27 December 2009
The more I think about it and the more I read philosophy, the more convinced I become that the key element of existence is not objects as such, but the relationships that constitute them, both internally and externally. If you deny the relationships between, then you fall into a trap. Where do you stop? At what point do you know that you've encountered the ding an sich, the thing-in-itself, or just some reified aggregate? You must always be searching for the smallest object, breaking everything down into its component parts. The universe becomes nothing more than an aggregate of particles, unless you posit some external, transcendent essence.
"'I' affirms a separate and abiding me-substance, 'am' denies the fact that all existence is relationship and change. 'I am' two tiny words, but what an enormity of untruth."
- Island, Aldous Huxley
By focusing on the relationships between, however, we can understand existence in all its complexity. The biologist studies relationships between organs and cells in a body, the ecologist studies relationships between species, the sociologist and anthropologist study relationships between people. This framework provides a whole new way of thinking - new epistemology, a new ontology, a new metaphysics and a new ethics.
Do an experiment - for a day, an hour, a minute - look at the things around you and think of them not as objects-in-themselves, but as being constituted by relationships both internally and externally. And don't just think about the parts - i.e. my book is composed of pages with ink bound in cover - think of the history, the social context - i.e. my book is composed also of a writer's thoughts, a genre, a publishing and distribution system, and each of these has its own history and context. Furthermore it has a relationship to me - why do I own it, why am I reading it (or not, as the case may be), why do I like it (or not, as the case may be), what personal history went into those decisions? Try it, and let me know what happens.