The PROBLEM OF PIFFLE, Part Four: Formless & Void (Continued): Unreal, Unknowing, Nonsensical

Part Four: Formless & Void (Continued): Unreal, Unknowing, Nonsensical

We continue our examination of the Formlessness and Void necessarily implied by the atheist worldview below. The previous entries are here:

We have previously established that a godless view of the universe, to be logically consistent with itself, must also be a nihilist hence irrational universe. 

Unreal Ontology

Third, in an irrational universe, the gift of human speech is also a random configuration of grunts and calls that, somehow, without reason, organized itself by itself under its own power to grant itself to itself.

Rather, in the irrational universe, Man is the sole creature able to decree speech. Somehow man by speaking declared he should have the power of speech. How he did this before he could speak is incomprehensible because impossible.

Unfortunately for the theory that rational speech springs somehow from animal calls, animal calls are concrete things, dealing with dangers and pleasures, joy and passions, or to signal mates or packmates.

All animal calls are literal. Rational speech is abstract.

No combination or sublimation of concrete signals can become an abstraction unless the abstraction is objective, that is, the same between speaker and audience.

A bark that signals “danger” to packmates is used only because the dangers in nature are real. Such a bark would not be used, for example, to indicate that a bitch finds an alpha-wolf “dangerously handsome” during mating season, or “in dangerous of falling in love” because the act of seeing the common property between physical dangers and the risks of romance is an act impossible to a mute and irrational beast: it is a poetic metaphor.

Calls cannot become abstractions by any particular process, Darwinian or otherwise, because abstractions are abstract, not particular. Figures are figurative.

Certainly poetry, metaphor, figures, and all the particulars of how nonliteral speech works and what it means must be left unexplained.

If some clever Ape taught sign language by creatures who had language, invented a new word or metaphor, this would be evidence of a miracle, because such a thing cannot gain meaning from nothing.

Only a meaningful mind can grant a meaning to a meaningless combination of calls and sounds, and agree with another mind to use such a thing as a word or figure of speech thereafter. Grunts cannot gather and do such a thing under their own power, any more than a universe can spring into orderly being by itself.

In a irrational universe, there can be no ontological reality, no being which is being in and of itself, because that would be an eternal and universal truth. Where there is no ontological reality, there is no being in and of itself, to which speech points, and which renders speaking meaningful.

The difference between real and fictional, concrete and abstraction, objective, subjective, or agreed-upon consensus cannot be made in a world where words are arbitrary.

The doctrine that universals are mere names without any corresponding reality, and that only particulars exist, is called Nominalism. Such a pose is inescapable as an ontological conclusion in a godless universe, because universals did not exist before man arose, and exist now nowhere else but in the minds of man, therefore must be manmade, that is, arbitrary. Names cannot be right or wrong.

For if there is a God, the reality of universals is an inescapable ontological conclusion, for it is otherwise impossible to account for the act of granting of the power of naming things to man, unless God Himself also has this power. Indeed, as God is named “I am who am” He is naming himself as the universal of all universals, namely, the Being which gives “being” to beings.

If God is real, “is” is “is.” If not, “is” is not “is” but is instead whatever men say it is.

Nominalism is akin to the theory, once held by an ancient crackpot, that light issued from the eye as a visual ray, which, falling on objects, granted those objects the power of being seen. Light itself from sun and moon, star and candle, in this theory, did not exist until also touched by the visual ray. This ancient crackpot theory did not explain how an object, such as a bucket in a deep well, could be invisible in the gloom, then half visible as it emerged into the light, then fully visible, despite no obstructions o the eye looking down into the gloomy well.

Likewise, as mentioned above, nominalism does not explain how objects of thought emerge from inarticulate pre-verbal awareness, to half-inarticulate objects of poetry, mysticism, or metaphor at which language gropes, to clear and precise literal language clearly seen in the light of reason.

Nominalism, in effect, is a theory that, since nothing is seen by a closed eye, ergo eyeballs shed light. It is confusing the medium of sight with the organ of sight. So, here. Nominalism confuses the act of pointing at a real abstraction with a word, with the word itself, as if the roadsign pointing to London were London itself.  It conflates the medium of speech with the object of speech.

Ontology, the study of what is and is not real, in a godless universe, leads to an irrational universe. No one can say with the universe is, if “is” is not “is.” Without ontology, fact cannot be distinguished from fiction, and words about reality are conflated with words that shape reality.

Certain words, such as christening, lawmaking, or vowing a vow create the reality of which they speak. But in an irrational universe, all words have this property. In reality, a woman can indeed transform herself into a wife by saying “I do.” But in the atheist universe, where ontology is unreal, it is also held that a man can transform himself into a woman by saying he is.

In an irrational universe, reason is no longer able to distinguish reality from opinion, fiction, fantasy, figurative speech, nor from delusion, delirium, unreality.

It is an unreal universe.

Agnostic Epistemology

In an unreal universe, knowledge has no standards, neither for empirical nor for rational knowledge. Formalism, which is the knowledge that rational and empirical knowledge cannot contradict each other, is likewise void.

Empiricism cannot be trusted because the sense organs and the methods of interpretation of sense data are either natural or manmade. If natural, then created by blind natural processes, not as tools purposefully created to serve the purpose of accurate portrayal of reality, or any purpose at all. If manmade, then arbitrary. In either case, there is no warrant for relying on them.

Nor can the senses be trusted provisionally, and then trusted with fewer reservations once seen to be trustworthy after a history of many previous cases, simply because the only basis of comparison of the senses would be with other senses. The assumption that the senses are reliable if coherent with each other, but unreliable if incoherent, is an assumption made no the grounds that the universe is coherent.

This assumption, is, once again, a universal abstraction based on ontological axioms, and it cannot be justified in a universe where ontology is unreal. A baby playing peek-a-boo is perhaps unsure if objects persist even when unseen — but persistence of objects is  an a priori axiom, that is, something needed before deductions of any kind can be deduced from sense impressions. It is not a posteriori knowledge, that is, not something that follows sense impressions and is deduced from them.

One cannot, if all of life is a dream, distinguish dream from waking. Any test results of a test one performs in a dream are also dreamed. By the same token, in a world where all knowledge is empirical, by definition only a posteriori knowledge is reliable, knowledge that spring from empiricism.

But the postulate that that all knowledge is empirical is an a priori postulate, since it applies to all sense impressions and to all knowledge whatsoever, including impressions not yet encountered, and knowledge not yet known.

By the same token, if empiricism cannot be accepted provisionally, the commonplace conceit that it can be used pragmatically on the grounds that it works is absurd. The concept of “what works” or “what does not work” once again, is a universal abstraction, an a priori standard, and not something deduced from sense impressions. “What works” is a judgement about things seen, it is not itself a thing that is seen.

Hence, empiricism cannot confirm empiricism. Only rationalism can. Empiricism is either a truth reached from metaphysical first principles, or it is not true at all.

In an irrational universe, human reason, as said above, is an accidental arrangement of neural tissues, accidently useful under pre-paleolithic conditions for Darwinian survival and fertility. There is no reason to trust it outside those pre-paleolithic conditions, nor to trust it for the purpose of correctly reflecting reality. That was not its purpose. No organ has any innate purpose, aside from survival and fertility.

Human reason may reflect reality, perhaps, but that is not the reason the neural cortex exists. It exists for no reason.

Perhaps a certain type of pragmatic reasoning might prove useful enough for Darwinian purposes to be passed along under pre-paleolithic conditions by ape men to the next generation of ape men to flourish in generations thereafter, and outnumber their less rational brethren, but considering the sheer number of irrational animals — all of them — compared to the number of rational — one, namely, man — the Darwinian pressures to bring forth rational thought must be rare indeed, a mere statistical freak.

(And let no human partisans of dolphins, pigs, or baboons upbraid me that these creatures are also rational. I will wait to hear from their delphine, porcine, or cercopiothecine theologians, philosophers and sages on the matter.)

By that as it may, there is no reason and no justification to trust a priori reasoning. There is no rational epistemology in an irrational universe.

Formalism says that a circular object seen with the eye, as a dinner plate, wagon wheel, or moon in the sky, manifests the geometrical properties of the abstract circle understood by geometry, and has the properties geometry deduces, to the same degree, and in the same way, that the object resembles the abstraction.

The closer a given circular object is to a perfect circle, the more closely it will have the other abstract properties of the circle, such as, for example, it will ever more closely diameter and circumference seen approach (but never reach) the irrational ratio called pi.

A moment’s reflection shows that, unless matter is continuous, all circular objects seen by the eye have a whole number ratio.

Consider: the number of pearls on a pearl necklace resting in a circle must be a whole number, as is the number of pearls laid end to end in a straight line bisecting it. Likewise, the number of atoms or fundamental particles, if they are discrete and occupy discrete locations, composing the rim and the diameter of even the most painstakingly formed circular object will be a whole number ratio, hence not be precisely equal to pi.

If atoms or fundamental particles are not discrete or do not occupy discrete locations, but have only approximate properties, the particles composing the rim of a circular object cannot be precisely equal to anything, for precision is absent in such a universe. If precision is absent, the precise value of pi is absent. But any object the precise value of pi is absent, might be approximately circular, but it is not a circle.

Whether atoms are discrete or not, however, in a world where objects are made of atoms, no one has ever seen a circle. Whatever is known about the properties of circles is not empirical knowledge.

Here is a paradox, for if ideals are not real, then real objects approximate an ideal object that is not real. As if an unreal yardstick could measure a real stick.

Only if ideals are real, that is, only if non-physical reality is objective, can ideals measure anything, or, for that matter, can particulars, such as approximately circular objects, be gathered under a single categorical word, such as a word like “circle.”

Only if the category “circle” exists as an empty box can the particular sense impressions to be labeled as circular placed in that box.

Without the axiom of formalism, there is no reason to assume bridges will stand, deductions of land surveyors will be correct, or that any prediction of mathematical ratios seen in nature will hold. Without the axiom of formalism, mathematics is an arbitrary and meaningless word game.

Worse still, words games cannot exist. Without the axiom of formalism, categorization is impossible, and, since all naming is categorization, names and words are themselves impossible.

Scientific endeavors based on natural causes alone, whether honest attempts at science like Darwin’s bold but failed attempt to account for the original of species, or unscientific crackpottery like Freud’s craven but failed attempt to explain the human soul in secular terms, are all equally in vain without the axiom of formalism. There is simply no reason to trust that the conclusions of abstract reasoning will reflect or be reflected by empirical reality. Such a trust cannot rest on the gathered experience of successful prior attempts at reasoning, because such reasoning, being empirical, is always particular, and no number of particulars, be they ever so many, equals the certainty of a universal truth.

An engineer, perhaps, can say that a certain rule of thumb has worked for building particular machines or bridges under certain particular circumstances up until now, but he cannot project his assumption into tomorrow unless he affirms a universal truth to be known, even if he knows, at the moment, only a part of that truth.

Those who answer that such is the human condition: like it or not, knowledge is uncertain, sense impressions are approximate, abstractions are imaginary, in effect, hold it to be a universal truth that there are no universal truths. Which is absurd.

Do not mistake the point being made: this is not an argument that Newtonian mechanics operates under normal conditions, but Einstein is needed to explain the perihelion precession of Mercury’s orbit. The revolution of scientific models to include otherwise unexplained fringe cases by discovering a more robust model, more elegant, one that explains more things, is the natural process of scientific advancement.

Rather, this is the argument that, without a priori knowledge, Newtonian mechanics cannot be held to operate under normal conditions, since holding that particular engines or bridges obey Newton’s three laws is an abstract conclusion of a priori  reasoning.

Without a priori knowledge, there is no revolution of scientific models from less to more robust, because there are no scientific models to begin with. The act of forming a scientific model is an act of abstraction. One must affirm laws of nature exist before any attempt is made to identify them.

But in an unreal universe, ‘is’ is not ‘is’, and there is no foundation for such an affirmation. There can be no laws of nature for the same reason there are no laws of logic.

In a naturalistic universe, all things change and decay, and there is no place for laws of nature or laws of logic to rest, except as arbitrary knots of neural tissue in the prefrontal cortex of the human brain, carrying out blind neuro-electronic operations accidentally.

Knowledge is either nonexistent or, what amounts to the same thing, doomed forever to be unknown to the human mind. It is an agnostic universe. The word agnostic is often used to refer to those who hold knowledge of God is beyond human certainty, but, in this case, any knowledge of any kind would be beyond human certainty. The whole universe would be agnostic.

Nothing can be truly known in an agnostic universe, not even the principle that nothing can be truly known.

Nominalism and Nonsense

In an agnostic universe, nothing is known, hence nothing is known to have an innate nature: all is accident, all is happenstance, all is merely the way things happened to fall out. Nothing in nature is essential, nothing is deliberate.

Anything that seems deliberate, such as the beauty of the stars or the majesty of mountains, or the diligence of the ant or the prudence of the squirrel in autumn storing food before winter, or the craftsmanship a bird weaving a nest in spring, is either in illusion in the eye of the beholder, or an accidental mischance of random molecular mutations in the DNA of the neural systems controlling the creature, which so happened, under the circumstances of that time and place and environment, to prove statistically more likely in the long term to benefit either the survival rate or fertility rate of the selfish genes carried along by the creature and carrying the creature along.

The selfish genes, in turn, are not actually selfish, for they are not actually anything. They exist for no purpose and serve no function. Only tools serve functions, and tools properly so called are only made by toolmakers.

An organ cannot be a tool properly so called, that is, cannot be matter organized with an innate use in mind, unless the parts of organism holding those organs are designed by a designer who had a use in mind when designing the organism.

The selfish genes replicate because they replicate, soullessly, without desire or point, and those genes who do not replicate successfully do not replicate, and cannot pass along the non-replication trait. It is circular reasoning.

If nothing in nature has an innate nature nor point, neither can words have an innate nature or point. Words can be coined by man to serve man, and he can have a point in mind when he uses them, for good or ill, but the words themselves cannot.

All words are merely nominal, that is, an arbitrary manmade convention created by man for any reason or no reason. There is no such thing as right and wrong names, true names or false names, nor any basis on which to make a judgment of right and wrong in the act of bestowing names.

This introduces two impossible problems: the first is that there can be no universals, no abstractions, in such a universe, nor poetry, nor puns, nor anything other than labels which have a one-to-one correspondence, like key and lock, to whatever stimulus provokes the speech-reflex, or to whatever act the speech-act is meant (by man) to accomplish. Anything else requires a thought, or idea, or dream, or pattern of abstractions, that the man can grasp at first without words, but then later can find or invent words to express.

In other words, in order for words to be words, there must be nonverbal thoughts grasped by the human mind for those words to capture and express. In which case, the degree of success at capture and expression sets a standard for coining words, in which case the theory that no such standard exists is false.

But the act of grasping a wordless thought during the act of finding or inventing fit words to express it cannot take place unless wordless thoughts exist already, and, moreover, it cannot take place unless that wordless thought reflects reality, either fictional or real, mythical or quotidian, abstract or concrete. Coining words cannot take place unless there are rules or standards establishing when it is proper to coin or not to coin a word, and to select between various possible words. That selection process itself cannot be in words, because we are discussing the act of groping for a word, or coining a new one, to express an idea not hitherto put into words.

Unless the wordless thoughts are abstractions that have independent existence before being coined, unless “justice” was a real thing before Adam first spoke the word on Earth (perhaps when finding Abel dead at his brother’s hand), then there is no process involved in assigning word-sounds to represent concepts.

One cannot grope from a group of particulars, upon grasping what property they all have in common, and use a metaphor to liken the unalike, and so, by poetry, coin a new term, unless the abstract property binding group of particulars is real. Otherwise, groping for words would be effortless and meaningless, like coming up with a term like “quark” — an ugly, quacking word coined precisely because it meant nothing in any known language.

This is not the only difficulty. If nominalism is true, words cannot be coined by any process, because they cannot be apt or not apt, fitting or not fitting, based on the precedent of any prior speech, because there is no analogy in the world of idea that would make any given word fit or unfit for the task of representing that new concept.

In English, for example, we have no term for discovering the perfect witticism to reply only long after the opportunity is past. In French, this is called “L’esprit de l’escalier” or “staircase wit” for it is the witty reply found only after one has walked out of the chamber and down the stairs. The perfect poetic image of a staircase to represent the interval between the witticism, and the last opportunity to deliver it, makes the phrase apt. It is poetry in that the metaphor brings up a concrete image of the abstract frustration being described.

But, according to nominalism, there is no pre-existing parallel, no common property, between the stepped walk-ramp we call a staircase, the social or architectural convention of not going downstairs until one has definitely left chamber, and the ironic Gallic frustration of discovering a perfect barb as if hidden in an inner pocket, only after the target is too far away to launch it.

Likewise, if nominalism is correct, there are no universals, hence no pre-existing parallels between the word “barb” used literally to mean an arrowhead, and used figuratively to mean a pointed word meant to puncture the inflated ego of another.

Likewise, words like “pointed” or “puncture” or “inflated” are also figures of speech, tiny grace notes of poetry, nearly impossible to express literally. A word cannot be “pointed” in the sense of literally having an acute angle atop a sound compression wave. It requires an acute mind perhaps to see that; and when I say “see” of course, I am not literally saying anything, since I am currently writing, not speaking, and I am not literally talking about eyesight, but using a metaphor for understanding. Which is, in turn, a metaphor referring to having a sound footing beneath. Likewise, the word “ego” used above is an imported metaphor from an ancient language, a word referring to oneself, to mean pride.

Upon reflection, most or all human speech is metaphorical. It is merely that certain metaphors, when used in technical terminology, are asked to mean only once precise thing, and shed the other parallel meanings they carry when used in common speech.

Metaphors are the common abstract property that exists between two otherwise unrelated concrete objects of thought. That common abstraction pre-exists words used to express them, otherwise coining words or inventing metaphor to express thoughts would not be possible. Nominalism cannot explain this.

Nominalism also leaves the atheist without explanation for the origins of speech.

One word can be called into existence by a creature already able to speak, as man coins new terms as need or fancy dictates. But a speechless and irrational creature cannot start this process.

Where, then, do words come from? Onomatopoeia can coin terms from natural sounds, but the mental act of using that sound to refer to objects or situations where the sound does not naturally occur, such as, for example, clucking like a chicken to mock the chicken-hearted, or hissing like a cat to call a girl catty, are themselves examples of metaphor.

More to the point, where does the power to coin words come from? This power cannot come from an organ or faculty in the minds of man, a “nomothete” power, designed and installed in man for the purpose of granting the power to coin new words, because, in a naturalistic universe, all things are either manmade hence arbitrary, or are natural hence unintentional.

In a godless universe, not only are words arbitrary, so are deeds, such as the deed of uttering false words. There is no innate reason not to lie, and certainly no innate reason not to deceive oneself.

It is a nonsense universe.