Section 3

Finite Consciousness

Chapter 1

An overview

Let me map out where we are headed at this point. First of all, I want to explore the effect in consciousness connected with our realization that we sometimes lose consciousness. This will lead to the first encounter we have with consciousness as finite, here in the sense that consciousness is discovered to be both one limited period of consciousness and yet in some way "the whole" of the many periods of consciousness; and the cause of this particular effect will be defined as the "mind."

Further exploration of the period of consciousness yields a second effect connected with it: the isolation of all the periods of my consciousness from any of anyone else's, and the non-isolation of any period of my consciousness from any other one; and the cause of this effect will be the fact that each of us has his own mind, which therefore accounts for the subjectivity of our consciousness.

We will then consider another sense of consciousness as finite: the particular form the consciousness happens to be taking at any given moment, and show that this is both "all there is to my consciousness" and "not all there is to my consciousness"; and the cause of consciousness as so restricted will be existence.

In exploring further the form of consciousness as a case of consciousness as finite, we will discover a similarity in all forms of consciousness (as opposed to periods) which makes them similar to each other as effects and distinct from the finiteness of periods as effect; and this will allow us to say that all existences are analogous.

We will then attempt to show that the two aspects of existence, its "existenceness" (by which all existences are identical with each other) and "essenceness" (by which each is distinctively itself) cannot be separated or finite consciousness is rendered unintelligible; and therefore, the cause of a given case of finite consciousness is a finite case of existence.

But then if existence is itself finite, it is also an effect; and if it is an effect, its cause cannot also be a finite existence, and yet must be analogously an existence; and therefore, there must be a non-finite existence.

What we will do after this is find various senses in which existence is finite based on characteristics of the finiteness of the form of consciousness, and learn some facts about finite existence, and while we are at it some facts about its non-finite cause.

But this is enough of an indication of where we are going. Before beginning, however, let me stress that, though I happen to be a Christian and therefore a believer in God, I am not doing this even surreptitiously to prove that there is a God; so to say that because my research into consciousness leads to this conclusion (which I on other grounds happen to think is true) it is therefore suspect--or that I am doing what Descartes is sometimes accused of doing, making up the whole thing to get the "right people" on my side--is to accuse me of letting my bias blind me to the facts or of intellectual dishonesty.

So let me make a couple of personal remarks here. I am a Christian, not particularly because the values of Christianity, or even the truth of Christianity, makes my life "meaningful" and happier than the alternative, but because I can't get around the evidence in its favor. From my experience so far, life is torment. If Christianity is true, then this, for certain people at least, is to be expected, and it means that I am to hang on until I am "called," after which, somehow or other, every tear will be wiped away and I will be able to do all the things for this world which I have been blocked from doing by circumstances and my own ineptitude. The happiness in the future I can consider in the abstract, but cannot imagine; but I certainly can foresee the frustration and pain involved in hanging on to the bitter end. So the "meaningfulness" is not so "meaningful" to me that it actually makes it worth while to "make sure" that Christianity is not false.

Because there is an alternative. If I believed that Christianity was false, and basically that if you die you go to sleep and don't wake up, then I could get out of this hell right now. To me, this is an extremely attractive alternative. Yes, it means that life is absurd; but I don't consider that life's making sense is a value that overrides the practical value of escaping perhaps years and years of agony. (If you think "Oh, come on! Stop feeling sorry for yourself; it's not that bad," then my answer is that suffering is a subjective feeling and if you wouldn't feel bad in my shoes, that's because you're you, not me.)

My point here is not which one is more attractive; my point is that I want to know what the facts are, and I don't care which way they point. I am not "committed" to Christianity in the sense of the subjective certainty I talked about in the first chapter, where it "has" to be true and be damned to the facts, and I will grasp at any straw of fact to make what I believe seem rational. Nor am I "committed" to its falseness in the sense that because it is fantastic to believe that Jesus got up out of the grave and walked around that therefore, this "has" to be a legend.

As I said, however, at the end of the preceding chapter, from now on, absolute certainty is gone; either way we can be mistaken, and I will never know without the possibility of doubt which view is true. What then do I do? Take the view which is most attractive to the "life style" which would maximize fulfillment and minimize frustration?

Not I, at least.

Nevertheless, to this I am "committed": While life may not "make sense" in the sense of being "rational" so that things fit into neat categories and live up to a priori expectations, still nothing is positively and unsolvably self-contradictory.

There may be many effects we can find of which we can't know the true explanation (though of course we can point there by that tricky definition of "cause" I gave); but we will never find a contradiction that is not an effect: that just is a contradiction (i.e. a not only unresolved but unresolvable contradiction). In this sense, life and everything else has to make sense. It can be non-rational in the sense that things "just happen" that aren't necessary; but it can't be irrational, where things happen that can't happen. And it may also be that some of these non-rational things don't "fit together" into a meaningful pattern and that this can lead to enormous distress.

What this means to me, to finish this apologia, is that the position which makes sense is the one to accept as true, unless evidence in the form of facts comes along which falsifies it; in which case, an honest investigator takes up the new situation and then tries to see what makes sense out of it.

But let that be enough. I said it really because the effects we will meet are going to be strange and esoteric-sounding enough that the automatic reaction is bound to be, "But this is word-games; he's just fooling around!" I am deadly serious. I have no "bone to pick," as they say, and as they also say, I am trying my best to "tell it like it is." It is your job (if you are reading this) to do me the favor of hearing what I say and not dismissing it as silliness, craziness, or tendentiousness.