Notes on Cosmology (in progress)

by: Seijio Arakawa
last updated: 2015 Feb 23
tags: metaphysics

Chaos and Cosmos

Tan repetidas veces han enterrado a la metafísica que hay que juzgarla inmortal.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección, p. 40

“But here is the kind of question that interests me: if there is no god, then, I ask you, who governs the life of man and the whole general order of the earth?”

“Man himself governs,” Bezdomny hastened grumpily to answer this, one must admit, not entirely clear question.

“Forgive me,” the stranger responded gently, “but in order to govern, one must have a definite plan for some, at least somewhat respectable, period of time. Allow me to ask how it is that man can govern, when he not only lacks the capacity to draw up any sort of plan even for a laughably short period, say, about a thousand years or so; but he cannot even be certain of what tomorrow might bring him?

“And really,” here the stranger turned to Berlioz, “imagine that you, for instance, begin to govern and direct the affairs of others and of yourself, really start to develop a taste for it, so to speak, and then suddenly… ehe, ehe… a lung sacroma…” – here the foreigner laughed a little, as though the thought of lung sarcoma gave him a decided pleasure, “yes, a sarcoma,” – closing his eyes like a cat he repeated the sonorous word, “and thence your governance draws to a close! The fate of no one besides yourself can interest you any longer. Your loved ones start to tell you lies. You, sensing the worst, through yourself to the learned doctors, then to the charlatans, and perhaps even to the soothsayers. The first, the second, and the third of these measures are all completely pointless, you understand that. And it all ends tragically: the one who quite recently thought that he governs something-or-other, is suddenly to be seen lying motionless in a wooden box, and the people around him, understanding that there is no use in his dead body, burn him in a furnace.

“And even more tragic things can happen: one moment a man is planning to take a relaxing trip to Kislovodsk,” the foreigner narrowed his eyes at Berlioz, “a trifling matter, you’d think, but he cannot even accomplish that, as for reasons unknown he will slip and fall and get run over by a tram! Would you honestly say that it was he who so governed his own affairs? Is it not more correct to suppose that the governor in this matter was someone quite different?” – and here the stranger laughed with a strange laughter.

— Mikhail Bulgakov, Master and Margarita, ch. 1

Have you not heard, then, that this Universe is Chaos? Stars and galaxies lie scattered as dust, and on an insignificant corner of this tapestry our vanities clash and fade, the wider passing of the world indifferent to their outcome. We spend our lives forming theories and stratagems to control this passing; yet there is no theory that can encompass and subsume the object of its speculation, and no stratagem that will achieve its purpose with absolute certainty. Some ideas it is doubtless wiser for us to hold, others less so, but there is no assertion we might make about the universe of our experiences, that Experience itself might not conceivably overturn, abolish, and make into a mockery.

Yet, when we reason about our place in reality, if reason we at all, we do so as if the stars and particles were not scattered in the void, but formed a definite writing to our eyes which, when read carefully, suggests a notion of right premises that, when followed, lead us with inexorable certainty to right conclusions. Upon the writhing and indifferent existence we, inevitably, seek to paint a Cosmos. When we ponder how to act, we cannot help but to consult our sense of what this Cosmos is –

– for Chaos truly is indifferent, being merely a collection of things that happen. Why insist that one thing will happen, and not another? It all amounts to the same thing either way, a mote of dust that moves upon an endless sea of writhing dust.

So, whether some Cosmos imagined us, or we imagined a Cosmos, we must call on it all the same to explain why, from that point on, we should do one thing and not another. When we choose among the various premises and conclusions Cosmos provides us, we are granted that some definite object will be attained in doing so, and we may be confident that it is not a matter of mere fancy or caprice that the pursuit of certain objects will seem to us correct and necessary, and the pursuit of others will seem erroneous and invalid. This established, we naturally select a proper object for our actions and follow a path that leads to it. The object, when we can agree on one, will be valid, and the path may be twisted but definite; so that (this feels exceedingly strange to say) in a pure Cosmos it is superfluous even to wish Good Luck to the seeker; for once the seeker dedicates himself properly to his chosen object, the attainment of it becomes inevitable.