The hubris of thought

A very common trap we fall into with our thinking is the belief that reality has to conform to our thinking.

This is shown in the ontological argument for the existence of God.

The ontological argument goes:

God is that than which nothing greater can be thought.

That than which nothing greater can be thought (we’ll call it god from here on in. Think of God as a variable; like an x in algebra) can be thought of as existing and not existing.

God existing is greater than god not existing therefore we cannot think of God as not existing.

All well and good but the final clause in the argument is the trap I am talking about.

Therefore God must exist. (implicitly: because we cannot think of God as not existing)

What we have done here is show that using certain laws for thought – playing a certain thought game as Wittgenstein would put it – you cannot think of God as not existing. The trap is to then extend this beyond the limits of thought itself. Why should reality conform to laws of thought?

This trap is so common because I believe it is something we are born believing. It’s behind the belief called naïve realism. We all believe that the world outside of our experience must conform to the world of our experience without ever having any proof for or against this belief.

Another example of this way of thinking, of how we extend the rules of thought to illegitimately (without any ground) make claims about reality is the idea of infinite divisibility.

Numbers come from counting and counting is a process that is reversible. You can go on into infinity and you can go back to infinity. You can also count within a number (1, ½, 1/3, ¼ etc). This capacity is something our brains can do.

We can do loops and such things with ease. But is reality infinite? Is the space out there that we experience infinitely divisible? This is of course an empirical question and because of that and the nature of infinity it is impossible to answer. But we just assume without too much trouble that this must be the case.

Always try to maintain the distinction between the thought and what it is a thought about and let the thought be determined by the object of thought. Don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole.


Journal of my Journey towards Understanding: Heidegger: Is there a Being-Toward-Birth in Heideggerian ontology?

It seems to me that birth shares a lot of the features of death.

It’s my own-most past action.

Though if Dasein exists before being thrown out of the womb then it could be said that whilst in the womb biological birth was Dasein’s own-most-potentiality-of-being-in-the-world.

Wait there; I’m being stupid.

Let me define the term “Birth” as the beginning of Dasein’s existence just as “Death” is defined as the end of Dasein’s existence.

So is there a being-toward something in my past?

I think I’m using being-toward something inappropriately here. Could being-toward something include the imagining/remembering of a past event? If so then Dasein could never be in the mode of being-toward its own birth because I don’t know about you but I don’t remember being born.

Actually that’s stupid; I’m making the mistake of taking the moments of Dasein’s existence as objectively present things and saying “we can’t be toward-birth because we can’t remember it happening” but neither can we remember or imagine what death is like. Both present a kind of void.

But still I think that the question “Can there be a being-toward birth?” Is just as important a question as “Can there be a being-toward-death?”

If there is to be a potentiality-for-being-whole surely a being-toward-birth is as necessary as a being-toward-death.

Also it doesn’t share the feature of being-toward-possibility because it has already happened.

Birth shares a lot of the features of death except indefiniteness. This is because looking back nothing is indefinite; it always happened at a particular time, particular place and was a particular action or event.

“Yesterday at 2pm I juggled for 10 minutes in my hallway.”

But future events and actions are always indefinite. Firstly you cannot be sure – no matter how determined you are – that it will happen.

Also when Dasein is authentic it is faced with a plethora of possibilities that constitute its situation and in the mode of resoluteness it’s reticent so the activity it will choose to do from the mode of resoluteness is indefinite.

Birth shares with death in that it would be my own-most. Even though I cannot look forward to my birth as I can my death; birth is still my own-most because only I was born and no-one else.

I am certain that my birth occurred; I am, I exist.

It’s non-relational because I don’t remember my birth and so can’t communicate authentically about it with others. (I may be misunderstanding the term “non-relational” there because I think non-relational may have been used to designate the fact that nobody can take my place and die for me; which would still mean that birth and death shared this feature because nobody can be born for me).

An interesting question that just popped into my head “At what point, as what phenomena, would the existence of a new Dasein be disclosive to another Dasein?”

The kicks felt by the mother and people placing their hands on the mother’s gravid belly?

One of the key features that birth shares with death is that of individuation and freedom – or would freedom be in Heideggerian terms resoluteness?

If I look back to my birth I don’t remember signing anything that obliged me to act in such and such a manner. Even if I did I would have to have signed something previous to that to make the first signing binding and something previous to that and so on.

I think here I’m getting at thrownness; once you realize that you are thrown into your situation and all that entails you realize how you are not obliged to do anything but can if you choose engage in any of the possibilities that are disclosed to your understanding in the situation.

Maybe the most distinguishing feature of birth is that at birth you are at your most vulnerable to falling-prey to the They.

Maybe biological birth is a movement from one state of a comfortable lack of freedom (the womb) to another less comfortable state that lacks total freedom but contains more freedom than the womb; that is the movement into the inauthentic they-self of everydayness.