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Philosophy of the Pseudoabsolute

Sergi Avaliani
Academy of Sciences of Georgia

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ABSTRACT: Since human knowledge is relative, human beings consciously (or often unconsciously) dismiss the relative by creating the absolute. The absolute thus created is the psuedoabsolute which, by virtue of its human origins, is relative. However, it functions in both the practical and theoretical life of homo sapien as a genuine absolute. Hence, the psuedoabsolute is relatively absolutized by the human person. The psuedoabsolute is a dialectical unity of the absolute and relative and, as a "third reality," plays a great role in the spiritual life of humankind.

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1. First of all, it is necessary to elucidate the meaning of concepts of the absolute and relative. "Absolute" means an "unconditional", which exists by virtue of the intrinsic necessity and therefore is completely independent, irrelative being. It is invariable, infinite, objective and eternal, everlasting. This is the ontological character of the absolute. But in the gnoseological sense the fundamental feature of the absolute is unambiguity. The absolute is unambiguous, it has always and everywhere only one meaning. Relative is, on the contrary, conditional, it exists only in reference to other beings; it is variable, unstable, it changes in various relations. That is the ontological status of the relative, which in gnoseological language means ambiguity, it has multimeaning. Relative is ambiguous.

One of the most difficult problems of philosophy is the investigation of the role of the absolute and relative in human mental life. Our present paper, in which we state very briefly our theory of pseudoabsolute is dedicated to the investigation of this problem.

2. The reality, as a universal being, has ontological strata, which are arranged according to the degree of the profundity and community. The ontological structure of the reality (being) consists of three strata of levels: the world of phenomena, the world of special essences and the substantial essence or substance1.

3. All things and events in the world of phenomena, i.e. in the field of empirical reality are interdependent; that means that they are relative. And what is more, natural phenomena are not only interdependent, but also they depend on the special essences, because they are appearance of these essences. Relativity of the world of phenomena is well-founded in the modern natural science and in the philosophy of natural sciences. Not only the world of phenomena is relative, but also the world of special essences. They are special essences, i.e. essences of the definite field of the reality. It means that the field of their "power" is restricted by other similar essences. In this sense they are incomplete essences, because complete, or true essence is absolute essence, i.e. the essence of last instance. Hence follows the relativity of special essences. As special essences they may be only relative. The relativity of the special essences is confirmed also by the relativity of laws of the empirical reality. (1)

Only the substantial essence can not be relative, because it is the essence of last instance; it is essence of the most profound strata of the reality, or it is the essence of essences of all reality.

4. The structure and nature of the being determines the structure and nature of human knowledge, because the knowledge is the reflection of the being. The human knowledge, as well as being, consists three levels. Our consciousness first of all perceives most superficial, external strata of the being, i.e. it perceives in the first place the world of phenomena. It is the perceptual world, or so-called empirical reality. The knowledge of this reality is realized by means of sensation, perception and notion. The unity of this three elements of our knowledge is empirical consciousness or otherwise, common sense, which elaborates the empirical knowledge. The object of empirical knowledge is only the world of phenomena; but the world of special essences is unachievable on this level of knowledge. The knowledge of the essence is possible only by means of the rational ability of knowledge, which is higher degree of knowledge; namely it is scientific knowledge. Hence follows that first knowledge, which is performed by means of the empirical consciousness is prescientific knowledge. It stands on the lowest level of community. Its form of expression is notion as one of the three elements of the empirical knowledge. Therefore the prescientific knowledge exists in the form of notion.

The world of the special essences is an object of the scientific knowledge, which stands on the higher level of community. It is, of course, the rational knowledge represented in the form of concepts, because concepts are reflection of special essences. So scientific knowledge is conceptual knowledge.

The essence of last instance, i.e. the substantial essence, substance is the object of philosophical knowledge, which stands on the highest level of community. The philosophical knowledge is represented in the form of philosophical categories, which are universal concepts, as reflection of highest general features of the being, i.e. substance. Therefore philosophical knowledge is a categorial knowledge, because the object of the philosophical investigation is the absolute.

Thus we have three forms of knowledge: prescientific, scientific and philosophical, among which exists a hierarchy according to its community and profundity; that determines the unity of human knowledge in general. (2)

5. There is no doubt that the human knowledge continuously develops, becomes deeper, makes an advance. The fact of the development of knowledge confirms its relative nature. All fields (levels) of human knowledge are relative. Namely this is condition sine qua non of indefinite development of our knowledge.

6. The relative, as it is well known, is ambiguous, it has multimeaning. But in the case of ambiguity and multimeaning the knowledge (thinking, in general) is impossible as well as expression of thought (speech). The pure relativism leads us to the negation of possibility not only of scientific thinking, but thinking and speech in general. Plato and Aristotle — genial thinkers of antiquity — had very well noticed this things. Namely in search of absolute, unambiguous Aristotle formulated his genial logical law of contradiction. Aristotle had well understood that possession of one meaning is a necessary condition of thinking, the absence of one meaning means the absence of any meaning in general. Thus unambiguity, which is fundamental feature of absolute, is a necessary condition of knowledge, thinking and speech.

7. Since the human knowledge is relative by itself, but on the other hand in the case of the relativity (multimeaning) the knowledge, thinking and speech are impossible, therefore men consciously or in most cases unconsciously create the absolute, refute the relative nature of empirical reality and take only its absolute aspects. They orientate in their practical and mental activity towards the absolute. Men cannot lean on the relative, because relative is ambiguous, i.e. indefinite. Therefore, men in their cognitive activity consciously or unconsciously create the absolute, eliminate the relative sides of reality, and use only the absolute sides. Thus created by men absolute is the pseudoabsolute, which indeed by its origin is relative, but in the practical and theoretical life of men it plays the role of a genuine absolute. It means that the absolute is necessary for human purposes. Therefore where it does not exist, man creates it and assigns to it all the functions of a genuine absolute. Thus pseudoabsolute is absolute created by man, which by itself (by origin) is relative, but in the process of knowledge (thinking) and speech it carries out all functions of a genuine absolute. Otherwise, the pseudoabsolute is relative absolutized by man.

Pseudoabsolute is fundamental nature of human spiritual world; it is created by man and serves his purposes. When we think or speak we are always guided by the principle of unambiguity and therefore we use the absolute. Thus the pseudoabsolute has a subjective origin. But after we turn it into absolute, it is no longer subjective and relative, but carries out all functions of the absolute. Thus the pseudoabsolute by its function is not different from absolute. pseudoabsolute is a substitute of the absolute.

In most cases we make the pseudoabsolute unconsciously. It means, that the human cognitive faculty by itself is so organized that it continually creates pseudoabsolute, turns the relative into absolute. It can not be otherwise. For instance when we speak about a living organism, then completely unconsciously we turn the living processes of the organism into absolute and accordingly refute the existence of single cases of death of some cell. This happens completely unconsciously. But there are such cases, when we make the pseudoabsolute artificially, consciously. For instance, in case of measurement we artificially, i.e. consciously choose the unit of measurement, ascribe it privilege meaning and thus we make the pseudoabsolute; without this artificial, i.e. conscious procedure the measurement is impossible.

As unambiguity is a necessary condition of knowledge (thinking in general) and speech, any knowledges — prescientific, scientific and philosophical — are pseudoabsolute. Namely the pseudoabsolute plays a great methodological role in the field of human spiritual activity.

8. There are three forms of the pseudoabsolute.

From these forms the most important is the absolute, which is artificially absolutized relative. It is created by man consciously in consequence of artificial absolutization of relative. This form of pseudoabsolute plays a great role in the process of measurement; it carries out a fundamental role in the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, as they are impossible without the procedures of measurement; but on the other side the measurement is impossible without absolutization of relative, i.e. without pseudoabsolute.

All units of measurement, frames of reference, all normative (juridical and moral) laws etc. are pseudoabsolute. There is no unit of measurement by itself in nature. We artificially introduce it and ascribe any ordinary thing a privileged meaning, i.e. they turn it into an absolute. Of course, the unit of measurement, as a thing, does not possess any privilege by itself; but we confer this privilege on it; thereby we artificially turn a relative thing into an absolute. The privilege of the unit of measurement consists in the fact, that the unit of measurement measures all other similar things, but can never be the object of measurement itself. Stated otherwise, the unit of measurement "appreciates" all other things from its own point of view, but it can never be the object of appreciation itself. However, the unit of measurement, as an artificially created absolute, is a pseudoabsolute. We gave to it the meaning of the absolute. In consequence of such artificial operation it carries out all functions of the genuine absolute and by its function does not differ from the genuine absolute.

The second form of pseudoabsolute is a result of universalization (idealization, absolutization) of a fundamental feature of an object and accordingly in consequence of disregard of unimportant features of the same object. This form of pseudoabsolute appears most obviously in statistical laws of nature and is confirmed in the modern determinism. The conception of the probable causality and necessity is its most clear demonstration. When we speak about the necessity and chance then we use this concepts in pseudoabsolute sense, because there is no absolute necessity and chance in nature.

Thus the specific features of the second form of pseudoabsolute is universalization of the most essential property of an object, and in consequence we receive pseudoabsolute.

The third form of the pseudoabsolute is a so-called "limited absolute". i.e. absolute, which has meaning only in the definite sphere of reality. This form of pseudoabsolute is in the case, when the object is considered in concrete relation and only in this relation absolute i.e. unambiguous meaning is ascribed to it. In this case we speak about pseudoabsolute in such sense, that object has absolute meaning only in this (concrete) relation; but genuine absolute has no limit. "Limitation" of absolute in this case originates the pseudoabsolute. For instance, axioms of Euclidean geometry have pseudoabsolute meaning, because their absolute meaning is limited (restricted) by the Euclidean space.

This form of pseudoabsolute differs from the previous forms. It is mainly present in the theory of relativity. For instance, simultaneity of two events has absolute meaning only as regards to a definite frame of reference. In this case simultaneity of two events indeed has absolute meaning. But this is only pseudoabsolute, which by its function does not differ from the genuine absolute.

9. Though the pseudoabsolute is a product of human spiritual activity, nevertheless it has the objective content, because its origin is conditioned by the requirements of a knowledge (thought), speech and human valuable orientations. Thus the necessity of the pseudoabsolute exists in human practical and theoretical activity. It means that the pseudoabsolute is subjective by its origin, but by its content it is a completely objective phenomenon. Its introduction represents the intrinsic necessity.

The pseudoabsolute and absolute do not differ from each other by their function. Therefore the pseudoabsolute is basically absolute and by no means relative. Nevertheless pseudoabsolute and absolute are different. The pseudoabsolute is relative absolutized by man, i.e. it has subjective origin. It does not make sense to speak about the origin of the genuine absolute; it is impossible to speak about the subjective origin of the absolute.

Thus the pseudoabsolute is some "third reality" besides the absolute and relative. It is a dialectical unity of the absolute and relative and therefore is dialectical by its nature.

10. The nature of scientific knowledge most clearly appears in a scientific theory. Namely if a scientific knowledge is pseudoabsolute, then a scientific theory must also be pseudoabsolute.

One of the fundamental features of a scientific theory is activity; this feature becomes apparent in search of new scientific facts ( for instance, in search of scientific laws) in order to establish itself more firmly. From this activity originates a more fundamental feature of a scientific theory — extrapolation. From this form of scientific extrapolation, which may be called extensive or space-extrapolation, differs intensive or time-extrapolation form, which is more widespread among scientists. This form of extrapolation appears, when a scientist tries to achieve the absolute, eternal truth. There are not such scientists in the world, which think that the truth, discovered by them, is relative, i.e. there is an error in it and in future it will be refuted. On the contrary, he is deeply convinced that the truth discovered by him is absolute. The scientific theory would not have existed without such confidence. This means that any scientific theory has a claim on absolute truth.

The aspiration to extrapolation is a confirmation of the pseudoabsolute nature of a scientific theory. Scientific knowledge by itself is relative; but science can not be satisfied with its relative status, therefore it aspires to absolute, universal, to overcome its relative nature. This aspiration is expressed in extrapolation.

Indeed there are various levels of extrapolation, but all scientific theories have certain level of extrapolation. This means that all scientific theories aspire to absolute truth. Otherwise every scientific theory offers its results as an absolute truth. It is deeply assured that it has the absolute truth. Thus in a scientific theory there is no doubt, no uncertainty, no skepticism. Later on the illusory character of this consideration will be revealed, but it will happened later, when the present scientific theory will be replaced by another theory, which also claims on absolute truth and s.f.

11. Though any scientific theory is pseudoabsolute, in the period of its existence it plays the role of an absolute theory. The rise of a doubt about the absolute nature of a certain scientific theory means the rise of a crisis in its existence; that ends with a scientific revolution. The scientific revolution is nothing else, but the discovery of the pseudoabsolute character, which means its refute. The new theory discovers the pseudoabsolute character of the old theory, shows unsoundness of its extrapolation and therefore determines the limits of its usage. Thus, a removal of the pseudoabsolute is the essence of the scientific revolution. In sequence of the revolution one theory will be replaced by another theory, but the pseudoabsolute character of scientific knowledge will finally remain.

12. The second also important sphere of human spiritual life is value. A valuation is only possible if we have a standard, a criterion, which is basis of any valuation. Such a criterion is ideal, which is a basis of valuable consciousness.

Ideals of various man, classes, nations, societies etc. rarely coincide to each other. Therefore it is impossible (or, at any rate, is very hard) to speak about intersubjectivity of ideal. In this sense the ideal is relative. Relativity of the ideal causes the relativity of valuable consciousness and particularly relativity of value.

An ideal, as standard, is nothing else except the absolutized relative, i.e. the pseudoabsolute; It has not any ontological status without consciousness. An ideal is also relative in the sense that the existence of so-called "universal ideal" is impossible. Nevertheless this subjective (by its origin) and relative phenomenon completely unconsciously becomes a standard of valuation, which has a privilege meaning. Namely such operation as absolutization of relative, i.e. creation of the pseudoabsolute is the foundation of the existence of valuable consciousness and value in general. Thus, an ideal, as standard, is pseudoabsolute, which carries out all functions of the genuine absolute.

Thus human ideal by itself is pseudoabsolute. Valuable consciousness has the same nature because it is superstructure of pseudoabsolute ideal. Therefore valuable consciousness always has a tendency to extrapolation of its point of view on all reality. Any man is confident that his valuable orientation is universal, i.e. only his valuation is absolute, true. Intolerance of various axiological view is based on this fact. "The principle of tolerance" of Reichenbach is vain.

13. Axiology, as a theory of value, must investigate the pseudoabsolute character of value, valuable consciousness. In consequence of this investigation it will be clear, that valuable judgments are pseudoabsolute, as well as cognitive judgments. Value and knowledge are different, but they both have the same nature, because they are various forms of the same spiritual activity of a man. Such similar nature is in their pseudoabsolute character. Namely the unity of the knowledge and value and all human spiritual life is expressed in that fact.

P.S. General content of the philosophy of pseudoabsolute was for the first time investigated in our monographic books "The Philosophy of Hans Reichenbach" (in Georgian) Tbilisi, 1961, but as philosophical theory it was stated in our next books, particularly in "Absolute and relative" (in Russian), Tbilisi, 1980, and "Nature of knowledge and value" (in Russian), Tbilisi, 1989. This work is only a summary of the main aspects of the philosophy of pseudoabsolute.

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(1) See this ontological conception more broadly in my book "Scientific Ontology", Tbilisi, 1994 (in Georgian).

(2) Analogical conception on the structure of the human knowledge has given by Prof. Ash Gobar (Transylvania University) in his valuable book "Philosophy as Higher Enlightenment", NY 1994, p.37

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