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THERE IS and I AM

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In the summer of 1937, Ayn Rand wrote Anthem. At the core of this manifesto of individualism she set a foundational sequence of thoughts: “I am. I think. I will.”

In 1943 in The Fountainhead, Rand wrote of the secular sense of soul: the inner you, “the thing that thinks and values and makes decisions” (GW II 454; also HR IV 582–83, and XVIII 737).[1] The protection of man is a thought in the mind of a man, and fundamentally, “not the content of that thought, nor the result, . . . nor the will . . . that [makes] it real—but the method of his thought, the rule of its function . . . .” (HR I 548). Roark tells Wynand “We live in our minds, and [our] existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form” (HR II 558).

Roark’s self-conception has a hint of what Friedrich Schelling would have called an unconditioned, or absolute being. Roark remarks “I never think of myself in relation to anyone else. I just refuse to measure myself as part of anything. I’m an utter egotist” (HR IV 631). This self-standing of the purely selfish ego is absolute not with respect to the limit of widest existence, but with respect to the limit of a person’s social surroundings. In his egoism, Roark is sovereign “in the realm of values, of judgment, of spirit, of thought” (HR XI 658).

In Roark’s courtroom speech near the close of Fountainhead, Rand included the following fundamental ideas:

Man cannot survive except through his mind. . . . To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons—a process of thought. (HR XVIII 737)

The code of the creator is built on the needs of the reasoning mind which allows man to survive. . . . / The egoist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. . . . He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. (740)

The creator faces nature alone. . . . / The basic [social] need of the creator is independence. (738)

By the summer of 1945, Rand’s crafting of the foundational core of her philosophy had reached this stage: “Any conception or discussion of man’s existence is an axiom implying three parts: that man exists, that an objective world exists around him, and that he has the faculty of rational consciousness which enables him to know the external world” (Note, quoted in Harriman 1999, 300). Her transformation of the foundation for her philosophy, from ’37 to ’45 consisted of the shift of perspective:

From I am to Man and the objective world exists.

From I think and will to Man has rational consciousness of the world.[2]

By the fall of 1949, Rand had formulated her far-reaching and settled view on the basic nature of consciousness and logic. From her Notes: “Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. / The essence of consciousness is identification” (ibid., 612).

By the summer of 1953, Rand had in her notes “Existence Exists—A is A” (ibid., 646). As readers of Rand 1957 know, she no longer rested her systematic philosophy on I am nor on Man exists. Rather, on Existence exists. She retained the old work for I am: “I am, therefore I’ll think” (AS 1058). That counter-Cartesian thrust had been set already in print in 1943, and in ’57 it is magnified by being set within a widest metaphysics of existence exists, existence is identity, and consciousness is identification of existence (AS 1016). “Existence exists—and the act of grasping statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness [of existence]” (AS 1015). One’s self is one’s mind (AS 1030). “Self-esteem is reliance on one’s power to think. The ego . . . that essential ‘you’ . . . is not your emotions or inarticulate dreams, but your intellect, that judge of your supreme tribunal” (AS 1057). “By refusing to say ‘It is’, you are refusing to say ‘I am’ (AS 1018).

It is instructive to compare Rand’s final configuration of existence, consciousness, and ego with their configuration by Schelling, as of his famous 1800 work System of Transcendental Idealism.[3] The objective component in knowledge is what we call nature. The subjective component is called “the self, or the intelligence” (5). Nature is what can be presented to us; it is the non-conscious. Intelligence is the purely presentative; it is the conscious. Truth is the non-accidental coincidence of presentations with their objects. In knowledge there is, necessarily, reciprocal concurrence of the conscious and the non-conscious.

Schelling sets himself the task of explaining how that concurrence takes place. Natural science, without realizing it, works on the question “How does intelligence come to be added to nature, or how does nature come to be presented” (5). “This and nothing else is at the bottom of the urge to bring into the phenomena of nature.—The highest consummation of natural laws into laws of intuition and thought” (6). Nature develops so as to become an object to herself, an intelligence. “The dead and unconscious products of nature are merely abortive attempts that she makes to reflect herself” (6). Nature’s aim is attained in man, or, more generally, in “what we call reason, whereby nature first completely returns into herself, and by which it becomes apparent that nature is identical from the first with what we recognize in ourselves as the intelligent and the conscious” (6).

That is the outline of an approach to explaining how in truth presentation coincides with object and how in knowledge the conscious and non-conscious concur. That is the approach of nature-philosophy. (See Schelling 1799 and 1803.) It describes in a grand arc how the subjective is derivative of the objective.

That way of exposing the unity of object and subject, explaining truth and knowledge, is perfectly valid according to Schelling. But there is a second valid way, which Schelling calls transcendental from its kinship to leading methods in Fichte and Kant. In Schelling’s transcendental approach, one begins with subjectivity alone, as ground of all reality. Innately, we are convinced “that there are things outside us,” things other than self (8). The truth of this conviction cannot be disproven, nor proven, by inference from something else. The transcendental task Schelling sets for himself is to demonstrate that I exist entails by identity there are things outside me (7–9).

What does one know unconditioned by factors external to self? One knows the purely formal A=A, where A is abstracted from all particular content. In such abstraction, this formula comes only to this: “In thinking A, I think nothing else but A”( 22). Well, “having thought A, I admittedly think of it as A; but how then, do I come to think of A in the first place? If it is a concept freely engendered, it begets no knowledge; if it is one that arises with the feeling of necessity, it must have objective reality” (22). Genuine knowledge has its object outside itself.

A proposition that is knowledge has subject and predicate linked not “by the mere identity of thinking, but by something alien to the thought and distinct from it” (22). Such propositions are called synthetic, in contrast to analytic ones stating relations of identity only within thinking. Only in synthetic propositions do we find genuine knowledge. “The whole of our knowledge consists of nothing but synthetic propositions” (22).

If there is some point in which the identical and the synthetic are one, we shall have there a spring for certainty in synthetic propositions, thence in all our knowledge. At such an originating point, “being and presentation are in the most perfect identity” (24). There, “subject and object are immediately one” (24). It is obvious now that the desired point is in self-consciousness, where the presented and that which presents are the same.

Self-consciousness is a free act of thought. Thinking is not the consciousness we have in an involuntary succession of presentations.

These latter, however manifold and diverse they may be, will still appear as belonging to a single identical subject. If I reflect upon this identity of the subject among its presentations, there arises for me the proposition ‘I think’. It is this ‘I think’ which accompanies all presentations and preserves the continuity of consciousness between them—But if we free ourselves from all presentation, so as to achieve an original self-awareness, there arises—not the proposition I think, but the proposition ‘I am’, which is beyond doubt a higher proposition. (25–26)

The proposition I think has an actual predicate. The proposition I am has only potential predicates; it is “the locus of an infinity of possible predicates” (26). The self knowing I am is purely act, making itself by its doing. The self as the producing of itself stated in I am is what stands in Schelling’s fundamental postulate and principle of philosophy: self=self. Here, product is identical not only with product, but with its own producing (26–30).

Self=self converts A=A into a synthetic proposition.

The supreme formal principle, A=A, is indeed only possible through the act expressed in the proposition self=self—through the act of thinking that becomes an object to itself and is identical with itself. Thus, so far from the self=self falling under the principle of identity, it is rather the latter that is conditioned by the former. For did not self=self, then nor could A=A, since the equivalence posited in the latter proposition expresses, after all, no more than an equivalence between the judging subject and that in which A is posited as object . . . . (30–31)

There is some ambiguity and hand-waving in Schelling’s presentation of his thought. His philosophy is sufficiently clear in this 1800 work for definite comparison with Rand’s philosophy (and with Kant, Reinhold, and Fichte, whose ideas are refashioned into Schelling’s own edifice). Rand, too, makes A is A into a form of all true existential propositions, a form beyond the keeping of a thing with itself and the tracking of that keeping in thought. This she does by the conception existence is identity (where identity answers what) and the conception of logic as presupposing existence exists. Schelling does not have Rand’s conception that consciousness is fundamentally identification of existence. “Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification” (AS 1016). That is the basic connection of subject and object.

Let us see some more of Schelling’s attempt to arrive at there exists things outside me from I exist by showing their identity. The self who knows the self-construction of I am should not say, strictly speaking, that it exists. Rather, “it is being-itself” (32). The self of I am does not possess the predicates of determinate, conditioned things. Such things derive from the free act that is self-constructed self. Unlike things, this self is unconditioned and free. This the self knows directly and most surely. Freedom is more fundamental than even being, which “in our system is merely freedom suspended” (33).

Kant had answered Hume’s subversion of rational causal necessity in experience by arguing that a principle of causality is required else experience is not possible. Similarly, Schelling argues against the subversion of human free will stemming from total determination of physics and physiology by arguing that knowledge of the deterministic world is only possible if it is a manifestation of the thought I am, the free act I am.

In the self, freedom and restriction are cohorts; the self cannot be one without being the other (35). As the self, originally pure activity, becomes an object for itself, it wins the concept of something limited and restricted. The pure producing self could never become product unless it set limits on itself. This limit on producing cannot be had without the self opposing something to itself (36). The freedom of the self is expansive. It cannot expand its boundary without acting on the boundary and “cannot act upon it unless the boundary exists independently of this action. Hence the boundary becomes real, only through the assault of the self against it” (39). The boundary there is beyond one is real, but as the boundary depends on the intellect I am, it is also ideal. As Kant’s transcendental idealism would set out the world of experience as at once empirically real and transcendentally ideal, so Schelling’s transcendental idealism (drops Kant’s noumenal realm and) sets out the real and ideal as an endless dynamic of the self-conscious self.

Rand does not concur with Schelling’s nature-philosophy. Philosophy is not to derive consciousness from existence. Consciousness is necessarily acknowledged in comprehending the statement existence exists (AS 1015; ITOE 249). There is no need to make the act of consciousness a prior of being in order to warrant assertion of the reality or freedom of thought. With consciousness most fundamentally identification, utterly dependent on independent existence, there is no need to retain the religious model of world-making intelligence as the manner of coincidence between the world and the human mind. So Rand also does not concur with Schelling’s transcendental idealism, his subsequent objective idealism, his idealism.[4]

Existence exists. Existence is identity. All things have specific natures or are specific natures. A is A. Man is man. Consciousness is identification of existence. The consciousness that is thinking is volitional.

Notes

1. See also Rand’s first notebook for Fountainhead on page 78 of Harriman 1999.

2. Rand’s 1938 protagonist in Anthem is given these lines: “All things come to my judgment, and I weigh all things, and I seal upon them my ‘Yes’ or my ‘No’. Thus is truth born. Such is the root of all Truth and the leaf, such is the fount of all Truth and the ocean, such is the base of all Truth and the summit. I am the beginning of all Truth. I am its end” (quoted in Mayhew 2005a, 39; see also Milgram 2005, 17–18).

This sounds subjectivist. I think, however, Rand is only affirming in this passage that all judgment of truth is individual and that all truth we render from the world is for our own final value. Those lines in Anthem (in ’38; excised in ’46) are preceded by these: “It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world.” Something is seen, and with the subject, it is rendered beautiful. Something is heard, and with the subject, it is rendered song of existence. Something is given, and with its recognition, it is rendered truth.

A subjectivist reading of ’38 is unsustainable given the protagonist’s discovery of scientific truths by (in part) his own physical experimentation in defiance of doctrine accepted merely on authority. Furthermore, the subjectivist reading is unsustainable given Rand’s portrayal of protagonists in We the Living (1936) as set on objective reality contrary to Communist mockups and mandates of reality.

3. This work was 10 years after Kant’s third and final Critique; 7 years after Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre and 7 years before Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

4. Schelling reaches his philosophy known as objective idealism in 1801 in Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie (Exposition of My System of Philosophy). This work is not available in English. Consult Beiser 2002, chapter 6.

References

Beiser, F. C. 2002. German Idealism: The Struggle against Subjectivism, 1781–1801. Harvard.

Harriman, D., editor. 1999. The Journals of Ayn Rand. Plume.

Mayhew, R. 2005a. Anthem ’38 & ’46. In Mayhew 2005b.

——., editor. 2005b. Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem. Lexington.

Milgram, S. 2005. Anthem in Manuscript: Finding the Words. In Mayhew 2005b.

Rand, A. 1938. Anthem. Cassell.

——. 1943. The Fountainhead. Macmillan.

——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.

——. c. 1970. Seminar Transcript. In Appendix of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. H. Binswanger and L. Peikoff, editors. 1990. Meridian.

Schelling, F.W.J. 1799. First Outline of a System of Nature. K. R. Peterson, translator. 2004. SUNY.

——. 1800. System of Transcendental Idealism. P. Heath, translator. 1978. Virginia.

——. 1803 [1797]. Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature. 2nd ed. E. E. Harris and P. Heath, translators. 1988. Cambridge.

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"Existence exists. Existence is identity. All things have specific natures or are specific natures. A is A. Man is man. Consciousness is identification of existence"

Consciousness is identification of existence, but animals also possess such consciousness. Human consciousness starts with self-identification and self-awareness. Paraphrasing Rand, to say "I think" one first should be able to say "I". Consciousness cannot be reduced to existence but could be reduced to the process of life since it is essentially biological phenomenon. Human consciousness is self-generated goal orientated action of man on conceptual level, when the goal is man's life qua man.

Edited by Leonid

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Human consciousness starts with self-identification and self-awareness.

Starts with, chronologically? I would disagree.

Or do you mean that for a state of awareness to be considered "human consciousness" it must first have a level of self awareness, of "I-ness"? To what extent do you consider higher animals to be self aware?

edit: typo

Edited by JayR

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Starts with, chronologically? I would disagree.

Or do you mean that for a state of awareness to be considered "human consciousness" it must first have a level of self awareness, of "I-ness"? To what extent do you consider higher animals to be self aware?

edit: typo

I think that animals possess awareness of existence, otherwise they wouldn't survive. However they don't possess self-awareness. Dog doesn't know that he is a dog. Self-awareness is precondition of introspection, free will and conceptual thinking. Animal who possesses self-awareness is necessary conceptual being, it should be able to form concepts, develop language etc...As far as we know they don't have these properties. One may argue about primates who apparently have some rudimentary conceptual thinking and self-awareness. Human conceptual consciousness starts with self-awareness. Before development of self-awareness the consciousness of infant is undistinguished from that of animals.

Edited by Leonid

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Human conceptual consciousness starts with self-awareness.

Again Im not sure why you say "starts with". And the fact that animals act on instinct, to me does not mean that theyre mindless automatons. A dog has a certain level of "internality" as Ive heard it said. What is that level as compared to other conscious beings? There has to be a sliding scale. Understanding that scale, and how it is that humans are so disproportionally higher up it is what Im interested in. The same evoloutionary process applies to all creatures, but its not evoloution Im interested in at this point. A baby that cant speak yet is on the same conceptual level as any higher animal, and probably lower than some. But theres more to it than language alone. This is just stuff Ive been thinking about lately. The mind, what "I" means, what it is to be conscious, and how our consciousness overlaps and interacts with minds of those around us. Im rambling.

I digress, this is all probably a better fit in a new thread. If anyone knows any good books (that jive with Oism) on theory of mind, or this type of stuff, Im interested.

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JayR "Again Im not sure why you say "starts with"

Because humans don't born with conceptual thinking and self-awareness. They develop these qualities, and this is volitional process. Volition presupposes self-awareness, and chronologically this is the first quality which infant develops- at age of 7-8 months. The ability to form concepts comes later. Animals are not mindless automatons, they do possess "internality", though better term would be intentionality, aboutness. However their consciousness operates on perceptual level. Moreover, all living beings operate through self-initiated goal-orientated action on all evolutionary levels. Low organisms have build-in cellular and self-organization mechanisms for that purpose, more developed organisms use inherent knowledge (instinct) and acquired knowledge, humans use volitional conceptual thinking. But essentially it is the same process.

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Consciousness precedes identification of itself as consciousness in the course of individual human development. Consciousness is never without object of consciousness (however vague the latter) throughout the life of the individual animal, human or other.

Those are observations about temporal priorities. They belong to the story of when and how consciousness and self-consciousness emerge, not to the basic analysis of the concepts consciousness and self-consciousness. By Rand’s lights and mine, that little analysis is this:

Self-consciousness presupposes consciousness.

Consciousness presupposes existence.

It is conceptual and ontological priorities that Schelling and Rand aimed to set correctly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That basic distinction—between analysis and developmental sequence—being understood, here is some of the latter:

On day of birth, the infant possibly has some faint sense that there are different locations of things out there, as distinct from those at her own body. Possibly, too, she has some faint sense of self as locus of coetaneous and active touch, of sensory attending, and of proprioception.

By eight weeks, the infant definitely relies on visual cues for posture stability (head, arms, chest). This is in addition to muscle/joint cues and operation of the vestibular system.

By three months, the infant visually detects 3D structure of objects from motion of object or self. Visual tracking is becoming anticipatory.

By four months, the infant is able to discriminate video of her own concurrent leg movements and a display of unrelated leg motions. She looks longer at the latter, discerning that something is amiss.

By five months, she can determine visually what is within reach and what is out of reach.

By six months, the infant can keep spatial directions fixed under rotations about vertical axis (up to 90° only) of her own body (sitting). She can by now detect changes in distance from sound source through changes in intensity of the sound.

By nine months, the infant can reach through the open side of a transparent box side that is not the side of line of sight; there is now independence of line of sight and line of reach. She now shows awareness of her movement in a mirror. She turns from the mirror to locate objects in real space. She knows (still without words) some of her own causal powers, and she is able to execute means-ends actions. She has a sense of self as a perceptual object at some place within her interaction space.

By twelve months, the infant will use mechanical aids to extend her reach. She will touch Mother’s mouth, then touch her own. At about twelve months, she will begin to speak her first words.

By fourteen months, the toddler points to indicate an item. She manifests self-recognition in social mirroring (I and me: self as subject and as object of knowledge). Also, she knows which adult is mimicking her own actions.

By eighteen months, the toddler can identify herself in a mirror (me: self as object of knowledge); she points to a spot of rouge surreptitiously placed on her face.* She now shows the self-consciousness of shy smiling, gaze aversion, or self-touching when confronted with an image of herself.

By twenty-two months, she correctly names herself in an image. She begins to use the pronouns I, me, and you. She begins to use the mental terms think, know, and remember.

By thirty-six months, her use of mental terms (think, know, mean, forget, remember, guess, pretend) definitely refer to the mental. She states spontaneously the contrast of the real with the mental, as in “It’s only in his head.”

Sources

Bremner, J. G. 1994 [1988]. Infancy. 2nd ed. Blackwell.

Clifton, R. K. 1992. The Development of Spatial Hearing in Human Infants. In Developmental Psychoacoustics. L A. Werner and E. W. Rubel, editors. American Psychological Association.

Diamond, A. 1991. Neuropsychological Insights into the Meaning of Object Concept Development. In The Epigenesis of Mind: Essays on Biology and Cognition. S. Carey and R, Gelman, editors. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Johnson, M. H. 1990. Cortical Maturation and the Development of Visual Attention in Early Infancy. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2(2):81–95.

Kellman, P. J. 1995. Ontogenesis of Space and Motion Perception. In Perception of Space and Motion. 2nd ed. W. Epstein and S. Rgers, editors. Academic Press.

Meltzoff, A. N. 1993. Molyneux’s Babies: Cross-Modal Perception, Imitation and the Mind of the Preverbal Infant. In Spatial Representation. N. Eilan, R. McDarthy, and B. Brewer, editors. Blackwell.

Nelson, K. 1996. Language in Cognitive Development. Cambridge.

Wellman, H. 1990. The Child’s Theory of Mind. MIT.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

See also:

Ulric Neisser’s “Two Perceptually Given Aspects of the Self and Their Development” and Robbie Case’s “Stages in the Development of the Young Child’s First Sense of Self.” Both are in volume 11 (1991) of Developmental Review.

The Body and the Self

Bermúdez, Marcel , and Eilan, editors

Animal Consciousness

Colin Allen

Edited by Boydstun

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Boydstun "Consciousness precedes identification of itself as consciousness in the course of individual human development. Consciousness is never without object of consciousness (however vague the latter) throughout the life of the individual animal, human or other."

That's true. Human and animal consciousness starts as an awareness of existence. But consciousness is not an end in itself. It is a tool of survival which facilitates self-initiated and goal orientated interaction with environment. For an animal the mere awareness of existence is sufficient to activate inherent mechanisms of such an interaction. But human consciousness operates through volition on conceptual level, and therefore its prerequisite is self-awareness. Man defines his goals and the ways to achieve them by choice. Choice presupposes self-awareness. Your time table is a precise affirmation of the fact that human conceptual cognition is developing together with self-awareness. One cannot exist without another. Self-awareness in essence separates the man from the beast. Contrary to Descartes, there is no mind-body dichotomy and your example is an ample demonstration that self-awareness starts as association of "I" with one's body image. In "Anthem" the protagonist developed the concept of "I" in full only when he saw for the first time in his life the reflection of his body in the water.

Edited by Leonid

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Leonid,

Yes. At the end of this post, in block quotation, are my thoughts from an earlier composition* complementary with your posts emphasizing the biological nature of consciousness.

I should mention also that your idea that there is no meaningful statement “I think” without grasping the I is surely correct and accords with Rand. There is no thinking without the self that thinks, and no knowing that one thinks without knowing the existence of that thinker. “Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists” (AS 1015, emphasis added).

Also I note that Rand agreed with your view that a being with concepts must have self-consciousness. At least she expressed that view in her epistemology seminar (ITOE 255–56; see further, Edelman 1989, chapter 11). I think that view is correct at the level of conceptual and linguistic development in which one is able to add the preface “I think” to any of one’s thoughts. At earlier stages of one’s conceptual development, the “I think” is only implicit. When my partner’s grandson began saying his first word “ba” (for “ball”), he could not yet say or think “I think ba.” But that was implicit in his one-word stage of language in the sense that it would emerge later in the course of conceptual and linguistic development grown from this beginning.

Rand also remarked in her epistemology seminar that any person or animal possessing consciousness necessarily is an entity having consciousness as an attribute. There is a self that is coordinate with its states of consciousness in any conscious animal (ITOE 251–52). This is a matter of basic ontology, taking care that the concept self is here broader than the concept ego. Both are biological attributes and biological unities. In the case of nonhuman animals, I would caution that although self is implicit in their consciousness, it is not more than logically implicit (and therefore existentially so at all times of their consciousness). That is different than the further, second layer of being implicit: implicit in the developmental sense.

Kant was the first to stress that we are able to preface all our thoughts with “I think” (B131–32, 136–39, 158n296; B399–406 A341–47; A108, 348–66, 398–99 [Critique of Pure Reason B=1787, A=1781]).

The I think is . . . an empirical proposition, and contains the proposition I exist. . . . My existence also cannot, as Descartes supposed, be regarded as inferred from the proposition I think . . . but is identical with it. . . . When I called the proposition I think an empirical proposition, I did no mean that the I in this proposition is an empirical presentation. Rather, this presentation is purely intellectual, because it belongs to thought as such. Yet without some empirical presentation that provides the material for thought, the act I think would not take place; and the empirical [element] is only the condition of the application or use of the pure intellectual power. (B422n288)

Empirical consciousness of my existence . . . can be determined only by reference to something linked with my existence that is outside me. (Bxxxix)

Outer experience is in fact direct, and . . . only by means of it can there be inner experience—i.e., not indeed consciousness of our own existence, but yet determination of that existence in time. To be sure, the presentation I am, which expresses the consciousness that can accompany all thinking, is what directly includes the existence of a subject; but it is not yet a cognition of that subject, and hence is also no empirical cognition—i.e., experience—of it. For such experience involves, besides the thought of something existent, also intuition, and here specifically inner intuition, in regard to which—viz., time {the fundamental form of inner intuition}—the subject must be determined; and this determination definitely requires external objects. Thus, consequently, inner experience is itself only indirect and is possible only through outer experience. (B277)

See also B428–29, where Kant sets all this in the realm of appearance, not in the noumenal realm, leaving as dark noumenon the self as it is in itself. Schelling gets by with one realm (1800, 32).

Schelling held “the objective world belongs only to the necessary limitations which make self-consciousness (the I am) possible” (14). The proposition I exist is

the absolute preconception, which must first be accepted, if anything else is to be certain.—The proposition There are things outside us will therefore only be certain for the transcendental philosopher in virtue of its identity with the proposition I exist” (8). In reflecting upon the identity of myself as the subject among whatever is presented to me, “there arises for me the proposition ‘I think’. It is this ‘I think’ which accompanies all presentations and preserves the continuity of consciousness between them.—But if we free ourselves from all presentation, so as to achieve an original self-awareness, there exists—not the proposition I think, but the proposition ‘I am’, which is beyond doubt a higher proposition. (26)

In untying I am from I think of what is presented in sense and by giving logical precedence to the former, Schelling differs from Kant. In binding consciousness and self-consciousness to independent existence and putting existence in the lead, Rand differs from both of them.

Shifting back to the first paragraph of this post:

In Rand’s scope of the concept action for metaphysics, include as actions the phenomena dealt with in dynamics. Include also the phenomena of statics and strength of materials. Include the formation of stars, planets, oceans, and organisms. Include chemical reactions and phase changes. Include as actions, too, organic growth, locomotion, and the activities that are consciousness.

Rand writes “Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists” (AS 1015). Grasps in acts of consciousness are actions. Making statements are actions. The fact of consciousness is implicitly affirmed in making and grasping statements about existence. The fact of consciousness is the fact of an activity, a fact of living activity. One does not wait on education in biology to know one is alive, to know the self of self-awareness is a living being and that awareness of existence is a living action. Implied in the act of grasping any statement about existence is the fact of living action. Further, when Rand writes “I am, therefore I’ll think,” the existence of the thinking self is a living existence (AS 1058).

If existence and consciousness are axiomatic concepts, why are not living existence and living action also axiomatic concepts? Well, in part, they are. Consciousness is living action from the inside, from the side of the intender. Self-consciousness is living existence from the inside, from the side of the intender.

What about living action and living existence from the side of the intended, living action and existence when these are not acts of consciousness, but contents of consciousness? Are these concepts implied in the act of grasping the statement “existence exists”? No. In the immediate corollary (E2), the existing conscious one is known axiomatically to be living from its living acts of consciousness. The “I am” of “I am, therefore I’ll think” contains an identification of the particular live thinking self with something known additionally (not from acts on content, but) in informational content: one having life as an object in the world (and requiring thought for protection and sustenance).

E2 – One exists and possesses consciousness of existing things.

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Stephen,

I concur. Awareness of existence precedes self-awareness and " I am" precedes " I think"

Consciousness is corollary of existence, more precisely-it is an attribute of life.

"And consciousness is a natural attribute of certain living entities, their natural power, their specific mode of action—not an unaccountable element in a mechanistic universe, to be explained away somehow in terms of inanimate matter..."

(Rand 1963, 19).

Life is a process of self-initiated and goal-orientated action. The emergence of self-consciousness turned this process from the automatic to volitional, allowed choice of goals and conceptual thinking. Therefore man's consciousness qua man starts with self-awareness.

The exact mechanism of self-awareness is not known. Roger E. Bissell maintains that introspection is as valid and self-evident as perception.

He wrote :

"we are directly aware of the actions of our brains or our nervous systems doing various things, such as choosing, forming a concept, perceiving a physical object, forming a value-judgment, remembering a past event, etc. They seem so real and immediate to us that we do not (and should not) question their reality...The mind is not an intrinsic phenomenon, like the brain and nervous system, but an objective, intentional phenomenon. It is the form in which we are aware of our brain's conscious functioning, and the form in which we are aware of our brain's capacity to engage in such activity. And "we" is not a reference to anything ethereal or mysterious, but simply to ourselves, the conscious living organisms that we are. Mind is another name for the brain (or perhaps a part of the brain) viewed introspectively. If mind, as we are aware of it, is what is co-existent with some roving high-level patterns of neural activation, it is that traveling center of activation that we are introspectively aware of, and not the brain as a whole. In the same general sense that color is another name for a part of an object (namely, its surface) as viewed via color perception...however, introspection is thus the process by which we are aware of our brains in high-level action, and "mind-in-action" is the form in which we are aware (introspectively) of our brains in action. "Mind" is the form in which we are introspectively aware of our brain's high-level-capacities-in-action. So, there is interaction, but not between two different kinds of entities, just between higher-level and lower-level parts of the brain and nervous system."
(Mind and Will as Objective Phenomena The Ontological Status of Introspective Data)

Regardless what the mechanism of self-awareness may be, it is obvious that awareness " I am " is a foundation of human consciousness. When sundry collectivists deny "I" they in fact deny volition and mind and bring human consciousness to the perceptual level of an animal. When reductionists deny axiomatic nature of self-awareness they do the same.

Edited by Leonid

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