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Absolute And Relative

  1. Jul 10, 2006 #1
    I had this theory while thinking about something unrelated, and it occured to me..

    What if everything in the universe is absolute, EXCEPT everything that is perceived by humans.
    Like, humans say all the time "dude it's not all black and white, everything is a gray area.."
    And that's true for everything in our subjective worlds, to a certain extent, but what if all of nature is actually absolute.

    In an absolute universe, there would, or could, be two switches, 1 and 0.
    If we divide every possible object that exists into emergent levels, and say that they are built up with 1 or 0, then we see that they are absolute in the sense that the relative values are constant.
    Basically, if the universe was built upon a 1 and 0 concept, then 1 and 0 would be absolute, and every logical objective entity would be absolute, but our perception of it would be relative.

    If I have not explained myself well enough, please feel free to ask questions.

    - Peace
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2006 #2


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    You seem to be saying that perhaps an objective reality exists and propositions regarding this reality are either true or false, but that we cannot perceive this reality as it is and so any claims we make about it are true or false only relative to our individual perceptions, that is, they are not true or false claims about reality, but only true or false claims about our own perception. Something like that? I must admit that I can't make heads or tails of the switching thing.

    If this is what you are saying, it is in line with the view of classical relativism discussed in Plato's Theaetetus:

    Note that the "unitarian" reading is picked up by the modern rationalists when they claim that reality cannot be known through perceptual experience, but only through intellection, a view that is no longer held by anyone in the philosophical mainstream.
  4. Jul 10, 2006 #3
    Actually upon reflection, I've come to the conclusion that everything is absolute, even the subjective.

    For example, abortion.
    Some people say that abortion is bad because a life is killed, and others say we must protect the lives of young pregnant women, so they don't get children too early that they can't take care of.

    The problem here is that there seems to be no clear answer, no absolute answer.
    But the problem is, this absolute answer doesn't lie where people think it does.
    There are two ways to look at it, either generalize the answer and try to apply it to everyone or most, and reach a relative unanswerable answer or specify a certain individual, and thus reaching an absolute correct answer.

    Karen is 16 and pregnant, she has not finished school, and she wants to have a child but she also wants to live her life without much responsibility.
    The relative answer here is "make a choice."
    The absolute answer is to go one step lower and say, "well, how do I REALLY feel about this?"
    And at some point, on some level, there is an absolute answer for Karen, even if she can't see it, but she probably will since it's absolute.

    So basically what I'm trying to say is that whenever we generalize, or apply a question to more than one unique problem, we automatically reach relativism, but each unique problem will have a unique absolute answer.

    Does that make sense to anyone?
  5. Jul 10, 2006 #4
    Thanks for the quote, I hadn't realised Plato could be officially interpreted in two completely opposite ways, expecially in view of the cave allegory, with its inside and outside. My reading of him has always been unitarian, although I didn't know this had an official name. Two-world Platonism is the same as the 'two-truths' doctrine in Buddhist philosophy, the conventional and the absolute.

    I like your idea, octelcogopod. If you'd said that everything is absolute except what is perceived by sentient beings, including sentient beings, you'd have reinvented the nondual doctrine of Sufism, Buddhism, Taoism etc.

    The complication would be that in this other view it is not be quite right to say that there is something absolute. Mind you, it would also be not quite right to say that nothing is absolute. The problem stems from your assumption that that everything must be representable as 1's and 0's. This is dualism big time, based on the idea that every meaningful proposition must have an unambiguous truth value, and uphold the tertium non datur rule of ordinary logic and natural language.

    However, we find that the world does not always obey the rules of ordinary logic. In quantum mechanics we've had to abandon the dualism ingherent in your binary system. If we represent a wave as a 0 and a particle as a 1 then we cannot represent a wavicle. Likewise, in mysticism, if 'nothing' is represented as 0, and 'something' as 1, where 'something' is everything percieved by individual sentient beings, then there is no number with which to represent that from which universes and sentient beings arise. Spencer Brown suggests we use complex values in metaphysics to get around this problem, as we do in QM.

    In this other view the universe of psychophysical phenomena - a broader category than your universe 'as perceived by human beings' but consistent with your basic idea - is representable as a collection of 1's and 0's as you suggest. But as well as this there is something else. This 'something else' is the Tao, if you like, which cannot be represented as a 1 or a 0 and therefore cannot be represented unselfcontradictorily, but may be represented as an imaginary or complex value.

    The Tao is said to have all attributes and no attributes, be fundamental and not fundamental, be extended and not-extended, be a thing but also not a thing and so on ad nauseam. This is why dualism of any kind is a discouraged by the mystics. You seem to have come very close to this idea with what you say about the Absolute being in a sense outside of the cave, the only thing that is not perceived by human beings. But to say that some-thing is absolute is to oppose it to what is relative. The absolute must include the relative, not oppose it. The technical term for the resolution of absolute and relative or the duality between I and 0 would be 'nonduality. Thus, what is absolute would be neither 1 nor 0 but the nonduality of 1 and 0. It's the same idea we use in QM. This is why Buddhists talk about the nonduality of Samsara and Nirvana.

  6. Jul 10, 2006 #5

    I'm still not sure about this, because your post was a bit cryptic for a first time reader of such material.

    However to embellish a little bit..
    The absolute ties in perfectly with determinism.
    Saying that something is absolute, is really just saying that it couldn't have happened any other way, or, in a more eloquent way; any event has has a precursor event, therefore all events have events that were started by some other event, thus reaching an absolute chain of event, where the whole system of events ties in logically to one another.
    In a system that is fundamentally logical, all events follow logic, thus determinism MUST be in place, logic == determinism, if people say that for instance quantum mechanics has indterminism, then they are just not comprehending it properly, thur reaching a relative, or should I say, incomplete understanding.

    So in other words, if there was a God, everything would to him be absolute and determined, and to anyone else it would be relative and incomplete.
    So in a way, the universe is god, and we are all just puzzles in a system of events that is logically puzzling itself.

  7. Jul 11, 2006 #6
    logic itself is relative and limited plus ur reasoning would imply: absolute=logic=determinism which is contradictory

    or is it that you dont understand QM ? Be careful not to substitute ur own "common" sense for facts. Lets look at Aristotle who derived law and workings of nature by pure reasoning and common sense of how things should be. Well, you look like you know how many blunders he has claimed.

    Nature seems highly above our common sense, and even study of brain and consciousness shows the shallow limits of our common sense. WE just cannot impose it on the complexity of nature.

    All you do is choosing your frame of reference (human one) and trying to deduce working of nature from this scale (of time and space....). Imagine you are a cell in the brain and derive ur understanding of the things. Imagine you live in dense plasma and derive ur understanding....

    What im trying to show you that you will come up with different understandings each time due to limits of ur perception of ur environment.
    If i put u in 11th century europe in a peasant village with potential to know in ur lifetime as much information as there is in today one issue of new york times you will see god everywhere. When basically any disease can kill you or ur loved ones you will not believe ur in charge of ur life. When any summer high pressure over europe can cause ur crops to die of drought and therefore force u to even more brutal poverty u will pray to god as would anyone else.

    This is to show that common sense is not the best guide in understanding objective reality. Common sense has developed to get us through the day on short time scale (possible our lifetimes at most).
  8. Jul 11, 2006 #7
    EDit: actually nevermind I have to think about this for awhile.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
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