Discussion → Liebniz & the Struggle for Existence

  • Andrew Kenneally
    Apr 13, 03:08am

    In 'The History of Western Philosophy' Bertrand Russell writes of Liebniz's theory "as to why some things exist and others do not."

    According to this view, everything that does not exist struggles to exist, but not all possible can exist, because they are not all 'compossible'.

    Firstly "as to why some things exist and others do not." To talk of 'others', as in other things, is to talk of things which exist. That is what a thing is - something which exists. It is a senseless question to ask why do things which do not exist not exist. The framing of the question is necessarily to talk of these non-existents as if 'they' do exist. There is no they to which you can refer. Some thing which doesn't exist is meaningless language; some thing being a thing which must exist.
    And as for Liebniz's response to the question, being that everything that does not exist struggles to exist: he is continuing to talk of non-existence as if it were existence. For something to struggle - to struggle to exist, or struggle to climb a mountain or whatever - is for it to exist in the first place so as to be able to struggle. Only things which do exist are capable of struggle or any kind of activity.
    Whatever 'compossible' means is irrelevant since everything that has gone before its appearance is nonsense, and so the 'conclusion' to, or inference of, a stream of nonsense can only be more nonsense.

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    eamon byrne
    Apr 13, 05:41am

    Well, if you compare imagining a non-existent thing to imagining a square circle, there is a difference, in that one will do your mind no damage at all while the other probably will. And yet they both don't exist, do they? But we can refer to them in such a way that you can easily fool yourself into thinking they might. Particularly the non-existent thing, after you've been at pains to not describe what it is. But not the circular square. Too obviously a silliness is that. But wait. If you think a circle that has straight sides is silly, what about the singularity? The one that was there before the big bang? Believe it or not, physicists have assured me that we all come from the singularity, and before it was there there wasn't a thing. Apparantly it just happened. Can you imagine? I certainly can't. Now I was wondering, what has Bertrand Russell to say of the singularity?

  • Andrew Kenneally
    Apr 13, 11:11am

    Those kind of physicists seem to be trying to say nothing causes something. This is faulty logic. Nothing causes nothing. If nothing were all that were, then nothing would be a very adequate explanation of the cause of all the nothingness, but since there is certainly something rather than nothing, then nothing is an utterly inadequate cause - even if we choose to try to twist things by instead of saying nothing, saying 'singularity'. If one accepts a chain of cause and effect, then this chain cannot begin with nothing - otherwise using this reason there would be no chain, or indeed anything at all.

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    eamon byrne
    Apr 13, 05:11pm

    I think we might be on to something. It's a great conundrum. I'm going outside to walk around the tree. Will post a further thought in due course.

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    Kane X. Faucher
    Apr 14, 07:43am

    Depends here on what we mean by "nothing" (hopefully not in the Hegelian sense at the beginning of the greater Logic as a pre-conceptual whatzit to be placed in relation with Being to produce more determinate content by way of that nebulous thing known as becoming). Can something come from nothing? Perhaps, but only if that "nothing" itself is a kind of something like, say, I can have a cognition based on the absence of something. "There is nothing in the fridge" goes against my anticipation or hope that something is in the fridge, and therefore prompts me to act (or not). However, the further problem seems to be in the antinomy of chasing backwards to find some kind of genesis point where something "begins" as such either from nothing or something. This relies on linear time sequence, that B follows A etc. I'm not saying that we should try on a bunch of funny mystical hats and propose all the other notions of circular time. Perhaps Bergson's time as duration, which later (if we choose to thread this idea through Hume and Leibniz) gets dressed up as the idea of the virtual where everything is fully determined as potentia (not potestas). Fully determined potentia? That, too, jars against logic.

    I think the swipes made by Hume, and later Nietzsche, on our assumption of causation flowing like some kind of chain are still worthy of consideration, inasmuch as it may be a betrayal of standard logic. Well, that's mud in Aristotle's eye!

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