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The Two Pathways at the Foundation of Being

June 25, 2021

At the foundation of Being we have two primary options we can choose in how we address things. We can take the Leibnizian approach of the identity of indiscernibles, where, in line with the principle of sufficient reason, for things to be distinct, there must be a ground for that distinction and that ground must be determined relative to one of the things. Or we can take the converse approach, which has become more and more popular ever since the success of Einstein’s more positivist and conventionalist approach to defining space, time and events, which is well formulated and illustrated by Quines principle of the indiscernibility of identicals. This principle states that identical things can be distinct merely and only in virtue of a purely extensional difference between the things. Where Leibniz had in mind an internal differentiation between things as primary, Quine postulates an external difference as the primary demarcating factor between things.

This decision then impacts heavily on ones whole attitude towards reality and life. For if you think an entity has its ground in something external to it, you think that entity has no essence or internal properties. It has no identity or uniqueness within it. While if you think, following Leibniz, that an entity has its ground determined based on internal qualities of its being, you will see things as all unique reflections on the world from a unique perspective. On one side we have the quantitative drudgery of a homogeneous mass of calculable and predictable entities, acting as machines or robots, fully determined by external factors. On the other side we have the quilt like pattern of a diverse range of unique beings flowering and developing in multifarious ways based on their own internal source of drive or motivation.

Personally, I think, as a society, we have had just about enough of the purely quantitative approach to being. This hit its zenith one could say in the exploitation era of pure individualism and capitalism in the late 20th century. And had been developing towards that point ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Where the goal was to mechanise and quantify everything. We still see the influence of this mentality in todays society via the algorithms and targeted advertising which try to attract people to certain products and ways of thinking by building up complex information databases about this persons preferences based on previous internet activity etc, in order to control or at least manage their future behaviour. We also still see it in the greed and obsession with money and wealth and property. When your understanding of being is defined on quantitative , extensional factors, it doesn’t just stay in physics class or in formal logic class or mathematics or statistics class, it seeps out into your whole attitude to the world.

This harmful impact and dangerous influence needs to be understood much more fully and in more detail, for the sake of future society, culture and education to ensure we don’t disconnect ourselves from what I believe is our true status of being as unique entities with a unique point of attention and perspective focused on the world. It is a kind of Marxist alienation analysis applied here you could say, but applied much more specifically and focused towards a respect for being and a reasonable understanding of being. Where, the problem with Marx is that he did not appreciate any rationalist philosophy, and in fact had a very naive understanding of philosophy as illustrated in his book the poverty of philosophy. As as result, Marx applied an approach of merely collective reform rather than individual spiritual reform, which actually furthered the alienation of the industrial era and its malaise, by misidentifying any concern with the individual or spirituality as some sort of bourgeiouse privileged thing. By painting it in this way, the unique individual is seen to be something that should be submerged in the collective will of the society, rather than something to be aspired to.

Hopefully we can choose the better road for being in future, and not sacrifice our value as beings to some numerical calculation of quantity.

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