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Thoughts on an article on the concept "universe"? by Alex S.

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[he "ultimate constituents of the universe" needs to be broken down. Ultimate is confusing. i know that matter is a constituent. i know that matter hass mass. what else is needed??

i didn't "fail" to address it. i refused to.

Your refusal is a failure to address the point, and "ultimate" is really not at all confusing (at least not in and by itself). We are here talking as philosophers, not as scientists, and as philosophers we know that the three-dimensional world of objects we perceive (and their properties and characteristics) are not necessarily primary aspects of metaphysical reality, but rather may be effects of the ultimate constituents of the universe as perceived by our senses. By "constituents" we mean simply the "stuff" that all things are made of, and "ultimate constituents" simply means that fundamental stuff of metaphysical reality, which are irreducible. In other words, as philosophers we know that there are ultimate constituents of what we perceive as entities, and until we grasp the nature of these ultimate constituents of the universe we cannot arbitrarily ascribe to them properties or characteristics that may not apply.

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Matter has mass. The universe includes matter.  The universe has mass.

Suppose that somebody suggested the following: "The universe includes consciousness. Thus, the universe has consciousness (or is conscious)."

Now tell me what's wrong with that conclusion, and perhaps you'll also see why your conclusion that the universe has mass is invalid as well.

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Soulsurfer, time is a relationship and in one sense is epistemological, but relationships are just as metaphysical as are attributes of entities. The existence of time does not depend on the existence of consciousness.

Thanks for your comment.

However, I fail to see the validity of your conclusion that time does not depend on the existence of consciousness. Observe that I am not suggesting that consciousness creates time, or that time is an inherent aspect of the nature of consciousness (such as volition). Rather, I claim that existence is out of time and out of space. There is no "time" or "space" inherent in existence as such, apart from the specific relationsships which involve our consciousness. I.e., these relationsships exist when consciousness is part of that relationsship. If there is no consciousness, there is no relationsship to exist. If there is no existence, there is no relationsship to exist. Within the context of that existing relationsship, time and space exist. Outside of that relationsship, time and space do not exist.

Is my reasoning flawed here?

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Suppose that somebody suggested the following: "The universe includes consciousness. Thus, the universe has consciousness (or is conscious)."

Now tell me what's wrong with that conclusion, and perhaps you'll also see why your conclusion that the universe has mass is invalid as well.

That is pure rationalism. If, like you say, the universe includes consciousness, it doesn't follow that the universe is conscious. If the Red Sox baseball team includes Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox team is not Manny Ramirez. Let's not turn into a bunch of pathetic linguists here, okay.

I am saying that the cells of my body are A PART of the universe. They have mass. The universe hass mass.

Someone, please try to make the case that the universe DOESN'T have mass. Please.

I understand that proclaimed Objectivists have a strong tendedncy toward rationalism, but please people, try to fight it just a little.

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If there is no consciousness, there is no relationsship to exist.

That is what I am arguing against. Relationships are existents just as much as are attributes. They both exist in reality; they do not have an independent existence apart from entities, but they exist independent of consciousness.

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The bricks that are part of my house have mass. My house has mass.

The water molecules in Lake Erie have mass. Lake Erie has mass.

The each page of my copy of Atlas Shrugged has mass. The book has mass.

Each person in the world has mass. The world's population has mass.

Hydrogen and Helium atoms have mass. Stars have mass.

Stars,people, books, lakes, and houses have mass. Those masses can be added up. So can the masses of all the other things that are composed of matter.

The totality of everything is the universe. It would, yes, have mass.

Why the hell is it that when I talk about something very big, like the universe, you people want to change the definition of the word mass?

The universe consists of all those things above - and many more. So what? Why is it so hard to say that the universe has mass.

I realize that there may be things that are a part of the universe that dont have mass, and that the mass of the universe would be difficult to quantify, but that difficulty doesn't change properties of things, or definitions of words.

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That is what I am arguing against. Relationships are existents just as much as are attributes. They both exist in reality; they do not have an independent existence apart from entities, but they exist independent of consciousness.

Now I'm lost. The relationsship between consciousness and existence cannot exist unless there first is an existing consciousness and an existence. If consciousness is discarded, the entire relationsship cease to exist as well. In that sense, the relationsship between consciousness and existence doesn't exist independent of consciousness.

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Why the hell is it that when I talk about something very big, like the universe, you people want to change the definition of the word mass?

Because you implicitly seem to assume that the "something" -- in this case the universe as a whole -- is actually a thing (or a sum of things). It isn't.

When we speak of bricks, cars, houses etc -- we could ask questions such as "what is outside of this house?" or "what is the mass of this house?". But when you switch from an epistemological point of view to a metaphysical one, it is invalid to ask questions such as "what is outside the universe" or "what is the mass of the universe?". In such a context there is no "outside" or "mass"!

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Now I'm lost. The relationsship between consciousness and existence cannot exist unless there first is an existing consciousness and an existence. If consciousness is discarded, the entire relationsship cease to exist as well. In that sense, the relationsship between consciousness and existence doesn't exist independent of consciousness.

Well, yes, clearly if consciousness did not exist there would be no relationships involving consciousness. But we are talking about relationships in general, relationships among entities that exist in reality. The ball is ON TOP of the table; the cat is to THE LEFT of the dog; the Moon is SMALLER THAN the Earth. These are all relationships among entities which exist in metaphysical reality independent of consciousness.

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Why the hell is it that when I talk about something very big, like the universe, you people want to change the definition of the word mass?

Because we're saying that terms like "very big" don't apply to existence qua existence.

The universe consists of all those things above - and many more.  So what?  Why is it so hard to say that the universe has mass.

Because "existence" isn't a thing. It's the totality of existents. Existents have or don't have mass. This distinction just isn't applicable to existence. In your long list of examples regarding mass, each of those things has shape, too. So would you make the same argument regarding existence? That since you are a "part of the universe" and you have shape, that the universe has shape? Or that since you have age, have location, have weight, that the universe does? There is no difference in making any of these arguments and arguing that existence as such has mass.

This is not to deny that entities have mass, or that there are gazillions of entities with mass in existence. It's just denying that attributing the property of mass to existence as such is meaningful.

EDIT: Just to be absolutely clear, no one is arguing that the universe has a mass and that it is 0. People are arguing that mass cannot be attributed to existence, period. Not that the universe has a low mass, or no mass. "The universe" doesn't have the attribute of mass. Only things within it do.

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That is pure rationalism. If, like you say, the universe includes consciousness, it doesn't follow that the universe is conscious. If the Red Sox baseball team includes Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox team is not Manny Ramirez. Let's not turn into a bunch of pathetic linguists here, okay.

Soulsurfer provided an excellent counter example that points out the error you are making. Read it again, maybe it will click the second time.

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1.  Do atoms have an atomic mass? (Or is the periodic table just one big hoax?)

2.  Do I and my lapstop and the Atlantic Ocean and the moon and the sun have atoms? And just to be sure - do they have mass?

3.  Does a golf ball have mass? Does a pile of them have mass?

4.  Are all of these things a part of the universe?

5.  Can you really answer yes to all of these things and then say that the universe - which is a group of all existing things - does not have mass?

...

All I really want for Christmas is for someone to address those questions - and then maybe we can discover that perhaps there is some semantic issue here.  I know that I am not entitled to an answer to them, but, being a person who ties all my abstractions down to concretes, I don't really know how t respond to any argument that does not deal with concretes.  Even the concept "universe" for me is not a floating abstraction.  I am not bragging.  The universe is not something fundamentally different than all the things we have solid knowledge about.  It is merely the SUM of all things that we know about AND the things we don't know much about. 

Christmas is over, but let me give it a try.

1. Yes, atoms have mass. (no, the periodic table is valid.)

2. Yes, all these items are comprised of atoms therefore they have a mass.

3. Yes, golf balls and piles of them have a mass.

4. Yes, all these things are part of the universe.

5. Yes, you can answer in the affirmative to all these questions, but you still cannot describe the universe in terms of mass. The universe is existence. There are things entities that exist that can be describe in terms of their mass. You can even add the masses of as many of these entities as you desire to obtain some relatively large number. But you can't describe the universe (existence) in terms of mass, or color, or beauty, or a multitude of other characteristics.

What is the mass of the universe? What color is the universe? How beautiful is the universe?

Do you see why these questions don’t work?

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Well, yes, clearly if consciousness did not exist there would be no relationships involving consciousness. But we are talking about relationships in general, relationships among entities that exist in reality. The ball is ON TOP of the table; the cat is to THE LEFT of the dog; the Moon is SMALLER THAN the Earth. These are all relationships among entities which exist in metaphysical reality independent of consciousness.

If entities -- and relationsships among entities -- are said to exist independent of consciousness, then doesn't this establish a "stolen reality" in the sense that the measurements of consciousness are projected to exist independent of consciousness itself?

I can clearly see why those measurements exist objectively within the context of the specific relationsship between an individual's consciousness and existence -- but I cannot see why those measurements (i.e. relationsships, forms, attributes, characteristics etcetera) exist objectively outside the context of the specific relationsship between consciousness -- any consciousness -- and existence. Isn't that Platonism? (Of course I am not accusing you of being a Platonist -- I am simply unable to understand, at this point, what exactly differentiates "platonic realism" from my (mis?)understanding of your approach in this case.)

Suppose you were the only individual on the planet who could grasp the Objectivist axioms explicitly. I.e. you grasped that a specific, objective relationsship existed between your consciousness and the rest of existence -- and that it existed whether or not you grasped it explicitly. In that case, I can clearly see that such relationsship exists -- but not that it exists independent of your consciousness. Yes, it exists independent of your consciousness's grasp of the fact, but it certainly doesn't exist independent of your consciousness as such.

The same applies to your consciousness's grasp of "other relationsships" within the primary relationsship between your consciousness and existence -- e.g. measurements such as "time" and "space". Thus: Time and space do not metaphysically exist apart from your consciousness (since that consciousness is part of the primary relationsship between consciousness and existence). But space and time do exist as potential epistemological identifications (or comprehensions or measurements) -- as objective facts -- within the existing relationsship between your consciousness and existence.

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If entities -- and relationsships among entities -- exist independent of consciousness, then doesn't this establish a "stolen abstraction" in the sense that the measurements of consciousness are projected to exist independent of consciousness itself?

We consciously identify entities and relationships that exist in reality, we do not manufacture them out of thin air.

I can clearly see why those measurements exist objectively within the context of the specific relationsship between an individual's consciousness and existence -- but I cannot see why those measurements (i.e. relationsships, forms, attributes, characteristics etcetera) exist objectively outside the context of the specific relationsship between consciousness -- any consciousness -- and existence. Isn't that Platonism?

Attributes, characteristics, and relationships do not have an independent existence apart from entities (which is an aspect of Platonism) but they are certainly part of objective reality. We do not create attributes, etc., but rather we identify them mentally by an act of abstraction. If they did not exist in reality then it would be an act of creation rather than an act of abstraction.

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If entities -- and relationsships among entities -- exist independent of consciousness, then doesn't this establish a "stolen reality" in the sense that the measurements of consciousness are projected to exist independent of consciousness itself?

Soulsurfer, I realize this question was directed at Stephen, but I'm eager to offer an answer before everyone else here says it better than me. <_<

A relationship is more than just a measurement by a consciousness. (Similarly, to use the physical property most referenced on this thread, mass is not merely a measurement humans make.) If, for instance, a ball is on a table, the relationship ON exists independently of any observers. Now it's true that no one will ever know of the relationship unless they observe it, but that doesn't mean the particular arrangement of molecules is any less an ON relationship. Or to use an historical example: the relation of the earth to the sun (that the earth revolves AROUND the sun) existed long before any humans appeared to measure it. It did not suddenly jump into existence simply because we looked at the sky and figured it out.

I can clearly see why those measurements exist objectively within the context of the specific relationsship between an individual's consciousness and existence -- but I cannot see why those measurements (i.e. relationsships, forms, attributes, characteristics etcetera) exist objectively outside the context of the specific relationsship between consciousness -- any consciousness -- and existence. Isn't that Platonism?

No. Platonism says that abstractions (that is, Forms) exist in an independent reality, which we poorly perceive when we observe concrete instances. For example, we look at a particular rock, and we get a dim comprehension of the notion of "rock." This is wrong: we look at several rocks, omit the differences, and arrive at the concept "rock." Now the concept "rock" does not exist independently of a consciousness--there were quite literally no concepts on Earth before humans evolved--but the individual rocks do. Similarly, while the concept of relationship did not exist until humans did, all of the particular concrete relationships did.

While I can't speak for Stephen, I believe this is what he means when he says:

That is what I am arguing against. Relationships are existents just as much as are attributes. They both exist in reality; they do not have an independent existence apart from entities, but they exist independent of consciousness.

(Stephen, if I made any mistakes above, I would love to know where I went wrong.)

Now onto my final point:

Suppose you were the only individual on the planet who could grasp the Objectivist axioms explicitly. I.e. you grasped that a specific, objective relationsship existed between your consciousness and the rest of existence -- and that it existed whether or not you grasped it explicitly. In that case, I can clearly see that such relationsship exists -- but not that it exists independent of your consciousness. Yes, it exists independent of your consciousness's grasp of the fact, but it certainly doesn't exist independent of your consciousness as such.

In this example you bring in relationships that involve consciousness, as in "my mind perceives existence," and so of course that relationship would not exist without consciousness. But that's like saying the ball-on-the-table relationship above wouldn't exist if there were never any balls or tables--true, but beside the point.

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We consciously identify entities and relationships that exist in reality, we do not manufacture them out of thin air.

Soulsurfer, I realize this question was directed at Stephen, but I'm eager to offer an answer before everyone else here says it better than me.

One minute too late--I guess hit the preview button one time too many. <_<

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We consciously identify entities and relationships that exist in reality, we do not manufacture them out of thin air.

I agree with this -- if, and only if, you refer to epistemological identifications of entities and relationsships that exist as objective facts within the reality of the relationsship between consciousness and existence.

But, on the other hand, if you were to speak of existence apart from consciousness as such -- and then equated metaphysical existence with the epistemologically known physical reality of entities and relationsships (i.e. the physical reality that you have epistemologically measured by using your consciousness), I would not be able to understand the objective truth of it at all.

And more than that: I wouldn't be able to see that it was consistent with the primacy-of-existence metaphysics.

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I agree with this -- if, and only if, you refer to epistemological identifications of entities and relationsships that exist as objective facts within the reality of the relationsship between consciousness and existence.

Facts are "out there" in reality and do not exist in some "reality of the relationsship between consciousness and existence," whatever that means. (I know what a relationship between consciousness and existence is, but I have no idea what a special "reality of" the same would mean.)

But, on the other hand, if you were to speak of existence apart from consciousness as such -- and then equated metaphysical existence with the epistemologically known physical reality of entities and relationsships (i.e. the physical reality that you have epistemologically measured by using your consciousness), I would not be able to understand the objective truth of it at all.
It is difficult for me to parse this. What do you mean by "objective truth?"

And more than that: I wouldn't be able to see that it was consistent with the primacy-of-existence metaphysics.

You do not see why the existence of an objective reality is consistent with a primacy of existence metaphysics?

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Metaphyscially, however, I am stilll confused about the relationship between entities (with attributes), natual laws AND the universe.

The universe is all the entities, attributes, actions, relationships, etc. which exist. So, in one sense, there is no "relationship" between all the existents "AND the universe," since the universe is all the existents. However, let me know if the following helps with what you're getting at.

Human beings can look at a group of existents from two different perspectives. We can consider a group via considering all the members of the group individually, and we can consider a group via considering the group qua collection. An example of the former would be to say, "America is a happy country." This only means that a preponderance of individual people within America are happy, and does not mean that the country as such possesses collective happiness within a collective mind. An example of the latter perspective -- i.e., considering a group qua collection -- would be when one says, "This pile of marbles was expensive." This does not mean that each marble, taken individually, is expensive -- each marble by itself may in fact cost very little -- but only that the pile of them, when taken as a collection, costs quite a bit.

When considering the universe as a whole, we have been (or should be) talking about this latter perspective. So, by saying you are confused about the "relationship between" all that exists "AND the universe," perhaps you are asking what relevance the specific identities of the individual entities within the universe has to ascribing those specific identities to the universe as a whole? If so, my answer to this question is: one can ascribe a property to the universe qua collection only if one shows that the universe qua collection has a nature sufficiently similar with the entities that do possess that property. And I have maintained all along that the universe, being everyting that exists, does not possess spatial boundaries, and this fact inescapably disqualifies the universe from possessing certain characteristics. E.g., it cannot be ascribed mass, since the idea of mass makes no sense when applied to something that lacks spatial contraints -- anymore than the idea of an "age" of something makes sense if that something lacks temporal constraints.

What is the metaphysicall status of a "collection"? I would hold that a collection is not an entity at all--it seems the same can be said of the universe. Epistemoligically, the concept "collection" helps us grasp the relationship of common entities like a collection of books. But a collection as such is nothing more than its entities.
Yes, a "collection" is only the various entities (considered qua collection). There is nothing over and above the entities.

I also agree that the universe is not an entity -- and, as you seem to be using the term "collection," I agree that bare collections are not entities. I would, however, recommend the discussion in the ITOE Appendix, "What is an Entity?", for a fascinating discussion on what one can regard as an entity, since there are more things to say on that subject.

But the problem is that when talking about the universe, we tend to see it as metaphysical. Do collections exist? Yes.

If collections exist, why is it a problem to see the universe qua collection as metaphysical? Collections of individuals exist, and individuals within collections exist.

Does that help?

--Alex

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I really don't want to argue this any more, because now, more than ever, I am truly losing my sense that Objectivism has a chance in my lifetime. 

Based on this topic?! Man does not follow philosophies according to their veiws on whether the universe has size/mass! Get a grip.

If the vast majority of mankind gave a rip about such things Aristotle would have squashed all competitors at the beginning.

BTW

Matter has weight

The Universe has matter

Therefore the Universe has weight.

I'm going to write now, and go to bed. When I get up, I better see some measurements of what this thing weighs or else!

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The bricks that are part of my house have mass.  My house has mass.

The water molecules in Lake Erie have mass. Lake Erie has mass.

The each page of my copy of Atlas Shrugged has mass.  The book has mass.

Each person in the world has mass.  The world's population has mass.

I see equivocation on the word "has" to mean both "includes" and "can be ascribed the characteristic of."

Lake Erie includes mass and possesses the characteristic of mass. Ditto for the book. But "population" does NOT have the characteristic of mass. "Population" is a NUMBER, a COUNT of a group of people such as the number of residents in Boston. The population includes people, but it lacks many of the characteristics of people such as an age, a romantic partner, and the need to choose a career.

Thus, it is two entirely DIFFERENT things to say that --

The universe includes entities that have mass -- which is true

-- and --

The universe ITSELF is an entity possessing the characteristic of mass.

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