After a six month hiatus, I'm back. I was looking through stuff I've wrote in the past and found one that I think will be appropriate for this blog. I wrote the following as a response to a confused young person on a You-Tube video page.
This is a brief response to an objection to the Axioms of Objectivism as valid metaphysical starting points to all cognition. This piece is directed to a message text poster identifying themselves as “willthiswork” who commented on a Youtube video submitted by a user who identifies themselves as “bitbutter”. This missive is intended to partially address fallacious ideas confusing existence, identity, causality and time. It is beyond the scope of my purpose to compose a comprehensive rebuttal to willthiswork's confusion. Such correction has been elegantly written by the Objectivist Philosophers and is easily available via local libraries or online. An interested person may learn more by reading “Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand” by Lenord Peikoff.
willthiswork's objection is "If something must 'be' in order for existence to manifest itself, why can't that something be eternal? If it can, then why is existence more fundamental?"
This conditional question does not have the necessary form that would make it subject to a material conditional truth table. Willthiswork’s gambit fails. However, the antecedent-like conditional if clause betrays the questioner’s false presumptions. By conceptually loading the conditional if clause with a denial of the fact of existence, the questioner attempts to slip a stolen concept past reason. The first of two false presuppositions entailed in the antecedent is a metaphysical reverse packaging entailing that existence is a separate metaphysical precondition necessary for instantiation. This is false. The principle of instantiation states that if a thing has a property, then that thing necessarily exists. To have a property is to have a specific identity. The Objectivist Axiom of Identity is expressed by the Law of Identity, A=A. Identity and Existence are inexorably bound together. The brute fact that things are what they are arises from material existence. Existence is the set of all things that are instantiated. The very idea of a thing explicitly refers to absolute existence. Can a thing exist without existence? No, of course not, for it is intuitively obvious that the external world actually exists.
“For the statement "existence exists" refers to all that exists,” related Anton Thorn in his essay “God and Pure Self-Reference”. Thorn continued thusly: “i.e., to all entities, to all objects, to all attributes, to all qualities, which exist. In short, "existence exists" declares explicitly that reality exists, for 'reality' according to Objectivism is the realm of existence. The concept 'existence' is the widest of all concepts in that it is all-encompassing. The statement "existence exists" does not refer to its own referring; instead, its reference is all that exists. The concept 'existence' has reference beyond itself. To hold that the axiom "existence exists" commits the fallacy of pure self-reference constitutes a fundamental breach of cognition. For such a claim would amount to the claim that all of reality (to which the statement "existence exists" refers) is merely a reference having no reference to reality. But reality (i.e., the realm of existence) is the object of reference for the Objectivist. This ultimately reduces to an attack against man's cognition, for it essentially constitutes the claim that one cannot refer to reality by use of concepts. Such a position would contradict the very purpose of concepts, and therefore commit, in grand scale, the fallacy of the stolen concept.” - http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1019/LTYA/LTYA06.htm Ayn Rand wrote: “Existence and identity are not attributes of existents, they are the existents .... The units of the concepts “existence” and “identity” are every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist.” - “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” p.74
Asserting a distinction between existents, (i.e.: things) and existence is a method commonly employed by those who wish to have their metaphysical cake and eat it too. There is no escape from the primacy of existence because the Law of Identity, A=A, mandates that an existent have a specific nature. To exist is to have an identity, and to have identity is to exist with specific nature. But the mystic wishes to have both a ruling consciousness capable of modifying existence and fixed certain reality; this is impossible. Existence is not directly amenable to any form of modification or manipulation by any form of consciousness. Ayn Rand, via her character John Galt wrote: “The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it, too. The law of causality does not permit you to eat your cake before you have it . . . . The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature.” - Galt’s Speech, “For the New Intellectual”, 152.
Willthiswork’s second false presumption is implicit in the phrase “…to manifest itself…”. Manifest is defined as “readily perceived by the eye or the understanding” (Dictionary.com). This overtly implies an assessing consciousness with sensory apparatus and reasoning ability. The question at issue is whether the Primacy of Existence holds true and existence has therefore always existed, or whether the Primacy of Consciousness is true and existence is therefore contingent to consciousness. In this context to assert that existence is manifest, is question begging and circular reasoning because the assertion assumes its unstated conclusion as its own premise. Additionally, to characterize existence as “itself” is to anthropomorphize reality and to imagine a personality intrinsic to reality. Simply fantasizing a primal consciousness controlling reality does not make it so because the Law of Identity is an inescapable fact. Ayn Rand via John Galt wrote: “Consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists. ... If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness.” Galt's speech - “For the New Intellectual”, 124.
Ayn Rand's great insight was that existence, reality, the Universe is ultimate. There is no reality beyond reality, no existence higher than or outside of existence. She informed her readers that: “To grasp the axiom that existence exists, means to grasp the fact that nature, i.e., the universe as a whole, cannot be created or annihilated, that it cannot come into or go out of existence. Whether its basic constituent elements are atoms, or subatomic particles, or some yet undiscovered forms of energy, it is not ruled by a consciousness or by will or by chance, but by the law of identity. All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved.” Ayn Rand in “The Metaphysical and the Man-Made,” from “Philosophy: Who Needs It”
These fallacies together constitute a further fallacy, the stolen concept. First identified by Ayn Rand, a concept is 'stolen' when one asserts a concept while denying or ignoring its epistemological or genetic roots. In this case the denial is of the genetic roots of the fact of existence while stealing the idea of existence to conceptually vivify a self-referring notion of a primordial consciousness associated with the use of the world ‘eternal’ in the consequent like why question. The mystic will attempt to posit either causality, consciousness, or in this case time as if they were not dependent on existence – as if they could ‘exist’ prior to or outside of - and therefore without - existence. But since the antecedent-like conditional if clause is not even false but rather fallacious, then the consequent like why question is non-sequitur and can be validly ignored. I will, however, address the questions, “why can't that something be eternal?” and “why is existence more fundamental?”. There is a reason why any hypothetical ruling consciousness cannot be eternal or extra temporal and outside of time. That is because there is no outside of time or extra temporal anymore than there is any existence outside of existence.
The theological concept “eternal” refers to timelessness rather than unending duration. Timelessness explicitly excludes the notions of duration or knowing temporal indexicals. Lack of duration is lack of existence, for to exist is to be in time. This is a brute fact of reality. A timeless consciousness could not know temporal indexical facts. By definition, the fantasy god of classical theism is said to be all knowing or omniscient. Omniscience is defined as knowing all knowable facts. Anything a human being knows is logically knowable to an omniscient being. A human being knows they are doing something now, before, or after in time. This is a temporal indexical fact. But an omniscient, timeless being cannot know anything in time or any temporal indexical fact. This is a contradiction. That which is self contradictory cannot exist. Therefore, an eternal, timeless, omniscient consciousness cannot objectively exist.
The reason why existence is fundamental is because existence is all that exists and only that which exists. Thus existence exists is a self apparent and axiomatic obvious truth. The Primacy of Existence cannot be defeated or evaded by invoking mystical fantasies because existence exists absolutely, has always existed, always will exist, and is all that exists. The interested reader may wish to examine this further. If so, please consider “The Argument From Existence” by Anton Thorn found at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1019/AFE.html and “The Axioms and The Primacy of Existence” by Dawson Bethrick found at http://www.geocities.com/katholon/AxiomsPOE.htm .