[These topics are discussed in Modes of the Finite, Part 1, Section 3, Chapters 3 and 4.]

4.1. Approaching reality: the appearance

As all the books on house painting say, the more time you spend on preparation of the surface, the less time you'll have to spend on the job, and the better the job will be. That was the purpose of all those chapters on method.

So let us go back to our original problem, which we met in the person of Carlos Castaneda, who experienced himself as turning into a crow and flying away. He asked his guru about whether he really did that, and was told that, yes, he really flew, though not as crows fly, but as people who have ingested jimson weed fly. That led to the question of whether there was more than one reality, depending on your experience of it; and that led to the contradiction in saying this, relativism. That in turn led to the self-evident truth that there is such a thing as truth, and that what is true does not depend on your point of view; and that further led to the Principles of Identity and Contradiction--and the Principle of Contradiction led into the whole discussion of effects and causes and affected objects and causers.

Now what do we know about the original situation? It seems that we have experiences that "we could swear" are happening, and yet it is absurd to say that they are really happening. Let's face it: Castaneda did not really turn into a crow; if he had, how could he have been conscious of himself as a crow, since a crow doesn't have any self-consciousness? There are all kinds of contradictions here, not the least of which is that saying that he really did so, but others saw him just sitting there in a drug-induced stupor, is to immerse ourselves into the morass of relativism again.

So what we can say is that we seem to experience things as real, and yet they aren't really real. Actually, this happens all the time: whenever we dream (except for those few cases when we know in the dream that we are dreaming). So the question is how we know what reality is. That there is a reality is self-evident (since nothingness couldn't even question whether there was something real or not).

It's also at least immediately evident that there is more to reality than simply our consciousness. Otherwise, the question of relativism would never even come up. In fact, if it weren't true, then we'd fall into what is called solipsism (from solus, alone), in which I (or rather my consciousness) is the only reality there is, and everyone and everything else is just a part of my consciousness. There actually have been philosophers who were solipsists, because they couldn't see how it would be possible to be conscious of anything other than your consciousness (because if it's outside, and you're conscious of it, then it's not outside but inside your consciousness).

René Descartes, in 1600 or thereabouts, to see if he could be certain of anything at all, even made the supposition that there might be some kind of demon who would be constantly fooling him that what he thought he was looking at didn't exist; and he couldn't find any way to be certain that this was not happening. So the existence of the world "out there" in addition to my experience is immediately evident, but not self-evident. Denying that there is one does not in any way imply affirming it. Still, the immediacy of the experience of a world "out there" which you experience (you can't really believe there isn't one, even if you theoretically "convince" yourself) indicates that there is something that is extremely forceful telling us this fact.

And what this means is that our consciousness undoubtedly contradicts itself somehow if there is no real world which we experience. In other words, your consciousness (except when you are deliberately imagining something) is experiencing itself as an effect of something "out there."

So our job is to find out just what this effect is: how our consciousness without a "real world" turns out to be a contradiction.

First of all, let's start out by pointing out this fact:

Principle One: The form of your consciousness (the appearance itself) is self-evident.

This is a little hard to state clearly. What I mean is that the way something seems to you is self-evidently known by you. You can't be mistaken (a) that you are conscious when you are conscious (because then you'd be unconscious), and (b) about what the particular form of your consciousness is. That is, if something looks red to you (whether or not there's something "out there," and whether it's actually red or not), it is self-evident that (a) you are aware, and that (b) it looks red.

Perhaps I can get things a little less confusing by making the following definition:

DEFINITION: An appearance is the way something seems in your consciousness.

This is obviously not "appearance" in the sense of your having a nice "appearance" if you comb your hair and put on neat clothes. That's the objective something which creates a good impression in someone's mind. Appearance in the sense I am using it means nothing but the subjective impression in your mind whether there's an object "out there" which is causing it, or whether the object is the way the appearance "says" it is.

The reason why the appearance is self-evidently known to be what it is is that the appearance is the consciousness itself. That is, the appearance isn't a little "picture" that the consciousness produces and then "looks at," as if consciousness were "looking at the little picture" (i.e. looking at your subjective impression). If that were the case, then to "look at" the little picture inside you, you would have to create a little picture of it, which you would then "look at." But to be conscious of that little picture, you would have to do the same thing over again--and so on to infinity.

No, the appearance is not what you are aware of, it is the form of the awareness itself: the way in which you are aware. It happens that consciousness is conscious of itself as well as being conscious of what it's about (the thing which is appearing), and so it can look as if you're conscious of the appearance; but the appearance is really nothing but the way you're conscious of something else.

But we don't really need all this at the moment; all we need is to point out that it's impossible for you to be mistaken about the appearance. You may be mistaken about the way things are, but you can't be mistaken about the way they seem. (Put it another way: the "seeming" and the "awareness of what the seeming is" are one and the same thing. Does that help? It's this fact that makes the appearance self-evident.)

Notice that it's at least theoretically possible for there not to be a "you" which is something other than the appearance and is having the various appearances you have. It's immediately evident that there is a "you" who is having the appearances; but it's not self-evident. "You" may (theoretically) be nothing but the stream of appearances themselves. You can't believe this, of course; and we'll show that in fact the "stream of appearances" can't be what it is unless there's a "you" behind it.

Having said that, we can use our appearances as our starting-point, since they are self-evident. Now of course, your appearances are self-evident only to you, and mine only to me. So we will be talking about very, very general aspects of these appearances, what is necessary for them to be appearances at all, not what this or that appearance has that distinguishes it from some other one. I told you this was an abstract way of proceeding. The reason we have to do it is precisely that I can't get into your mind and see how things look to you; so if we're going to get at objective knowledge, we have to start from something that's subjective and bypass the subjectivity somehow.

Now what I propose to do is this: I plan to find various effects in our appearances, whose causes are (a) the "you" who is having them, and (b) the reality "out there" which the appearance "talks about."

That is, what I plan to do is to show that there are characteristics of our "stream of appearances" such that they contradict themselves if there is nothing but the "stream of appearances." I have to show just what that contradiction is in each case, and show why only a subject of the experience can solve one of the contradictions, and why an object which the subject is conscious of is the only thing that can solve the other.

It seems as if I will be proving what is immediately evident; and in fact I will be doing this--not that what is immediately evident really needs (in practice) to be proved. But since it is not self-evident, you can show why what is immediately evident is in fact evident, by linking it in general to what is self-evident. What I mean is that, while in a given case of the evidence of our senses we can be fooled (you might be having a vivid dream or a hallucination), I propose to show why it's a contradiction to assert that we're always or even generally fooled by our senses if we understand correctly what they're doing.

And in our present skeptical climate, that's a giant step forward. But it's not going to be easy.

There are those who say that all this is a waste of time, because being (i.e. what exists) is already "given"; it's there in the very first of out thoughts as what we're thinking about, and so it's the most primitive of our ideas. And you can't "explain" or "define" the most primitive idea in terms of ideas derived from it (since they already presuppose it).

That's true, and it's not only immediately evident, it's self-evident. You can't be conscious of nothing, because "nothing" is not a "something" you could be conscious of. All "conscious of nothing" could possibly mean is "I am not conscious of anything," which is another way of saying, "I am not conscious." (And how could you be conscious of being not conscious?)

But it's not quite that simple, because my consciousness is something, and therefore is "being" in some sense. The problem is not whether being is given in my consciousness; the problem is how it can be that being-outside my consciousness is given in my consciousness. It's not surprising that many philosophers thought that this was nonsense, because if this "external being" is precisely outside my consciousness, how can it be inside?

Ah, but we have the way to solve the dilemma. The external being never gets inside my consciousness; but what is inside my consciousness contradicts itself unless there is something real outside it. So my consciousness never leaps outside itself to pull this other thing in; it just recognizes that it's impossible unless there's something that it's referring to. That's why we needed all that methodology of the preceding chapter.

Note also that, as I said, not everyone is in agreement on what this "primitive" concept actually means; but more importantly, we've all known from the age of five or so that not everything we experience exists.

For instance, just the other night I was in the third floor bedroom of my parents' house in Watertown, Massachusetts, and my son, of about ten, came up to me, when I said, "How does it feel to be sleeping among wombats and wallabies?"--and as I looked down I saw them roaming all over the room. And then I woke up in Cincinnati, with only one son, in his thirties, who lives in New York. And yet I saw him and the wombats--or at least strange animals I took to be wombats, or maybe wallabies.

So while maybe every experience presupposes existence in some sense (and it does), it doesn't follow that every experience is of something that exists.

But that means that it's a legitimate question to ask, "When do we say that something exists?" Not just when we experience it, because we can experience what doesn't exist. But it does seem obvious that we can't say it exists unless somehow we experience it, either directly or indirectly. What other grounds could we have?

4.1.1. A rough-and-ready proof

Let me begin by giving a proof that's not strictly rigorous (which means that there are loopholes in it that you can slip through, so it doesn't, strictly speaking, prove what I want to prove), but which is what we generally use to be aware that there is a reality "out there."

Remember, we start with two admitted facts (in this case about appearances) that are in conflict. Then we find the cause of the effect.

In this case, the effect is that we seem to have two kinds of experience: the ones that don't deal with something that exists (the imaginary kind), and the ones that deal with what is real (perceptions).

Now suppose there were no such thing as reality. Since our consciousness is our consciousness-of-our-consciousness, as I said, and when we imagine, we are aware that we are "making up" the experience, this implies that in imagining, we recognize that nothing but our mind (in its present state) is necessary to account for the experience. That is, if the experience itself is not exactly self-explanatory, it becomes explainable if you add "my mind" to it.

But since perceptions are a different class of experience, then it would follow (because different effects have different causes) that there has to be something other than our mind which accounts for it.

But imaginings and perceptions are not absolutely different as effects: they are both identical as cases of my consciousness. Hence, the effects are similar: identical as cases of my consciousness, and different as imaginings as opposed to perceptions.

And since similar effects have analogous causes, it follows that the cause of imagining is analogous to the cause of perceiving.

But in this case, we can assume that "my mind," whatever it is, is the cause of my having a conscious experience--of any type. Hence, we can say that the cause of perceiving as opposed to imagining implies an additional something outside both consciousness and the mind, which my mind is reacting to somehow (producing the consciousness of it).

Therefore, when we have the "perception-type" experience, we know that there is a reality our consciousness is reacting to. And from this theory we can predict that, since our consciousness is conscious of itself, and since in imagining it recognizes itself as spontaneously active (that is, as making up the image), then it would have to be the case that in perceiving, the consciousness would recognize itself as passive (that is, as receiving information or as being acted on from outside).

And, of course, this prediction is verified. We can control the imaginary experience and make it whatever we want; but when we are looking at something, we are forced to see what is in front of our eyes. For instance, you can imagine your father in a gray suit, and then decide to imagine him in beige shorts and a T-shirt. But if you are looking at your father, and you see him in a gray suit, you can't see him in the shorts and T-shirt. (You can imagine him so, but the imagining is a recognizably different experience from the seeing, even if you do both at the same time.)

4.2. Interrupted consciousness

Ah, if only it were that simple! I used to teach this part of the argument that way, when I realized that there was a flaw in it which couldn't be got around until we backed up quite a bit, and got really rigorous. Otherwise, we're in the position of simply asserting what we already know on an unsophisticated level, and leaving ourselves open to all sorts of objections from those who think they see contradictions in the proof. For instance, what is this "mind" that's supposed to be necessary for the image or the perception to exist? Why can't the image just "be there"? Is your mind different from my mind or are we just part of the same Great Mind? How do you know that perceptions aren't just a special way the mind acts, and this apparent "passivity," is only that the mind has shifted gears into this new mode? And so on and so on.

So hold on to your hats. I am going to give an analysis of the appearance (what in some circles is called "phenomenology") to show just how the appearance is unintelligible without (a) a subject who is having it, and (b) something outside the subject. As to the latter, this "something" outside the subject (which I will call "existence") will be necessary both for imaginary and perceptive experiences; but it will turn out that existence is the cause of the perceptive-type experience, but it is the condition for the imaginary-type. In this sense, the "primitivists," who hold that being is "given" in experience, are right in that existence is necessary for any experience. And the indirect involvement of existence in imaginary experience is going to figure in the definition of "existence."


In the analysis that follows, I stress than I am not implying that I think that you can't know existence unless you start from consciousness and prove that there is such a thing as existence apart from it. I am merely showing that a given act of consciousness is in fact impossible if there is nothing "outside" it. Existence is immediately evident.

That is, the "primitivists," who say that you don't need to (and can't) prove existence are apt to interpret what I am doing as if I denied this. No, I am not "proving" existence from consciousness in that sense any more than I "proved" the Principle of Contradiction by showing that if you denied it, you had to base your denial on accepting it as true. I merely showed what is entailed in it.

This analysis, then, has three functions: (a) to show that those who hold that it's possible for there to be nothing but consciousness can't make sense out of consciousness, and (b) to arrive at a clear, precise meaning for "existence" and (c) show when it is legitimate to say "X exists" and when it isn't.

In a sense, the argument constitutes a proof for existence; but that doesn't mean that existence needs to be proved. It is immediately evident with the experience and through the experience.

4.2.1. The structure of the argument

Let me, then, give you a preview of the way the argument--in fact, the rest of the book--will go.

First, as a preliminary, I will show you the effects in consciousness which force us to say that we have minds which are conscious. This gives us the subjective side of experience. The mind is defined as "the whatever-it-is-that makes all my conscious acts the same (in that they are 'mine' and not yours)."

But then we will note that we have many conscious acts, each of which is a case of "my consciousness," and yet each of which is different from the others. What this will involve is that each is a finite case of my consciousness; and we will be able to define exactly what this means--and in the course of it show that it involves a contradiction, in that it is (among other things) both the same as and not the same as my consciousness.

That means that my consciousness as finite is an effect. Therefore, it has a cause. I will show why this cause, whatever it is, can't be (a) another act of consciousness, or (b) any combination of acts of consciousness, even of an infinite number of them. Then it must be something outside my consciousness. But whatever this cause actually is, it can't be my mind, because my mind is what accounts for the sameness of all my acts of consciousness, and what we need is a cause for why this act is this one and not any other. (Different effects have different causes.)

I will call this whatever-it-is "existence," and then show that when it's the cause of a given experience, we call that experience a "perception," and when we're recombining stored experiences, the existence that originally caused them is now a condition for the imaginary experience. I will then generalize and show that existence can be called "activity," and so being is "whatever is active" in any way.

At this point, I will undertake a discussion of the so-called "transcendental properties of being:" activity, unity, truth, goodness, and beauty, which are just different words which mean "existence," when the existence is approached from different angles (i.e. from different aspects of the effect existence has on consciousness).

After this, I will show that the cause of any given case of finite consciousness happens to be an existence which is both the same as and different from other existences; and, on analysis, this will reveal that the existence which I directly perceive is always a finite case of existence. This finite existence is similar to the finite consciousness it causes in that it's finite; but different in that it's a finite case of existence rather than a finite case of consciousness.

But since anything finite contradicts itself simply because it is finite, then it follows that any case of finite existence is an effect. I will then show that (by the theorem that identical effects have identical causes) no other finite existence can be the cause of it as finite, nor can any combination, even of an infinite number of finite existences, be the cause of the finiteness of any given finite existence (because the combination turns out to fit the definition of a "finite existence").

Therefore, there must either be a (finite or infinite) non-existence, or an infinite existence. And I will show that it must be the latter, because similar effects have analogous causes, and what this Infinite does to finite existence is directly analogous to what finite existence does to finite consciousness. Therefore, there is a God. Just as we know from consciousness that there are finite things "out there," by an exactly parallel reasoning process we can prove conclusively the existence of God.

After this, I will get into the major modes of the finiteness of finite existence, showing that it is actually limited on two levels: the form or kind of existence, which in term is limited in quantity or degree.

Further, finite beings are not a single existence (activity); all those we directly experience are a bundle of activities connected by a unifying energy: bodies. So we will have to talk about parts and wholes in relation to what we know about existence, then about whole bodies and their properties, and how the property both is and is not the body (it is a mode of the body's finiteness).

Finally, I will point out that bodies change, and so one and the same thing becomes something other than what it was (so afterwards it is both the same thing and not the same thing, another mode of finiteness); and in solving this problem we will be able to get a clear idea of what a purpose is.

A formidable task lies before us; but take heart, you can perform it.

4.3. Preliminary step: losing consciousness

Fortunately, we begin with an easy application of the method I gave in the first chapter. The first question about your experience I want to focus on is "How do you know you have lost consciousness?" That is, how do you know that you aren't always conscious, that you have been in a state of dreamless sleep at certain times?

The fact that you know that you have sometimes been unconscious is obviously an effect of some sort because you can't directly experience being unconscious without being conscious that you are unconscious--which is clearly a contradiction. And yet you do know that you aren't always conscious.

FIRST EFFECT: We know we have been unconscious, and yet we cannot experience (i.e. directly observe) ourselves as unconscious.

And the answer (the cause) is obvious. You know that you've been unconscious without being able to observe yourself as being unconscious, because when you wake up, the sky that was dark is "suddenly" light, the clock tells a different time, the radio mentions what was going on during the time that you weren't aware of, and so on.

That is, obviously as far as you subjectively are concerned, the last moment before you fell asleep (let's eliminate dreams from this since --take my word for it--they just introduce complications that don't affect the argument) and the first moment you wake up have to appear as the same moment, or you would be conscious of the unconscious state, which is a contradiction in terms.

But what you discover on waking is that there are indications of a lapse of time at this moment. So subjectively, no time has passed, and yet perceptively time seems to have passed. That's an effect--and this effect is your evidence for losing consciousness.

There are two possible causes of this effect. (a) Your subjective experience is correct, and the earth slipped on its axis, the clock moved in time with it, the radio announcer is lying, your mother is in on the conspiracy when she tells you how long you slept, and so on; or (b) the world went on its merry way following the laws of physics, and you lost consciousness for several hours.

Obviously, no sane person would accept (a) as the cause; and so we all accept (b) as the only explanation that makes any sense. Note that you couldn't prove that (a) is false, really, because any attempt to do so would just be part of the "conspiracy"--and anyone who is willing to accept that the earth's rotation is different when he closes his eyes will have no problem explaining away, say, a videotape of him snoring as tampering with the equipment ("You just filmed a double and slipped the tape of that in while I wasn't watching!").

But even if you can't prove that the "conspiracy theory" is false, it's still insane, and after all, we're trying to make sense out of experience. So the cause of how we know that we lost consciousness is that the experience after we regain consciousness is an effect whose cause is the actual loss of consciousness (i.e. the evidence for our loss of consciousness).

So, since it's so obviously insane for anyone to hold that he never lost consciousness, it is certain that we are not always conscious. This is not self-evident, because there's no contradiction in a person's never losing consciousness; it's just never happened to anyone we've come in contact with. Nor is it immediately evident, because immediate evidence of not being conscious is a contradiction in terms (you'd have to be directly conscious of not being conscious).

So there are things that are certain that are neither self-evident nor immediately evident. That you have lost consciousness is a theory for which there is another, alternative explanation (that the world does funny things when you close your eyes under certain conditions), however insane that other theory is.

The first lesson to learn from this investigation is, Do not listen to those who say that they "never believe anything that they don't have direct experience of." They know they fall asleep; but they know it on the basis of a theory, not because they have experienced themselves as unconscious.

We do know, and are even certain of, some things that we don't and even can't directly experience.

But this fact that we are not always conscious implies the following interesting conclusion:

FIRST CONCLUSION: Any given person's consciousness is divided into many periods of consciousness separated by periods of unconsciousness.

4.4. Second step: multiple-unit consciousness

And that leads us immediately into our second effect, which is rather more relevant to the actual argument:

SECOND EFFECT: One and the same consciousness is actually many separated consciousnesses.

That is, when you fall asleep, your consciousness stops; it goes (using ordinary terms) out of existence. But when you wake up, that same consciousness begins to exist again. How do you know it's the same consciousness? Because you can remember what you were experiencing before you fell asleep, and you can't "remember" what anyone else is or was thinking.

In fact, it's so obviously the same consciousness that, as I mentioned, the last moment when you lost consciousness and the moment you regained it seem to be the same moment.

The point is that there is a very real sense in which your consciousness is one single stream of consciousness (yours and no one else's); and yet, since it's separated by periods in which that consciousness doesn't exist, it's also many separate consciousnesses. Obviously, in itself that's a contradiction; but since it actually happens, it can't really be a contradiction, and so it's an effect.

And the cause has to be something-or-other that unites these many separated periods into a single stream of consciousness.

DEFINITION: Your mind is whatever accounts for the unity of your consciousness as "yours."

But what is your mind? Is it your brain? Is it some spiritual thing that is somehow lodged inside your body? We don't know, based on this effect. All we know is that there's got to be a mind, or it's impossible for your many periods of consciousness to be a single consciousness.(1)

But notice that the mind has to have all that is necessary to do the job of uniting your consciousness; and so there are some things we can say about it:

FIRST PROPERTY OF THE MIND: The mind exists during the unconscious periods between conscious periods.

We can't argue from this effect that your mind existed before the first moment you were conscious, or that it will exist after you die (if you lose consciousness then); but it must exist in the "in-between" periods of unconsciousness, or it would be impossible for it to unite them into a single consciousness.

That is, suppose you had a "new mind" every time you woke up. Yet you remember yesterday's consciousness as part of the same consciousness as today's. So something would have to connect this "new mind" with the old one, or the new one wouldn't be able to hitch yesterday's consciousness onto today's.

But precisely the function of the "mind" was to unite the different periods of consciousness into one single stream of consciousness; and so this "connector" of the "old mind" and the "new mind" fits exactly the definition of "the mind" and makes the "new mind" and the "old mind" superfluous, with nothing to do to the effect. So it has to be the case that the mind exists during the unconscious periods.

And did you know that there are actually some contemporary philosophers who hold that at every successive moment there is a new "you," (which would imply at the very least a new mind)? They hold that "you" as a single something that "carries through" time are just a convenient name for this committee or mob of successive "yous" that spreads out in your past.

This, of course, is ridiculous, since it offers no explanation whatever of why this group of "people" separates itself from all the other groups of "people" who are the individuals you talk to--not to mention where these "people" go when you fall asleep and how they all come trooping back when you wake up.

But there are, as I say, people who have Ph. D.s in philosophy who focus on one aspect of something and in "describing experience" throw away their sanity. You must always hold on to the fact that philosophy is supposed to make sense out of your experience, not to make nonsense of it.

Hence, whatever the mind actually is (or in other words, whatever it is that contains what we're calling the "mind"), it's got to have this characteristic of existing when you aren't conscious.

But there's another thing we can say:

SECOND PROPERTY OF THE MIND: Your mind is not the same as your stream of consciousness.

Obviously, it can't be; if it did, it would go out of existence when you lost consciousness, and so it couldn't unite the periods into one single consciousness. So it is something which is conscious (or which has consciousness), rather than the consciousness itself.

And there are lots of philosophers and philosophies, such as David Hume and John Dewey, who say that we can't "really know" that we're anything but a stream of consciousness, and that the "self" (which we'll see in a minute, but call it the "mind" for now) is a mental fiction we have no "right" to assume exists based on our primitive, unsophisticated conviction.

But based on our sophisticated phenomenological analysis, even at this very early stage, we can confidently say that these people are wrong. In fact, insane, because they people would logically have to hold that they never lost and regained consciousness--or that they never slept. But that view, as we said, is not philosophical, because it's insane. ("Then why did they hold it?" you ask. Because they didn't notice this particular effect. Their theory sounds perfectly plausible until it runs up against this effect.)

But not even that is all we can say, just based on this effect.

THIRD PROPERTY OF THE MIND: Your mind separates your consciousness from others' consciousness; hence, it is "private" to yourself.

That is, those philosophical theories that "we're all part of one great mind in the sky" are false. Why? Because if we were, then by definition, there would only be one stream of consciousness (the mind unites consciousness into a single stream), and I'd be able to experience what you're experiencing just as I experience what I was conscious of yesterday. Think of what that would be, when it came to take a test!

So you have your mind, and I have mine. If you will, though your mind unites your consciousness into this stream called "your consciousness," it limits your consciousness to being only yours and no one else's.

And this in turn means that those idealists, however brilliant, like Baruch Spinoza and Georg Hegel, who holds that all of our consciousness is a kind of "moment" in the Divine consciousness, which is the "real" consciousness, and ours is a kind of "limited version" of it--are also wrong. If my consciousness were part of God's consciousness, then I would be conscious with all the thoughts God (and everyone else) has (since the mind unites all the consciousness into one consciousness).

But clearly, I'm not aware of what is going on in anyone else's consciousness in the sense in which I'm aware of what went on in my consciousness yesterday. So these philosophers have got to mean something different from "mind" than I do.

But in that case, what are their grounds for saying that there is a mind at all? What is the effect that they are trying to explain? It turns out that the "effect" in question is one of those pseudo-effects that comes about because we use words in a certain way, and is a misreading of reality from our use of language about it. But this book is not a detailed treatise on the subject of phenomenological metaphysics, and so you'll have to take my word for this.

In any case, if the "mind" is the "whatever-it-is that unites my many consciousnesses into a single consciousness," it has to be the case that my mind is what separates my consciousness from yours.

But there's still more we can say:

FOURTH PROPERTY OF THE MIND: The mind is the cause of the subjectivity of each person's consciousness.

That is, it's why your consciousness is distinctively yours and mine is distinctively mine; we have different consciousnesses because we have different minds.

Surprise, surprise!

But here is where we can make a distinction, based on the difference between the cause and the causer:

DEFINITION: The self is the causer of a single stream of consciousness.

That is, you are at least your mind; but you may be much more than just your mind. All you know from the effect is what the cause is; you don't know the causer except as whatever contains the cause as an abstract aspect of itself.

So in all probability (in reality, as it would turn out if we pursued this), René Descartes was wrong when he said that what he is is a mind, and that he has a body which is a different substance (i.e. a different thing) "attached" to it somehow.

What he wanted to do is to assert as true only what had to be true based on the evidence he had. Actually, he went beyond his evidence (thinking) in asserting that just because thinking was going on, there had to be an "I" that is doing the thinking. You couldn't know this if you didn't lose consciousness (or if your consciousness didn't change, which is another way you can argue to the subject). But just thinking doesn't imply an "I" other than the thinking "behind" it--in fact, in God, the "I" is nothing but thinking.

Still, the conclusion he came to (however invalidly) was correct. But then, what he wanted to do, as I said, is deny anything that wasn't a necessary conclusion from his evidence. But since he got at "I am" from "I think," and it is not necessary to be a body in order to think, then he denied that the "I" is a body.

But this is an unwarranted conclusion. It does not follow that the minimum necessary to explain a problem is all there is to the reality which explains it. True, you can't know any other aspects of the cause just from the cause itself, but by the same token, you can't know that there aren't other aspects of the causer beyond what solves this particular problem.

And, in fact, on other grounds we know that we are bodies, with hands, legs, hearts and all sorts of other things. We are not minds that are in a body; the self is the whole thing that has a mind.

But proving all of that is very complex indeed, and we don't need it for our argument, so let's go on. But notice how many of the problems in philosophy we have been able to solve and how many false turns we have avoided just by the notion of what an effect is, exactly, and what is the cause of that effect, as well as what the difference is between the cause and the causer.

In any case, we can say this: The self is the subject of consciousness.

DEFINITION: The subject of consciousness is the "one who" is conscious: the person who has the consciousness.

This is the "subject" as opposed to the "object," not the "subject" in the sense of "what the book is about." The reason it's the self and not the mind that's the subject of consciousness is that we are primarily units, and therefore, what any part of you does, you do, first and foremost, with that part. Thus, when Johnny's fist hits Sally, it's Johnny who hit Sally with his fist. He's not someone who told his fist to do it, as if his fist were his little brother. Similarly, you are conscious by means of your mind.

I mentioned these various properties of the mind mainly to show you how the method I outlined in the preceding chapter works. We may not know what the mind is in itself, so to speak; but we can say certain things about it based on the effect it is the cause of. And it's rather amazing, actually, how much we could say.

But this is enough for one chapter.


The original problem is that we seem sometimes to experience things as real, when they aren't real. What is reality? First of all, it's immediately evident that there is more to reality than simply our consciousness; solipsism (that I am all there is) is false. This immediate evidence implies that consciousness somehow contradicts itself if there is no real world that it is responding to.

Principle One: The form of consciousness (the appearance) is self-evident. The appearance is the way things seem; but since this is the consciousness (and not a little "picture" consciousness makes to "look at"), then, since consciousness is aware of itself, it is aware of the form it happens to have at any moment.

We can get round the difficulty of knowing (and so having in our consciousness) what it outside our consciousness by finding effects (contradictions) in our appearances that demand that there be something other than just the appearance as the cause. Specifically, we are interested in effects that show that there has to be a subject of consciousness (an "I" who is conscious) and an object outside consciousness which the consciousness is conscious of.

This is a kind of proof of what is immediately evident, not that this needs proof, but the proof shows that if you reject it, you contradict your own experience.

A simple proof, but one that is open to objections it can't answer is that we have two different kinds of experience: imagining (in which we are aware of "making up" the experience), and perceiving (in which we are aware of "reacting to" something). Since the mind recognizes that it alone (in its present state) is all that is needed to account for imagining, it follows that something additional must account for perceiving. This is confirmed by the control we have over imagining, and the lack of control over how what we perceive looks.

But there are many difficulties with this "proof." Hence, we must get more primitive and engage in serious phenomenological analysis, showing how we know that there is a mind and why the mind can't account for perceiving. We do, of course, immediately know the mind and the object, and so don't have to prove it to know it; we are not, therefore, trying to "prove" that there is a reality other than consciousness, but merely showing that not admitting it is contradictory.

We will first show what effects necessitate a mind for each person. Then, the finiteness of the act of consciousness will establish that there has to be an existence outside of consciousness. We will then discuss the "transcendental properties" of being, and then show that finite existence needs an Infinite Existence (God) as its cause. After that, we will show the two limitations of finite existence (form and quantity) and the characteristics of multiple units (parts and wholes and bodies and properties), followed by a discussion of change.

As a first step, we note that we have lost consciousness, by discovering that the world seems suddenly to lose huge chunks of time when we close our eyes. The only sane explanation is not that the laws of physics depend on our eyelids, but that we periodically become unconscious. Note that this implies that every sane person knows facts that he can't directly observe, since it's impossible to observe yourself as unconscious.

The second effect follows from this: that one and the same consciousness is actually many separated consciousnesses. The periods before and after sleep appear as a single stream of consciousness, different from anyone else's. The mind is whatever accounts for the unity of your consciousness as "yours." We don't know what it is, but we know there has to be one, or these many consciousnesses couldn't be connected into a single consciousness. Hence, we know all the facts necessary for this "connector" (the mind) to do its job.

First property: The mind exists during the unconscious periods between conscious ones. Otherwise, it couldn't connect the conscious periods into a unity. Therefore, those who hold that we are a succession of "selves" through time are wrong.

Second property: The mind is not the same as the stream of consciousness. Otherwise, it couldn't exist when we are unconscious. Therefore, those who hold that all we are is a stream of consciousness are wrong.

Third property: The mind separates your consciousness from anyone else's consciousness and makes it private to you. Otherwise, we would "remember" what other people were thinking of. So all those who hold that our consciousness is part of the One Great Mind are wrong.

Fourth property: The mind is the cause of the subjectivity of each person's consciousness. This is obviously true, because the mind makes your consciousness yours and no one else's. The self is the causer of a single stream of consciousness. The self, in fact, is the subject of consciousness, the "one who" is conscious, because when we act, it is the whole person who acts, not just the part.



1. It turns out that, upon later analysis, we could discover that the mind in the sense of that which enables us to be conscious or unconscious, and conscious in this or that way, is actually the brain. This is not to deny the spirituality of consciousness, by the way; but to discuss the issue cannot be done at this early stage of investigation. I just thought you might like to know. It implies, of course, that when you die, you lose your "mind" in this sense, and are just (eternally unchanging) consciousness (barring a miraculous reembodiment).