Than you all for stopping by to comment and share your thoughts on the OP. Already I see that this topic has brought me a few of the more rational
minds here on ATS. So, as I promised I would, I would like to respond “en mass” to all of your comments up to and including the reply by Harry.
As you mentioned in your reply, NorEaster, for as connected to our conceptual method of thought and our linguistics are, there is still ample room for
the decomposition of ideas when attempting to communicate our thoughts with other people. It never ceases to amaze me how reliant we are on
metaphorical language and to just what depth this dependance reaches, both in our language and our thought process. However, as this topic has been
discussed since the days of Aristotle and Plato all the way up to present times, it is still with absolute faith that I place my confidence in the
heuristic value of metaphor so long as we guard ourselves appropriately.
On this note, I am very glad that many of you brought forth the issues you took with the semantics and syntax of the axioms as I found them and then
proposed you. However, it is my impression that perhaps a few words are not enough to convey the actual intent of the statements, as such. So, I will
elucidate precisely the conceptual nature of the three statements as I have come to understand them and we can go from there.
1. “Existence exists”: The main idea that this “statement” is intended to make is that existence (being the sum total of all existants in the
universe [and reciprocally, the universe being the sum total of all existants] in fact exists, rather than, as Harry pointed out, NOT existing. More
plainly it is to say, “that there are things and they exist”.
This does seem to be a redundancy and is, from a topical inspection, misstated in the form of a two word sentence, but its intent is to separate real
physical existence from a supernatural or imperceptible one (a la, “The Matrix” or some other imaginary interpretation where reality exists only
in the “mind” of some all powerful consciousness).
It is also a partial recognition of that fact that there are things and that they exist independent of consciousness. Partial, because none of the
three statements are independent of the others and to appreciate them all they must work in concord. Specifically to the case here, 1 must work with 2
As obvious as a fact as this is initially pointing out, according to Objectivism, it must be stated as such for the thinker to express the most basic
understanding of any particular object or collection of objects. Yes, Harry, as I understand it, it is a choice between existing or not existing.
2. “To be conscious is to be conscious of something”: The odd subject/predicate relationship here is again problematic, as pointed out by
LesMisanthrope, I believe. (I am composing this reply away from the internet right now and only took a few brief notes on the comments made, so I
apologize if I make a mistake on the exact nature of who said what and how.) But from what I gather, this is really where the “rubber meets the
road” for beginning to build a proper understanding of reality according to Objectivism.
The intent of this statement is mulit-pronged. First, it attempts to establish the nature of consciousness by implying a denial of it's opposite.
Harry conducted a thought experiment where his consciousness was “floating in a realm of nothingness” but where said consciousness was still able
to “hear” something. But there in lies the rub. If we are to posit such a possibility, would we not have to explain by what means a consciousness
would be able to hear? Hearing is a definitively physical sense modality and there is nothing, beyond our imaginations, that would give us cause to
think that a) a disembodied consciousness could even exist and b) that such a consciousness would be able to perceive anything external to itself
primarily due to the fact that perception is fed by the senses and the senses are an intrinsically physical function. I simply can not accept the
hypotheticals that Harry posited (to assume that conscious can hear intrinsically and that sound doesn't need a medium) so, another problem that such
a scenario creates is the issue of how this “sound” reached his consciousness if he is indeed floating in “nothing”. Now, not only do we have
to explain an imaginary disembodied consciousness and the imaginary mechanism by which the consciousness is able to perceive “sound” but we also
have to account for the imaginary source of the imaginary sound, as well as the imaginary agent of the imaginary sound. Also, once the imaginary sound
entered the imaginary “nothingness” how does it stop? In Harry's scenario, he says it ends but where does it go? Once it enters the imaginary
nothingness the nothingness would cease to be nothingness and it would then be Harry's consciousness plus the sound. And since we are playing make
believe, what's to stop us from imagining Harry with more than just imaginary ears? Why would it be impossible for him to have eyes? Or a nose? Or a
tongue? For that matter, we could imagine just about anything. I could imagine Harry with all five of the physical sense modalities, plus another 104
that I can't even express or explain. What's to stop our imagination? For an entity to claim consciousness, he must use an external point of
reference. If there is something for him to be aware of, then there are things. If there are things, there is existence (existence being the sum total
of “things”). Also, what does it mean to exist without experience? Are you still thinking about the sound you heard? If so, where are you storing
these memories? Do not all of these mental functions, as we know them, involve a brain? Is there such a thing as a non-physical brain? How would a
non-physical brain be differentiated from the rest of your consciousness? If they are distinct from one another (as the rest of our physical bodies
are from the actual organ “brain”) would not the non-physical brain constitute an object, albeit and immaterial one? If it is, then how are you in
a realm of nothing when their exists both the entity “consciousness” and immaterial “brain” and a “sound”? If I am conscious of nothing
(thus unconscious) and without physical body, from where does my unconsciousness arise? By what means do we acquire knowledge of its nature? Have we
observed disembodied unconscious consciousness? Is that idea a little conflicted to begin with? So many questions.... All of that is fun, but what
does the thought experiment about unknown forms of consciousness really tell us about OUR consciousness?
So, what this statement does is limit our imaginations to the physical universe that is full of physical objects. It makes us stay away from the realm
of imaginary and stick to what our senses (our only means of perception) provide for us. To be conscious entails that you are aware of objects around
you. Since the only objects we know to exists, exist here, in this reality, such a concept puts our consciousness squarely in the realm of “the
From what I have gathered, the next thing this statement does is set up the subject/object relationship; the consciousness in question is the subject
and the rest of reality being the objects. What this does is set the stage for establishing the primacy of existence. This basic understanding of the
relationship between subject and object is fundamental if we want to posit that our consciousness does not hold metaphysical primacy over existence.
In other words, if I want to say that my conscious intent alone can not change the facts of reality on a whim, then I must agree that I am subject to
There are other ways it ties back to existence, but for the sake of time and hearing what you all have to say, I'll move on.
3. “A=A”; From what I've read, the intent of this statement all across philosophy is simply the law of identity. If I observe a tree is it
accurate to say that that tree no longer exists in the following second, merely because it has moved through time or changed on a sub-atomic level?
Didn't Nietzsche use something similar to this to say that you can never punish the man who did the crime?
What is the problem with stating that a thing is a thing itself and not any other thing? I really do not see an issue with identification. If the tree
which I am observing will not exist in one second, will it cease to exist in half of a second? How about a millisecond? Does the change from my tree
to a different tree happen in a nanosecond? Or half of that? Or a billionth of that half? Troubles.
What we need to be aware of is the fact there is a difference in the source of our knowledge (empirical data) and the means by which we integrate it
into our conceptual thought process (reason). This, as far as I can tell, is the issue of A not being A. Once its attributes pass through our senses
and perceptions and into our mental conceptual integration, it is of course, no longer the A that exists independently from us. How could it be? A
will always be A itself. But the mental unit A, is not the A itself. The complete and total identity of A doesn't really change because our
definition of A is one that includes all the ways that it can change. This is conceptual reasoning. And if it were to change in a way we did not
predict we would merely expand and improve our conceptualization of it to fit the facts we discover.
Well, I was planning on wrapping this up with some closing comments but I've just absolutely run out of time. So, good luck everyone. I'll be by to
see what you all have to say at some point! Thank you again for your contributions!
This is only a very rough view as I have come to understand it in the past few weeks. Please feel free to look through the exhaustive archive at