Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Primacy of Existence

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Now, I may have hideously misunderstood the Objectivist argument for the primacy of existence, in which case I'd appreciate it if someone corrected me; but my basic understanding is that it attempts to show, a priori, that any form of consciousness is entirely dependent on the nature of the external world (and not the other way round), using analysis of the concept of consciousness. Would I be correct in saying that Objectivism holds that the PoE is analytically true--that the dependence of consciousness on reality is contained within the concept of consciousness?

I'm not denying that this is true, but if that is the nature of the argument, then how can we know that it applies to the real world without saying that the nature of our concepts determine the nature of reality? (Which would, of course, presuppose primacy of existence to be false). We from conceptual analysis that anything that conforms to the concept of consciousness is dependent upon reality. But in order to know that anything in the world conforms to the concept of consciousness, we would surely have to empirically check it against every characteristic of consciousness--including its dependence on reality--which is impossible and renders the entire process pointless. (To illustrate, you wouldn't claim to know that someone is a bachelor just because you empirically observed that they are unmarried--you would also have to observe that they were a man.)

So if conceptual analysis can tell us nothing about the real world without empirical checks, surely we cannot use it to establish the primacy of existence, since it is impossible to check? Or have I gone wrong somewhere?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What do you mean "applies to the real world"? What are you talking about here?

That just because consciousness does necessarily depend on reality, that fact itself is no reason to suppose consciousness exists. And if it is part of the identity of consciousness that it depends on reality, then we could only know that consciousness exists by observing that dependence--which is impossible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(To illustrate, you wouldn't claim to know that someone is a bachelor just because you empirically observed that they are unmarried--you would also have to observe that they were a man.)

It is possible to observe someone is both unmarried and a man. It is possible to observe that the content of consciousness is dependent upon reality external to consciousness.

While primacy of consciousness is ruled out because of the defects of the arguments made for it (circularity, contradictions) that does not imply primacy of existence has a better deductive argument. From my Notes on "The Evidence of the Senses":

II. Primacy of Existence cannot be proven

A. Proof cannot begin by premising facts external to consciousness because that begs the question

B. Proof cannot begin by premising facts about consciousness as that contradicts the thesis that facts external to consciousness must be known first before awareness of awareness is possible

C. There are no other kinds of premises

D. Primacy of Existence cannot be a conclusion

E. "P of E" is self-evident not arbitrary or an act of faith

F. "P of E" is axiomatic because existence is implicit in any and all instances of awareness, any attempt to deny it affirms it

G. The third person external perspective when used to explain consciousness is implicitly a primacy of existence perspective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That just because consciousness does necessarily depend on reality, that fact itself is no reason to suppose consciousness exists. And if it is part of the identity of consciousness that it depends on reality, then we could only know that consciousness exists by observing that dependence--which is impossible.
Actually I was asking what you meant by "applies" and "reality" and "applies to reality". For that matter, what do you mean by "consciousness", "identity" and "chewbacca" ;) ? Edited by softwareNerd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

II. Primacy of Existence cannot be proven

A. Proof cannot begin by premising facts external to consciousness because that begs the question

B. Proof cannot begin by premising facts about consciousness as that contradicts the thesis that facts external to consciousness must be known first before awareness of awareness is possible

C. There are no other kinds of premises

D. Primacy of Existence cannot be a conclusion

E. "P of E" is self-evident not arbitrary or an act of faith

F. "P of E" is axiomatic because existence is implicit in any and all instances of awareness, any attempt to deny it affirms it

G. The third person external perspective when used to explain consciousness is implicitly a primacy of existence perspective.

A. Proof cannot begin without having a functioning thinking apparatus, which must exist at minimum as such a facility that understands what proof is. As soon as you reference proof, you reference the existence of your facility with such apparatus, and hence you reference, by containment, Existence.

B-G: Similarly.

I don't see the issue here. Existence came first, I'm along for the ride -- or maybe I should say, inside for the ride.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now, I may have hideously misunderstood the Objectivist argument for the primacy of existence, in which case I'd appreciate it if someone corrected me; but my basic understanding is that it attempts to show, a priori, that any form of consciousness is entirely dependent on the nature of the external world (and not the other way round), using analysis of the concept of consciousness*. Would I be correct in saying that Objectivism holds that the PoE is analytically true**--that the dependence of consciousness on reality is contained within the concept of consciousness?

*Consciousness is an axiomatic concept which means that it is self-evident and cannot be analyzed.

From ITOE:

An axiomatic concept is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanations rest.

...

The first and primary axiomatic concepts are “existence,” “identity” (which is a corollary of “existence”) and “consciousness.” One can study what exists and how consciousness functions; but one cannot analyze (or “prove”) existence as such, or consciousness as such. These are irreducible primaries. (An attempt to “prove” them is self-contradictory: it is an attempt to “prove” existence by means of non-existence, and consciousness by means of unconsciousness.)

**Objectivism rejects the analytic/synthetic distinction.

From ITOE:

The Objectivist theory of concepts undercuts the theory of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy at its root. . . . Since a concept is an integration of units, it has no content or meaning apart from its units. The meaning of a concept consists of the units—the existents—which it integrates, including all the characteristics of these units.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now, I may have hideously misunderstood the Objectivist argument for the primacy of existence, in which case I'd appreciate it if someone corrected me; but my basic understanding is that it attempts to show, a priori, that any form of consciousness is entirely dependent on the nature of the external world (and not the other way round), using analysis of the concept of consciousness. Would I be correct in saying that Objectivism holds that the PoE is analytically true--that the dependence of consciousness on reality is contained within the concept of consciousness?

You seem to think that Objectivism maintains a dichotomy between analytic and synthetic truths, and that their argument about consciousness is based purely on analytics from an a priori basis. This is most definitely not what is meant by any Objectivist argument. There is no such thing as an a priori argument which makes no reference to particular facts or percepts. All knowledge is ultimately derived from perception (which is actually the issue that you're asking about, the complete dependence of consciousness upon existence).

For this, I'd highly recommend the first chapter of David Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses. He examines the Humean idea that our starting point for all knowledge is consciousness (I think therefore I am; we know that we are conscious prior to knowing that we exist), and Rand's opposite idea of primacy of existence, and lays out arguments for Rand's perspective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now, I may have hideously misunderstood the Objectivist argument for the primacy of existence, in which case I'd appreciate it if someone corrected me; but my basic understanding is that it attempts to show, a priori, that any form of consciousness is entirely dependent on the nature of the external world (and not the other way round), using analysis of the concept of consciousness. Would I be correct in saying that Objectivism holds that the PoE is analytically true--that the dependence of consciousness on reality is contained within the concept of consciousness?

I'm not denying that this is true, but if that is the nature of the argument, then how can we know that it applies to the real world without saying that the nature of our concepts determine the nature of reality?

Do they, or is it the nature of reality that defines the nature of our concepts?

You know this to be true, because otherwise no concepts would be possible. If there is no reality, then there is nothing to form concepts about, including the concept of conciousness .

Edited by avgleandt
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

To OP,

Perhaps an easier example first...

Prove that logic is insufficient without using logic.

If you understand how that is impossible, then you may be able to understand how that is similar to the idea of existence as an axiom.

Other things exist as axiomatic as well; like colors, smells or any other direct perception. How do you describe the color green to a blind man so that he sees what you see? You can't if he was born blind. Just because everything doesn't have a definitive root, definition, or a concept before it doesn't mean that the concept is wrong.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...