The Genesis and Structure of
An inquiry into the nature of pluriworlds --
The Plurality of Worlds
Several years ago, I happened to see a philosophy channel in the program list of a cable radio in Japan, which featured hundreds of channels. My joy was short-lived, though, because of the title of the category under which the philosophy channel came--sleeping. The channel precedent to it in the same category broadcasted a piece of background music that would soothe our nerves. The following was one that aired, "One sheep, two . . . " I was just embarrassed: "People do not expect of philosophy more than a sleeping pill?"
There may be a number of reasons why philosophy has fallen into such a plight. One of them, I think, is that any thought, ideology, or religion that presupposes only one world, even if pluralistic, is prone to have unreasonable consequences in the present day, when a large variety of values and world-views coexist. So I would like to propose a pluriworlds-view in this essay.
We see various kinds of pluralism in the history of philosophy, yet there have rarely been such a view as insists the plurality of real worlds themselves. The concept of pluriworlds, which we conceive, is not that of dual worlds, e.g., "this world and the next," "the real world and the ideal," etc. Nor it is the "parallel universes" in quantum mechanics, nor the "possible worlds," one of which have been realized and become this actual world.
Our "pluriworlds" means that a lot of real worlds of different properties coexist actually. Among few philosophers who expressed a pluriworlds-view of this sort was G. W. F. Hegel, who conceived worlds as
"stations." (1) His dialectic means that substance, which truly exists for itself, is the subject, which makes the subjective movement or self-changing. Since his substance has the character of totality and wholeness, the various phases through which it passes as the self-transforming movement retain the character of wholeness, too. Each of those phases is then a world of its own nature. And every phase must be generated after the logical necessity of the development process. Consequently his worlds result in being lined up in logical succession.
In our opinion, however, it is not determined in advance by any presupposed logic how and in what order each world should be produced from another. But even if this assertion is approved, still will arise many questions and problems concerning the possibility of pluriworlds: "What makes worlds multiply?" "Is it possible in the first place that multiple real worlds exist at the same time?" "Do many Is myselves coexist?"--and so on.
Trying to answer these questions, we advance our world-view "the plurality of worlds" to show a few things that may in heaven and earth have not been dreamt of by past philosophers.
1. The Layering and Contracting of Worlds
Let us begin with the following example:
In my room I turned on the radio just to kill time. Since the quality of the radio sound was rather metallic, it at first seemed not to be appropriate for classical music.
Yet my mind became gradually concentrated on the music or a piano solo. Before long it filled up the room and occupied my whole consciousness. "Oh my! How agile and daring the pianist plays on the piano! That is his original interpretation," I murmured with admiration. I entirely absorbed into the music: "This is the world of Schubert. In this way it develops!"
After a while, the music ended and a commentator's voice came from the radio.
In this example my world was at first the everyday, ordinary one. The radio sound was part of it. As I concentrated on it, everything or my world began to appear in the sound of the piano, that is, as the world of the pianist and then as that of Schubert; the radio sound produced the world of the pianist and the latter, in turn, did that of the composer. Consequently we can say that the first everyday world included the second world of the pianists, and that the second one did the third one of composer's. These three worlds constituted a nested structure in which they fitted into each other.
While listening to that piano music, however, if I got excited by the pianist's gumption so much as to feel like fighting against the vulgar everyday world, then the pianist's world, which I held in common with him then, had the everyday world as an object. Then the former world could include the latter as its negative part and would be greater than it. And if I realized that the pianist's mind lacked candidness and elegance in comparison with the composer's, the world of the former was lesser comprisable than that of the latter. In these cases the composer's world would be the most comprisable and inclusive of the three. The nested structure of the worlds would
be in reverse order to the earlier one.
In case of paying no attention to the pianist, what would happen? Then we would have two layered worlds instead of three. The number of worlds changes according to situations. And worlds can layer with various permutations and combinations in a nested structure.
Now, let us return to the last scene of our example:
After a while, the music ended and a commentator's voice came from the radio.
"That's a very good music!" I said to myself and came back again to the everyday world. The world of the pianist and that of Schubert changed into merely a temporary, good experience in the everyday world. Those two layered worlds in the nested structure had contracted into part of the everyday world. Layering and contracting is the ontologically fundamental form of worlds.
We are often biased to look upon the everyday world as the truly existing, actual and concrete one; while a world that some composer created is usually regarded as an imaginary one existing only in our emotions. Yet did I only sympathize with Schubert? And was merely my sentiment roused up with hearing that music? When the music in our example fascinated me, a new universe was really unfolding out there. I could not, of course, see, hear, nor touch anything there in the same way as in the everyday world. Still I was able to sense everything in the element of music. If the musical world is regarded as abstract and non-realistic, then the everyday world also should be done, for this world lacks musical beings, which sometimes have a great influence on us.
Even though the everyday world is commonly supposed to be the most fundamental and affluent of all, it may be a degenerated derivative that lacks truth, eternity and so on for those who have a religious mind. As each world comes into existence from part of another, abstraction is just an inevitable attribute of every world.
Natural science, especially physics, seems to deal with all beings in this universe. Anything that cannot be handled by it does not have the right to existence simply. In the field of such a science nevertheless lacks the psychic sphere or "qualia." When you see a red rose and have a question about its color, natural science is ready to explain how this phenomenon, the color red, appears before you: "the reflective light of the some 700nm wavelength strikes your retinas. And that causes electric excitement of the optic nerves, then some part of the cerebrum, and so on." But it is impossible for us to reach the sense of that red itself, a quale, in the physical explanation. This is void of it from the very first. We should admit that the scientific world is abstract,
The reason I have especially called those abstract spheres (i.e., the musical, the ordinary, the religious, and the scientific one) "worlds" is that they have the following characteristics:
1. In each sphere we can find an equivalent or correspondent of anything and any affair in other spheres. The sense of the color red in the everyday world, for instance, corresponds to the certain electric excitement of some part of a cerebrum in the scientific sphere. (Though two things in different spheres are incommensurable with each other. They neither have any common ingredients nor are reducible to each other, in spite of their having equivalency or correspondence.)
2. Indigenous laws or logos rule each sphere, and this makes it autonomous.
3. Each sphere has something with which everything in another sphere can be wholly represented. And it has its own logic explicit or implicit that makes this representation possible; as is the case when someone in the everyday world tells that religion is merely a delusion (the "representation" of the religious world) of non-intellectual people and that the cause of the delusion is so and so.)
Spheres that have the characteristics above may well be called the world. Such pluriworlds do not dispersed away nor become estranged from each other, because each world has been generated from part of another and is, at least latently, still included in it. They mutually condition and restrict the possibility of others. For instance, my friend Mr. A, who was not fond of literature, suddenly wrote poems on a whim. Because those poems were produced by his imagination, they were totally conditioned by him, whom I know very well in our everyday world. So I can say naturally that his poems are little worthy to read, no matter whatever world it might create.
2. Corporeal Beings in Their World
When in some world we turn our eyes on something that may be physical or spiritual, it appears to us concretely. We call that way of appearance "corporeal" or "bodily." Every being has the corporeal presence when it appears directly in sight. We do not divide a being ontologically into its components or moments, e.g., the real moment (matter) and the ideal one (form). A being in its corporeal presence is a whole.
Imagine a pupil who is not able to solve a problem in geometry:
To help him, a math teacher draws a straight line and a triangle on the blackboard. These figures, of course, have some breadth of the traces of chalk and the distortion of freehand drawing. But the pupil takes them as pure geometric figures, which have no breadth nor distortion. Then he realizes a certain relation among the figures that leads to the solution.
In that case, the pupil got a chance to solve the problem with his looking at the figures on the blackboard. They corporeally appeared to him in the geometric world, showing neither breadth nor distortion. And he just recognized them. But many people may contend that what really existed on the blackboard were the chalk traces (i.e., matter or the real moment of a thing), and that the pupil took them as geometric figures with no breadth or distortion (i.e., form or the ideal moment of a thing).
We admit the possibility of his cognizance of the chalk traces as such, but that is, from our viewpoint, only after he solved the problem and returned to the everyday world. The contenders above, who were only lookers-on and not trying to solve the problem, saw merely the chalk traces as such all the time, for they were in the everyday world all along. Accordingly they did not perceive any purely geometric figures on the blackboard, and they now want to call these figures "ideal" or "formal." The ideal moment or form of a being is a phenomenon of a corporeal being seen from another world, or not seen directly from a point in its own
Let us take a funeral as another example. This service is, as is well known, often not for the sake of the dead but of the alive, who need to confirm the order and hierarchy among them again. We, however, regard it straightforward here as a ritual with which the deceased is seen off.
Then not a corpse, but a dead person that is somehow still alive as a spiritual being must be out there in a funeral scene. We look in the direction of the late Mr. A, e.g., towards his picture or the coffin. He is around there, not in our memory. Funeral addresses sound solemnly, speaking to him: "Mr. A, you have been so honorable . . . " (After the funeral service when we dine together and chat about him, he only remains in our memory.)
A corporeal being has its own way to exist according to the world in which it exists: it is unnatural in a religious world (as in the funeral scene), ideational in a rational one, and so on.
Succeeding English empiricism, I. Kant insisted that our experience is made from materials of our intuition, which we get when our sense organs receive physical stimuli. This kind of epistemology still has strong support of the present day and it usually works well. Even so, many people feel that it is somewhat disappointing such an epistemology should merely reach the scientific level of the junior high school of today: purely physical stimuli are supposed to get to our central nerves system via sense organs. This idea is at variance with the latest scientific theory, which suggests that we get our perception through the modulation of signals our nerve center emits. Anyway, we do not accept the Kantian epistemology and the like.
Some people want to put all the existing theories of knowledge in brackets and try to see things as they are. Then they discover that our cognitive objects are intrinsically charged with meaning and value. From our viewpoint, though, such a world "as it is" or "in which we live" is in fact the everyday world, which is, although very intimate with us, only one world in many.
After all, while we do not give priority over others to any world, even not to the Kantian, the scientific, nor the everyday world, we recognize that our cognitive objects appear corporeally in diverse manners according to their world.
3. Beings as "Contours"
While a being is corporeal and concrete, and seemingly exists by itself in its world, it appears as a so-called "figure" against a "ground" when it is seen from another world, that is, when its original world contracts into part of another one. In that case a figure exists owing to its difference from the ground on which it appears.
When the figure A exists, the world is divided into two parts: A and non-A. The figure A's difference from the ground is, so to speak, its "contour" or outline that circumscribes it against the ground. There spreads the sameness of A inside the contour; and that of non-A outside it. Neither the figure nor the ground has rifts or breaks in itself. Blanks or vacuums can be found nowhere. The figures B, C, D, . . . are also parts of the whole or the world, if they overlap or not. The world is prior to its parts or individual beings, when seen from another world.
If there were not any differences in a world, no figures would exist in it. On the contrary, if sameness and uniformity were denied in it at all, then we had to divide it infinitely. There would be no figures either. We have no principles a priori that determine the criteria of sameness or difference. A father, for instance, happened to lose his daughter's doll, which she had cherished very much, calling it "Mika." Then he soon bought the same one for her again. But the little girl refused to receive it because it was not "Mika." She would not identify it with her old doll, although they are the same in shape, color, and size. To our regret, we are not able to offer any rational arguments to persuade her but only rely on common wisdom.
The existence of a being seen from another world consists merely in its contour, i.e., its difference. An object is then not concrete nor rich in content, but abstract and poor at first. Hegel said, "Determinations of sense are only abstract
immediacy." (4) He viewed every object from the standpoint of the absolute knowledge (i.e., from another world) after letting it appear in its own element. Accordingly, even sensitive objects became abstract for him.
In order to investigate further how things seen from another world exist, we can take up language here. The meaning of ordinary language, though, depends on circumstances in which it is used, so our target should be the "second language," which is autonomous and makes a self-contained system, such as literary, scientific, or theoretical
When this sort of language is used, a new world appears. For example, we read an interesting novel, which is written in literary language, and come to the sentence:
Slinging his read sweater over his shoulder, he passed the gate.
The sweater appears before us with the corporeal red, even if the red's quale in that literary world differs from one in the everyday world. But when we examine the sentence linguistically, i.e., outside the literary world, the color red exists only in contrast to others, e.g., yellow, brown and so
on. (6) As Hegel and structuralistic linguists told us, the meaning of language is determined in contrast to each
other. (7) Each meaning can exist as far as others do.
A being seen from another world is not individual or independent of others. It is set in mutual relations and rather dissolves into them. Structuralists take a term or a basic unit of language simply for the differential position in the closed system of language.
Hegelians and Marxists, who dialectically deal with a particular object from a higher level (i.e., another world) and regard it as something mediated, take it for a node or the ensemble of relations. Likewise in the scientific world the color red of the everyday world means the relational complex of the reflection of a ray of the certain wavelength, the electric excitement of our optic nerves and so on. In turn, in the everyday world of laymen some wavelength, e.g., 700nm, of light of the scientific world corresponds to the relational complex of the activities of scientific specialists, i.e., their experiments, calculations, discoveries and so on.
A point to notice is that a relational complex extends all over the world theoretically, as Marxists say. In the case of the color red, for instance, the 700nm-wavelength light comes from the sun; in the atmosphere there are no materials that would stop the light; then the light reflects on the surface of the flower, etc.
4. The Subject on a Distribution Curve
Beings in a world are accessible to man; namely we can have them as our objects and experience them. Man has historically produced all existents around him or given certain meanings to them with his intersubjective and object-orientated
coaction. (8) This production has simultaneously been his acquisition of the accessibility to beings. And with this acquisition beings start to exist for him. The existence of something and its accessibility are ontologically the same thing.
We too admit that our subjectivity or selfness is shaped intersubjectively in our daily coaction. And yet this does not mean that subjectivity can be reduced to one and the same stuff. It is in fact widely diverse in
quality. (9) Let us see the following example:
Several children were playing with a die. One of them, A, rolled it and it said three. All the children looked at the showed pips; they seemed to face the same situation.
Their response to the die was, however, diverse. Being just disappointed at the outcome, two children, A and B, did not want to see other pips than the top ones, 3. Besides this 3, C happened to find his bet value on the left side of the die. Out of curiosity, D moved round the die to know other values on its four sides. Since E had the knowledge that the sum of the values of any opposite sides equals 7, he inferred the value of the bottom, 4, and so on.
Now, if we check how many values of the die each child knew, it would turn out that those who did two or three are the largest in number; one or four, fewer. Were the number of the children large enough, there might have been even one who saw no pips at all through distraction.
When we make a line graph of the result above with the vertical axis corresponding to the number of the children and the horizontal one doing to that of the known values, we could get a curved line, like a bell curve or something. Namely, while the children engaged in the intersubjective coaction (i.e., playing together with a die) and were in the "same" situation, their state (e.g., perception, thought, and activity) showed in a distribution pattern, if seen in some format such as the number of known values.
Some people would contend: "Although your view is adequate to the example above and, say, to achievement test scores of a class, it is quite irrelevant, for instance, when we perceive the red lamp of a traffic signal. 'Everyone' around it in the street knows which lamp is on before him or her." We would rather like to say "nearly everyone" than "everyone." In some cases a distribution indeed becomes skewed or distorted one-sidedly, but that does not mean its total vanishment. If samples are many enough, it comes into sight again; traffic accidents often occur as a result of someone's carelessness who did not see a traffic signal before his accident.
It may be said from the scientific or ordinary view point that the difference of perception among us is caused by the disparities in our faculties, attentiveness, physical strength, and so on. Yet to speak ontologically, our intersubjective consciousness is formed in a distribution pattern in the first
place. (10) Each people seen in a certain format is located somewhere on a distribution curve.
According to his or her location, each has a different perspective and sense of values, even if those people are alike in what they meet and tell about. And each of our mind is, by its nature, the being that is not be able to "meet all beings" in the world.
5. The Process of Creating a New World
Imagine a boy who was interested in high mountains and bragged about his knowledge: "The tallest is Mt. Everest, and the second . . . " One fine day, however, a girl admonished him: "I don't think it's so significant to compare the heights of mountains, for the earth is round anyway." The boy's self-contained, everyday world was then suddenly invaded by the scientific one.
A being exists corporeally in its own world, having physical or spiritual qualities and positive, negative or neutral value. Moreover it gives us some feeling. Whereas all these properties and functions together make our object meaningful for us (e.g., the grandeur of high mountains), significance (the triviality of the height of mountains) joins to it if it is viewed from another world (the girl's scientific world). To grasp the significance of a being, we must put it into another world and rethink of it there; x-ism does not explain the foolishness of x-ists.
How is a new (or meta-) world, then, created from part of an already existing one? We are not ready for the close and comprehensive inquiry into it, but it would be necessary to outline the essential moments of the answer before ending this essay.
If you add an element of the set of the natural number, such as 3, to another one, 5, the outcome, 8, is also a natural number and still belongs to the original set. The additional operation is closed over the set of the natural number. Similarly, even if beings simply change in some world, such a change is closed over that world and occurs only within its horizon. The world itself remains as before; simple changes (transformations, birth and death) in an already existing world do not lead to generating a new one.
But if a change appears against part of a world, not a whole world, it can transcend the horizon of that world and generate a new one. For example: when a sculptor carves a mass of marvel, a child by him simply sees a stone transforming against the everyday world.
On the other hand, the sculptor looks at the stone's transformation against the ground of all its possible forms, which is only part of the everyday world, i.e., in the mass of marble. Then the form of the engraved stone creates an artistic figure in the aesthetic world. The mechanism of the generation of a new world thus consists in the old one reducing itself to its part and then surpassing its own horizon.
Some people would insist: "In the case of a sculptor above and your listening to a radio in the first chapter, it was man as such that abstracted away from the everyday world and produced another one. Consequently the human mind itself is the subject of producing a new world, no matter whether this mind is of Cartesian kind or something intersubjective."
This view is naturally correct in the everyday world. Our mind is the producer of the world there. But in non-everyday worlds conditions are quite different; God is usually the creator of the world in the religious one; the pure ideas are transferred into a transient world and embodied in matter by some spiritual Being in some metaphysical worlds. Depending on a world-type, the producer of a world varies.
And I vary, too. Since we assume that there are pluriworlds, it is only natural to accept the plurality of I as well. Each I am indigenous to its own world, which has the peculiar properties of space-time (sometimes no space-time) and its element. Each I am unique and incommensurable with each other. After all, there exist no this I myself anywhere other than in this intimate everyday world.
(1) G. W. F. Hegel, Einleitung [introduction],
Phänomenologie des Geistes [The
Phenomenology of Spirit] (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Verlag,
1989) 72. (To the text)
(2) It is rather queer that natural science should be so authoritatively evaluated in our time, even if criticized by historical relativism. For all its exactness and usefulness, it surely has defects in common with other sorts of knowledge. Whenever a paradigm-change has occurred, natural science could not go forward any more in the same way as before; the development of it till then turned out not to be the approach to the truth or the access from the vague to the accurate truth, but merely to be a kind of going away from the untruth. And at its every development stage, natural science too had singular points at which its laws were not valid at all. For example, the laws of motion of Newtonian mechanics broke down with bodies nearly at light speed.
(To the text)
(3) Strictly speaking, we do not assume the ontological identity between objects in different worlds (e.g., the chalk traces and the purely geometrical figures), as stated previously. They correspond with each other, but are incommensurable.
(To the text)
(4) Hegel, Vorrede [preface], Phänomenologie des Geistes 37. (To the text)
(5) See Yoshiro Takeuchi, Gengo: Sono Kaitaito Sozo
[Language: Its Dissolution and Creation] (Tokyo: Chikuma-Shobo, 1972) 12-14.
(To the text)
(6) Cf. Hegel, Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften
[Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences], ｧ 42, Zusatz I [note I].
(To the text)
(7) Instead of the word "language," Hegel used "concept." Our argument is, however, valid in this case, for the following formula stands up in Hegelianism: (truth = spirit = thought = knowledge =) concept = (determination =) language.
(To the text)
(8) Cf. Wataru Hiromatsu, Sekaino Kyodoshukanteki Sonzai-kozo
[The Intersubjective Ontologic-Structure of the World], (Tokyo: Keiso-shobo, 1972).
(To the text)
(9) The word "quality" does not relate to superiority or inferiority in the context.
(To the text)
(10) We do not care in this essay how this pattern will be formulated or not.
(To the text)
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