Saturday, June 12, 2010

Being and blogging

In my last post I briefly discussed the desire for a general explanation of the world in terms of purpose that some people feel. There is another, related, question which has bothered me from time to time - and bothered Martin Heidegger virtually all his life: why is there something rather than nothing? Heidegger thought that the pre-Socratic Greeks had some kind of insight on the question of Being which they failed to do full justice to and which he sought to revisit and bring to light. Science, as Heidegger saw it, is concerned with things which exist, not with existence (or Being) itself.

But can one make any progress on such questions simply by meditating on them? (It's doubtful Heidegger did.) Indeed, is 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' a genuine question? If it is, it seems to me that science, broadly conceived so as to include the philosophy of mathematics and logic, could conceivably throw some light on it.

But, as things stand, the question operates as a rhetorical device to encourage a sense of wonder simply that one (and the world) exists. This is no bad thing, and something of an antidote to the hyperactive pursuit of happiness by endless diversion which characterizes contemporary culture.

A final thought. The question 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' implies that nothingness/blankness is somehow more likely than (or prior to) a world full of things and activity. Is such an assumption justified? Could this be a scholar's question? (I don't recall Homer - based on an oral tradition - addressing it.)

Could the question ultimately derive then not from metaphysical insight but simply from the scholar's primal experience of the blank page - which must be filled? If so, it should also resonate with bloggers, for whom the experience of the blank NEW POST screen is both slightly scary and addictive.