- Any putative “beginning” to which one can point neccesarily derives from antecedent conditions (IE: something which happened “before” that “beginning”).
For example: birth cannot be considered a “beginning” (in any ontologically meaningful sense of the term), because the entity being born has previously undergone a vast sequence of pre-birht development. (This is why, for example, FAS — Fetal alcohol Syndrome — is such a problem. In order for “birth” to represent any sort of ontologically-meaningful “beginning”, the enty being “born” would have to magically spring into existence, ex nihilo — from “nothing”.
But, of course, this isn’t what happens. even the so-called “moment” of conception Ait-abortion types are always yipping about neccesarily requires that both the sperm and egg which combine to “concieve” a new entity both existed prior to the “moment” of conception, itself.
So, yeah: in most cases, the “moment” of conception is itself directly resultant from a whole series of prior “moments” involving (for example): sexual intercourse between two drunken near-strangers — which is itself dependent on the fact that those two individuals “hooked up” at that particular bar.
If either of them had failed to show up at that specific location, at that specific time, and get drunk enough to become disinhibited enough to fuck a near-stranger, then that particular “moment of conception” would not have occured.
Now, here’s the thing: supposedly, “infinite regress” poses some sort of difficulty for philosophers (primarily because they personally find the fact that every event neccesarily presumes an antecedent state of affairs which “led to” that event to be “icky” for some reason.)
The problem with this is: there is no legitimate basis for the concept of “nothing”.
You have never encountered an “empty” container. Unless you’ve somehow managed to go into “space” (outside of the Earth’s atmosphere), any container you’ve ever encountered is always “full”, in that it always “contains” SOMETHING:
- The mug on my desk currently contains coffee.
- After I drink the coffee, the mug will be filled with air.
I supposed the most you could say is: the mug will be “empty” of coffee (in that, at that specific point in time, it will not contain coffee). However, one could state that the mug is also ’empty” of Greenland, because it doesn’t “contain” Greenland.
So, no. Both the notion of an “ultimate” (IE: ontologically meaningful) “beginning”, and the notino of “emptiness” are utterly indefensible.
Ayn Rand had a term for this sort of thing: “anti-concepts”:
An anti-concept is an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding. But in the realm of cognition, nothing is as bad as the approximate . . . .
Now, people unthinkingly parrot ideas like “beginning” or “emptiness” by thoughtlessly imitating others. Most people “believe” they know a “beginning” when they encounter one — except that they’ve never encountered one. ALL any of them have ever encountered is one set of circumstances which derives (directly or indirectly) from a previous set of circumstances — most of which the individual in question DELIBERATELY IGNORES.
Julius Sumner Miller was smart:
A common ploy would be to hold up an empty glass and ask guests to confirm it was empty….then chide them for not noticing it was full of air.
So, no: you don’t get away with claiming that a container is “empty”, merely because you happen to be ignorant of what it DOES contain.
A box may be “empty” (with respect to the specific gumdrops it previously contained) — but that does not — and CANNOT — imply that it is “empty” in an ontologically “absolute” sense of the term.
Again, Ayn Rand managed to “nail” this one, as well:
A vulgar variant of concept stealing, prevalent among avowed mystics and irrationalists, is a fallacy I call the Reification of the Zero. It consists of regarding “nothing” as a thing, as a special, different kind of existent. (For example, see Existentialism.) This fallacy breeds such symptoms as the notion that presence and absence, or being and non-being, are metaphysical forces of equal power, and that being is the absence of non-being. E.g., “Nothingness is prior to being.” (Sartre)—“Human finitude is the presence of the not in the being of man.” (William Barrett)—“Nothing is more real than nothing.” (Samuel Beckett)—”Das Nichts nichtet” or “Nothing noughts.” (Heidegger). Consciousness, then, is not a stuff, but a negation. The subject is not a thing, but a non-thing. The subject carves its own world out of Being by means of negative determinations. Sartre describes consciousness as a ‘noughting nought’ (néant néantisant). It is a form of being other than its own: a mode ‘which has yet to be what it is, that is to say, which is what it is, that is to say, which is what it is not and which is not what it is.’” (Hector Hawton, The Feast of Unreason, London: Watts & Co., 1952, p. 162.)
(The motive? “Genuine utterances about the nothing must always remain unusual. It cannot be made common. It dissolves when it is placed in the cheap acid of mere logical acumen.” Heidegger.)
Now, here’s the thing: I tend to not “hassle” anyone when they (mis)use terms like “beginning” or “empty” or suchlike, because they genuinely have no idea what those terms neccesarily signify.
I’m not going to get all up in somebody’s grill if they claim that they have “nothing in their pockets”. (Of course you have “something” in your pocket: dust mites, air, etc.
The ones I will (at least verbally) bitch-slap are the ones who try to use notions like “beginning” and “emptiness” as the basis of various sorts of schlocky, pseudo-profound, “New Age” bullshit.