The Ontological Elephant: ‘Existence’


‘It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is’. President Bill Clinton explaining the teleology of a cigar at the Monica Lewinsky hearings. I liked Bill.

Just as Epistemology studies ‘Knowing’ while already in a state of Knowing, Ontology studies ‘Being’ while firmly resident in a state of Being.

It is the Elephant in the Room, the one we all agree to ignore.

Existence, from the Latin ‘ex-sistere‘: ‘to stand forward, manifest’.

We are making an implicit ontological assignment, granting the status of ‘Being’ [Existence, ‘Is-ness’] anytime and every time we use the little word ‘Is’.

‘Is’ is arguably the most used grammatical link in the English Language.

The clutter and gossip of the world would die down nicely if a rule was passed that no man or woman on the planet may use the word ‘Is’ for a period of 24-hours.

Try it. Try and speak on your cell-phone for 10 minutes without using the word ‘Is’. Try and write a page in English without using any of its variants [was, will be, etc].

Its hard; but here is the strangest thing. This ubiquitous word, this word we use a hundred times a day in all its variations, has no formal definition, is in fact undefinable.

Very wise men have been trying to define it for a few thousand years and no one has scored anything more than a Wise-Gentleman’s ‘C’.

But that has not stopped our enterprising Universities from building a Subject out of it. A Subject called Ontology. In the same way that not having an honest definition for ‘Know’ did not discourage them from starting a Subject called Epistemology.

The single most frequent confounding across the world’s religious literature is the conceptualization and reification of ‘True Nothing’ as ‘Being’. It’s a millimeter short of Shūnyam. But in this business you miss by a millimeter, you miss by a mile.

‘Is’ is the highest abstraction possible of a named ‘Object’. A Modeled-Representation mounts on a platform held up by the words ‘Is’ and ‘Is-Not’.  This is a terrifying idea. And this is where the most intellectually sophisticated investigators say: ‘Stop! No further!’

They, each one of them, still holds on to that slim slice of vanity, that last pretense to ‘Know’. ‘Being’, like ‘Thought’ and ‘Voice’ [Language] is very, very close to our skin. A claim to ‘Being’ in any of its variants is ultimately a claim to a ‘Self’.

It is nearly impossible to find two events that are perfectly uncorrelated in Nature. But would you like the privilege of being uniquely ‘Independent’? Give yourself a grant of immovable ‘Being’. You will show a correlation with all things as Zero.

But precisely because of its nearness to our skin it is that much more difficult to give workable examples [like say ‘Consciousness’]. The best that can be done is to give a list of excerpts from history that may convince you of what I am talking about.

Philosophers, Men of Religion, Mystics and the like tend to break into song and verse and solemn lecture on what a grand affair it really is. But this is not the final destination.

None of this is to be addled with such overwrought religious begats as Free-Will, Fate, Karma and so-on, deeply modeled ideas, products of a restless religious imagination, mounted on the uninvestigated presumption of a Separated ‘Self’.

The entire legal and political process of a culture is set by its beginning assumptions on the nature of the ‘Individual’. What does Crime and Justified Punishment mean if ‘Free Will’ is not assumed?  What is casting an Election Vote mean if it does not speak your choice?

These are not just abstractions for dysfunctional philosophers. They underlie the very ground of what makes a Just Society, a proper Political Order. More on these as we merrily move along.

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