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If what you are asking is, can the distance between any two objects be increased (barring any other irrelevant limitations)?

Nope, that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking: Take any two objects that are any arbitrary distance apart, and all of the matter that is in-between them (say, within the smallest sphere that could be described by these two points as points on the sphere's circumference). Will that sphere always and necessarily leave some amount of physical existence outside of the sphere--i.e., will there be some additional arbitrary distance which would include the original objects as well as new objects not in the first sphere?

The original question had epistemological and metaphysical aspects, so it can stay here.

This is nothing more than a precisification of the original question. In essence, if you answer yes to this question, you will assert that there can be an infinite number of distinct physical objects. If you answer no, you assert that it is necessary for there to be some arbitrary number of physical objects. That is metaphysics. A related question is, how do we know? That is epistemology. But if you have a bone to pick, pick it elsewhere because I'm just giving you an improvement upon the original question.

But that's precisely the point. Your application of the above questions to "space" is what i am questioning if, as you say, you don't know what space is.

I'm not talking about space alone. I mentioned it, but that's not the only think I am considering. I'm also considering physical existence which occupies space. Hopefully you will have managed to grasp that from what I've written above.

As i said, if you know nothing about x, how can you know that it separates ALL physical objects?

I just gave you the definition of space: that which separates all physical objects. From there, it requires no great exertion of intellect to know that it separates all physical objects. Unless, of course, you want to argue that not all physical objects are separate, which I find unintelligible.

But as a note, I agree with Meta. I find your tone condescending and thoroughly rude. It's partly your claims, such as that Meta's words have no meaning. It is not at all obvious, and it requires argumentation. That's what these forums are for. To boorishly assert such a thing before the matter becomes much clearer is nothing but an intellectually dishonest attempt at setting the stage of conversation in your favor. The other part of the problem is your method of delivery. Rather than saying, "It seems to me this is a matter of physics rather than metaphysics or epistemology," or, "Perhaps this is better suited for a subforum on physics," you say in an irritatingly peevish tone, "This is the 'metaphysics and epistemology' board." As if I were not aware. You could have just as easily made your point to Meta by expressing concern, like saying, "I suspect that these words are not well-defined and, possibly, cannot be well-defined in this context." But instead, you seem to want to impress us with your (excessive) self-assurance.

Well it's no matter. You can practice whatever manners you will, but, like with Meta, if you aren't more polite then you'll just find yourself with fewer people who care to respond to your posts. Objectivists tend not to be so tolerant of these things, you know.

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But as a note, I agree with Meta. I find your tone condescending and thoroughly rude. It's partly your claims, such as that Meta's words have no meaning.

I have not said anywhere that Meta's words have no meaning. I have said that about his theory/proposition. This is therefore an evaluation of an idea (empty space), not the person (Meta). And not only that, I have backed it up with reasons so that such a statement is not used as a substitute for an argument. 'Meaningless' is a word that can properly be used to describe ideas that are self-contradictory, and I haven't seen any rule on this forum against using that word in place of self-contradictory.

The other part of the problem is your method of delivery. Rather than saying, "It seems to me this is a matter of physics rather than metaphysics or epistemology," or, "Perhaps this is better suited for a subforum on physics," you say in an irritatingly peevish tone, "This is the 'metaphysics and epistemology' board."

That's how you "speak"; that's not how I speak. Why should I conform to your style? Can one objectively say that saying "this is the metaphysics and epistemology board" is rude? especially if that is in response to "Philosophy or not, this is the question ..." which I'm sure you consider to be much more polite.

As is this statement from you: "From there, it requires no great exertion of intellect to know that it separates all physical objects." Another very polite statement in your books, I'm sure?

Objectivists tend not to be so tolerant of these things, you know.

I'm not sure who made you spokesperson for "Objectivists", but I believe it is impossible to say what they are all like. Two people arguing for empty space is hardly the totality of "Objectivists". The forum has very clear rules that one can know if they have broken. I haven't broken the rules; YOU have. With this statement:

But instead, you seem to want to impress us with your (excessive) self-assurance.

This is a personal attack, and as far as I'm aware, this is what is explicitly against the rules of this forum. I stand to be corrected by the Admins, of course.

[On the other hand, if *you* are an Admin (I can't tell from this reply view), then I've just signed my eviction notice from this forum with this last post! Anyway, Bye.]

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As I said, you may act however you wish. I have been rude to you only to illustrate that the rudeness with which you treat other people on this board is not appreciated by the person to whom it is directed. If you insist on being rude, our conversation is over.

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Anyways, trying to get the discussion a little bit back on track, I'll try to give an example of the boundary of reality. As we all know, contradictions cannot exist in reality, but they can certainly exist in the mind. Non-existence does not exist in reality, but the *concept* of non-existence exists in the mind. Furthermore, matter -- the stuff of reality -- behaves predictably, it is determined. Mind on the other hand is not determined. We have a free will. In fact, free will directly relies on non-existent possibilities. In order to have a free will we need to be able to have many different images of futures in our head which don't exist yet, and pick one among them.

The way I have described it existence and mind seem to be opposites. Of course, that's not the case. We may have non-contradictory concepts too (in fact, most of them are of this kind) as well as concepts with referents in reality. We can also choose to use our free will rationally and thereby behave predictably. Thus, a more correct description of consciousness would be as partially possessing the properties of reality and partially not. Consciousness seems to be in the "twilight" between existence and non-existence. Certainly people who choose to evade reality quickly become non-existent themselves. They die.

So what then if consciousness is the boundary of existence, the edge where non-contradiction starts to break down?

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You can't hold contradictions in the mind, not in way you mean it. Can you imagine a square circle?

No, but I *can* talk about it. Contradictions can only exist in language, as a conjunction of contradictory concepts. Such linguistic contradictions are literally meaningless (meaning=the referent in reality), but we *are* capable of constructing meaningless, contradictory phrases. This very same constructive process is used to construct non-existing, but *possible* meanings, e.g. plans of the future. Thus the very same process that underlies the ability to create linguistic contradiction is the one that underpins free will. Also note that trying to adhere to a contradiction in consciousness will result in consequences in reality -- ultimately death.

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Furthermore, matter -- the stuff of reality -- behaves predictably, it is determined.

Well, that's just not true.

The way I have described it existence and mind seem to be opposites. Of course, that's not the case. We may have non-contradictory concepts too (in fact, most of them are of this kind) as well as concepts with referents in reality. We can also choose to use our free will rationally and thereby behave predictably. Thus, a more correct description of consciousness would be as partially possessing the properties of reality and partially not. Consciousness seems to be in the "twilight" between existence and non-existence. Certainly people who choose to evade reality quickly become non-existent themselves. They die.

So what then if consciousness is the boundary of existence, the edge where non-contradiction starts to break down?

I have trouble understanding this, I think because of a loose use of language. Existence and the mind are not at all opposites in this sense: the mind exists! Moreover, I'm not certain that a person can actually have contradictions. Certainly he can express them, but I question whether truly believing that a proposition and its negation are simultaneously true in the same way is at all possible. But even if it were, they could in a sense be compartmentalized, so that there would not be any metaphysical contradiction.

But I fail to see what relevance this has to the issue of finity.

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Well, that's just not true.

I agree that there is "quantum noise" in nature, but in macroscopic systems where this noise is cancelled or not amplified (such as planetary motions) the behavior of matter is very predictable.

I have trouble understanding this, I think because of a loose use of language. Existence and the mind are not at all opposites in this sense: the mind exists! Moreover, I'm not certain that a person can actually have contradictions. Certainly he can express them, but I question whether truly believing that a proposition and its negation are simultaneously true in the same way is at all possible. But even if it were, they could in a sense be compartmentalized, so that there would not be any metaphysical contradiction.

A key factor in conceptualization/abstraction is the ability to hold an object in mind and be able to view it as something other than itself. Example: when you look in the mirror you don't see another person on the other side of the mirror, you see yourself, although your senses say otherwise. We treat the mirror *symbolically*, meaning that the object itself becomes a reference to something else. When we read a word "tree" our awareness of a tree is triggered. But clearly "tree" is a pattern of letters, not a tree. This ability to treat something as other than itself is a key element of free will. If someone says "fire" we don't immediately interpret it as a fire that we need to escape. We are able to hold the thought of fire in our head and at the same time realizing that there is no actual fire. Similarly we can think of alternative futures, futures that may or not come to be, but certainly isn't inevitable. By making these mental images of futures which know not to be actual, we can choose freely among them the ones that best suit our need -- the key ingredient in human free will.

Now, this very same ability that enables us to see an object other than itself -- seeing it at a distance, detached, abstracted if you like -- is the very same ingredient embodied in creativity, fantasy and irrationality. Planning different kinds of futures requires creativity. But we can also use that creativity to create symbolic conjunctions of things that never has existed in reality: an angel is a person with wings. A unicorn is a horse with a horn etc. This freedom of abstract, detached recombinations of things that simultaneously are something other than themselves also allow us to construct contradictions: black whiteness, a true falsehood, a square circle etc. We can't hold these contradictions in mind *perceptually*, only linguistically. That is, only by using the abstract, detached ability of language in isolation can we construct contradictions, that we can *comprehend*, but not *visualize*.

But I fail to see what relevance this has to the issue of finity.

It's quite possible that I am going out on a limb here in speculatory language games, I am most certainly in an exploratory mode here. My starting point of inquriy is what happens if you zoom down to the quantum level. In one interpretation of quantum mechanics particles can spring into existence out of nothing, so long as it is temporary. I think the energy dense aether makes a lot more sense, i.e. temporary particles from the aether, but the problem of apparent contradiction and indeterminism still seems to exist at this level. Quantum tunneling suggests that this is more than a mere measurement uncertainty, but rather a real phenomenon. The quantum level is my perfect example of the edge of existence, where non-contradiction starts to break down. How can this be? Well, to me the behavior down at the quantum level is very similar to that of consciousness. Quantum uncertainty looks to me a lot like free will. We know that contradictions in the mind can lead to profoundly irrational behavior due to free will. Thus, we can observe in humans what can only be described as a contradiction: self-destructive behavior of the self. This gives me associations to temporary, short-lived particles at the quantum level. People can embody profound contradictions in reality in their behavior, but only very briefly before it results in their death. Rationality is required for long term survival, but in the short term some irrationality can endure. If humans were particles I would describe such temporary particles apparently violating the laws of nature as quantum noise.

Well, then. Maybe that's exactly what quantum noise is? Maybe there exists "free will" particles or properties of matter, so what we are really observing at the quantum level is where matter transits into the realm of consciousness. If so then biological consciousness should ultimately be explained as a kind of amplification of quantum noise to the macrolevel.

Disclaimer: this is pure speculation for exploratory purposes

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It is not a contradiction to say: there is a tree in reality, and I'm imagining reality without one. This is because existence has primacy, your imagination does not change reality or make it the same and different at the same time and in THE SAME RESPECT. One can say "black whiteness" but that phrase has no cognitive or conceptual meaning whatsoever. Proper concepts refer to actually existing existents, "black whitness" refers to nothing in reality, even imaginary things, thus it is not a concept, it is a zero and only has existence as three meaningless syllables strung one after the other.

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It is not a contradiction to say: there is a tree in reality, and I'm imagining reality without one. This is because existence has primacy, your imagination does not change reality or make it the same and different at the same time and in THE SAME RESPECT.

This is true, no-one is claiming that contradictions can exist *in reality*. The question is whether they can exist *in consciousness*. I think the answer is clearly yes, just like we most certainly can think of things that do not exist, and even cannot exist. The question is then what this consciousness-thing is that differs in nature so strikingly from reality. Hence my discussion on the boundary of reality.

One can say "black whiteness" but that phrase has no cognitive or conceptual meaning whatsoever.

True, but meaning (as correctly and brilliantly defined by Ayn Rand) is the referent in reality. If a phrase has no referent in reality whatsoever and such a referent is inconceivable then the phrase is by definition meaningless. However, we can still hold such thoughts in consciousness. In fact, evasion would be impossible without it. Evasion is exactly the process of holding something *other* than reality in consciousness. This would not be possible if we could not hold meaningless ideas in mind.

Proper concepts refer to actually existing existents, "black whitness" refers to nothing in reality, even imaginary things, thus it is not a concept, it is a zero and only has existence as three meaningless syllables strung one after the other.

Agreed, and yet we can talk about it, holding it in mind as an idea. We are capable of evading reality, we are capable of being irrational. These are very special abilities

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This is true, no-one is claiming that contradictions can exist *in reality*. The question is whether they can exist *in consciousness*. I think the answer is clearly yes, just like we most certainly can think of things that do not exist, and even cannot exist. The question is then what this consciousness-thing is that differs in nature so strikingly from reality. Hence my discussion on the boundary of reality.

I'm not so certain that you can. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a round square. And I cannot, for the life of me, actually believe that there both is and is not a tiger outside of my house. I can only go back-and-forth between a tiger and no-tiger thought.

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This is true, no-one is claiming that contradictions can exist *in reality*. The question is whether they can exist *in consciousness*. I think the answer is clearly yes, just like we most certainly can think of things that do not exist, and even cannot exist. The question is then what this consciousness-thing is that differs in nature so strikingly from reality. Hence my discussion on the boundary of reality.

Yes, of course contradictions can exist in your mind. In fact, it's very tough to root them all out even when you're proactively trying to do it. :thumbsup:

I'm not so certain that you can. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a round square. And I cannot, for the life of me, actually believe that there both is and is not a tiger outside of my house. I can only go back-and-forth between a tiger and no-tiger thought.

There are certain limits to your consciousness that follow from the law of identity, but you can hold contradictory ideas. It's very easy, and not only very common, but I wonder if anyone doesn't! The point is you have to consciously go through your subconscious knowledge and look to bang out all contradictions, it doesn't happen automatically. So, for example, I may hold one view about auto mechanics, and another one about a work of art, and may have learned these things at very different time periods in my life and thought they were right at the time. Then, for whatever reason, I cross check the two and find that, say, a drawing of a car is wrong, because certain mechanical principles don't allow for such a mechanism to work the way drawn, thus I ought correct this contradiction in my mind. This is just a random example. There are likely many regions of knowledge in your mind that have contradictions you have yet to check for, and you may never have the time to check for.

If your mind automatically weeded through contradictions for you, how much easier life would be! I’m all for the equivalent of a mental garbage collector.

'Onar Åm' says:

True, but meaning (as correctly and brilliantly defined by Ayn Rand) is the referent in reality. If a phrase has no referent in reality whatsoever and such a referent is inconceivable then the phrase is by definition meaningless. However, we can still hold such thoughts in consciousness. In fact, evasion would be impossible without it. Evasion is exactly the process of holding something *other* than reality in consciousness. This would not be possible if we could not hold meaningless ideas in mind.

I don't think this is exactly right. Evasion is the process of looking away or disregarding evidence. You can still hold something valid in your consciousness in the process of doing that. For example, I can focus on a basketball or hockey puck while evading the existence of an on coming truck.

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I'm not so certain that you can. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a round square. And I cannot, for the life of me, actually believe that there both is and is not a tiger outside of my house. I can only go back-and-forth between a tiger and no-tiger thought.

Contradictions organize along a gradient, starting with no contradiction at all ending with utter non-sense. In between however there are many stages that you can easily grasp. First the notion of thinking about a thing that could exist, but doesn't. (potential existence). Here you are holding something non-existent in your mind. Your thoughts contain a unit that has no referent in reality. Then you can start imagining things that can't exist in reality such as dry water or a unicorn. Furthermore as Thales pointed out you can hold different contradictory facts in mind at the same time. If you're a muslim you may at the same time value Western material goods but hate Western culture, not realizing that one is the product of the other. Or the most extreme contradictions which are simply unthinkable such as black whiteness, which you can only construct linguistically but has no meaning whatsoever.

Thus, you start at one end of the gradient with existents and then gradually move towards complete and utter contradictions which are impossible even for the mind to hold. It's a gradual breakdown of non-contradiction.

But again I stress the point that this ability to hold something non-existent in mind, i.e. an object without a referent in reality, is key to free will. This leads me to speculate if this is a crucial property of consciousness, i.e. it lies at the very boundary of existence, starting to break up into contradicitons/non-existence, and precisely this is what produces free will.

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First the notion of thinking about a thing that could exist, but doesn't. (potential existence). Here you are holding something non-existent in your mind. Your thoughts contain a unit that has no referent in reality.

If it doesn't exist it 'could' not exist either :lol:

Then you can start imagining things that can't exist in reality such as dry water or a unicorn.

No, you can't imagine a unicorn. Trying to bring up such concrete examples only makes it more difficult to discuss but doesn't add any point to your argument.

What you can do is to create a set of (contradicting) axioms which define a world where a unicorn is possible.

But as you can not imagine contradicting axioms, you cannot imagine anything which results out of these axioms.

Keep it simple, try to imagine 1=2.

Furthermore as Thales pointed out you can hold different contradictory facts in mind at the same time. If you're a muslim you may at the same time value Western material goods but hate Western culture, not realizing that one is the product of the other. Or the most extreme contradictions which are simply unthinkable such as black whiteness, which you can only construct linguistically but has no meaning whatsoever.

Yes, you can think A and after that think B, each 'fact' based on a different set of axioms.

But you cannot think A and B at the same time as this would require you to think of contradicting axioms which you cannot imagine.

But again I stress the point that this ability to hold something non-existent in mind, i.e. an object without a referent in reality, is key to free will. This leads me to speculate if this is a crucial property of consciousness, i.e. it lies at the very boundary of existence, starting to break up into contradicitons/non-existence, and precisely this is what produces free will.

What 'produces' free-will is the fact that you are finite and part of reality.

Assuming that your will is determined would cause you to reconsider your decision on the fact that your will is determined (which ends up in an infinite regression). 'Someone' 'outside of reality' would assume that your actions are determined but that's metaphysical impossible.

Thus, being part of reality, you have to assume that you have a free will.

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If it doesn't exist it 'could' not exist either :)

Actually, there are two different kinds of non-existents here. Non-existents that COULD exist in reality, and non-existents that COULDN'T exist in reality. Prior to 1870 cars didn't exist, but there was certainly nothing in the laws of nature that prevented it from existing. Dry water on the other hand could not exist in reality. We would actually have to change the laws of physics to do that. However, in both cases I can imagine these non-existents, and it is the same faculty that conceives the possible non-existent and the impossible one.

No, you can't imagine a unicorn.

I can picture it quite clearly in my mind.

Keep it simple, try to imagine 1=2.

That's not simple. That's a "hard" contradiction, one that can only be expressed linguistically, but not understood.

What 'produces' free-will is the fact that you are finite and part of reality.

If that were true rocks would have free will.

Thus, being part of reality, you have to assume that you have a free will.

Of course, and I have never claimed otherwise. Am I being exceptionally dense here? I am not questioning free will, I am pondering on what it IS and how it can exist.

If your mind automatically weeded through contradictions for you, how much easier life would be! I’m all for the equivalent of a mental garbage collector.

Precisely.

I don't think this is exactly right. Evasion is the process of looking away or disregarding evidence. You can still hold something valid in your consciousness in the process of doing that. For example, I can focus on a basketball or hockey puck while evading the existence of an on coming truck.

I have to agree with you that very primitive evasion involves simply focusing on a different existent. But in general as a way of living evasion involves contradictions. You most certainly accumulate contradictory viewpoints by constantly evading.

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Explicitly you are saying that although A [a unicorn] does not exist you can imagine A [a unicorn].

But please keep in mind what 'imagining' means. It means to reduce an entity to a very small number of characteristics (e.g. 'appearance'). You most certainly can draw a picture of a unicorn and have that picture in your mind. But that picture is not a unicorn because it lacks significant characteristics that define a unicorn.

So what you actually saying is that while A does not exist you can imagine B. Very true, but A != B (in particular B no longer has the contradictory characteristics of A) so you cannot draw any conclusions from the fact that you can imagine B.

If you want to "imagine" a unicorn in your mind with all its characteristics (and not just a picture of it), you would have to include for example the genetic structure which explains its abilities.

And if your definition of "unicorn" includes supernatural abilities (i.e. real contradictions and not just some horn substance on the head which would genetically be possible) you will fail sooner or later because no genetic code can do the impossible. Putting all the natural laws together with the genetic code and the expected characteristics of an unicorn into an equation you will arrive at '1=2' in the end, i.e. a contradiction which you can't imagine (except if you reduce it to a picture of '1=2').

Actually, there are two different kinds of non-existents here. Non-existents that COULD exist in reality, and non-existents that COULDN'T exist in reality.

And the same goes with the 'non-existents that could exist in reality'. In 1850 you could have 'imagined' a picture of a car, but not the car itself.

You could have imagined the car itself if you were an engineer, understood how an engine worked and tried to build it. Exactly that happened in ~1886 by Carl Benz.

So I certainly agree that imagining something that doesn't exist yet is a prerequisite to be a creator.

But I don't see how that is the 'key' to free will.

To understand you correctly: What do you mean 'A is the key to B'? Do you mean 'A -> B'? Then you still have to explain why 'B -> A' or 'A <-> B' is not true.

I suspect that either 'B -> A' or 'A <-> B' is true, i.e. that what you describe as the 'ability to hold something non-existent in mind' is just another definition of free will or that that follows from free will, but I have think about that more closely.

If that were true rocks would have free will.

Well, maybe certain rocks (Computers) :)

But I might add '... and are aware of your finitene existence i.e. are selfaware.'

Without being selfaware one basicly is just a biological machine, an entity without a free will.

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Oh hell…I’m back (in spite of the personal insults I received from one poster here).

Onar, you are right on one point: one CAN imagine impossibilities. Clawq’s statement above about imagining only a picture of something impossible is true even about things that are possible or existent, so it is an invalid point. I can strictly speaking only imagine a PICTURE of George Bush; that, after all, is what imagination means (from ‘image’; an image of a thing is not the thing, obviously). And obviously, I do not imagine genetic codes of anyone when I imagine them, so I don’t know why that should be a requirement when imagining a unicorn.

To give another example of something impossible that I can imagine: I can imagine a man jumping to (and over) the moon. There. And i can imagine a man holding his breath under water for two years!

But this does not mean that the axioms break down in your imagination. When you imagine a unicorn, it always has an identity. Its identity is precisely those “supernatural” abilities that you attribute to it. Even though it does not exist in reality, it still has an identity, qua unicorn.

BUT, the reason you can imagine something is precisely because the thing you are imagining is not defying the axioms. If you try to imagine something that defies the axioms, you will fail. This is the reason you can not imagine something that’s both there and not there, because that’s a direct contradiction of the axiom of identity. A man that can jump to the moon does not contradict the axioms, so you can imagine such a man. A man who can’t jump and can jump is impossible to imagine.

Now, it is one thing for you to understand that a unicorn only exists in the mind, but not in reality, but some colleagues here have been arguing for the existence of something they call empty space (or “space”) in REALITY. For you to claim that something exists in reality, you MUST be able to scientifically identify it. One of these colleagues claimed that empty space is something that separates all physical objects, but that is still not a scientific identification – it is a random definition; how does he know there is SOMETHING that separates all physical objects? Blank. How does he know “it” is not a physical object itself? Blank out.

The other one called it a “potentiality” and that’s even worse nonsense; even a “potentiality” must have scientific identification if it exists in reality. To posit something that can exist OUTSIDE existence or WITHOUT identity is meaningless, no matter what name you give to it, and of course it is SURPRISING when it is “real” Objectivists who persist in that fallacy even AFTER it is pointed out to them.

The irony, of course, is that you are now being essentially told that it is impossible to imagine something that contradicts reality. That's wrong. What is impossible (and meaningless) is to imagine something that contradicts THE AXIOMS of reality, as they were attempting to do in their “thought experiments”.

I hope this helps.

Edited by blackdiamond
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There are certain limits to your consciousness that follow from the law of identity, but you can hold contradictory ideas. It's very easy, and not only very common, but I wonder if anyone doesn't!

While I don't deny that a person can believe that there is a tiger outside and in the next moment disbelieve that there is a tiger outside. And I don't deny that the person could say in the same breath, "There both is and is not a tiger outside." That would be holding a contradiction in the colloquial sense. But I don't believe a person can actually think the thoughts that these words express.

Contradictions organize along a gradient, starting with no contradiction at all ending with utter non-sense.

I think this is only illusory. Utter non-sense is only those expressions which one cannot readily tweek in order to make them sensible. For instance, if you have a large collection of assertions, and only one of them is wrong about one noun, it is easy enough to substitute in the correct noun and so the collection of assertions will be correct. But when you have a massive hodgepodge of errors, and no single process of correction can easily be identified as a simply correction, then it appears to be non-sense. But at no time does this require that one actually think of contradictions.

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(snip)

Finally a reply which goes slightly beyond Objectivism 101. First, let me emphasize that I am NOT saying that consciousness doesn't have an identity, but its identity involves the ability to be able to choose freely and it is this ability I am trying to understand how can arise. What I have claimed is that contradictions can exist in consciousness, but not in reality. What I mean by "exist in consciousness" is not that consciousness itself can be twisted to behave in a contradictory manner, this would constitute a contradiction _in reality_, but that the mind can hold the _idea_ of contradiction and non-existence as _content_. Furthermore I have speculated that this ability is integral to the ability of free will.

Now, it is one thing for you to understand that a unicorn only exists in the mind, but not in reality, but some colleagues here have been arguing for the existence of something they call empty space (or “space”) in REALITY.

I'm not sure who you are referring to but I have been arguing for the existence of an ETHER. I'm not sure that counts as space, but it sure is *something.*

For you to claim that something exists in reality, you MUST be able to scientifically identify it.

The ether can be identified in my opinion. The evidence points in the direction that mass influences the density of the ether, because light is refracted around massive objects.

The other one called it a “potentiality” and that’s even worse nonsense; even a “potentiality” must have scientific identification if it exists in reality. To posit something that can exist OUTSIDE existence or WITHOUT identity is meaningless, no matter what name you give to it, and of course it is SURPRISING when it is “real” Objectivists who persist in that fallacy even AFTER it is pointed out to them.

Again I am not sure who you are referring to, but I completely agree. Potentiality has the same and only kind of existence as santa claus, i.e. as a fiction, an imagination, a linguistic entity, stuff of mind. Claiming that these potentialities could ACTUALLY exist amounts to creating a second world, i.e. supernaturalism.

The irony, of course, is that you are now being essentially told that it is impossible to imagine something that contradicts reality. That's wrong. What is impossible (and meaningless) is to imagine something that contradicts THE AXIOMS of reality, as they were attempting to do in their “thought experiments”.

I found it clarifying, but it doesn't address my own speculation, namely the role of the ability to imagine contradictions and non-existents in free will. Furthermore, consciousness (and teleological entities in general) seem to have rather peculiar abilities compared to existence at large. A consciousness or a living being can DIE, cease to exist. I.e. its identity is not preserved. Ayn Rand identified mortality as the basis of values, but I'm not sure if she ever addressed the problem that death is the end of identity. A is A, but at the end of one's life A is A no longer. Of course, the atoms don't cease to exist, but that integrated identity known as the "I" does vanish. Yet another property that seems to place consciousness (and life) in a metaphysically category than existence at large.

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Finally a reply which goes slightly beyond Objectivism 101. First, let me emphasize that I am NOT saying that consciousness doesn't have an identity, but its identity involves the ability to be able to choose freely and it is this ability I am trying to understand how can arise. What I have claimed is that contradictions can exist in consciousness, but not in reality. What I mean by "exist in consciousness" is not that consciousness itself can be twisted to behave in a contradictory manner, this would constitute a contradiction _in reality_, but that the mind can hold the _idea_ of contradiction and non-existence as _content_. Furthermore I have speculated that this ability is integral to the ability of free will.

I see. Onar, i think your error lies in your conflating metaphysical and epistemological "facts". (You wanted something beyond Objectivism 101, this post will provide it).

When you say that contradictions can exist in consciousness, you must realise that this can only mean that they exist EPISTEMOLOGICALLY, and NOT metaphysically. The problem is that you are treating them as *metaphysically* existing in your consciousness, which is impossible and meaningless.

Why is this important? The contents of your consciousness do not exist metaphysically. What does this mean? It means that "exist" is only a manner of speaking in application to "them". It means that consciousness can not contain any existents. Consciousness is merely an action (or a process); the specific action of perceiving (and conceptualising, for humans). When you see something, this does not mean it is now in your consciousness. and when you imagine something, this still does not mean it is in your consciousness. But we can say it is there just for the sake of discussion, for the sake of identification (integration and differentiation). The word we use for this is 'epistemological'.

An example: the distinction between the body and the mind. Metaphysically, this distinction does not exist. Epistemologically, it exists (or, more accurately, it "exists"). What does this mean? We distinguish between body and mind ONLY for the sake of discussion, for the sake of identification, to integrate and differentiate certain aspects of the SAME metaphysical thing. Hence it is only an *epistemological* distinction.

Now, what you are doing is saying that a contradiction EXISTS in your consciousness, and interpreting this "existence" metaphysically instead of epistemologically. This leads you to the error of concluding that the axioms of METAPHYSICS are defied in this thing called consciousness. Had you realised that the contradiction that CAN exist is not METAPHYSICAL, but epistemological, you would have naturally realised that the axioms of METAPHYSICS are still not defied even "in" your consciousness.

Thus, your theory of how free will arises remain invalid, because your premises are philosophically mistaken.

Furthermore, consciousness (and teleological entities in general) seem to have rather peculiar abilities compared to existence at large. A consciousness or a living being can DIE, cease to exist. I.e. its identity is not preserved. Ayn Rand identified mortality as the basis of values, but I'm not sure if she ever addressed the problem that death is the end of identity. A is A, but at the end of one's life A is A no longer. Of course, the atoms don't cease to exist, but that integrated identity known as the "I" does vanish. Yet another property that seems to place consciousness (and life) in a metaphysically category than existence at large.

No, death is not the end of identity. If you are an athlete today, i can identify you as such. When you stop being an athlete, your identity changes. Or you could say you've lost your identity of athlete. When a person dies, he is no longer a person, just like when he stops being an athlete he is no longer an athlete. But in both cases, he still has an identity. A "dead person" is an identity. A former athlete is an identity, or you can call him a philosopher if that's what he is now. So, it is not true that death (of consciousness) has any special status with respect to the law of identity. (In fact, if you paint your car from blue to red, you can equally say it has lost its "blueness" and is now something else: a red car; just like you can say a person has lost his life or consciousness, and he is now something else: dead.)

Remember that death is really just the loss of a certain ability: the ability to live. It's not too different from losing your ability to run fast. A is still A.

Does this help?

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When you say that contradictions can exist in consciousness, you must realise that this can only mean that they exist EPISTEMOLOGICALLY, and NOT metaphysically.

Correct.

The problem is that you are treating them as *metaphysically* existing in your consciousness, which is impossible and meaningless.

I disagree, I don't think I am treating them metaphysically. I am treating *consciousness* as a metaphysical existent, but not the *contents* of consciousness, which is epistemological. Now, my point is that in order for consciousness to have the kind of ability we call free will, it actually has to have an impact on the world. Consciousness is something real, created somehow by our brain, but really affecting our brain. Consciousness could be a hitherto undiscovered aspect or parameter of matter, or it could be a different substance from matter altogether, but regardless it must have real impact on matter for it to have the metaphysical ability of free will.

In this context the epistemological contents of the metaphysical consciousness becomes very important, because since we act and choose freely based on that content, contradictions in mind can have real world effects. In fact, trying to embrace contradictions fully leads to death. That is, to non-existence. And that is precisely the kind of metaphysical "behavior" we would expect from contradictions. Contradictions cannot exist, i.e. they must be non-existent. Embracing contradictions in mind using our free will results in death. Our being as individuals becomes non-existent.

Why is this important? The contents of your consciousness do not exist metaphysically. What does this mean? It means that "exist" is only a manner of speaking in application to "them". It means that consciousness can not contain any existents. Consciousness is merely an action (or a process); the specific action of perceiving (and conceptualising, for humans). When you see something, this does not mean it is now in your consciousness. and when you imagine something, this still does not mean it is in your consciousness. But we can say it is there just for the sake of discussion, for the sake of identification (integration and differentiation). The word we use for this is 'epistemological'.

We distinguish between body and mind ONLY for the sake of discussion, for the sake of identification, to integrate and differentiate certain aspects of the SAME metaphysical thing. Hence it is only an *epistemological* distinction.

This I am not certain of that I agree with. I think Binswanger may be correct that consciousness one day may turn out to be a measurable effect in the brain, i.e. something that actually impacts matter. My current favorite image of the brain is as a kind of musical instrument, an organ playing music, and the standing waves of sound is what we call consciousness. Obviously this requires a kind of "air" or mind-stuff, spirit if you like. I think of this "air" as something that exists everywhere in the universe, possibly it is a property of matter, but it has no structure without matter. So the brain is actually molding and shaping this mind-stuff, creating its content, the stuff that we say is *in* mind. So the brain presents to consciousness its content, and the consciousness then chooses. When we die, that structure dissolves, so our *mind* literally ceases to exist. Just like a wave ceases to exist when the organ stops playing.

Sure, the mind and body still makes up one entity, just like the bones and soft-tissue are inseparable parts of the same unity, but the stuff of mind is real.

Now, what you are doing is saying that a contradiction EXISTS in your consciousness, and interpreting this "existence" metaphysically instead of epistemologically. This leads you to the error of concluding that the axioms of METAPHYSICS are defied in this thing called consciousness. Had you realised that the contradiction that CAN exist is not METAPHYSICAL, but epistemological, you would have naturally realised that the axioms of METAPHYSICS are still not defied even "in" your consciousness.

I understand what you're getting at, and I agree, but I still think you are barking up the wrong tree. I guess the term "exist in consciousness" is ambiguous and the root of the misunderstanding. "Exist" is a better term to show that it is epistemological, i.e. that it exists only as an interpretation of the mind, i.e. the experienced meaning that the mind puts into it.

Thus, your theory of how free will arises remain invalid, because your premises are philosophically mistaken.

Not at all. Consciousness exists, contradictions in mind "exist." Consciousness and its free choices has real, measurable impact on the world , and thereby is able to translate "existence" into effects in the world that "exists." Thus, people may e,g, take their broken, contradictory concepts of communism which "exist" and try to build a real communistic system only to realize that reality won't permit contradictions to exist. The effort will fail. However, the *effort* actually did exist. We can observe misery and failure unfolding. We could even say that communism exists temporarily, which brings us back to my quantum mechanics example. At the quantum level particles apparently go in and out of existence from nothing. Obviously something funky is going on here, and I can't help but to notice that their brief temporary existence resembles that of the brief temporary attempts of enacting contradictory ideas in reality by conscious, free beings.

No, death is not the end of identity.

Your death most certainly is the death of YOUR identy.

A "dead person" is an identity.

Only to others than the dead person himself.

(In fact, if you paint your car from blue to red, you can equally say it has lost its "blueness" and is now something else: a red car; just like you can say a person has lost his life or consciousness, and he is now something else: dead.)

This argument is most certainly true for inanimate objects. A car doesn't care whether it is red or blue, taken care of or destroyed. In all cases it is just changing forms of matter consistent with the laws of nature. With teleological entities it is truly different. As Ayn Rand says, life is metaphysically different from all other stuff in reality because matter cannot be destroyed, whereas life can die. I interpret this to mean that life has a very special kind of identity, namely a self-produced identity. Since the identity is produced by the identity itself, death actually destroys the identity. It ceases to exist. It really does go out of existence. But from the rest of the universe's perspective the organism was just a bunch of atoms, an object that changed form.

So what we appear to have is life and consciousness as a kind of metaphysical "super layer" on "top" of existence at large, i.e. on top of matter. You could argue that they only "exist", i.e. can only be ascribed meaning to by a mind, but what truly complicates things is consciousness. We ARE after all consciousness. Consciousness doesn't just "exist", it is a real phenomenon, with a real existence. So the super layer is more than mere appearence, it seems, and in this layer we can observe contradictions as real effects in the world, but only temporarily. Any being that attempts to live contradictory will be weeded out of existence, i.e. die.

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I disagree, I don't think I am treating them metaphysically. I am treating *consciousness* as a metaphysical existent, but not the *contents* of consciousness, which is epistemological. Now, my point is that in order for consciousness to have the kind of ability we call free will, it actually has to have an impact on the world. Consciousness is something real, created somehow by our brain, but really affecting our brain. Consciousness could be a hitherto undiscovered aspect or parameter of matter, or it could be a different substance from matter altogether, but regardless it must have real impact on matter for it to have the metaphysical ability of free will.

A non sequitur. What are you talking about now, Omar? Even dogs have consciousness, and it has a "real impact on matter", but it does not have "the metaphysical ability of free will". So, "impact on matter" (directly or indirectly) obviously has nothing to do with free will.

In this context the epistemological contents of the metaphysical consciousness becomes very important, because since we act and choose freely based on that content, contradictions in mind can have real world effects. In fact, trying to embrace contradictions fully leads to death. That is, to non-existence. And that is precisely the kind of metaphysical "behavior" we would expect from contradictions. Contradictions cannot exist, i.e. they must be non-existent. Embracing contradictions in mind using our free will results in death. Our being as individuals becomes non-existent.

No, Onar. ACTING (consistent acting) on contradictions in mind results in death. There are many mystics who hold many contradictions in their minds, but many of them still live long and healthy (and sometimes even productive) lives. This is simply because they do not consistently act on those contradictions. So, it is the physical actions that directly lead to death, not the contradictions in the mind. These have absolutely no impact on the universe (qua epistemological contradictions), which is why we do (or should) not censor people's thoughts and ideas, no matter how irrational they are.

Note that a person who imagines that he is superman and can jump from a tall building without dying will only die when he acts on that contradiction. But note that even a person who understands that jumping from a tall building is fatal will also (equally) die when he jumps. This shows it is not the contradictions in the mind, but just the action, that directly leads to death. And if you do not mean "directly", then there is nothing you are saying with that statement.

This I am not certain of that I agree with. I think Binswanger may be correct that consciousness one day may turn out to be a measurable effect in the brain, i.e. something that actually impacts matter.

Um ... no. It will never be measurable, at least not in the way you interpret this. Why? It is just action; consciousness is the action of the brain. Although it metaphysically exists, it is not a metaphysical thing as such. It's a metaphysical process.

...So the brain is actually molding and shaping this mind-stuff, creating its content, the stuff that we say is *in* mind. So the brain presents to consciousness its content, and the consciousness then chooses. When we die, that structure dissolves, so our *mind* literally ceases to exist. Just like a wave ceases to exist when the organ stops playing.

Note that again you are mixing metaphysical existents with metaphysical processes. Everything above makes sense if you take them *only* as processes, but I suspect you’re not, as evidenced by your word “literally”, and by your next statement:

Sure, the mind and body still makes up one entity, just like the bones and soft-tissue are inseparable parts of the same unity, but the stuff of mind is real.

I think it’s much closer than that. Mind and body are really different *aspects* of the same thing, which is why their distinction is epistemological rather than metaphysical. {I’m not so sure that the bones and soft-tissue are “inseparable”, by the way.)

Thus, people may e,g, take their broken, contradictory concepts of communism which "exist" and try to build a real communistic system only to realize that reality won't permit contradictions to exist. The effort will fail. However, the *effort* actually did exist. –Emphasis Yours.

Your emphasis is right this time. Effort. Action. That's what leads to destruction. That's what's "real" (with respect to matter), not the contradictions (in consciousness).

Your death most certainly is the death of YOUR identy.

No, it's not. Identity exists even without the consciousness of the identified thing. Primacy of existence, remember? (Objectivism 101? ;))

The only thing you can validly mean by emphasizing the “YOUR” is simply your ability to indentify. That ends at death, yes, but that only confirms that consciousness is an ability, as I said, or a process, or an action.

Only to others than the dead person himself.

Your identity is ALWAYS primarily to others, whether you are dead or alive. Would you really need an identity if you were the only person in the world?

So no. Identity is not destroyed when you die, not even YOUR identity. A is still A, even in heaven! Amen? :D

So what we appear to have is life and consciousness as a kind of metaphysical "super layer" on "top" of existence at large, i.e. on top of matter. You could argue that they only "exist", i.e. can only be ascribed meaning to by a mind, but what truly complicates things is consciousness. We ARE after all consciousness. Consciousness doesn't just "exist", it is a real phenomenon, with a real existence. So the super layer is more than mere appearence, it seems, and in this layer we can observe contradictions as real effects in the world, but only temporarily. Any being that attempts to live contradictory will be weeded out of existence, i.e. die.

Contradictions have no real effects in the world, in the sense you are putting it. They can not and do not exist in the world, not even temporarily. They are instantly rejected by the universe, so to speak. Certain actions cause death, yes. It is those actions that have "real effects" on the world, regardless of whether the "source" is contradictory thinking or intentional suicide as I showed in the jumping from building example above.

So to sum, I do not think you have achieved your mission of showing that identity ceases at death or that something can become nothing (at death).

Good luck.

Edited by blackdiamond
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