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  1. For those interested in an extensive Objectivist discussion of architecture (not mine): Roger Bissell - Art as Microcosm
  2. Although Rand never mentions how she reached her theory of art, it's reasonable to assume that she did it by induction from established and important works of literature, painting etc. Virtually all art up until the late 19th century has been representational. Rand's contribution is a theory of representational art, so it can be argued that it has little application to alternative frameworks such as non-representational and conceptual art. Whether this is a limitation or not comes down to your personal preferences. If you like non-objective art and want to integrate it with representational theories of art, Rand's aesthetics will at best give you some hints for your project. What is art for? People love to occasionally take a break from the real world and live inside an idealized world. Granted, there are alternative ways to experience a different world: daydreaming, video games, intoxication and even sex come to mind. Art is unique because it's ready-made; no productive participation is required of the consumer. Rand stresses in many places that any justification for art other than enjoyment chips away at the very soul of the artistic enterprise: Why does art portray a total philosophy, and not just a few individual philosophic principles? Let's say a novelist writes a novel about a hairdresser for celebrities. If his hero is fictional, the novelist will construct his life according to what he thinks human beings go through in virtue of being human beings: despair, triumph, futility etc. If, on the other hand, his subject is a real historical person, he'll make it seem as if the events of his life are perfect examples of the despair, triumph or futility of life. This is akin to how religionists take everything to be a proof of god—fortune or misfortune, the existence of the world or the non-existence of the world etc.—it doesn't matter what you throw at them, they'll find a way to convert it into evidence for their beliefs. In art, every action, political rant, brushstroke etc. is in some way consistent with the artist's basic assumptions. By contrast, the real world contains some degree of randomness, e.g. Peikoff's example of fumbling while trying to elegantly open a champagne bottle during a date [OPAR 425]. (whether randomness exists outside of human actions is a much-debated philosophical topic). Some O'ists find it puzzling that a four-line stanza or a statue can hold a total, entire, complete philosophy. This is because they look at the object and not at 'where it comes from', i.e. the source of the selections that construct the work. Such a concatenation is supposed to evoke a distinctive kind of world to your consciousness: A person can hardly enter another world by means of a statue if he looks at it the same way he looks at a G.I. Joe action figure. Most of the philosophical sciences look outward to the external world; aesthetics is uniquely tasked with studying man's inner world in correlation to outward objects of the senses, such as a canvas. Is music a microcosm? Despite being built out of invisible air vibrations, you'd be hard pressed to find a quicker way to tune out of your bus ride and slip straight into another world, than by putting a pair of headphones on. Is architecture art? I'm inclined to think that Rand simply commented on the traditional list of fine arts, rather than reconstructing such things from the ground up. In my opinion, architecture doesn't fit in with her definition of art. If buildings can be art, lunch boxes can be as well. Both are non-representational; both can be either enjoyed for their visual style and significance, or used to enclose people or sandwiches. Why is aesthetics even a part of philosophy? Art has existed for much longer than philosophy, so it certainly wasn't invented by philosophers. When we describe man, characteristics such as having two eyes and a nose won't suffice—too many other animals have eyes and noses. By contrast, the moment you mention 'reason = primary means of survival' you've instantly narrowed the search down to a single entry: man. Likewise, if you want to build a universe in miniature, you have to ignore contingencies and go straight to the essential, important characteristics of earthly existence, i.e. metaphysical features. This is what gives your mini-world an instantly recognizable character, what we refer to when speaking of the world of Rembrandt or Monet. Theory is hard and makes people's brains hurt. By contrast, everybody understands what they encounter in the world of the five senses. Philosophy can be downright unintelligible without the superheroes, pop idols and ancient myths that seep into popular culture and act as statements of what human life is all about. The philosopher, priest and artist deal with the same topics, but in different forms. The philosopher describes the world in a conceptual form, the priest allegedly connects you to the immanent essence of that world, and the artist builds a world for contemplation. Aesthetics is an objective science Creating art is a skill. Natural talent and inclination is crucial, but producing tight artworks requires technical know-how. This technical toolkit removes restrictions to expressive freedom, rather than constraining it with asinine rules: Does aesthetics study beauty? It can be argued that non-beautiful art has little appeal for those who seek art specifically for enjoying themselves. Rand makes no mention of aesthetics as a theory of beauty, but she does discuss a closely related subject: taste. Understanding precisely how taste works can help us identify why combinations that come across as 'tacky', 'sophisticated', 'chaotic' etc. can also come across as beautiful to some people and not to others. The subconscious mind integrates everything we believe about the world. Thanks to this, we naturally feel the overall context underlying our everyday existence, with no further need to translate this feeling into words. Rand calls this phenomenon a sense of life. In my experience, this sense only comes to the forefront of my conscious attention in moments when something makes me feel that life is amazing, or when I feel that life is offensively not how it ought to be. Those strong reactions are an instance of my sense of life being converted into full-fledged emotions. Artists are so attuned to their sense of life that, during creation, most of their selections are almost forced upon them by their subconscious 'computer', as if possesed by a muse. This kind of inspiration works the other way as well: Rand notes how an essentialized fictional character (concretization of ethics) is just like an essentialized world (concretization of metaphysics): it can summon selections to your conscious mind, as if divinely inspired; Your sense of life, to be useful, needs to be rekindled constantly, the same way a fire needs a constant stream of logs to remain active. Otherwise it subdues into nothingness, and you're no longer able to make effortless and 'inspired decisions' the same way the artist does while creating. Put differently, you have to work much harder, because the conscious and subconscious are practicing social distancing rather than being a whole. Your brain is famished, and art is what it craves: Sex and art Implicit in good (human) sex are two interrelated feelings: 1. That having sex is a special, out-of-the-ordinary activity. Some couples even use stories and role-plays to enhance the feeling that something special is going on. (By 'special', many people understand 'illicit', e.g. a nurse breaking the code to do naughty stuff with a patient. I'll leave other possible examples to your imagination.) 2. If sex it that special, then it's not something open to every Joe or Jane, right? Sex is a response to a person that you feel has a unique ability to navigate life. Both men and women look for strong partners; even if the masculine sex usually takes the lead in a sexual relationship, underlying the woman's sexual attitude must lie a strenght on par with the man's. The more flustered, excited and adoring your partner is, the bigger and greater you feel. Sex doesn't provide self esteem, it merely allows you to enjoy its perks. Branden notes [BPO 58] that no rational person will be motivated to keep himself pristine and admirable if his effort is not rewarded somehow. (It's even harder if you're being punished for it by government goons). Sex is philosophical, just like art, in this manner: no sense of life is involved when you hear somebody say that water is a solid rather a liquid; you just find it goofy. But hearing from somebody that living is a meaningless, futile and mindless ritual?? I'll have to stop you there, buster. Pleasurable sex only happens when you feel that you're wholly entitled to that pleasure—as a human being and as this particular individual. If you genuinely feel like you're a useless blob of determined matter, there's no adoration to 'deserve' and sex is a farce. -------------- BPO 58 - Nathaniel Branden's taped lectures on the "Basic Principles of Objectivism" Lecture 16 (1958) FW 58 - Ayn Rand's 1958 fiction-writing recorded course PO12 76 - Leonard Peikoff, "Philosophy of Objectivism" Lecture 12 (1976) RM - Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto
  3. I agree, which is why I exclude 98% of all such terms, including: apperception, real activity, limiting activity, ideal-realism, criticism and the like. Simply explaining those is fine for a layman-style presentation. A notable exception is the part about starting points: dogmatism vs. idealism, and you saw where that went. Thanks, and I'm glad you find it interesting. If you find some things to be lacking, then this is Schelling's most covered book in the english-language literature.
  4. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is one of the most valuable things one could learn from Objectivism. However, if a method is good, it doesn't follow that its application is free from error. Humans are fallible, after all. In The Art of Thinking, Peikoff gives a lecture about how to extract the essentials of a philosophy, movie, book and such. As a demonstration, he uses the method on Kant's philosophy - and gets it wrong. Although the essential premise he identifies is indeed bogus ('consciousness has identity = consciousness is invalid), he's wrong in attributing it to Kant. If you're curious why, check out this resource. Students aside, (most) professionals do indeed think in terms of essentials. This is why their papers have such a 'premium' feel to them - that quality and clarity is the result of many years of trial and error.
  5. Unfortunately, that chapter is not an accurate resource. I myself used to trust it before I looked it up.
  6. So, in brief, O'ists don't care about idealism, because O'ism is all about practicality and idealism is impractical (or, at best, sitting around contemplating ideas). And you've learned this from... where? Idealist philosophy itself? Some claim made by an O'ist? A study of Fichte's philosophy will make it clear that no one, not even Rand herself, was so maniacal about practicality as Fichte. So maniacal, in fact, that he believed the universe itself exists solely as an enabler of human morality. Don't even consider mentioning ecology or animal rights to this guy.
  7. Try this: imagine yourself laying on your back, in a hammock on a Hawaiian beach. Now imagine that as you lie in that very comfy hammock, you start to think about which movie you're going to watch after you return to the hotel. Get it? The thinking you did while chilling on the hammock is itself grounded in the earlier act of thinking of yourself as being in Hawaii. Transcendental philosophy solely describes facts like these. It doesn't make claims about metaphysics. The absolutely first act cannot enter consciousness - its through it that the experience of being here reading this post, imagining yourself being in Hawaii and analysing what you did, happens at all.
  8. Is the "experience", an experience of the "self" being a "spatio-temporal being", or is this to imply that everything is a thought? In a nutshell, If I think about Selena Gomez, then I'm responsible for having Selena present in my head. If I see a car on the street, then that sight was not my own doing. Some external objects made contact with my eyeballs, thus I saw a car. Can't do much about that. The premise of Schelling's system is that your own thinking is not a primary. There's another thinking activity, separate from yours, somewhere in the back, that produces: - The cars that you see on the street - The you, a human person of a particular gender, age and height, who sees cars and can also freely think about Selena The reason you're unconscious of that force in the back is because thinking-as-such cannot come into conscious awareness. Try it: think about mangoes and then catch yourself in the act. 1. Mangoes 2. I'm thinking about mangoes 3. I'm thinking about thinking about mangoes 4. (Goes on forever) Hence, for Fichte and the early Schelling, there's only two (indirect) ways for humans to discover that hidden, unconscious force: - Transcendental deduction, see the OP for what that is - Art, in which case it appears in the form of certain unplanned things bleeding into the artwork. ----- A third possibility which they don't explore (due to not knowing much about it), is the one proposed by certain schools of Eastern philosophy. If you represent that unconscious side with '0' and the conscious side of being a human person reading this post with '1', like this: 0-|-|-|-|-|-|-1 Then there are certain meditative practices that allow the conscious side to go from this: 0-|-|-|-|-|-|-1 ...to this 0-|-|-|-|-1-|-| ...to this 0-|-1-|-|-|-|-| ....all the way up to this 0-1-|-|-|-|-|-| In other words, you can at least become conscious of the intermediary steps between the unconscious impulse and the full fledged reality you experience right now.
  9. That's a funny thing to say, considering that O'ists don't care much for philosophy, if at all. Which is ironic, considering that Objectivism is a philosophy. I've seen people on this forum complain about discussing 'esoteric' metaphysics stuff when people could be discussing what's realy important, which is the current political events. Bringing up things like emergence, mathematics or idealism is simply way outside the scope of why many O'ists adopted O'ism in the first place: to ground a political stance in a rational foundation, and/or to hold a rational alternative to the mainstream 'cults'. It serves as a clear-cut and complete-ish worldview, while simultaneously minimizing the need to window-shop for other philosophies.
  10. Of course. It means to lift your hat up I've never written any philosophy papers (nor have I ever felt the temptation), but I do have my own preferences regarding what I read. If possible, I go with a scholar that specializes in that particular thinker. I noticed from my career in classical music that Jack-of-all-trades musicians are very limited in their grasp of the genres they play compared to musicians that immerse every ounce of their energy into a single musical period (even a single composer). In philosophy as well, this sort of immersion often leads to unearthing many flaws of past scholarship. I don't think it's a good idea to read the originals until one has first read the work of somebody who dedicates the bulk of his career to that thinker. That scholar usually does the heavy-work when it comes to pointing out very subtle differences between seemingly identical statements made by other thinkers of that tradition. Most importantly, there are often differences between the early and later versions of a philosophical system. Many times, the author of that system never points that out, creating the misconception that it's still the same Coca-Cola. I don't doubt 2046's advice is in good spirit. I've gone through my share of academic pains. Although I always stress, to myself, the importance of keeping context in any discussion, online or in person. Yes, a prime example of blowing out the consequences of an idea out of proportion. I highly recommend the paper on Fichte I linked in my previous post. No other Kantian has as many (strong and loose) affinities with Rand.
  11. No, it's not: --- From different premises, that's the whole point. Despite seemingly deal-breaking differences, both Rand and Kant were adults living in a world where success requires acquring a lot of practical wisdom. Combine that with their ferocious intellects and you're bound to learn a lot of profound lessons from reading both. The injustice done to Kant by O'ist thinkers is also important, but pales in comparision to this. The list is extracted from the OP. The context is there, though anybody who wants more on this can search it up. Never said that. No, you need that for your specific purposes. Not 'we' - as in, the whole forum. The premise you're smuggling in here is that there's one, and only one, proper way to discuss books, such as your and if you don't do it like that, that's not in accord with the Rules of Philosophy, section 73, paragraph 2. I do whatever I want. The OP is a presentation in a language that (I hope) a five-year old or layman could understand. I'm not doing something as grandiose as defending a thesis, dressed in formal wear with PowerPoint presentations behind my back, being very careful about what my distinguished colleagues/blog readers might think about how I phrased paragraph 42. ----- You're right Stephen, there is dissonance between Kant and Rand regarding this issue. Though this is not also true of Fichte and the early Schelling, who wanted to 'finish' Kant's project. My interest is in exploring affinities between O'ism and Kantianism, including other (major) Kantians. Fichte also dissolves the duty-pleasure dichotomy:
  12. 2046, The OP is a book summary. I focus on what the book says and try to convey it in straightforward language. There's no connection between the terms I use and their professional academic usage. The actual term Schelling uses is 'dogmatism'. According to Merriam-Webster, this word is commonly used to mean but in this book it's actually an antiquated technical term: (note: 'objective' is an antiquated way of saying 'object') Dogmatism, when used to mean the rival of idealism, has also been called materialism. But even that term is connected to an outdated theory of matter. By focusing on the content of my writing (not the fancy words), it's clear that I replace 'dogmatism' with a modern-sounding moniker ('physicalism') for the first of the two possible starting-principles/axioms: Note that I personally have no interest in philosophy except as lessons I can apply to my life. I couldn't care less about academic technicalities - I know that precision is important if you want to distinguish between thinkers and establish taxonomies. Here, I choose to communicate some broad essentials that Fichte, Schelling and Hegel played with in various ways. I believe that there are others in the same boat as me, even on philosophy forums, so I would only be worried about anachronism if I have clear indications that this is relevant to the topic being discussed. The 'main thesis' is that Kantianism and Objectivism share some points of affinity, despite being grounded in quite incompatible premises. This affinity is not restricted to any topic in particular. For illustration, I used Schelling's system, which re-organizes the Kantian essentials by grounding them in a different principle: the self's activity. Yes, not in an external reality, which is doubly shocking for the conscientious Objectivist. This is precisely what makes the book a great tool for illustration. Examples of this affinity: - The status of perceptual form - The 'subjugation' of nature (production) as central to morality - Retraining from the initiation of physical force, also central to morality - Free will as compatible with lawful nature. - The artwork as a world-in-miniature (not mentioned in my summary), beauty as the pleasure resulting from overcoming tension. The purpose of this thread is to show that Kantianism is not what O'ist thinkers (misleadingly) represent it to be. No, it's not about reality as social-consensus, wishes controlling reality, the form of perception being evil etc. Just listen to Peikoff's lecture on Hegel, then tell me whether this topic, however scatterbrained it may come across to be in your reading, is useful or not. Again, my interest is in the essentials. Does your mind conform to external reality, yes or no? If yes, then you're comfortable with the idea that forms (color, echolocation, Kantian categories) do not exclude a perfect mind-to-reality correspondence. Distinguishing between self and nature, and the form in which that occurs, doesn't compromise anything. Kant's skepticism has a lot more to do with the limits of knowledge. He says that if you use things from experience to explain experience, it's kind of like saying the Bible is true because the Bible says so. Peikoff distinguishes between awareness and means of awareness in OPAR p. 39. I don't see what this changes, though. Any affectation of the means (sense perception) will also affect the end (consciousness); whether consciousness is immaterial or physical is irrelevant, its content would still be conditioned by the whole impinging business. Peikoff's position is that reductionism does not erase the fact of consciousness (Source). To expand on that quip I wrote about Peikoff, he basically looks at his consciousness and says 'look, I can't choose to not see the color green. My consciousness has identity, therefore reality is primary and consciousness is passive in regard to it! it's only a mirror! Q.E.D.' I chose Schelling's book because he theorizes about a free activity that creates its own passivity, i.e. it unconsciously limits itself. Every part of my summary is relevant to this central thesis. Yes, even the part about art, which is his solution-of-sorts. Thanks, Stephen. Lots of interesting points.
  13. Confused? I'll summarize one of the main texts of the Kantian tradition. How compatible is the Kantian framework with Objectivism? You be the judge. The book is F.W.J. Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), a famous work that enjoys the same status in the philosophical tradition as, let's say, Beethoven's Eroica symphony does in music. (Also check out Boydstun's thread on the same book, and some of his other explorations of Kantianism. ---------------- What causes the changes that occur in consciousness? Two possibilities: 1. Consciousness arises out of physical objects impinging upon physical organs or 2. The experience of being a spatio-temporal being is a thought, produced by the act of thinking. -------- According to Schelling (and his predecesors Kant and Fichte), neither possibility can be proved. Knowledge is contextual. If physicalism is the basic premise, then I have to explain consciousness in a way consistent with physicalism. Conversely, if thinking is the more fundamental premise, then I have to explain why I can't control some parts of my conscious experience, even though my premise says that I think all of my reality. Since we check the validity of a claim by verifying if it contradicts other stuff we know, we need something to start off with, some axioms. ---------------- Pros and cons of each starting principle To know is to identify something, e.g. I identify that I have five fingers on each hand. There has to be some things to identify out there, otherwise the identification faculty (consciousness) will get bored. Whatever you identify, you cannot deny the identification (consciousness) of that which you identify (identity/existence). Objectivism puts consciousness in a secondary role, on quite sensible grounds: - Consciousness is one of many things that may exist - Consciousness is, well, consciousness. There has to be something to identify, otherwise no identification occurs. This does miss an important detail though. Consciousness can study its own doing. This is what Rand did when developing her epistemology - she did things with her mind, then looked back at what she did and neatly documented it in ITOE. The possibility that Rand and Peikoff doesn't explore is this: the activity of producing thoughts, if it exists to begin with, can be conscious of its own self. Just as you, the reader, have a self-image (positive or negative). This other posibility will be the starting point of Schelling's system. As Fichte did, he treats philosophy like Geometry: you start with a theorem, which you then prove by actually constructing the figure. Here, the theorem is that self-consciousnss can only occur in the form of a spatio-temporal individual. Only through proceeding with the construction will the hypothesis be proven or disproven. ---------------- The transcendental deduction Don't confuse a transcendental deduction with a logical deduction. A transcendental deduction asks 'what allows this action to occur?' Let's say you teach a kid about apples. You place two apples in front of him, and point to both in succesion saying 'apple...apple'. The child points at them and repeats 'apple'. He's formed the concept 'apple' from experience, and now he can expand the concept to include other details, such as 'apples are a fruit', 'sweet', and so on. But, says Kant, that child wouldn't have been able to do that without the ability to distinguish one point in space from another. Despite the apples looking similar, the kid could tell they're not the same thing because one's there and the other's over there. Space is the condition for the ability to pick apples. If regular philosophers comment on the footbal game from the audience, the transcendental philosopher gets down-and-dirty by playing in the field. His method goes something like this: 1. He thinks something he wants to find the conditions for 2. While thinking it, his mind necessarily performs an additional act that enables the first act to be succesfully performed 3. He takes note of that additional act and freely recapitulates it. This causes yet another involuntary act to occur alongside it. 4. Rinse and repeat until the limit is reached. Kant was the first to perform such a deduction. He asked what the mind has to do in order to distinguish between two kinds of mental content: sensations from outside and sensations authored by the self. This is because both of them are united in the same self: I think both P and Q and therefore a differentiation is necessary. Rand says that Kant equivocates between content and form. This is certainly true under her framework, where the same content can be detected in many different forms. For instance, the same content - location - can be detected in forms such as sight (humans), echolocation (whales), and magnetoreception (pigeons). However, for Kant, the content is already taken care of by whatever detection mecahnism you have in place. That's the level of sensation. His concern is, in fact, with the form in which the difference between 'inner' and 'outer' sensations is grasped. To find out the answer, Kant does the only thing he can do, which is to study his own mind in the act of distinguishing the two. He concludes that categories such as quality, quantity and causality are needed for this. Note that he doesn't rule out the actual existence of quality and quantity, out there in the world. His argument is actually much more simple (paraphrasing his Critique) 'About my own mind, I know certain things for sure. I know that I must actually see Bob to know whether he's tall or not. Consciousness is my turf, hence I can do that kind of study. The external world is, well, not my turf. Only it could study itself like that'. Contra Peikoff, Kant's skepticism has nothing to do with the fact that consciousness grasps in a specific form, and thus all consciousness is disqualified from perceiving reality as it really is (even a godly consciousness). Amusingly enough, Peikoff himself takes a somewhat Kantian route in OPAR, on page 45 where he asks you to imagine that So the mental effect of shape and size corresponds to something out there. In this same way, Kant's theory of perceptual form doesn't pose any problem for this mind-reality correspondence. Regardless, Kant is concerned with studying the character of human knowledge. Metaphysics is for another discussion. ---------------- We now turn back to Schelling - which, I remind you, does not ground his proof on physicalism, but on the act of producing thoughts. He dispenses with the external world, which might or not exist - it's not his business anyway. If the act of producing thoughts tries to sense itself, here's what happens: - I think - I think that I think - I think that I think that I think Ad infintum. The activity of producing thoughts can only, well... produce thoughts. Sensing the production is not possible, except by representing it with yet another thought. The cycle goes on forever and ever. John Galt notes, in his speech, that consciousness has to already be there in order for you to identify it as consciousness. This is also true on an idealistic account. The sequence goes like this: 1. You produce the thought (obviously, you're aware of that thought) 2. You distinguish yourself as the thinker of that thought (self-consciousness) Now let's perform that transcendental deduction thingy. By studying my mind while performing that act of differentiation, I discover that I was able to distinguish myself as the thinker with the help of this criteria: - The thinking act is felt as being in my control. I can analyze, count, think about celebrity gossip etc. - The other side is felt as being outside of my control, i.e. indifferent to my wish. And, in turn, what are the conditions of this? The side that is recalcitrant to my will is represented as the limit to my 'jurisdiction' - extensity/space. And, just as Nature limits my turf, I in turn limit how far it can go by imposing my will upon it ('Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed'). Although my bondage to Nature is permanent, it's actually valid to say that progress can be made. In fact: - I cannot make progress unless there's something to make progress in (the boundary). - The 21st century is better than the Middle Ages, so there's progress even though the list of things I could improve goes on forever. The tracking of your progress, in turn, is going to be made possible by the Kantian categories (causality, quality, quantity etc.) You can look these up, because for now we'll move to the next crucial thing. ---------------- Selfhood (self-image) depends on two related 'shocks' to the self: 1. Distinguishing 'Self' from, well, non-self. We've already covered that. 2. Affirming oneself as oneself, not some other wannabe self. Expanding a bit on that, to recognize yourself you need Nature to serve as the foil, the 'not-self', which threatens your survival by not listening to your wishes, thus forcing you into a self-assertive, 'lord-over-nature' mode of operation. The natural companion (no pun intended) is the clash with other Selves. This makes you realize that whatever you think, see and feel applies to your consciousness only - this is the crucial condition for sensing yourself as an individual self. Fichte and Schelling stress that a 'self-as-such' is a mere abatraction. It can, in fact, only exist as an individual, embodied self. This has important political implications. If your will does not belong to you, then it will be part of somebody outside of your own self (slavery). To be free from others forcefully imposing on you, the Randian principle of physical force is a selfish necessity. ---------------- As stated before, any attempt to sense the production of thoughts simply ends up creating yet another drasted thought, forever and ever. The development of the universe, from its basic elements all the way to organic matter and the biosphere, represents the dialectic by which the Self continually 'improves' its mental representation of itself, but never quite makes it (as is to be expected). The philosophy of nature is yet another fascinating aspect of the system we'll have to skip for now. These abortive and self-refining attempts eventually lead, through an evolutiomary chain, to the human being, whose reasoning faculties allow it to trace back the history of self-consciousness by philosophizing. In other words, what we did just now. Turns out, this strategy doesn't work either. Recapitulating the history of self-consciousness is fine and all, but we started by wanting to sense thinking as a productivity. Philosophy responds 'sure, all you have to do is perform this roundabout feat of mental gymnastics, step after step after step, and you'll get to it for sure!'. ---------------- Riddle: can you be unconscious of having produced some part of your experience? Because this is the number one thing L. Peikoff will bring up when arguing for physicalism. He'll say that you can't control the features of your own consciousness. Then he'll conflate 'consciousness has identity' with physicalism. A possible alternative has been provided by the previous deduction, but we want something more concrete. Solution: Consciously produce something you don't recognize as your own. This solution turns to Kant's aesthetic theory, specifically his treatment of artistic genius. There's plenty of artists with baffling craftsmanship, but no poetry. And just as many artists with splendid sense but no skill. The genius is one for whom nature was so generous as to provide him/her with both. During the creation of a painting, a play, or even a whole mythology (as civilizations do), things go haywire and the artwork is infused with a kind of wisdom that the artist clealry doesn't possess. The kind of wisdom that applies universally to all epochs. The artist is not the author, and yet he is. Sounds familiar? Nature doesn't care whether its channel of expression - the artist - even knows what the hell his painting means. That painting is an instance of Nature being driven by its frustration to properly represent itself as a productivity, and not as a product - the same frustration that caused all of its other attempts. It finally succeeds within the world of art, because in an artwork, the unconscious wisdom that makes a clandestine appearance alongside the consciously executed parts is a document that attests for a Nature that produces on and on and on, without conscious awareness of doing so. This is the conclusion of the system. Since consciousness, through man, is finally able to grasp its nature as an unceasing productivity, the dialectic tensions come to a halt and 'infinite satisfaction' is achieved. It's no coincidence that Beauty is defined as a sense of harmony. Ayn Rand seems to agree.
  14. Essentialy, certain things require more attention/effort to fully grasp than others. In such a situation, you can choose to 'work' in order to arrive at a clear understanding, or you can choose not to. As per Rand, this is the basic choice inasmuch as it affects all other choices. Put differently, you're choosing the quality of your choices. You seem to have your own view of what volition is. In O'ist theory, volition is not the 'freedom' to put your attention on whatever you find interesting. Quite the contrary, it's the ability to second-guess what you happen to find interesting, and act accordingly. 'Existence' in O'ism designates the totality of everything that is - consciousness, trees, chocolate milkshakes and whatever else. Consciousness is distinguished from its absence, as well as from anything that is not an instance of conscious experience. If you're an idealist, grasping yourself is held to require a grasp of what you are not, hence those two are never apart in the act of self-knowledge.
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