In a recent appearance, Iain Hamilton Grant deals with the paradox of the third astronaut with respect to the origin of the universe. In his discussion, he mentioned the problematic of modelling the origin of the cosmos from the most advanced deep image of the earliest universe known to humankind, using the most powerful telescope scouring through the vast expanse of the universe – a void by any definition. The third astronaut is used as a metaphor for an effect of de-distancing. In effect, this narrows the epistemological gap between knowledge of the universal and the specific frame out of which knowledge stakes a claim (regarding the universal).
Here I would like to situate the third astronaut within the context of Plato’s notion of non-equivalency in which any notion of unity is simply an ‘addition’ to what is out there. There is no equivalency in the sense of an ontological relationship.
The non-equivalency or non-sufficient relation, say, between the universal and particular is premised on a medium, or a context specific frame from which the universal is projected. In this sense, the particular lacks sufficiency which explains why it is always in need of (universal) foundation. This necessity in fact is not new to philosophy, at least, since Plato. Recall his argument for the necessity of the third being in Timaeus in addition to the two more familiar forms of being, namely, being (of being) and (being of) becoming. Plato describes this third kind as ‘chora’ – neither being nor becoming.
Plato describes the chora as the third kind or the third being. The third, which is the subject, cannot occupy an external, unbiased position with respect to interpreting the birth and origin of the cosmos. In relation to Grant’s paradox of the third astronaut, this means that the third being is in a space that claims to occupy a position extrinsic to it. Thus, any interpretation that the third being can come out with regarding what is ‘there’ in space cannot exceed its non-equivalency to ‘what is’.
The chora is the outcome of the failure of being and becoming to account for the origin of the cosmos. Concomitantly, through the argument of the third astronaut Grants situates a non-sufficient human standpoint, vis-à-vis NASA’s deep image of space in its earliest formation after the Big Bang.
The third astronaut establishes its position as transcendent to the first and second astronaut which reflects the same principle that subtends between being and becoming. Arguably, the third astronaut approximates Plato’s concept of the chora. Chora is neither thing nor concept, but rather an errant cause; in Plato’s other description, a “wanderer.” Grant emphasized that though technically the third Astronaut is an unmanned telescope floating in space, its capability to send back a photo-image of the earliest universe reveals the human behind the camera. Overall, this translates Grant’s third astronaut to the position of a crypto-humanist.