The Immeasurable

Jan 20, 2018 | | Say something

It can be, and it has been, proven that there exist immutable natural laws by which the universe functions. This is logos. The planetary logos presides over the seasons, the weather cycles, the precession of the equinoxes, etc.

The logos also relates to logic that connects input with output, or premise with rhetoric. Logic is a spontaneous movement that drives thought, though it is not actually thought. For example if we say, if a is less than b, and b is less than c then logically a is less than c. What is spoken is the rhetoric; a is less than c. And if we should explain our reasoning then it is the premise or ‘grammar’ (to borrow the term from the classical trivium) that is spoken; if a is less than b, and b is less than c. The logic or logos is the universal language of the cosmos.

So the full statement reads something like, Ifthen... The logic connector between If and then is a quality that can be instantly recognized so long as one’s attention is fixated on the premise, or the If part. Then the movement to the then part happens automatically. IF a is less than b, and b is less than c, THEN a is less than c.

Philosophy also explores logos as natural law and attempts to derive from it a system of ethics so that men can live together in peace and prosperity. The primary right that an individual has is the right to life, and what this boils down to is the right to fight to survive. For if this right did not exist the individual would fight to survive anyway, so logically this right must exist; there can be no contradictions. The natural instinct to raise ones hands to prevent a fall, or to parry a blow, is further evidence of this ‘natural’ right. Therefore it can be reasoned that the right to life exists objectively, and that this right comes from life itself. Life is imbued with the right to sustain itself. And this is observable through the entire animal and plant kingdoms.

Note that while a right exists objectively, it has no substance in reality. It is essentially an idea; but instead of being created in the mind of man it emanates from logos itself. And while the existence of a right might be undisputable, its usefulness is questionable.

From the primary right to life extend other rights, such the right to choose actions that sustain life. This leads to property rights or the right for an individual, or a group of individuals, to utilize a plot of land to live on, to do as they wish with their own body, and so on. And inherent to this is the right to defend one’s property because this property is required for sustaining life.

Logically, for these rights to apply equally to all humans it must follow that rights exist only insofar as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Therefore thou shalt not steal is a fundamental moral law particular to human beings. It does not apply to plants and animals that do not have the faculty of reason. While someone might benefit from stealing from another, the fact that he would not benefit if someone stole from him means that he does not have the right to do so, because rights must be universal. No individual has rights that supercede another’s. If there are two people in a room, the only mutual benefit is if neither steals from the other. The same can be extended to rape and murder. This moral principle is derived purely on logical grounds, and therefore it is an objective attribute of the cosmic mind (logos).

Now things become interesting. How exactly is man to live according to these objective moral laws? The initiation of violence is clearly immoral action, and the application of force for self defense is clearly moral action. This is the non-aggression principle (NAP). And the distinction between violence and reactionary force is absolutely clear so long as we consider only their perfect or platonic forms. But many times in real life this distinction is not clear in the moment we need it to be clear, in order to act quickly and decisively. We do not always know the intentions of another, so decisions are made from a quick risk analysis where we weigh up a threat and respond accordingly. Obviously this is prone to error.

Pre-emptive force as a means of self defence might be considered as initiating violence according to the NAP. Because the other party has not lifted a finger, regardless of the intentions they might be harboring. On the other hand if one were to never use defensive force until the other party struck first, the chances of survival are severely reduced. This contradicts the primary right to struggle to survive, from which the NAP was derived in the first place! So if there is a conflict between these two, then the right to life must surely supercede the other.

A case might also be made that those ‘purists’ who consider all pre-emptive force to be morally wrong are a rare phenomenon in the world today because historically they have been eliminated by those who wish to do them harm, using their predictable responses against them. So again, this would be contradictory because the primary right is the right to struggle to survive.

Since humans want to live together securely and under natural law, they have to find a way to collectively agree what is good and what is not… while adhering as closely as possible to the natural law principles. Some cases are clear cut, others are not… and it is these grey areas that need to be examined.

We can see that while stealing is wrong (absolute law), to define exactly what constitutes stealing is not possible for all cases. Just as self defense is clear in some cases but not in others. Property rights are qualitative, but to live under mutual peaceful agreements people have to quantify them and agree on what constitutes ‘property in use’ (relative law). Does someone need four acres of land or does he need five? Sustenance is not limited to producing food, but there should be a recreation area, grazing space, area for a procreating family to expand into, etc. So an element of interpretation and subjectivity must be introduced. Enter man’s law.

There are different types of man’s law. The problem with common law, for example, is that it works by precedent. Once something is deemed to be ok, it will always be ok. There is no going back. This makes it quite robust and resilient to despotism. However over time people will seek more and more clarifications for their petty claims, and these clarifications themselves become law. More laws require more administration, therefore more courts and bigger government. A system working under common law will inevitably stray toward big government and socialism. This is what we are seeing today as new clarifications regarding health and safety, micro-transgressions and gender pronouns are taking precedent.

The alternative to common law might be a form of statutory law in which there is no precedent; the law being intended to stay as close as possible to natural law, and can be reinterpreted if and when necessary. While this might help to prevent a progression toward larger government (statism), this type of law is less resilient to the influence of despots… allowing for overnight revolutions backed by more flexible interpretations of the law.

To conclude, what we have is on one hand a small set of objective moral laws that are entirely bona fide. However these laws lack instruction on how to deal EXACTLY with a complex situation. They are not equipped to deal with the dynamic nature of human action; they are only qualitative and not quantitative. And so on the other hand you have rational man trying to implement these absolute moral laws on a case by case basis as best he can, but in a subjective manner.

Logos, and the moral laws derived thereof, is immeasurable… it is irrational in the numerical sense that it is not quantitative. And it is man’s plight to quantify these moral laws and apply them in a rational manner; he must do the impossible and measure the immeasurable.

Using geometry as an analogy, the qualities of immeasurable logos are represented within the circle (with its irrational number pi), and the qualities of the measurable are encoded within the square (with the rational number 4). Rational numbers can be measured as ratios of two whole numbers, but irrational numbers (pi, phi, etc) cannot be measured that way.

It is man that stands between immeasurable and the measurable, between the circle and the square; shown in da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. It is impossible to draw a square with the same perimeter as a circle using only a ruler and compass. And yet man stands there in the middle, holding them both in his outstretched arms.

 

Man is the measure of all things.

~ Protagoras

 

While it unfeasible to measure the immeasurable, man labors at it anyway, seemingly unaware of the contradictions that govern his life. Applying Platonic terms, man’s deeds on earth give substance to the perfect form of logos. Just as an ideal form of a ‘perfect’ table has no specific length, breadth or height, when we make an actual ‘imperfect’ table we must necessarily measure it to give it substance.

Interestingly the interpretation of ideals such as rights adds an element of unpredictability to man’s actions… and also in his responses to perceived threats, since his subjective interpretation of pre-emptive force might vary from instance to instance. This gives him better chances of survival as it leaves those who wish to cause him harm with some doubt anticipating his actions. And this aligns correctly with the primary right to survive.

Thought continues in its attempt to measure perfection, going round and round. Each new idea is tested in the real world and the results invariably come up short, imperfect. So the process starts again, the rise and fall of new ideas and new world views, ad infinitum. This is also the bedrock of the scientific method.

The question arises, now that thought sees this contradiction, and sees clearly that what it is attempting to do is bound for certain failure… what happens next? Obviously it should stop this folly and must do so instantly and without further deliberation. Living a contradiction, identifying with it, brings inevitable suffering by association. When one sees the contradiction, then the seeing is its own intelligence and identification with it ceases.

 

Posted in: Favorite, Philosophy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share