Now, this is a complex topic that I have even less business talking about than even other topics I often bring up online – given that I’m just a first year student in philosophy, which I became after building up an interest in it – but I will press on as requested by these 2 raging, militant atheists (is that a redundant description? 😉 ) on Twitter.
Anyway, so my [certainly unoriginal] thoughts on the matter begin as follows. What is being, what does it mean to say that something exists? This is the central question of ontology, and I personally get the feeling that the epistemic hurdles to solidly answering this question are insurmountable. Anyways, perhaps we can at least have a provisional, useful definition to employ here? Well, for a while now I’ve been fascinated with a particular view known as bundle theory. Basically, bundle theory would say that there’s no underlying substance or object to which properties inhere. I suppose you could somewhat analogize it to how a nominalist views sets: sets are essentially all of the members of the set. So, when I refer to a “set”, what I’m really doing is referring to each of the members of the set. Long story short, there’s no ontological overhead, I guess you could so. Similarly, bundle theorists regard “objects” as a mere collection or bundle (hence the name) of properties, and they would argue for this in the following sort of way. Apples, for example, are nothing more than a term we give to a a collection of properties that we sense which meet general criteria that we’ve been culturally influenced to call an apple out of convenience. Now, what sorts of properties constitute an apple? Well, they’ll be red, or green (or whatever), take up about as much space as a baseball or softball, have a sweet or sour taste, etc. So what happens if we start removing these properties? Well, the apple looses its color, size, taste and such, until we’ve excised all of it’s properties. Now, try to conceive of this property-less object; can you? What are you conceiving of? Well, the bundle theorists says you aren’t conceiving of anything! When we conceive of something, we imagine some fuzzy collection of properties, so once yo eliminate those properties, you’re left with nothing by which you could apprehend this object. and bundle theorists take this inconceivability of a property-less object as a good reason to reject substance theory, in addition to the fact that it seems to match our experience that to… experience the world is to have a perceptual model of our sensations. Perhaps I could even give an update to Descartes’ cogito with this in mind:
P1) There are thoughts. (incorrigible proposition)
P2) if there is a process, it requires that there be a bundle of properties (an “object”) in order to exist. (assumption that I have; can give rudimentary argument for is needed)
P3) Thinking is a process.
P4) I refer to this process as “I”.
C) Therefore, I exist.
Not entirely sure about the argument, but I’m just having fun here; criticize it as you see fit. 🙂
So, I’m not sure if the above was necessary for this post (or a good defense of bundle theory), but I’ll press on. When talking about things which exist, what sorts of things, if anything, is necessarily the case? Well, I would tend to go classical here an take the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction as being a necessary, er, facet of reality. But why do I think that? Well for starters, let’s take the law of identity: A = A (A is A). Taken as ontologically necessary, this could be translated to something like “properties A is property A”, or “A is itself”. It seems that we cannot, in any sense of speaking about reality itself, go against this. For example, isn’t it the case that the iPad I’m typing this post from is itself? If I try to affirm otherwise (“The iPad I’m typing this from is not itself”) I contradict myself and utter an incoherent statement that reflects no conceivable state of affairs, because I’m using a term one way and then immediately saying that does not refer to what I just said it did.
Perhaps it could be argued that I’m merely failing to appreciate a potential linguistic-psychological limitation (especially considering I personally am not sold on the idea of conceivability as a means of definitively judging the possibility of things), and you know what, I’m not sure at have a convincing rebuttal to that criticism. But it just seems to vitiate my most fundamental intuitions about the world that I can’t help but reject, pretty much out of hand, opposing these 2 principles or laws as ontologically necessary. #BadPhilosopher
Anyway, that concludes my 2nd post. Ontology and the Metaphysics of logic aren’t exactly my forté, so this is sort of where I’m at currently. Be sure to leave me some interesting criticism, particularly if you take the view that these two principles are arguably NOT necessary. Thanks for reading! 🙂