Continuing with our discussion of existence and consciousness, this two-part article will examine the inability of one to proceed from the other, similar to what my previous posts have done but more concise…more precise, and hopefully more clear.
But this is an exceedingly difficult topic so it only gets so clear. Some might argue that brevity is the soul of wit, and that’s likely often true. But on occasion brevity is merely doing the subject a disservice, and this is one of those instances. If we do not get downright persnickety about it, nothing but confusion can arise. The problem with all philosophies as I observe them is that their premises are always premature. They never nitpick every nook and cranny of their assumptions like they should, and when it comes to philosophy, which is the only source of actual, rational, efficacious, and relevant TRUTH, nooks and crannies are really more like enormous, gaping, formless holes in logic which can, once discovered, be exploited by another idea to the point of utter destruction.
As an aside, Objectivism is a prime example. Ostensibly rational on every level, the problem is its rejection of “spirit”, and the fact that it never actually defines what that might mean conceptually with respect to observable reality. The notion of “spirit” is cast off as rank mysticism when in reality it need not be that at all. “Spirit” is merely a way man is able to qualify that which exists, like consciousness, but cannot be observed to function as a direct extension of some kind of “natural law” or “law of physics” or “cause and effect”. Thus, objectivists are left to rest their metaphysical assumptions upon the whimsical and hardly empirical grounds of scientific explanation for just how all which IS in the universe arrived at its existence. Since consciousness precedes all concepts, they are roundly fucked should anyone point out the fact that Rand never explained how consciousness can proceed from a law of nature. She may respond that they are corollaries (consciousness and existence), but the logical question then is, “Corollaries of what, exactly”? They are corollaries of MAN…and so the next question is, “Okay, and how did man, his SELF, become, so to speak, in order that his singular metaphysical IT can share the two corollaries?” And if they are ONE in man, then they are purely concepts. Which means that saying “the are corollaries” doesn’t actually answer any thing at all with respect to man’s…well, existence qua creation; or rather, how he is able to BE SELF, in a sea of other SELVES, absolutely and infinitely. And further, when arguing with the objectivist, all one has to do is introduce the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle or the wave/particle duality of light paradox and down off the wall Humpty Dumpty doth tumble.
At any rate, the notions of existence and consciousness are a perfect example of how philosophies the world over fail to arrive at rational and infinitely defensible assumptions which form the foundation for the rest of the worldview. We have man, and we have metaphysical singularity in man’s SELF; and yet we couch that singularity in two existential identities, again, that of consciousness and that of existence. But since man can only be SELF, which is always and forever metaphysically ONE, then arriving at such a definition of man as a function of two identities of reality is impossible. Man is what he is, period. Any qualification to THAT singular metaphysic makes man a contradiction of SELF…the IS of man being both IS and IS NOT himself at any given moment (see my previous article). E.g. “man’s SELF is a direct function of his existence and his consciousness” means that man is a direct function of two diametrically opposed ideas/laws/forces/etc…as opposed to man is HIMSELF, and how we qualify this SELF conceptually as “existing” or “conscious” or both depends on the context. For if the metaphysical nature of man is described as “he which consciously exists” then we are at a logical impasse. Because: as if there can be any such thing as unconsciously exists. Indeed, such an idea is absurd. That which is not conscious can make no claim to qualify its own state or that of any other thing in any manner, not the least of which as existing.
Now, at this point I would like to redefine the relationship I believe these two notions maintain, in the interest of avoiding any future confusion on the subject as more articles are forthcoming by me. John Immel has stated that the great philosopher Aristotle considered existence and consciousness to be corollaries, which we briefly discussed above, and truly, for all practical purposes, this is a fine way to look at them up to a point. But since I maintain that that which comprises all of material reality–that is, the material which IS, and from which all is derived is infinite–there really cannot be any actual distinction between them. That is, if one is conscious, one must exist. And if one exists, then one must be conscious. Not because thy are corollaries but because they are, in fact, one in the same. They are a singularity of reality, as I call it. A direct function of that thing by which all is given any relevance, even “existence”: the IS of man’s SELF.
Metaphysical existence and consciousness, or conceptual?
That which is said to exist can only be declared existent from a place of consciousness; and that which is conscious must, obviously, exist. Something has to be conscious before that thing can be declared to be a thing which exists, which means before it can be declared to be a thing at all. In other words, existence is always going to be conscious. That which is not conscious cannot declare that it exists…only that which is conscious can declare anything as actually existing, be it the SELF or whatever the conscious SELF observes. Thus, anything which is said to exist gets its existence directly from consciousness because existence is, strictly speaking, a concept, and not a state of reality. In other words, nothing gets to exist unless a conscious SELF consciously declares it existing. Existence is not the thing in this case, consciousness is.
But the converse is also true, because we are speaking metaphysically. Existence likewise and equally drives consciousness. If something is conscious, then some THING, must be conscious. Consciousness is not the thing. Existence is the thing in this case. So, conceptually speaking, depending on the context, existence can precede consciousness or consciousness can precede existence. Both proceed from the SELF, so the SELF is that which gets to define each in terms of the context…the frame of reference of the SELF and what the SELF is saying about reality in service to its own perpetuation and preservation. YOU are the reference point then for ALL of reality…all concepts have value only relative to YOU, because YOU are indeed the very center of the universe; all things exist only insofar as the exist TO YOU.
I understand that this is exceedingly difficult for people to wrap their heads around, but nevertheless there is no alternative reasonable argument. I have said this time and time again and I will continue to do so. You are a metaphysical singularity…infinite and absolute. Everything you know and believe is as a direct result of your conscious existence. You know nothing and can concede nothing without the absolute prerequisite of your conscious SELF to serve as a perpetual, unmoving, frame of reference. To pretend that you can make a claim to the existence of anything absent your consciousness then is a logical fallacy. You cannot use conceptual abstractions like past, present, future, or any other notion which man employs in order to cognitively organize his relative movement with the other objects and agents in his environment and then give those concepts causal power over your very consciousness. That’s the cart before the horse. Or, if you are in Sovereign Grace Ministries, putting the laity ahead of the pastor. Remember, as soon as we make man’s consciousness a direct function of some outside process, be it the “laws of nature” or even an external consciousness (e.g. mom and dad’s decision to have a child; God’s decision to create man) we have destroyed the reality of consciousness, period. The idea that consciousness can be “created’ by something NOT conscious “to the man” is the idea that consciousness proceeds from unconsciousness. That your consciousness is of something or someone NOT YOU is an impossible argument to make; that one existential state is a direct derivative of its mutually exclusive polar opposite. If your consciousness is a direct function of someone else’s consciousness then it is not your consciousness at all…you are not you.
However, the same is true for your existence, which in this case means the same thing, as we are speaking metaphysically. If your existence is a direct function of something else’s existence then it is not your existence…you are not you. Thus, when we speak of your consciousness, in the metaphysical sense, as proceeding from something else, like the existence and consciousness of your parents or of God for instance, then we are in fact discussing determinism. And once we are discussing determinism there is literally no reason to have the discussion at all. For if you are not really you and I am not really me then there is no “us” to have a discussion in the first place. We cannot discuss anything we may agree or disagree upon because there is no “us” to believe or think anything. WE don’t know anything because WE can’t know anything because WE do not exist. Period. Therefore, when we speak of man’s essence, man’s IS, the SELF, of his own existence/consciousness, we are speaking of that which is the direct cause of man: himself. His own infinite and absolute ability to be what he is.
Now, that was the metaphysical distinction of existence and consciousness qua man’s reality. Let us turn our attention, at least in part, to the conceptual relationship between these two ideas removed from the strict context of man’s material, singular SELF.
Man’s conscious SELF must precede the existence of anything he observes, because existence itself is a concept which describes things that ARE; and without consciousness it is by definition impossible for man to acknowledge things as BEING. If you are NOT, that is unconscious, then you cannot make a claim to the existence of what IS. Consciousness is a requirement for existence, then, as far as the conceptual relationship goes. And in this sense, they are not corollaries. Existence proceeds from consciousness. Conscious agents are the only ones able to make the qualification of existence. Metaphysically speaking we may argue that they are corollaries, but again, since metaphysical existence is singular, there is really no corollary relationship at all because thee is no distinction in man’s metaphysic between the two.
At the same time, however, one could argue just the opposite, since we are discussion concepts. Before one can consciously acknowledge the existence of anything, he, himself, must exist. He cannot be “consciousness”, because consciousness, like existence, is a concept and not the agent himself. He cannot be “consciousness”, but rather, he must be the one who is conscious: the thing which exists, and thus is conscious. So, in the conceptual sense, strangely and somewhat confusingly, both consciousness and existence can proceed from the other.
Thus, the only way to resolve the logical dilemma of “Which comes first, consciousness or existence?” is to examine these terms via a singular frame of reference, what I often refer to as the Standard of Truth and Morality: the IS (the LIFE) of the SELF. Man is neither consciousness nor existence, because these things are purely the cognitive means by which man conceptually organizes his environment for the purpose of perpetuating his life. Man then IS MAN, period. And man, being man, is both, metaphysically speaking, conscious and existent. Within the literal singularity of himself, there is no distinction. Consciousness and existence are one and the same. Metaphysically speaking, this is absolutely true. And it always comes back ’round to metaphysics, which is why I spend so much time talking about it.
So here is a quick breakdown of what I’m trying to say:
Conceptually: Consciousness must precede existence. Things cannot be qualified as “existing” unless done so by an agent who first possesses the conscious awareness of SELF and OTHER which is required to do so. And likewise, since concepts are not their own contextual reference, but require the reference point of a material agent in order to have any value or relevancy, because they are not actual, the converse can always likewise be true. That is, in this case, existence must precede consciousness, because unless there is something which is conscious–because the question “What is conscious?” must be answered if we are going to make a claim to consciousness–then we cannot claim consciousness as real.
Metaphysically: Consciousness and existence are a singularity of reality. They are the exact same thing because they proceed from the same source: man’s SELF, the standard of truth and morality and the reference for all meaning. “Man exists” is the exact same thing as saying “man is conscious”.
“Before you are conscious, you must exist; but before you can qualify yourself as actually existing, you must be conscious”.
This I believe is the typical understanding of how these two ideas relate, reiterated. Above, I am merely parsing out this statement into its two relevant identity categories, metaphysical and conceptual. For attempting to merge two entirely different ways of defining man into a single epigram or philosophical summation creates many problems with respect to the whole spectrum of philosophy; and I submit that the confusion of metaphysical (actual) reality with conceptual (cognitively organizational as a means of perpetuating life) reality has been at the root of every destructive idea since man first starting discussing such things.
Part two next.