The Grand Model

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

As you were told in the main hall, the broadest metaphysical axioms are Being and then Distinction. I used these principles to sketch out the limits of all that can be known. This allowed me to give the philosophical project some shape and clarity.

Eleatic Being is depicted as a single, complete chart of existence, illuminated at every particular point by Distinction. Our task is to assign every single subordinate entity or region some status within that context. We must properly organise them and define their breadth and relationships. Most importantly, at no point may we forget that the model must be absolutely whole and inviolate.

It is important to remember that all things are subsumed by the whole. For Being is not divisible in an ontological sense - there is no process whereby what-is may be cut in pieces, and those pieces then enjoy some sort of true independence or self-contained, unique and unrelatable "isness". Given that we would be labelling those various pieces by the same title, we must confess that they would still be held in common by some omnipresent principle. But I suspect you heard enough of that in the main hall.

Before we can assign the multitude of familiar things a place within Being and Distinction, we need to provide some medium of coherence, some sort of shape or material that accommodates our awareness and everything around us. You can see the model is made of something. The qualities of that material define much of what can be displayed. Similarly, our own region of reality has a certain shape to it, and the information that exists is constrained by its context.

We can return to the shape of ordered existence when we discuss the other displays I have set up along the wall. For now, look closely at the model and see the myriad things depicted. We must consider how to identify a given particular; where are we drawing the boundaries and how firm are they? Generally, I believe we must start by identifying a region or section of Being that is readily intelligible, and then note the particular details that we are able to discern. Then we should gradually narrow the focus and consider what details are lost to us.

For example, consider the term "horse" and particular horses. A gross reductionist might say that "horse" just references all the horses, and furthermore that each particular horse is just a blob of some material. So the only true meaning would be the prime material; everything boils down entirely to the blob-stuff, there is nothing else to the picture. There could be no pretence to meaning other than the prime matter.

Such a position falls apart under scrutiny. A horse is not an amorphous blob of prime material, on pain of the proponent being unable to say whether it is a horse, a car, or an aeroplane. Some further meaning is therefore introduced, and the picture expands: perhaps the proponent of the blob will now confess that it is prime material in a particular arrangement within a particular metaphysical context. Regardless, the point is that the complexity of reality is far greater than such people anticipated, and information will be lost when we narrow the focus from horse to blob. Meaning necessitates a whole.

There is another story to tell about the horse. See how it is a single whole that holds many distinct parts in common. This tracks beautifully with our metaphysical principles. We acknowledged omnipresent Being, which itself subsumes all of Distinction. We can explore this story of the horse further if you like, there is something refreshing about examining something specific and familiar.

For now, recall that we have an image in focus. If we narrow that focus, we will lose sight of something that "is"; information falls away. Similarly, when we expand that focus more information is captured. However, what if we find that we are changing the focus, but there is no new information or significance? Then something has gone horribly wrong with the process, there would be no true change of focus at all.

We must also accept our position in this inescapable model. The position of our mind in this model determines the nature and limits of our knowledge, it defines all of our relationships. This accounts for why our understanding is necessarily limited, and why any given answer will always be different to the precise truth.

Anyway, I apologise, I have talked your ear off and we have not even moved to any of the other display cabinets. Perhaps the real point of this central exhibit is just to illustrate that we're all in this together; all things are related and held in common. This follows from the fact that all is subsumed by Being, as there is no alternative or independence.

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

Choices:

  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...