007d-Awareness and brief thoughts on philosophy
The idea that all objects are objects of awareness and that an object of awareness is identical to the object itself which we normally think of as external, can be thought of as kind of idealism.
Idealism is the the philosophical view that what we think of as the external world is based on the mind or on ideas (of the mind). The argument that awareness of anything correlates to the thing itself and that there is never one without the other is not unlike the subjective idealism put forth by George Berkeley.
Most notably in Berkeley's phrase Esse est percipi. To be is to be perceived.
There are differences that I will put forward later, but it does look like a kind of idealism and because of that I want to argue against some of the common critiques of idealism.
The first of these critiques is a critique about a mind. And some of these critiques are the same as what I and others put forward against Descartes famous Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am).
At most, the only argument I make for a mind is that the mind is another object we are aware of. It is not the source of awareness. I explicitly have not argued that there is a mind which gives rise to awareness, rather I have argued that there is awareness and there are objects of awareness. And where we think of an object as being external or varied, we find that it is the object(s) of awareness which are varied. And it seems that awareness is alway evident with objects. Meaning that awareness, which is awareness of things, is a fundamental quality of reality or the universe and not a quality of a mind.
Very explicitly, a mind is an idea that does not precede awareness. Awareness is the precondition, because one of the objects of awareness is of having a mind.
The idea of self is another object that we are aware of. Whether there is a "real mind" any more then there are "real unicorns" is a different kind of question. Whether a mind gives rise to awareness or whether unicorns eat cupcakes are questions not about the existence of things or the existence of awareness. Rather that is a question about the relationships between things. Objects, awareness, and the awareness of objects all precede the truth of statements we make from the relationship of objects.
It is common to think of a mind as the source of awareness. And even how I write about awareness, I use the language in this way. But I think this is an artifact of our language use and of our modes of thinking.
My basic premise is best expressed symbolically as a function. Where X is some object, the awareness of X and X itself are identical. AW:X = X
By describing awareness and objects in this symbolic way we can escape the problems of describing it with language. And by using this symbolic method, when we consider a mind there is no need to postulate awareness as deriving from mind. Rather mind is just another object. For instance: just as AW:unicorns = unicorns, AW:mind = mind. This does not mean that there are unicorns in my back yard any more then it means I have a mind that gives rise to awareness. The mind is just another object of awareness in this model.
The second of these critiques is that because I treat the awareness of things as being different then the things themselves that there must be some actual difference. While I argue that my experience of water and water itself are the same, I am making a distinction. I believe this distinction is an artifact of our way of thinking, and specifically our use of language.
When we use some kinds of words we naturally refer to language based subjects and with other kinds of words we naturally refer to other language based objects. We see this in the use of the word think. If I say, there is thinking, it seems natural to say there is a thinker. If I say there is seeing, it seems more natural to say there is something seen. In Latin, the word cogito means "I think". The subject and verb are conflated together. In english we say, I think.
these structures are artifacts of our process of reasoning and impact our experience. These artifacts can be avoided by treating awareness as fundamental and objects as fundamental (to the universe). And when we do so, we see that awareness and objects always follow a convention where AW:object = object.
Language subjects and objects, which are stand-ins for subjective and objective experience, are all just objects of awareness. subjective and objective experiences all follow the same awareness function.
I show the function as an identity because that is very much how we experience the world. But it isn't always the case. The mystical experience as put forth by Douglas Harding of "having no head" is exactly the kind of experience where this distinction between awareness of an object and the object itself disappears.
This breaking down of the dualist perception is a common feature of many kinds of experiences, from religious awakening to orgasmic connection with a lover, to simple meditation. These kinds of experiences are counter examples to dualist propositions. The function AW:X = X embraces these examples as specific cases where the identity of the awareness of object and object itself resolve as a single experience. Which they can and must do being identities.
Our ordinary way of speaking can bring up other qualities or kinds of experiences. For instance, if the awareness of an object is an object then awareness of water = water ---> AW:water = water. Is the awareness of the awareness of water the same as water? No, It would be shown as AW:(AW:water) = (AW:water)
This kind of nesting of awareness is a fact of our experience. Our awareness of being aware can be nested or be recursive. And this awareness function can handle that appropriately. It isn't necessary to posit a mind or dualist distinction between awareness and objects to manage these kinds of experiences. We simply treat them as what they are. object and object of awareness. If an object is itself the awareness of an object, then it is and we treat it like any other object.
eg. AW:(AW:water) = (AW:water), AW:water = water are two different objects. One of the objects contains or nests another.
Where the awareness and object distinction dissolves, we treat them just as objects as we would for any identity.
A third critique of this kind of idealism is the delusion that there are objects that exist unthought of. I assert that is not the case. That all objects that exist, exist as objects of awareness. And because this forms a tautology it necessarily follows that all objects are necessarily objects of awareness. Typically it is claimed that this means every object everywhere at all times are objects of awareness, and that this is patently false on it's face. I don't see this as a criticism but as a truism.
by definition, to refer to all objects everywhere at all times introduces an awareness of them, and therefore they exist.
this seems counter-intuitive but it cannot be disproved. Because the disproof relies on the very fact of awareness of objects and the identity of objects to awareness as being a fundamental precondition for any possible disproof.
A fourth critique is one of language as put forth by Alan Musgrave. His argument is that using hyphenated words to refer to the variety of objects of experience is a warning sign of idealism. this is true. He further argues that these hyphenated references lead to use and mention errors. I don't argue this point at all. It is true.
He further argues that the entities that are referred to , as I referred to say my water bottle in front of me, and my water bottle behind me as being different are strictly ersatz entities. Ersatz entities are entities, ergo they exist and they are objects of awareness and we know this because we can make hyphenated distinctions about them.
the problem of this use of language is a problem of specificity. I believe the way to get around the enormous number of objects which show variation in our awareness is to abandon the use of language and instead treat them symbolically. At base it's a problem with our descriptive abilities and not with the proposition (AW:X = X).
A fifth critique is that if objects are objects of awareness, there is no way for us to know if things are physical things or not. I don't believe this follows from my premise. Because if things are physical is not a state of things any more than cupcake eating is state of unicorns. Questions about physicality are subsequent to existence, the objects in existence, and the awareness of objects. At this point, physical nature, or phsycality is just another object we are aware of(an idea, an experience). How it relates to some objects and not others is a problem of the structure of objects that will be addressed later.
A corollary problem that is resolved with the premise (awareness of an object is identical to the object itself), is that it is conscious state neutral.
Many theories of mind or nature (materialism, dualism, functionalism, etc) do not deal with the variety of conscious experience. They do not deal with the variety of conscious states and the experiences people have in them. In fact, the bulk of these theories explicitly disavow the very existence of some kinds of experiences that people have. This ranges from qualia, to encounters with God, to the supernatural.
People actually have these experiences, and because these experiences often contradict or are anomalies to a materialist theory, the experience is itself disregarded. This is absurd, because experience necessarily precedes theories about experience. Theories of mind or ontologies of nature must account for all the experiences people have and not discard them because of the contradictions they create in a theory.
Awareness of an object is identical to the object itself, is explicitly neutral on this point. Questions of veracity, or claims about experience, come after the fact of experience. AW:X = X can symbolically account for the experiences people have. Later I will address the succeeding problems of how claims about experiences may be examined.
There are a host of problems that at this stage I do not address. What is a mind? What is the external world? How is it perceived (ordinarily) as being separate? How can two people have similar experience? Are there other minds?
These are all good questions. But they are explanatory problems that spring from the very basic premise: that awareness and objects are fundamental to existence. That awareness is always awareness of an object. And that awareness of an object is the object.
AW:X = X
Final note: I don't think this premise is necessarily idealism. It does look like solipsism or subjective idealism, but only because the arguments underlying those philosophies point to the same inescapable starting point of experience. However, my inclination (at this point) is that by beginning with this premise and being rigorous in our examination of what follows we will arrive at something more like an irrealism (though I only recently came across Goodman so I cannot say with any comparative certainty).