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Primacy of existence - help me please!

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I'm still struggling to grasp fully the concept of primacy of existence, or that Existence exists outside of consciousness...

See, I kinda started this debate with my friend who I guess accepts the primacy of consciousness. We were arguing on the topic that if I said that i saw a pink flying unicorn and sensed it by touching it, seeing it, hearing it, etc... that i would declare its existence true, but since my friend wasn't present, he declares that the pony does not exist. He says that whatever he experiences is reality and that since he does not see the unicorn then it doesn't exist for him. I think I can see the fallacy but I don't know how to say it I guess. Its more like if a Christian said that he felt god and saw him one day, then it must exist, but I deny God's existence. On what grounds can I deny his direct sense perception?

I think I'm just confused on this.

And what about if a colorblind man says that apples are brown, but I look at them and see that they are red. His conscious is telling them that they are another color than what mine is saying. So if his only method of interaction with the world is through false senses...who am I to say I am right?

Thanks for any advice!

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And what about if a colorblind man says that apples are brown, but I look at them and see that they are red. His conscious is telling them that they are another color than what mine is saying. So if his only method of interaction with the world is through false senses...who am I to say I am right?

Colors are certain wavelengths that humans are able to perceive. Wavelength can be measured. So it doesn't matter if you're blind or not: a certain color corresponds to a certain wavelength. So if you were arguing about this with a blind man, all you'd have to do is measure the wavelength. One of you would be right...or neither would be right if the object was an entirely different color altogether.

Your senses (according to Ayn Rand) help you understand everything that is around you: they don't get in the way, like some people argue. But just the same, just because something is not perceptible to your senses doesn't mean that it doesn't exist (radio waves, ultraviolet waves, etc.) A blind man cannot argue that because he cannot see, there is no such thing as color. Since color is defined by certain wavelengths, the fact that a blind man cannot see has no effect on the different wavelenghts every color has. The blind man has no visual capacity but he must still recognize that different wavelengths exist and that we define a certain spectrum as "color." A blind man and a normal man should be able to measure the same wavelength for the color of the object. It is harder for the blind man because he cannot see, but he will still get the same results if he uses the proper method and measures accurately.

EDIT: I misread your example and thought you were only talking about a blind man, not colorblind. The same argument would apply, however. His faculty of visual perception is deficient. Still, however, by the definition of color, something can either be brown (a mixture of many wavelengths, no single wavelength exists) or red (wavelength of 700 nm), not both. The measurement of the wavelength will determine which color it is for sure.

Edited by Mimpy
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I'm still struggling to grasp fully the concept of primacy of existence, or that Existence exists outside of consciousness...

See, I kinda started this debate with my friend who I guess accepts the primacy of consciousness. We were arguing on the topic that if I said that i saw a pink flying unicorn and sensed it by touching it, seeing it, hearing it, etc... that i would declare its existence true, but since my friend wasn't present, he declares that the pony does not exist. He says that whatever he experiences is reality and that since he does not see the unicorn then it doesn't exist for him. I think I can see the fallacy but I don't know how to say it I guess. Its more like if a Christian said that he felt god and saw him one day, then it must exist, but I deny God's existence. On what grounds can I deny his direct sense perception?

The most obvious problem that I see in his approach is that he is asserting a truth (consciousness is primary) while undercutting any possible support for the assertion. If the reality he is sensing is not objective and consistent and/or is not perceptible by humans, then evidence cannot be provided to support any hypothesis or theory, let alone axiom. So, in short, I would say that his idea is a floating abstraction.

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Colors are certain wavelengths that humans are able to perceive. Wavelength can be measured. So it doesn't matter if you're blind or not: a certain color corresponds to a certain wavelength. So if you were arguing about this with a blind man, all you'd have to do is measure the wavelength. One of you would be right...or neither would be right if the object was an entirely different color altogether.

Um, it's not actually true that a certain wavelength = perception of a certain color, there have been tests done about this. Your brain does some weird stuff with sensory data to make it useful to you.

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We were arguing on the topic that if I said that i saw a pink flying unicorn and sensed it by touching it, seeing it, hearing it, etc... that i would declare its existence true, but since my friend wasn't present, he declares that the pony does not exist. He says that whatever he experiences is reality and that since he does not see the unicorn then it doesn't exist for him.

I suggest that you stick to using real life examples instead of unicorns. If you gave me that example, I too would claim that the unicorn does not exist.

Try this: Show your friend a small rock, then hide it behind your back so that he can't see it, then ask him if he denies the existence of the rock simply because he can no longer see it. Based on his reaction to this little puzzle, you should be able to get a better idea of his metaphysical views. If he says something like the rock no longer exists for him, then I suggest repeating the whole process of showing and hiding the rock (and asking him if it exists for him now) until he either has an epiphany or walks away frustrated.

You might also ask him if he exists when he isn't looking in a mirror or has his eyes shut.

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Try this: Show your friend a small rock, then hide it behind your back so that he can't see it, then ask him if he denies the existence of the rock simply because he can no longer see it.

Hehe...Jean Piaget called that object permanence. Most people grow out of that misconception by 6 months of age. If that example doesn't help him understand, perhaps some remedial preschool classes would help. :huh:

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That rock experiment only succeeds to make him look a fool to you and like-minded individuals. It still does not aid in getting him to understand your position. I think it would be better to ask him where he draws his ideas of knowledge from, his epistemology. Must he have a perfect knowledge of everything to know it exists? Or can he deduce an objective, reasoned judgement of facts which is dictated by logic? This whole 'object permanence' thing, as aequalsa calls it, is nothing short of an evasion from reality on the part of your friend.

Edited by Tenure
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I'm still struggling to grasp fully the concept of primacy of existence, or that Existence exists outside of consciousness...

That is where the Objectivist models differs, right where you said "outside of consciousness." Most people think that the things we see around us day to day are models of the real world constructed inside our consciousness, and therefore the next question they ask is: is there really something out there we're creating them from, or are we just making them up out of whole cloth?

Objectivism throws all that away. What we see around us are things that exist, and consciousness is not them or the realm they are in, it is merely the fact that were are aware of them, and consciousness has no visible form of it's own.

But just because we know automatically that everything we see is existence and not consciousness, doesn't mean we automatically know what things are purely product of brain, and which have a cause outside our bodies. That we must learn by experience. But it is merely a problem of classification, of inventing concepts like "physical" and "mental," there's no fundamental problem of the validity of consciousness, or the existence of existence.

Edited by ian
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