Descartes: “Cognito ergo sum,” – “I think therefore I am,” the great maxim of the rationalists; which has been adequately answered by Kierkegaard’s Existentialism and Husserl’s Phenomenology: “I am, therefore I am“.
Which is disturbingly equal to something Moses wrote about 4000 years ago! Now Existentialism may have answered Rationalism adequately, but it is yet to answer itself adequately.
Post-modern Existentialists have taken Kierkegaard’s conclusions to mean “I exist therefore all I do is valid and legitimate.” Which is a quantum leap from Kierkegaard’s modest conclusions; and reminiscent, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the quantum leap between General Relativity and String Theory.
None the less Rationalists like Richard Dawkins do indeed hold the burden of proof despite what they may say. Experiential evidence is still held by the vast majority of the population, and by philosophical argument, to be the way we know things. But, as I say, it has yet to answer itself, which the rationalists do well to point out, although they would do better to explain how they maintain their fundamental rationalism.
If God said, as the Jews claim “I Am, thereby I am.” Fair enough – but not so for us. None of us can discuss our individual beginning clearly, let alone our individual end.
Now Horton, in the wonderful movie Horton Hears a Who, says that “A person’s a person; no matter how small.” It’s a fascinating statement and it is utterly true in all that it implies. But why is it true?
– Why don’t we say, “a life-form is a life-form; no matter how small“? Not even the strictest vegans practice that sentiment, because even the strictest vegan kills millions of life-forms just by continuing to exist (not to mention the many more life-forms that would survive should they die, and most of these life-forms are fauna, not flora). But these life-forms that die, directly or indirectly, so that the vegan may live are apparently life-forms of insignificant size. Why does size matter if all and every life form is equally legitimate. A vegan who is one on ethical grounds would eventually have little choice but to commit suicide. Notwithstanding that there are many other reasons to eat a vegetarian diet.
– Why don’t we say, “a mineral’s a mineral, no matter how small“? Those of us who practice the sanctity of all life still buy and sell property as if they owned it, not to mention plants and animals.
– And, for the rationalists: why was the story called “Horton hears a Who“, and not “Horton hears a How“? It seems to me that we are already convinced that persons hold greater value than methods.
Commemoro una sum – “I relate therefore we are“
The relational component draws both rational and existential conclusions and forms a synthesis between the two ideologies, Rationalism and Existentialism: “I relate therefore we are“.
The answer to all these questions is this: ‘Whos’ live in ‘Whoville’ but they also live in ‘Howville’.
That is about as simply as I can put it. ‘Who’s’ are people – hows are not; and, by extension, not all life-forms are people.
This is equally true for us our little spec called planet Earth.
The Western world has become much more of a ‘Howville’ now that science is our religion, but that does not change the fact that it’s still populated with ‘Whos’. And they were ‘Whos’ long before they started calling themselves ‘Hows’. Our “Whoness” is much more important than our “Howness”; we were human beings before we became human doings, and even then we remain human beings.
Our existence is defined in our relationships, not in ourselves as the existentialist holds, and not in our minds as the rationalists hold.
So we are not just rational, and we are not only existential. We are primarily and entirely Relational… which is amazing in itself.
What is even more amazing is that this is not just the case with persons; it is equally true for the rest of the universe. It is true on an atomic level and true at the big bang, true chemically, cosmically, physically, biologically, and socially. The whole Universe is defined relationally.
Both gravitational and atomic theory are relational theories, and the universal language is not mathematics. Galileo once said “The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics.” Actually The book of nature is written in the language of relationship, the alphabet though, may well be mathematics.
We’ve been looking for an equation when we ought to have been looking for a poem.
I think that at a fundamental level we have skipped a question: Leibniz asked “Why is there something rather than nothing?” A more primary questions is “Why are there many rather than one?” or “Why is there relationship?” I’m not asking why some things relate to some others, I am asking why there is any relationship at all.
Existence has no meaning without some kind of relationship; so much so that the existence of a single person has always been utterly impossible; which is why, although God is one, he is not a single person.
An over emphasis on How
Now understanding the reason for something’s existence does not necessitate understanding how it works. The how, as I have said, is a secondary question which we may or may not be able to answer.
The questions of “who we are” are more important than the questions of “why we are“.
If we fail to put the questions of “how” in their proper place we run the risk of eventually defining ourselves hopelessly inadequately in terms of all the “how” questions, but not in terms of “why“. Equally if we fail to put the questions of “why” in their proper place we run the risk of eventually defining ourselves hopelessly inadequately in terms of “why“, not in terms of “who“.
So “who we are” is more important than “why we are” which is more important than “how we function”.
The scientific method must be acknowledged as a relational process first. Isaac Newton recognized this, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This is primarily a statement of relationship not of empiricism.
Next I will discuss why we repopulate by sexual relationship.