[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Gregory Desilet info at gregorydesilet.com
Sat Nov 15 15:06:29 EST 2014

Bob—everything you say on the metaphysics topic strikes me as right. But there may be a strategy left for overcoming some of the differences between what I am proposing with regard to pre-modern, modern, and postmodern metaphysics and my claims about the failure of monism in relation to your points. 

This strategy would involve making a distinction between metaphysics and ontology, where metaphysics would be the philosophy of the nature of being and ontology would be the philosophy of the nature of reality. 

(This paragraph is mostly recapitulation—me thinking out loud, so to speak) When addressing the nature of being, it would make sense (from my point of view) to say there cannot be only ONE elemental substance because that does not enable us to account for change and difference. There must be TWO elemental substances and these cannot be reduced, one to the other. Also, one cannot be prior in origin to the other because this would imply priority (as in the Trinity where in the case of the “Father” and “Son” the term “father” implies having preceded the “son” in origin). And this priority leads to theorizing the less prior element as a mere extension of the other element, which then reduces to monism and/or monotheism. If there is first the “father” how then can there be the “son” without the intrusion of difference (i.e., “woman,” “mother,” “other,” etc.)? So, in order for there to be difference and change there must be two and the two must be equiprimordial, otherwise the one merely reduces to the other and we are left with monism and the question of difference and how does it arise. In this sense, regarding metaphysics, there can only be varieties of dualism. Monism is unstable (or, more accurately, too stable in that nothing can happen).

This, of course, leaves the point Bob raises and Burke also raises somewhere (GM and RM ?) that where there are two interacting there must be a ground for their interaction—the means through which they meet and interact. This ground may be seen as the ONE that makes possible the motion of the TWO. But this ONE is a structure of reality--not itself a being or substance.  So when asking, “what is the nature of being?” it makes sense to say that it is composed of two elemental, irreducible substances ontologically linked for their interaction in ONE system. Metaphysically speaking, there are TWO substances and ontologically speaking there is ONE system through which TWO substances interact. So whether we are using the terminology of ONE or TWO depends on whether we are speaking of the nature of reality or the nature of being, structure or substance. I’m not sure this “strategy” will address all of Bob’s points, but it seems relevant to a good part of the group of issues he raises.

As for the notion of chaos, I think it is only a derived logical placeholder and not a term useful in any ontological sense. Similarly with the term Burke uses: disorder. And also the term “nothing” in the notion that the cosmos came from nothing. Chaos and disorder are notions that can only, in my opinion, refer to DIFFERENT orders. What could possibly count as “disorder” and how would we know it was disorder? We can never rule out the possibility that what we call disorder is only another form of order, an order which we have not yet been able to see. So chaos and disorder can have metaphorical uses through a species of dialectical logic but not any real sense in the realm of ontology because there would be no way to prove that chaos or disorder have been encountered in any empirical sense, no way to ever see whether they have any basis in reality. The same holds for the notion of “nothing.” It would not be possible to ever verify that there could be “nothing” as opposed to “something.” What could “nothing” even mean in this context? As far as humans are concerned there can only have ever been “something”—ever and always—and in the context of cosmological origins even “nothing” counts as a kind of “something”—insofar as it may be seen to have given birth to something, namely the cosmos and us. In giving birth to something, what sense would it make to call it nothing? The issue regarding chaos, disorder, and nothing seems like a terminologically imposed problem more than an ontologically relevant issue.


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