Section 5

Truth and Goodness

Chapter 1


Before going into an exploration of the various modes of finite existence as cause of various similarities in forms of consciousness, I think it would be well to explore the relationship between finite consciousness and existence: that is, the being-affected of consciousness by existence (generally finite existence, of course, but also--at least indirectly--by God).

But I want to leave until much later what this means for the act itself and the person, and take it now only from the epistemological point of view; and, taking the two elements of the cause of finite consciousness, the mind and existence, show how we can "separate out" the mind's contribution to the form of consciousness, allowing the consciousness to report the existence.

In other words, here is the place to deal with the question Galileo and Descartes raised and Kant saw perhaps most clearly: If our only contact with existence is by the form of consciousness, and this is "infected" with subjectivity because it is actually the mind's act in response to the existence, how can we ever know the existence as it is in itself?

As I mentioned several sections ago, we must be able to do so, because otherwise we would think that the existence is as it appears; and we know that the sun on the horizon is not (as an existence) the color it seems to be; and we know that the oar is not really bent when it is seen as bent in the water.

Hence, we have an effect, not an impossibility; it must be possible to "bypass" the subjectivity which results from the mind's contribution to the form of consciousness and leave only the contribution of the existence, and so know the existence objectively.

But first we must be clear about what we mean by "subjectivity" and "objectivity"; this is especially necessary because Kant "solved" the problem of "objective knowlege" by making the mind the source of objectivity, and denying that existence had anything, really, to do with it.

But Kant was plagued by the point of view of Descartes: that the "object" was the "little picture" in my consciousness; and what he argued was, basically, that the structure of my mind organized this "little picture" in various ways--and to him, the distinction of the "little picture" from the "organizer" is what made it into an "object," and so the "picture" as organized by the mind was the source of the objectivity of knowledge. He called the "consciousness of being conscious" the "(I think)" that is contained in every act of consciousness.

But Kant saw something that logically he should not have admitted: that there is some "x" that is responsible for the "manifold" data that "the (I think)" organizes into what he called the "object." The reason he shouldn't logically have admitted that there is an "x" is that if you can't get outside the "little picture" so that you don't know what's out there as it is in itself, how (as Fichte and Hegel said) can you know that there is anything "out there"--especially if "existence" is a way my mind organizes the data into an "object," as he held.

But it's not my purpose here, really, to critique Kant, though I will be making references to him as I develop my theory--since his analysis, though flawed, is really brilliant, and because of its brilliance is responsible for the epistemological mess I referred to in the first chapter.

At any rate, to recall where we are now, we know that it is impossible to account for consciousness by just consciousness + the mind, because since imagining is as much a "little picture" as perceiving, both would then be "objects," and we wouldn't be able to distinguish the two kinds of experience.(1)

So the problem for us is whether all we have done is justified Kant's "x" against people like Fichte and Hegel, or whether we can say anything about the "x" based solely on our subjective experience of it. And this brings us back to where we were when we brought Kant up: What makes our experience "subjective"?

In the ordinary sense, my experience is called "subjective" and not "objective" because (a) it's different, insofar as it is "subjective," from what is "out there," and (b) I can't even match my experience with yours to find out whether your experience is the same as mine. The first sense might be called "epistemological subjectivity," and the second "social subjectivity."

That is, if we all knew that we all saw things in exactly the same way, then for practical purposes this would probably be enough objectivity for most people; we could all agree together on what our impressions were. Of course, this would mean that the impressions were, so to speak "collectively subjective," but my impression would be known to be "out there" at least in the sense of "out there in everybody else's consciousness," and so there would be a certain "out-thereness" about it. This, in fact, was what Kant's theory led up to; the "little picture" was objective because of his assumption that "the (I think)" with its laws for organizing data was the same in each of us, resulting in the fact that each of us formed the same "little picture" from the same data.

But this runs into the difficulty that you have to know that there are other minds "out there" who are in fact of the same type as mine; and how can you do this if all there is is the "little picture"? If you deny that we can know anything "out there" as it is in itself, then we don't know whether there are any other minds than our own, let alone whether they are really identical with ours. This is why the "problem of other minds" has been a pressing one in some philosophical circles.

In that case, "collective subjectivity" can't be the solution to epistemological subjectivity; if we are closed into our own consciousness and our own mind, then collective subjectivity is not possible. And what that really means that subjectivity really deals with the fact that my consciousness (including my perception) is different from the existence which caused it or is its condition.

Now, based on Conclusion 25 in Chapter 3 (that any way of being conscious has as its cause existence and my mind), we can say the following:

Conclusion 1: The mind is the cause of the subjectivity of all my forms of consciousness.

Since the mind is what makes all of my consciousness the consciousness called "mine," and cuts it off from anyone else's stream of consciousness, and since the mind contributes to the form of consciousness, because the form of consciousness is a form of my consciousness as well as being this way of being conscious, then it is obvious that it is because the mind enters into the causality of the form of consciousness that the form itself is mine and no one else's, and so is subjective.

And this allows us to take another step:

Conclusion 2: The self is the subject of consciousness, and the mind is that by which the self is the subject of consciousness.

The self, remember, is the causer of my consciousness as "mine," or it is the concrete thing of which the mind is an abstract aspect; and since the mind makes my consciousness subjective, then obviously the subject of consciousness is the self.

The subject, then, is precisely not what Sartre thought it was, a "non-being" which "nothingizes" being into various objects. You might get this if you pushed Kant to his logical absurdity; and Sartre admits--glories in the fact--that his philosophy is absurd. The self is a being, because, as we saw, the mind as restricting consciousness to being just this stream is existence, and so the self is something that exists. Furthermore, the subject is what unifies consciousness, and it is the unification that makes the form of consciousness "for itself," not the "cutting off"; the "cutting off" has to be done by a different existence from the mind.

Note also that, pace Sartre and Kant and practically every other analyzer of consciousness since Descartes, the subject of consciousness (the self) is not totally identical with the mind. The subject of consciousness is, if you will, at least a mind; but we have no grounds for saying that the subject of consciousness is different from the subject of other acts (like eating, moving, radiating out colors of light, and so on), which are also "mine." That is, if the subject of consciousness were the mind, then the subject would be "in" some kind of machine called "the body I inhabit," and its acts would not really be my acts, any more than the squeaks and rattles of my car are my acts just because I am inside it.

No, there is one subject of both my mental acts and my bodily acts; and that is myself. How there can be one something that is really one (and so must act as a unit) and simultaneously acts with many different acts (and so must be really multiple) is an effect which we will get to later; but we mustn't close off this possibility by a restrictive definition now(2)

. In fact, what I am is a body, as we will see: a body one aspect of which is a mind (and the mind, as I have already mentioned, is in fact the brain, which is only one part of the body, and even of the body's nervous system); and the fact that logically we can't talk about bodies yet doesn't mean we should be Cartesians and make it impossible to do so by the way we define our terms.



1. I realize that Kant distinguished the two on the basis of the fact that imagining doesn't behave "lawfully" the way perceiving does; but this doesn't fit the facts of experience either, since there are laws of imagining, as esthetics shows; and as autism and schizophrenia reveal, the imaginary world can often be even more logical than the real world. But, as I say, it is not my purpose really to refute Kant, except in the sense of providing a simpler theory that explains all that he explains and some things that he can't.

2. In other words, we are tabling the issue of whether the self is a "substance" in any sense or not, which Descartes affirmed and Kant denied. All I am doing so far is leaving the issue open, because it is thought to be closed because of the mess Descartes made of "substance," and Locke's and Hume's and especially Kant's demolition of the whole original idea of "substance."