Experience

I experience, therefore I am.

There is nothing more to say … other than you were wrong, Monsieur Descartes.

No direct access to anything, inside or out

Following partially Berkeley’s conclusion, Hume also concluded that we have no access to the thing-in-itself. It is always indirect knowledge. It is always the representation. Schopenhauer concluded that we have access to one special thing – the self. It being so, this being the will, as opposed to representation. But I will contend that the will is also secondhand access.

Like the things “outside” we can know it only through sense perception. The self “inside” is also known only through sense and perception. The feelings and emotions are only ever representations themselves.

Two things, then. There is no direct access to anything, including to the self. And secondly, there is strictly nothing to be inside or outside.

On Anaxagoras

All things were together; then came Mind and set them in order.
(Anaxagoras, 500~428BCE)

1.
While Anaxagoras is considered the first Western philosopher to place mind above matter, this quote should also be noted that it suggests that matter came first before mind.

I wholly agree that matter comes first. I also agree that there is no “order” to matter but only that it exists. It is the mind (with a little ‘m’) that organises, categorises matter into any order. In other words, order, organisation and categorisation are processes of a mind.

The question of whether mind exists without matter is the primary concern of philosophers, East and West, now and then. Doubt it will be ever resolved. One can only hold positions by reasoning. Given Evidence A I draw Conclusion B. It is all too easy to reject A and not reach B. It is harder to give reason to reject A, for which this should be the task of philosophers.

2.
I am puzzled at the purpose of matter if mind is sufficient without matter. Perhaps this is a strange way to put it.

I have seen evidence of matter surviving mind, but not mind surviving matter. The argument against this is to shut down sensation and perception, ignore the sensory evidence, belittle perception. I have also talked about The Coma as again evidence for a case against mind over matter. Again, a mind without a reality has nothing to function upon. That is enough evidence against prioritising mind over matter. We would be far happier if we are to accept matter over mind as a starting point, scientifically, philosophically and spiritually.

Stop the modern loop with postmodernism

Year after year I end up defending postmodernism first from hostility and second from misunderstanding. It isn’t really my job, nor am I the most qualified (far from it) to be doing this. But I agree with a lot with what postmodernism has to offer.

Last year, I had to defend against truth. Truth it was claimed to be out there, pure and obvious. Universal Grammar, modules and Language Acquisition Devices are like this kind of truth. That there is a brain, and that many creatures have it, I will not argue with. I will even agree with there being part of the brain that is especially good at language. But that anything outside of that – for example, language – is universal would mean that we should have the same concepts and forms for these. The fact is we don’t.

Language is a general and ordinary physical process in the same manner as vision is a process of the body. To see does not require exact identical machinery. Just as bees have differently structured eyes, spiders with their array, or rainbow mantises with their colour range, we human beings have a system that is unique to us. It solves a common problem to all sentient things – that of knowing how to relate to things in space.

Returning to postmodernism, it attempts to describe the nature of the world, including our own nature as a human being thing. It describes how we operate, as though we are in conflict with one another. In a way we are. Survival of the fittest, perhaps. But by not fearing we may have another way (not a better way) of surviving. Postmodernism is saying that rather than sounding like broken record forever looping we should fix the scratch and get on with the rest of the song. In other words, postmodernism is a way to move forward from centuries of repetition.

But this repetition isn’t accidental. It was a consciously (or at best subconsciously) perpetuated one. The strategy is one called by Lyotard a metanarrative or grandnarrative. In order to maintain a perceived advantageous position one uses a narrative which eliminates all objection. Not only this but also does so without drawing attention to the fact that is doing so. Broadly speaking, we can term this kind of strategy modernism.

Modernism hasn’t disappeared. Postmodernism wasn’t meant to replace it. It was never its intention to do so. Postmodernism owes much to modernism. It is indebted to it, and for this reason postmodernism includes modernism in its term. For without pointing out the strategy and tactics employed by modernism, postmodernism would not be necessary.

Postmodernism happily operates within a system of difference, while modernism operates a system for hiding differences. Postmodernism is like the YouTuber telling you how tricks are done. Modernism is like the magician keeping up the illusion of no illusion. But just to be sure, both are making money from you.

The world is the totality of facts, not of things?

1 The world is everything that is the case.
1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by these being all the facts.
1.12 For the totality of facts determines both what is the case, and also all that is not the case.
1.13 The facts in logical space are the world.
1.2 The world divides into facts.
1.21 Any one can either be the case or not be the case, and everything else remain the same.

2 What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts.
2.01 An atomic fact is a combination of objects (entities, things).

(Wittgenstein, 1921)

The are the first nine propositions of Wittgenstein’s monumental work Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The first seven propositions deal with the stance, namely that of idealism. “The world is the totality of facts, not of things,” states Wittgenstein. Following Berkeley things only exist insofar as they are perceived. Minimally, things are secondary to the mind.

Suppose there are two facts about one thing. Then, there must be more facts than things. Suppose now another person held those two facts as well but held a third fact about the thing. Exactly where do the number of facts end?

To me, Wittgenstein got it wrong from the very beginning of his first attempt at the philosophical enterprise. He knew this too and changed tact with his second attempt found in Philosophical Investigations, a work which, in my opinion, was more successful and more correct.

The problem, to me, is with language, or rather with the relationship of language with concepts and things.

 

Know thy place

What is there to represent (phenomena) without the senses and the sensing of the world (noumena)? A non-sensing being would have nothing to think about (no phenomena) without the objects of the physical world. In other words, thought is always, firstly, about things, real things, and then, and only then, is it about abstract (mental) things. A life born of simply a brain without sensory input but nourished by a circulatory system responds to nothing, has no thoughts. Can it be called “alive” in the conventional sense?

A person fallen into a coma may have thoughts, “mental objects” if you will, and may struggle to return to the world of consciousness and awareness. Such is the will to live. But a sense-less being would not even have the will to return, or awareness that there is a place to return to.

Sleep, time, reality

“Those who step into the same river have different waters flowing ever upon them.” (Heraclitus, in Freeman, 25)

Heraclitus observing the world accepted change as the its fundamental nature. Often Heraclitus is paraphrased as everything is in flux. Time is seemingly a fundamental part of observed material reality. It can be observed to pass at a constant rate. This, of course, is all  but sense observation. But nonetheless, we function on, coordinate, avoid accidents, play games of tennis with our shared understanding of time. And we have no other choice but observe time with the senses.

Think of coma patients. For day, months, perhaps even years they are in a locked-in state of non-awareness of the “outside” sensed world. The shock comes when they come out of their comatose state feeling something only like a single night’s sleep. For them, time had stood still.

Our daily slumber also feels like this. The time between closing your eyes to sleep and waking up is but an instant in your mind.

This, to me, is sufficient evidence of the nature of time and its relationship to reality. Every night is a miniature coma.