Thursday, August 7, 2014

Worlds without Explanations

Student: “Why is there so much suffering?”
Shunryu Suzuki: “No reason”.

That there has to be a reason for everything is an appealing thought. It is hard for us to accept the notion of something just happening, or just being there, for no reason. And, when we are thinking along these lines, “reason” is usually short for “reasoned explanation”. Can we imagine a world in which this kind of thinking has no application? This is not easy. Imagine a world in which there are no intelligent beings: our world, if things had gone differently. Isn’t this a reasonless world? In one sense, perhaps, yes. But, we will still want to ask of that world why it is like it is – why it is reasonless, for instance. All worlds seems to invite such questions, as does their absense.
          Will the quest for reasons run out of steam at some point? Not because we are intellectually exhausted (although we can imagine that happening), but rather because it comes up against a natural boundary beyond which such a quest makes no sense?  Some think that this world, our world, constitutes just such a boundary. We can ask of things in it “Why this?” or “Why that?” - “Why is the sun so hot at its core?”, “Why do earthquakes occur in some places and not others?” And so on. But, when we start to ask certain questions of that world considered as whole, then, or so some people believe, these questions implode. We don’t know how to press them further because no answer seems possible even as we begin to raise and reflect on them. “Why does this world exist?” and “How is it possible for this, or any, world to exist?” are examples of these questions.
          Of course there are standard answers to such questions which are liable to satisfy many people. “Because God made it” is one. And, “As a consequence of the big bang” is another. But, anyone inclined to take the thrust of the initial questions seriously will not be so easily satisfied. 
        They will want to ask these questions of the very phenomena invoked in the answers: "Why does God exist?", “How is the existence of God possible?”, "Why did the big bang occur?", and “How was the existence of the big bang possible?”
More on this some other time.

No comments:

Post a Comment