1. The Whole

Everything cannot be defined.

Everything cannot be defined. It is impossible to say what it is, and it is impossible to say what it is not. Everything is a whole which initially is without parts and without the lack of parts. Despite the fact that it serves as the starting point, it is that thing which (at least from one point of view) cannot be transcended.

Everything occupies every position in all dimensions which are attributed to it.

It is difficult to define everything, since there is nothing to which it can be compared (other than itself). Definitions are always given in terms of other things, so it is impossible to define a thing for which there is no other thing. There is no other when it comes to “the one without a second” .

This book begins with everything, which seems appropriate given that our mental worlds begin in the same way. Conceptually, it is difficult to understand everything. Everything should not be understood as many things taken together or as a single whole ; both of these concepts are limiting, and they cannot be applied to everything without thereby restricting its scope to some portion of itself. Everything should not be understood as “every object at a single instant in time” , but as everything-everywhere and everything-everywhen. In this sense everything can be considered an event, because it has both a spatial and a temporal extent.[4] Again, the extension of the word “everything” in the world (i.e. the object that the word refers to) has no thing outside of it. If one believes in multiple universes, then these multiple universes should also be included in the concept of everything.

Although it is somewhat mistaken to make a characteristic (or attributive) statement about everything, it may help to consider everything as “undifferentiated” to counter previous misconceptions. For example, this might help to correct the points of view that everything is either a compound entity (one which is made up of parts), or a simple entity (which consists of only one part). However, knowing what it is to be undifferentiated requires knowing what it is to be differentiated; since “everything” is the first concept that we wish to introduce, there is no differentiated thing with which to contrast it. From a subjective point of view, everything exists prior to the properties used to categorize it: because these properties serve to discriminate one thing from another, it is impossible to define any properties on the basis of only one thing.

In both the case where everything is considered as a single entity and where it is considered to be multiple entities, the thing or things referred to are the same in that they have the same spatiotemporal extent. In this case, it is the decomposition (or composition) of everything that is different. From a nominalist point of view, it is the consideration of everything that makes it one thing or another: everything remains undifferentiated, independent of our consideration of it. [5]

The fact that everything might be considered to be both one thing and many things highlights two different notions of identity: one which is evaluated spatially, and one which is evaluated in language (between references). Things which occupy the same space (and the same time) are identical, so from one point of view, there is no difference between one thing and many things (as long as they occupy the same space). From another point of view, two things are not the same as one thing in that the symbols which reference those things are not identical. For example, “an apple” is materially (spatially) equivalent to its “seeds, skin, stem and fruit” , although these things have different criteria for identity on a conceptual (descriptive) level. The “everything” being described here is that which is materially equivalent to all of its parts (no matter how, or even if, it is decomposed).

Everything is ineffable. Even the morphological parts of the term “everything” indicate that to describe everything, it is broken into parts ( “things” ) and then collected together again ( “every” ). Spatial metaphors are used to describe it, although this may be overly restrictive, since most spatial metaphors are typically limited to three dimensions. A more nominalistic stance would hold that everything has as many dimensions as are necessary for a given description. More precisely, for every dimension which space possesses, everything occupies every part of that dimension. This description covers the rather interesting case in which the universe itself does not have a particular dimensionality in isolation from the language used to describe it. [6]

Everything neither has properties nor has no properties.

Everything cannot be called large, but neither can it be called small. Likewise, everything is neither singular nor plural. It is not the case that everything has properties.

However, neither is it the case that everything has no properties. The combination of these statements is somewhat of a puzzle, since most things either have a property or do not have that property. However, if the nature of words is relativistic, then there is no sense to be made of something which has no comparator; and that is exactly how everything is defined. Everything cannot be compared to something, since there is no something other than everything: to compare something to itself is tautologous. Conceptually, since no relative judgment is possible, no judgment whatsoever is possible: conceptual judgment is inherently relative.

Perhaps calling a thing both good and bad is an attempt to make the ineffable, effable; perhaps the best description of the ineffable characterizes it with every possible term, as well as the opposite of that term (e.g. everything is both good and bad). A complementary attempt to describe everything utilizes the negation of both terms (e.g. everything is neither good nor bad). While it is incorrect to say anything about everything because of the potential for misunderstanding, this book follows the latter convention: with respect to a property Px, “everything is not Px and everything is not not-Px ” (this implies that “not Px ” is what is called a non-affirming negative).

It is important to note that in saying that there is no absolute conceptual goodness, we are not advocating any sort of moral relativism. There is certainly such a thing as doing good, but it entails a particular perspective: for example, doing good often implies doing good for other people. One might hold certain things to be good in themselves, but there must be bad things to which they are compared. Further, those good things are only good in a particular context. For example, although there may be a sense in which everything is good at a particular time, that is probably relative to a previous time when things were not so good.

Some people might disagree that definitions are inherently relative; they may hold that “good” is an objective characteristic. In other words, an object's goodness does not require comparison with some other object, so this goodness is not relative to something else. Non-relative (objective) goodness, however, is full of contradiction: it is impossible to know what good means anymore if there is no longer any bad. Further, if the concept of “good” is not relative to “bad” (i.e. if the two do not lie on opposite ends of a single continuum), then a single thing could be both good and bad.[7]

Applying a relative term to a wholeness, or something which is not itself a part of something else, poses a paradox. For example, in the introduction to a radio show A Prairie Home Companion, it is said of a town called Lake Woebegone that “... all the children are above average.” Although this is a pleasing image, it is not logically possible. Being above average is clearly relativistic, so not everybody can be above average; in order for someone to be above average, someone else must be below average. Finding a comparator in this case is not a problem: the people of Lake Woebegone are smarter than the people of Shelbyville. For everyone to be above average, however, there is a problem: if the population referred to by “all the children” is the same population from which the average is calculated, somebody must have a below-average child (apologies to the relevant mommies and daddies).

There is a mismatch between the thing everything and the terms used to describe it: everything is absolute, but terminology is relativistic. Conventionally, one might say that everything has this or that property, but this entails comparing one concept of the world with another, and this latter comparison says more about concepts then it does about the world.

[4] Note that the use of the word spatial in this context denotes the three-dimensional (classical) notion of space. More often, the use of the term space in this book should be understood in a mathematical sense, where it may have an arbitrary number of dimensions. In this latter sense, it is often called N-space, where N is the number of dimensions.

[5] The fact that everything is undifferentiated, but our conception of it is differentiated, is somewhat odd since all things (conception included) constitute parts of this everything.

[6] This description is nominalistic in the sense that is not as much of a characteristic statement about everything as it is a conditional statement: there is no commitment to the fact that everything must have (a particular) dimensionality.

[7] It is conceptually meaningless for a thing to be both good and bad at the same time, from the same perspective, using the same criteria for assigning the terms.