I have a few lofty goals for this report, but I would like to begin with semantics. In any debate, or conversation, communication is the first objective (if not the only one). In order to accurately communicate, there must be standard definitions to terms regardless of context. I believe that the generic English dictionary attempts at such definitions have failed in almost every case. The reason for this is anthropocentric bias in most cases, or sometimes ethnocentricity. Philosophers have attempted to work out universal problems using insufficient and confined tools (i.e. Poorly defined words).
I propose a method by which to devise universally standard definitions. A definition, by definition, is the set of parameters between which every possible occurrence of a term exists. For instance, color only exists between the extremes of black and white, with an infinite spectrum as its definition. Thus, one can define color as everything that comes between black and white. Then, one can define black as "zero colors" and white as "infinite/all colors". This does not conflict with accepted definitions; it only simplifies them.
Further, one must understand that both extremes are mathematical limits (i.e. One never actually reaches the limit, one only approaches it infinitely), making it conceptually circular. One can conceive of the perspectives of black or white. However, from the perspective of either extreme, the other extreme does not exist at all. This produces a problem, since from the perspective of an infinite white field (i.e. One is the field, not in the field), there appears to be nothing. Thus, equating "nothing" with "everything".
This leads into another useful method, one with which to unify/connect any two concepts. One can place "nothing" on one extreme and "everything" on the other, and create a spectrum of "nothing to everything". Then we can apply any term we choose to the definition. In this case, I will call the nothing-everything scale: "existence". This holds, because if something exists it is "some thing", but if it does not exist it is "no thing". The collection of all existing things is "every thing". This is also to claim that whenever a person uses the word "existence", they in fact mean the nothing-everything scale. In other words, any subdefinition (one which has added qualifiers) of "existence" (e.g. "human existence") is included in the universal definition.
A few definitions that will become relevant are:
Infinity - All-inclusive; no qualitative or quantitative parameters (Opposite of finite). Consider that if something is infinitely finite, it is zero. Infinity is also a circular definition, in that it defines itself; infinity is a subset only of infinity. Of course, one can talk about sub-definitions of infinity by adding qualifiers (e.g. Infinity as all even numbers, or all real numbers, etc.).
Thought - Any process. The opposite extreme of stasis, which is the only state that involves no thought. This definition will be justified later.
I have shown that any two subjects are relatable as extremes on a scale, which is a definition to a term. The term that is concluded from the definition includes both extremes. Thus, from the perspective of the term, the extremes are the same thing. Both black and white are color. Both light and dark are illumination. This fact can be used as a Foundation for Truth.
"I am thinking, therefore I exist." This is René Descartes' famous statement, proving his own existence in some form, regardless of the nature of that existence. However, this is only useful as a Foundation if it applies to all cases of existence. Descartes does go on to prove that "the things we clearly and distinctly conceive are all true." I will demonstrate an alternate method with which to arrive at this conclusion.
First, the term "thinking" must be defined. I have defined it as "performing any process." Most humans would claim that thinking is solely a human activity. Their definitions for the word "thought" are usually convoluted and specific to humans, often involving the human brain or mind. Thus, they have only defined the specific class of "human thought" and not necessarily "thought". When one observes the process we call thought closely, we can describe its qualities. In the brain, it is the transfer of neurotransmitters across the synapse from one neuron to another. This is accomplished by chemical, electrical, and hydraulic forces. Similarly, a boulder rolling down a hill is a thought. It is a boulder being transferred from the top of a hill to the bottom of the hill, via gravitational and kinetic forces.
In truth, no two entities experience precisely the same thoughts. Even other humans only think and act in a similar manner. However, if someone were to use this to demand that he were the only thinker in the universe (Solipsism), he would be labeled immediately by the majority as insane. As such, we assume it is crazy to believe in only one universal thinker. After this assumption is made, we conclude that there is more than one thinker, and some non-thinkers. If everything thought, that would again mean one universal thinker as a whole. The method we have chosen to pinpoint thinking beings is extremely primitive. We simply look at something, and compare its behavior to our own. The more it behaves like a human, the more it thinks. This gives monkeys some intelligence, and a chair none at all. Further, this method is used within human society. There are normal parameters of behavior, all the way down to the individual. Certain people within a society are deemed psychologically deviant, or simply retarded. Some are just considered unintelligent. These terms all point to the same idea that there is a certain way to think, and it is the only way to think. This concept is small-minded and always destructive.
Let me be clear, however, that I am not to make a similar mistake. I will not assume there are no non-thinkers in existence. According to the rules of definition, if we have the term "thinking" then there must be a definition for the term "non-thinking" as well. The opposite of a process is the lack thereof, or stasis. The next question is to determine whether non-thinking beings (static beings) exist. The term "exist" means "to be", regardless of location in dimension (space, time, etc.). This is why Descartes' argument from the cogito works, because if a thing is being anything at all, it exists. Descartes used the act of thinking as proof of his being. Thinking about thinking is itself proof of existence. However, does the statement "I am static, therefore I exist" hold up as well? In theory, yes. Stasis is indeed a state of being (actually, an infinitely singular state). However, since thought is impossible in this state, such a statement about ones existence could never be made. If it were, a process would have begun and the being would no longer be static. Thus, a static being could never prove its own existence.
Again, this is not to say there is no such thing as a static being. Let us consider the qualities of such a being. Firstly, Stasis (the static being) is a singularity, since it is comprised of only one state. Stasis is dimensionally infinite. In other words, if it were to end, a process would then exist. This would make stasis obsolete. There is an interesting property of stasis: An infinite static field divided in half experiences no net change. However, two opposing perspectives are created within the field. These two perspectives are each infinite as well, thought not in the same sense (qualitative) as the infinite static field they were divided from. As such, these new halves can be attributed infinite possible qualities, so long as they add up to the whole (retaining stasis). Some examples of qualities for these perspectives are cause/effect, male/female, black/white, and every other binary system.
As a side note, this corresponds perfectly with most religions in the world (or at worst, does not conflict). There is almost always the belief in one all-powerful existence (i.e. God), and often the belief in a subdivision, or offspring (e.g. God and Goddess), which have infinitely opposing properties except their devotion to the One.
One might ask when or by what mean this division occurred. The answer is that stasis has never and will never change, according to its definition. Thus, this dualistic division has always existed. Further, with infinite dualistic divisions come infinite possible combinations, which serve as further divisions. I can define myself by all the halved-dualistic properties I entail at a given moment. One can even entail contradicting properties (e.g. good/evil) at a given time, but in reference to different contexts.
In summary of what I have accomplished so far: Every conceivable binary pair, and thus everything, exists. Stasis exists as the assumed opposite of process, which is itself a binary pair. Every being which is not static thinks.
One thing I have not specifically considered yet is the idea of consciousness. To be conscious simply means to be aware. One might argue that consciousness is “self-awareness”, but one can be aware of something external as well. Further, one could conclude that if a being is externally aware, it must follow that it is at least potentially internally aware (self-aware). If we put self-awareness and external-awareness on a scale as opposite extremes, we find that the only case that something is completely self-aware is when there is no external awareness, and vic versa. So how does one determine awareness? One becomes aware in the presence of a stimulus by reacting. This can be accomplished by any process. For instance, if a mosquito lands on and stimulates one’s arm one can slap it, look at it, or think about it. In every case, the person has reacted to it, and thus was aware. Similarly, if one has an internal stimulus (e.g. A thought in the brain), one can react to it by performing a thought about the thought, acting out the thought externally, etc. This is the reason we attribute consciousness most easily to other humans. Each one of us has studied our own external reactions to internal stimuli (there’s even a field of study dedicated to this called psychology), and knows that this is evidence of consciousness. So we look for similar reactions in other beings. We tend to find the most similar reactions in other humans, and thus rate this as good evidence of that being’s awareness.
There are obvious flaws in this logic. It can be assumed that any action is a reaction, whether to an internal or external state. If one taps a glass, it rings. The ringing is a reaction to the tapping, and thus evidence of external awareness from the perspective of the glass. One could argue that since the glass never moves of its own accord, it has no internal stimuli to react to, and is thusly not self-aware. However, I have already stated that the only case in which there is no external awareness is in the case of absolute internal awareness. Further, I stated that a being with external awareness has at least the potential for self-awareness. Thus, the glass does not act externally in the lack of external stimuli, and is at that moment completely self-aware. In this moment, it both acts and reacts within the confines of its self. We cannot measure this activity easily, but it is possible. A glass is made of molecules, atoms, particles, etc. All of these things are performing processes within the glass (and are processes themselves). This is exactly equivalent to the glass thinking. It is both externally aware at times, and internally aware. Thus, it is conscious.
A final interesting note is about the particular binary pair of life and death, upon which humanity has centered much of its thought. Life is the perception of process and death is the perception of stasis. From the perspective of (within the confines of) life, death is the moment before and after life (immediately outside life’s definition). Thus, death is relative stasis from the perspective of life. However, from the perspective of death, no process exists. This also means a lack of thought and awareness. Thus, one never actually experiences the moment of stasis, but moves immediately into another process.
Now follows a summary of my proven conclusions: Everything (both thinking and non-thinking) exists. The One Static Being is infinite. Every non-static being thinks and is conscious. Further, every non-static being is itself infinite as a subset of infinity. Everything is one on a continuum/spectrum/scale of existence. Some will argue that these conclusions are meaningless and useless. However, even if this is true, it only points to the fact that the questions themselves are meaningless and useless. We are wasting our time asking whether things exist, or further whether we exist. The reason we do this is because we perceive stasis through death and fear it. I believe the meaningful and useful thing to do is to leave this fear behind, and simply explore all that exists.
This essay was written by Jason Lacoste for a college philosophy course.