Still talking about things.
When I was just learning to think about things, I read somewhere that the very first philosophical question was: “What is the one thing from which all things are made?” This question has plagued me since. In fact the more I read about the history of this idea, and the more knowledge I accumulated regarding the subject, the more confused I got.
My own first pass at answering the question was that all things could be explained with three simple verbs:
- Be – to exist
- Urge – to have a tendency
- Relate – to interact
I even went so far as to diagram the three in the shape of a triangle. Using BEING, URGE and RELATIONSHIP as the sides of the triangle and having the space inside representing the thing described; I sought to understand that like the triangle, the thing itself would cease to exist, if any one of these three were not identifiable as a property of the thing. I gave up this analogy.
I realized that reducing the definition of something to a singular “thing” was not possible. Outside of some ideas regarding the gods and perhaps black-holes, nothing exists unless it exists in conjunction with other things. There is no rock without other rocks, nor is there a person unless there are people, but it wasn’t always that way.
If you are secular by nature, you might believe that at one time everything was condensed into a massive singularity that for some unknown reason suddenly expanded to fill the known universe – an interesting idea. If you are religious by nature, perhaps you believe that “God said, let there be light: and there was light.” I don’t think I’d argue either point.
All I can say, and this may be caused by my lack of both mathematical and spiritual acumen, is that I believe these notions are metaphors for the phenomena that we observe and for the ideas within us that get engendered. And I believe these metaphors will change.