Infinity

I have always thought that infinity is one of those ideas that perhaps has had some positive historical value, but has likely had a larger negative effect. In this case, a cognitive effect. Perhaps it had evolutionary success is because it keeps us from thinking about how the world began. Like the Big Bang and God, the concept defers the question.

When I consider the origin of the world, I am led to the old, established binary: either the world is infinite, or else it began at some time. Neither of these answers are close to satisfactory, however.  To propose there was a discrete time the world came into being leads to an absurdity. The world cannot have popped into existence out of nothing, Potentiality seems to presuppose existence. And so this answer leads to the second one, which is that the world  is infinite. This seems equally impossible.

We want to search – our tendency is to look for something in between when we come across binaries, and that is fine, sometimes. But doing so preserves the given parameters of the explanatory system (which is what many binaries are). Clearly, sometimes we must escape the explanatory system to understand more clearly.

The recently popular idea of a multiverse doesn’t solve the problem – just expands origins to be explained. Neither does the related idea that the world was born. Like a baby human, or a chicken, or a fern, or mitosis. Even if the egg came first, one still must account for the hen that laid it.

I have thought about this many times and have so consistently came to the same conclusion, I think the pattern has become a well-worn cognitive path. I think it now goes to that conclusion without me even guiding it there. The conclusion is, however, a metaphysical question, despite that I mistrust metaphysical answers as much as I do binaries. Nonetheless, I am left with the question, why is this world here, rather than not here? This question is related to how did the world come into being? but it suggests, even if unintentionally, that the world’s existence has some purpose. I don’t think I can reject that possibility, but I history suggests that such why-answers to physical questions are both wrong and misleading; they get in the way of clear thinking.

When our questions lead to binaries and cosmic purpose, it is often because we are asking the wrong questions. And  we are often led down such cognitive paths due the acceptance of a flawed fundamental concept. So, in this case, what is the right question, and what is the flawed concept?

The obvious answer is time: Einsteinian space-time makes no sense. It is a reification.  I have known that since I first read Heidegger. And yet I am still led to the cosmic origin binary. So, perhaps the problem with time predates Einstein’s conception of space-time. Kant seemed to understand that space and time are just concepts. But then, without actually saying it, he suggested that they are necessary. This in turn can suggest that they must exist: something like Plato’s forms.

Anyway, there is a problem with our conception of time. When we use it, we come to nonsense answers. I don’t have the solution today.

 

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