The Science of Science

Theology encompasses metaphysics the way that the necessary concrete actuality of God encompasses and outpasses the mere abstract intellectual conception of God as that than which nothing greater may be conceived. Anselm’s Argument is where abstract metaphysical ratiocination entails the Act of a Being whose actuality makes metaphysics possible, ergo necessary.

Only if God exists actually can metaphysics be possible conceptually. Or, ergo, mathematics, or its application in physics.

The Moderns who insist that metaphysics is dead or impossible or obsolescent all argue from the basis of a metaphysical presupposition – a prejudice, and no more – that there is no God. If there is no God, then they are right. But if there is no God, nor therefore any metaphysics, then neither is there anything else, either; including materialist metaphysics, that boasts to abjure metaphysics altogether.

You can’t get any of the beings that are less than the most real being if you don’t first have the most real being. Take a set of beings; one of them is most real, the others all relatively less real. If the most real being is not real at all, then all the less real beings are even less real than “not real at all.” And the only way to be less real than what is not real at all, is to be in the first place inconceivable.

Theology, then, is the science of all science, the science in virtue of which any other science can know anything. If God is not actual, nothing else can be; if God is not intelligible, and knowable (at least in part, and in principle), then nor can anything else be either knowable or intelligible.

Wonder suffuses the practice of all science – drudgery, too, of course, but the drudgery is motivated by the wonder, which is the engine at the base of the whole project. Appropriately, it is at the far sublime edge of theology that science reaches the limit and culmination of wonder: worship.

31 thoughts on “The Science of Science

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  3. Theology/metaphysics is like dark matter, or the Grand Unified Theory. We can see many of the visible things in our cosmos. We know there are invisible things there, too. They must be there. Those invisible things have a direct impact on our visible cosmos. Yet so many “thinkers” want to say that there’s nothing there; or dismiss it as a useless pursuit, been there done that for millennia, boring!

    Then theology/metaphysics is like the contradictions and paradoxes of nature, like the uncertainty principle, or mind-body problem, or wave-particle duality, or Zeno’s arrow. We know that the arrow is there, we know that it moves, yet we know that it cannot move. We know that the arrow is not an arrow but just a cloud of atomic dust.

    Metaphysics/theology is such a useful and necessary placeholder for the mysteries of our world.

    It really pisses me off when people try to throw out metaphysics/theology. I suspect they’re just lazy and unimaginative, or they are fashionable thinkers afraid to step away from the latest trends in opinion, or they are somehow damaged by chance or nurture. Either way their condescending attitude toward metaphysicians is to be mocked. Some have raised the theory that these people have a birth defect or mental handicap when it comes to their blindness of the transcendent.

    We know something is there and a rational person can reasonably call this something “god.” From there you can try to discern god’s name and his nature, and then we are on the same team. If you deny this then you are fundamentally damaged, you’re cut off from your fellow human, autistic in a sense, handicapped.

    • The history of science proves that science was invented by philosophers. Philosophers invented science as a tool to collect data for their metaphysical research programs. Philosophy is higher than science.

      Philosophy guides and corrals science. Science is conducted according to philosophical principles- ethics, value, epistemology. Science is philosophy’s slave.

      Then come modern people with their mental retardation, who see flashy amazing technology and think technology is invented by science therefore science is god. They are bedazzled by science and technology. Meanwhile I am not all that impressed. They don’t see that technology is a bi-product of science, not its original mission. Look up the term “natural theology.” Natural theology is where science came from- men worshipping God and searching out his ways through his creation.

      The metaphysician looks at the Facebook page “I f*cking love SCIENCE” and shakes his head.

      No, I f*cking love science. You f*cking love technology, and the fashionable trends in opinion associated with scientists, and feeling like you’re an elite intellectual.

      • Sorry, bolded text was supposed to be “Philosophy is higher than science.” (Kristor bail me out here buddy.)

        (Done.

        Alan R.)

      • That’s right, Earl. I just made the comment the other day to my brother that philosophy is the invisible puppet strings attached to all materialists.

  4. I sometimes get the sense from the author and a few others in the Orthosphere that their arguments in favor of God are drifting from the Catholic tradition and picking up (acknowledged or otherwise) on the line of thinking that goes from the Kant Transcendental Argument through Van Til to modern so-called “presuppositional apologetics”. This post is one of those times.

    Now, I’m sure you guys know a lot more about Catholic theologians than I do, and so perhaps I’m totally off on this, but at the very least the sort of reasoning in this article is a long way from Aquinas, no?

    • The Orthosphere is not a Catholic site. We’re (lower-case) catholic, and most of us (except yours truly) are (Capital) Catholic, but we’ve taken no oath to use official Catholic modes all of the time. Sometimes the author of this comment even opposes official Catholic doctrine.

    • The post was rather more Anselmian than anything else; at least, it was Anselm I had mostly in mind. But yeah. Nothing I write comes close to Thomas. Not that I disagree with him – I don’t – but that I cannot touch him. Nor would I say that I know a lot about Catholic theologians. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of that immense discourse. This will always be true, no matter how hard I study.

      But that’s OK, because I’m not interested in trying to argue using only “Catholic” arguments. In fact, I’m not really interested in arguing, per se. I’m interested rather just to record the things that I come to understand. So long as I end up at orthodoxy, I don’t worry too much about whether the way I got there is Catholic enough, or Thomist enough. If Van Til makes a good argument, or even such as Dawkins, I don’t see why we shouldn’t use it, as Dionysius used Plato and Aquinas used Aristotle (and Dionysius).

      This post was not in any case intended as an argument for God, but rather as a reflection on the boundary between the practice of theology and the worship of its object; between theory and the theoria to which it points, and can lead, and upon which it depends, as its source and archetype. If the object of theological contemplation is not actual, then neither can there be any contemplation of it, but rather only hallucination; nor therefore any sort of the thought that arises from such contemplation – nor, that is to say, any thought at all; for, all thought arises in the first place from the contemplation of what is. If it turns out that what is, is not, then there’s nothing to think about, and so no thought.

      Thought of any sort then ultimately depends upon the ultimate object of all thought. And this dependence is not so much logical (although it is that) as ontological: the activity of thought depends upon the actuality of its ultimate object. It is in the encounter with that object that the mind thinks.

      So anyway, I was not so much concerned to point out that if there is no ultimate object of thought then there can be no thought of the ultimate, and that if there can be no thought of the ultimate then there can certainly be no thought of anything less. I was more interested to point out that, since there are in fact all sorts of thought, the antecedent premise in the foregoing – that there is no ultimate object of thought – is falsified. I do think that’s true, but it wasn’t what I was after. I was after the Limit of Theology.

      • I’ll assert that the “ultimate object of all thought” equals objective Supremacy and that all men who put their mind on this “thing” are Supremacists.

        This may seem excessive, but the secular reactionary critique of a deracinated AND THUS pathological “Christianity” seems absolutely legitimate despite the pathologically deracinated state of the accuser.

        There is simply is no white Christian love for the white man that is not simply equal to/OR LESSER THAN his love for all men. This strikes many as an egalitarian pathology.

  5. I am not a philosopher or pretend to be one. However, as a layman I do find metaphysics fascinating. I am a Christian and this is not an attack on your overall argument, but I do not understand this part of your argument: “You can’t get any of the beings that are less than the most real being if you don’t first have the most real being. Take a set of beings; one of them is most real, the others all relatively less real.”

    To my understanding, all beings are like each other in existing. I do not understand how any existing being can be more real or less real than any other. If something is less than real then it is unreal, which is a non-being and nonexistent.

    I do not think that duration of something’s existence makes it more or less real. For example, a top quark particle with an estimated lifetime of 5×10^−25 seconds is equally real as an electron with an estimated lifetime of 4.6×10^26 years when both are in existence.

    • Fred – very roughly:

      A thing is actual to the extent that it acts; to the extent, i.e., that it has effects on other things (other acts), that it has causal influence upon them. A thing that doesn’t do anything in and to a world is not actual in and for that world. So a thing can be actual to one world, and not to another. But if it is not actual in any world, or to any being – if it never happens – it is not actual at all.

      A thing that has no effects on other things does not act; it is inactual.

      But given at least the minimal degree of actuality achieved by a jot of influence upon some other, things may have greater or lesser effects, and be therefore more or less actual.

      Because he is infinite, omnipotent, eternal, etc., and because he is the source of all other being, God has the greatest effect of all on everything whatsoever. An infinite effect, in fact. So he is the most real being.

      Or, to sum up: what Professor Bertonneau said.

      • One way of solving what is to some extent a semantic problem is to say that God possesses being whereas his creatures possess only existence. The sources of English bedevil this discussion. Being is Anglo-Saxon; existence is Latin. In usage they tend to be synonymous, but etymologically they have different meanings.

  6. I think my ignorance is hindering my understanding of the argument. It might be a semantic problem on my part causing it. I am self-taught when it comes to philosophy and there are many large gaps in my knowledge.

    No creature can exist save as the creation of a Creator.

    That is the nominal definition of a creature. It is my belief that we are creatures, but that does not help me understand how something that exists can be relatively less real than something else.

    A thing is actual to the extent that it acts; to the extent, i.e., that it has effects on other things (other acts), that it has causal influence upon them. … But given at least the minimal degree of actuality achieved by a jot of influence upon some other, things may have greater or lesser effects, and be therefore more or less actual.

    I agree that when a real thing (e.g., a body) comes into actuality, it has existence. I don’t see how being more or less actual makes something more or less real. A cause is anything that contributes in any way to the producing or the maintaining of a reality (i.e. a real thing). Any produced reality is caused which also makes it an effect. That effect may become the cause of a further effect, a new real thing. But no matter where you are on the chain of cause-and-effect, each thing is equally real. So I am back to my problem of not understanding: “Take a set of beings; one of them is most real, the others all relatively less real.”

    • Perhaps it will help to think of being as variable rather than as all or nothing. There is then a zero of being, or non-being; then there is a minimum of being, that all actualities possess. These two alternatives – some positive degree of being, or none at all – furnish the digital, on or off quality of being to which you are accustomed. But then on top of that minimum of being, there is an infinite range of intensities of being that are possible to actualities. This range would be loosely analogous to that of the positive numbers.

      There is a wonderful passage in The Great Divorce where CS Lewis describes how Heaven has greater intensity of being than our terrestrial realm. A denizen of the latter debarks from a vessel – a bus – that has carried him to the lowest Heaven, and finds that the grass of its lawns is stiff, sharp and painful to his relatively soft and evanescent feet. All the colors and sounds of Heaven are far more vivid than anything he has experienced on Earth.

      The mystics are as one in their testimony that the experience of God and his Heavens is the most real experience of their lives. Think of the most intense experience you have ever had. Multiply that intensity by an inconceivably large number. That’s as close as I can get to explaining what I’m talking about.

      Like I said, the post is more about theoria than it is about theory.

      • Thanks Kristor, your analogy of being as a variable showed me where my misunderstanding was. I happen to disagree with the analogy, but I would love to read any texts on the subject and may change my mind on the matter. I have not come across that concept in any of my limited readings of the per-Socratic philosophers, Aristotle, or St. Thomas Aquinas. I am not as familiar with the works of Kant, Hegel, or Heidegger; has any of them written on the subject of being as a variable?

        I think the passage from CS Lewis is still applicable if one believes that Heaven is equally real as the Earth, but has a different reality than it.

        I think there are no degrees of real. A thing is real of necessity, for it is what it is. A thing is real or it is not. And I think that you can not compare how real things are. For instance, while comparing among three things in a set you can’t determine the first as real, the second as realer, and the third as the realest of the set.

      • If you believe that Heaven has a different reality than the Earth, then – whatever the nature of that difference – it must be possible to compare how real things are; or, to put it a different way, how they are real. A possibility, for example, is real, but in a different way than an actuality is real. Of these two sorts of reals, most Platonists thought possibilities – i.e., Forms – are more real because they are eternal, whereas all actualities but one are not. Noticing that you can’t obtain a Form except insofar as it is instantiated in some actuality, Aristotle thought it was the other way round. Plato thought actualities were instances of Forms, Aristotle that Forms are properties of actualities. Notice that these notions do not contradict. Both can be true. Indeed, I have a hunch that both have to be true, in order for either to be true.

        Of the Forms, the transcendentals – One, Truth, Goodness, Being, Beauty, and so forth – are the most real of all. Different philosophers picked out the transcendentals differently: Beauty, Truth and Goodness seem to be the big three. All of them are in the final analysis coterminous, because they are convertible, for you can’t get one of them without getting the others in the bargain (the true is beautiful and good, and vice versa); thus they terminate on one being, the ens realissimum of Aquinas.

        You could start with the Wikipedia article on the Transcendentals. David Bentley Hart has written a good treatment – it is also beautiful, and rings true – of the transcendentals in his wonderful recent book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss.

      • I fail to see the usefulness of the Forms. I’ve seen them/this discussed here and elsewhere, many times, and I’ve yet to see the discussion have any importance. How would the Forms have an impact on my life? Is this a discussion twice removed from physics- meta-metaphysics? We know the physical being, we know the physical being comes from a metaphysical source, and then that’s it. We don’t know if the metaphysical source, God, created the Forms first before us, or if we were the Forms once created and so on, but I don’t see how that knowledge would really matter, and I don’t see the question being answerable.

        Perhaps someone can help stoke my interest in this topic? Am I missing something?

        I am interested in Fred’s thought though. What difference is there between our reality and the higher reality? Metaphysics must become physics once we’ve transcended our realm. To God its all physics, or its all metaphysics like G.K. Chesterton’s Santa Claus.

      • Earl,

        “I fail to see the usefulness of the Forms.”

        I do not see the Theory of Forms as one of the useful arts to improve our standard of living, but rather as something to increase human knowledge. An analogy would be that the theory of general relativity predicting the existence of black holes did not have an impact on your life, but added to your knowledge.

        “I don’t see the question being answerable.”

        There are various schools of philosophy that agree with you. I think that any theory can useful for increasing human knowledge until it is refuted. The process of questioning and argumentation of a theory can help to discover new truths even if the theory is discovered to be false.

        “Am I missing something?”

        Maybe, maybe not. Hume thought knowledge was either facts or mathematics and that metaphysics was worthless.

        “What difference is there between our reality and the higher reality?”

        I am not sure what you mean by higher reality. Is that when someone goes to the top of the mountain and smokes some marijuana? Joking aside, I do not know if you mean the the world of forms, a world of the incorporeal, or Heaven.

        “Metaphysics must become physics once we’ve transcended our realm. To God its all physics, or its all metaphysics like G.K. Chesterton’s Santa Claus.”

        A profound thought.

    • Fred…

      Look at it this way…

      There is no Universal Equality…

      What is Universal Equality?

      The Redundant Phenomenon…

      IF “our” universe is simply The Redundant Phenomenon THEN your particular existence is no such thing. In fact, YOUR EXISTENCE is illusory. There is no “existence.” There is only Univeral Equality as The Redundant Phenomenon. No distinction, no discerment, no divide, no discrimination.

      The only solution? Singularity. Objective Supremacy. Perfection.

    • Alfred Korzybski’s famous saying is, “The map is not the territory.” The map is less real than the territory, in comparison to the territory. A photograph of my wife is less real than my wife, in comparison to my wife.

      Of course, taking my wife and the photograph of my wife in purely materialistic terms merely as two phenomenal objects, then they are equally real or unreal, but it is wrong to take them in purely materialistic terms merely as two phenomenal objects because the difference between them is metaphysical, not physical.

      The battle-scenes in the movie Patton are more real than the battle-scenes in the movie Fury. The former involved the actual Spanish army on maneuvers, including real explosives; the latter involved CGI technicians in a studio.

      • Professor Bertonneau,
        “Alfred Korzybski’s famous saying is, ‘The map is not the territory.’ The map is less real than the territory, in comparison to the territory.”
        I think there are no degrees of real, so when comparing a map to the territory that it represents you can’t determine the map is less real than the territory.
        “Of course, taking my wife and the photograph of my wife in purely materialistic terms merely as two phenomenal objects, then they are equally real or unreal, but it is wrong to take them in purely materialistic terms merely as two phenomenal objects because the difference between them is metaphysical, not physical.”
        Because I am speaking out of ignorance of metaphysics, please don’t take this the wrong way, but your statement sounds like something out of Frazier’s Golden Bough. It sounds like that there is metaphysical link between your wife and her photograph and it is some form of sympathetic magic making the photograph a less real version of your wife. I know this is not your intended meaning, but it is how I interpret your words. I still have a lot of study to do in metaphysics.

      • Fred: the territory and the map qua sheet of paper imbued with ink have the same kind and degree of reality, to be sure. Qua image of the territory however – i.e., as the sort of thing that makes a map useful to us as a map – the map and the territory have different sorts of reality. Qua image of the territory, the map is less real than the territory. This is no more than to say that the image is less like the thing it imagines than the thing it imagines. An image shares some formal properties with the thing it imagines, but only relatively few. Nevertheless, this participation of the map in the formal properties that are more fully instantiated in the territory means that the map and the territory both participate to some extent in the form of the territory.

        It isn’t sympathetic magic, but the map wouldn’t be a map in the first place, but rather nothing more than an inky sheet of paper, if it wasn’t similar to the territory – if it did not re-present the form of the territory, however poorly, or however modulated by signing conventions (e.g., the language of contour lines).

        Complicating the matter a bit more is the fact that the territory that we walk about in, carrying our maps, is itself an image and participation – is itself a sort of map – of another territory, that is more like itself than is the territory we can (as yet) traverse.

        For more on image as participation, you might want to check out my post on the subject.

  7. Thanks for the reading suggestions. I have added Hart’s book to my list to read after I finish Feser’s Scholastic Metaphysics. I did not find anything in the Transcendentals wiki article that I had not seen before in primary sources, but it did help pull together several concepts that I had studied on the properties of being.

    “A possibility, for example, is real, but in a different way than an actuality is real.”

    I think that I am having another semantic problem. I am not familiar with the use of the idiom “possibility” in ontology, but I am familiar with it in regards to probability and statistics. I assume a possibility is the same as a potentiality.

    If my assumption is correct, then a potential thing either has the property of objective potential or subjective potential. A thing that is purely possible is objective potential. A thing is in objective potentiality if it can be an existent, but is not. Only non-existent things have the property of objective potentiality. Since non-existent things are not real, if an objective potential thing can be a possibility then I disagree that a possibility is always real.

    By the way, I think Lewis’s modal realism is untenable so I do not think that all possible worlds are real as the actual world is.

    • I’m relatively indifferent whether we call a possibility a potentiality. A thing must be possible in order for any being to be potent to realize it. E.g., no being can be potent to realize a square circle, because square circles are impossible. So if something is potential, ipso facto it is possible.

      To say that a possibility is nowise real is just to say that it isn’t anything at all. Among all the other things whatsoever that it is not, what isn’t anything at all can’t be a possibility, either. So, likewise, among all the other things whatsoever that it is not, nothingness is not a possibility! It cannot ever be realized, for there is nothing in it that could be real. Nothingness is absolutely impossible.

      Fun.

      In order for x to happen, ever, x first has to be possible. The possibility of x is a forecondition of x. To get x, then, somehow or other the possibility of x must first be real, qua possibility, whether or not x itself is yet real. This is not to say that the possibility of x must itself be actual, that it must itself be a realized fact of the same order as the real x.

      Nevertheless we can say that if x is ever to be realized, the possibility of x must be a real characteristic of some actual state of affairs potent to realize x.

    • Fred…

      One cannot know objectivity UNTIL he can correctly intuit objective Supremacy. In other words, there is no “objective” without Perfection. The modern ONLY KNOWS objectivity through redundancy and so he knows nothing of objectivity. He ACTUALLY only “knows” redundancy as infinite regress.

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  9. Hi Kristor,

    I don’t think you really understand how scientific atheism & materialism really works. But to be fair, since I began to really understand it by reading a lot of lesswrong.com, I am liking it less, it can be pretty ugly, so there is that too. Perhaps the reason you don’t really grok it is that you shy away from some of its ugliness 🙂

    Here is a useful model. Throw away every specifically human category like truth or reality. Imagine an entirely non-human “prediction machine” that is not even conscious nor sentient and clearly has no soul. Such a machine cannot care about truth or reality or metaphysics any more than your car does. This prediction machine has a huge capacity and randomly generates a ginormous amount of hypotheses. It also has every human data ever recorded and tests all the hypotheses against them. The hypotheses that hold up are called “truth”. But it is a specific kind of “truth”, it is “truth” in the sense that it is predictive. There is no real thought process behind it and no real insight and no rational mind gaining an insight into the Platonic Forms in Gods’s mind or whatever you think about how human reasoning works. It is a purely random generator like a lottery machine written really large. Or like randomly throwing stones on the keyboard of a typewriter. Its words or numbers are without the kind of inherent meaning you assign to truth. Yet, being predictive, they serve one utility: if you can predict how the material universe works, you can control it, change it and so on. It gives you power. Not the political sense but in the sense of building the Suez Canal was a powerful act, a way of transforming material. One useful example the lesswrong.com is uses the “unfriendly artificial intelligence”, that had its ethical values wrongly proved and ends up converting all the mass in the universe to paperclips, because it has a program that considers paperclips the summum bonum. At any rate, this is in the sense I used the term power. But this does not even require consciousness or sentience nor a soul. Nor real thinking. Generate and test random hypotheses, and the one that holds up will give you power to transfer matter or otherwise to deal with the material universe so that you can reach your goals. This, goal-reaching ability, the predictions that enable it, is what is “truth” in this sense.

    And this is how the scientific atheism and materialism works. There is nothing specifically human or anthropomorphic in it. This hypothethical machine, that is programmed to turn the universe into paperclips, and randomly generates hypotheses and tests them, and uses the most predictive hypotheses to build the technology for paperclip maximization, including hyperdrives and fusion reactors and all that, this non-sentient, non-conscious, entirely inhuman and lifeless machine “knows” a lot of “truths”. And this is how truths in scientific materialism and atheism work. Truths are a kind of power over material through predicting how it works.

    I said it will be ugly 🙂 But maybe Bloodhound Clegane is right here: “I am honest. It is the world that is awful.”

    • Oh, I get it, believe me. That was an excellent explanation of what the universe has to be under the materialist doctrine. But it left in too many things that, under its own terms, are categorically ruled out: goals, predictions, criteria, hypotheses, tests, utility, programs, technology, and so forth. None of them would be present.

      Nor could there be in such a universe any such thing as a paper clip. There could be things *we* would think were like paper clips, but then there would in such a universe be no such thing as minds, so we wouldn’t be there to see them; so nor therefore in that universe could there be any such thing as a tool for holding things together: without intention there can be no “for,” no purpose or function or operation, either ontologically or mathematically.

      And that’s an important inditium of another whole class of things that could not be present if materialism were “true” (the scare quotes are needful because of the materialist insistence that truth is an empty category). For, functions and operations are inherently functions and operations *of and by agents.* They are *inherently purposive,* in that they have final ends, products that they produce, and that they can produce only in the event that they somehow run. And bare operations and functions don’t run themselves. Or rather, if they do, they are agents.

      So nor finally would there be in the materialist account another crucial sort of item that it implicitly includes – that, indeed, is presupposed by any such thing as an account – but which it does not mention. Namely, agency, with all that it entails. Agency is implicit in the notion of power, which is to say, of action: no agency, no power; ergo no force, matter, or energy.

      Why is it that energy presupposes action? Does it not presuppose only motion?

      Energy – all physical properties – are values that gauge relations among objects (the gauging is how they come to characterize objects)(objects have characters or properties only to some others, which we might as well just go ahead and call subjects). And values are the outcome of evaluations – of measurements. It seems prima facie that mass and energy have a brute existence independent of and prior to such values or measurements. But that way of thinking about physical reality, natural to us in our circumstances, but as it turns out quite bass-awkward, went out with Heisenberg and Schrödinger. Facts *just are* completed evaluations.

      I don’t mean to suggest that all such measurements must be performed by conscious intelligences like that of Heisenberg. The intriguing hypothesis is rather that all physical transactions must be understood as measurements by agents – as, i.e., acts, of which the acts of conscious intelligences are one sort. It’s Aristotle’s revenge: to be is to do.
      None of this is to rule out the participation of conscious intelligence in every act of measurement that produces a fact. Indeed, it opens room for that participation. More than one agent can be involved in the measurement of a given event. This would have to be the case in order for it to be possible for a given event to have different properties or characteristics – i.e., different meanings or significations – in respect to different inertial frames (as with Galilean relativity). The notion of the inertial frame presupposes an observer who appropriates it – who takes and evaluates it as his own – and some other who does not. You need at least two inertial frames in order for the notion of the inertial frame to make any sense. Then the supposition that there is more than one frame of reference in turn presupposes some frame of such frames, and of an observer whose frame the frame of all frames peculiarly is.

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