The Grand Model

Your eyes adjust to the light as you enter the exhibit room. It is lined with numerous display cabinets, each accompanied by descriptive text. In the centre is a very large, glass case; it contains what appears to be a complex, sphere-like model of reality. Your host approaches and begins to speak.

As you may have read in our welcome guide, the broadest metaphysical principles are Being and Distinction. We have used that context to set the boundaries for our account of reality. If every particular is subsumed by the Whole, then every particular must comply with the nature of the Whole. That is to say, as we narrow our enquiry we must always honour the broader principles, on pain of incoherence.

Here we have Eleatic Being depicted as a sphere; it is a single, continuous, and complete chart of existence. The various details of Being are illuminated by Distinction. Our task as philosophers is to flesh out that diagram; we wish to describe the broad shape of reality and the information contained therein. The details must all be explored and described, so we may present a worthy model of this grand, coherent Whole.

I again stress the importance of remembering that all things are subsumed by the Whole. For Being is not divisible in an ontological sense - there is no process whereby what-is can be cut in pieces that have independence. The distinctions are the details of the Whole, they do not enjoy some sort of self-contained, unique and unrelatable presence. Given that we reference these things, indeed categorising them in common as "pieces" or some other term, they are all subsumed by a broader context. But I suspect you heard enough of that in the main hall.

In carrying out our project, we could start from the principle of Being and gradually work our way in. Perhaps describing the general shape of reality, designing a system that can accommodate all aspects of our awareness. Then we might eventually focus on the narrow entities within that system, such as teapots and other basic requirements for human life. As we narrow our focus, whatever we describe will be increasingly limited. If we do not honour those limitations, we will fall into contradiction; we mustn't posit that a thing is wholly contained in a context, yet possesses something beyond that context.

We might also explore outwards from our position, following the trail of necessary inferences and revelations. If you are aware of a mug of tea, you can infer by necessity all that is required for that entity and your awareness of it. You may also consider a basic model which reveals more complex truths. For example, consider a simple form of geometry that only expressly accounts for lines. If we played within that model and drew lines a certain way, we would perceive shapes like the triangle. We would also perceive other information such as the distinction between the internal area and the external area of such a shape. Yet those details go beyond the definitions and rules laid out by the simple model. We perceived additional information, therefore we have grounds to expand the model to account for this.

Before we visit the display cabinets, let's look at some of the fine details depicted in the grand model. Where does one object stop and another begin? I think the question hides some complexity; the details are all unified as Being, therefore we should be careful about how we tease them apart. They are like the details of a painting, inseparable from it. Reality is one thing, complete and perfect, containing all conceivable distinctions. As we broaden or narrow our scope, the scale changes and different distinctions come into focus.

For example, let's find a herd of horses within the diagramme. Pick a horse out; it is a unit, and it is full of internal distinctions. This tracks beautifully with our metaphysical principles. We can explore this description of the horse further if you like; it can be refreshing to examine that which is specific and familiar.

For example, if we narrow our focus to some aspect of the horse, information will be excluded. If we examine a horse's leg absent the broader context, we can't acknowledge its status as a leg, for we have excluded its relationship to the rest of the animal. If we expand that focus and consider the entire horse, more information is captured and we can appreciate the leg's position. We should be able to see how the degree of information has adjusted between the scenarios.

We must also accept our position in this inescapable model. Although I talk of adjusting the scope and focus of our enquiry, we're not really observing Being from some independent position. The position of our mind defines its nature, limitations, and how it relates to everything else. This accounts for why our understanding will always come with baggage. However, I am certainly not saying that we cannot grasp the truth. To the extent our words cohere we identify truth per se.

Anyway, I apologise, I have talked your ear off and we have not even moved to the display cabinets. Perhaps I should have just said, this central exhibit illustrates that all things are related and held in common, and whatever answers we give will come from our area of Being.

The man gestures with his hand to a series of display cabinets along the far wall.


  1. Continue on to the display cabinets...
  2. Ask how things can be different, yet the same as unified by Being...
  3. Ask the man to tell you more about horses...