Quora answer: Why?

Why goes along with the other fundamental questions: who, what, when, where, and how? These fundamental questions orient us in our worldview. They distinguish space and time, person and thing, the means and the reason. These are related in part to Aristotle’s four causes: Formal/who, Material/what, Efficient/how and Final/why in which when, and where are not covered. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fou…). For Aristotle when and were are discrete quantities (http://plato.stanford.edu/entrie…). Aristotle underlines the connection between form and who by attributing the soul to form in De Anima. So from this perspective the space and time are considered essential, and then the four causes. Then Aristotle suggests other categories beyond these for a total of ten related to what can be said about something.

Aristotle defines the human being as the rational animal, which means one who speaks in the widest sense but one who has reasons for what they do in a more narrow sense. Being able to say why is then the defining characteristic of the human from his point of view. So in a sense Why? is the essential question for the human being. We are defined by our concern with Why, i.e. grounds. And until recently the whole purpose of Philosophy was to provide a first philosophy which specified the ultimate grounds of things. Recently we have become disillusioned mostly due to Godel’s incompleteness theorem proof and anti-foundations has become the rage. I personally advocate an afoundationism. In other words, we can only actually attain a proper perspective when we give up being either obsessed with providing foundations or attacking them because of our frustation at not being ultimately to answer the question Why.

So this brings us to ask the next level of question: Why Why? Why are we obsessed with grounds? This is actually a pretty deep question because it has to do with who we are as a species as seen from our own tradition. We are defined by ourselves as the animals who care about why? Philosophy more or less only recently started to ask this deeper question, when the search for grounds were perceived as futile. The first sign of a problem is when the fifth axiom of geometry could not be proved by the other four, and that it ultimately resulted in three different geometries when the fifth axiom was varied. Axioms are considered the basis for establishing foundations for logic and mathematical systems. I call this the axiomatic platform, and point out that the fact that there are multiple axioms means that this platform is always fragmented, i.e. made up of different axioms which even if consistent in the theorems they prove never get rid of that fragmentation of the platform which which we are reasoning when we build the system that is founded on the axioms.

The best view of this problem, I think is Rescher in Cognitive Systematization who says that we need something like the hermeneutic circle which continually revisits the different axioms and tries to interpret them in the context of the system that is built from them. This hermeneutic spiral through the theorems and back through the axioms on at a time is the embodiment of the deeper question of Why Why? In other words we continually have to ask about the grounds, rather than just accepting them and concentrating on building the system that flows from the axioms only.

Now the fundamental questions (who, what, when, where, how) because they are related to the four causes and the most basic quantitative categories are another way of looking at this fragmentation because spacetime is the ultimate ground for all phenomena as pointed out by Plato in the Timaeus. And the other questions are the other fundamental causes besides the teleological cause. This also shows how different sorts of grounds arise together. So in some sense possible causal grounds differentiate themselves from each other only one of which is the ultimate teleological cause.

This brings us to the next level of question Why is Why Why? This is where things become messy and difficult, because it is difficult to think about the third level of Grounds. The first level was pure grounds that can be established as first philosophy. But the second meta-level why is asked when we are frustrated by not being able to answer the question of why definitively. And thus we are thrown into a process theory of grounds, in which we must be continually grounding, or rejecting grounds. That process is codified in the five Whys which are continually looking for deeper grounds, given any identified ground. But Hyper Grounds, i.e. the third meta-level of the question is very difficult to think or answer. Basically we can think about this third meta-level as asking the difference between the Static Pure Why (first philosophy) and the continual search for or rejection of grounds which is the Process Why. If Why is the ultimate question begging for humans then it comes up as to why there is this difference in why itself, and what makes this difference, and we must admit ultimately that it is differance, i.e. differing and deferring of Derrida, based on Heideggers idea of Being crossed out. Why is there a continual search for grounds and what is it do we lack when we accept a first philosophy, rather than being critical in the Kantian sense.

Hyper Why asks why we characterize ourselves as the ones who are concerned or care about reasons and sees endlessly proliferating answers to this question. There are many reasons for our obsession with reasons. There are many reasons that we grasp hold of first principles, but then lose our grip on them, and go searching in vain for deeper first philosophies, becoming critical along the way of all dogmatic philosophies along the way. Kant called into question pure reason acting alone outside a connection with experience, and said that understanding only comes when reason is strongly linked to experience. But as Heidegger commented Kant originally had imagination as a separate faculty in the first edition, and demoted it in the second edition, because he realized that it destabilized his critical system which was striving to establish higher grounds, what Nietzsche later called a “headland above the world”. Kant pushed back the ultimate transcendentals (grounds) to Subject/God/Object with God providing the coherence by deus ex machina between the noumena and the transcendental subject which produces the synthesis of experience that precedes all analysis. Out of this discrepancy between the two versions of Kant’s system, Heidegger identifies the gap by which we can see dasein prior to the subject/object split.

But even if we go beyond the subject/object split and that which makes it coherent behind the scenes, this does not explain what lies beyond dasein at the Hyper Being level. I call that the Query, where Dasein questions himself, Why and I a human concerned with Why Why, i.e. the ground of grounds? Dasein produces an ecstasy in which it projects Being and its intelligibility within its world. Dasein is within that world it projects itself, and so we get the paradox of self-grounding as the fundamental nature of dasein. But why is there this self-grounding which gives the human being the existential nature of care? This level beyond dasein where the subject is stripped down even further is the Query, it is the difference between the ecstasy of the projection, and the being in of the projection by the one who projects the projection.

I guess you can see where I am going with this. The fourth meta-level has a series of four Whys and that is the Wild Why which I call the Enigma. Given that there is a difference between the ecstasy of the projection (which Heidegger equates with the existential because existence means also ecstasy) and being in the projection that one has projected oneself, and given that we can think that differance (differing and deferring) then the question what is the dual of that expansion of being-in-the-world, and the answer has to be a contraction of being-in-the-world. In other words we are continually searching for grounds, and we are continually finding grounds and then they slip away from us, always slip sliding away, so that even the process of searching eludes us. So what is the grounds of that intrinsic groundlessness we discover in ourselves. This is the enigma which encompasses us where we can no longer get any distance from ourselves to question ourselves. Wild Why is very difficult to think. But there are philosophers such as Giles Deleuze, and John S. Hans and Cornelius Castoriadis who have tried.

The fifth Ultra Why meta-level is itself a singularity that is unthinkable which is how Being looks from the exterior of the projection.

In this progression through the meta-levels of Being we have focused on Why, but in our tradition this is the same of the question of substance which is ultimately seen as Being. So there are five meta-levels of Being that correspond with the five meta-levels of Why. This shows how the question of Why is very deep within our tradition. In effect philosophy assumes Being, but asks the Why questions about it and thus tries to establish a ground. Moving to Existence is abandoning the quest for foundations. Existence is afoundational. Existence is also unstriated, unlike Being.

So if you keep asking this question, at deeper and deeper levels then you discover the basic structure of our Western Indo-European worldview.




Posted February 18, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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