The basis of Western philosophy could be summarized into four principles: the principle of identity, the principle of non-contradiction, the principle of the excluded middle, and the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). Language is the logical system governed by the first three principles, whose function is to express meaningful propositions about the world. Propositions are mosaics of the world, formed of a series of words, which in turn represent smaller images of the world. It follows from the first three principles that propositions that are not in accordance with them are senseless, since they fail to express anything comprehensible. On an even deeper level, these three laws form the structure of our thoughts; thus making it the case that whatsoever one can think about must inevitably be a logical possibility. It must also be the case that whatever cannot be bounded by those three laws cannot sensibly be expressed in language or thought about.
The other principle which has perhaps played a greater role in the metaphysical systems that have been developed to explain the world, namely the principle of sufficient reason, is not a principle governing language and thought. It is itself a metaphysical proposition, which is perhaps the basis of most Western thought. It states that whatsoever happens to be the case could not have been the case unless it was caused by something. This idea that something that is the case must have an explanation for why it is the case is the basis of all science and all theology. But if we take a closer look at it, we will see that the principle of sufficient reason cannot be true, no matter how much we would like to think that it is true. Theology has been the first ladder of mankind, but once we have reached the top of the ladder we had to drop it and replace it with the ladder of science. The ladder of science we will also have to drop once we have reached the top and managed to see farther than those before us. At the top of the ladder of science, we will see that the principle of sufficient reason, which happens to be the ladder itself, must be dropped if we are to progress in our understanding of the world.
So what is wrong with the principle of sufficient reason? What’s wrong with it is that it provides a false picture of reality, which creates problems that can never be solved simply because they are not real problems, they are just imaginary problems caused by our faith in this same principle. The first argument against the PSR is a matter of logic. If everything needs an explanation, then it follows that there is an infinite series of explanations, because each explanation would in turn need an explanation of the explanation. Thus we will never really explain anything because we will never be able to have an explanation of the explanation ad infinitum. Hence we can never gain any true knowledge of reality. The objection to this is the following: what if there is a final explanation which explains itself? But this objection is just an appearance of on objection; it has no real substance when we turn to analyze it. If the explanation of the explanation is the explanation itself, than that is the equivalent of saying A because of A. It’s no different than saying that the sky is blue because it is blue, or that day follows night because day follows night. Therefore if the explanation of the explanation really happens to be the explanation itself, then it is not only circular and therefore a fallacy, but also it is no explanation at all.
The second argument against the PSR is a matter of empiricism. Reality does not seem to conform to the boundaries set by the PSR, unless we unnecessarily complicate it. For a given set of finite data, there are an infinite number of functions which can describe the data. But instead of choosing the simplest function that describes the data, we choose a more complicated one just to make sure that it is in agreement with the PSR. Take a look at the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics… It is an attempt to describe the data and at the same time save the PSR. The simplest explanation for the data is a denial of the PSR, but those who argue in favor of the many worlds interpretation are arrogantly certain that the PSR must be true and hence the data must be within its boundaries. Instead of admitting that there is no cause for why a certain atom decays at a certain time, they choose to create an infinite amount of worlds in order to explain the decay of that single atom. This is not following the evidence where it leads, this is trying to make the evidence fit with our preconceived notions of reality; it is the apex of stupidity. Reality has no responsibility to fit with human understanding of it… rather human understanding should strive to fit with reality.
Looking back in history, we can see that the origin of the PSR is in theology, not in science. Theology is the first attempt to explain the world. Science evolved out of theology; it started out as an attempt to explain God’s creation. But science has outgrown theology… we have reached the end of the theological ladder, so why not drop it? If I may ask, why do we think that the world needs an explanation? Isn’t it much simpler to say that the world has no explanation? Some would immediately start objecting saying that in affirming that the world has no explanation I have all but killed science. But this is the wrong type of thinking. The job of science is to describe the world, and that job has nothing to do with finding explanations for the world. Describing the world simply means identifying the correlations that we find between events in the world. It has nothing to do with saying that some event X causes event Y. All that we can sensibly say is that event Y is correlated with event X, we can say nothing meaningful about causation. So once we have dropped the PSR, we have at the same time eliminated theology and all the false problems it has created for us. We have also eliminated a vast amount of metaphysical questions such as “why is there something rather than nothing?”.
It turns out that denying the PSR is where the evidence leads us. It turns out that denying the PSR is the simplest way to describe the world, and the one that’s most likely to be true. From a logical standpoint, the PSR has no chance to explain anything about the world. If it helps explain nothing, then why not drop it? It is much better to be without it if we are to move forward in our understanding. From an empirical standpoint the PSR does not fit the data unless we choose a very complicated way to explain the data instead of the simplest. So where does this leave us epistemologically speaking? It turns out that all knowledge is just a description of reality, not an explanation. And science is the way through which we have managed to obtain such knowledge. Criticizing our beliefs, not justifying or explaining them, as Karl Popper remarked, is the way we can progress in our understanding of the world.
So what does this leave of the metaphysical? It certainly leaves a system where there is no explanation for why things are the way they are. We can describe the system, but we cannot meaningfully say anything about causation. In fact there is no causation, there is only correlation. The idea of causation has its traces in theology and must be dropped as well. Why do we exist? No reason. What is the meaning of the world? No meaning. Some would say that this is a very depressing place to be in. But I do not think so. I think this is the best place one can be in, not only because one has sided with the truth, but also because one is for the first time free. If there were a reason for your existence you would be a slave to that reason. If there were a meaning to your existence, you would be a slave to that meaning. For the first time man can be totally free to be himself in the world. With no meaning and no purpose given by the world, man is for the first time free to be his own master and maker of his own purpose and meaning. In fact, in a deeper sense, through man the world makes its own purpose. Man is but a part of the world, and a very important part and essential part because through man the world can for the first time be intelligent, the world can for the first time create its own meaning and purpose.