Objectivism asserts a reality distinct from the observer…the observer being, of course, “he who observes”. Now, understand that when we speak of observation we necessarily imply cognition; and I prefer this term to “consciousness”, since “consciousness” has become rationally opaque and is used by objectivism and other philosophies as a synonym for what is fundamentally subjective. Also, “cognition” is less cumbersome, anyway. It merely means an observer conceptualizing the distinction between himself and what he observes. Which is the foundation of language, and therefore gets to the very heart and root of real truth.
But cognition is not simply a biological or physiological process…so we need to be careful here. It CAN BE a rational synonym for “consciousness”, I submit, because it implies a necessary awareness of the distinction between one’s Self, as the Observer (the frame of reference for knowledge), and that which is observed. In other words, cognition does not necessarily imply the neurological, but rather the active and efficacious and relevancy-giving conscious awareness of the neurological (so to speak…meaning, awareness that “neurological” is a thing in the first place…a truth which can be applied to a purpose specifically and necessarily determined by the observer).
So objectivism assert this distinction between “objective reality” and the observer…by which it means a distinction between “objective reality” and cognition. Now, this distinction is alone enough to discredit objectivism as any kind of rational school of thought, since absent the observer’s ability to define this reality from his own existential frame of reference via cognition, he cannot claim that it exists at all…as objectively real or otherwise. In which case you cannot make any philosophical claims about it whatsoever. I mean, if “objective reality” is objectively real, and the observer’s position in it is not mutually exclusive of it, then the observer must also be objectively real. Which means that the tool by which he interprets and defines it, that is, his cognition–his own conscious and singular frame of reference–must also be objectively real. So…how can one’s consciousness/cognition be divorced from objective reality?
So…there is no “objective reality” outside of consciousness. Which means that once you are no longer existentially conscious (alive), then you have no frame of reference for objective reality, which means it has no relevancy to you, which means it has no truth to you, where “you” is an absolute context, which means that it cannot be said to exist. It cannot be said to be anything. Which means that beyond your consciousness you cannot claim a reality which continues, outside of you.
As soon as you attempt to divorce consciousness/cognition from objective reality, you’re done. You’ve created a contradiction which collapses the whole philosophy.
Nevertheless, let’s continue, because there is another problem–albeit closely related–with objectivism which bears explication.
There can be no distinction between reality and the observer because the observer has no frame of reference for such a reality; and this because he has no frame of reference for for anything outside of that by which he knows (and therefore can claim) anything–his absolute SELF. And himSELF, is “he who observes”.
Because he cannot step outside of his own observation, he cannot claim that there is anything outside of that observation. Whatever is outside of his powers of observation cannot be defined, and therefore he cannot claim that they exist outside of himself. For “himself” and his observation are entirely corollary. There is no reality outside himself because it is only by himself, and absolutely so, as the observer that he can make any truth claim, of which “reality” is perhaps preeminent. It is like claiming that I know what it’s like to be a cup of coffee…that is, because I can “be” a cup of coffee outside of myself, I can claim that “here is coffee”, and “there is me”, from TWO completely distinct frames of reference. But this is impossible since my SELF as the observer is utterly singular. The cup of coffee “outside” of me only exists as such because I OBSERVE it and define it and give it truth as a function of ME–my absolute frame of reference as the (conscious/cognitive) observer. Without me, there is no frame of reference for that cup of coffee; in which case, I have no definition for coffee that is “real”, “outside of me”. That is, since I am not a cup of coffee, I can only ever define a cup of coffee as it pertains, absolutely and categorically, to me from my absolute frame of reference as the observer. The distinction, then, between “me” and “cup of coffee”, is entirely a function of MY singular ability to conceptualize the distinction. Without that ability, that is, without me, as utterly and absolutely myself, consciously/cognitively, there is no distinction. And therefore, there is no “reality’ outside of me. A cup of coffee entirely and “objectively” outside of me–outside of my SELF–is entirely and infinitely irrelevant. And one cannot claim the existence of that which is infinitely irrelevant. And in this way, apprehending a “reality” for me–that is, a reality that I can observe and thus claim from the place of me, yet not from me, but outside of me–is a violation of both my identity and the identity of “reality”. To claim a reality outside of me that I can somehow observe and know and yet exists entirely and absolutely and completely independent of me is not to affirm reality, but to destroy it. It is to dismantle cognition as the means of ascertaining truth, because it is to say that human cognition has nothing fundamentally to do with reality. But since cognition is, in fact, the means, and only means, by which man can know anything, to dismantle it is to subordinate humanity to an entirely unknowable “reality”. And if that isn’t a recipe for tyranny, then I don’t know what is. And this is precisely why in the 60 years or so since Objectivism became the chef d’oeuvre of “rationalists” despotism has done nothing but advance…and mightily so.
While Objectivists speak of absolute distinction between the observer and reality, they also claim that Objectivism fully and absolutely integrates the observer, via the metaphysical primary of Existence, into that reality. This is a problem. How can you step outside of that which is, at root, you–existence–in order to observe you? That is, if you are are fully and absolutely a function of the absolute and infinite metaphysical primary, how can you make the distinction between “you” and “reality” by appealing to an absolute which is both?
In order to answer this contradiction, some objectivists, or respecters of Objectivism, will assert the concept of “emergent properties”. And this is the idea that something in whole becomes greater in some sense than the sum of its parts. This, in fact, cannot be literally true. That is, it is only ever subjectively true, never objectively so. Abstractly…subjectively, yes. A thing can have more value than its mere material properties would suggest; but notice that this requires a conscious observer to apply that thing to his particular frame of reference of Self. In terms of objective truth, it is impossible to claim that a thing is anything more than that of which it is comprised at root. That is, there is no such thing as some “property” “emerging” beyond the absolute irreducible ontic essence of something. Like, if we claim that all things, including human beings, are at root a function of immutable physical laws, or absolute fundamental particles interacting according to these absolutely immutable physical laws (which is a contradiction…but that’s a topic for later), and that this has nothing whatsoever to do with consciousness/cognition–that is, has nothing to do with the fact that man apprehends and defines ALL of what he perceives as real via his awareness of Self (his ability to conceptualize relative distinctions between his Self, and what is NOT Self)–then we cannot claim that consciousness is somehow an “emergent property” and therefore doesn’t contradict the absolute and irreducible source of man and all things, which is utterly and absolutely unconscious. This is a fallacy, and cannot be taken seriously.
The idea of “emergent properties”, in other words, is the irrational assertion that you get consciousness from what is absolutely unconscious; that you get free will from irrelevant determinism (biological, physical, natural, mathematical); that you get Self–in the sense of a singular “You”, from NOT You; an observational and existential frame of reference of “I” from NOT I; that what is infinite, Existence–which according to Objectivism is the irreducible, infinite metaphysical primary–spawns a plurality of finite objects; that an infinite existence somehow produces a plurality of itself without contradicting itself.
And it is from this claim–that existence as the metaphysical primary somehow spawns a plurality of itself…where things can actually exist utterly distinct from one another and allow for the observer to perceive a “reality” outside himself (outside his cognition)–that we get the common obectivist refrain of “existence exists”.
But “existence exists” is simply saying that existence has existence, which is a tautological assertion, and therefore a logical failure. You see, the rational metaphysical argument is not that the primary simply implies itself, but that it implies someONE–some observer; some reference–who is able to claim that it is, in fact, the metaphysical primary in the first place; that it is, in fact, TRUE. That it holds REAL relevance; REAL efficacy. That it implies something in a practical sense beyond itself, which can see it, and know it, but doesn’t contradict it as the absolute and irreducible primary. Objectivism fails at this, and therefore ultimately fails entirely…as does any other philosophy which fails to meet the requirement for a rationally consistent metaphysical primary.
Now, having said that, reconciling this inherent metaphysical paradox is really hard. So hard, in fact, that I’m not sure of any primary outside of my own (Ability) which successfully does this. Here’s why it’s so challenging:
Let’s look at “existence exists” again. What is absolutely itself, and irreducibly, or infinitely so, cannot possess properties of itself, because those “properties” are necessarily also infinite. And as such they are undefinable…other than to say that the properties of existence are existence itself, which as I have explained is a logical failure.
Further, saying that existence exists is merely saying that existence is itself, which is a meaningless claim unless “itself” can be defined. But if “itself” is infinite then it cannot be valued…for if there is no limitation to itself, then it cannot be anywhere, and thus it cannot be anything. Another way to put it is: that which is everything and everywhere cannot be anything or anywhere. That which is all is itself nothing.
But the rational metaphysical primary must certainly be absolute, and thus infinite, which according to my explication above is a contradiction that seems beyond resolution, making any metaphysical primary impossible. Now, I submit that this is not actually the case–that it is a true paradox, and not a contradiction, and therefore has a resolution. But the question here is: Does “existence” as a primary resolve it?
The answer is no. Because “existence” doesn’t imply anything beyond itself, and this is proven by the epigram which oft accompanies it: “existence exists”. This simply means that existence implies existence. It begins and ends with itself. The “plurality” of itself, from which the observer ostensibly arises, ironically doesn’t actually exist! The observer cannot be made rationally distinct from “existence” if “existence” is the metaphysical primary…a distinction which is utterly necessary if he is to actually observe anything. You see, it’s not about whether or not the observer exits, but whether or not the observer is able to define existence. That is, it’s not about whether or not the observer IS at root the metaphysical primary, but whether the primary actually implies–demands/necessitates–that there BE an observer…that he occupy a place from which he can SEE it, as distinct from himself, and know it, and define it, and therefore make it relevant; make it actually the TRUE metaphysical primary.
But, again, “existence” doesn’t imply anything beyond itself, and therefore the observer cannot actually observe it (nor anything else, since all “things” are equally infinite “existence), and so he cannot define it. Therefore, as soon as an objectivist makes any truth claim, let alone the claim that “existence” is the metaphysical primary, they have dismantled the primary and thus their entire philosophy. There is nothing outside of existence, not even the objectivist. Because all things have equal absolute existence, there is no such thing as “all things”. There is just infinite existence, which is, in fact, nothing at all. Because: that which is all, is actually nothing.
In summary, there is a dreadfully complicated paradox here that for all of its beauty and Rand’s inarguable genius Objectivism doesn’t answer. Because to answer it is to reject its metaphysical primary, which is a rejection of itself. The only root objective thing at all anywhere is the metaphysical primary; and Objectivism’s primary, existence, spawns nothing but subjectivism by affirming and necessitating that the observer/reality paradox is infinitely paradoxical. And this is how a paradox becomes a contradiction. Because a paradox which can have no resolution is no longer a paradox, it is an impossibility…a contradiction in terms. And contradiction is the mother of subjectivity. Because contradiction as infinite foundational “truth” spawns infinite truths. Which is simply infinite contradiction.
All of this makes Objectivism considerably ironic. An “objective” metaphysic which demands utterly subjective epistemology, purpose, ethics, and politics is hardly objective, let alone a rational basis for the argumentation of objective reality.
1 thought on “How Exactly Does Existence Imply a Plurality of Itself?: More Problems with Objectivism”
Who ever is writing the above, see that there is no writer.
Ask this: What’s the next thought? What’s the next thought? There is no response. The mind is quiet. Quiet because you are not the thinker. The mind is in the painting. How could it ever ID the painter?
What you are is existence, prior to anything. And existence aint’ an object because objects, like any idea, come and go. And human is an idea.
A sage witnesses everything as a happening rather then a doing. Because who would do anything stupid? R. Belsakar.