On non-Being and the prime mover

In Metaphysics, Aristotle entertains the notion of an original cause that causes but is not caused by anything: the unmoved mover or the prime mover. It follows logically by tracing the chain of causation back to its source. If C is due to B and B happens because of A, then what triggers A to engender B is the initial cause of this catenation of presences. What then causes that one? And what comes before it? The regression can only lead us to a starting point where this putative original cause must be. Such is not a locus or indeed a tangible thing, but an analytical construct that derives from the deduction of something being caused by something else.

The notion of a prime mover can be interpreted as a theological statement, where a divine power has created the world out of nothing. There broadly are, however, two issues with that approach:

  1. Is “from nothing” a statement on non-Being? If so, then one reaches the terminus of human’s faculties of sense and intellect. For to describe that which is not is to attempt to attribute properties and, in so doing, to render the construct they are fastened upon or are assigned to as being: they are predicated on something, not on nothing. Human mind can conceive of non-Being analytically as the opposite of Being, though to experience or describe something is indeed to be concerned with some thing, i.e. a form of being. To reason about non-Being is to reason about Being, just as to speak of the ineffable is to talk about that which is being discussed, which is not ineffable as such.

  2. Setting aside the impossibility of non-Being as being, a state in which some divine entity produces something out of absolutely nothing is still not one of non-Being, as there is the presence of that entity to account for. So “absolutely nothing” is not true. Which would compel us to pursue the Aristotelean enterprise further to inquire upon the causes of that very entity: what is the cause of such a presumed divine power? What about the cause’s cause? And so on until we return to where we started wondering about the unmoved mover.

To resolve the problem, one may posit a hypothesis that is complementary to Aristotle’s linear sequencing: what may be described schematically as circular that admits to work within the confines of Being instead of trying and inevitably failing to escape the boundaries of human potential. That which causes but is not caused by anything must be the cause of its own and everything else must be predicated on it, for that which causes is and that which causes ultimately still is, actuality per se. Being always is, neither was nor will be, to the effect that the prime mover is Being.

If one supposes that there exists just the divine qua prime mover on one side and nothingness on the other, then there is at least a third or rather more fundamental magnitude that frames, informs, determines, and preconditions the two, together forming oneness where the dichotomy between exo- and endo- oneness dissolves into itself. To think of an otherwise self-contained chain reaction that is brought about by a force external to it is to inevitably admit the point of contact and to implicitly recognise an environment where the connection can be established between the mover and the moved. Again, the dichotomy does not hold in absolute terms.

What are discerned as patterns in this universal oneness are derivatives of Being that always come and go from something into something. Not from nothing into something nor from something into nothing. All are embedded in Being, essentially inseparable from each other as systems of systems, each governed by local and global rules, each environed by others and contributing to the interplay of factors that engender emergent phenomena; systems of systems in strata of emergence and so on recursively within a cosmic supersystem; never as standalone presences and only as instances of partiality rather than individuality as such.

[ Read: On individuality and partiality (2021-03-14). ]

Being is represented as a circle in that it is its own cause and it always is. Though predicate or higher forms of being beyond the universal fundamentals are best described as a helix, due to the mode of phenomenal differentiation—itself a constant—in which no combination of innumerable factors ever repeats itself. There is no cosmic rewind and replay, as in a one-to-one reenactment, but interdependent and compounding adaptations between the constituents in each and every super- and sub- system of the cosmos.

The helix and the circle are not in conflict, such as in the case of a vortex where a circular motion at the centre of a body of water generates the helix-like flow. Remember though that those are schematic representations with which to communicate, not to be captured by them in trying to identify perfect correspondence between the metaphor and reality.

How come there are forms in oneness? Due to emergence, which is an epiphenomenon, or rather concatenation of epiphenomena, of Being. Fundamentally there is Being. Forms of being are emergent realities that are derived from lower level fundamentals through the complex interplay of the factors in each case. Just as there can be conscience at one stratum of emergence, there can be at others. There is no clear indication that emergence reaches a finality, such as, say, the sequencing from the atoms to the organs to the supersystem called “human” producing the phenomenon of conscience to ever stop at that level and for there to be no such emergence from fungi to plants and forests and oceans to planets to solar systems and galaxies, et cetera. If it is known to be made manifest in one place, or under a given set of circumstances, why would it not be reproduced in another constitution of the case, mutatis mutandis?

[ Read: On Nihilism (2019-11-21) and On nihilism, scepticism, absolutism (2020-02-29). ]

Emergence does not explain the reason of being instead of not being, so why does the unmoved cause motion? One cannot determine a precise reason for why Being causes other things to derive from it and return to it. What one can tell is that there can be no non-Being and that forms of being always are inter-dependent and jointly existent.

Suppose Being somehow revealed itself to us and explained what the reason is for beings to exist instead of not existing—would that suffice? One would not be justified in providing assent to such claims, for one lacks the means to verify them independently. Human can only ever conceive that which is in the nature of human to conceive and, consequently, one can never think, imagine, comprehend that which is not possible for human to ever think, imagine, comprehend. A revelation of the sort here considered that is formulated in a way which is understandable by humans is one that necessarily is within humanity’s potentiality and, therefore, constitutes a claim or set thereof that one ought to be able to confirm rather than take at face value. One must, in other words, remain dubitative and inquisitive.

[ Read: The Dialectician’s Ethos (2020-09-30). ]

What is the relationship between the idea of this article and this article, or between the idea of this article and the idea of article as such? Do ideas exist and are they somehow mixed together with some matter in order to be instantiated? Ideas exist in a basic way that is reducible to energy and so the instantiation of an idea does share a part with its noetic counterpart through the transformation of energy into matter, though not as partaking of a finite quantity as in how a loaf of sourdough bread derives from the dough of an older bread. The instantiation of this article consists of bits in the computer or ink on paper, if you will, though there is no computer hardware, ink, paper in its author’s mind. Yet the idea of this article is imprinted in this article, while the totality of all possible articles does not exhaust the idea of article, for it is not finite. It is intriguing then that the aforementioned epiphenomena of motion lead to an animal that can entertain ideas; which would suggest that intelligence of varying degrees must be immanent to the cosmos rather than germane to human, as there is nothing unique in human qua human. For what else is the pre-programmed, yet sufficiently self re-programmable, behaviour of the seed (or indeed of anything that grows and evolves) that gives a tree, which gives seeds, and so more trees, and the same in an eternal process of compounding adaptation that actually co-occurs in all forms of being? Just as human consists of what may be described in a sense as ‘star dust’—water, iron, and the like—so must it inherit everything else that is prevalent.

Why argue against nothingness when this article came into being from nothing? It did not come from nothing, nor in nothing, nor of nothing. There always is something. Instantiations come an go, just as one animal is born and eventually dies without exhausting or depleting some resource pertaining to its type of being. Under the scope of Being, life and death are not distinct as they are part of the same process of composition and decomposition from something into something. Life and death, presence or absence, are felt differently at different strata of emergence, because each stratum is but a part of the cosmic whole, so it does not have the complete circle peculiar to it. Think of it like a pulse, a cosmic dance, that pulls together ‘star dust’: when it is assembled you live, when it disassembles you cease to be, though the pulse continues pulling and pushing ‘star dust’.

What if there is some substantive difference between the cosmos and whatever caused it, such as how a computer program can procedurally create its own realities within the confines of the program without being the same as its human creator? What if there is a true substance in some other state and the cosmos as we know and can imagine it is just a grand illusion, so to speak, or some sort of an empty shell? One would still have to reason about such truly substantive state in the same way we have already outlined, namely, that everything humanity may posit about it is strictly limited to Being. The supposed truly substantive state would then be one of Being, not non-Being, and the unmoved mover, else that which causes but is not caused by anything, would have to be the cause of its own. Furthermore, the distinction between exo and endo in that state would continue to be meaningless, for if it were contained by something it would not be genuinely the prime mover and we would thus have to press on with our research until we found the circularity outlined herein.

Giving it a different name does not solve our problem. We always return to universal interconnectedness, to oneness.