Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Contingency of Nature’s Laws

Jeremy Dunham on Humean Lawlessness:
For Meillassoux, time has the ability to bring forth events which have absolutely no connection to the preceding situation. Freed from the principle of sufficient reason, we can be sure that metaphysical questions such as 'why these laws?' and 'where did we come from?' can be answered: 'From nothing. For nothing'. By denying causal power in nature, Meillassoux denies that the future need have any relation to the past and in doing so privileges logic above nature. However, Meillassoux’s explanation of our laws becomes rather like recourse to a Deus ex Machina, albeit a godless one. This becomes clearer in his argument concerning the emergence of conscious perception. One of the most common vitalist arguments against the Humean idea that the universe is nothing more than a contingent multiplicity of unconnected events, is that life could not possibly come from not-life: how could consciousness come from purely lifeless matter? Meillassoux agrees that one cannot 'short of sheer fantasy' find the seeds of the birth of consciousness in matter. Conscious perception, like the laws of nature, must have come ex nihilo—from nothing.