We now have two relatively basic axioms that let us pull ourselves up by our bootstraps without falling into a nihilistic or explosive view. However, that’s about all they do on their own, so beside these we will lay out a bare handful more axioms that will let us really get going. While several of these axioms may be hard to articulate, none of them should be controversial.
Axiom 3: There is some underlying consistent reality that is made up of things.
There are a couple of different ideas wrapped up in this, most importantly those of existence, consistency, and divisibility. Consistency is hard to define at this level, but is something like “follows unchanging rules”. It should be easy to understand though; if reality isn’t consistent then there’s no way to make sense of anything. It is also worth noting that the “things” which make up reality in this axiom are intentionally vague. They could be atoms, quarks, Platonic ideals, Cartesian egos… What kind of things they are doesn’t really matter at this point.
Axiom 4: I (or the thing that I think of as “me”) exist in some form in that reality.
This one is more straight-forward, it gives us a reference point to work from, although it tells us nothing at all about that reference point. The key here is that the self is part of or contained in reality, not separate from it. It isn’t necessarily a fundamental “thing” in the third axiom’s sense, but it does belong to reality. This is purely definitional: reality is all the things that actually exist, so the self is either one of those things or made up of them.
Axiom 5: Things in reality interact, forming temporal and causal relationships.
This one just works in the concepts of time and causality. Nothing tricky, though lots to argue about if you feel like it. Importantly, this axiom makes causality a property of things in reality, not reality itself. There is no commitment here to the peculiar idea that reality itself must have a cause. Something about the wording of this one still bugs me, but I haven’t been able to pin it down.
These three axioms give us some metaphysical meat to work with, but we need a just a little bit more. I have three more axioms planned for the next post, at which point we’ll hopefully be able to move beyond this low-level mucking about.