Why Consciousness and Existence Both Proceed From One Another and Never Proceed From One Another: The conceptual versus the metaphysical distinction

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.

 

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12 thoughts on “Why Consciousness and Existence Both Proceed From One Another and Never Proceed From One Another: The conceptual versus the metaphysical distinction

  1. Ok, there is a thread over at SSB that is interesting. A guy comes on who sounds very anti woman but he keeps referring to our “spirits”. As in “you do not have a gentle spirit”, etc. Ok, aside from the patriarch which is being addressed by everyone else, I had to address the fact that he seems to think our spirits are separate from us while we are alive. In fact, one other commenter who disagrees with him on the woman issue seems to agree our spirits are seperate from the flesh..

    Have you noticed this sort of talk before? Concerning our spirits being separate from our “flesh”

    Here is another example from the thread but NOT from the anti woman guy:

    “The gospel is for the spirit, not the flesh. The flesh dies, the spirit is eternal. Spirit hath not flesh and blood. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

    This is ONE of the “spirit” comments from anti woman guy:

    “The reason why I am not interested in Egalitarian women, is frankly, they do not have very nice spirits.”

    The dualism is striking to me and how it permeates so much of Christianity.

    Perhaps we should define “spirit/flesh”. That is like defining conscious/body, right?

  2. Jason,

    I might ask you this: When did you realize you had been in the womb?

    The answer is: When you became conscious of it. And when is consciousness?

    Your consciousness is always NOW. YOU are always NOW. You are the center of all reality…unmovable, timeless, and unchanging. It is what it is because you ARE. Not were, and not will be…you always ARE. Period.

    There is thus a direct relationship between the realization of your “past” in the womb and your present consciousness. Present. Meaning NOW. And since EVERYTHING that you observe to exist, exists NOW, you cannot declare the “past” as evidence of material body preceding consciousness. You, being NOW, have no frame of reference, ever, and never will, for “past”, and therefore you must concede that the “past” is purely a concept, not an actuality. The “past” does not contain any evidence. All of the evidence is NOW, and NOW is where your consciousness is.

    Even that cute little baby picture of you with cake all over your face at your first birthday that you don’t remember is not an “image of the past”. It is an image that exists NOW. You look at it and you conceptualize a notion of the “past” when you were “younger” and “had no self awareness”, but all of this is done from the frame of reference of your consciousness in the moment of NOW. Your consciousness thus is the IS which allows anything to have any meaning or relevance at all, even the notion of “past existence”, which is, strictly speaking, a contradiction in terms. The only reason you can say you existed in the womb is because you can consciously acknowledge it NOW. Period. So again, which comes first, you in the womb or your consciousness? Everything is a singularity of the NOW. There is no such actual thing as “then”. So to argue that being in the womb “then” is the direct cause of your consciousness NOW is to elevate conceptual paradigms over reality.

    Not so easy, is it? LOL 🙂 ‘

    To attempt to argue, “I know I was then because I know I am now” is logical fallacy. If what you know you always know NOW, then NOW is the frame of reference for ALL knowledge. What you didn’t know then cannot thus be the source or the proof of what you NOW know: that you exist That makes awareness the direct product of mindlessness. Knowledge the direct product of ignorance. Impossible.

    So what is the difference between Jason in the womb or as a baby and Jason NOW? It is merely Jason NOW conceptualizing via his singularity of consciousness the relative movement of himself to some other object he observes or senses NOW: His baby picture; or his mother’s stories of her thirty-six hour labor.

    And finally, just because some other conscious agent, like your mother, observes HER relative relationship with other objects or agents, even YOU as a baby, in a specific conceptual way from the singular frame of reference of HER SELF, doesn’t mean that this agent can declare THAT relative relationship specifically conceptualized as the causal force for YOUR conscious frame of reference, which is equally singular, and IS, and IS always NOW.

    Like I said, reality is NOT a function of concepts, but by the conscious singularity of INDIVIDUAL selves. Our relationships with others is always relative. Your mom’s relationship with you as a baby is NOT the defining context for YOUR relationship with yourSELF as a baby. You have no context for that relationship except via your singular, absolute conscious frame of reference NOW.

    ACTUALITY, is far different from “conceptual reality”. And that’s precisely what I’m trying to explain. And as far as I know, no one has ever looked at existence this way, which is why it is so fucking hard to parse out and why I will expect comments and viewership to decline steadily as I roll along, the ticker tape clicking as I rack up more and more articles which deny the causal power of everything we think makes the universe go round. I hope people keep reading because even though this stuff with tax the every loving shit out of your brain and keep you up at night like it does me it is worth it. It is necessary. It is life affirming, period. It makes you ABSOLUTELY you. And only from there can anything, be it even God, have any efficacy or truth. And no longer will be be captive to the ideas and concepts of the relative existence of OTHERS; instead, we will be free to truly be US, without fear of moral offense for our existence, retribution for not committing suicide in the name of some outside “law” or “standard” or “idea” or “group”, which is always simply DEATH, because we will realize that when we concede that we ARE, we concede that our life IS, and therefore being Jason and Lydia and Oasis and Argo and John Immel and Paul Dohse and A Mom is GOOD, and that nothing and no one can take that away from us. And God will affirm us. Because is He that grants this reality of eternal life to those who fully believe that they already have it NOW. Belief in Jesus is belief in the moral perfection and everlasting IS of your SELF. There is no such thing as death to those who roundly deny it as a concept which is false…a lie, and it has NO power over us.

    This is not easy. This is stuff that no one has ever posited before. And it is a struggle. Believe me, I sympathize with my readers. But please, hang in there. I promise this is all going somewhere. Maybe not in this lifetime, but…:-)

  3. Lydia,

    Yes, this is simply another variation of the existence/consciousness false dichotomy. These are concepts, period. The actual IS of man is absolute. And therefore it cannot be separated into mutually exclusive “realms”. This is purely another parsing of man’s metaphysical absolute: SELF. And the division of the metaphysic of man is ALWAYS his destruction.

    And I know plenty of egalitarian women, my wife and daughters included, who are wonderful, wonderful people who have utterly priceless souls. So I don’t have a fucking clue what in the hell he is talking about with that statement you quoted. Sounds like he’s been “re-educated”.

  4. Yeah, the spirit/flesh dichotomy is taking a metaphor way too far, I think. And it is the same thinking as the conscious/body being seperate.

    “Because is He that grants this reality of eternal life to those who fully believe that they already have it NOW”

    I really had to rethink all of this over the past few years. We have to get the whole notion of heaven/clouds/harps/floating spirit bodies out of our heads. God’s creation is GOOD just as He decleared and it will be eventually “redeemed”. Eternal life is LIFE. Period. Real people in bodies that don’t decay on a redeemed earth. I don’t know what the details are like but no way is God going to burnup His created earth. He is going to redeem it as we are building for that kingdom now. What we are and do here will or will not transfer. So what we do now as the kingdom is important. Loving justice, valuing people, pointing out evil, inventing new things, curing cancer, being responsible, being thinkers, even Liberty.etc. It is all important. And worthy. Those who do evil to others devalue themselves as it is their choice. Not God’s.

    Dualism is what must die. It is insidious.

  5. “Was I conscious in the womb? I forget.”

    Think “senses”. You most likely recongized your mothers voice right after born. In the womb you can even suck your thumb. Some moms can pat the babys rump in the womb and get them to move.

    If you are born and ever held or nurtured you live it out later in destructive ways. Senses are very important to who we are.

    Senses means you were conscious. a bit of a different take than Argo but cos the memory thing is a problem.

  6. “Have you noticed this sort of talk before? Concerning our spirits being separate from our “flesh”…… The dualism is striking to me and how it permeates so much of Christianity.” Lydia

    Thanks for bringing this up. I didn’t see the convo you mentioned, but I find what you bring up fascinating. .. especially after reading Argo’s ideas for a while now (& pondering them & bouncing them off what I see, read, hear in life… example: Does the fire of reality burn the ideas to a crisp or does it solidify/prove the ideas?).

    The idea the physical body is precious/valuable is right. The idea that we live on, even after death, disfigurement, age, etc. is right. However, the eternal life idea goes too far when it is used to negate/downplay/dismiss the physical. People, including Christians, are horribly confused & are believing/buying the idea that physical body doesn’t matter. That is bad. And yes, it’s epidemic. I see it everywhere. It is ingrained by most pastors & needs to be undone. I need to watch this myself as well.

  7. Argo,

    Wow. I just read your July 9, 9:04PM comment. It needs to be a post, IMO. I think my life has just been changed forever. It is quite incredible. I will try to express why.

    Background: I have some pretty wonderful memories, due to individuals who loved or do love me. And when I remember them, I ache sometimes because I wish I could bring back those moments. But I can’t bring them back so the special memories hurt to remember in a way, because they are gone forever in the past. Memories of certain times with someone I love who has died. Memories of beauty, satisfaction, accomplishment.

    Not only does remembering the memory kind of ache, but I recognize these once in a lifetime moments the minute they occur & don’t want them to end. And it aches right then & there to know this.

    So, Argo, when you began talking about memories & their relation to now I immediately thought of pictures. I chuckled with delight as I read your explanation. I agree. Hmmm, yes, my memories are images & feelings that exist NOW. I consciously acknowledge them now.

    “If what you know you always know NOW, then NOW is the frame of reference for ALL knowledge. What you didn’t know then cannot thus be the source or the proof of what you NOW know: that you exist That makes awareness the direct product of mindlessness. Knowledge the direct product of ignorance. Impossible. ” Argo

    This is not popular thinking. And this is life-changing. This makes me happy, plain & simple. And go figure, it just so happens to be life-affirming.

    I think the way I remember has been changed forever. The sting is gone.

    I remembered with the sting of loss. I will remember with the joy of my memory existing now, with the joy of my memory being my individual experience.

  8. Argo, I have been running backwards away from & out of the dark alley of a systematic theology of death founded on fate, dualism, self-sacrifice & self-hate.

    You have a cohesive set of ideas which affirms life founded on individual, now, self-love. They do not contradict each other.

  9. A Mom,

    So excited that you not only seem to understand my ideas but that you are integrating them into how you see reality and the world. That’s amazing. And yes, you are right. My goal is to present a non-contradictory philosophy which revolves around a standard of truth (which then is ipso facto the standard of morality) that is inexorably and indisputably objective. There is only one such standard, and it’s not the Bible, it’s not government, it’s not even God. It is the individual SELF. That comment to Jason was an explanation of the importance of realizing that SELF is in fact the only unchanging, absolute; an infinite frame of reference for all individuals…by which they may rightly define ALL things efficaciously and reasonably, thereby constructing a reality that has not only unflinching and invincible reason as it’s bulwark, but is also utterly RELEVANT. That is, speaks TRUTH to the affirmation of the actuality LIFE, which is God’s first and greatest gift.

    When we see things this way, life becomes a playground, a blessing…meant to involve all manner of joy and benefit and reward and happiness and peace and comfort as the individual pursues the gift of LIFE, of SELF, without fear of death because we understand that death is a lie. There is no such thing as unconsciousness or destruction of that which is the apogee of all reality: the SELF which IS, and by which all things have reality…that you might even call, “existence”.

  10. “Argo, I have been running backwards away from & out of the dark alley of a systematic theology of death founded on fate, dualism, self-sacrifice & self-hate.”

    YES! And they teach this horrible wrathful God who demanded violence to his son to be appeased because humans did not obey Him.

    Instead of teaching a loving God who came to us here as one of us to show us how valuable and capable we are and go on to defeat evil’s hold over us on on the Cross and through Resurrection.

    That changes everything, too.

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