Let's get real: Who's up for a(nother ontological/epistemological) quest?

Happy new year to you all! I, for one, am glad that all of you find yourselves getting. sorted for another year of challenges and surprises. I’m also reassured that each and all of you will undoubtedly rise to the task.

It has been a while since anything “happened” here in the Café, so over the holidays I gave some thought to perhaps getting the ball rolling again. I, for one, wouldn’t mind at all a bit of conversation about something unpolitical but worth-the-time and came up with the proposal presented here. All responses welcome.


A proposal for a series of Cosmos Café (CCafé) sessions or some other TBD format of a structured, organized, collective, close, and critical reading of

Markus Gabriel’s (2017) Why The World Does Not Exist, Translated by Gregory S. Moss, Cambridge, UK/Malden, MA , Polity Press [v + 239 pp. (incl. Notes, Glossary, and Index of Names)].

This is the first book of a trilogy (why is it that German philosophers apparently think in threes … cf. Kant, Sloterdijk) introducing what the author proposes as a school of philosophical thought called the New Realism. We’re obviously not over the “worldview wars” yet, but this is a very down-to-earth, accessible take on a realist’s view of the battle. As with the Kastrup reading we did a couple of years back, one need not be a philosophy freak to get in on this one. Don’t let the “ontology” or “epistemology” intimidate you: being and knowing are familiar enough to all of us which more like Gabriel’s approach. Once again, at bottom, this is a book about what is reality and why do we think so?


If you’re as “geeky” as I am or are simply a curious individual who is interested in how we humans try to make sense of the “world” in which we find ourselves, it could be, well, dare I say it? FUN. :upside_down_face:

This reading dovetails nicely with a number of CCafés we’ve had over the years: not just on Kastrup, but also Hofstadter, Langer, Bortoft, and Gebser, to name the first that spring to mind, but it also picks up on themes that go beyond these, especially those which have centered on or intersected with our discussions on consciousness, alternate ways of knowing, language, and more.

Most of us in this corner of the cosmos agree that physicalism/materialism only gets you so far: there’s more in heaven and on earth than is dreamt of its philosophy. Idealism, in a variety of flavors, is probably the most widespread “alternative” view of things, and here is where Gabriel comes in: his is a case for a realist approach.

In spite of its systematic approach and specific (but not “jargony”) language (the translations more than does the original justice), it is nevertheless closely argued and full of logical detail. It is the kind of book that needs to be talked about with others, not just read on its own. I, for one, would like the opportunity for “sanity checks” of my own reading, which is possible for everyone participating in this particular reading. While not wanting to project my own shortcomings onto others, given the depth and seriousness of the underlying topic, I think others would also benefit from being able to “kick the tires” on this one before deciding on whether to take it out for a spin.


The book is available as a(n English-language) trade paperback, and (though I read it in the original German) it has also been translated into French and Spanish, if that makes it more accessible to you. It’s not all that long (see bibliographic info, above), and due to its style and presentation, I’m estimating we could cover the text in five (5) bi-weekly (i.e., every 14 days) CCafé (or CCafé-like) sessions plus, if necessary, an initial meet-up to get ourselves organized.

Just so you know, I would be willing to take care of the primary organization of the reading (setting up the session pages for the individual CCafé sessions, moderating the meet-ups, etc.), but I am also open to any other reasonable format, just in case someone has an approach suitable for getting us involved with and enaged in the text. These are precisely the kind of details we could sort out in an organizational meet-up, if we should so choose. Otherwise, I’d approach this in a very similar manner to how we read Kastrup or Bortoft, for example.


Given sufficient interest, we could start whenever it is convenient for all interested parties. However …

It is clear to me that with a potential worldwide participation, severe limits are placed on our get-togethers (and if the following is confusing, you might find some help here). Unfortunately, as the world is turning right now, and given that I’m physically located in Germany, Tuesdays or Thursdays (maybe Wednesdays), 8:00 pm +/- 1 (CET; 7:00 pm UK; 2:00 pm EST, noon MST, 11:00 am PST; 3:00-5:00 am, next day AWST-AEST) is most suitable for me. If there were enough interested and enthusiastic parties involved, I might be able to swing a Sunday get-together around the same time.


Anyone game?


California is ready to Ride another Cafe’ into the Unknown

“Why The World Does Not Exist” ???

Ever Present Origin

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Hey @achronon ~ Guten Rutsch! Great to see some signs of life on the forum (not dead yet!)—and yet another philosophically adventurous quest brewing in the Café catacombs.

Sounds like a fun and thought-provocative read—and why not put the question to the (supposed) world? I sure hope it doesn’t exist! That would solve a lot of problems, wouldn’t it?

I’m still in a phase of really trying to hone my time-budget for the year. So much I want to do, and so little apparent time. (Hopefully, time is just another illusion, eh?) But the Café has been on my mind, too, as I’ve been working through a title that I would like to introduce at some point. I have also been thinking about how we might learn from our past few years, and what we might do differently/better, or at least experiment with, in terms of our format and structure. I have some ideas.

And I now have Why the World Does Not Exist on interlibrary-loan request, to check it out (in both senses). So not a firm commitment from me. But what if we were to aim for a kind of re-introductory/organizational meeting on Thursday, January 26th at 12 noon MST, and in the meantime I’ll try to get the word out to a few more folks, and hopefully even recruit some new faces to join us. That much I could definitely do.


Ah, Monsieur, how good to hear from you again. Thank you for the new-year wishes; may this year prove fruitful for you, your family, and your various undertakings: new year, new opportunities.

Although just the first of a trilogy, this book lays the groundwork for Gabriel’s attempt at re-orienting current philosophical thought towards a, let us say, more open and tolerant (?) way of whatever it is that we finally decide Reality may be. His style is upbeat, he does not shy away from Netflix and TV-series examples (the final chapter of book three of the trilogy is on Seinfeld, a show for which he has a particularly soft spot) to support his points, and he doesn’t expect his readers will necessarily have read all the other philosophers to whom he makes reference and makes clear the connections he’s trying to make. (Stated differently: he’s a lot easier to read than Langer, for example.)

Still, time is what we make of it, if Herr Gebser is correct, and you too have to figure out how to best utilize yours. I took the brute-force approach (rarely more than four hours sleep during most of my working life), but it isn’t one I generally recommend. I do hope you find your own groove.

The date/time would certainly work for me, and if you could help spread the word, I would be more than grateful. I’d really like to have a half-a-dozen (fairly) committed readers to make it worth everyone’s while. I do believe we can get through the text in five sessions (i.e., 10 weeks) so that it isn’t overly demanding of any participant’s time. New faces are always especially welcome.

It would be no problem for me to set up a page for that get-together, say, this weekend. I was planning on giving it a couple of weeks anyway to see if there is a positive response. If all else fails, we could have a CCafé reunion of sorts and kick around ideas, as you noted, about how we might do things better moving forward.

Who knows? New year, new opportunities.


Air surfing#2


Whether this reading was going to take place or not was contingent on a good handful of us banding together to undertake the sojourn. That is, however, not the case. Consequently, at our organizational/reunion (Deja vu) CCafé yesterday (2023-01-26), we agreed to put the idea to rest.

Instead, we kicked around a few ideas whereby William Irwin Thompson was played a central role. Both his Imaginary Landscape and perhaps part of his The Time It Takes Falling Bodies To Light, also in conjunction with part of Graeber & Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything were brought up for consideration. More details are to be found here, if you’re interested. I can assure you, you are certainly welcome.

Maybe we’ll see you over there. In the meantime, Happy Questing!


Thanks for the update, Ed.

I expressed some of my misgivings about Gabriel’s project in our last (unrecorded, unfortunately) talk. I had said (something to the effect of) that his kind of philosophizing makes people dislike (ok, maybe I said “hate”) philosophers.

Granted, he is obviously a competent and deservedly well-respected philosopher—but just at face value, his claim that “the world does not exist” struck me as too cutesy, or disingenuous, to take seriously—in other words, as just the kind of counter-intuitive claim that a philosopher would stereotypically make to get us to supposedly “think.”

Of course the world doesn’t “exist” in the same way that things in the world exist—including things in our “inner worlds.” But then, neither does “consciousness” or the “mind” or any ground-reality exist in any way we can simply locate.

My question for Gabriel: If the world does not exist, then how is it that we can be approaching the brink of another “world war”? The world may not ex-ist, but it nonetheless IS, and we have to deal with it…

From what I can tell, in his attempt to chart a course beyond postmodern constructivism, he does not give enough weight to the role that language plays in framing the realities we experience. (Otherwise, he could not simply presuppose that there is a reality called “Vesuvius,” even granted multiple perspectives on Vesuvius.)

Sure, he’s been through the “linguistic turn” (referencing Heidegger multiple times, for example—though only summarily to dismiss him), but I wonder how deeply he’s absorbed the implications of Heidegger’s thinking on the relationship between “language” and “world.”

Of course, we’d have to read through his whole book to sort through these issues. I may give the rest of his book a more careful read myself, if the time opens up. But in sum, I just didn’t find his opening claims—that we need a “new realism,” that “the world does not exist”—to be sufficiently compelling to follow his arguments through.

Thanks, though, for rattling the cage and getting another conversation started!


I’ve just started a fine book Metanoia, a study on how consciousness is transformed by reading literature. The co- authors are Armen Avanesessian and Anke Hennig. What we really need, in my humble opinion, is a greater focus on the poetics of mind. The authors give lots of attention to my hero, Charles S. Peirce, and they can explain him much better than I can. Its a well written book and I am confident that we could do something with it, a contemporary account that would compliment Thompson’s brilliant cultural criticism which came out thirty years ago. Check it out.


Sounds interesting, but with a long lead-time to maybe get it here in Germany: Amazon only offers it on the US site; Bloomsbury (the publisher!) can’t ship to the Continent at the moment as a result of Brexit. I’m SO happy that all these high-level political and economic decisions have made life for us wee people so much better, aren’t you? :roll_eyes:


Heh, heh, heh … this was one of the points in Gabriel’s undertaking that I too had to take with a considerable grain of salt. He is a very skillful word smith on the one hand, but he sets limits for himself that he is then so reluctant to cross that he, well, doesn’t. His “definition” of reality logically ends (actually) somewhere near Russell: the set of things that constitute the “world” cannot include the “world” itself, ergo we can say that it doesn’t exist. Paradox remains the bug-a-boo of much current thinking. The fact remains, however, that all of us (even Gabriel) talk about “the world” all the time and we all seem to know what we’re kind of talking about. He would, like many contemporary thinkers (such as Hofstadter or even Langer), like to “overcome” (read “eliminate”) metaphysics, but that, it would seem, is simply much easier said than done. The upside of his argument – which, in book 3 of the trilogy, advocates treating thinking as a sense on par with the five generally accepted ones – is fundamentally that if we experience it, we need to treat it, at a minimum, as if it were real, but he doesn’t give enough credit, IMNSHO and in agreement with yours, to language. He walks a surprisingly long way with Heidegger, but not to the end. He has, I found, a kind of underlying anti-hermeneutical bias, though I’m not exactly sure why. Still, it was his willingness to accept what I’ll call, for lack of a better word at the moment, the “intangible” (i.e., thoughts) as just as real as tangibles (e.g., books or tables). This is something that, say, Hofstadter or Dennett, just cannot do, hence their underlying epiphenomenalism. Even Gabriel, I think, realizes what a dead-end that is, but he hasn’t yet found the courage perhaps to “jump over his own shadow”, as the Gemans say.

So, maybe it is “cutesy” or even a bit “gimmicky” … it never ceases to amaze me how marketing-like much of what passes as academic and scholarly work has become. It therefore doesn’t surprise me that other thinkers (whether we like/agree with them or not), like Kingsley or Campagna (who is developing an emanationist philosophy of the Mediterranean actually – his Technic and Magic is a step along the way, I guess) or, as it appears, Avanessian & Hennig’s Metanoia, and I suspect JF Martel’s promised “philosophy of magic” are coming into sharper focus, and all of which (except for maybe JF’s work which hasn’t been released yet) deal quite easily with paradox, in fact openly embracing it. I, for one, don’t want to be “sold” on an idea; I want to be invited to believe in the substantiality thereof, because it is, let us say, life-relvant, not just clever or even convincing.