Contemplating The Inconceivable (Part One)


I found Boston Area Philosophy Discussions Meetup and its event called “The Outer Limits of Thought: Contemplating the Inconceivable”. The question was “Can we talk about what we don’t know and can’t prove, and what could be our answers?”
That is what the event’s description said:
“In closing his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Wittgenstein remarks that “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Yet, as has often been remarked one suspects that, very unlike the Logical Positivists who were spawned by the publication of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein may have harbored some mystical inclinations.
After all, being unable to speak about something does not necessarily imply a lack of substance; it may simply mean that we are unable to speak meaningfully about it.Physicists will tell you that the fractional moments just after the Big Bang occurred can be conceptualized and quantified, but before the bang…well on that subject science must consign itself to silence. Our universe may have been spawned by other universes or by other dimensions but whatever argument is taken it seems to descend into an infinite regress that begs the question of “How did it all begin?”
The “before the big bang” conjectures are only one example of what I am playfully calling metaphysical “barks.” We love to bark, as much as wolves love to howl at the moon. And, sorry dear positivists, a philosopher who is true to his questioning and angst driven core will always question the basis of those questions that defy answers. Evolution and the questions concerning the origins of life are more fodder for probing the outer limits of thought.

One of the philosophic accomplishments of Immanuel Kant was the formulation of his antinomies of pure reason. The questions about 1) space and time, 2) atomism, 3) freedom and 4) God are, Kant argued, impossible to resolve because in each case opposite conclusions can be deductively proved, but since the thesis and the antithesis cannot both be correct certain knowledge regarding these basic questions is impossible (I make no claims here of precisely stating Kant’s argument).

So, is the philosophical contemplation of these questions meaningless and/or fruitless? I think not. In fact, the second antinomy shows why contemplating the inconceivable is well worth the effort. Modern physics may not have solved the problem of whether or not all matter is ultimately composed of simple atomistic parts as, for example, quantum physics allows quanta to be both a particle and a wave, but the fact of the matter is that knowledge of the basic building blocks or non-blocks of matter are vastly more understood today than in Kant’s day. The unrelenting research and query into these fundamental questions expands both knowledge and wisdom. In the matter of atomism, I think that the answers to this particular question may ultimately be attainable.

The Big Bang in its own terms may be interpreted as a temptation to engage immateriality.

In this discussion, might we not broach a whole new method? Can we not ask each participant for his or her spontaneous, free thinking, creative response and thinking-outside-the-box to a question relating to the origin of life, the origin of the universe, to one of Kant’s antinomies, or to immaterial existence. “

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: