There are really only two ways to describe the nature of the material universe; and this divergence is the root of all philosophical disagreements, and ultimately, of all wars and other violent conflicts.
Let’s discuss Option A and Option B.
Option A is to consider all objects, including man, to be the absolute source–or ABILITY–of their own existence, and the singularity of all of their actions and reactions. In other words, at the root of all cause, effect, space, time, distance, speed, etcetera is the object itself.
So, in the case of cause and effect, for example, one might say that an object IS its own cause and its own effect. It causes upon another object because of its root ABILITY to cause upon; and it is caused upon by another object because of its own root ABILITY to be caused upon. A tennis ball hits a racket because IT is ABLE to hit the racket; and the racket strikes the tennis ball in return because the ball is ABLE to be struck by the racket. The ball itself is the root of why it can both hit and be hit; it is ABILITY. The apple is on the tree because it is ABLE to be on the tree; and the apple falls to the ground, not because of gravity but because it is ABLE to be caused upon by gravity. That is, without the ABILITY of the apple to exist, and this absolutely of itself, neither the tree nor gravity could have any effect on it. Gravity, in other words, is not the real cause of the apple’s falling. The real and singular cause of the apple’s falling is the innate ABILITY of the apple to fall in the first place. Existence is completely of the apple, and existence is a prerequisite to any other object or “force” possessing any influence upon it.
The same could be argued for time and space; distance and speed, and so on. The reason an object exists at a specific time in a specific location or moves at a specific velocity because it possesses the innate ABILITY to do so. This makes the root of ALL of these forces the object itself. That is, any given object IS its own time and its own space; its own cause and its own effect. All of these forces then are and can only be direct functions of the object; which means that the object’s infinite and absolute ABILITY to be what it is, is the source of how and why it can be observed to possess any physical property or move in any specific way. This then relegates physical laws, or the laws of physics/nature, to mere conceptual descriptions of the object as it exists relatively to another object or other objects at any given moment. And I say “relatively” because an object’s ability to exist must be absolute and infinite. That is, its existence is a function of its infinite ABILITY to be whatever it is. Since it IS, its IS, which is merely a derivative of its ABILITY to be, must be infinite; must be absolute. To declare otherwise is to declare that the object exists not of its own ABILITY to be, but as a function of something else. That is, its ABILITY is not its own, it is of something OTHER…something outside of itself. Which means that it really isn’t itself at all, but is something else. And this view makes all objects merely a function of some other thing…and so nothing which which is said to exist really exists at all. Everything is something that it is NOT; which means that everything is really nothing. That is, objects we observe to be aren’t really what they seem. They are an extension of whatever it is which allows them to be (which is wholly unknowable, and we’ll discuss this in a bit); which of course removes the objects from the existential equation all together.
So, the idea that all objects are their own singularities…the root source of why they can cause and be caused upon, or have time and space and speed and distance and mass and temperature and so on, makes the metaphysical irreducible primary of all objects their own ABILITY; that is, themselves, as a function of their ABILITY to be however and whatever they are observed to be.
This of course makes the observer…
Well, wait…let’s define “observer”.
An observer is he who possesses, as a direct function of his own ABILITY to be, the ABILITY to be aware that he is, which demands that he likewise possess the ABILITY to be aware of what he is NOT, which demands the ABILITY to observe both himSELF and what he is NOT. And this means that there will be an immediate mitigation of the infinite of himSELF into relatively finite relationships with another object or other objects he must observe as he likewise observes himSELF. For there is no ABILITY to observe one’s SELF from what he is NOT if what is he is NOT is not observed.
What I am attempting to explain is that the root of all objects is the infinite SELF of the object; or, the infinite, indivisible, inseparable ABILITY to be what it is, and that this infinity is only parsed by an observer…that is, man, who, as a function of his own ABILITY to be is ABLE to know that he is, and that this demands then that he know what he is NOT. And it is thus through man’s awareness of him SELF that the infinite is made relatively finite, and from this is derived an efficacious reality.
This of course makes man the reference for all TRUTH. The SELF of man then is the source of all concepts which must be employed in order to organize the infinite “relative finity” which he observes into a cohesive conceptual framework so that he can propagate and perpetuate his own SELF as the Standard of what is TRUE and thus what is GOOD. This then makes notions such as time, space, distance, speed, up, down, etcetera merely a part of man’s conceptual framework by which he organizes the objects he observes in order to serve him SELF; because it is by him SELF and only him SELF that anything has any meaning or relevancy at all. Beyond the conceptual framework of man’s ABILITY to know SELF from OTHER there can be no TRUTH. “Objective reality” then, being a concept, is rooted, like everything else, in the absolute standard of TRUTH and MORALITY which is man’s life. Outside of man’s life there can be no such thing as “objective” or “reality” or “objective reality”, because absent he who is ABLE to make the distinction between what he IS from what he is NOT there is only the infinite ABILITY of objects to BE, which cannot amount to any separation of objects at all, because ABILITY is infinite, which makes the the objects infinite, and there can be no distinction between infinity (infinity times object A + infinity times object B = infinity) absent the ABILITY to make that distinction; and man alone of all God’s creatures possesses that ABILITY, revealed in his use of language which is entirely conceptual. Man alone makes the conceptual distinction between SELF and NOT SELF. Thus, man alone is the root of TRUTH; and within this TRUTH is the idea of “objective reality”. That is, “objective reality” is only true and only good if it affirms the standard of TRUTH, which is man’s life.
So here we have a summary Option A: Man’s life is the source of reality.
And now, mention this to someone. Anyone. And notice how little time it takes for that someone to cry “subjectivity” or “moral relativism”. This is an indication that the detractor does not grasp the argument. Man’s ABILITY to be is inexorably tied to his ABILITY to know he is; and this is inexorably tied to his ability to conceptualize that which he observes, both him SELF (his body) and whatever he is NOT. Which means that man’s ABILITY to be is his ABILITY to conceptualize his existence. And “objective reality” is indubitably conceptual. You see, without man, “objective reality” is irrelevant TO him, which makes it irrelevant, period. That is, man’s existence is what makes “objective reality” relevant; is what gives it any truth or meaning. And if this is the case “objective reality’ cannot be claimed to be either “objective’ or “real” except as man qualifies it and man is affirmed by it. “Objective reality” is a function of man, not the other way around.
So when we realize that man’s life is the only rational standard of TRUTH and MORALITY (which is sort of redundant because morality is in fact a function of truth, metaphysically speaking) then we have rightly identified the only objective reference for any idea or action.
The truth is that those who preach an “objective reality” outside of man are the real subjectivists (which ironically makes Objectivism in fact, Subjectivism, because it has no rational nor consistent explanation for how it is possible for man to in fact BE man, and therefore to know anything). They are the ones who, at the end of the day, must appeal to mystery as the root of their existential ideas, because knowledge is impossible, and the ABILITY of man to be him SELF is due to “forces” outside of him, which destroys man at the metaphysical level entirely. If you are an Objectivist, you can be forced to concede (unless you are as stubborn as the mystics you deride) that according to your own beliefs, man cannot possibly exist at all.
And, apropos to this, Option B, which is the philosophical root of all evil, and it is by far the most common view with respect to how existence and the universe are understood.
Which is…depressing, really.
In this instance, reality is defined this way: Objects are not in and of themselves the singular sources of their own existence. Their ABILITY to be is not a direct derivative of themselves, but is a direct function of something outside of them…beyond them. That they are an absolute effect, and some external force or thing is the absolute cause. Now, this makes the existence of the material universe wholly dependent on these external (and thus unobservable) forces which create it. In other words, objects in the universe have no singular innate ABILITY to be what they are. Their ABILITY to exist, to cause and be caused upon, etcetera, is not in fact their own, but belongs to some other force or agent which, again, exists wholly outside of them. And in this case, of course, “objects”, or “material universe”, includes man.
For the moment, I will avoid a digression into why those who claim that we, and the rest of the material universe, are some kind of “grey area” of existence. That is, there is no such thing as the kind of “black and white” reality I am discussing; indeed, they recoil at what they perceive as my “either/or” philosophy, arguing that reality is never so starkly divided. But I will say this: There is no rational argument for a “gray” existence…that is, there is no rational argument for one who argues that man is a conglomerate of him SELF and the forces of nature/the “sovereign Will” of God which govern/determine him. For I submit that no one who professes such a perspective can tell you just where each component to man, or any other object, begins and ends. Ask them to tell you just where man ends and “God’s Will”, or the “laws of physics” begin. I promise, you will get nothing but the “mystery” argument, if they bother to answer you at all. In my experience, either subterfuge, ad hominem, or a termination of the discussion altogether is the common response. The reason for this is because the fact is, whether people are comfortable conceding it or not, reality is black-and-white absolute. Either an object is it SELF or it is not. Either man is man or man is not man. To pretend that a metaphysically distinct singularity can be born of mutually exclusive existential causes is foolishness, nothing more. To argue that what is–with IS being its metaphysical absolute–is both a product of itself and something outside of it is nonsense. It cannot be both, period. If something is itself, it must be of itself. If it is not of itself completely, then it is not of itself at all. Which means that it is, in fact, something else…which means it doesn’t actually exist. If we say that the red rubber ball exists, then the red rubber ball must have the innate ABILITY to exist. If the ball does not have the ABILITY to in fact be a ball, because it is an absolute function of some unseen force or forces outside of it, then we cannot rationally declare that the red rubber ball exists. The forces from which it is absolutely derived are the only thing which exists (and these, again, are not observable, which reduces “objective reality” to subjective nothingness). The red rubber ball is a phantom…a lie.
In various religions, it is “god” or the “gods” which cause all things to be; which is the singular ABILITY allowing for the “presence” of the objects in the universe. In atheism and atheistic philosophies, it is the “laws of nature” or the “laws of physics”. Occasionally you will meet a religious scientist who claims that both “god” and the “laws of physics” are causal; or that “god” created the laws of physics, which are then causal. Not only are both of these perspectives redundant, they also defy any rational explanation.
Attempting to be as laconic as is possible (for me), I will point out the fundamental weakness of the perspective that all material objects including man are a function of either the sovereignty of “god” or “gods”, or the “laws of nature”:
Those who promote such an existential viewpoint are obligated to explain just how man, whose existence is a full extension of forces outside of himself, is able to exist at all, let alone know anything and therefore promote a specific philosophy or idea, or criticize another as being false. By their very own metaphysical definition, man is NOT HIMSELF. Man is merely a direct function of some other absolute, like “god” or the “laws of nature”, which determines the entire sum and substance of his existence, which must include his thoughts, beliefs, and actions. For if you cannot separate the body from the forces which utterly compel it, then you cannot separate the mind from those same forces; and this is because it is impossible to make a rational distinction between the body and the mind. The mind and the body are effectively the exact same thing. You possess no observation, no thought, no feeling apart from your body. Those “out-of-body” experiences you hear about? What is the singular reference for them…that is, how does the person know that this experience is “out of” body? Because they have a body as the absolute reference for their existence. If they didn’t have a body, they could not qualify the experience as “out-of-body” in the first place. It is the body which is the absolute reference for all we know and feel and do. Everything we experience is a direct function of our bodies, period.
And I submit that “out-of-body” experiences are all fictitious and irrational anyway. Without a body, there is no YOU. If you observe, then you must be SOMETHING. There must be a distinction between you and what you observe. And that SOMETHING which is observing, is your body. No one knows anything apart from a material manifestation of SELF. A mind needs a body with senses, otherwise there is nothing it can know.
So if the things man observes are inexorably governed and caused by unobservable forces which utterly determine them, and man is likewise a material object subject to those same forces, and thus his brain, which is his mind and thoughts, is also subject to those same relentless, determining forces, then how is it possible that any man can rise above these absolute forces of “objective reality’ and proclaim that he knows of them? By his own existential definition there is no HIM to know. Both he and what he knows or believes has nothing to do with him, but are merely another extension of the forces which compel all things as functions of themselves. And therefore there is no such thing as “objective reality” because there is no such thing as anything at all. Any idea or belief or notion is purely an illusion…awareness of SELF is a lie; a phantom. There is no man, so there is no one to claim that “objective reality” has any relevancy or meaning at all.
And enter the mystics, who claim to have somehow, by divine inspiration, risen above their metaphysical, illusory ether to know this or that or the other thing, and to proclaim “truth”. And just how they do this or know these things is…well…who can say? Only they know. You cannot understand because it defies reason, and because you are not them.
And from this we get moral equivalency, and from moral equivalency we get all manner of death and destruction and horror.