William James (1904)
“I believe that ‘consciousness,’ when once it has evaporated to this estate of pure diaphaneity, is on the point of disappearing altogether.
It is the name of a nonentity, and has no right to a place among first principles. Those who still cling to it are clinging to a mere echo, the faint
rumor left behind by the disappearing ‘soul’ upon the air of philosophy.”
The word ‘conscious’ is an adjective; or a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or
To be conscious is to be awake and aware of one’s surroundings.
‘Consciousness’ is an
defined as the state of being conscious,
or the state or quality of being awake and aware of ones surroundings.
How does one turn an an adjective into a full blown noun? It’s as simple as adding ‘ness’ to the end of the word. The suffix ‘ness’
transforms an attribute of something into a subject
, while allowing the word to
remain entirely abstract. Is it safe for us to say these abstract nouns exist?
Let’s imagine we have three bowls filled equally with blue paint. In one bowl of blue paint we will add white, another red and the other yellow.
After we’ve mixed the paint in each bowl, we find only one of them will contain paint having any ‘blueness,’ despite the fact that all three
contain equal amounts of blue paint. This shows that ‘blueness,’ despite being a noun and representing an entity, is still dependent on the
adjective ‘blue.’ Adjectives, as we know, can only describe how things appear, and are only attempts to identify and quantify a particular
When I ask someone to show me ‘blueness,’ he could only ever point to things that are blue, not ‘blueness’ itself. When I ask someone to show
me consciousness, he can only ever show me things that are conscious, not consciousness itself. If I ask the same of ‘awareness’ or
‘wakefulness’ I would only be shown things that are aware or wakeful. These abstract nouns only represent nonentities.
Exploring the posibilites of abstract nouns and things completely void of any subject or context leads to such strange paradoxical conclusions such as
“Consciousness is conscious of itself.” This is the same as saying “Happiness is happy with itself” or “blueness is as blue as itself.”
These of course make little to no logical sense.
As the great American psychologist William James concludes, consciousness is “the name of a nonentity, and has no right to a place among first
principles.” ‘Consciousness’ exists as an abstract noun—an idea or concept that doesn’t represent anything perceived, anything real,
anything concrete or tangible, but merely something imagined.
The next time Deepak Chopra or some YouTube prophet go on ad nauseum about ‘consciousness,’ you can quietly laugh to yourself knowing that these
men have been thinking too much about something that doesn’t exist, and too little about the subservience to their own
Thank you for reading.