Re: [The Existential Society] on Philosophy
- "I have conscious experience of things, therefore I exist."
Do you still subscribe to this viewpoint? I hope I am not being overly-critical...but it seems to me this statement contains several internal contradictions. To begin with: your statement assumes the existence of a certain something, something which it then attempts to prove to be existing -- by way of using that assumption as the basis for the subsequent proof. "I have conscious experience" already assumes what you are trying to prove (the existence of this "I")-- so it is not surprising that you are later able to "find" exactly what you are looking for. Thus you create the illusion of having proven something, but in reality all that you have done is to re-state your premise as your conclusion and call that a proof. Your statement assumes the "existence" of some entity called "I" which then has experiences, but nowhere is there any definition or set of limiting adjuncts which specifies what exactly this thing you call an "I" actually is. You assume that such an entity is necessary for there to be a "conscious experience of things" -- but again, there is no reason presented to assume this premise. Actually, to assume, on the one hand, the existence of an "I" -- and on the other hand, to prove this existence by way of "conscious experience" seems rather tautological -- for what is the existence of an 'I' other than "conscious experience?" Your statement thus appears to be saying there is an "I" (consious experience) because there is an "I" (conscious experience). So nothing has been gained other than a premised a priori verfied by itself in new clothing. Further, this "conscious experience of things" seems to be assumed to have some kind of obvious truth-value -- that is, you do not question these existences, never question whether these "things" are actually there -- and then you seemingly place the existence of this "I" on the same level as these "things" - as "existing." Since your "I" is proved vis-a-vis these "things," if they can be called into question, what does that do to your supposed "I"? Would you also state "I have the illusion that I have conscious experience of things, therefore I exist?" But if those things that are experienced are an example of what it means to "exist" -- and then, if they do not exist -- then what does "existence" refer to? What does it mean to say that something "exists?" In fact, it could also be stated that this imagined "I" is nothing like these "things" (that is, it is a subject opposed to a set of objects)-- and to equate the two kinds of existences as the same would be an unwarranted assumption, or even, a fatal flaw. You put both -- these objects, and the supposed "I," -- in the same category by assuming some sort of substantiality in them, when, in fact, that substantiality is easily questioned. But more importantly -- if objectiveness is equated with existence, then it is not clear how subjectivity relates to this existiality since subjectivity and objectness are direct opposites. The experience you describe contains them as polar opposites as the defining characteristic of experiential existence. A "subject" experiences things outside of itself -- and it is this experienced opposition that supposedly proves the existence of one of the poles (the subject). But in this move the term "existence" falls into a flattened singularity (objects exist and so does this subject) -- but this singularity is already bifurcated into opposition to itself, and therefore the term "existence" takes on two distinct meanings that actually oppose each other ("I" and "things"). Meanwhile, since your proof is arrived at not via direct experience, but rather through inference, and a faulty one at that, then, despite your intentions, you actually must admit that you have no direct experience of this "I" -- but only an inference of such an entity -- which thus stands in paradox to the whole supposed meaning of your statement. You infer an "I", yet have no direct experience of it -- yet supposedly the whole point of being an "I" is to be the subjective focal point of experience - but this subjective focal point never includes itself as an object -- or rather, and much more fatally -- if and when this "I" tries to experience itself -- it can only do so when it opposes itself to itself -- that is it seeks to "find" itself in existence -- but by doing so it renders itself into two realms of being -- that which is experienced and that which is experiencing. In this act, the focalized subjectivity tries to face itself through the act of its own objectification, its own momentary flash of externalization of itself, it tries to "catch itself" as an object opposed to itself -- but through this act the subject again can only "experience" its own absence, that is, see itself as an externally experienced object, and its own subjective-pole of experience slips away, escapes, into a realm that always seems somewhere else, somewhere behind, below, somewhere else experiencing the manifested object -- and this object is now called the "self", the "I" -- but it is only the reified "self" -- it is like a cat trying to locate its own mind by chasing its own tail, and it never quite catches up to either. But the whole point of this grasping was to experience the subject, not another object, even if this "object" is the receding, ghostly reverberation of the now absent subject. Further, even ignoring of all these problems, the "I" that is maintained to "exist" is never demonstrated to be continuous in time, to have any spatial dimension, to have any boundaries or borders or appearences or attributes or any specific characteristics that delineate what it is and how it stands in oppostion to all that it is not -- there is nothing to demarcate it as a real existence - and therefore, at best, this "I," as presented by your statement, appears to be a void, a non-entity, a nothingness, precisely because it, in fact, never appears at all. So if this nothingness, this ghost, this void, this "I" can be said to "exist" -- then this "existence" is a strange one indeed.
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Hello, I am new on the list and not had the chance to read any back mails as yet, and hence come in vague of what is really on topic here.
But as I understand it Philosophy means (or perhaps used to mean) the Love of Wisdom. But who defines what wisdom is and as to what degree of love loves it. Philosophy today seems to me to have become little more than an academic debate about the meaning of words rather than addressing the perennial questions such as. What am I: Where do I come from: What is my function in the vast scheme of things; and, To whither, if anywhere, do I go.
When I was a little boy I found myself asking these very questions - I did not even know at that age that other people had also asked them; for I was only five or six years of age. I guess it is natural enough given that we are born not being aware of anything, or remembering anything, and understanding nothing at all.
But we live and learn a few things as we go through life, and all the best of it is learned (as I see it anyway) not from books or human beings, (which is only hearsay even if it were true) but from life experience itself and living it. I have conscious experience of things, therefore I exist. And which is very different from dreamless sleep and oblivion in which we are aware of nothing; not even existing.
Many years later I came to do a bit of my own writing (only poems to start with, and then books) and then folk asked me as to what I was. What a strange question that is - I thought we were all the same thing at root - a living conscious entity, and a great mystery at that; and perhaps the greatest known mystery in all known existence.
But I did not have a quick and ready answer for them - so off the top of my head I said that I must be a Pragmatic Existentialist - and that seemed to satisfy them. Maybe the term will catch on one day :- ) But I did come to find some pretty weird and way out stuff, but which eventually seemed to make sense to me anyway. And I loved it. And what I found is that we (Mind) did not come from here at all. And one wonders about the alienation bit. But after finding this I never felt any sense of being alienated from anything.
But it would be interesting to hear what others have found and what their own private philosophy of life has come to be by virtue of it.
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- I think Kant made this issue pretty clear: existence isn't a predicate.
It's not an attribute that something has. Once you begin a sentence
with the word I, you have assumed its existence (the fact of existence
is assumed by the subject of the sentence, in other words, not an
attribute described by the predicate of the sentence). So once you
have a speaking I, there's no longer any question of its existence:
proof is moot.
This statement is only tautological if you use it as a proof of
existence: if you begin with the assumption that questions about
existence are already settled beforehand, then it is not. It is then a
claim that any question about the existence of the subject is a
ridiculous question to begin with, just as ridiculous as arguments for
the proof of the subject.
This has nothing to do with the nature or origin of the I, simply the
existence of the I.