Christian Relaunch  

Ontology

A cosmology is a theory of the structure of the world as a whole (the universe or cosmos). More precisely, it is a top-level theory about the actual world, while a theory about possible worlds is part of an ontology, that is, a theory of being at the most abstract level.

For a general preface to this ontology, see Preface to the Ontology.

Contents

Occasions

Prehensions

Number, Space, Time

Modalities and Realms

Intermodal Dependencies

The Modes of Prehension

Habits

Size

Subjects

Underlying Habits

Events and Choices

Selves

Personal Habits

Personal Subjects

Personal Expiry

Alignments

Dispositions

Selfkinds

Attitudes

God

Gender

Evolving the World (A Brief History of Time)

Occasions

An occasion is an indivisible occurrence.

That is, an occasion is something that occurs and cannot be analysed into smaller occurrences.

This assumption that there are indivisible occurrences is based firstly on the discoveries of the early 1900s that led to the quantisation of physics, and secondly on our awareness that at certain points we make definite choices.

No two occasions are identical.

This is the law of novelty.

Prehensions

(Here, "A", "B" etc represent occasions.)

A may affect (that is, influence or have an effect on) B.

If A affects B, B cannot affect A.

That is, an effect cannot precede its cause.

So A cannot affect A.

If A affects B and B affects C, I say that B carries an effect from A to C.

If A has an uncarried effect on B, this can be described in any of the following ways.

A directly affects B. (Thus a carried e+ is indirect.)

A is a datum of B.

B prehends A.

An occasion's environment (its data or immediate past) is the set of occasions it prehends.

The plural of "datum" is "data", so strictly speaking an occasion's data are the occasions it prehends. But "data" is often treated as singular, and I may resort to this usage. And of course, statements about an occasion's data are, unless otherwise implied, intended to be true regardless of whether there are many such data, only one, or none at all.

Every occasion is free. Its data affect it but do not cause it.

That is, no occasion is fully determined by its data, either as regards which occasions to prehend or how to prehend them.

Deterministic thinking is adequate for some purposes but is never more than an approximation.

Number, Space, Time

As soon as we speak of an occasion and another occasion we are speaking of two occasions. So number is inherent in this theory.

An occasion's past consists of all occasions that affect it, and its future consists of all occasions affected by it. If there is an effect between two occasions they are sequential, otherwise they are simultaneous.

An occasion's past and future are its past and future lightcones.

The relationship between two occasions is (using Einstein's terms) timelike if one affects the other and spacelike if not. (I see no need for "lightlike" relationships.)

A spacetime is a nexus of occasions all prehensively linked, none of which is prehensively linked with any occasion outside that nexus.

A primal occasion is one with no data.

Maybe the famous Big Bang was a primal occasion.

If a certain primal occasion has affected me, it is in my past. If not, it is simultaneous with me, and if I am affected by it later it will then be in my past. In no case is it in my future; it is either already in my past or not yet in my past.

Modalities and Realms

Every occasion is governed by just one modality, which determines what type of occasion it is.

There are other ways of classifying occasions, but this is the most basic one, and it is what I mean by "type of occasion", unless otherwise stated.

The occasions governed by a given modality constitute that modality's realm.

For brevity, when there is no risk of confusion, I often refer to "realms" when "modalities" would be more correct.

Each modality has its own unique character and is the topic of one of the basic sciences.

Intermodal Dependencies

Here, "A", "B" etc represent modalities.

It is inherent in certain pairs of realms, say A and B, that every B-occasion has A-occasions among its data, that is, B is rooted in A, or is a child of A.

I say that C depends on A (or is a descendant of A, or is higher than A) if at least one of the following conditions holds:

C is rooted in A.

C is rooted in B, and B depends on A.

Mathematics specialists probably have a word for this kind of nexus. Sorry if my inductive definition seems unduly pedantic, but I have found no simpler definition that is equally rigorous.

The realms are all mutually irreducible.

That is, a modality's dependencies do not explain it. The ground floor does not explain the upstairs. No modality is a form, or effect, or "emergent property", of any others.

"Occam's razor" urges us to eliminate redundant entities from our theories, and I am attracted by the idea of deriving the modalities from a single principle (like Whitehead's creativity) or at least of a simpler scheme (like Parsons' AGIL). But pursuing this seems inevitably to reduce selves also to mere manifestations, a conclusion I regard as absurd, so I continue to assume, with Dooyeweerd, that the modalities are given with creation.

All realms form a nexus of dependencies, with just one base realm at the "bottom" and just one apex realm at the "top".

That is, every other realm depends on the base realm, and the apex realm depends on every other realm.

This implies that every primal occasion is in the base realm.

There may be a natural sequence in which every modality depends on every precedent modality, as in Dooyeweerd's theory of "intermodal analogies", but some of his analogies look artificial to me, so I am sceptical about this, and my theory is neutral regarding it.

The base realm can be characterised as that of occurence as such. Thus in a sense it has no character of its own, a point expressed by Buddhists in their sunyata ("emptiness"). Hence the apparent futility if we restrict attention to this realm.

The Modes of Prehension

There are three modes of prehension.

In a material prehension, the concrescence's realm is rooted in the the datum's.

In a formal prehension, the datum's realm is rooted in the the concrescence's.

In a horizontal prehension, datum and concrescence are in the same realm.

Since every realm depends on the base realm, every occasion is affected by at least one occasion in the base realm. That is, sequences of occasions in dependent realms do not "go their own way" but constantly (to use a convenient metaphor) "touch base". An occasion's delimitation by its data, mentioned above, is now further defined: that delimitation is always partly material and therefore, mediately, partly basic.

Whitehead, lacking a doctrine of modalities, calls all prehensions of occasions "material", reserving "formal" for prehensions of "eternal objects" ("pure potentials"). I, on the other hand, recognising no eternal objects, use these terms to distinguish "top-down" from "bottom-up" effects.

Habits

A chain is a sequence of occasions in which each link except the first prehends its predecessor.

A habit is a horizontal chain with a repeating pattern.

That is, it is a chain of prehensions within a single realm that constitutes a cycle or vibration, in a broad sense that allows for any degree of complexity.

In First Principles, Herbert Spencer has expounded the role of cycles, albeit in base-realm terms only, being blind to all other realms.

My "habits" correspond to Whitehead's "enduring objects" and to Dooyeweerd's "structures of totality", the latter of which I regard as a needless proliferation of entities. This part of my theory needs further elaboration, and probably correction, but I hope it is on the right track.

Thus an occasion has a series of predecessors and a series of successors.

A habit's first link is its inception and its last is its expiry.

An inception may be called an "emergence" but not in the evolutionist sense. Evolutionism regards the higher modalities as mere surface effects ("epiphenomena") of processes that would prove, on deep enough analysis, to have only one modality.

Occasions tend to arrange themselves into habits.

This is the law of habit. It complements the law of novelty.

I surmise that every occasion is a link in at least one habit. I suppose that for any primal occasion P there is just one occasion S whose data consists of P alone, and that S completes the first cycle by responding to P, we might say answering the question posed by P, and so the cosmic antiphony begins. At least one occasion, I suppose, prehends both P and S. And so the cosmic diversity grows.

The prerequisite of stability, and the necessary condition of inception, is self-replication.

An occasion in a given realm can only occur if a suitable habit is present in each of the realm's roots. In such a case, I say that the environment is hospitable to that realm.

At some point I hope to investigate the character of such hospitalities.

Size

The while between two sequential occasions is the smallest number of prehensions linking them.

That is, if O(1) and O(N) are two occasions (where N is a number higher than 1), the while between them is N if and only if there are occasions {O(2), O(3), ... O(N-1)} such that O(2) prehends O(1), O(3) prehends O(2), ... and O(N) prehends O(N-1), and there is no such set with fewer occasions.

The distance between two occasions is the smallest while from one of them to a successor of the other.

Succession (as opposed to mere sequence) is based on habit, so without habit the only kind of "size" would be the number of members in a specified set of occasions.

The distance between sequential occasions is an amount of time.

The distance between simultaneous occasions is an amount of space.

When mathematicians call "rational numbers" (fractions) and "real numbers" are useful abstractions and approximations that do not fully correspond to any realities.

Subjects

Habits tend to integrate into compound habits called subjects.

I hope at some point to elaborate on this statement.

Underlying Habits

Each habit HB in realm B has, for each of B's roots A, an underlying habit HA in A such that:

Each link of HB is affected by at least one link of HA.

That is, every link of every habit has a material basis in the base realm.

These effects, of course, are via material prehensions.

Each link of HB affects at least one link of HA.

That is, each habit has an ongoing mutual interaction with each of its underlying habits.

These effects, of course, are via formal prehensions.

So a habit whose form is that of an underlying habit can only occur qua underlying habit, that is, with formal effect from an overlying one, though without such affect it may seem to approximate to it to any degree so long as we disregard B. (For instance, an android may pass a Turing test to any level you please but will never be a mind, though to perceive the gulf we need to raise out sights.)

An overlying habit can only arise if the material base is hospitable, that is, there is already an adaptable habit in the root realm. The inception of the overlying habit triggers a transition (strictly speaking a "transformation", but a subtle one) in which that habit transforms into an underlying one.

Unless A is the base realm, HA also has underlying habits, so HB "sits" on a nexus of underlying habits, one for each of B's ancestors. If realm C is rooted in A and B, each C-habit overlies both an A-habit and a B-habit. If B and C are rooted in A, an A-habit that underlies a B-habit must do so via a different form from that via which any A-habit underlies a C-habit. And if D is rooted in B and C, each D-habit inherits (via B and C) from both those forms. But a compound habit can incorporate multiple forms so there is no need to postulate multiple A-habits in such cases, and the nexus of underlying habits need not be (I am inclined to think, cannot be) a pyramid.

Each overlying habit inherits patterns from its base habits, but its own pattern is not fully determined by them, though reductionistic blinkers may make it seem so.

So a habit can only arise if suitable underlying habits are available, that is, if the environment is hospitable enough. And it can only endure while that hospitability continues.

Events and Choices

Each realm is either indicative or imperative.

An indicative realm merely delimits how its occasions may occur. Its occasions are events (things that happen). Its science merely describes, defining those possibilities, helping us exclude certain events as impossible.

An imperative realm also stipulates how its occasions should occur. Its occasions are choices (things that are done). Its science also prescribes, defining that norm, helping us judge certain choices as improper. It corresponds to a natural standard (a cosmic norm). Each choice has a status. The two statuus are propriety (the status of proper choices) and impropriety (the status of improper choices). So any imperative realm consists of proper and improper choices.

No indicative realm depends on an imperative realm.

There is an apex indicative realm that depends on every other indicative realm.

There is a base imperative realm on which every other imperative realm depends.

The above stipulations are equivalent, I think, to the statement that each of the two groups of realms forms a nexus in which every other realm in the group depends on the group's base realm and the group's apex realm depends on every other realm in the group, and that those two nexuus are linked by a single relationship of rootedness.

My Cosmology postulates that the actual indicative realms form a single sequence of dependencies (occurrence, life, behaviour), but that is not required by this theory.

Selves

Each choice is made by a self.

Cosmic freedom in general could be regarded as random, and indeed corresponds to the "randomness" of quantum mechanics. But to choose is to respond to an imperative, and this only occurs in the imperative modalities, that is, the ones corresponding to intention.

Selves are also known as people, persons or souls.

Each self's choices form a chain, its career.

No choice made by one self prehends a choice made by another self.

That is, all interaction between selves (including communication) is mediated by events.

I call a self's first choice its inception.

So an occasion can be called an "inception" in regard to either a habit or a self.

Every self incepts in the base imperative realm.

A self's inception is always also a habit inception in the base imperative realm.

Inception of a self requires an environment hospitable to the base realm, that is, hospitable to choice.

I conjecture that hospitability to choice requires habits in which individual events have disproportionate consequences. I hope at some point to consider this further.

Personal Habits

I call a habit in an imperative realm a personal habit.

My "personal habits" and their interrelations correspond somewhat to Dooyeweerd's "act-structure".

I fear lest this phrase evoke amusing connotations, but it seems fitting. I think that the familiar kind of "habit" is indeed an example of habit as I have defined it.

Every choice is a link of a personal habit made by the choosing self.

Since every choice is made by a self, it follows that personal habits only arise in relation to selves. This stipulation corresponds to the recognition of the imperative character of these realms. Imperative occasions are inherently choices, and choices do not occur without selves to make them.

As stated above, a choice never prehends a choice made by another self. So the choices that constitute a personal habit are all made by the same self, and it is convenient to say that the self "makes" the habit.

Each self tends to make habits in all imperative realms.

A self's making of personal habits begins with the self's inception in the base imperative realm, and rises through the intermodal nexus, culminating in the apex realm, at which point the self becomes an adult (or mature), having hitherto been a child (or infant).

Since every habit requires underlying habits, a self must have some such base. Every known self corresponds to a descendant of homo sapiens, and I suppose this will remain so, but I see no need to assume that it must be so, though I regard claims that dolphins or computer programmes will ever have selves as preposterous.

A choice whose habit differs from that of the choice's self's previous choice prehends the most recent choice in its own habit.

As well, of course, as prehending the self's previous choice.

Each choice is either in the same realm as its self's previous choice, or in an adjacent one.

So a self's choice-chain moves stepwise through the intermodal nexus, each choice either moving one step up (via material prehension by a link of an overlying habit), along (via horizontal prehension within one habit) or one step down (via formal prehension by a link of an underlying habit).

Personal Subjects

A self's personal habits in any one realm tend to be integrated in a single personal subject.

I hope at some point to elaborate on this.

Personal Expiry

If a self's environment becomes inhospitable enough that his last remaining personal habit expires, that expiry is his expiry also.

The last personal habit to expire will of course be in the imperative base.

But as there is no limit on how many occasions may prehend a choice before that choice's self's next choice, resurrection is possible.

That is, the self is only suspended, not destroyed, by expiry of its choice-chain (commonly called "death", though not to be confused with the morbid form that has followed the Defection). Given a hospitable environment, resurrection of that self can (but need not) then occur. From the self's point of view there is no hiatus, and that point of view is as valid as any other.

Resurrection involves new personal habits, for the old ones have expired and a new one, however similar to a previous one, is not "the same habit". This detracts not from the continuity of the self.

On the other hand, fulfillment is compatible with continuation of habits, for it need not involve expiry. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." (1 Cor 15) I am aware of no actual past or future resurrection (as opposed to mere resuscitation) not associated with fulfillment, though I see no reason to deny its possibility. I hope at some point to incorporate these remarks in a full ontology of fulfillment.

Alignments

The two possible alignments are goodness and wickedness.

Goodness prompts proper choices.

Wickedness prompts improper choices.

Each choice is prompted by an alignment.

A choice prompted by goodness is always proper, but a choice prompted by wickedness may be proper or improper.

This asymmetry reflects the fact that the wicked find it convenient to act properly. To put it crudely, propriety works; to act properly is to follow the maker's instructions, and often the harmful consequences of impropriety are obvious enough to outweigh the prompting of wickedness. I hope at some point to investigate this point more fully.

Dispositions

A phase is a period of a career in which all choices are conditioned by one disposition.

That is, the disposition conditions the phase.

Each self's career consists of one or two phases.

Every self has an initial phase conditioned by the self's predisposition.

In particular, a given self's predisposition conditions his inception, which, as explained above, is in the base imperative realm and precedes any choices that this self may make in higher realms.

I diverge from Dooyeweerd here. For him, each self "functions subjectively" (i.e. acts) in all imperative realms, up to and including the apex realm, from its outset, which his theory (unlike mine) requires him to regard as occurring at zygote formation time. (He calls the apex realm "faith", implying that the manifestation of realignment begins there.) We are thus required to assert, absurdly I think, that the zygote acts in all those realms. I think this arises from a failure to give due place to process.

If the predisposition is wickedness, the self may also have a final phase conditioned by goodness. Such a phase begins when the self is realigned to a godly redisposition.

As implied abolve, if the predisposition is goodness the initial phase is always also final. Genesis 3 is not a narrative of a self who went bad after an initially godly phase, as traditional interpretations tend to imply; if it does literally record a choice, either that choice was Adam's inception, or the defection itself had occurred earlier and the choice recorded was not the absolute beginning of defection but only its manifestation in consciousness, outward conduct or whatever. (Incidentally, traditional interpretations inevitably fall into absurdity or waffle regarding the relationship between Adam's fall and Eve's, which is rightly regarded as subordinate to it but which allegedly preceded it.)

Perfectionism is the belief that a self, insofar as it may know itself realigned, may also attain a sound confidence that it will never sin again ("sinless perfection"). I now think that every realigned self is, in that sense, perfect. Perfectionists have generally shared with their opponents the assumption that realigned selves sometimes make improper choices. I used to share the assumption, and to reject Perfectionism; "Maybe", I thought, "counter-dispositional choices persist via habits, and redisposition asserts itself via inceptions deriving ultimately from the apex realm. Maybe predisposition is bottom-up from the imperative base, but redisposition is top-down." I hope at some point to consider this matter further, but meanwhile it is clear that, by definition, a member of a personal habit is still a choice. The illusion of ongoing wickedness may arise from the following factors. (1) Members of behavioural (and maybe other sub-personal) habits are not choices. Such habits, when arising from previous improper choices, continue to have effects that may resemble those of current improper choices. (2) If earlier members of a personal habit were improper, the habit will have bad characteristics. These will tend to dissipate under the effect of subsequent proper members, but this dissipation may follow no obvious pattern, and the old characteristics may at some point resurge owing to circumstances, without any further improper choice. (None of this excuses a "habitual criminal" who continues to steal after it has been explained to him that his loot is someone's property; that is not a habit but a subsequent improper choice. If his realignment is genuine he will soon desist from such conduct.) (Dooyeweerd held that what he called "the antithesis" runs through humans rather than between them, but I gather that his intellectual partner Vollenhoven thought him "too soft on antithesis"; unlikely that Vollenhoven would have agreed with my view, but their disagreement at least corroborates my sense that the standard Christianoid view -- that God's friends sin as much as do his foes, or almost as much -- is problematical.)

Selfkinds

Each self is a member of a selfkind.

Maybe there will only ever be one selfkind, the one including (and maybe consisting of) humanity.

In a primal choice, each selfkind adopts an alignment expressed in the predispositions of the selves who incept as members of it.

Attitudes

Freedom impels each self to express its disposition through attitudes.

Each attitude implies a transcendent ground and goal, something or someone, whether called "Universe", "God", "Man" or any other name, which is seen as underlying and overarching the world of experience (German Lebenswelt, "life-world").

An attitude that detached its goal from its presumed cosmic ground would be highly unstable and would soon disintegrate.

Attitude is unconscious but conditions all consciousness.

Every self has an alignment, but only a mature self can adopt an attitude. In particular, attitude arises from choices in the apex realm, and remains closely correlated with such choices.

God

Why do occasions occur and diversify? Why do habits form? Why do selves arise? What distinguishes goodness from wickedness? The answer to all such questions lies in the creativity of the transcendent quasi-self.

In other words, God has created the cosmos and requires our goodness in leading it to its goal.

A selfkind predisposed to goodness has only one attitude, devotion to God.

The goal involves every event affecting any choice. This doctrine is a kind of idealism, but differs from earlier idealisms such as those of Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, Bradley and Oakeshott, and I hope readers will not saddle me with every doctrine that has ever been propounded in the name of "idealism".

If there are many primal occasions, I suppose that their futures will all eventually cohere, as this seems to maximise the play of divine creativity.

According to Whitehead, God and the occasions together constitute the "actual entities", with God affecting and affected by every occasion. I see no need for that hypothesis, though of course God is creatively active throughout.

Gender

Every self is masculine or feminine.

I refer to a self of unknown gender as "he", "they" or "it" as seems convenient.

Masculinity corresponds to what in Chinese is called yang, femininity to yin.

Each selfkind's asymmetrical internal partition into genders points to its similarly asymmetrical external relationship with God.

Evolving the World (A Brief History of Time)

This needs much expansion.

It assumes a single primal occasion, but the account could be enhanced to allow for many.

The primal occasion became a datum for several concrescences, each of which was a datum for further concrescences. So occasions multiplied, all via habitual prehensions, all in the base realm. The cosmic creativity shaped the evolving occasions into suitable material for an occasion of the next realm, whereupon there was an inception in that realm. Habitual and material prehensions combined to yield further occasions in that realm, arranged in chains of habitual prehension, some of which expired. And so on ....