Friday, December 28, 2012

OTI post #10

Contiuing my interposed introduction of my OTI work, which began with a new section 1.2 and the first part of section 1.3, here is the the second major subsection within 1.3 of the Introduction.
This part is a bit more... choppy... in that it does not follow OPAR's nice linear structure but goes left-right-left-right stepping fashion, spiralling back here and there as required. This is all to the good - I see for myself why this is required, and besides this is what Dr Peikoff prescribed in lecture 2 in his discussion of the contrast between an OTI hierarchy and and OPAR hierarchy (about half-way through, just before and continued after the technical difficulties he had to recover from in the middle of the lecture).

Remember also that this much is a once-over to get an overview that can be used to guide a more in-depth examination and induction. It is not intended to provide all the real chewing that is required. Again, this is for the OTI-vs-OPAR hierarchy.

The three statements further considered
The statements as validated by reference to perception
How does one know that the three statements established so far are true? As noted, all I have done is put into adult words what is implicit in the sensory-perceptual data gathered up by a baby from the moment it is born. This implicit recognition is then automatised within a few months to the point of being a visceral form of knowledge that one never ever remembers generating yet which is counted on by all actions thereafter (that fact is why people can and often contradict the three so badly later in life while being oblivious to the fact of contradicting themselves in the process). So I can raise and answer these important questions:

How can one know existence exists? One perceives it.

How can one know that consciousness exists? One can observe it in the act of becoming aware of existence.

How can one know that A is A? In perceiving the existents A B and C, one perceives A as distinct from B and C, and likewise for B and C in their turn.

In all cases there is no evidence but that of sensory perception. To understand what the three statements say is by that fact already to possess all the evidence needed to see that they are true. They are their own evidence, that is, they are self-evident. All statements of what is directly given in perception is to state the self-evident, in that you look and behold there is the evidence, with nothing else possible to back that up except that is ultimately drawn from more perception. As Dr Peikoff put it, the three statements are expressions of elementary perceptual-level facts in universal form.

But given the controversy about illusions and dreams and hallucinations ad nauseam, how can one know that perception is valid?

A first look at the validity of perception
There are a few things I can state at this stage. First, note that I am not talking about incorrect judgements that can be made about the objects of perception at any time. What is at issue for the moment is only that one has sensory-data: what one may make of its particular contents is a separate issue to be considered later. That includes dealing with dreams, hallucinations, illusions, and so on, though I do make brief mention here below.

The second is that the three concepts at the heart of the statements are implicit in the possession of sensory data as such, independent of details therein. There is nothing to perceive but something that exists, with the question of what is being perceived being part of that aforementioned separate issue. No sensory data can, or ever will, do anything contrary to underscoring the fact that something exists and to provision of evidence of the identity of that which exists. Existence exists, things are what they are, one perceives these facts to be so, and so by implication perception has to be valid if by valid means giving evidence of reality.

The third is the fact that one perceives existence by means of perception is how one identifies that there is any such thing as consciousness at all. Observe from the development of children that awareness of the faculty of consciousness as such does not arise fully developed, but is instead formed by integrating all the particular acts of consciousness into a full recognition of a faculty of awareness, beginning by direct perception of existence. If that which one perceives does not exist then one does not perceive. That is, if perception is invalid then one is not and cannot be conscious, which cannot be the case because existence exists and one can know that it exists.

Observe further that the question of philosophy-level problems with perception does not arise until many years into life, and when the first indications of problems of any kind are discovered they are not automatically cause for philosophic concern. For instance, observe that when illusion is first discovered by children it is something to have fun with, not something that generates intellectual trauma either for those kids or their non-philosophic elders. Observe that kids who are hearing-impaired or colour-blind or have to wear some pretty freaky glasses etc are still capable of learning the same things as the rest of us, and are expected to do so without non-philosophic folk thinking for a second that these different kids are permitted to give different answers to test questions on account of their perceptual difficulties. All of these issues are secondary and relate in some manner either to mechanics of sensory-perception or errors in judgement about sensory-perception and about allied phenomena. Observe the fact that we can recognise all these for what they are depends on the fact that one is capable of perceiving reality, able to identify these issues, and increasingly be in a position to do something about these mere technical difficulties so as to make life easier.

It is philosophically-inclined adults (and the occasional youth led astray, usually maliciously) who have intellectual difficulties regarding perception, which again locates the bulk of the problem in judgement rather than sensory-perception. This is why I noted earlier on that the issue can be slashed down to one of these adults misusing their philosophic knowledge to make mountains out of molehills and relying on the insecurities of credulous audiences, with the question of whether the problems are even merely molehills in philosophy being still up for debate.

The validity of perception begins with it being part of the axiom of consciousness: one cannot be conscious unless one can in some form perceive something that exists, for a consciousness that cannot be conscious of what exists is not conscious at all. To accept the existence of consciousness is to accept the validity of the means by which one is conscious. To deny the validity of perception in principle - ie separate from technical issues of mechanics and problems of inferring correct judgements from observational data - is to deny that existence exists, that consciousness can in fact be conscious, and that things are of definite natures. To accept the three axioms as true is therefore to require that one also accept that perception be valid, and vice-versa.

There is much more to be said about perception that this, but that much indicates that perception is fundamentally valid and is necessary before any further investigation into the matter can be made. I further observe that the phenomena of illusions, errors, and other difficulty had relating to perception lie somewhere else in the cognitive chain, not at the level of sensory-perception. That is, the difficulty must lie in quantities of sensory data available or our judgement of that sensory data, rather than the data themselves. That gives me enough to dismiss with contempt those who - despite having the above pointed out to them - would still insist on making mountains, and so I move on in spite of them.

The statements as axioms
I can note a key consequence about the statements’ bases and origins. What I can say about them so far is this: all thoughts and actions presuppose those three statements. But this makes it impossible to prove the statements - all one can do is validate them by reference to perception, as above. There is a name for this phenomenon: axiom. The three concepts are axiomatic concepts, and the three statements that have them as their cores are axioms.

The axioms cannot be proven, but, as Dr Peikoff noted, they all have a “built-in defence mechanism” against those who complain about that lack of proof: the same presupposition that militates against proof also militates against denial. So, sure, assertion is self-confirming, but denial is self-contradictory. Go ahead yourself, try to deny any one of them or the validity of perception without relying on what you’re denying in making that denial - it can't be done without self-contradiction. You cannot deny that existence exists or any other axiomatic principle without thereby declaring yourself to be a vegetable.

The fact that the three axioms are inescapable as well as being validated by perception indicates that the validity of perception is itself is itself thoroughly axiomatic in nature, and is also presupposed by any and all utterances. All together, the three axioms are confirmed not simply by perception but also by the fact that both assertion and denial of the three concepts - including the perception underlying them - are reinforcement of those concepts and the perception by means of which on directly obtains the evidence for them. Reiterating and expanding a previous comment, to accept the axioms as true is to accept the validity of perception, and vice-versa. They go together as a unit.

What I can also do now is expand the list of questions and answers I gave before:

Why is sensory-perception valid? Consciousness is conscious of existence, beginning by perception: denial is affirmation.

Why are the three axioms inescapable? They are implicit in all that one thinks and does: denial is affirmation.

So this backs up both the axioms and the means of validating the axioms (ie sensory-perception and the basics of inference from them). In the future I must and do look at this at length, but once again, what I have so far enables me to take more steps forward.

A first look at Primacy

Is there a proper order for stating the three axioms? The greater detail I will leave for later, but I can give it a first consideration.

There has long been an argument between those who advocate what is called the Primacy of Existence and what is called the Primacy of Consciousness. The Primacy of Existence states that existence sets the terms for all else and that consciousness exists within it as a means to becoming aware of that existence, while the Primacy of Consciousness states that Consciousness sets the term and is a means of creating all that exists. The proper order of the three statements itself reflects which of these two is correct, and so reflects how one views - and thence interacts with - the whole of reality.

What I leave out for now is discussion of the position of identity. The question at hand is: which of existence and consciousness is subordinate to which? The simple fact is that all the available perceptual evidence points to the Primacy of Existence, as does the intellectual identification that follows on from that evidence.

Of the physical evidence, the existence of something other than one's own consciousness is evident from the very first wakeful moment, but the existence of one's consciousness cannot be identified until one has first seen it in action, which it can only do by first having multiple examples of being conscious of something that exists and then identifying oneself as conscious in each case. Contemplate oneself further physically, about one's means of awareness. Their existence - ie that one has the sense organs and so on - is only identifiable through their use upon existents other than oneself. Look at other people and see the same in them, and look in the mirror to see that there are no grounds for according oneself a special place as the conscious centre of the universe - for that matter, compare oneself and other men together en masse against other creatures, such as cats and dogs and birds etc, and see that nor are there any grounds for according mankind as a whole a special place as the conscious centre of the universe. Contemplate back in time, too, to recognise one's own childhood and development from it, to remember that exploration of oneself in that fashion for the very first time - to marvel at one's own hands and eyes etc and then discover how do to freaky things with them (gently poke your eye on the side right next to its skull cavity!) - took place on the backdrop of taking existence for granted and then recognising oneself by means of recognising all the ways in which one can interact with reality.

And what of consciousness as such? Can any consciousness be accorded that kind of special place? No. Remember how one identifies the fact that there is any such thing as consciousness at all: by observing it in the act of perceiving something that exists. While the idea that existence can exist without consciousness being aware of it is easy to comprehend and requires no contradictions, the idea of a consciousness existing with nothing to be conscious of is absurd. Consciousness can only be conscious if it is conscious of something. Nor can consciousness be conscious of only itself (eg as Aristotle claimed for his Unmoved Mover), for then it would be a blank staring at a blank, returning as its report not a recognition of self but only more blankness - that is, a consciousness turned on in itself with no other content whatever would not and could not be conscious at all. A consciousness starting only at itself with zero content from outside itself would be akin to a video camera pointed at a monitor that displays strictly only what the camera is pointed at, all in a room that is in pitch-black darkness and at absolute zero Kelvin. Only upon influence from outside can there be any content to relieve the unrelenting blankness on the monitor. So it is with consciousness observing itself.

If the Law of Identity is an aspect of how existence exists, the fact that A is A rather than B is a fact that consciousness must accept as a given, irrespective of however much a consciousness would want A to be B instead. Facts are facts. It is the place of consciousness only to identify those facts, not create those facts (the ability to engage in creativity is not a creation of existence out of nothing, but an act of rearrangement of the pre-existing elements of existence to generate new forms, all of which presupposes the primacy of existence and the fact that consciousness exists within a body that is wholly a part of a much wider existence).

Existence exists, and within it, consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists. The task of consciousness is to look at existence, identify things about existence and then on that basis determine what to do in existence. Existence has primacy over consciousness, and consciousness has to accept that fact if it is to be successful in its role.

The mortal blow to the other two candidates
There are upshots of the Primacy of Existence for the other two candidates for starting points. Observe that both of those other two - the act of articulating innate ideas that are felt to be so, and the act of beginning from arbitrarily-chosen foundational propositions and deducing from them - are different forms of taking the content of consciousness as primaries. That is, the other two candidates are variants of a Primacy of Consciousness view. Remember that those other two candidates also presupposed the three axioms, which will include the relationships that exist between those statements. The other candidates may not contradict the fact that existence exists and that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists, but the inexorable result from examining the three axioms is identification of the Primacy of Existence.

This initial discussion of that Primacy deals a mortal blow to both those other two candidates, but be aware that the rejection of those candidacies still has a measure of threadbareness about it: though one can rule out the other two candidates as starting points for philosophy, the phenomena behind them are yet to be explained. I said I wanted an account that reconciled the three, and at this stage I cannot give that account other than to say that it may only be found by inference from observation.

Moreover, critical questions about the inference-from-observation approach are yet to be answered, and more knowledgeable persons will recognise that I have not done anything to separate what I think from raw empiricism. As noted a number of times now, questions remain about the various mechanics of the proper use of the inference-from-observation approach. Yes, the blow to the other two non-empirical candidates is now irrecoverably mortal, but they are yet actually to die, and in the process they may yet deliver blows to the candidacy of inference from observation that could embolden the sceptics who developed from die-hard empiricism. Nevertheless, the truth of what has been established about that approach so far, and now its sole-survivorship from the battle of the candidates, together indicate that the work I am yet to do can be done.

Identity further considered
Miss Rand noted that there was a strong connection between existence and identity. They are inseparable, intimately bound up with each other. Identity a restatement of existence, viewed from a different perspective. To be something (pointing out existence) is to be something (pointing out identity). There can be no existence without identity, and vice-versa. In Miss Rand's own words, then, existence is identity.

Given the above regarding the primacy of existence, what does this new linking say about consciousness? To say that existence is identity is to say that A is and that it is A - but how does one come to know what A actually is in detail? That is what consciousness has to find out - it has to discover the identities of all the A's it comes across. That is, in Miss Rand's words, consciousness is identification. The first thing it has to identify is that there is an A, and then proceed to identify more about the identity of A.

Non-Contradiction further considered
With the above in place, at this point I need to - and now can - give answer to a question that was asked at the outset of this presentation. Where does the Law of Non-Contradiction come from?

Previously, positing the existence of contradictions was only brushed off as silly, noting that positing them reduced the positor to the status of a vegetable whose utterances have the same intellectual content as the rustle of cabbage leaves. That does not deter some of the more adamant proponents of a Primacy of Consciousness viewpoint, particularly but not exclusively of the revelatory mystic persuasion. Some try on the argument that perception is illusory and does not give us true reality, such as one finds with Heraclitus, Plato, and Augustine, while others dispense with the fa├žade and dish out contradictions with gusto, such as one finds with Tertullian, Marx, and Kierkegaard.

A more considered rejection of contradictions can now be made. Why can’t there be contradictions? Because of the Law of Identity, a development from the fact that existence exists. What is, is, and that which is is what it is. That is, A is, and A is A. The Law of Identity - A is A - is intended to indicate what is. If it is, it IS. The Law of Non-Contradiction is a restatement of that law with intent to indicate what is not. If it is not, then it IS NOT. All I am doing is shifting focus from affirming the positive to repudiating the negative. Whereas the Law of Identity says A is A, the Law of Non-Contradiction states that A is not non-A.

The Law of Non-Contradiction is a guide for action by consciousness. Its foundation is in existence. There are many ways in which one may accidentally arrive at a contradiction without wanting to, and so the guide must be as complex as the ways of going wrong require that guide to be. The guide, therefore, must be consonant with the needs of the consciousness requiring a guide, and must also be tied back to existence because the point of consciousness is to gain content that corresponds to existence in some fashion. Just remember these two points - a complex guide fit for consciousness, and a guide tied to laws of existence - as I will come back to this much later when I examine logic.

The order of the axioms further considered
Objectivism points out that there is a difference between chronological development and the order of philosophic exposition. But this doesn’t mean there is a dichotomy between the two. Rather, it means only that one has to recognise the distinction between them and know how to reconcile them when they depart. An actual contradiction between the two is not permissible. What reality allows is only that the chronology in some areas is at least partly optional, and so one may choose which part of that chronology to focus on first by means of which physically-optional element is more appropriate to focus on before which. When there reality admits of an option in presentation of its contents, there is no contradiction either way any more than there is contradiction in studying say engineering before economics or economics before engineering.

I noted earlier that existence had primacy over consciousness, and hence that the axiom of existence must and did come first. Existence is both chronologically and logically the start, there is no departure here. What is unresolved is the proper order of presenting the axioms of consciousness and identity. So, while the chronological identification of existence as first and the philosophic exposition of existence as prior to consciousness are the same, the question of sameness versus departure for consciousness and identity has not been settled.

The answer is that chronological and philosophic order of consciousness and identity are indeed different. Chronologically the acceptance of identity - ie acceptance of that existents are of definite natures - will come before acceptance of consciousness, but I put the axiom of consciousness second, ahead of identity. Why?

Observe that the evidence one needs for both consciousness and identity are available at the same time and arising from the same act. Consciousness begins with the first exposure to the facts and details of existence, which is done by means of observing the similarities and differences that constitute the directly perceivable elements of the identity of existents. That means that reality itself makes it permissible to point out consciousness before identity if one finds good reason to do so. The question then is, what reason do I in fact have for the way I choose (or more specifically, the way that Objectivism indicates is proper but which way I agree with from my own conclusions on the matter)?

Recall that the nature of identity is that of an aspect of existence: existence is identity, to be something is to be something. So, in stating identity one is restating existence from a different but equally valid perspective: without identity, one could not recognise existence. Consciousness, by contrast, is not something one discovers solely by delving into the intricacies of existence. It is something that stands alone from such discoveries, needing only existence as something to be conscious of, with all else that one could be conscious of being but an aspect of that act. Therefore, though all three statements are primaries, consciousness is even more primary than identity and so must take second place ahead of identity in a philosophic exposition.

A lesser reason is to get recognition of consciousness in as early as permissible as means to warding off those who persist in denying the fact of consciousness altogether. To put consciousness after identity would allow for placement of recognition of consciousness even further down order of philosophic development, arising from following a chronology wherein consciousness is not mentioned until a great number of subsidiary details of identity learned in infancy are given express statement first. That is a step on the road leading to the derogation and ultimately denial of consciousness, in the same manner as how some engineers contemplating politics misuse their knowledge to envisage a means by which liberty-oriented economics and economic systems can be supplanted by technocracy. Naturally, most people won’t follow that road, just as most engineers don't advocate technocracy, but why take the first step down it at all if one is not required to? This is therefore merely a pedagogic and polemic reason, yet still valid.

It is best, then, to state existence first, consciousness second, and then identity third. The main reason is recognition of the Law of Identity being the first facet that consciousness discovers about existence after discovering existence per se.

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