Thursday, September 12, 2013

A reply to Mr B.C. Hodge.

Mr Hodge's blog is at Hello B.C. Hodge. You could have saved yourself a great deal of effort by simply reading the Objectivist authors. I've a comment regarding what seems to me your main point that the Primacy of Existence can't be proven. Well yes. This is true as proving a proposition means to demonstrate and show that which is in question either reduces to evidently ascertainable facts or not. In order to have valid proof, premises must be known independently of a conclusion. This is obvious and is explicitly acknowledged by Objectivism as is that both consciousness and existence are not in the category of provable conclusions but are self-evident. My response to any counter assertion that a mind independently existing external reality is not self-evident is to remark upon Immanuael Kant's Refutation of Idealism in his Critique of Pure Reason. I learned this a few years ago after reading Matthew McCormick's essay “Why God Cannot Think: Kant Omnipresence and Consciousness.” that is published in Michael Martin's anthology "The Impossibility of God." For a mind to realize in the first person sense expressed by Descartes in his famed Cogito,'I think; therefore, I am.' the mind must be able to distinguish itself as subject from objects other than self. Consciousness presupposes the ability to distinguish self from non-self and that if a mind is aware of itself as subject, then there must actually be objects in an external world that are not that being. This means that self-awareness as a mind can only be possible because of the existence of mind independent external objects, and that any being with a mind must be able to distinguish its automatic perceptions as differing from that which is perceived and understand that as subject it must correctly identify objects of perception because it may be the case that it can misidentify. Immanuel Kant, despite his erroneous representationalism, correctly refuted Descates' and Berkly's view that self-awareness was possible prior to knowing of external reality or even without external reality in his “Refutation of Material Idealism.” He said: “The consciousness of my own existence is simultaneously a direct consciousness of the existence of other things outside of me.” Explaining the relation between self-awareness and object awareness, Kant noted: “The 'I think' must be capable of accompanying all my presentations. For otherwise something would be presented to me that could not be thought of at all-which is equivalent to saying that the presentation either would be impossible, or would be nothing to me.” {Kant cited from Matthew McCormick's worthy essay “Why God Cannot Think: Kant Omnipresence and Consciousness.”  } Kant's observation that Descartes' Cogito, if it is to be self-aware, must necessarily be an awareness of itself as a thing among other things in an objective world was the closure of Idealism. A being can only recognize the difference between its perceptions and the objects it perceives if and only if that being is also capable being self-aware. Object vs. perception-of-object discrimination can't obtain without self vs. other or subject vs. object discrimination because they are complimentary aspects of the same faculty. Ayn Rand noted both are self-evident and are inescapable. “Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being 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. Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two—existence and consciousness—are axioms you cannot escape, these two are the irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part of your knowledge and in its sum, from the first ray of light you perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it. To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of nonexistence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.” Galt's Speech from “For the New Intellectual” ~ This is sufficient to refute Hodge's claim that the evidences of the senses aren't sufficient to allow one to know there is a mind independent external world. However, there are other reasons why Hodges question begging charge is irrelevant. David Kelly in “The Evidence of the Senses” anticipated and defeated any such charge. Kelly wrote: “'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.' This fourth point is a derivative one, but it has an important implication: if realism is true, there is no way to prove realism, to prove that the objects of awareness exist independently of consciousness. A proof requires the use of premises known independently of the conclusion. A proof of the primacy of existence could not begin by premising facts external to consciousness, since that would beg the question. But it could not begin by premising facts about consciousness itself, since the very thesis implies that such facts cannot be known before we have knowledge of the external world. To attempt the latter sort of proof, as some realists have, is implicitly to endorse a Cartesian view that undercut? their case. The primacy of existence is therefore not a conclusion at all. It must serve as an axiomatic foundation for any inquiry into the nature and functioning of our cognitive capacities . This does not mean, however, that the thesis is an arbitrary postulate or an act of faith. The point is rather that it is self-evident, and its self-evidence can at least be exhibited. I will try to do so in three different ways. First everything I have said about the primacy of existence could also be said about Descartes' cogito. It would be impossible for me to prove that I am conscious, since that fact is implicit in the grasp of any premise that might be used to establish it, as it is implicit in any knowledge. Yet reflection on the cogito reveals that the truth of the proposition "I am conscious" is implicit in all knowledge. In the same way, the primacy of existence cannot be established by argument because it is implicit in any instance of awareness, but that fact can be revealed by reflection on the thesis....” [RB] Interesting that mystics like Hodge never claim it's an exercise in question begging to assume the Cogito is valid. Kelly continued: “Second, because the truth of the cogito is thus inescapable, It cannot coherently be denied, the denial being itself an act of consciousness. Similarly, it can be shown that any attempt to deny the primacy of existence implicitly affirms it. Third, a certain assumption concerning knowledge has traditionally stood in the way of the primacy of existence, by making representationalism and idealism seem the only alternatives to an unacceptably naive form of realism. It is important to examine this assumption and to show why it should be rejected. Consider once again Descartes' cogito. I know that I am conscious. The fact is self-evident to me; I could not possibly be wrong in believing it, since even a false belief presupposes that I am conscious. But it is equally self-evident that to be conscious is to be conscious of something. Awareness is inherently relational. Whenever we see, hear, discover, discriminate, prove, grasp, or know, there is some object of the cognitive state. Even the faintest sensation is a sensation of something-a patch of color, a wisp of sound. If we take away all such content, we have taken away consciousness. Since Kant at least, this point has been a phenomenological truism. But the point has normally been expressed in such a way as to make the content a feature of the awareness of it. In his famous statement of the thesis of intentionality, for example, Franz Brentano says that "every mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself," explicitly distinguishing the intentional existence of an object for consciousness and its real or actual existence. It is precisely this contrast that realism denies-as inconsistent with the first-person, phenomenological experience of awareness and as unsupported by any secondary arguments. The object of awareness is the object as it actually exists. A typewriter sits on the desk before me. I see it against the background of desk top and papers, I feel the keys and hear the whirring sound it makes. Do these things exist in my consciousness? Certainly not, not in any way that is available to me from my standpoint as the subject of my perceptual awareness. When I reflect on my awareness of those objects, I am aware of it as something completely uncreative, merely a revelation of what is there. The desk, the typewriter, the keys exist in a world that I am in, not one that is in me. My attention to each object comes and goes, but the onset of attention is not experienced as the coming-to-be of that object. When I turn my head to view the room behind, what comes to be is not the room but my awareness of it; the room is experienced as a permanent existent which I can explore sequentially. Each thing I perceive has an identity, it is something. And it is what it is, not what I make it. These things before me are not at all like the objects of imagination, which I can shape to suit myself. And even my awareness is something independent of my reflective awareness of it. As I tum my attention to the fact that I am aware of these objects I experience that awareness as something which had been going on all along. From this standpoint, the thesis that consciousness is primary is literally unintelligible-unless one drops the context in which we grasp what it is to be aware of an object. Consider Descartes' question "whether any of the objects of which I have ideas within me exist outside of me." Having an idea of something means being conscious of it, and the consciousness of an object may be said, metaphorically, to be "within" me. But Descartes is suggesting that the object I am conscious of might also be within me, i.e., within my consciousness.” [RB] And this is what Mr. Hodge is implicitly claiming by asserting one cannot ascertain whether a mind independent external reality exists. Kelly continued: “How could that be? I can isolate my consciousness only by distinguishing it from the objects I am aware of. Those objects (the typewriter, the room, etc.) are the "out there" against which I can isolate my consciousness as the "in here." To suggest that these objects themselves might exist in consciousness is to deny the very condition that makes it possible to understand what consciousness is. So far, then, the idealist claim that the objects of awareness depend on consciousness, or the skeptic's worry that they might so depend, is simply unintelligible.” {David Kelly, The Evidence Of The Senses, 30-32} There is a further reason why one can know Mr. Hodge is wrong. Logic is a set of guidelines and rules discovered by Man that are used to properly structure the relationship between consciousness and existence. The acknowledgment logic exists is simultaneously that of the self evident natures of both mind independent existence and consciousness. Is Mr. Hodge conscious? If so, of what is he conscious? If Mr. Hodge claims to be conscious only of his own mind, then how is he able to participate in subject-object or perception vs awareness-of -perception relationships? If Mr. Hodge claims there is no contradiction in terms in being conscious only of his own self as subject, how can he validate what it is to understand what consciousness is? Best and Good to the Readers