A Climb Up The Infinite Staircase: What you will see in this book

  • A comprehensive reply to a very simple question: “What is going on?”
  • A narrative of creation as miraculous as any religious text has ever presented
  • An unexpected bridge between metaphysics and ethics
  • A path to finding spiritual support within science as opposed to apart from it
  • A foundation for ethics independent of divine authority or sacred texts

The infinite staircase is a framework for summarizing our current understanding of life end to end—from the mindless matter of physics and chemistry to the matterless mind of analytics and theory.  It’s organized around a hierarchy of systems, a modern-day equivalent to the classical Great Chain of Being.  Here is the staircase in full:

Each stair in the framework represents a level of reality that emerges from the stairs below it and supports the emergence of the stairs above.  Thus, chemistry emerges from physics, for example, as does theory from analytics.  More controversially, however, does consciousness really emerge from desire?  Do values and culture really emerge before language?  Is narrative really a prerequisite for analytics?  These are all claims the framework makes, and you’ll have plenty of chances to decide for yourself how valid they might be.

The Bigger Questions

Describing reality, however, regardless of how well it is done, is only half the battle, and arguably not the most important half.  For the question that we must address every day is not, how did we come to be, but rather, how are we supposed to act?  This is the focus of the section on ethics.  The core of any ethical strategy is to align our behavior with the prevailing forces so that they can help us achieve our ends.  How are we humans supposed to align ourselves with a non-human universe?  In what forces can we have faith?  What authorizes us to call one act good and another act evil?  How do we do that without recourse to divine authority or sacred texts?  By the end of this section you will have coherent and plausible answers to these questions as well.

That said…

I do not claim that the answers I propose are right in any exclusive way.  They represent my best attempts to grapple with the same questions that occupied philosophers throughout the history of Western civilization—from Plato and Aristotle to Sartre and de Beauvoir.  The questions themselves do not seem to change.  Only the answers evolve.