explaining

One way to explain a clock is to talk about how its physical parts (sprockets, springs, wood, metal, etc.) function, etc.  This will involve telling a story of how the design came about.

Another way to explain a clock is to talk about what its parts are composed of.  This will involve telling a story about minerals, trees, etc.

Another way to explain a clock is to talk about the notion of ‘keeping time’.  This will involve telling a story about such arbitrary and geocentric units of measure as ‘seconds’, ‘minutes’, ‘hours’, ‘days’ and such.

Rest assured, I’m not hinting at an updated version of Paley’s watchmaker analogy.  I’m merely noting that there are different ways to explain a ‘thing’.

Indeed, the first step is discerning the part from the whole (if the whole is even known).  My fingernail is a part of my finger, which is a part of my hand, which is part of my arm, which is part of my body, which is part of me, which is a part of my family, which is part of the human race, which is part of (skip a few) all living things, which is part of earth, which is part of our solar system, which is part of our galaxy, which is part of the known universe, which (very theoretically!! i.e. ‘hey look at that irregularity in the cosmic microwave background radiation!  maybe it’s another universe!’) may be a part of a ‘multiverse’…  (should I have started with a sub-atomic particle of my fingernail?) :)

That, of course, is merely to talk about what my fingernail is composed of.  We could also talk about how my fingernail helps me peel oranges or scratch my itch.  Or the relationship between my fingernails and my genome.

What’s the point?  Well, everything that we see demands explanations of various kinds – or it’s probably more accurate to say that our curiosity demands these explanations.  I have no reason to suspect that a fruit-fly wants humans to be explained.

Focusing on causal explanation, everything we see is explained in terms of something other than the thing we’re trying to explain.  A clock is not to be causally explained by merely talking about it’s parts.  One must explain the clock by talking about a clock-maker and the raw materials from which it was made.

When it comes to seeking causal explanations of things, each of the ’causes’ then demands a causal explanation.  Everything we see appears to be derivative.  Everything seems to have its ultimate principle of existence in something other than itself.  In other words, nothing we see appears to be self-existent.  Everything looks like it comes from something else.

It would make sense, then, that any explanation for ‘all things’ must be a different sort of explanation altogether.  This would be a very different kind of cause.  This would be the Explanation of all explanations – the Cause of all causes – the Existence ‘behind’ all existence – the ‘Thing’ that all ‘things’ come ‘from’.

You can either give up and say ‘we aren’t supposed to ask that question’ or you can follow the logic where it leads.