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Everything vs Nothing

April 2, 2007

You see a nice “model” which I call “The System of Negation”, which I have been heavily thinking about.  What is its purpose?  Though it has more reasons behind it than what I’m about to say, the main purpose behind it is to help people see that a lot of what they talk about is vague, and that they are saying next to nothing.

System Of Negation

You see the most vague term I have on the chart is “entity”.  I can think of several other vague words as well, such as “thing”, “object”, and “thought”.  I think vague words, and vague concepts end up saying the closest thing possible to nothing, the most vague being concepts which embody “pure unity”.  A word which stood for everything which exists would be a word having the meaning of “pure unity” (Ex: the philosopher’s word of ‘being’).

Take for instance if someone says “I saw an entity”. Or, “I saw an object”.  Or, “I had a thought”.  That’s about as vague as you can get.  The amount of different things this  person could have seen, or could have thought about, is huge.  They could have seen a bus, a cat, or an apple.  They could have thought about death, their mother, or the fact that they’re hungry.  It’s true that they have said something, but very little.  We know that they’ve perceived something, as opposed to not perceiving something.  That’s about all we really know.

The word “entity” encapsulates so many words.  This is what I’m trying to get at when I say that vague words get closer and closer to “pure unity”.  You get these words that could stand for anything.  “Entity” could basically stand for any physical object.  “Thought” could stand for anything that could go on in the mind.  “Object”, like entity, could stand for anything you could perceive with any of the senses.

Now how is this practical?  Well, let’s take for instance morality.  I’m continually told in church to “love my neighbor”.  I believe this to be vague.  “Love” is a unity of all actions, done to someone other than yourself, which the person doing the actions would consider “good”.  People have different judgments as to what they consider good, and I believe that this does not help us in the least.  Telling someone to love, as opposed not to love, has not really said anything.  This word “love” does not seperate my actions.  It does not tell me “do this” and “not do this”.  All you have said to me is simply “Do something to somebody”, as opposed to sitting around and not doing anything.   It’s no different than “I saw an entity”.

I struggle with the concept of ‘Love’ because I have grown to dislike the word.  It just has no meaning, or if I give it a good meaning, it does not neccessarily mean that to the person I’m talking to.  If I had a really great girlfriend (which at the moment, I do not), I would not tell her “I love you”, or “You are beautiful”.  These are vague.  I don’t really know what they mean and are easily confused.  I have to speak in things that have meaning to me.  We would be on a walk in the park, see an oak tree and I would say:

“You’re like a firmly rooted oak tree.  You are strong and unmovable.  You hold the world beneath you together, yet you stand high above it all.  If I were to climb you I would see a new world from high above.  I would join the birds and the small beasts of the field in singing you praise.  I think I’ll take you with me.  I will stain and garnish you.  You will be the desk in my study.  My hand will rest on you as I write my journal.  You will be my rocking chair.  When I’m weary, I’ll rest in you.  I will rock back and forth in you, and enjoy the sunset.”

If you don’t understand my symbolism, I’ll briefly explain it.  Strong and unmovable means I trust and depend on her.  Climbing her represents her knowledge, she is interesting to talk with and I see new things every time I hear her speak.  As for the furniture analogies, I do not believe in cheap furniture.  I only use the best, and I plan to keep my good furniture for life.  My desk, and my rocking chair are my two favorite places to be in the world.  I think from my chair, and work from my desk.  I would never part with either of them easily.  As for my hand resting on her, she will always know my thoughts on everything. I hold nothing from her.

I much prefer things like that to “I love you”.  Anyways, back to negation.

Let’s talk about about so called “deep” spiritual texts?  Let’s take a passage from the Tao Te Ching, a famous eastern religious text:
Verse 25: Naming the Nameless

“What preceded life?  The earth.
What preceded the earth?  The universe.
What preceded the universe?
The soundless and shapeless, origin of origins,
ever transforming and having no beginning or end.

This Mother of the universe is boundless, and nameless.
But if we wanted to share with you anything
about this remarkable non-executing executor,
we must invent a name for it.

We call it the Tao because Tao means great.
Incredibly great because it occupies infinite space,
being fully present in the whole universe, and in every infinitesimal particle.

Because this Great Integrity created the universe,
and the universe created the earth,
and the earth created us, we are all incredibly great.

Life derives from the nature of the earth.
The earth derives from the nature of the universe.
The universe derives from the nature of the Great Integrity.
And the Great Integrity is the omnipresent, omnigenous omniform,
the universal material and spiritual substance,
and the holoversal interlinkage of coition of existence.”

This sounds profound, but it is not.  It is saying next to nothing.  Notice the first paragraph.  All they are doing is removing negation after negation.  They are climbing up the ladder, just as we have in our example (Dog, mammal, animal, to entity).  First they extend their boundaries from the Earth to all things perceptible.  Next they’ve taken away anything perceptible, meaning it is not perceivable by the senses.  Finally they’ve taken it outside of time, which means it stands in no relation to other objects or any observers.

They have taken away every possible property that can used to describe anything.  All they have done is eliminate all negations.  They have taken away all specificities, and now they are trying to get at some unity of unities.  What are they uniting?  Who knows.  Really, they are saying nothing at all.  Second paragraph goes on seemingly to admit this, saying it is “boundless” or that it is not subject to negation.  But now we need a name for the vague entity (which is inconceivable).

It’s the “great” origin behind the universe, the source of “life”, and anything else that sounds big and fancy.   It’s almost like it’s everything, yet it’s nothing.  This is exactly what my “System of Negation” is out to show.  Once you get infinitely vague, trying to make a unity of unities, you’re once again back at Nothingness.  Since your purpose of speaking was to refer to something, yet you’re referring to everything, you have said nothing.  It’s just a bunch of sounds coming out of your mouth.  Symbols on a page.  The same thing happens when you get infinitely specific.  You get so specific that you end up referring to nothing as well. (Words probably cannot ever be infinitely specific, so this is only a theoretical consideration)

Things only come into play when there is finite negation.  There has to be a negation on what exists, in order to seperate anything.  Being is.  Negations negate (seperate into multiple pieces) the being into various subsections.  You start off with a big unity, and then you divide it up.  Ex: (Man, dogs, tables, etc).  We divide up existence from a unity into various words because we have a purpose for doing so.  It helps up communicate various things we wish to communicate to people around us.  This Taoist stuff is just a bunch of confused words.

A last final example, is the problem of ‘individuality’ or ‘self’.  Greg and I were listening to an audio course on existentialism.  The professor was talking about Hegel’s view on the world.  Hegel was thinking that the individual was not important, it is only the collective view of all humanity as a whole.  The existentialists take the opposite perspective and go and focus their philosophy around the individual, and “being an individual”, as diametrically opposed to the whole.  They talk about building a ‘self’, and being a person of passion.  In my opinion, these are not profound philosophies, they are simply plays on negation.  Hegel’s trying to remove all negations and get a unity of unities.  Other philosophers focusing on the individual, “experience”, “being”, etc, are applying infinite negations to get at some specific something.  They are both saying nothing.  They are big books full of etheric fluff.  It’s just like the old concept of “ether” in physics.  When carefully examined, it’s something we could just easily scrap and go on with our lives and get what we want out of life.

Outside of Sartre’s philosophy toward the human dynamic, and a few concepts from Nietsche and Heidegger which actually break down into real things we can put into use, the rest of this talk about “consciousness”, “being”, etc, is just a bunch of fluff.  Nietsche’s view toward Master and Slave morality is interesting.  Heidegger’s views on authenticity and facticity is interesting as well.  It’s not all bad, but the really technical philosophy, such as metaphysics, is just a bunch of words and plays on negation.

Nietsche’s Recursive Life

There is a profound thought which I’ve came across from Nietsche, mainly his “view” that there is no after-life, but advocated that upon death we’re going to live the same life over and over and over.  This at first sounds silly, and I don’t even think Nietsche himself really held this view.  He advocated this view because people are continually neglecting this life for future rewards.  They’ll say things like, “This life doesn’t matter.  When I die and go to heaven, it will all be ok.”  So they let themselves become walked all over, they cling to strange duties to family and other social obligations thrown on them from all around.  Nietsche is only bringing up a point which is saying, “If you had to live this life over and over and over for all eternity, would you be making the same decisions you are now?”

I thought of a girl Greg knows.  Her parents are lazy and their lives have been falling apart, and she is the one who holds everything together in the home.  She is miserable living there, but feels she has a duty to her family to keep things going at the home.  Asking if I had to go through that for all eternity, over and over and over, I would surely say “see ya”, and move on to my own life.

Upon thinking on eternal recurrence of the same life, I wonder if I’d do what I’ve done, if I had to live it over again and again and again.  All this business stuff, I don’t really care for it.  I’d rather be writing philosophy and working on what I love.  I’m doing business mainly to achieve independence.  As I was walking around town, I was considering, what if I just sold everything, got rid of everything I own, got rid of all bills, and just studied.  Maybe work some little side job to make a little money, or have some small information product to bring me in enough money to live as I do my studies.  I have savings and things, but it couldn’t last a lifetime at the moment.  Maybe I could sell DVDs and books I write.  Who knows, maybe they’d generate enough money to support me in a modest lifestyle.

It’s a hard thought.  I hate money and working for it.  It took me a lot of studying things I don’t care about to get to where I could achieve independence.  I will soon have the money not to work at all.  As for right now, it’d be unwise for me to quit my businesses as I’ve built them up already and are coming to the end of that road, but looking back, I don’t know if I’d do it over again.  The things it is gaining me are not things I’m really after out of life.

I have learned considerable things about the mindset of the business man however.  That information is invaluable, and understanding their value, and the problems of communism is a pinnacle thought.  Most professors don’t understand what they’re advocating sometimes, and this business knowledge has pushed me to an edge when it comes to many aspects of society.  In that respect, I would never wish to let go of the knowledge I’ve learned.  A lot of the ways I view things are because of my experiences in the business world and various people I’ve dealt with.

It’s really hard to say, but I guess I’d do it over again, though I didn’t particularly enjoy the period.  It could have been done better.

Albert Camus

My final thoughts for this entry include thoughts on a novel by the philospoher and Noble prize winner Albert Camus.

As I have a headache at the moment, I will keep this brief.  Camus’ novel “The Stranger” is a fascinating book.

As for the plot of the book, you can read from wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stranger_(novel)

As for my interest in the novel, you find the main purpose of the book was to advocate a certain philosophy which most people would refer to as “living in the moment”.  The main character, Meursault, is a man who never uses his reflective reasoning.  He continually lives in immediate perception.  He doesn’t think about the future, the past, duty, morals, or anything of the like.  He just lives each day, moment by moment. He’s an example of “living in the moment” taken to its full conclusion.

The book is written from the first person perspective, so you hear what Meursault is thinking about at all times.  It’s fascinating.  One the thing Camus is out to show is that a lot of depression, and mental agitation comes from this needless reflection, and that if you would just learn to enjoy the moment you could be lot more happy.

But you also see the consequences of such a view.  Meursault ends up being executed for a murder (he killed a man, but it was not murder).

The first half of the book you find Meursault not using any reasoning at all.  He just lives moment by moment.  During his court trial, however, (second half of the book) he  slowly starts reasoning and thinking, and you start seeing anger and frustration.

I’ve been reflecting myself on this whole mindset, and find it worthwhile.  Camus has another book, The Myth of Sisyphus, which is about a being Sisyphus, who was punished by the Gods to roll a stone up a hill perpetually for all eternity.  (We’ve all heard of this myth)

Camus is out to show that if you utilize the “live in the moment” mindset, even a tedius pointless task, such as rolling this stone up the hill, can become a much better experience.  When there is a large task before you, the main gist of the mindset is, do not look at the project as a whole, but just get into the moment and do things one at a time.  Enjoy each individual moment, and you’ll soon get it all done.  The reflection on the big picture will just make you miserable.

It’s interesting to think about.  I’m not sure what to think of it entirely, but I’ve been pondering on it all.

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