Chapter 5

Existence as analogous

From now on we are going to be talking about existence as the cause of perception, and not the existences which are the conditions for the act of imagining (because, of course, they were originally causes of perception too).

To resume, then:

Conclusion 10: Repetitions of the same perception are caused by the same existence.

When I look up now and see my dog again, the form of consciousness I have is for practical purposes the same as the one I had a couple of hours ago when I looked up. The sameness of the pattern allows me to say that I am looking at the same dog; if the dog out there "looked different" in a significant way (say, was black and had a bulldog face instead of brown with a long snout), then I would, of course, say that there was a different dog in my back yard.

Now of course, the perception I have of my dog is not exactly the same as it was two hours ago; but it is close enough so that for practical purposes it is a "repetition"; and so this allows me to say that for practical purposes, the existence is the same one. We will get to how a given existence can be the same and different later; all I want to say here is that we do know that, though there are many existences, it doesn't follow that every time we have a perception, this implies a special existence corresponding to it. Every time we have a distinctive perception, this argues to a distinctive existence; when we have the same perception "over again," the existence was the same.

It would seem that immediately we could say that all of these different existences are analogous (i.e. somehow similar to each other), because they are all existences, after all. But it turns out that this would be leaping to a conclusion. All unique objects are unique; but this obviously cannot mean that they have something in common as unique, which allows us to call each of them "unique"; because "uniqueness" means "the quality of having nothing in common with anything else."

So the fact that we can us the same term to apply to a number of things does not of itself mean that this term actually refers to something they have in common; it might be just that each of them happens to be connected with me in a way that makes me think of "them" as having a common trait, when the "commonness" is due to me, not them.

So what we have to do is to find out whether there is something about "formed consciousness" which demands that the cause of each case of "formed consciousness" be similar to the cause of each other case. We already know that the cause of each case is different from the cause of any other case (barring repetitions of the same form of consciousness).

How can we do this? Well, if the effects are similar among themselves as effects (i.e. precisely as "formed consciousnesses"), then the causes will have to be similar among themselves. So do all forms of consciousness have "something in common" as effects, or is each one (as an effect) a unique case of consciousness, and the fact that we can call them all "forms of consciousness" is just a linguistic convenience like the "common trait of uniqueness" that all unique things "share"?

Here the different types of consciousness as finite come to our rescue. "Formed consciousness" as an effect is simply consciousness as finite: the form is the fact that the consciousness is less than itself. But any case of "formed consciousness" is a different sort of "consciousness as less than itself" than is "my consciousness" or "today's consciousness," both of which are also consciousness as finite.

It follows from this that no "formed consciousness" can be absolutely different from any other "formed consciousness" as an effect (as finite consciousness), or I would not be able to put it in this category and distinguish it from a period or a stream of consciousness.

Therefore, any case of "formed consciousness" is both different from every other one (as this case) and the same as every other one (as formed and not "perioded" consciousness). Or, every case of "formed consciousness" is as an effect similar to every other one. And since similar effects have analogous causes,

Conclusion 11: Every existence is analogous to every other existence.

So existences are not absolutely unique; every existence is somehow both the same as and different from every other existence. There is a real similarity among all the existences "out there."

That is, nominalism is false. What this theory, so popular just before the Renaissance, held was that all the terms we use to describe things were like the term "unique," which we could use to put things into neat cubbyholes, but which referred to nothing in the things themselves. They didn't have any "common properties" which were referred to by these terms.

But as we can see, this theory is untenable. If every existence were in reality totally dissimilar to every other existence, then there would be no way that "formed consciousnesses" could be similar among themselves; and they must be so, or it would be a mere matter of convenience that we put them all in the category of "formed consciousness" and not "periods of consciousness." That is, if nominalism were true, then you could take the consciousness of reading this page and classify it with "today's consciousness" as just another period and this wouldn't make any difference. But you recognize that the duration of your consciousness isn't the same as the way you are now conscious.

And since this distinction is within the consciousness itself (which is conscious of itself), then there's no way we could be "fooled" into "thinking" that the limitations weren't as we "perceived" them with the "consciousness of the consciousness." Hence, nominalism won't work as applied to consciousness itself; and if not, then it won't work as applied to the cause of consciousness, because the causes of "formed consciousness" have to be similar somehow or the effect would be a contradiction, not an effect.

I hasten to say that this does not mean that all common terms refer to some common reality "out there"; we already saw one (uniqueness) that contradicts itself if it does. Presumably, sometimes terms refer to real aspects of things and sometimes they don't; and you have to be careful to find out in each case which one of these is true.