Chapter 2

The object of consciousness

But if acts of imagining, when not hallucinations, recognize themselves as spontaneous and not "about" anything, and if perceptions recognize themselves as reacting to existence--then our spontaneous notion that images are totally subjective, while perceptions have a certain objectivity about them, makes sense. Perceptions "report" something other than themselves: the finite existence which caused them.

This allows us to conclude to the following:

Conclusion 3: Being is the object of consciousness.

Once again we are dealing with the causer rather than the cause, because (for instance) when I look outside and see my dog, I say that my dog is the object that I see, and the light pattern is the aspect of my dog which allows me to see her. This aspect (color, or perhaps "shaped color") is the "object" in the Scholastic sense of the "proper object" of my vision and what I call my "integrating function" (which gives me the patterned whole I am calling a "perception" here)--in the same abstract sense as the mind is the cause of the "myness" of my consciousness; but the object in the sense we normally use the term is like the self, the subject: it is the thing which or the body which we perceive by means of some set of acts by which it acts on one or more of our sense organs.

But then what does "being" really mean? It has three senses:

Being is either (1) God, the infinite existence; (2) a finite existence; or (3) some unified combination of finite existences.

Being is, of course what exists, or the causer of a form of consciousness. The most usual sense of being (the sense in which it is more than just the cause of our consciousness and contains aspects that are not causing the form of consciousness) is the third sense; and in this sense, a being is some body. We never perceive or even know all there is to know about any body at all, not even our own; it acts in some ways "privately"; there is, as we will see, an internal activity which organizes its parts into the unit which it is, and which excludes any other being from belonging to it. Hence, a body is a being in the most proper sense of a causer.

But there is at least one case of the causer of our form of consciousness which is identical with its cause, because it must be identical with it, or there is one case of a being which is the same as existence; and this, of course, is God. God is the being which is the causer of the form of consciousness I have when I have concluded to the fact that there must be an infinite existence: at that point, I recognize that (because God is the condition for other forms of consciousness--as caused by finite existence) God must exist; and that act of consciousness is accounted for by God. That is, at the point of drawing the conclusion and recognizing that it is valid, I now eliminate all the intermediate causes in the causal chain and recognize the dependence of the conclusion on the existence of God--just as when I see my dog, I ignore the causal chain of the light as transmitted to my eyes and then the nerve impulses going to my brain, and I talk about the dog as the cause of my perception.

In any case, the being which causes my knowledge of God as existing is, of course, the infinite existence. And since I know that that being has to be absolutely simple and be nothing but existence, then god is a being, and yet God is also just existence. The only reason God "contains more" than I know about him is, as I said, that I know him indirectly, not that there is any more about him than just existence.

Finally, whether we can ever know a single finite act that is not organized somehow into a system or a body is problematical; so whether the second meaning of "being" actually refers to anything is not clear. If there are such things as angels, as we will see, they would have to be individual finite acts, and as nothing but spiritual acts they would be simple and couldn't be bodies; so if there are angels, then presumably they would be beings who are nothing but a single finite act.

But that exhausts all the possibilities for being as causer, and therefore as object, of consciousness.