Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Necessary Internal Relations

WHY believe reality is intelligible?

The total is intelligible only if it's a system, all-inclusive, and perfectly integrated.

And perfect integration assumes that no two parts can each be different from the other without each entailing a difference in the other. Hence, perfect integration is possible only if all the parts are internally related by difference.

And without the constant influence of the implicit ideal of thought in the scientific search for connection beyond apparent irrelevance, that belief would probably have been dismissed a long time ago as fanaticism or even atheism.

Proof of the rationality of things is not logically possible, since it would assume that same supposedly independent rationality whose applicability is in question in trying to prove it.

But the question is not whether logic is applicable to some unexperienced object. It's whether our known world of persons and things can be understood or intelligibly construed.

If the known world of things and persons cannot be understood or intelligibly construed, then thinking is useless from the start, since the conditions of understanding could not possibly, in that case, be fulfilled. The question "Why?" would simply have no answer when it is asked about various arrangements in the system.

Even uncertainty about the answer would leave us permanently ignorant, not just about whether we can know reality, but whether there is any knowledge about reality.

Science and theory assume we can know reality. And at each successive step in thought when I ask why, I assume there's an intelligible answer, whether I find it or not.

But the desirability of something does not prove it exists. Any evidence that the world I'm trying to construe is a set of internally related parts must come from other more basic sources.


Mind and Metasystem

Reflection is always trying to solve a problem.

To solve the problem, you have to know what the problem really is. But to know what the problem is, you have to know what questioning is. A question is a system of ideas that is trying to fix a problem in its own structure. Questioning clarifies the problem to figure out how to solve it.

Once the system of ideas is as complete as we can make it, we can construct theories. The more complete the system, the better, easier, and faster the solutions.

Wording the question well is part of the process of answering it. Very few can or do truly think. Many minds wander from the subject in hopeless reverie or they just get bored. They can't think about ideas. They may be tired or distracted or just not interested. Or they may be over-emotional. They might be insane, or just plain wierd. These things we pass by. They distort and disrupt by breaking in from the outside.

They have an importance, and some thinking is at the mercy of those factors. But thinking can can never surrender itself completely to the control of the subject-matter and it can be objectively logical, even though it can be influenced by instincts, desires, and feelings. If that were not the case, one could not know that influencing-factors fact itself.

If all thinking is governed by non-logical factors, then that statement itself is also governed by those non-logical factors, and that statement has no more claim on our acceptance than any other non-logical factor.

If we can't solve a problem, it's because of a lack of knowledge, creativity, or the will to inquire.


Concrete Necessity and Human Insight

Of course we have not proved our view of the goal of thought. There can be no question of proof where the nature of proof itself is in question. All we can say is: Here is the standard and ideal that we actually use in thinking.

When we understand, it's always through a system. As our understanding grows more complete, it's always through a system of greater unity.

If the ideal seems unconvincing and artificial, consider its alternatives. Do they formulate better or worse what we mean by understanding? When we read a famous book called Ethics Geometically Demonstrated, most of us feel we are getting insight.

In the end this illumination is merely following associations.

But that explanation of understanding cannot itself be verified.

If we deny all degrees to necessity, and confine it to a set of the barest abstractions, not much insight remains. The genuineness of insight does not depend on ensuing changes in practice. Perhaps in a poem, a piece of music, or some religious experience an insight is gained that one hesitates to call understanding, because understanding has become so identified as something abstractly intellectual. But such insight is understanding, unique, limited in degree, but still with rights of its own. And to reject it as understanding on the ground of its concreteness is absurd.

If I accept the ideal of concrete necessity, these varying insights are legitimized, ordered, and appraised. If I accept any other, some insights must be excluded.