissy-fit over the matter:

“Should God create another Eve, and I

Another Rib afford, yet loss of thee

Would never from my heart; no, no, I feel

The Link of Nature draw me: Flesh of Flesh,

Bone of my Bone thou art, and from thy State

Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.”

(Milton, Paradise Lost IX.911-6)

The last two lines might seem irrational.  Why would Adam ever pursue a state of woe?  That doesn’t make any rational sense; hence, Adam’s love must be irrational.  But such a reading completely overlooks Adam’s own rationale, which he provides quite clearly: ‘I feel the Link of Nature draw me’.  Milton is referring to the classical metaphor for marriage as a chain (people have been complaining about ‘the old ball and chain’ since antiquity).  So entering into a state of woe is something that Adam would do by compulsion, and thus, he violates no rational principles.  But Adam’s first premise is the most puzzling part of his logical argument: ‘Should God create another Eve … loss of thee / Would never from my heart’.  What does that mean?  If God could make another version of the same thing that Adam holds dear, why on earth would Adam pursue the broken one rather than being satisfied with a replacement?

We could easily imagine this question posed in much a more personal way.  Suppose after thirty-five years of marriage, when the children are fully grown and left the cave, Eve turns to Adam in a moment of personal dissatisfaction and asks him that enduring question which has baffled the mind of every lover since the dawn of mankind: ‘why did you choose me?’  Adam would hardly have found himself in a tighter spot if she had instead asked, ‘does this sheep skin make me look fat?’  But he has an easy way out, a simple, rational answer that has been available to no man since: ‘I frankly had no other options.’   However, much to our amazement and stupefaction, Adam utterly refuses this obvious answer and favours a romantic and seemingly mystical one.  He goes out of his way to create a hypothetical situation in which there are other Eves and then still decides to stick with his particular wife.  Why?

Do You Believe in Reason?

As a noun, the word reason has two essential meanings.  The first is the more colloquial; a reason is the grounds on which something is done or believed–it is the purpose that explains an action or the premise that justifies a belief.  But in the second sense, reason itself is not the purpose for an action but the very mode of acting in which purpose is considered, nor is it the premise of a belief but the very mode of believing in which premises are necessary.  In other words, to be rational is to have a reason for those actions which you perform and those thoughts which you believe.

In highly impractical epistemological contexts, the notion often becomes relevant that one may just as well employ some particular mode of thinking as any other.  There is no reason, in the first sense of the word, for reason itself, in the second sense of the word.  And once an alternative mode of thinking is employed, the intellectual performing this thought experiment will very likely find himself just as convinced of an alternative metaphysical paradigm as he was of his original view.  Thereupon, he will inevitably reach the terrifying conclusion that all his thoughts, opinions, and beliefs are entirely and inescapably arbitrary; for because he cannot justify any one mode of thinking over another, he may never categorically support any beliefs that arise in a particular mode–all may be falsified by a mere shift in perspective.

However, as we examine the thought experiment from a safe distance, it is clear that it has a number of detrimental failures.  For one, the whole basis of the experiment is rational.  By this I mean first that it is performed for a purpose, that of exploring the validity of a rational paradigm.  And then once it is performed, the results are interpreted from within that same paradigm–what dissatisfies the experimenter is the fact that he cannot have a reason for what he believes.  But his being disappointed by a want of reason proves that he is still, by definition, functioning rationally, and in fact has never left that mode of thinking.  He began and ended with purpose, so that even when he supposed himself to be thinking “irrationally,” he was still behaving in his particular manner for a reason, the purpose of experimentation.  The human mind is incapable of performing an action without purpose, and therefore, can never truly escape the rational scope.

What our experimenter underwent, then, was a dissociative experience.  He found himself, for a moment, in a scope of thought that denies its premise.  For a more thorough discussion of this phenomenon, see Is Hypnosis self-evident?  A Concise Philosophical Inquiry.

Why do you believe in reason?

The question assumes that I do.

On Humanity and Recursion

Having discussed the essentiality of rhetoric to humanity, I now wish to further generalise and universalise the claim.

Notice that existence is the foundation of perspective.  We might define a person’s perspective as “the way in which that person exists”.  In other words, a person has all sorts of attitudes that make up his perspective, but these attitudes can be understood as qualitative descriptions of his existence—he exists in a way such that he favours existence over nonexistence.

It follow then, that underlying this principle of rhetoric, which is the foundation of humanity, is the principle of recursion.  Rhetoric is the power to observe the perspective from which observation takes place—to observe one’s own existence.  Likewise, morality is the power to act in observation of the perspective from which action is taking place, and love is the power to do so on a larger scale.  It is this principle of recursion that gives rise to the concept of a moral agent.  A moral agent is an entity that posses the power to observe its own existence.  For this reason a universalised morality is one in which maxims are formed in observation of all moral agents—being a self-similar construct to a personal morality.  Morality dictates that our actions observe that which observes itself.  In this way, morality is merely the method of creating a self-observant nature.

This relates nicely to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.  In John 14:11, Jesus tells us that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.  In other words, God is that which contains Himself.  Hitherto, we have seen that reality is made up of self-similar layers, and that these layers define each other and themselves though causality.  Hence, the Primal Cause is that layer which defines itself through causality, and ergo, causes itself.  In metaphysical terms, we might say that God is the Deification of the principle of self-observation, and in so being, is likewise the Deification of morality, reason, and love.

The fact that a rationally sound reality is necessarily self-similar helps us understand the doctrine of Imitatione Christi (trans. in a manner that imitates Christ).  All that follows from the Primal Cause must be similar to it, and must therefore observe all those things which observe themselves, which equates to acting morally, rationally, and lovingly—in short, acting Imitatione Christi.

The Essential Consequence of the Axiomatic Law of Universal Congruity

Yes, I realise the title is disgustingly long, but it had to compete with A Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, which is a German title in translation—so that’s not really fair.

FYI: ALL THE POSTS ON THIS THREAD MAY, from now on, BE FOUND UNDER THE ALUC CATEGORY. Thank you.

Acts of Reason

From the little research I have done, I have found that the concept of speech acts mostly has its origins in the philosophy of one J. L. Austin.  Austin proposed the theory that certain forms of speech are actions in themselves.  For example, whenever one begins a sentence with “I promise …” an action beyond the mere act of speaking is being performed—the act of making a promise.  Likewise, whenever people persuade, inform, or rebuke using speech, they are performing speech acts.  On the most basic level, a speech act is any form of speech by which an act beyond the mere pronouncement of words is performed.

Similarly, I should like to propose that there exist forms of thinking that may be called “thought acts,” or “acts of reason”.  These include acts such as believing, assuming, and expecting.  By the very thought, “this is true,” the act of belief is performed.  The thought, “this will happen,” constitutes the act of expectation.  These are forms of thinking that constitute actions beyond the mere act of thought itself; however, they are still only thoughts, or declaratives, found in the nonphysical realm of the mind.  Notice that both in the case of speech acts and acts of reason, the acts that are performed are normative.  Nothing physical takes place, for example, when a person makes a promise, but we still consider promising to be an action.  Therefore, promising, like all other speech acts and acts of reason, is an action that takes place in the nonphysical realm.  Hence the nonphysical is, in part, active.

This fits nicely with our usage of grammatical theory to explain the nature of the nonphysical.  Declaratives may be active or passive just as they are by grammatical convention.  However, it is important to realise that this is something of an extended usage of those terms.  For example, suppose Mr. Smith looks at his dog, Charlie, and thinks, “Charlie is eating”.  By doing this, Mr. Smith has performed an act of reason, and his declarative is active in two ways: (1) Just as grammatical theory would tell us, the declarative is active because the subject (Charlie) is performing an action (eating), but also (2) the declarative is active because it constitutes the act of believing (Mr. Smith believes his dog is eating).  Let us call this first meaning of “active” “grammatically active,” and the second meaning, “functionally active”.

Activity and Passivity (Voice)

It must be understood that all thoughts can only be called active or passive in the context of a particular verb.  Speech acts demonstrate this phenomenon more clearly: the speech, “I promise to love and obey” is active in the context of the verb ‘to promise’ but passive in the context of the verb ‘to run’ because the speech itself constitutes the act of promising, but not of running.  Hence, if this speech causes a bride to run, it has not performed a speech act in so doing, though it has passively caused that action.  (But of course it still performs the speech act of promising, and therefore is active in that context.)  The same will be true of acts of reason.  Every thought has a functional voice only in the context of a particular verb.

To better understand what it means for a thought to be functionally active, let us consider what it means for one to be functionally passive.  In grammar, when a sentence is in the passive voice, its subject is being acted upon rather than doing the act.  For example, if Mr. Smith had instead thought, “Charlie is being eaten,” his thought would have been grammatically passive.  However, the thought is still functionally active, as we are using the term, because it still constitutes the act of belief.

The functional analogue of grammatical voice is simple.  If a thinker is performing an action, his thought is functionally active, but if an act is being performed on the thinker, his thought is functionally passive.  The functional voice of a thought is the same as the grammatical voice of the clause which describes the thought’s action and in which the thought is the direct or indirect object.  For example, in the clause, “Mr. Smith believes the thought, ‘Charlie is being eaten,'” the thought is the direct object of Mr. Smith’s believing, and the clause is grammatically active (i.e. Mr. Smith is acting upon the thought); therefore, the thought is functionally active in the context of the verb ‘to believe’.  However, in the clause “Mr. Smith is troubled by the thought, ‘Charlie is being eaten,'” the thought is the indirect object, but the clause is grammatically passive (i.e. Mr. Smith is being acted upon by the thought); therefore, the thought is functionally passive in the context of the verb phrase ‘to trouble’. Hence, believing is an act of reason constituted by the thought, but troubling is not.

This discussion might bring to mind a rather intriguing inquiry:  Is not ‘troubling’ something that occurs in the mind?  If so, should we not expect it too to be an act of reason?  Indeed, I believe we should, but only when paired with a different thought, which in the context of such a verb, would be active.  More on this later.

Relevant Qualities of the Nonphysical

Recall this explanation of the nonphysical which I wrote in my post on the Axiomatic Law of Universal Congruity (henceforth, ALUC): “Things in the nonphysical behave in accordance with our cognition.  For example, whenever one imagines a circle, it exists in the nonphysical, because all that is required for the spawning of an object in the nonphysical is the decision that it exists.  If I decide that there is a circle of radius R, then there is.”  From this we see that the nonphysical can be embodied in human cognition.  We do suppose that the nonphysical is a realm of truths and falsehoods that exists with or without human awareness of it, but humans can also think about it, and in so doing, embody some part of the realm within their minds.  For example, the properties of fractals were, for a time, normative facts sitting out in the nonphysical, waiting to be discovered, until finally they became embodied in human understanding once the proper math was completed.  To be clear, let us henceforth refer to the nonphysical as it exists independently of humanity as “The Nonphysical Realm,” and as it is embodied in the minds of persons, it will be called “a nonphysical realm”.

(I wrote at the beginning of this post that acts of reason occur in the nonphysical; this statement may now be refined.  More specifically, acts of reason occur in a nonphysical realm; that is, they occur in the mind of the person doing the thinking.  Hence, when I say that a thought constitutes an act, I mean exactly that—a functionally active thought, as it exists in a nonphysical realm, is the same thing as a nonphysical act.)

Also notice from the above quote that human embodiment of the nonphysical is related to human will.  As I have written, “all that is required for the spawning of an object in the nonphysical is the decision [i.e. act of volition] that it exists”.  Hence, when Mr. Smith performs an act of reason in his mind, he is willing the spawning of a functionally active declarative in a nonphysical realm.  Indeed, acts of reason are the purest forms of willed acts, for whenever people act on their wills, they first intend to do something, and then attempt to do it.  But it is this second step that is often corrupted by misinformation and inability.  Indeed, even the first step (of intending) can be corrupted by logical fallacy or falsehood of premisses; i.e. a person can intend to do good, and out of that willed act, intend to do something that he or she thinks is good, but is mistaken.  In this sense, the relationship between acts of reason and general intentions of will is similar to the relationship between the intentions and the outcomes of a character’s actions in a play.  In both cases, we often come across “purposes mistook fallen on the inventors’ head”.  This is why Kant traces the character of a will all the way back to its noncontradiction with itself.  That is, the quality of a will can only be determined by examining the self-coherence—or lack there of—of the will’s initial intention, the intention of being good or evil, from which all other intentions are derived within more specific contexts.

This point will be important later on, but I digress from my present purpose.  What must be understood at the moment is that acts of volition are also acts of reason because intending is an act of reason.  (This harkens nicely back to the model of the soul with two faculties: the intellect and the will.  Without intellect, a will is just a random decision maker; therefore, in order for a will to be free, any act a will makes must also be an act of reason.)  To justify the claim that intending is an act of reason, we will turn to the model of functional voice developed earlier, but first we must understand a nuance that further complicates our model of acts of reason.

Human Thought

Thinking is, by nature, paradoxical.  As I have argued elsewhere, reality is infinite. Therefore, all passive thoughts and acts of reason are subject to infinite ignorance.  However, as we have found in the ALUC post, “every understanding and misunderstanding of a given scope of reality is congruent to that of the whole“.  Hence, the paradox of thought is as follows:  Thinking is, by the nature of reality, required to be infinite, but by the nature of humanity, it seems it is finite; ergo, all human thought must be inaccurate—and in fact, infinitely inaccurate.  But yet, we know, by the ALUC, that human understanding is congruent to accurate understanding, even with all its fallacies.  Thus a dichotomy exists between the validity and falsehood of thought.  To solve this paradox, we must understand the meaning of the mathematical jargon in this philosophical context.

Though it may seem a bit crude, it will be useful, for a moment, to think of the accuracy of human thought as a scalar quantity.  Suppose that any given thought has a measurable quantitative parameter of “truthiness,” if you will.  In theory, a perfectly accurate thought would have an infinite truthiness value (because reality, the truth, is infinite), but human thoughts have truthiness values that are lower than this.  The question becomes: how much lower?  Because human thought is subject to infinite ignorance, we know that its truthiness is infinitely lower than that of the theoretical ideal, but this fact alone does not tell us by what order of infinity human truthiness is less than perfect validity.  For that, we must turn to the ALUC.

By the ALUC, we know that human thought is congruent to the theoretical ideal.  In math, two systems are congruent when they differ only by a scaler multiple.  For example, two triangles are congruent if each of the sides of one triangle relates to each of the respective sides of the other by a common ratio.  Hence, a pair of congruent triangles can be derived from one triangle by multiplying the lengths of each side by the same number.  Therefore, if human truthiness is both congruent to and less than perfect validity, it must be a fraction of the whole.  Hence, the difference between human truthiness and perfect validity is a lower order of infinity than that which describes the magnitude of perfect validity.

All this may sound a bit distant from the actual philosophical thread at the moment, so allow me to draw the connection:  Recently, a friend of mine and I met and discussed the ALUC.  Upon reaching the section about the limitlessness of conceivability, our discussion branched away from the piece slightly as we began to ponder the plausibility of human beings conceiving of the infinite.  I leaned towards the belief that humans can conceive the infinite, and my friend took the other side.  “Imagine a thousand elephants,” he prompted me, “now imagine one thousand and one elephants.  What’s the difference?”  His point was that when one conceives of anything on a very large scale, the detail of the concept is sacrificed.  My mental image of a thousand elephants is the same as my mental image of one thousand and one elephants.  This is because when I conceive “a thousand elephants,” I am not really picturing an exact number of elephants, but rather some large sum of them.  However, as I argued, my mind does differentiate between the concepts themselves.

In calculus, there is a somewhat cliché idea that “infinity is a concept not an number”.  This is usually taken to mean that we can’t treat infinity like an ordinary number (i.e. we can’t perform arithmetic with it), but we can understand it as an idea.  Thus, in a sense, one cannot “wrap one’s head around” the infinite, but in another sense, humans must be able to conceptualise infinity by virtue of having a word for it.  So, while I cannot conceive one thousand different elephants at the same time, I can think the thought, “one thousand elephants,” and differentiate it from the thought, “one thousand and one elephants,” both of which have different significances to me.  In this way, a human thought can be congruent to infinite thought, which is necessary in order for it to be congruent to perfect validity.

Rational Processes

In planning for this essay, it was at first my desire to write about acts of reason in terms of individual “rational processes,” or processes of the mind, rather than in terms of what we have hitherto been calling “thoughts”.  A thought, as the term has been here used, is a declarative which exists in a nonphysical realm (a person’s mind), but people don’t always think in “thoughts” in this sense of the word.  Sometimes people think more abstractly.  For example, when a composer invents a piece in his head, he is thinking, but he is not producing concrete declaratives.  Hence, thinking may take on various forms, some of which are hard to embody in words, but in all forms, thinking is made up of many rational processes.  When Mr. Smith sees Charlie’s state of distress, his mind has to take in the empirical facts (the things his senses tell him about) and process them with a number of rational processes before he is said to be thinking, “Charlie is being eaten”.  The declarative is itself a rational process, but it is made up of “smaller” rational processes.

Indeed, by the nature of reality we know that a perfectly true thought has, associated with it, infinite rational processes, each of which constitutes the act of understanding one of the infinite parts of reality.  In this way, a perfect rational process must be made of multiple other perfect rational processes, each of which are made of others ad infinitum, thus forming an infinite, self-similar structure.  Of course, human thought, being only congruent to accurate thought, does not quite form this structure, but creates a congruent structure.

This model helps us to fix some of the awkward uses of language that have been made thus far:  Some may have found it strange to call “believing” an act beyond mere thinking.  We may, indeed, be tempted to suppose that believing cannot be an act of reason at all, for the verbs to think and to believe are often used interchangeably (e.g. “I believe you are correct” or “I think you are correct”).  And if believing is the same as thinking, then when Mr. Smith thinks, “Charlie is being eaten,” he is not performing any act beyond the act of thought itself, and therefore he is not performing an act of reason.  But there is also good reason to suppose that thinking and believing are not always the same thing, for it seems it is possible to think something without believing it.  The thought that Charlie is going to be okay may cross Mr. Smith’s mind without him believing it, for there is a difference between Mr. Smith thinking, “Charlie is well,” and him thinking that Charlie is well.  Hence, it may have been slightly inaccurate to say that Mr. Smith’s thought was the act of reason which was being discussed.  Perhaps instead, the act of reason is a different rational process in which Mr. Smith actually believes the aforementioned thought.  This rational process, however, is impossible to embody in words.  And so our language must be stretched when discussing acts of reason.

Perhaps we might say that the thought “Charlie is well” constitutes the act of believing only when it is believed.  This works the same with speech acts.  If an actor in a play says “I promise …” then he has not actually made a promise.  He only truly makes a promise if he says the words in conjunction with performing the normative act.  However, we still understand the words as being, themselves, the act of promising.  They are the manifestation or embodiment of the act, though the act does not necessarily occur upon their verbalisation, but cannot occur without it.  Likewise, Mr. Smith’s thought constitutes the act of believing if he believes the thought.  It is in his thinking “Charlie is well” that he believes it, though he can also think those words without believing them.

The Rational Process of Intention

The above argument was necessary in order to understand how intention is an act of reason.  We might say that Mr. Smith intends to do something when he thinks “I will save Charlie”.  However, some may not like this usage of language.  It seems that Mr. Smith is likely to never think the words “I will save Charlie,” but rather, will simply intend to do it.  Hence, intention is some abstract rational process which is hard to put into words.  Therefore, in order to determine the functional voice of intending, let us use the method arrived at earlier, but represent the rational processes of intending as a variable.  Suppose ‘A’ represents Mr. Smith’s intention to save Charlie.  The clause which describes the thought’s action might then be worded, “Mr. Smith intends A”.  Hence, Mr. Smith’s intention, A, is the direct object of an active clause, where Mr. Smith is performing an action, and therefore, intention is functionally active.  Hence, acts of volition are necessarily acts of reason.

The Volitive Nature of Emotion

In my post, “A Philosophy of Love,” I arrived at the conclusion that love is an act of volition.  I now wish to complicate this claim.  Indeed, not only is love an act of volition, but all emotion is a manifestation of the will.

The only reason a person feels any emotion at all is because he or she chooses to care about things.  If Mr. Smith hadn’t decided in advance to care about Charlie (to love the creature, in a sense) then he would have never been troubled by the fact that Charlie was being eaten.  Thus, Mr. Smith’s being troubled is an extension of his will to love.  This is why I began with a philosophy of love—all the other emotions are derived from love or the lack there of.  Hamlet feels grief because he first chose to feel love.

Some may find this notion absurd.  Surely, whether I like it or not, I will feel sorrow if, for example, my arm is chopped off.  However, it seems evident that my sorrow over the loss of a limb is only made possible by my original decision to value my limbs and the things I can do with them.  Inevitably, I will feel physical pain upon disarticulation, but any emotional pain is still a nonphysical act which takes place in a nonphysical realm, and must, therefore, be a willed act.  The fact that emotional pain felt over the loss of a limb is volitive only strikes us as strange because the decision to value one’s body parts comes so naturally.  It is like subscribing to a weekly news letter on the internet.  Whenever you sign up for anything, the option to subscribe to the news letter is almost always checked by default, and so it is easy to passively decide to subscribe.  (By the way, if you do not wish to be subscribed to this blog, click here.)  Likewise, it is natural to passively decide to feel certain emotions.

This gives us good insight into the inquiry raised earlier regarding the functional voice of the verb ‘to trouble’.  Recall that because the clause, “Mr. Smith is troubled by his thought,” is grammatically passive, his thought is functionally passive.  What has not been said hitherto is that functionally passive thoughts may still be understood as acts of reason; however, they are passive acts of reason.  Mr. Smith is passively deciding to be troubled.  (Realise that the above clause is grammatically passive in the context of the verb ‘to trouble,’ but it is grammatically active in the context of the verb phrase ‘to be troubled’.  That is, the act of troubling is being performed on Mr. Smith, but Mr. Smith himself is performing the act of being troubled.  In some languages—Latin, for example—there is a single verb that means ‘to be troubled’.)  This lets us differentiate between emotions that are actively willed and those which we passively decide to feel.  For example if we say, “Mr. Smith loves,” then he is actively conducting an act of reason because the clause is grammatically active, but if we say, “Mr. Smith is grieved,” then he is passively conducting an act of reason.  Hence Mr. Smith actively decides to love, but passively decides to be grieved as a result of that love.  Notice that we may say, “Mr. Smith is feeling grief,” and find that he is actively feeling grief, but he is nonetheless passively being grieved.  He has actively chosen to feel his grief by choosing to think about that which grieves him, but he as passively chosen to be grieved by such a thing.

Something

And so, emotions, whether active or passive, are acts of reason.  To feel is to think, and to think is to feel.  Emotion is a form of reasoning; a complex construct of concrete thought.  This construct must be congruent to the fractal that is reality.  Hence in its theoretical form, an emotion is made up of infinite rational processes—though human emotion is only congruent to such a construct.  And so art, the discourse of emotion, is the discourse of infinite reason.  There is no need to temper emotion with reason or reason with emotion, because both are the same thing.  Emotions are fractal constructs of reason.

Therefore, just as good philosophy must rely on sound reasoning, so must good art rely on fractal constructs of sound reasoning, on sound feeling.  Just as we demand philosophy to be noncontradictory with itself, self-coherent in its reasoning, so must we demand that art be self coherent in its emotion.  Hence, those who say, “there is no right or wrong in art,” are wrong.  There is much philosophy to be written, but there is certainly also a right and a wrong in philosophy, and likewise, while there is much art to be created, there is also a right and a wrong in art.

Mr. Smith ended up saving Charlie and everything turned out okay … for now.

Was that an actively active act of reason?

The Nature of Causality in the Logical Scope

if a then b => if !b then !a

Doesn’t that make sense? Why do people act like it doesn’t?

Causality is such a difficult phenomenon to isolate. This is a large part of what makes tragic plays so stimulating–we can argue for hours about what really caused all the dead bodies to pile up at the end; was it Hamlet’s slowness to act? his uncle’s murder? or perhaps Polonius’ regulation of his daughter? The best answer is generally something along the lines of, “it was all these things and more”. For maybe if Hamlet weren’t so prone to depression, if Laertes hadn’t come from France, or the dang Dane, Hamlet the late, had just decided to take his nap somewhere else or a little later in the afternoon, the whole catastrophe could have been avoided. This brings up the whole discussion of chaotic theory on a sociological level. Because perhaps even smaller changes could have been made to the history than the ones I have mentioned if they were made earlier on. Maybe if Hamlet the late had gone to bed earlier the night before, he wouldn’t have needed to take a nap˚. And maybe he would have gone to bed earlier if he weren’t busy doing such and such, and perhaps such and such wouldn’t have had to be done if… We could, theoretically trace the whole history back to the beginning of time; at which point, if a single molecule, floating in space, had been displaced by a fraction of a micrometer, Gertrude might never have married, Hamlet might have never been born, and perhaps even Denmark might never have become a nation.

Personally, I find this is fascinating. It certainly says something about the nature of causality. Every little, fractal detail of the cause has a profound impact on the effect. This is an even bigger deal when it comes to a consideration of the Omnipotent, for He is the beginning of time and the root cause of all reality. I’ve included a definition of the rule of modus tollens at the beginning of this post, with whatever disregard of formal symbols, for this reason. Many a tricky relativist likes to try to weasel his way around causality, often suggesting that every event and quality of reality is the result of nothing and our minds are merely erring in seeking out patterns and reasons for things to result from other things. As far as I’m concerned, that’s fine; if a person doesn’t believe in reality, then I should even less expect him or her to believe in the causal nature of reality. But what doesn’t work, by my assessment, is the attempt to separate causality from the logical scope. Logic, by definition, assumes the principles of modus ponens and modus tollens, or more simply, the concept of an “if then”. Therefore, it seems to be quite impossible to have logic without having causality. For logic assumes that the validity of a premise determines, or causes, the validity of a conclusion.

Within the absolutist scope, metaphysical reality is assumed to be, to some extend, comprehensible via the normative reasoning of the human mind. In a way, reason is the only metaphysical entity that we are undeniably conscious of (if you will pardon my casual use of the term metaphysical). Though reason is expressed as physical phenomena in the brain, the pure properties of logic, that express themselves in the mind, must be considered metaphysical, or as I am using the word, real but not tangible. Because of this, there is a sense in which reason must dictate our beliefs as to the qualities of reality as it exists beyond the purely physical. Just as we assume physical reality to have the qualities which are perceived by our five sense, we must also assume metaphysical reality to have the qualities perceived by our sixth sense–our mind. If the fact that we see in colour leads us to believe that the universe is colourful, then the fact that we reason causally must lead us to believe that the normative is causal. And if we believe there is anything beyond the physical–which we must believe, for by the very act of thinking logically, we are engaging such a realm–then we must believe that reality is ultimately beyond the physical†. Therefore, in the same sense of the word, “reality” is ultimately causal in nature.

This being established, we must consider the nature of causality as it exists in reality to be the same as the nature of causality as it exists in reason. Let us consider what this nature is.

It may be useful here for us to rethink the conventional concept of a logical proof. Proof is commonly thought of as a sort of sequence of steps that lead from a given to a conclusion. This is all fine and well, but let us consider what it really means. If the rules of logic are universal, then a proof is not the act of taking one thing and transforming it into another, but rather the human explanation of why one thing is also another. Take a mathematical proof for instance. If we want to prove that 0over0 equals one in the context of “limit x–> 0 f(x) = sin(x) / x”, we take the function and limit as a given, go through a series of steps, and show why it equals one. But we have not in fact converted one concept into another. We have merely shown that by logic, the one concept is the other, for at the end of the proof, we realise that the given expression is equivalent to the concluded one. There is no conversion process from premise to conclusion; proofs only serve to show us that a premise is the same thing as a conclusion.

In the same sense, we must also consider causality to be, like proofs, a human way of understanding that a cause is, normatively, the same thing as its effect. Therefore, returning to the Omnipotent, He must in this same sense be, as the primal cause, the same thing as His effect. This is why I so often write that He is reality. And thus, if He is everything that is Real, He must possess every quality that is Real. Therefore, if we assume that our reason is Real, then we must believe Him to be rational. To me this is the easy part of the argument. It is self-evident that the cause of all Reality would have to be rational if there is such a thing as reason. Reason must be linked, by causality, all the way to the beginning of existence, the primal cause. And only things that are not real in some sense* may posses “qualities” not possessed by the Omnipotent (see “Theology of Non-being”)˚. All this follows from (or is) what is written above.

And now a point of interest: What also “follows” from above is that the Omnipotent is very large. Certainly, we already knew He was infinite and we are “finite,” but the Hamlet example can give a very good explanation for this. If every effect is affected by smaller and smaller details of its cause the further along the chain of causality that it gets from that cause, then with the Omnipotent having existed eternally before time began, we must believe that we are the effects of his infinitesimals. That is, if the Omnipotent is a giant fractal at the beginning of reality (and really making up all of reality), then we, being effects that exist some infinite distance along His causal chain, must be caused by the smallest possible details of Him, and therefore, are the smallest possible details of Him. However, it is important to note that, with Him being the highest possible order of infinity–paradox that that is–even his infinitesimals must be infinite, and therefore, while He is infinitely greater than us, we are still, in this sense, infinite ourselves, so long as we actually exist.

This means that the Omnipotent is capable of considering us infinitely, while at the same time conceiving an infinite universe, and for that matter making an infinite number of other infinite creations all of which He plans for and cares about infinitely. This seems to present a reasonable rebuttal to the objection that there cannot be a personal God because the universe is so large.

Such is one of the arguments that Richard Feynman brings up in the following video. He doesn’t really focus exclusively on that topic, but he says some other interesting things as well, which I thought made the video worth posting:

____________________

˚ Okay, I suppose it was “his custom always in the afternoon”, but still, would he have upheld that custom even if he wasn’t tired? Of course there is no definitive answer to such a question, but that’s my point: the causality is hard to isolate.

† For it is only beyond the physical that we are ultimately able to say that something exists, as the very notion of existence is a normative principle, and all the qualities of reality are normative, because, while we might describe a physical object as having “physical qualities” those qualities themselves are concepts (ex. an apple is red, but redness is a concept). This might just sound like a word game to many, and I realise that I may be over simplifying a much larger issue–and one that is largely disagreed about–but consider it as this: Somewhere in your mind, you differentiate between the way you view and understand the physical and the conceptual. You, by your very nature as a human, attach to those to realms particular values. That is, each of them means something different. Whether you want to call the one or the other “more real” doesn’t really matter much to this argument, so long as you realise that when I discuss reality, I will be referring to the conceptual or normative, and not just as it exists in our minds, but as it actually exists, even beyond them. For I am assuming–the absolutist that I am–that two plus to actually equals four, not that it just happens to in our minds. Without this sort of assumption, there is no actual point in thinking at all (in the same sense of the word “actual”).

* As darkness can be said to be a thing, but is really nothingness, it is the absence of something, so can there be things that are defined by their lacking of realness, they are the absence of realness.

˚ Here is another way of looking at the irrationality of evil discussed in “Theology of Non-being.” Irrationality is allowed to exist in evil, though it is not a quality possessed by the Omnipotent, because evil is, in a sense, “unreal”.