What Can a Piece of Sugar Become?

One of the most important aspects of reality, constantly neglected nowadays, is what in the past was called (divine) providence. This is the force keeping everything together, not as a heap of randomly amassed things, but as what the ancients called a cosmos, i.e., a harmonious heterogeneous universe.

In this cosmos, we have differences that complement each other, hierarchies, processes of evolution and decay that support each other, inanimate matter and life forms, galaxies rotating around their centers, all kinds of cosmic waves traveling in space and time, blind collisions and consciousness.

The universe is a dynamic diversity growing from itself and, most of all, specifying itself. The universe may be seen as an evolving whole if we think it somehow managed to reach self-consciousness through man’s knowledge. 

Of course, one could also say that everything happened accidentally and is ruled by pure randomness in this universe. Still, however much randomness one is ready to concede, the internal diversification of the universe cannot be explained through randomness.

A process ruled by mere randomness cannot increase in complexity but necessarily heads toward the dead state of maximum entropy. Nevertheless, instead of entropy, we see everywhere the differentiation of qualities and not a uniformization of matter.

Entropy is possible only in a mechanical universe devoid of the background of potentiality. Or rather, it expresses the scientific cecity unable to look beyond given facts. 

Democritus’ atoms could never have overcome their complete passivity and produced things that are qualitatively different from them. To illustrate this idea, we could ask ourselves if we could accept the idea that a universe made up exclusively of sugar, where nothing other than sugar exists, could ever transform into a universe where you have saltness, sourness, or bitterness. Obviously, not.

You must add something to sugar to transform it into salt. And I mean something from outside of that sugar universe! This situation is entirely similar to the image proposed by the Newtonian second law of motion, where the impacted body can never by itself change its new moving condition. In other words, it is against our laws of thought to say that diversity can emerge spontaneously from uniformity and that what has only a single quality will ever transform by itself into a myriad of different qualities. 

Even if we admit an initial state of diversity, such diversity still cannot overcome itself, except if you posit potentiality. Then you can say that sugar has the potential to transform into salt. 

However, potentiality is not as easy a concept as it may appear. The oak seed is potentially the oak, but far from yet being the oak tree. How such a big and impressive tree can grow out of such a tiny thing, like a seed, is a complete mystery. Our familiarity with seeing the real metamorphosis in our gardens only seems to unravel the mystery. In fact, it does not teach us anything.

Therefore, we can compare potentiality to a black hole, which instead of swallowing everything around it, expels from its impenetrable blackness all kinds of ready-made things, a sort of head of Zeus that constantly ejects from within itself a myriad of Athenas with an infinity of different faces and bodies. So, yes, if you think that sugar is endowed with potentiality, then you can get whatever you want from it.  

Potentiality is another word for differentiation. It is the acknowledgment that within the viscera of the currently existing universe, countless other different universes await to surface someday, exhibiting new and never-seen-before qualities. It is the closed doorway to our knowledge and the open gateway to our imagination. 

Seeing things this way, we may say that man already potentially existed at the beginning of this universe, that his future existence hovered already in the photonic dust of the first moments after the Big Bang, or even more, that man was already there in that ghostly something preceding the Big Bang. 

However, the human being is not only a featherless biped with broad flat nails, as Plato ironically defined it in Antiquity, but is a being able to know the universe. This implies that the capacity for knowledge was there in the beginning and that the universe always aimed at its own self-knowledge through human knowledge.

Knowledge is the capacity to grasp the ruling structures of reality, the repeating patterns surrounding us. It is the capacity to distinguish the invariant factor within the multitude of variations. It is the capacity we have to see the universal amidst the individual things. This universal is like a flash of lightning holding together in a specific form a diversity of things.

However, we do not anywhere see the patterns independently of the concrete things: we do not see humanness separated from concrete human beings or redness separated from red things. Usually, this capacity to know reality is considered only a subjective faculty, allowing us to map reality around us and orient us within it. But when we think about this capacity from the point of view of potentiality creeping to the surface, things might change.

Knowledge develops models of reality, forms that exist independently from things only in our minds. If such a capacity for pure forms exists potentially within the viscera of the universe, then it is as if the pure, disembodied forms themselves exist within those viscera too.

Then the separation between mind and reality pales away because now, the pure form I thought of existing only in my mind also has an objective character in that it lives there in the realm of potentiality.

Because the universe was able to produce knowledge that can disentangle the forms from their bodily appearance within multitudes (redness from all the concrete red things), it has those forms within itself.

The fact that human knowledge has power, i.e., that the forms that it distinguishes within the diversity of its surroundings can control these surroundings, proves that these forms are not within the human mind but also inside of things.

In this respect, we could never build such a complicated mechanism as a spaceship if the pieces we put together according to our knowledge (i.e., the blueprint, the scheme, or the pure form we sketched before) would not also work in reality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *