A Rational Cosmology
The Axiomatic, Ubiquitous, and Commonsense
G. Stolyarov II
A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXXVII-- July 6, 2005
Note: This essay is the first chapter of Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive filosofical treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, which can be ordered in electronic format for only $2.50 at http://www.lulu.com/content/140855. Free previews, descriptions, and information on A Rational Cosmology can be found at http://rationalargumentator.com/rc.html.
Modern science is often mired in a terrible superstition, which forms a glaring breach between its findings and the conclusions and observations ubiquitously available to any man whose five senses function properly. This superstition is not a belief in witches or cosmic spirits, but rather a new form of denying the evidence of man’s most common faculties. It has been nurtured by a long line of filosofers, but its greatest emergence was seen during the twentieth century, as modern science increasingly succumbed to subjectivism, unverifiable theorizing, the dominance of “intuition,” groupthink, and ultra-specialization which detached scientists from any findings or interactions outside their bizarrely narrow fields. This superstition can be called many names, but its most comprehensive, and the one that shall be used throughout this treatise, is empiricism-positivism.
Very mildly put, empiricism-positivism holds, as its fundamental tenet, that any assertion, no matter how general, depends on some particular observation. The empiricist-positivist will claim that one cannot make any conclusions about space or time without first studying advanced quantum mechanics. He will claim that one cannot make any generalizations about human nature independent of the historical context of any given time period. As a corollary to this inseparable attachment of empiricism-positivism to some specific observations, this doctrine holds as its corollary that man cannot be certain about anything, since, because all conclusions depend on specific observations, some future observation always has the chance of refuting one’s present appraisal of anything whatsoever!
But what will the empiricist-positivist say to the man who dares proclaim, “I exist!”? Is this a statement contingent on further observations? Can some further piece of evidence come along during that man’s lifetime which can disprove his assertion? What about another basic proposition: “Existence exists.”? Can some new twist of quantum mechanics or ultra-microscopy refute that? It is clear that, to base science, the quest for knowledge, on a doctrine that postulates man’s perpetual ignorance and uncertainty, is a clear contradiction that fundamentally undermines the very purpose of science. The result is the sorry state of many of the modern branches of science.
To be clear, observation is critical to scientific progress; no man’s mind can operate in a vacuum. Man’s inherent capacity for rational thought is useless unless he has something to think about. However, true science, as a quest to systematize human knowledge, must depend on all observations, not just the esoteric or highly particular ones.
In fact, there are certain conclusions that are available to all men, no matter what their age, intellect, or degree of scientific expertise. Nor does it matter what particular objects these men observe when they make these conclusions, as such conclusions do not entail one or several particular observations. Rather, they entail the capacity to make any observations whatsoever, and are verified whenever one makes any observation. These propositions are what are often termed “common sense,” a fitting description, as they are derived from those things that all human beings can sense, from observations common to all of us. At the root of such propositions lie the axioms.
An axiom is a self-verifying statement. It cannot be proved deductively, because it is, in itself, the foundation upon which all further proofs are built. Nevertheless, no matter what one says, sees, or does, such speech, observation, or action will verify the axioms. Filosofer Ayn Rand identified three fundamental axioms which are inextricably attached to each other, and are demonstrated unceasingly in everything that exists:
Even in the attempt to deny them, these axioms will hold. If one stated, “existence does not exist,” it would be a matter of great wonder how one could make such a claim, being a part of existence as one is. Moreover, how can existence not have the property which it has, that is, the property of existing? (Saying, “Existence does not exist” is tantamount to saying “That which has the essential property of existing does not have the essential property of existing.”) If one stated, “nothing has any identity,” this would bring up the question, “Why did one use the word ‘nothing,’ which really means, ‘no thing?’ If there is no such thing as identity, then, what is a thing?” If one stated, “Consciousness does not exist,” the speaker would need to not exist in order for such an assertion to be true. After all, such a statement did spring from his consciousness!
The branch of filosofy that deals with existence at its most fundamental level is termed metafysics. The branch of metafysics that concerns the nature of what exists is termed ontology.
Ontology makes the distinction between entities, the things that exist, and qualities, the attributes that these things have. The filosofer Reginald Firehammer states three fundamental ontological corollaries to the axiom of identity in his essay, “Perception.” The ontological corollaries answer the question: “What is an entity?”
The first corollary of identity: Anything that exists must have some qualities.
The second corollary of identity: Anything that exists must be different in some way from everything else that exists and have some quality or combination of qualities no other existent has.
The third corollary of identity: Anything that exists must have some relationship to everything else that exists.
A quality, on the other hand, is not a thing or an entity in its own right. Rather, it cannot conceivably exist except as an attribute of the entities that exhibit it. For example, there is no such thing as “the color red.” The color red cannot be imagined to exist outside of those things which are red: red paint, red letters, red furniture, red vegetables, etc. There cannot be a “pure quality” apart from the entities that possess it.
Ontology is the branch of metafysics that focuses on what entities and qualities are, how to distinguish between them, and how to categorize relationships between entities, as well as the various states under which various entities and their relationships may be classified. Ontology is an extremely young science, as Ayn Rand did not live long enough to initiate its development, and Reginald Firehammer is still, as of this writing, working on a fundamental treatise to explicate it. Within this work, it will be my task to develop ontology to a level necessitated by the discussion of a branch of metafysics which is derivative from ontology, namely, cosmology.
While ontology concerns itself with the general nature of entities, qualities, and relationships, cosmology ventures even further, by making certain fundamental empirical assertions about existence. Ontology deals with the conceptual underpinnings of all existence, whereas cosmology deals with the observational underpinnings thereof. For many years, cosmology has been misclassified as a “natural science” or, worse, a branch of fysics, rendering it fashionable for such scientists as Stephen Hawking to offer speculations about space, time, and the universe which are in fact the province of filosofy, not fysics, to explicate.
The reason for cosmology’s essential grounding in ontology is the fact that, before one can answer questions such as “What entities exist?”, “What qualities exist?”, and “What relationships exist?”, one must first answer the questions: “What is an entity?”, “What is a quality?”, and “What is a relationship?”. This, of course, implies, that all true and objective science is in fact founded upon a rational ontology, metafysics, and filosofy. Both filosofy and fysics are sciences, but filosofy is a foundational science, and fysics is a specific-observational science (I use the term “specific-observational” as distinguished from “general-observational,” which would be the basis for such sciences as filosofy and mathematics.). Fysics (along with the other “natural” or specific-observational sciences) seeks to answer the question: “What are particular entities/qualities/relationships?” This therefore renders it dependent on specific, targeted observations of those entities/qualities/relationships. Cosmology, on the other hand, is not derivative of fysics, but rather far more fundamental, as it depends on general, not specific, observations. It asks: “What entities/qualities/relationships exist universally, and are ubiquitously observable?” The detailed study of cats and dogs is beyond cosmology (they are studied by biology), because there is the possibility that a given man, in a given setting, will never encounter cats or dogs. (Cosmology can only say that cats and dogs are “entities.”) But what is meant by “space,” “time,” “universe,” “shape,” “color,” “light,” “matter,” “dimension,” and numerous other commonly used terms, cannot be escaped in any environment. Every man will have need of using such terms to describe the world he observes, and the task of cosmology is to discover what such terms actually refer to!
Cosmology can be quite useful in identifying and discarding erroneous or unwarranted statements made by modern scientists, who venture outside their field of categorizing specific observations and fenomena into making generalizations of a metafysical scope about the nature of some of the aforementioned terms. It is perfectly within the scope of fysics to discuss the behaviors of subatomic particles inaccessible to the unequipped eye, or to discover that the relationship “sound” is made manifest in wavelike fenomena. Fysics, however, can never rationally venture to state that a particle is not an entity, or that a sound is not a relationship. That is the province of cosmology as a branch of filosofy.
To summarize: the specific-observational sciences can tell us the mechanisms involved in particular entities, qualities, or relationships. They cannot, however, tell us whether or not something is an entity, a quality, or a relationship (or neither of the three, for that matter, as shall be seen in later examples). That is the province of cosmology.
G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent filosofical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician and composer, contributor to organizations such as Le Quebecois Libre, Enter Stage Right, the Autonomist, and Objective Medicine. Mr. Stolyarov is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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