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Everything posted by A.C.E.

  1. Ontology via Contrast is the idea that, at a fundamental level, entities exist entirely through contradistinction within the plenum universe. This proposition might become clearer if provisionally tacked-on to the three familiar ‘laws of thought’: • Law of Identity: A is A • Law of Non-Contradiction: A is not non-A • Law of the Excluded Middle: A or non-A + ◦ Proposition of Contradistinction: A is A because of non-A  Strictly speaking it doesn’t belong amongst the three classical ‘laws of thought’ because its validity can’t be judged by axiomatic logic alone, it’s ultimately an empirical issue. It intersects the bounds between metaphysics and physics. The basic proposition is that ‘difference’ — perhaps the broadest term possible to describe physical reality — necessitates the hewing-out of both ‘figure’ and ‘ground’ reciprocally. An entity simply ‘is’ on account of its contrast with ‘whatever-it-is-not’ — its delineating surrounds (the rest of the universe too if considered holistically). This idea implies a further fusing of existence with identity: identity as contrast; existence as contradistinction. There’s no prioritizing of relations over relata entailed here, rather entity/attribute/differentiation would all effectively be the same thing at this fundamental level. This proposition would have some profound consequences for the way we conceptualize reality ‘out there’ — but I don’t want to bog this topic down by unravelling those concomitant implications just yet, it would be too premature a digression down that beguiling Rationalist path! Main question Under an Objectivist remit, could this notion be rejected on metaphysical grounds (thus foreclosing such an enquiry in physics)? I look forward to your thoughts. If anyone does chip in I’m sure to eventually post my responses or follow-up questions here, allowing for a good clear-headed day or so. NB, if such a hypothesis already exists within the fields of ontology/mereology/physics, likely with its own established appellation, I haven’t yet come across it (nor anything similar on this forum) and would welcome enlightenment.
  2. Well spotted Grames — I’ve had my comeuppance! Yes, at the bare minimum that inept adjective ‘additional’ should have been well-encased between scare-quotes, but actually the whole tenor of that question seems so utterly jarring now that you pointed it out. All I can say is that it takes time and willed effort to re-wire those 55-year-old neuronal bundles. During this month-long thread they’ve been wrenched out and re-soldered across cortex into the updated assemblage, but there are still a few that are loose and sparking erratically, homesick for their old secure links — but it's nothing regular mental application can’t fix, and what better place than Objectivism Online Forum. As for Team-Plenum, yes we’re also ‘fielding’ big badass QFT, but that might not convince the most tenacious particle-philes amongst us because, when you get right down to it, there’s always an ever-smaller scale where fields might turn out to be more particle-like. It looks to me tantamount to a game that no team can conclusively ever win hands-down, not by empirical investigation alone. I have a hunch (already setting teeth on edge!) that a well-integrated metaphysics might be able to rule-out one or other model, or at least tip the balance. The ‘avoid voids’ logical argument is just within the ambit of metaphysics, and it takes skill for a particle-phile to convincingly parry that particular concern. Occam’s razor too can be wielded against the discrete model, skewing things slightly towards a continuous model (see my 18 October post above). Anyway, if I can marshal a more robust case then it might be an interesting topic. Something along the lines of ‘continuous or discrete: what, if anything, can metaphysics contribute to this debate on the ultimate structure of the universe?’ I’ll need to first check through the relevant erstwhile topics (including the Physics and Mathematics heading) before attempting anything new and to avoid rehashing old issues. But I also have one or two other metaphysical topics brewing which I want to launch in an appropriate order. P.S. Thank you very much StrictlyLogical for my very first ‘Like’ + thank you dream_weaver for making it technically possible — this grateful Novice is now basking in a warm glow.
  3. Thank you very much StrictlyLogical Wow! I’m cock-a-hoop with your generous praise ~ that's certainly made my day & Thank you too Grames Your last posts have been remarkably insightful You both deserve a response to your points, but I’ll try for the brevity award this time… Discrete v continuous ‘plenum’ universe — does it matter? I agree with you StrictlyLogical that the proof is in the eating of the pudding, and physics is the preeminent judge on ultimate pudding-ness. Our metaphysics should be a domain above natural science’s discrete v continuous debate. However, as metaphysics lays the ground-rules, it might be conducive to have some prior grasp of the scope of theoretical physics in order that its guidelines are fit for purpose. So some future physics-derived definitions might well need to be processed back through the ontological rulebook: it calls for an occasional two-way street. As Objectivist metaphysics is shrewdly kept lean, well within philosophy’s tight foundational vertex, in a corner away from physic’s enticing pudding-bowl confectionery and appetizing recipes, so there’s little danger that it will ingest any more than necessary — just an occasional nutritional nibble to ensure that they continue to speak the same language. I must say I find the discrete v continuous debate an absorbing one — especially the idea that there must be a fact about the matter. I had previously posted that metaphysical ground-rules might be able to help sway our thinking around this dispute. I recognize that I currently have a bias towards the continuum model and acknowledge that this predilection had colored my metaphysics regarding ‘Contrast Ontology’. After-all, picturing how such a ‘plenum’ universe might work was what initially propelled me into speculating that ‘creative contrast’ might be the ‘missing link’ explicating mechanism that ought to take its place alongside the other established metaphysical concepts. My ‘Contrast Ontology’ notion has a history, built upon other ideas but largely hatch out of my rough-hewn armchair physics — of envisaging clouds of +/− forces interact reciprocally — whilst puffing happily away on my Rationalist pipe. This is just to relate how predispositions around the discrete–continuous dispute, or similar physics-domain issues, can indeed infect our metaphysics if we are not vigilant. I think it is good practice to acknowledge where we stand, even subconsciously, in order to check against such ‘ideological viruses’ so that our metaphysical premises remain logically untainted, not impeded or derailed. Metaphysics contained within our epistemology… Yes, it is only right and natural that our metaphysics is ‘constrained’ by Homo sapiens epistemological apparatus — because it can’t be otherwise, that’s what knowledge actually is for us. We naturally ‘see’ existence as primary whilst relationship notions like ‘difference’ and ‘contrast’ we ‘view’ as ultimately ancillary. Any theory that posits the opposite or conflates primary with ancillary will be in conflict with ‘what we see/know’ and in the last instant must be reconciled, come home to objective sensation-based knowledge. In this forum topic I have grasped something vital about the integration of metaphysics and epistemology and that epistemology can justly impinge upon a metaphysical issue. About my last question… Does Identity sometimes or always involve a relational aspect with other identities (in addition to an intrinsic ‘existent’ aspect)? The question arose out of Grames’s post on attributes being described as intrinsic or relational. It popped into my head that there was still some last-minute milking to be done around the relational aspect of identity. As all existents ‘had’ the intrinsic attribute of simply being something (true even for ‘purely relational’ ones), did they all entail an additional relational aspect? I was just fishing around, waiting to see if someone would be able to sell me an existent which is ‘something’ yet didn’t relate, in some loose way, to another existent. I had assumed that Identity always involves both an intrinsic and relational aspect, but I wanted to cast around for contrary views. It was no more than a tacked-on query to round off with. Grames tackles the question with aplomb, step-by-step showing how existence, relations, identity, causation and even knowability are all integrated — intriguing tie-ins, which segues into… …‘Being’ as ‘action’ — therefore ontology entails causation… You’re on a roll StrictlyLogical! That’s prescient. The assumed dichotomy between ‘static being’ v ‘dynamic action’ might have just bitten the dust. (There’s a pattern, dichotomies just keep on folding don’t they — and I feel a new topic coming on!) Furthermore, it bolsters the idea that all entities/extents have at least one intrinsic and relational attribute, moreover these aspects of Identity are intrinsically and relationally causal. Here, if I may, I think it might be apposite to rehabilitate the notion of ‘difference’ that has run through this thread: Every-thing is (supplementarily) a ‘difference’ that makes a difference — thus a definition of no-thing is in not causing any difference anywhere/ever. Kudos to Grames for wrapping it up so succinctly… Perfectly put. Well, almost… The above quoted dictum exists; The above dictum exhibits identity; The above existent/identity may even cause Grames to spell-check ‘Causality’ — thus modifying an intrinsic/relative attribute. (Sorry Grames but I couldn’t resist) Conclusion ~ ‘Ontology via Contrast’ ~ a proposition not concurrent with Objectivism. For the various interrelated reasons mustered amongst the posts above… Is that a wrap, folks?
  4. Thanks again StrictlyLogical & Thanks again Grames hope you don’t mind if I butt in, but… …Got it! I believe that ‘Contrast Ontology’ is indeed guilty of dividing off identity from entity/existence. It can be rejected on metaphysical grounds by Objectivism. Huzza! There still might very well be an aspect to identity which is relational, but I now see that as an ancillary aspect which emerges out of the primacy of Existence — entity as identity. Identity always entails, nay, exhibits, this intrinsic attribute (hat duly doffed to both Strictly & Grames). Whether or not Identity always exhibits a relational aspect with its surrounding identities is still a good question — perhaps it does. However, identity is first and foremost an expression of an entity/existent — that’s how we ought to set forth our metaphysics. The thought experiment that changed my mind… Previously in this thread there had been some deliberation on two versions of the universe; StrictlyLogical’s ‘relational A–B–C model’ (discrete entities) and my own svelte version of the ‘plenum model’ (continuous yet contains relative discreteness, depending on scale of analysis). I still prefer my version, yet the discrete A–B–Cs helped me think about something decisive… Imagine you take, say, the discrete ‘entity A’ from StrictlyLogical’s model. I don’t know about you, but I imagine it to be a sub-sub-sub-atomic minuscule hard-edged black sphere (I have to visualize something after-all). Now subtract every other entity from this model of the universe, all those Bs, Cs, Ds, etc., so that A stands completely alone. What now is the identity of A? Bear in mind it no longer has any spacial or temporal dimension as it relates to no-thing. It has effectively become the universe (and the word ‘become’ is fallacious if this state of affairs had always been so, just a solitary A for eternity). Crucially, A’s interior (according to its antecedent ‘relational A–B–C model’) happens to be absolutely undifferentiated. It had zero internal fluctuation, complete sameness all the way through. If it remained as the ‘one and only thing’ it would shed all descriptive adjectives; it can no longer be called ‘hard-edged’ as it is edge-less, thus no longer ‘spherical’ as shape is meaningless if unbounded, no longer ‘minuscule’ as scale is meaningless, no longer in movement as time or action no longer apply, no longer ‘black’ because what does blackness mean if there has never been such a thing as light. This is not just an epistemological ditching of descriptors, it metaphysically has no more relationships anymore, ‘A’ is totally abandoned. The ‘Contrast Ontology’ frame of mind would declare: ‘Aha! This A is kinda no longer A because there’s nothing at all to contrast with it. It’s kinda like nothing because there’s no difference. “A is A” kinda no longer holds because any A-ness requires non-A. It’s identity is utterly compromised even if, as an existent entity, we can’t quite go as far as to say it doesn’t exist — but then would existence itself have any meaning in such a case? Kinda not really!’ But, although thought-provokingly seductive, I now see this line of thinking as fundamentally mistaken… …because A is still A. It would be false to state otherwise. No matter that A is virtually the same as nothingness, it can never actually be no-thing due to the fact of it being A in the first place. The story tells us that it is ‘A’ — ‘A’ exists as a matter of fact. In this case A would be/exhaust the very definition of the term ‘Existence’. Moreover, it follows that A would also ‘represent’ the term ‘Identity’ for such an unimaginable and utterly unappealing universe. But does my ‘plenum’ model negate this thought-experiment? This thought-experiment doesn’t work very well when taking the plenum model as source. That’s because a single pure ’entity A’ can never be found and extracted: its internal differentiations continuously and ceaselessly unfold anew upon zooming-in, without end. If an almost pure ‘A’ could be separated out from the rest, everything else being annihilated away, upon zooming-in we still can’t help but find some genre of differences lurking. Descriptive adjectives can still be employed to distinguish parts from wholes. Such a universe might in part look much like the universe it came from (perhaps without certain complexities like lifeforms, but nonetheless its in a continual, dynamic flux). It still looks like it could be generated entirely from its internal contrasts, as ‘positive and negative zones’ naturally emerge in reciprocation. It could easily lead one directly towards a metaphysics based around an ontology by way of active contrasts. It’s tantalizing, but the oversight here is that it doesn’t acknowledge that our metaphysics is a product of our epistemology, the way we relate to our reality (a fact that it can’t get around even if it wants to). This epistemological ‘constraint’ requires the concept of ‘Existence’ to trump ‘difference’ in order to be able to conceptualize ‘Contrast Ontology’ in the first place! Mentally we have to envisage a ‘thing’ prior to imagine how ‘a contrast with another thing reciprocally shaped it’. Our metaphysics is forced to base itself on the way we think because this is what knowledge means — our perceptual observations of reality, and concepts built upon that. Thus it is correct to deny ‘Contrast Ontology’ as the ultimate metaphysical explanation even if a plenum model, itself an imagined abstraction from familiar ‘things’, seems to divulge ‘contrast’ as an underlying ‘generative force’ of sorts. We have to deny ‘Contrast Ontology’ even here in the plenum universe on the basis that (theoretical yet unreachably pure) ‘A’ still would be ‘A’ (+ would ‘have’ the identity of ‘A’). There’s no getting around it! That’s the side of the dispute that our metaphysics has to naturally and logically come down on. What to do now with ‘Contrast Ontology’? To be generous to ‘Contrast Ontology’ for a moment, when working out our metaphysics (an epistemological process) ‘Contrast Ontology’ (or whatever name it goes by) is something that we might want to conceive of, consider and confront before weeding it out, especially if we take seriously a plenum-type model (as I currently do). But, because Identity is so tightly bound to Existence, Identity always ‘has’ that intrinsic attribute despite any additional relative attribute, ‘Contrast Ontology’ simply has to be shown the door. A good metaphysical model of reality doesn’t have room for compromise here, it’s conceptual winner-take-all. To return to my initial post: “A is A” must win out against “A is A because of not-A“ because it is the simpler sentence, the other one is built upon the first — it’s actually as simple as that! Anyway, that is where we have to secure the metaphysical concept of Existence/Identity. We have to couch both Existence and Identity in terms of ‘being’, prior to terms of ‘difference’ for the same reason that number 1 is prior to number 2 beyond mere enumeration — ‘thing’ comes before relations of things. If we play the game the other-way around, even if we only promote ‘difference’ to the very same level of ‘being’ (which is exactly what ‘Contrast Ontology’ tried to do, ingratiating itself as ‘a more sophisticated integration’), we actually lose everything in a fuzzy muddle which does not arrive at a greater truth about reality, despite promising to do so. We must conceptualize our metaphysics on ‘solid ground’ — on Existence first — in order to then see ‘difference’ and ‘contrast’ and fit them into the picture. Our metaphysics must be one-thing-at-a-time like our experience of entities in life, it can’t handle being a snap-shot of everything — that only results in a blur. The idea of contrast as generator of two opposites (e.g., black and white) out of a neutral ‘nothingness’ (undifferentiated ‘grayness’) is actually still an applicable concept, but one more suited to the metaphysics of Consciousness rather than the metaphysics of ontological Existence. Over on the Consciousness/identification side of things — moving into epistemology — I think there’s a feasible case that can be made for a ‘Contrast Epistemology’ hypothesis to describe the way percepts are hewn from sensation, then concepts hewn from percepts, then concepts hewn from other concepts. It seems quite compatible with Objectivism, backed-up by advances in neuroscience and predictive coding I venture — but for clarity’s sake that’ll be another topic! Addressing some select points… I don’t quite assent to the schizophrenia diagnosis between my metaphysics and epistemology (which might in itself be a symptom!), but I do now think ‘Ontology via Contrast’ at root entails a dichotomy between Existence and Identity. Although Objectivism holds that Existence is Identity it also holds them as two distinct axioms. Why — isn’t this itself schizophrenic? Is the second axiom present merely because of the third axiom, Consciousness, requires Identity as a bridge into identifying Existence? Indeed, in a universe bereft of consciousness, the Identity axiom might look a little redundant, other than serving to underline the fact that entities are what they are. Existence and Identity could be rolled into one paired-axiom, however something metaphysically important would be lost if this is done: we lose all sense of a universe of difference, action, change, relations, etc. Identity has to be conceptually pulled out from brute Existence for entities to ‘exhibit themselves to the rest of reality’ (not only to us). They both need each other, as epistemologically separable concepts, whilst metaphysically they ‘work as one’. (Sorry, I’m waffling a bit, but it helps me think while I sup my gin lemon) Beautiful — I just wanted to re-quote this as it hits the nail so squarely on the head. Yes, I now prefer “identities of reality exhibit variety” rather than “identity entailing ‘difference’”. Identity is about ‘exhibiting’ a given attribute or panoply of attributes, rather than demanding a priori difference (in the first instance). On to Grames… Thanks Grames, it was that intrinsic aspect of the attribute of being the existent which was missing from my thinking — and ultimately sweeps aside ‘Ontology via Contrast’. Nice, I hadn’t thought of that — ‘act’ in its broadest sense; sounds, smells, and tastes as it does, acts to reflect light, even blocks what is behind it, etc. But also the act of being. So, in a way, all Identity is active (even purely ontologically, without consciousness needing to be in the picture). However, I wouldn’t have thought of framing ‘Contrast Ontology’ in the way you had: intrinsic attributes, if not active are thus unknowable, if unknowable they don’t exist — that would obviously be primacy-of-consciousness. Because I didn’t think this was a particularly valid line of attack on ‘Contrast Ontology’, the follow-up post by StrictlyLogical didn’t land any further punches on it — but it had already been on the ropes, then knocked-out by the end on round one. They are all good and interesting points, but I think the unknowability of the Pastafarian deity is starting to drift a wee bit off topic here. What I’ve leant so far on this forum lark… Well it’s been very useful. Apart from firming up a better sense of Objectivist metaphysics, how Existence and Identity ought to be conceptualized, I want to mention the importance of explaining things in an unambiguous way. This is especially true for tricky concepts under this particular forum heading of Metaphysics and Epistemology, and I look back at my earlier posts in this thread and can see all the unnecessary communication errors. This resulted in some portions of the replies aiming at the wrong target and my gradual realization of how unclear the ‘Contrast Ontology’ idea had been. Nonetheless, having to then clarify things for others helped sort matters out for myself and I could slowly see certain ambiguities surface which forced me to modify the ‘Contrast Ontology’ position until I could finally reject it as ultimate metaphysical description of reality (without necessarily denying the possible cruciality of difference/contrast within that description). My somewhat amorphous ‘Ontology via Contrast’ idea had been my first hurdle to clear on the path towards understanding Objectivism more fully, and I’ve cast it off and am now running with what could be called, if anything, the ‘Ontology via Existence’ concept which is starting to feel like a baton made of much sturdier stuff. So, under an Objectivist remit, could ‘Contrast Ontology’ be refuted on metaphysical grounds? Yes, it can and should be refuted. Everyone happy? I am. Well played all — StrictlyLogical, Grames, William O. I’ll end on a question which is still apt, but better formulated, one which is still not crystal clear in my mind… Does Identity sometimes or always involve a relational aspect with other identities (in addition to an intrinsic ‘existent’ aspect)? Please feel free, anyone, to add any further thoughts…
  5. Thanks StrictlyLogical Preamble Despite tapering into a two-way dialogue, this thread is doing what I wanted; helping me to re-assess my own ideas, hone my concepts/terminology and force me to consider new perspectives. The concept of ‘Contrast Ontology’ has gone through some welcome modifications during this process. It originally seemed fairly straightforward in my mind, but in describing it here to others I saw some emerging ambiguities that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, as well as a realization that this was a devilishly tricky idea to get across clearly — and hence worry that something rudimentary might be amiss with it. Once again StrictlyLogical (whom, like others on these forums, I can’t picture but admire) has been able to recalibrate my thinking, as well as chide the laxity of my language usage — and with good reason. Nevertheless, I don’t think there has yet been a metaphysical knockout blow against ‘Contrast Ontology’ as tenable hypothesis (at least not as I recognize the concept), or for that matter any enduring settling of issues from the physical sciences. One quandary has latterly become apparent, following on from StrictlyLogical’s last post: the candidacy of the proposition rests firmly upon presuppositions about the structure/composition of the universe. There’s six headings and a summary. First I’ll deal with three general criticisms, then mull over StrictlyLogical’s excellent ‘relational A–B–C model’ and compare it to a (purified) plenum model which I’m starting to realize is a premise around which ‘Contrast Ontology’ hangs. Then I’ll tackle a couple of more physics-related responses, ending on a ‘state-of-play’ summary. 1. Misguided foray into physics? I’d contend that the sketchy physics foray was still more-or-less within metaphysics territory because I was trying to define the category of ‘entity’. Not so much equation-heavy theoretical physics, more an attempt to set the ground-rules for it. Any incursion into these so-called ‘borderlands’ was in order to draw from what we know, then use that knowledge to illustrate how ‘Contrast Ontology’ might operate physically. This is somewhat unavoidable in any explanation as ‘Contrast Ontology’ does rely on entities being more akin to dynamic forces than discrete particles (at a ‘fundamental level’). I was advancing the idea of force-as-entity: any ‘relational space/time part’ that is able to preclude neighboring forces from encroaching on its threshold ‘bounds’ and thus act/be an objective entity. Obviously physics should have the final say on this, but I don’t think that the broadest metaphysical concept of entity would exclude things like localized force or energy (and it seems from the appended discussions in ITOE, nor did Rand). However, I do agree with StrictlyLogical that all the rest of those physics musings in that section, intended to stimulate the imagination towards the reciprocity of difference, were at best tangental, at worse contentious and indigestible. I bow-out to those amongst us with physics degrees, and humbly eat my lumpy porridge. 2. Still trying to get under IS-ness? Anyway, the main admonishment in this section was that I am still inanely attempting to “get under being”. I think that this comes from a misinterpretation of ‘Contrast Ontology’ (current version), over-stretching its scope. The hypothesis leaves the sovereignty of existence untouched (specified in my third post’s conclusion). It has become a more modest proposal than first appeared at the outset of this thread. A modified summation: ‘Contrast Ontology’ is the hypothesis that the axiom of Identity entails ‘difference’. The question ‘what causes existence’ is thus clearly off the table (and actually always was). This might best be demonstrated by supplanting the words of StrictlyLogical’s last sentence on this subject so that it attacks the right target: “All the talk of fundamental physics can only ever be about what we observe (the identity of) existents to exhibit, not any explanation (why) of identity as such, or any notion of a cause for identity as such.” In shifting the burden from the axiom of Existence and onto its ‘more mercurial’ corollary, Identity, the appeal of the sentences no longer works, the example shifts from unreasonable to reasonable. The acceptability of the updated sentence, I’d argue, is because Identity entails a contextualized threshold; for example, the identity of an entity depends in part on scale in both space and time and these are entirely relational concepts. If we call an entity ‘tiny’ it is only so in relation to other larger entities; similarly, if we call an event ‘fleeting’ it is only so in relation to other, relatively slower time periods of entity activity. I view Identity as being that aspect of an entity which effectively does the work of carving out a relational niche for it, a relational difference for it, a contrast for it. A wrap-up of the ‘Contrast Ontology’ perspective regarding the first two of the axiomatic trinity: • Existence (or any entity) as the absolute fact; • Identity as the relational fact (about that absolute fact). ‘It’ takes two to tango. 3. ‘Realms’ smell Kantian? Yes they do, sorry for the pong. Please substitute ‘realm’ with something less odious; environment/situation/milieu — any term more redolent of objective simultaneousness and wholesomeness. I’m very aware too that the whole topic of ‘Contrast Ontology’ — so tricky to describe and unverifiable in action — will tend to come across as armchair rationalizations anyway, so I ought to be much more careful with the terms I use here. As mentioned above, my delve into sub-quantum picture-painting wasn’t a wise tactic — it would have been hard to draw anyone closer towards an appreciation of ‘Contrast Ontology’ amongst the din of alarm bells triggered by the merest whiff of Rationalism wafting around those words. 4. Continuous plenum or distinct particles? It very much looks like ‘Contrast Ontology’ either survives or falls upon the suppositions that we hold about this crucial question. I very much enjoyed StrictlyLogical’s lucid account of an non-reified relational space/time that ‘left no room’ for the necessity of a plenum to fill. It is a very good case, well worth absorbing. If StrictlyLogical’s model were a correct account of reality, then ‘Contrast Ontology’ would indeed be incoherent. ‘Contrast Ontology’ relies on the type of integrated dynamics that a more ‘continuous’ model of the universe offers. So it is a key task to start to sort out this underlying quandary first — discrete, continuous, or some other configuration. Of course it is ultimately a physics question, but what sort of ground-rules (if any) can metaphysics lay down? But I think it is fair to say that the reverse is also true: there’s no reason to suppose distinct particles or discount a continuous plenum through philosophy alone. No? Can we make any further headway on this matter beyond Objectivism’s established ruling-out of ‘the existence of absolute non-existence’? There’s much to agree with in StrictlyLogical’s outlined model; non-reification of space/time, a strong aversion to stuff/events ‘occupying’ dimensions, relations as attributable to entities, no relationships apart from those of actual or potential entity combinations, no ‘empty points’. I’m sure too that some invocations of a plenum do stem out of a desperate but flawed need to carpet-over a presupposed spacial void, and StrictlyLogical’s model sidesteps such howlers deftly. StrictlyLogical, let me interpret your argument in a step-by-step way so you can tell whether I’ve got it: as space isn’t a thing (agreed), then it can’t be filled (agreed), moreover it certainly can’t be filled with ‘nothing’ (a non-space-filler anyway, so OK), therefore the relational spacial/temporal ‘distances’ between the (assumedly discrete) A–B–Cs are untroubled by notions of emptiness, because emptiness/nothingness/non-existence just doesn’t apply to pure relations between entities. Thus voids (as existence of non-existence) are avoided because they are a non-issue if there is no actual thing called space. Is that a fair summary? Now let me compare it to a plenum, a descent edition anyway (by the way I’m neither fond of its etymological ‘fullness’ nor its checkered history with aether and the like, so I’d welcome a better term). The best definition is a minimal one: (only) existence exists. Or, conversely: non-existents are nowhere/never. Notice that this type of plenum does not reify dimensions, it is not in the business of ‘filling out’ a prior space, merely of existing. It is existence (in a variety of ‘entity densities’) that gives rise to relational space/time in the same non-reified way as your fine model. So it looks like the main difference, on zooming down to the scale where the ABCs are seen, is that your discrete model entails ‘absolute gaps’ between discrete ABC particles, whereas the plenum/continuous model’s ‘relative gaps’ are actually ‘full’ of evermore ‘little stuff fluctuations’ upon closer inspection and this appears to be fractal-like when zooming-in (or even on zooming-out). I placed your model’s ‘absolute gaps’ in scare-quotes because it otherwise implies an emptiness-to-be filled which doesn’t do justice to your model, whilst if another term like ‘distance’ is substituted it doesn’t do enough to describe the difference between the two models. I was initially tempted to attack it for ‘smuggling in’ an absolute void disguised as entity-relationships, but on reflection I would hesitate in calling those ‘absolute gaps’ in your model ‘true voids’ as I suppose a ‘particle/point’ could traverse it at any future time, whereas an absolute void entails the preclusion of interaction with anything ever. NB, I would ascribe the category of ‘existent’ to your model’s spacial/temporal relationships-of-entities to indicate ‘a fact about the matter’ (but I’m not sure you would agree?). But out of these two given alternatives, I’d bet more on the plenum-type model. Why so? The discrete entity-relational model presumes absolute discreteness at some ultimate, infinitesimal temporal/spacial scale. The continuous ‘plenum’ model doesn’t presume the existence of such an ultimate level without evidence — it has one conjecture less. That’s a slim but winner-takes-all advantage I think. To elaborate, the ‘plenum’ model does not necessarily entail absolute continuousness, there can still be a relative discreteness of entities at differing scales of analysis, indeed it’s all about this dynamic. It takes the epithet ‘continuum’ not because it is densely-packed, but because it continues on all scales and everywhere to reveal that discrete entities are; wholes, yet are also parts of greater wholes, and yet they themselves contain further parts. Indeed, it is because ‘space’ is not reified that scale is unbounded (in both directions) so the notion of reaching an actual ultimate micro-point, or for that matter imagining the universe from a macro-perspective, is always sabotaged — at least theoretically, unless science could somehow prove ultimate limits (rather than practical limits — which I doubt it ever conclusively could). But this is in danger of drifting to a whole other topic. The ‘plenum’ has already been discussed elsewhere within these forums. I look forward to any feedback you might have, and please straighten me out if I’ve misunderstood your model. That’s my initial thoughts on this heady but key sub-topic — it’ll do for now. 5. Note on “monad pairs”… An interesting thought-experiment, to me it reveals something interesting about the relationship between entity and identity… I totally agree that the identity of the entity ‘paired-monad’ is one that encompasses its (actual/potential) flipping aspect. This is identity in the ‘proper’ overall sense, a metaphysical description of entity in all its aspects. However, the two states in which this paired-monad can be in are different, so an aspect of its identity undergoes alteration. If the entity is analyzed partially, at one timeframe, its identity might be ‘positive charge’ and that would be a sufficient account of its identity within the limited context of that moment (without denying its potential to flip). But there’s always a question as to what is the appropriate timeframe or spacial extension that captures the ‘whole identity’. Notice that a more holistic timeframe that encompasses its flipping action doesn’t go as far as following the entity deep into its past or extend unboundedly into its future — I summit that all identities are parts of a greater contextual/surrounding whole, and identities ‘make sense’ only against ‘the background of’ that whole that circumscribes it. Entities are ‘partial’ too in the sense that they are naturally ‘segregated-out’ (via objective scale-dependent thresholds) from the rest of existence. Any entity, together with its overall identity, entails its own temporal/spacial constraints. No? Does this exegesis err from Objectivism’s take? Anyhow, I think here it starts to become clearer how ‘Contrast Ontology’ fits in naturally to a plenum-type universe, where identity could be conceptualized as operating ‘more holistically’, than a model based on absolute discreteness, where identities somehow sit alone, independently, indifferently. So to go back and answer a couple of specific questions… I'll add a contextual clarification for readers: “Would this [flipping positive/negative of the ‘monad-pair’] be metaphysical reciprocity?” At the level of one aspect of the entity’s identity — yes (reciprocal flipping of charge as a metaphysical fact). At the less superficial, standard level of the whole of the entity’s identity, — no (it’s still the same entity, it’s a conduit for +/− charge rather than ‘being charge’ I’m presuming). The identity of positive charge depends on the existence of the identity of negative charge (and vice versa) according to ‘Contrast Ontology’. Positive charge as an identity can’t exist ‘on its own’ as that would mean it would be undifferentiated throughout space and time because there is no difference with which to circumscribe it. There would be no metaphysical identity nameable as ‘positive charge’. 6. Note on positron/electron annihilation… This is an example where two real entities dramatically change their identities. So much so that it is not always clear-cut whether or not the emerging two photons ought to be categorized as new entities resulting from an actual annihilation of the positron and electron. Again, this might be ‘resolved’ by factoring-in the relative scale/level of analysis. At one level it looks like an annihilation of entities has occurred, but at another, say the level of energy-as-entity (with momentum), nothing has been lost, just converted. I ought to say here that these example don’t quite get at what ‘Contrast Ontology’ is about, other than to emphasize that the attributes of identity are scale-dependent and exist within a continual cause/effect dynamics. I think ‘Contrast Ontology’ can be illustrated more intelligibly and more profoundly via another thought experiment… What would happen if, say, a positron was divorced from the rest of the universe — would it’s identity still be that of a normal positron in situ? ‘Contrast Ontology’ reasons that it would completely lose its particular positron-ness identity. It would effectively be ‘the entity’ of the universe, yet bereft of temporal/spacial dimensions. It would be “a singular undifferentiated and un-differentiable identity” to paraphrase an earlier post. Perhaps it is this odd image above all that suggests to me that the identity of an entity involves difference with the rest of existence. A stand-alone undifferentiated entity/universe would not attain any identity to speak of — indeed without identity it could not be said to exist. Key caveat: the example assumes this positron to be internally completely undifferentiated, but a ‘plenum’ model refutes this possibility, indeed it refutes the notion of a fundamental level where entities are single-aspect points. Summary This has all helped focus my thinking on this issue, some things seem clearer. I’d welcome any claims, especially from Objectivist texts, that might upset my understanding of Identity and its relation to Existence. I think that the general gist of my answers has dealt with the culminating “rub” about trying to define “being” as “dependent upon ‘something’” — that’s really not what I’m trying to achieve. I'm fully onboard with ‘existence is’ as the axiomatic starting premise for all philosophical enquiry. The state-of-play to my mind is that the ‘Contrast Ontology’ concept is still standing on two feet (but might be due for a name-change befitting its modified scope + further clarification if need be). The underlying ‘discrete/continuous universe’ debate might be a more apt approach towards the issue, so I’m not sure whether to ‘press hold’ on this thread in order to pursue things on one of the ‘plenum’ threads, or keep this thread as the focus a tad longer. Emerging notions: Pithy definition: ‘Contrast Ontology’ is the hypothesis that the axiom of Identity entails ‘difference’. Existence — something is. Identity — something in particular is. …or, put in another way… Existence (or any entity) as the absolute fact; Identity as the relational fact. NB, even if this conception is endorsed, a major niggle still might be whether Identity is entirely relational or is there a core aspect of Identity which is the absolute solitary (discrete) entity? Existence and its constituent entities are ‘primary’; notions of space/time/changes are ‘ancillary’ in that they are about entities, not reifications apart from them. The ‘plenum’’ model entails entities/identities being literally bound-up with each other, suggesting that it is their ‘identity bounds’ that at least play a part in mutually ‘shaping’ one identity in relation to its surrounds. As has become customary, I’ll end by restating the focus of the initial question: Under an Objectivist remit, could ‘Contrast Ontology’ be rejected on metaphysical grounds?
  6. Thanks StrictlyLogical & Thanks Grames I’ve obviously made a dog’s dinner of presenting this ‘Contrast Ontology’ bumf haven’t I! That’s a pity because I think it contains a core contention for metaphysics at its breach into ‘the ultimate constituents’ of physics. In this fourth post I’ll focus on setting out what I mean by ‘Ontology via Contrast’ by running through a few pressing questions. Then I’ll address Grames and StrictlyLogical’s specific points — all legit concerns. Q: What’s the focus of ‘Ontology via Contrast’? A: Just the metaphysics–physics of existence/identity. In ‘Contrast Ontology’ we are entirely in ‘blind’ Metaphysics-land; more precisely, on the boarder between the logic of ‘what is allowed’ and nudging fundamental theoretical physics. So please disregard all mention of the conscious/epistemological/perceptual/identification side of things for now. NB, here it would be amiss of me not to mention that there is a kind of ‘Contrast Ontology’ at work at the heart of the ‘consciousness side’ too, but that is best parked for now, a topic pencilled-in for a later date. It now looks like a misjudgment to have posted that flipping GIF as it seems to have only added confusion around that very issue, and I can now see why (more on that later). Q: So what the heck is ‘Contrast Ontology’? A: It is a hypothesis that posits the reciprocal nature of identity (at a fundamental physical level). Premise: there is a fundamental level where the identity of an entity effectively becomes entirely contextual. By fundamental level I’m thinking about a sub-sub-subatomic scale, way below the complexities of the Standard Model, towards an ever-simpler integration of forces/particles/waves.* By identity I’m using the standard Objectivist bundle: an entity’s characteristics; its attributes, actions, relations). By contextual I mean reciprocally inter-dependent on the identity of its spacial/temporal surroundings. * That already assumes a lot that we don’t know, but please bear with me as ‘ever-simpler integration’ is not a premise for ‘Contrast Ontology’, more like scene-setting. After all, reality may turn out to be fractal-like in the sense that complexities could emerge at all scales, no matter how infinitesimal. Furthermore, ‘Contrast Ontology’ might be at work to some extent at scales, after all everything has an outside which effectively delineates it. More scene-setting for this supposed ‘fundamental physical level’… This is to help conjure up ‘Contrast Ontology’ in action. If I’m successful you will at least get the rudimentary concept — either to ‘raise up’ or ‘razor off’ as seems fit. Obviously this fundamental level is a wholly different realm to what we are used to; no ‘light’ as we know it, no ‘dark’ too, no temperature, no sounds, etc. Realize that we can only picture it circuitously. It’s an odd realm, but not illogical. Whilst down at this imperceptible micro-scale, let’s take the opportunity to expunge one common misconception: discrete particles in a void. Objectivism, following Aristotle, does a fine job of logically discounting the existence of an absolute void. However, its innate partner-in-crime has the knack of lingering around: the notion of an absolutely independent and irreducible physical particle. Note that this is not the same thing as a metaphysical ‘entity’ which is a context-relative category (dependent on apt level/scale of analysis). The notion of a continuous plenum helps resolve this, packing-in ‘particles without a gap’ so to speak — the universe as ‘lumpy porridge’ (rather than envisaging lone ‘spheres of discrete something-ness’ moving around a background of ‘nothing-ness’ (1s and 0s). What is the structure/mechanism of this lumpy porridge when zooming-in? On closer inspection we must jettison the charming porridge analogy of solider versus more liquified parts (<1s to >0). Basic reality seems constituted by simpler yet more thoroughgoing differences, something rather akin to electromagnetic positive and negative charge (+1s versus −1s) — but perhaps far simpler than that. Whatever is the structure/mechanism of the micro-scale it is way beyond our current knowledge, but at least this conceit allows us entertain the more fertile notion of each part acting dynamically; as attraction against repulsion or energy resisting entropy — of interactions and (ex-)changes. Furthermore, we might specify this interacting structure as ‘a field of competing forces’ rather than ‘solid particles’. This doesn’t mean that different forces are any less deserving of the term entity. After all, any force which is forcible enough to preclude other neighboring forces from encroaching on its threshold ‘bounds’ is being/acting as an entity. By simply doing so it delineates its difference against externality. I have just tried to pour a lumpy yet zesty porridge made up of dynamically interacting forces into your mind — is it sticking a bit? If it’s just slopping about, here’s a supplementary thought experiment that might help get there… What if the ‘fundamental level’ is where an entity effectively ‘has’ a single characteristic (to borrow a term from mereology, such an entity might be called a ‘simple’)? Now are you closer to envisioning a circumscription of identity via an external contrast? NB, this is not a necessary premise for ‘Contrast Ontology’. Such ‘simples’ might not exist, but it does he me in imagining the mechanics, where some characteristics (like the aforementioned positive/negative charge) can be reciprocally ‘exchanged’ between entities, or at least change another entity’s character. ‘Contrast Ontology’ does presuppose that to be possible. Consequently the fundamental level could be seen as being constituted by entities undergoing ‘requited property fluctuations’, arguably transfiguring identities. As ontology pertains to identity as much as entity, it is this reciprocal activity that I would point to as a prime example of ‘Contrast Ontology’ — a pity it’s not possible to actually witness. Crystal clear or still as murky as mud? Food for thought or utter Rationalist rot? It’s not easy to get across so do let me know if it requires further explanation. Q: Back to Earth — Where did the ‘Contrast Ontology’ concept come from? A: From an assortment of inferences (Objectivism obliquely included). As I said in my reply to William O, it probably already exists elsewhere in physics/philosophy, with its own technical appellation. I’d welcome any pointers on that front from anyone here. In my previous post I listed some of these allusions from science, maths, information theory, etc. Here it might be more fruitful to show hints towards it from within an Objectivist text. A particularly intriguing source has been the Appendix to Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (second edition) and those Epistemology Workshops that Rand conducted from 1969–1971 with an alphabet soup of professors. This is a gem for understanding Rand’s perspective on the borderlands between metaphysics and fundamental physics, although it leaves some answers tantalizingly hazy. Here is an exchange under the subheading “Properties of the Ultimate Constituents” which whet my appetite, skirting the issue. Rand has just been talking about how “the ultimate stuff” cannot be action divorced from entity… Prof. B: So you are saying that the ultimate constituents need not be particles, like solid balls, but whatever they are, one is not to refer to them as being actions without entities. AR: Exactly. And I was also objecting to your saying they will have to have extension, for instance, or shape. We can’t claim that. Prof. F: But suppose we agree that whatever they are, they will have identity—they will be what they are and so on. But mustn’t we also say something else: that we cannot define this identity solely in terms of their relationship to other objects? For instance, suppose that one of the ultimate properties of an entity is charge. Suppose you couldn’t find any way of defining “charge” except in relationship to other entities. Now wouldn’t that be grounds, metaphysically, for saying therefore charge is not an ultimate property of matter? AR: I am not sure I even understand the logic. Why? Prof. E: Presumably he would argue that a property which is defined in terms of a relationship between two entities presupposes and is a consequence of the attributes of that entity which give rise to that relationship. And therefore, if charge is definable only in terms of an entity’s relation to others—its effects on them—then charge couldn’t be a primary, it would have to be a derivative from something else in the entity that gives rise to that kind of effect. Prof. F: Thank you. That’s exactly what I meant. Prof. E: But then we are in bad shape here, because to grasp what the ultimate entities are, you have to strip off their actions, their potentialities for action, and their relations to other entities—then by what means would you ever get to know what they are? AR: Not only that, you are obviously making advance conditions for what that primary has to be. You are being Hegelian or Rationalistic in that sense. You cannot say philosophically what conditions you will ascribe to that which is not known. We cannot know by what means we will grasp something not known today. […] You see it isn’t the job of philosophy to tell us what exists, it’s only to tell us what has to be true of everything that exists [identity] and what are the rules by which you can claim knowledge. And in regard to the constituent elements of the universe, all we can say is that they would have to have identity. That we can prove. Any other conclusions we cannot draw philosophically. Prof. F: So then philosophy should leave open the possibility that the ultimate properties of things are relational properties? AR: No, because you are using a term from our present level of knowledge. “Relational properties” are what? Properties arising out of the relation of two entities. In calling something a relational property, you are implying the existence of entities. But now if you say the ultimate particles or elements will be defined as relational, what does that mean? You are applying a concept from our present level of knowledge to a level on which you deny it suddenly. What is a “relational property”—relation of what? Prof. F: Two ultimate elements to one another. AR: But then it isn’t a relational property. Prof. E: You’ve already made reference to the elements. AR: You made reference to the elements. The only meaning it could possibly have is that you will observe it only through a relationship. Let’s say that ultimately, through ten super-microscopes, you establish that you can only observe this ultimate particle by means of its relationship to another particle. That’s possible. But then you will still have implied the entity. She is adamant throughout about the primacy of entity over action, relation. Also, whatever the universe is ultimately made of, that ‘stuff’ will have identity. She is aware that the ‘ultimate stuff’ might well be beyond our current conceptual grasp and she is quite open to it being something challenging to grasp like “solid flows of energy” (to quote her from a preceding passage) or even be without extension or shape. She cautions against “making advance conditions for what that primary has to be”. I don’t think that ‘Contrast Ontology’ as a hypothesis would contradict anything she had said here; it’s onboard with everything. Yet it would accentuate the possibility of ‘a creative fluidity’ with regard to identity. Now then, can anyone offer “advance conditions” against ‘Contrast Ontology’? Q: Am I promoting ‘Contrast Ontology’ as some sort of theory of everything’? A: No, at this stage I just want to know if it could be refuted on metaphysical/logical grounds. This topic is my first post on the forums. I’m using these forums to try an iron out any issues I have with understanding Objectivism, starting with metaphysics and working my way through all five branches, slowly but steadily. Ignoring any issue would be evasion. The validity or not of ‘Contrast Ontology’ is the first such hurdle that I want to overcome before moving on. Now to address the specific points raised by Grames and StrictlyLogical… The major bone of contention: that flipping GIF The GIF was really only intended to usher readers “into an expedient frame of mind” in order think purely metaphysically. It was not meant as a concrete example of ‘Contrast Ontology’ — I’m afraid there aren’t any such examples, more’s the pity. The reason I used it, apart from attention-grabbing, was that tricky metaphysical conceptualizations need to be brought back and rendered in terms of our own perceptual experience in order to count as knowledge — that’s all I attempted to do with it (obviously failing, even trailing a false scent). I totally agree with you both that the ‘white’ (all on) pixel clusters in the GIF not actually forming the ‘black’ (all off) pixel clusters and that it is our integrated visual cortex that lends the impression of one mutually forming the other. Moreover, a pixel would be a perfect example of absolute independence regarding the way it operates: its input isn’t wired to its neighbor. As mentioned before, the GIF was meant to stimulate the imagination towards ‘a real metaphysical question’, an illusion for the mind to ponder and think about the possibility (or not) of simple spacial contrasts reciprocally defining one another (like these As seem to do, yet transposing that to an envisioned fundamental physical level). On re-reading I admit that the wording of the original was indeed ambiguous. Plus I’m certainly sorry that the GIF backfired so spectacularly — Peikoff was right after all about images hindering explanations wasn’t he! But a pertinent question here might be whether you conceptualize the ‘ultimate stuff’ of physics as something akin to pixels; atomistic, ultimately operating discretely, independent of one another? If that is the case then ‘Contrast Ontology’ would certainly seem jarring. StrictlyLogical made a number of further points (in order of appearance)… 1. ‘Being itself’ Yes I, myself, can see that unwarranted doubling-up is annoying, and good metaphysical discourse does require a much higher standard of precision. In my defense it was only used here for semantic reinforcement. 2. “Being different as a fragment…” Being different is a relational property, it entails other entities in the first place with which to be relational to — yes, absolutely. This works fine when an entity entails an array of attributes/relations/actions — a rich entity. However, if the relational property is the main defining property (or a relational ‘simple’ if feasible), then to my mind that would make it less of a fragment, more like a whole. I’m thinking along the lines of Rand’s example of “a solid flow of energy” (quoted above) as ‘simple’ entity that can only be described in singular, relational terms. 3. “IS-ness” Good, but attributes have arguably been known to be ‘swopped’ around between entities; heat transferal would be an obvious example for objects above a minimal scale (or ‘charge’ as previously cited). If (and it’s a big IF) single-attribute entities are what makes up the universe at a fundamental level/scale, then what exactly happens to the concept of “IS-ness” if these attributes transfer around promiscuously? Importantly, existence (entity) is not the locus for where this work is done, so in the last analysis “IS-ness” of the entity is intact, yet ‘identity’ (characteristics) might have effectively been ‘exchanged’ — as long as an entity doesn’t lack identity I think we’re good. But I would say that ‘Contrast Ontology’ — if true — would compel us to consider “IS-ness” differently, in a more integrated and contextualized way. 4. Electrons don’t “create” their mass/charge I’m no physicist (can you tell?) but ‘Contrast Ontology’ certainly does not claim creative powers for entities, nor does it promote properties or attributes over entities. 5. All entities have properties Yes, Rand writes (ITOE p.264): “There are no attributes without entities, there are no actions without entities” Also I think the inverse of Rand’s quote would be true: there are also no entities without attributes, or for that matter entities completely bereft of activity (no?). 6. Essentialism Yes, but I was deliberately stating the ‘Contrast Ontology’ concept loosely — too loosey-goosey perhaps. I wasn’t evoking Platonic idealism if that’s what gave you marvelous tingles. By ‘essential’ I just meant ‘central/consequential/basic’. “Nebulous and elusive”? Perhaps a wee bit harsh, it could be said to be ‘honestly vague’ because I frankly don’t know how the mechanics of ‘Contrast Ontology’ might work in detail (that foray above into positing positive/negative charge was only meant as a tentative place-holding example for an underlying dynamism in nature). 7. “A solid object displaces water…” Partially yes, spacial displacement, as long as it shapes not one but both forms, is an appealing illustration that begins to get at the idea. But really ‘Contrast Ontology’ is not just concerned with shape but all characteristics of identity, and functions at a much more fundamental level. 8. Absence No, I’m thinking about a thing ‘shaping’ another’s characteristics in a profound way (and vice versa). 9. Identical twins No, although that scenario would be incoherent if ‘every respect’ included space/time position — as well as being not doubled-up in that same space/time position. (I’m sure there’s another thread for that issue somewhere) Well, I hope this little lot has helped clear things up a tad. Thanks again for your replies, and your patience. So back to my main question… Do you think ‘Contrast Ontology’ can be refuted on metaphysical grounds according to Objectivism? NB, at this point I’m thinking that ‘Contrast Ontology’ might be more aptly renamed ‘the identity as contrast hypothesis’ (at long as it doesn’t forfeit its ontological bite).
  7. Dear StrictlyLogical, Compliments — you have successfully and significantly shifted my way of thinking about ‘Contrast Ontology’ — welcome progress on tricky nitty-gritties, so well done! I’ll explain this major shift in the conclusion as I think it is worthy of particular focus. You are absolutely right on well-nigh every point, although a degree of misinterpretation as to the ‘Contrast Ontology’ position remains (due in part to my lack of clarity and confusing word choices). If your interpretation had been a genuine reflection of the position, then even these criticisms would have been fully justified. I derived seven points that I’ll now address in order of occurrence… 1. Mixed message in ‘deductive logical necessity’ Sorry, yes this phrase should be consigned to epistemology, it should never arise in discussions around the metaphysics of existence. I see why I employed it, I lifted it directly from your first post: I made the mistake of reproducing that either/or choice in my explanation, selecting the least ‘causation-heavy’ provided phrase, rather than assert my own meticulously metaphysical explication. 2. The incoherence of terms like ‘necessity’ in metaphysical descriptions Yes, sloppiness again I’m afraid. I tinged pure metaphysical definitions with shades of teleology through the unnecessary addition of terms like ‘necessarily’. 3. Quibble with a preposition like “under” You are entirely correct that there is no ‘under’ to existence. But ‘Contrast Ontology’ also refutes the conjure of ‘underneath-ness’ (or any preposition suggesting otherness). It stresses correlational parity. It is more of a re-presentation of the natural corollary of identity with existence. Perhaps my ‘two sides of the same coin’ analogy prompted double-sidedness rather than the intended image of dynamic unification. 4. Sometimes “simply” will not do ‘Existence simply is what it is’ — I think this use of the term, which I take to be your use, is fine (and a legitimate retort to those who muddy the waters for unconstructive ends). I view it as a way of emphasizing the straightforwardness of the ostensive stance — all well and good. Where the word irks the ear of ‘Contrast Ontology’ is on those occasions in which it is employed to shut-off further analysis of an entity’s possible existential relationship with its wider context. For example, whilst gazing at the GIF at the top of this thread, if one insists “black A simply is”, then here it seems one is evading the work done by the surrounding white background which is arguably essential for A’s very existence (both epistemologically and metaphysically). 5. Stolen concept Yes you are quite right, ‘Existence = Difference’ seems set up to be a perfect example of a concept filching. However, as stated in the parentheses, the concept ‘Difference’ was not introduced in order to usurp ‘Existence’ as axiom. So I plead ‘not guilty’ to statutory theft as such; it is more akin to ‘Existence’ allowing ‘Difference’ into sharing the same glorious throne — although that picture did trouble me, leading to the conclusion at the end of this post. Anyway, it was a deliberately provocative formula. The presuppositional circularity is easily exposed when written down in this over-simplified way. I certainly won’t be using that exact ‘Existence = Difference’ formulation again. 6. Discerning the concept and assessing its conformity to facts (prior to any razoring) The proposed ‘Contrast Ontology’ concept, loosely stated, is the hypothesis that ‘being different’ has something essential to do with ‘being itself’ (at some fundamental physical level). There is no conclusive evidence. As with the other great cosmological conundrums, it might be beyond empirical provability. Nonetheless, there is an array of allusions in a variety of fields that point suggestively in its direction. Here is my cursory hotchpotch… Evidence from our own senses: My GIF shows reciprocal figure/ground dynamics. Granted that this experience of flipping As is an epistemological illustration, but there’s a real metaphysical question about the degree to which these contrasting spaces mutually define each other. Am I alone in finding that the GIF (along with Rubin’s vases, etc.) ushers me into an expedient frame of mind, wondering whether such a ‘creative trick’ might have some deeper bearing on fundamental physical formation? Reality suggests complexity from simplicity: The sciences across the board tend to reveal complex systems as being derived from ridiculously simple yet well-arranged constituent parts, to an extent that makes the adage ‘more than the sum of its parts’ ring true. It looks like ‘Contrast Ontology’ represents the most (ridiculously) simple description possible of ‘thingness’ at the most fundamental level of physics. Might its very simplicity help bolster, rather than work against its candidacy as feasible hypothesis? Fundamental physics and the correct balance between holistic and atomistic explanations: Without seeking to negate atomic theory nor embrace mystic holism, real progress in physics has tended to come from integration (to echo The DIM Hypothesis); investigating how apparently diverse existents actually hang together into a larger whole. Perhaps ‘Contrast Ontology’ requires more of a holistic than atomistic conceptualization, or rather any atomistic part will/has/had an essential relationship with ‘what-it-is-not’. Might its very integrated-ness help rather than hinder its candidacy? A better mathematical fit with facts about the world: Mereology is the mathematical organizing of reality into parts and wholes and seems to mirror reality more authentically as a categorizing methodology than Set Theory. ‘Contrast Ontology’ sits well with mereology, as it itself is all about wholes forming parts and parts forming wholes. Information theory: The idea that information is mathematical, probabilistic, can be conveyed most simply by bits and bytes. These 0s/1s are essentially binary oppositions — it all works via ontological contrast. Neuroscience of predictive processing: The ideas of information theory transposed to the brain; the on/off firing patterns of neural circuitry and associated prediction errors — essentially based on ontological on/off contrasts (where non-firing carries just as much potential meaning as firing). All just differences that make a difference. It’s neat: It's worth saying that ‘Contrast Ontology’ is economical, there’s no extra complications, it has elegance. Also — if there’s some grain of truth to it — it promises to shed light on a sweep of cosmological conundrums. (non of this is proof of course, just presenting a favorable picture) 7. StrictlyLogical’s “final retort” Nothing at all wrong with that. (Man’s own ability to identify these facts, although neither here nor there regarding the primacy of existence, does describes our epistemological relationship true enough.) However, a zealous strain of ‘Contrast Ontology’ would deem this expression as only half-right, as not spelling out the whole story, as being too one-way. To the contrary it would embrace circularity, ensuring that there was a dynamic two-way formation (dare I say ‘dialectic’) between entity A and its contrast with not-A. But on reflection, this strong incarnation of ‘Contrast Ontology’ can’t hold without some sort of Platonic realm of transient, unattached ‘difference/contrast’ existing apart from things. Provisional conclusion I now think my major mistake was in coupling ‘Contrast Ontology’ to the axiom of Existence. Existence itself ought to be left well alone. Instead, if this proposition attaches itself to the axiom of Identity, it immediately seems far more reasonable I think: ‘Contrast Ontology’ as offering a ‘basic mechanics’ of Identity. Objectivism does stress an equivalence between these two axioms: “Existence is Identity” — yet they remain separate concepts for a reason. Identity is where the action takes place so to speak, Existence ‘simply’ is. At this juncture I would like to return to a thought that StrictlyLogical’s initial post brought up. This might get to the crux of the issue, yet via an indirect route… Agreed, ‘Contrast Ontology’ views such an undifferentiated monistic whole as unable to ‘acquire’ identity because there is an implicit lack of externality/internality through which to be contrasted with. Existence is concomitant with Identity — the latter entailing ‘difference of some sort’ according to ‘Contrast Ontology’ (version 2.0). Main question again for all (re-tweaked)… Could ‘Contrast Ontology’ (apropos the axiom of Identity) be rejected on metaphysical grounds under an Objectivist remit? + Thanks for reading through this longish reply.
  8. Good. After my customary week-long maceration, I’ll first address William O, then StrictlyLogical… William O Yes, it’s my own formulation, not seen articulated elsewhere. Thanks to your question I started digging around a little deeper. It seems to chime somewhat with Process Philosophy. But not hook, line and sinker — only the notion that process is an essential aspect to ‘being’. Unlike staple Process Philosophy, ‘my’ Contrast Ontology doesn’t regard process as primary. It still views entities as fundamental, yet on an equal footing as process (any process which amounts to reciprocal differentiation in spacial–temporal identity) — two sides of the same coin: two necessary aspects of existence. Also, more towards the physics side, similarities might be drawn with Structural Realism, particularly the more recent Ontic Structural Realism. However, like Process Philosophy, OSR appears to aggrandise relations at the expense of relata. Yet I want to indicate that ‘Ontology via Contrast’ conveys a more (ridiculously) simple account of fundamental reality than the above approaches. These two tentative affiliations are just to provide some footholds, some orientation for further discussion. The idea might well feature in other academic guises as yet unknown to me. StrictlyLogical Regarding Rand’s Razor: is the concept ‘Ontology via Contrast’ integrated in disregard of necessity? If it turns out that contrast does indeed have a bearing on existence/identity, then that would be a necessary fact, meriting its own integrated concept. As it stands, ‘Ontology via Contrast’ is a mere hypothesis and so the razor just hovers in anticipation I suppose. But if it can be shown to be an erroneous concept in some way, then by all means, let’s shave it clean off. Your second post contained about six points that I’ll address next. Then I’ll conclude by offering an even simpler way of thinking about ‘Contrast Ontology’. 1. My choice of term ‘because of’ (A is A because of non-A) Good question as much hinges on this. By the term I intend “deductive logical necessity”, something akin to ‘A is A as an innate and unavoidable consequence of non-A’. After toying around with various combinations of subordinating conjunctions and verbs, for brevity’s sake I plumped for ‘because of’ (despite the unfortunate implication of hard causation in the billiard ball bumping, sequential sense). I’d certainly welcome a less equivocal yet succinct phraseology here. Anyhow, the GIF in my first post might be a better way of grasping how the black figure A exists because of the surrounding white background (and, crucially, vice versa). 2. “…it could also imply an empirical perception based sort of necessity…” I’m focusing my attention firmly on “deductive logical necessity”, not on “an empirical perception based sort of necessity”. So it’s the metaphysics/ontology of ‘contrast’ in existence, physical reality ‘out there’ rather than how that GIF interacts with our consciousness that I’m interested in at the moment. Metaphysics (edging towards fundamental physics) rather than epistemology. 3. Plurality of entities? ‘Ontology via Contrast’ doesn’t deny a plurality of entities. The non-A might very well be a rich plurality of entities; the Bs, Cs to XYZs of the rest of the universe (and the A itself may likewise be subdivided into a multiplicity of constituent entities on further investigation, by way of the same contrasting part–from–whole method). NB, level/scale of analysis plays a decisive role in contextually defining the number of entities: at a macro-level there are relatively few, zooming into a a micro-level a greater plurality tends to emerge. 4. “…it is likely that nothing would be evident or conscious if only a singular undifferentiated and un-differentiable entity existed” Agreed — and according to ‘Ontology via Contrast’ such a monistic whole wouldn’t actually ‘be’ anyway — under ‘Contrast Ontology’ existence entails differentiation. There’s nothing in ‘Ontology via Contrast’ that implies a singular undifferentiated entity, indeed quite the opposite. 5. “…A simply IS A…” A is A — true — but the ‘Ontology via Contrast’ proposition would have a beef with the insistent addition of “simply”. It suggests that A exists independently in too absolute a manner. That stance echoes William Thomas & David Kelley’s definition of entity (The Logical Structure of Objectivism, p.25): “Entities are existents that exist independently of other existents.” The ‘Ontology via Contrast’ proposition would not so much refute that description out-right, but expands it by adding a caveat of contingency: Entities are existents that exist inter-dependently of other existents (yet are effectively independent depending on level/scale of analysis). Moreover, the effective independence of an entity is earned by passing through objective level/scale contingent thresholds. 6. ‘Ontology via Contrast’ as “empirically based sort of necessity”? Yes, contrast is necessary for our consciousness: differentiating ‘things’ out of “the amorphous undifferentiated X” is fundamental for hewing-out our epistemology (including abstractions via contrasts, inferring the existence of “ghost-like neutrinos” and the like). However, as I mentioned before, I’m focusing here on metaphysical rather than epistemological ontology: reality ‘out there’ — is it itself hewn-out of reciprocal contrast (at a fundamental level)? That’s what I want to bring the discussion back to. So thank you William O and StrictlyLogical, by answering your questions I have clarified my own thoughts and hopefully addressed your questions semi-adequately at least. In addition I hope I’ve been able to make this notion of ‘Contrast Ontology’ a little less fuddled for everyone. A simpler way of thinking about ‘Contrast Ontology’ perhaps… Objectivist metaphysical axioms: Existence, Identity, Consciousness. Under a ‘Contrast Ontology’ purview, these could be re-cast (without necessarily usurping the original axioms): Existence = Difference Identity = Contrast Consciousness = Differentiation (the process of identification, essentially via contrast) Helpful? Main question again… Under an Objectivist remit, could ‘Contrast Ontology’ be rejected on metaphysical grounds? I’ll pen something here again in a few days time, either responding to any issues raised or developing the proposition’s ramifications.
  9. Hello, I'm A.C.E… …Association for Cultural Experimentation — an assumed name, grandiose sounding — but it’s just little old conceited me. I adopted it years ago for the production of exotic parties and the like. I had always been interested in cultural conventions, especially testing-out their boundaries, trying to discover why things are the way they are, so it remains a befitting pseudonym. I do consider it more honest to use one’s own name, yet I suppose a certain anonymity might be more conducive in forum discussions. Therefore, rather than the grinning face of yours truly, a monotone sphere hovers impartially as my A.C.E. avatar.  Opening up for an introductory glimpse: I’m a British cove of 1963 vintage, now living in Italy and enjoying working at life. I only discovered Objectivism fairly recently, coming to it from an interest in neuroscience/philosophy of mind, finding it revolutionizing my prior way of thinking; beautifully logical, cogent, honest, inspiring — in short, philosophy done well. I’m here on this forum to learn. I seek to help iron out a string of assorted queries, adding my own penn’orth to existing threads, or start fresh ones if indispensable. I intend to start with a couple of issues in metaphysics that I’d like clarifying, then gradually work through the other branches of philosophy one-by-one towards aesthetics — at least that’s the plan. P.S. Hats off to the founder, DavidV, and all the current staff on this valuable forum (+ to the remarkable Alisa Zinov’yevna who made all this possible).