Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Pleroma, Cosmos, and Physical Existence

As suggested elsewhere, there isn’t much we can say about the initial state of physical reality at a notional time of its emergence, if the various parameters of what can be said of it don’t have any existence. That’s the problem physics has when it is looking for causes and mechanisms.

However it is possible to talk about the initial state of reality in terms of logical argument, which is how it was done in antiquity. They were familiar with talking about reality in terms of extreme states: does it exist? What is it? Is it one or two? If it is two is reality other than itself? Is reality complete in itself? Is physical existence a copy based on the pattern of reality itself? If it is a copy, has the nature of reality itself been compromised?

Whatever the initial conditions might have been, we can say that those conditions are at the edge of physical existence. Which is not to suggest that they actually occupy some kind of space at the edge of physical existence. Just that, since the initial conditions don’t participate in the conditions of our physical existence (extension, vectors, time, etc), then these conditions will, to us, appear to be something which we can find at the extremes of physical existence.

This is the root of the idea of the telos. It is about beginnings and endings – how things start and finish. When what is ultimately real is considered in this way, it is susceptible to logical analysis, and an idea of a prime mover beyond the properties of the telos itself is not required.

A discussion of this conception of the telos should be untarnished by the general deprecation of teleological argument in any kind of scientific analysis. We aren’t looking for purpose. But we are looking for the beginning, and how things might have unfolded from that beginning. The concept of the telos as a plenum, a pleroma undefined by the kind of parameters we find in our physical existence, as opposed to the idea that physical existence just appeared ex nihilo, can be discussed. Nothing as absence is very hard to discuss, except in the context of its opposite. In fact it cannot reasonably be conceived without that context.

The discussion of Aristotle (elsewhere) places his laws of thought into a wider context. The laws represent tools in the Greek dialectical armoury. So do the techniques used by Plato. But they are quite different and produce different kinds of argument and result in different conclusions. They belong to the same armoury (a discussion for another time). It is possible to understand some things with Plato’s approach which would not be possible with a rigorous application of Aristotle’s laws of thought. It isn’t the case that one logical approach is correct, and the other not. But they are appropriate to different contexts.

A plenum can be understood as identical with itself, and so, in that sense, can be thought of as consistent with the first of the laws of thought. But its properties, as understood from the point of view of physical reality, cannot be self-consistent, since it is beyond definition in physical terms. So the plenum must have a paradoxical aspect (literally meaning it is beyond human understanding), and therefore must breach the other two laws of thought (it can be one thing or its opposite; and it may also be neither one thing or its opposite).

There are several ways an argument about an initial and ever-present plenum can be taken forward. One is to take the view that physical reality represents a partial view of the plenum. Or can be understood as an assemblage of partial views of the plenum. It contains consistencies and regularities, but at a granular level (particularly), it behaves with apparent inconsistency, being best understood in terms of probability. That is how the plenum is, or at least the best way it can be understood by us. It isn’t one thing or the other. But occasionally its granularity looks like one thing or the other. And sometimes both at the same time. We can describe what is going on in terms of probabilities, which is how physics handles it, but it is not understood except in terms of mathematical description. The idea of the plenum, as established through a purely logical analysis, gives us insight into how the universe is actually operating.

It could be argued that physical reality behaves as it does at the quantum level because, for all practical purposes, the plenum has no size. So, at the quantum level, we are looking more closely at the nature of the plenum as it is, or rather as it must, on account of its nature, look to us.

Quantum entanglement might have a similar basis, on the ground that what is happening is actually happening in the plenum, rather than in physical space. Despite it having no size, it must necessarily be (in a sense) distributed throughout space and time.

In future I will be discussing Bell’s Theorem; Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen; and Klein-Kaluza. Also about the fact that Maxwell’s equations can be derived from Klein-Kaluza, and why the maths of Klein-Kaluza has two states.

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