Actual Freedom – Mailing List ‘B’ Correspondence

Richard’s Correspondence on Mailing List ‘B’

with Respondent No. 20

Some Of The Topics Covered

‘I’ – being responsible – integration – expert on actuality – the goose in the bottle – self and Self – ego and soul – fact/ belief – solipsism – original face – Zen – Human Condition – actuality/fantasy – René Descartes – Mr. Euclid – Mr. Anselm – intuition – cogito ergo sum – Latin grammar – proving God – metaphysics – soul and suffering – oppression

July 11 1998:

RESPONDENT No. 34: Each time we remember our true identity and see through the deceptions of ego, that is a liberation – negativity, emotions and thoughts are purified, and we become stronger in our wisdom nature.

RESPONDENT: It is not in the elimination of self that there is wholeness, or in the belief that there was never a self that must be eliminated, but in the integration within the totality. In that integration is the immediate transformation into something else. For the very nature of self is in that which is not integrated, which is separate.

RICHARD: All sentient beings are born with blind nature’s bodily survival instincts – fear and aggression and nurture and desire – which go to create an affective rudimentary self that is evident in all animals. The instinct for physical survival, in human beings with their ability to think, then manifests itself as a passionate perpetuation of this affective primal self, rather than physical survival as blind nature intended. Through reflexion, this self has become one’s ‘being’ – this is ‘me’ as one feels one’s self is at ‘my’ core – it is ‘my’ very soul. Thought has arrogated this ardent survival mechanism into a fervent ‘will to survive’, creating an emotion-backed version of the self called ‘ego’ ... which is the ‘I’ that one believes one is. ‘I’ as ego am separated from ‘myself’ as ‘being’ and seek integration. Then, ‘I’ fondly imagine, ‘I’ will become ‘whole’.

If successful, then ‘I’ will indeed be ‘something else’ ... pure ‘Being’ ... pure ‘Soul’ ... pure ‘Spirit’ ... pure ‘Thatness’ ... pure ‘Isness’ ... pure ‘Whatever’.

It is all delusion born out of the illusion of self created by blind instincts. There is only this flesh and blood body here in actuality.

July 11 1998:

RICHARD: All sentient beings are born with blind nature’s bodily survival instincts – fear and aggression and nurture and desire – which go to create an affective rudimentary self that is evident in all animals. The instinct for physical survival, in human beings with their ability to think, then manifests itself as a passionate perpetuation of this affective primal self, rather than physical survival as blind nature intended. Through reflexion, this self has become one’s ‘being’ – this is ‘me’ as one feels one’s self is at ‘my’ core – it is ‘my’ very soul. Thought has arrogated this ardent survival mechanism into a fervent ‘will to survive’, creating an emotion-backed version of the self called ‘ego’ ... which is the ‘I’ that one believes one is. ‘I’ as ego am separated from ‘myself’ as ‘being’ and seek integration. Then, ‘I’ fondly imagine, ‘I’ will become ‘whole’. If successful, then ‘I’ will indeed be ‘something else’ ... pure ‘Being’ ... pure ‘Soul’ ... pure ‘Spirit’ ... pure ‘Thatness’ ... pure ‘Isness’ ... pure ‘Whatever’. It is all delusion born out of the illusion of self created by blind instincts. There is only this flesh and blood body here in actuality.

RESPONDENT: The seeking of integration is not integration, the idea of wholeness is not wholeness.

RICHARD: Agreed.

RESPONDENT: An integrated self is not a self at all, nor is it any of these thought projected pure ideals.

RICHARD: Oh yes it is ... otherwise why call it an ‘integrated self’, for example? It is some airy-fairy far-removed from here affective dream-world conjured up through abstinence and sublimation ... the discipline that comes through order and negation. To project a fantasy and yearn to live in it until one becomes it is simply an insult to one’s native intelligence.

RESPONDENT: Integration implies that this ‘flesh and blood body here in actuality’ accurately corresponds to what is, and does not divide what we are into what is thought and what is not.

RICHARD: I am rather unsure as to where you obtain your peculiar meaning to the word ‘integrate’ (which means to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole or unite the various parts and make entire or complete as in join, combine, amalgamate, consolidate, blend, incorporate, coalesce, fuse, merge, intermix, mingle, commingle, assimilate, homogenise, harmonise, mesh or concatenate) despite your attempt to qualify it with an observation about thought being divisive. Is thought, in itself, divisive? Or is it more the case that there is an affective ‘I’ in there that is the spanner in the works? You see, as ‘I’ feel strongly that ‘I’ am charged – by blind nature – with keeping ‘myself’ alive at any cost, it is a simple matter for ‘me’ to turn upon some innocuous function of the brain-cells in an attempt to distract one’s innate intelligence from operating with clarity. To impugn the character of the one faculty that can lead one through this mess that is the Human Condition, is a very successful attempt to deter all but the most earnest and sincere individual from flushing out the villain of the play ... ‘me’ as an affective ‘being’.

‘I’ will even claim a grandiose status for this ‘me’ ... making it into an object of worship and adulation. And all this while, poor old thought cops a hammering. Reflective thought, freed of the constraints of self-aggrandisement, can become fascinated contemplative thought, leading to a bare awareness. Bare awareness – being bare of any entity – is pure consciousness. Pure consciousness is where this flesh and blood body can be apperceptively aware of this actual world ... the world as-it-is. And what-it-is is a rather magical play-ground full of pleasure and delight ... and nary a feeling to be found anywhere. Sorrow and malice cease to exist ... one is happy and harmless in character without any effort.

Needless to say, the word ‘integration’ is not at all applicable, here.

July 12 1998:

RESPONDENT: An integrated self is not a self at all, nor is it any of these thought projected pure ideals.

RICHARD: Oh yes it is ... otherwise why call it an ‘integrated self’ , for example? It is some airy-fairy far-removed from here affective dream-world conjured up through abstinence and sublimation ... the discipline that comes through order and negation. To project a fantasy and yearn to live in it until one becomes it is simply an insult to one’s native intelligence.

RESPONDENT: Integrated self is just a way of describing a shift between two states, one where thought is viewed as outsider, as alien, as problematic, and the other marked by an understanding and appreciation that thought is part of and integral to our lives. There is nothing fantastic about this.

RICHARD: ‘Integral’ yes, I agree ... ‘integrated’ no way can I agree.

RESPONDENT: In that the ‘self’ involves ‘separateness’ or ‘divisiveness’, the expression ‘integrated self’ needs qualification.

RICHARD: Indeed it does ... let us qualify it right out the window, please. Otherwise it starts to sound like that ‘healthy ego’ trip that was running for a while on this List.

*

RESPONDENT: Integration implies that this ‘flesh and blood body here in actuality’ accurately corresponds to what is, and does not divide what we are into what is thought and what is not.

RICHARD: I am rather unsure as to where you obtain your peculiar meaning to the word ‘integrate’ (which means to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole or unite the various parts and make entire or complete as in join, combine, amalgamate, consolidate, blend, incorporate, coalesce, fuse, merge, intermix, mingle, commingle, assimilate, homogenise, harmonise, mesh or concatenate) despite your attempt to qualify it with an observation about thought being divisive. Is thought, in itself, divisive? Or is it more the case that there is an affective ‘I’ in there that is the spanner in the works?

RESPONDENT: You seem here to be coming rather close to what I am getting at with the expression, ‘integrated self’, namely that thought is no longer taken to be problematic. The resistance to thought we both seem to be saying is an act of the ‘I’.

RICHARD: Yes ... and I am pleased that we are moving together on this issue. It is ‘I’ arrogating thought that is the problem, not thought in itself. In the same way, will is not the problem, either. ‘I’ is an emotional illusion conjured up out of the passionate instincts and those people who fondly think that they have ‘surrendered their ego’ to some guru have actually surrendered their will ... ‘I’ cunningly survive to wreak ‘my’ havoc once again. Usually, ‘I’ disappear into the heart and become as humble and as loving as all get-out in the hope that no one will notice that ‘I’ am still in existence.

But that is another story.

July 15 1998:

RESPONDENT: Seeing through duality cannot be confused with seeing what is before duality. That is not possible to see, and so is speculation.

RESPONDENT No. 12: Seeing is before duality and is a different view of what is that can not be understood in dualistic terms. It is non-rational. Richard’s explanation of apperception is as good as any In my opinion.

RESPONDENT: Richard’s account of apperception also involved thought despite his disclaimers.

RICHARD: Not so ... apperception is a self-less awareness that is on-going throughout the entire waking hours. Thought may or may not operate as required by the circumstances ... apperception goes on regardless. Apperception is the perennial pure consciousness experience of being alive; being awake – not asleep in bed – and being here now at this moment in time and this place in space.

*

RESPONDENT: As far as I recall his picture included natural phenomena and people.

RICHARD: Yea verily ... there is naught else but people, things and events. When ‘I’ am not, the immediate is the ultimate and the relative is the absolute. This natural universe is it ... anything else (beyond space and time) is metaphysical and therefore a delusion of the self’s aggrandisement.

RESPONDENT: Whatever is seen prior to thought is beyond anything that you can know or tell about.

RICHARD: May I rephrase your sentence? ‘Whatever is seen prior to thought – that which is actual – can only be seen apperceptively and is beyond anything ‘you’ can know or tell about’.

However, experiencing life, the universe and what it is to be a human being as this flesh and blood body only enables one to both know it thoroughly – by living it – and to speak and write about it with remarkable ease. One is an expert on any aspect of actuality simply by virtue of the fact that one has only to look around and write what one sees lying blatantly to view. There is no mystery here in actuality ... no ‘Truth’ that is ineffable. The ‘meaning of life’ can all be described in great detail ... life is intrinsically purposeful, the reason for existence lies openly all around. Being in this very air I live in, I am constantly aware of it; I breathe it in and out; I see it, I hear it, I taste it, I smell it, I touch it, all of the time. It never goes away ... nor has it ever been away. ‘I’ was standing in the way of meaning. With the end of ‘me’, the distance or separation between ‘me’ and ‘my’ senses – and thus the external world – disappears. To be the senses as a bare awareness is apperception, a pure consciousness experience of the world as-it-is. Because there is no ‘I’ as an observer – a little person inside one’s head – to have sensations, I am the sensations. There is nothing except the series of sensations which happen ... not to ‘me’ but just happening ... moment by moment ... one after another. To be these sensations, as distinct from having them, engenders the most astonishing sense of freedom and release. Consequently, I am living in peace and tranquillity; a meaningful peace and tranquillity.

The search for meaning amidst the debris of the much-vaunted ‘human’ hopes and dreams and schemes has come to its timely end.

July 18 1998:

RESPONDENT: [Re: The Goose In The Bottle]. For freedom is in the intelligence of discovery of how to break that bottle.

RICHARD: What bottle?

July 18 1998:

RESPONDENT: [Re: The Goose In The Bottle]. For freedom is in the intelligence of discovery of how to break that bottle.

RICHARD: What bottle?

RESPONDENT: I’m using it here for ‘conditioning’, for another poster the bottle stands for something else, which he says is from a Zen parable.

RICHARD: The metaphor ‘bottle’ does not refer to conditioning but to a contracted or crystallised ‘self’. Yet even if it did, that particular piece of conditioning is endlessly replaced by more subtle variations as fast as it is seen through and dissolved – or whatever you do with it – for as long ‘I’ persist. So it has nothing to do with ‘the intelligence of discovery of how to break that bottle’ whichever way you look at it.

RESPONDENT: My point is that ‘doing absolutely nothing’ is not breaking the bottle.

RICHARD: But there is no bottle ... that is the whole point of this metaphor (and breaking the bottle is expressly forbidden anyway ... you cannot do an Alexander the Great on this Gordian Knot). ‘I’ create the illusion of a bottle. Who is the ‘I’ that you say is not going to break the bottle by ‘doing absolutely nothing’? Or, conversely, who is the ‘I’ that is ‘doing something’ in order to break the bottle ... which you seem to be insisting is the way out?

So that is why I asked: What bottle?

RESPONDENT: And the bottle does not simply vanish when nothing is done.

RICHARD: The bottle does not vanish whether one does something or whether one does not do something. This is contrary to the normal notion of cause and effect ... which is why it is used by the metaphysically inclined people. They wish to break the hold that thought has on one ... they posit that ‘I’ am a product of thought and ‘I’ create a non-existent bottle to be trapped in ... because an ‘I’ is trapped by its very nature. When faced with an intellectually impossible paradox, they say that thought (their ‘I’ as ego) gives up the ghost and – hey presto! – the goose is out of the bottle by virtue of the fact that the bottle did not exist in the first place. It is a matter of seeing that one is already free and one had to but realise this. Mr. H. W. L. Poonja of India was of the same opinion ... which is why he has been able to churn out several ‘spiritually awakened beings’ who fondly imagine that they have ‘got it’. They now know that there never was a bottle to break or vanish or get out of all along. (I wonder where Respondent No. 22 is in all this ... this stuff should be grist for his mill.) It is all rather pathetic ... but there they go with their much-revered wisdom of the ages, eh? Perhaps it is more a conundrum than a paradox ... I would ask: Who is the gullible goose that precipitously feels they are now out?

That is because this question gets one closer to the root cause of all human suffering ... Zen’s much-prized ‘Original Face’.

July 20 1998:

RICHARD: The metaphor ‘bottle’ does not refer to conditioning but to a contracted or crystallised ‘self’.

RESPONDENT: You are then using it the way No. 22 does.

RICHARD: I was staying with the original metaphor ... there is more to being a self than conditioning.

*

RICHARD: Yet even if it did, that particular piece of conditioning is endlessly replaced by more subtle variations as fast as it is seen through and dissolved – or whatever you do with it – for as long ‘I’ persist. So it has nothing to do with ‘the intelligence of discovery of how to break that bottle’ whichever way you look at it.

RESPONDENT: Are you saying that there is only the conditioned state, and not the possibility of seeing or understanding that conditioning? Or are you merely saying that this possibility necessitates moving outside the confines of the self-perspective?

RICHARD: One needs to go to the root of what it is that conditioning sticks to so that conditioning falls away like water off a duck’s back. Is it not possible to be never conditioned?

*

RESPONDENT: My point is that ‘doing absolutely nothing’ is not breaking the bottle.

RICHARD: But there is no ‘bottle’ ... that is the whole point of this metaphor (and breaking the bottle is expressly forbidden anyway ... you cannot do an Alexander the Great on this Gordian Knot).

RESPONDENT: If there is a bottle that is not there, then the rule of not breaking it does seem irrelevant. But this is merely a game: to first assume there is a bottle only to deny its existence. I prefer Alexander.

RICHARD: Alexander took a sword and cut the knot ... one must ask: What knot?

*

RICHARD: ‘I’ create the illusion of a bottle. Who is the ‘I’ that you say is not going to break the bottle by ‘doing absolutely nothing’? Or, conversely, who is the ‘I’ that is ‘doing something’ in order to break the bottle ... which you seem to be insisting is the way out?

RESPONDENT: Are you asking now for a definition of the ‘I’ or a defence of the existence of the ‘I’? This word ‘I’ is so theory laden. Which sort of an ‘I’ are we speaking about?

RICHARD: The ‘I’ in this metaphor is the ego ‘I’ that arises from the soul ‘me’ that is born of the rudimentary self that all sentient beings are born with when blind nature equips one with the basic survival instincts of fear and aggression and nurture and desire.

*

RESPONDENT: And the bottle does not simply vanish when nothing is done.

RICHARD: The bottle does not vanish whether one does something or whether one does not do something. This is contrary to the normal notion of cause and effect ... which is why it is used by the metaphysically inclined people. They wish to break the hold that thought has on one ... they posit that ‘I’ am a product of thought and ‘I’ create a non-existent bottle to be trapped in ... because an ‘I’ is trapped by its very nature. When faced with an intellectually impossible paradox, they say that thought (their ‘I’ as ego) gives up the ghost and – hey presto! – the goose is out of the bottle by virtue of the fact that the bottle did not exist in the first place. It is a matter of seeing that one is already free and one had to but realise this. Mr. H. W. L. Poonja of India was of the same opinion ... which is why he has been able to churn out several ‘spiritually awakened beings’ who fondly imagine that they have ‘got it’. They now know that there never was a bottle to break or vanish or get out of all along. (I wonder where another poster is in all this ... this stuff should be grist for his mill.) It is all rather pathetic ... but there they go with their much-revered wisdom of the ages, eh?

RESPONDENT: It is just a game that they are giving spiritual significance to. Denying the original assumption is a rather cheap solution.

RICHARD: It is not a game to them ... they take it all to be very, very real. They do not just deny the original assumption ... they work very hard for many years to dissolve the ego ‘I’. Only a rare few succeed. When they do, only then can they say that the ‘I’ never existed in the first place. A person with their ‘I’ intact is not well-served to say that their ‘I’ is not real, for their suffering remains extant.

*

RICHARD: Perhaps it is more a conundrum than a paradox ... I would ask: Who is the gullible goose that precipitously feels they are now out? That is because this question gets one closer to the root cause of all human suffering ... Zen’s much-prized ‘Original Face’.

RESPONDENT: Are you speaking about existing without self?

RICHARD: Yes, but not only without a self ... without a capital ‘S’ Self as well. One is well-advised to pay attention to those basic instincts that give rise to what the Christians coyly call ‘Original Sin’. ‘I’ and ‘me’, in any way, shape or form, am rotten to the core ... this is the source of all guilt and its band-aid solutions like love and compassion. Zen’s ‘Original Face’ has its genesis in the rudimentary self of the instincts. Eliminate those survival instincts and not only does ‘Original Sin’ vanish ... even the ‘Original Face’ disappears. Then – and only then – is there peace-on-earth guaranteed.

This is because it is already always here

July 23 1998:

RICHARD (to Respondent No. 14): When I invited him to drop his trousers and examine some irrefutable evidence of maleness he declined ... the conversation deteriorated somewhat about here. Especially when I managed to stop rolling around on the imputed grass and gathered the strength to ask him to redefine the words ‘Factual’ and ‘Actual’ ... along with ‘Tangible’, ‘Sensible’, ‘Palpable’, ‘Obvious’, ‘Apparent’, ‘Manifest’, ‘Unmistakable’, ‘Tactile’, ‘Sensual’, ‘Sensation’ and a few dozen others of a like nature.

RESPONDENT: Yes, the discussion does lead to definitions, and I suggest that you are using ‘belief’ differently. There is a broad sense of belief that covers all attributes of factuality.

RICHARD: Yes ... I had a discussion on this very subject last year with someone who said:

• ‘Epistemologists sketch out various theoretical frameworks to account for all the various elements that relate to knowledge. Almost every epistemological framework attempts to deal with the nature of belief as it relates to knowledge. A definition of knowledge that has become popular in many circles is that knowledge is justified, true belief. However, ‘belief’, as epistemologists use it, often means something very different from what other people intend by it when they use the term non-technically. That is why I like to distinguish between belief in its narrow epistemological sense – which usually means something like ‘cognitive assent to the truth or falsity of a proposition’ (e.g., based on a judgement of probability) – and belief generally, which can have quite a broad range of meanings, from ‘trust’, to ‘opine’, to ‘hope’, to ‘think’, to ‘be-almost-sure-but-not-quite’.’

To which I responded:

• ‘So under the ‘various theoretical frameworks’ I gather that the word ‘knowledge’ has now come to mean ‘justified, true belief’. I wonder just what, to these theorists, constitutes an unjustified, false belief. As a belief is not a factual observation in the first place, it must drive them crazy trying to decide which belief is true and which belief is false ... and which one to justify’.

I am glad that I stick to facts and actuality ... it is so much easier.

RESPONDENT: You on the other hand are distinguishing fact and belief.

RICHARD: Yes, indeed I am, for it is high time that someone did. Common usage has blurred the distinction betwixt fact and belief so much so that anyone using sufficient sophistry can get away with anything at all and still be considered wise these days.

*

RICHARD: Now, No. 14 is a self-confessed solipsist and therefore everything he says about anything at all is intrinsically consistent with whatever there is ... within his ‘I Am It’ philosophy. (Mr. Leo Tolstoy went through a period of solipsism and wrote at length about his experience which I personally found edifying when I experienced a period of extreme subjectivity whilst living in the Himalayas in 1984).Thus, one wonders who it is that No. 14 thinks that he writes to on this List ... because the recipients do not actually exist in solipsism. This post you are now reading has no facticity and No. 31 and No. 20 and Richard are nothing but fragments of Respondent No. 14’s imagination ... we have no inherent existence. Therefore, what is he doing by – in effect – talking to himself (and this he is, be there no doubt about that, because he often says that he is ‘glad to be around as you’)? The faintest of clues may very well be emerging in that he has just recently allowed that ‘schizophrenia is real’ ... although ‘possibly not internally consistent’.

RESPONDENT: I do not think that No. 14 is a solipsist. It is not that all experience is ‘I’, but there are multiple minds with multiple perspectives.

RICHARD: Oh, No. 14 is a solipsist, be there no doubt about that. (Solipsism: Latin: solus ‘alone’ + ipse ‘self’: a philosophy holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing). On the 28 February 1998 No. 14 wrote:

• ‘There is no objective standard defining real/unreal (...) there is no objective anything’.

And just in case there was some doubt left in anyone’s mind he then applied the clincher: No. 14 wrote:

• ‘Objective reality is pure solipsism’.

Wow!

*

RICHARD: I guess we will never know. No. 14 and I have communicated in the past and whenever the going gets rigorous he answers with either a ‘Be well Richard’ or a ‘I love you dearly Richard’ and packs up his notebooks and goes home. A pity in a way ... maybe he could have helped by explaining away those (shudder) sensate words.

RESPONDENT: Perhaps there is a point he is making by doing so, and it is other than ‘the going is too tough, so I am out of here’.

RICHARD: If there is a point that he is making then it is so obscure that perhaps you could spell it out for my edification. Until then, I can only go on what I observe. And what I observe is well-exemplified by a quote from his Web-Page: ‘I believe in nothing, for to believe is to pin a hope on a conception’.

You see, I observe here that No. 14 understands only too well what constitutes a belief ... but maybe you know something about him that I do not?

*

RICHARD: Etymologically, belief means: ‘fervently wish to be true’, and actual means: ‘already occurring; existing as factually true’.

RESPONDENT: Your definition of belief is too narrow, and therefore there is confusion that arises between the claim that ‘there are no beliefs here’ and ‘that statement is already a belief’.

RICHARD: My definition of belief is not ‘too narrow’ at all ... I merely take the etymological roots of the words from the ‘Oxford Concise Dictionary of English Etymology’ so as to remind people of how words have had their meaning gradually changed over time until they no longer refer to anything definitive at all. Perhaps it is your definition that is too broad?

I suggest this because it was you, when all is said and done, that asked No. 14 if all belief systems were muddled ... were you seeking some clarification as to where reality stops and fantasy begins?

It is a topic well worth pursuing.

July 25 1998:

RICHARD: There is more to being a self than conditioning.

RESPONDENT: Are you saying that a not-self can also be conditioned ?

RICHARD: When I wrote that there was more to a self than conditioning, I was merely staying with the start of this thread for consistency. For under Eastern Mysticism’s diagnosis the ‘self’ is a contraction or crystallisation of the eternal ‘Self’ ... and in Zen terminology ‘Eternal Self’ would – very loosely – translate as ‘Original Face’ or ‘Buddha Nature’. I say ‘loosely’ because Buddhists modestly disallow any enduring personal self at all. The basic premise being that the contracted or crystallised self can expand until it regains its original size and position: ‘I am Everything and Everything is Me’. Thus – and as far as I know – they did not make as big a thing out of conditioning as Mr. Jiddu Krishnamurti did, but if asked I am sure they would say that the ‘not-self’ cannot be conditioned. (Of course Buddhists get into a logical dilemma with ‘self’ and ‘no-self’ and end up disallowing ‘no-self’ also).

Speaking personally, I do not subscribe to the Zen position – or any Eastern metaphysical position at all – for I have my own understanding born out of my own experience ... and the spiritual ‘not-self’ – by any name – is very conditioned indeed. An enlightened man and woman could raise a child on an isolated island – a tropical paradise of course – with all the love and compassion in existence and that child would still have an identity – no doubt a grandiose identity – born out of its rudimentary self.

*

RICHARD: Yet even if it did, that particular piece of conditioning is endlessly replaced by more subtle variations as fast as it is seen through and dissolved – or whatever you do with it – for as long ‘I’ persist. So it has nothing to do with ‘the intelligence of discovery of how to break that bottle’ whichever way you look at it.

RESPONDENT: Are you saying that there is only the conditioned state, and not the possibility of seeing or understanding that conditioning? Or are you merely saying that this possibility necessitates moving outside the confines of the self-perspective?

RICHARD: One needs to go to the root of what it is that conditioning sticks to so that conditioning falls away like water off a duck’s back. Is it not possible to be never conditioned?

RESPONDENT: In examining the nature of thought, we find that conditioning comes with the territory.

RICHARD: Agreed ... up to a point. Conditioning is fundamentally lodged as feeling-tones more than as thought patterns. Thought is conditioned only to the extent it is tied to feelings by identification ... a belief is an emotion-backed thought (or a passionate mental fantasy). It is in the nature of thought to understand in terms of opposites, however ... as in comparison, for example. But even this need not be a hindrance when one’s native intelligence is freed up sufficiently to operate virtually unconfined.

RESPONDENT: But there is also a ‘seeing through’ this conditioning.

RICHARD: Agreed. One’s native intelligence is not entirely dead on the ground ... though there a some who would appear to give lie to this.

RESPONDENT: But that is not the ending of the process of being conditioned, rather it is the ability to understand the ongoing process so that there is far greater penetration in ‘seeing through’.

RICHARD: Yes, there is something more to being a self than emotion-backed mental conditioning ... and I do not mean that fairy-story about a ‘crystallised ‘self’’. There is the instinctual passions.

*

RESPONDENT: My point is that ‘doing absolutely nothing’ is not breaking the bottle.

RICHARD: But there is no ‘bottle’ ... that is the whole point of this metaphor (and breaking the bottle is expressly forbidden anyway ... you cannot do an Alexander the Great on this Gordian Knot).

RESPONDENT: If there is a bottle that is not there, then the rule of not breaking it does seem irrelevant. But this is merely a game: to first assume there is a bottle only to deny its existence. I prefer Alexander.

RICHARD: Alexander took a sword and cut the knot ... one must ask: What knot?

RESPONDENT: The knot here is the story. We need to throw out the story as bogus.

RICHARD: Okay, so let us throw out the story as bogus then ... it is only a spiritual metaphor after all.

*

RICHARD: ‘I’ create the illusion of a ‘bottle’. Who is the ‘I’ that you say is not going to break the bottle by ‘doing absolutely nothing’? Or, conversely, who is the ‘I’ that is ‘doing something’ in order to break the bottle ... which you seem to be insisting is the way out?

RESPONDENT: Are you asking now for a definition of the ‘I’ or a defence of the existence of the ‘I’? This word ‘I’ is so theory laden. Which sort of an ‘I’ are we speaking about?

RICHARD: The ‘I’ in this metaphor is the ego ‘I’ that arises from the soul ‘me’ that is born of the rudimentary self that all sentient beings are born with when blind nature equips one with the basic survival instincts of fear and aggression and nurture and desire.

RESPONDENT: If all sentient beings are born with it, is that ‘I’ an illusion?

RICHARD: But sentient beings are not born with an ‘I’ ... they are born with a rudimentary self. (Which is a non-verbal awareness of bodily self as distinct from other bodies and the environment at large ... this can be observed in animals). Blind nature equips sentient beings with instinctual passions like fear and aggression and nurture and desire ... as basic survival instincts. These passions can be observed in animal infants ... and in human babies before they can think and talk. Thus malice and sorrow are intrinsic and not dependent upon conditioning. (These kind of things can be seen in the comfort of your own living-room via those fascinating National Geographic videos of the apes. These animals display passions and behaviour that is almost uncanny in their – albeit very basic – similarity to the human species.)

Because humans can both feel and think and communicate their feeling-fed thoughts to other humans via language they can ruminate – as distinct from animals – upon the results of letting the instincts run free. Whereupon the infant’s rudimentary and passionate non-verbal self is persuaded, through reward and punishment and precept and example, to take on a socially-responsible identity known as a conscience ... in order to control the socially-wayward rudimentary self the baby was born with. By and large this is usually fairly well established by somewhere around the age of seven years ... according to those who study these things. One has been inculcated with the values of the particular culture one was born into and has both a feeling apprehension and a mental knowledge of what is decreed to be ‘Right and Wrong’.

(This is somewhat analogous to Mr. Sigmund Freud’s ‘Id’, ‘ego’ and ‘Superego’ ... but the analogy definitely ends with his solution: A well-balanced personality is one that can juggle these conflicting demands in a compromise between social responsibility and personal gratification. His result: A troubled personality could, with analysis, be returned to normal. His definition of normal: ‘Common human unhappiness’.)

Concomitant with this socialising process, a sense of identity as a personal ‘I’ percolates through feeling-backed thoughts as the rudimentary self asserts itself as a passionate ego by about age two years ... according to those who study these things. This is a naturally-occurring process in response to the demands of the environment ... natural insofar as the instincts are natural. This ego ‘I’ arises, out of the contradictory savagery and tenderness of the soul ‘me’ – the core of ‘being’ – which is born of the rudimentary self of the instinctual passions, in a vain attempt to steer the ship forcefully by infiltrating and arrogating the very necessary will. (Will is the operative thought function of the bodily consciousness). This makes the will’s otherwise smooth functioning problematic ... according to Richard who studied these things experientially.

It is this ego ‘I’ that is the illusion.

(Of course, when the ‘I’ is seen to be an illusion by the average spiritual aspirant, the gullible seeker searches for someone or something more fundamental ... and hey presto! ... one discovers one’s ‘Original Face’. This is where the illusion becomes a delusion because the ‘Original Face’ is the soul ‘me’ born of the rudimentary self formed by the instinctual survival passions. But that has a lot to do with the human animal’s ability to know one’s impending death ... and that is another story entirely).

*

RICHARD: Zen’s ‘Original Face’ has its genesis in the rudimentary self of the instincts. Eliminate those survival instincts and not only does ‘Original Sin’ vanish ... even the ‘Original Face’ disappears. Then – and only then – is there peace-on-earth guaranteed. This is because it is already always here.

RESPONDENT: What is eliminating the survival instincts?

RICHARD: The body’s will and native intelligence ... when virtually freed from the constraints imposed by ‘I’ and ‘me’.

RESPONDENT: What is responsible for this?

RICHARD: Apperceptive awareness.

July 28 1998:

RICHARD (to Respondent No. 14): I suggest that words having lost their meaning because it was you, when all is said and done, that asked another person if all belief systems were muddled ... were you seeking some clarification as to where reality stops and fantasy begins? It is a topic well worth pursuing.

RESPONDENT: Yes it is worth pursuing, especially when there are repeated conceptual misunderstandings that lead to the dismissal of this distinction between fantasy and reality.

RICHARD: It is handy to start with the word’s etymological base and proceed from there. I have always found this helpful when talking with people who are unaware that for words to do their job properly, they need to be based in a common agreement. Then from this agreement, variations can be made to give a particular person’s understanding the requisite – and mutually agreed upon – twist to that word.

Etymologically, ‘reality’ is an extension of ‘real’ ... meaning: ‘things actually existing; that is, truly what its name implies’. It has a Latin origin; ‘res’ meaning ‘thing’ and was a legal term. The word ‘reality’ was first coined in the sixteenth century. And ‘fantasy’ is derived from ‘phantasy’ meaning: ‘phantom made visible by imagination’. Personally I see the distinction clearly, but as ‘real’ and ‘reality’ have lost their ‘things’ meaning – and as ‘things’ can only be ascertained sensately – I favour using the word ‘actual’ and ‘actuality’ instead (because although believers maintain that their god is real, no one has been able to tell me that their god is actual).

Therefore, it is simple to see where reality (actuality) stops and fantasy (phantasy) begins, because a fantasy comes into being through belief. (Etymologically, belief means: ‘fervently wish to be true’, and actual means: ‘already occurring; existing as factually true’.) Thus passion colours clear seeing and creates images of what is not factual in an imaginative process.

This clearly points to the necessity to examine what part passion plays in human misunderstanding. If I am a human and I therefore have affective faculties, am I ever going to be able to see clearly?

Thus do the affective faculties need to cease to exist before anyone can be absolutely clear?

October 05 1998:

RESPONDENT No. 00: Would you say ‘I think therefore I am’ to be the ‘I’ being aware of ‘me’ being conscious?

RICHARD: Yes. That infamous theorem ‘I think, therefore I am’ is fatally flawed. It is predicated upon the initial surmise – ‘I think’ – being a fact in order to produce the conclusion ... ‘I am’. The premise is faulty ... it should read only the fact that ‘there is thinking happening’. Thus the rewritten axiom now looks like this: ‘There is thinking happening, therefore I am’ ... which is, of course, nothing but twaddle dressed up as sagacity. Tacit assumptions expose the lie of philosophy.

RESPONDENT: This is a misunderstanding of the axiom. The translation from Latin of the axiom is flawed. It is actually ‘thinking therefore I am’.

RICHARD: Are you sure? As I understand it, the axiom ‘cogito, ergo sum’ translates literally into English as: ‘I think, therefore I am’.

1. [Oxford Dictionary]: ‘Cogito’: noun; (Latin: first person present of ‘cogitare’ (cogitate) meaning: ‘I think’; from the formula ‘cogito, ergo sum’ meaning: ‘I think (or I am thinking), therefore I am (or I exist)’ of the French philosopher Mr. René Descartes (1596-1650): ‘The principle establishing the existence of the thinker from the fact of his or her thinking or awareness’.

2. [Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary]: 1. ‘The philosophic principle that one’s existence is demonstrated by the fact that one thinks’. 2. ‘The intellectual processes of the self or ego’.

Maybe you were thinking of ‘cogitat, ergo sum’?

RESPONDENT: Descartes’ point is that in that there is thinking going on there must be a subject doing that thinking, that is ‘I’ the thinker exists.

RICHARD: Indeed ... the Cartesian proposition is purportedly self-reinstating: deny that you think, and in so doing you think (implying that to deny that you exist then the very fact of denial gives proof of your existence). This still gives lie to ‘I’ being ‘proved’ by thinking ... the ‘I’ is pre-supposed to exist by virtue of what may be merely thinking happening. Nevertheless, Mr. René Descartes took this axiom as a first step in demonstrating the attainability of certain knowledge. The statement is indubitable, he argued: ‘because even if an all-powerful demon were to try to deceive me into thinking that I exist when I do not, I would have to exist for the demon to deceive me. Therefore, whenever I think, I exist’. Even so, he argued that the statement ‘I am’ (‘sum’) expresses an immediate intuition, not the conclusion of dubious reasoning, and is thus indubitable: ‘Whatever I know’, he stated, ‘I know intuitively that I am’. Therefore it is not a deductive axiom anyway – whilst looking like one – but is drawn from intuition ... according to him. The question is: what is intuition for him ... and why does he consider it indubitable?

Incidentally, why not ‘sufferre, ergo sum’ ... which is a fortiori for ‘my’ existence.

RESPONDENT: The proof has nothing to do with tacit assumptions. That is actually its point.

RICHARD: If I may point out? This ‘cogito’ (‘I think’) premise is nothing but a subjective ‘a posteriori-like’ supposition (he called it ‘immediate intuition’) masquerading as an ‘a priori’ philosophical presentation ... which makes it a tacit assumption. His ‘proof’ for his premise (‘I think’) is therefore ‘proved’ by the intuition (‘I am’) ... which makes it an circular argument. It may look impressive, yet all he is trying to do is ‘mathematically’ formalise intuition. The question is: what is intuition for him ... and why does he consider it indubitable?

RESPONDENT: Perhaps you have to understand the context of the axiom, to fully appreciate what Descartes meant.

RICHARD: The context, as I understand it, is that Mr. René Descartes’ philosophical method is predicated upon a single process designed to pursue certitude about the nature of knowledge by means of his ‘Method of Doubt’. He found knowledge from tradition to be dubitable because authorities disagree; knowledge from empirical knowledge dubitable because of illusions, hallucinations and dreams; and even mathematical knowledge dubitable because people make errors in calculating. His ‘Method of Doubt’ works by suspending judgement on any belief until it can be shown to be systematically derived from more certain beliefs. The aim of the ‘Method’ is to reach a belief which cannot be doubted, and then to build up knowledge from that basis. In this way scepticism can be refuted. In his ‘Discours de la Methode’, Mr. René Descartes claimed that the intuitive ‘a priori’ belief in his own existence, ‘cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think therefore I am’), was immune to doubt and could, therefore, serve as the basic belief. On this basis he came to hold a dualist philosophy of mind; believing the essence of the ‘I’ to be thinking, and of the physical body to be extension. He is usually credited with having provided the most significant articulation of dualism, according to which the world is composed of a single material substance (nature), which is extended and divisible, and a plurality of mental or immaterial substances (God and the minds of individual persons), each of which is unextended and indivisible. The question once more is: what is intuition for him ... and why does he consider it indubitable?

Of course, dualism in all of its forms leads to the notorious problem of interaction: namely, of understanding how substances of different kinds can affect one another. Mr. René Descartes sought to resolve this problem in the case of human beings by claiming that a particular part of the brain (the pineal gland) is responsible for coordinating the relations of mind and body. His solution depends, however, upon the role of God in instituting this arrangement, and a frequent objection of modern, secular dualists is that they have no alternative way of explaining the relation of mind and body. His is an extreme position in the philosophy of dualism, wherein he claimed that minds are utterly distinct substances. An important part of his argument for this position is the claim that mental states are known in a special way: they are directly given, transparent to their owner, and known infallibly. The question again is: what is intuition for him ... and why does he consider it infallible? However, he could be said to be the first modern Rationalist in that, being an original mathematician, his ambition was to introduce into philosophy the rigour and clearness that appealed to him in mathematics. He set out to doubt everything in the hope of arriving in the end at something indubitable. This he reached in his famous axiom ... for to doubt one’s own doubting would be absurd, he reasoned. Here then was a fact of absolute certitude, rendered such by the distinctness with which it presented itself to reason. His task was to build on this as a foundation, to deduce from it a series of other propositions, each following with the same self-evidence. He hoped thus to produce a philosophical system on which people could agree as completely as they do on the geometry of Mr. Euclid. The main cause of error, he held, lay in the impulsive desire to believe before the mind is clear. The distinctness upon which he insisted was not that of perception but of conception, the clearness with which the intellect grasps an abstract idea, such as the number three being greater than the number two.

So, why does he consider intuition indubitable? Mr. René Descartes distinguished two sources of knowledge: intuition and deduction. Intuition, to him, is an unmediated mental seeing or direct apprehension of something experienced. The truth of the proposition ‘I think’ is guaranteed by the intuition one has of one’s own experience of thinking. One might think that the proposition ‘I am’ is guaranteed by deduction, as is suggested by the ‘ergo’. In ‘Objections and Replies’ (1642), however, Mr. René Descartes explicitly says that the certainty of ‘I am’ is also based upon intuition. He finds certainty in the intuition that when he is thinking, even if deceived, he exists: The cogito of ‘cogito, ergo sum’ is a logically self-evident truth that gives certain knowledge of a particular thing’s existence – that is, one’s self – but the cogito justifies accepting as certain only the existence of the person who thinks it. Because if all one ever knew for certain was that one exists – and if one adhered to Mr. René Descartes’ method of doubting all that is uncertain – then one would be reduced to solipsism, the view that nothing exists but one’s individual self and thoughts. To escape this, he argues that all ideas that are as clear and distinct as the cogito must be true, for, if they were not, the cogito also, as a member of the class of clear and distinct ideas, could be doubted. Since ‘I think, therefore I am’ cannot be doubted, all clear and distinct ideas must be true!

What persuades him to reason like this? It is pertinent that he repeated the ontological argument first presented by Mr. Anselm (1033-1109), claiming to establish the existence of God ‘a priori’, that is, in a way that depends only on the concept of God, and draws on no factual premise. The ontological argument is thus contrasted with various cosmological arguments, which seek to demonstrate the existence of God as creator from the existence or order of the natural world. Mr. Anselm’s argument held that God is the most perfect conceivable being; that a God who exists in reality is of greater perfection than one who exists only as a conception in man’s mind; and that therefore God, as maximally perfect, must exist in reality. Thus Mr. René Descartes begins with the statement that he has an innate idea of God as a perfect being and then intuits that God necessarily exists, because, if he did not, he would not be perfect. This ontological proof for the existence of God is at the heart of Mr. René Descartes’ rationalism, for it establishes certain knowledge about an existing thing solely on the basis of reasoning from innate ideas, with no help from sensory experience. This is the source of his intuition – which now starts to resemble faith – because he then argues that, because God is perfect, he does not deceive human beings; therefore the world exists. Thus Mr. René Descartes claims to have given metaphysical foundations for the existence of his own mind, of God, and of the world. Mr. René Descartes then establishes that each mind is a spiritual substance and each body a part of one material substance. The mind or soul is immortal because it is unextended and cannot be broken into parts, as can extended bodies ... and on and on he goes. The persistence of identity even unto immortality in an immaterial after-life is legendary, by now. So much for his ‘intuition’ being indubitable, eh?

There is a circularity inherent in Mr. René Descartes’ reasoning: To know that God exists, one must trust the clear and distinct idea of God; but, to know that clear and distinct ideas are true, one must know that God exists and does not deceive man. Mr. René Descartes, the rationalist, failed to see that his ontologically-inspired ‘intuitional’ proof is word-magic based on the superstition that a metaphysical reality can be determined – and validated as being fact – by ideas and thoughts.

It is, as I said before, nothing but twaddle dressed up as sagacity.

October 06 1998:

RICHARD: The infamous theorem ‘I think, therefore I am’ is fatally flawed. It is predicated upon the initial surmise – ‘I think’ – being a fact in order to produce the conclusion ... ‘I am’. The premise is faulty ... it should read only the fact that ‘there is thinking happening’. Thus the rewritten axiom now looks like this: ‘There is thinking happening, therefore I am’ ... which is, of course, nothing but twaddle dressed up as sagacity. Tacit assumptions expose the lie of philosophy.

RESPONDENT: This is a misunderstanding of the axiom. The translation from Latin of the axiom is flawed. It is actually ‘thinking therefore I am’.

RICHARD: Are you sure? As I understand it, the axiom ‘cogito, ergo sum’ translates literally into English as: ‘I think, therefore I am’.

1. [Oxford Dictionary]: ‘Cogito’: noun; (Latin: first person present of ‘cogitare’ (cogitate) meaning: ‘I think’; from the formula ‘cogito, ergo sum’ meaning: ‘I think (or I am thinking), therefore I am (or I exist)’ of the French philosopher Mr. René Descartes (1596-1650): ‘The principle establishing the existence of the thinker from the fact of his or her thinking or awareness’.

2. [Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary]: 1. ‘The philosophic principle that one’s existence is demonstrated by the fact that one thinks’. 2. ‘The intellectual processes of the self or ego’.

RESPONDENT: Latin differs from English in that the verb takes on a case of the person: that is first, second, third person. So cogito, is the first person case of the verb cogitare.

RICHARD: I have already presented (above) from the Oxford Dictionary: ‘Cogito: Latin: first person present of ‘cogitare’.

RESPONDENT: So the translation of cogito into ‘I think’ is imprecise, and flawed. For what you originally said that the ‘I’ is already present in ‘I think’ is manifested in English in a way that is only a grammatical case in Latin.

RICHARD: Are you telling me that the ‘first person case of the verb cogitare’ correctly translates as ‘thinking’ ... instead of ‘I think’? That is, you are saying that ‘I’ is not implicit in ‘cogito’? Does this apply to all words or only ‘cogito’? For example: ‘amo’ (‘I love’ or ‘I am loving’) ... is this also imprecise and flawed and should only read ‘loving’? If so, what happens to ‘amas’ (‘you (s) love’ or ‘you (s) are loving’) ... would you say that ‘you’ is not implicit? If so, what happens to ‘amat’ (‘he loves’ or ‘he is loving’) would you say that ‘he’ is not implicit? If so, what happens to ‘amamus’ (we love’ or ‘we are loving’) ... would you say that ‘we’ is not implicit? If so, what happens to ‘amatis’ (‘you (pl) love’ or ‘you (pl) are loving’) ... would you say that ‘we’ is not implicit? If so, what happens to ‘amant’ (‘they love’ or ‘they are loving’) ... would you say that ‘they’ is not implicit?

And are you saying that those academics who write dictionaries and encyclopaedias – the accepted scholarly translations penned by learned and titled professors of literature who have studied and argued these very matters scrupulously for years – are carelessly misleading the English-speaking world? Why would every reference I have ever read always say ‘I think’ instead of ‘thinking’? If you wish to convey ‘thinking’ instead of ‘I think’ ... would you not say ... um ... ‘cogitans, ergo sum’?

RESPONDENT: Descartes whole point is that from the ongoing activity (thinking) this ‘I’ is directly deducible.

RICHARD: And just how is it ‘directly deducible’ that an ‘I’ is doing the thinking if the only information given is the ‘ongoing activity of thinking’? Or do you also have a different definition of ‘deduce’ than the dictionaries that contend that to deduce is to infer from something already known or from a general principle and to reach a conclusion by reasoning ... or to trace the origin of or show derivation of a result. How can an ‘I’ be inferred or reasoned solely from ‘the ongoing activity of thinking’? Is there not a lack of intellectual rigour in all this?

RESPONDENT: It is not from the ‘I’ of the ‘I think’, that it is deducible. That point would be philosophically insignificant.

RICHARD: Indeed ... this is my point. It has been this fudging of the issue that makes the entire exercise into a tacit assumption ... which is: ‘we all intimately feel that there is an ‘I’ in there doing the thinking ... but we are going to make it look like we are logically proving it’.

*

RICHARD: Maybe you were thinking of ‘cogitat, ergo sum’?

RESPONDENT: No. Descartes did use cogito, do you think that his point is clearer as cogitat?

RICHARD: Yes ... he only thinks ‘I am’. The root of self is affective ... not cognitive. Be that as it may, I would be inclined to say that ‘cogitare, ergo sum’ would be more straightforward in that it would put paid to this academic quibbling over grammar. You see, I am finding it rather hard to swallow that in all of the scholarly books I have read over thirty or more years of ad hoc research, wherein it has always read ‘I think’ instead of ‘thinking’, that nobody has ever corrected this error you are saying is being made.

RESPONDENT: Descartes’ point is that in that there is thinking going on there must be a subject doing that thinking, that is ‘I’ the thinker exists.

RICHARD: Indeed ... the Cartesian proposition is purportedly self-reinstating: deny that you think, and in so doing you think (implying that to deny that you exist then the very fact of denial gives proof of your existence). This still gives lie to ‘I’ being ‘proved’ by thinking ... the ‘I’ is pre-supposed to exist by virtue of what may be merely thinking happening. Nevertheless, Mr. René Descartes took this axiom as a first step in demonstrating the attainability of certain knowledge. Even so, he argued that the statement ‘I am’ (‘sum’) expresses an immediate intuition, not the conclusion of dubious reasoning, and is thus indubitable: ‘Whatever I know’, he stated, ‘I know intuitively that I am’. Therefore it is not a deductive axiom anyway – whilst looking like one – but is drawn from intuition. The question is: what is intuition for him ... and why does he consider it indubitable? Incidentally, why not ‘sufferre, ergo sum’ ... which is a fortiori for ‘my’ existence.

RESPONDENT: Yes, Descartes did say in answer to some critics that it could be any number of verbs in place of cogitare.

RICHARD: I notice that you are using ‘cogitare’ and not ‘cogito’ ... any particular reason?

RESPONDENT: In the case of the methodological doubt, ‘dubito’ rather than ‘cogito’ is preferred.

RICHARD: I notice that you use ‘dubito’ instead of ‘dubitare’ here ... unlike what you previously did (above). Is ‘I’ not implicit in ‘dubito’?

RESPONDENT: He even said that the maxim would work with the substitution of ‘walking’ or ‘ambulito’.

RICHARD: And again, you use ‘ambulito’ rather than ... um ... ‘ambulans’?

RESPONDENT: Intuition for Descartes must be understood as the light of reason.

RICHARD: It may be ‘the light’ ... but it is not reason.

RESPONDENT: And this is not a normal deduction, but a deduction that is in a sense inevitable for there is no other possible deduction. Meaning his mind cannot even imagine another alternative.

RICHARD: And therein lies the rub ... this is where reason breaks down and supposition (intuition) enters masquerading as truth.

RESPONDENT: That is an important point to understand in examining the proof.

RICHARD: Aye ... except that there is no ‘the proof’ . It is an assumption ... born out by the fact that 6.0 billion people feel that they have an ‘I’ doing the thinking. It is this consensus that makes it a tacit assumption ... and thus the flawed ‘evidence’ of the axiom passes muster.

Look, I am not arguing that there is no ‘I’ doing the thinking – I call such an entity ‘I’ as ego – but what I am pointing out is that this axiom is not ‘indubitable proof’ of ‘I’s existence.

RESPONDENT: The proof has nothing to do with tacit assumptions. That is actually its point.

RICHARD: If I may point out? This ‘cogito’ (‘I think’) premise is nothing but a subjective ‘a posteriori-like’ supposition (he called it ‘immediate intuition’) masquerading as an ‘a priori’ philosophical presentation ... which makes it a tacit assumption. His ‘proof’ for his premise (‘I think’) is therefore ‘proved’ by the intuition (I am’) ... which makes it an circular argument.

RESPONDENT: This is not what Descartes was getting at, and so we need to be clear about this circularity.

RICHARD: Mr. René Descartes was conveniently fudging the issue so as to formalise his ‘immediate intuition’ into looking like a mathematical fact.

RESPONDENT: I am saying that if we understand the maxim, then there is no circularity.

RICHARD: It requires a remarkable sleight of hand (or should I say sleight of mind) to ‘understand’ this maxim as containing no circularity. It smacks of the same chicanery as Mr. Anselm’s ontological argument ‘proving’ the existence of his god.

*

RICHARD: It may look impressive, yet all he is trying to do is ‘mathematically’ formalise intuition. The question is: what is intuition for him ... and why does he consider it indubitable?

RESPONDENT: Yes, this is a good question here. It is indubitable because he cannot in a real actual sense doubt it.

RICHARD: Ah, yes ... doubt. And herein lies the clue: if doubt is carried out scrupulously it leads to despair. The antidote? Faith.

RESPONDENT: Perhaps you have to understand the context of the axiom, to fully appreciate what Descartes meant.

RICHARD: The context, as I understand it, is that Mr. René Descartes’ philosophical method is predicated upon a single process designed to pursue certitude about the nature of knowledge by means of his ‘Method of Doubt’. <SNIP BACKGROUND CONTEXT> An important part of his argument is the claim that mental states are known in a special way: they are directly given, transparent to their owner, and known infallibly. The question again is: what is intuition for him ... and why does he consider it infallible?

RESPONDENT: You have now repeated that question four times.

RICHARD: Aye ... because it is his intuition that his entire metaphysics is built upon ... and not reasoning from a fact through deduction to a conclusion at all.

*

RICHARD: In ‘Objections and Replies’ (1642), Mr. René Descartes explicitly says that the certainty of ‘I am’ is also based upon intuition. He finds certainty in the intuition that when he is thinking, even if deceived, he exists: The cogito of ‘cogito, ergo sum’ is a logically self-evident truth that gives certain knowledge of a particular thing’s existence – that is, one’s self – but the cogito justifies accepting as certain only the existence of the person who thinks it. Because if all one ever knew for certain was that one exists – and if one adhered to Mr. René Descartes’ method of doubting all that is uncertain – then one would be reduced to solipsism.

RESPONDENT: The danger of solipsism from Descartes position is well-known, and known to Descartes. That is the point of his introduction of the proof of God, to move outside of the solipsistic position requires God.

RICHARD: Yet his ‘proof of god’ is as spurious as his ‘proof’ of ‘I’. Thus it is faith that stops the withdrawal into solipsism.

*

RICHARD: What persuades him to reason like this? Mr. René Descartes begins with the statement that he has an innate idea of God as a perfect being and then intuits that God necessarily exists, because, if he did not, he would not be perfect. This ontological proof for the existence of God is at the heart of Mr. René Descartes’ rationalism, for it establishes certain knowledge about an existing thing solely on the basis of reasoning from innate ideas, with no help from sensory experience. This is the source of his intuition – which now starts to resemble faith – because he then argues that, because God is perfect, he does not deceive human beings; therefore the world exists.

RESPONDENT: The ontological proof is important but the interlocutor does not clearly explain why.

RICHARD: In the West, a would-be solipsist desperately needs to believe that the objective world of people, things and events is true ... hence the rationalised belief in a perfect god that would not – by definition – deceive him. Whereas, in the East, a would-be solipsist desperately needs to believe that the objective world of people, things and events is false!

RESPONDENT: His intuition is not ‘faith’, that characterization is unfair, though I do agree that the ontological proof is flawed.

RICHARD: I am glad you agree that the ‘ontological proof’ is flawed ... because it exposes the lie of his intuition as being indubitable. Now, intuition, to him, is an unmediated mental seeing or direct apprehension of something experienced ... and he finds certainty in the intuition that when he is thinking, he exists. The cogito of ‘cogito, ergo sum’ is for him a logically self-evident truth that gives certain knowledge of one’s self as existing. Yet it does not; the only thing that is self-evident is that there is thinking going on (or walking or doubting or feeling and so on) ... unless one pre-supposes an ‘I’ as in ‘I think’. And why? Because, at root, ‘I’ feel that ‘I’ am. That is, ‘me’ at the core of ‘my’ being is affective. Thus the certitude ascribed to intuition – his indubitable immediate apprehension – is sourced in ‘it feels real’. When feelings enter the picture, rationality goes out of the window and one enters into the realm of belief, trust, hope ... and faith. Dress it all up in a self-serving pseudo-rationality and other-wise intelligent people will be convinced.

*

RICHARD: Thus Mr. René Descartes claims to have given metaphysical foundations for the existence of his own mind, of God, and of the world.

RESPONDENT: Yes, and this is the order. Mind ... God ... and then the world. So he needs God to exit the solipsism.

RICHARD: Yes, but more than this ... he needs his god for his immortal soul.

*

RICHARD: Mr. René Descartes then establishes that each mind is a spiritual substance and each body a part of one material substance. The mind or soul is immortal because it is unextended and cannot be broken into parts, as can extended bodies ... and on and on he goes. The persistence of identity even unto immortality in an immaterial after-life is legendary, by now. So much for his ‘intuition’ being indubitable, eh?

RESPONDENT: Well, I feel that Richard is back.

RICHARD: Hmm ... back from where? I present an eclectic background – gleaned from various academic sources – so as to place my discussion in a reasonably acceptable context ... I am not an academician. It was you who told me to contextualise his axiom: [Respondent]: ‘Perhaps you have to understand the context of the axiom, to fully appreciate what Descartes meant’.

*

RICHARD: There is a circularity inherent in Mr. René Descartes’ reasoning: To know that God exists, one must trust the clear and distinct idea of God; but, to know that clear and distinct ideas are true, one must know that God exists and does not deceive man.

RESPONDENT: Yes, this has been taken to be an actual problem in the methodological deduction. But it reveals the purpose of the introduction of God.

RICHARD: Which is where rationalism breaks down.

*

RICHARD: Mr. René Descartes, the rationalist, failed to see that his ontologically-inspired ‘intuitional’ proof is word-magic based on the superstition that a metaphysical reality can be determined – and validated as being fact – by ideas and thoughts. It is, as I said before, nothing but twaddle dressed up as sagacity.

RESPONDENT: Dear Richard, no reason to expand on the original opinion. It is neither twaddle nor sagacity.

RICHARD: Dear No. 20, no reason to pretend to be agnostic on this issue ... what you say (below) gives lie to your statement that it is ‘neither twaddle nor sagacity’ .

RESPONDENT: But you have now brought into our purview the entire argument, whereas I wanted you to focus on the original maxim, for it is a striking one.

RICHARD: What is so striking about it? It is but a valiant – though ultimately futile – and vainglorious attempt to prop up selfish idealism.

RESPONDENT: And I felt and still feel that you have not given this maxim its due.

RICHARD: Yet the maxim attempts to validate the alien entity – self – and build a metaphysics on a lie!

RESPONDENT: If you are interested in giving the maxim its full force, then don’t get lost in the rest of the Cartesian metaphysics.

RICHARD: Oh, I am not lost in ‘Cartesian metaphysics’ ... I merely presented it so as to show the context that he derived his maxim from.

‘Cogito, ergo sum’ is the self-seeking justification for his metaphysics.

October 10 1998:

RICHARD: The infamous theorem ‘I think, therefore I am’ is fatally flawed. It is predicated upon the initial surmise – ‘I think’ – being a fact in order to produce the conclusion ... ‘I am’. The premise is faulty ... it should read only the fact that ‘there is thinking happening’. Thus the rewritten axiom now looks like this: ‘There is thinking happening, therefore I am’ ... which is, of course, nothing but twaddle dressed up as sagacity. Tacit assumptions expose the lie of philosophy.

RESPONDENT: This is a misunderstanding of the axiom. The translation from Latin of the axiom is flawed. It is actually ‘thinking therefore I am’.

RICHARD: Are you sure? As I understand it, the axiom ‘cogito, ergo sum’ translates literally into English as: ‘I think, therefore I am’.

1. [Oxford Dictionary]: ‘Cogito’: noun; (Latin: first person present of ‘cogitare’ (cogitate) meaning: ‘I think’; from the formula ‘cogito, ergo sum’ meaning: ‘I think (or I am thinking), therefore I am (or I exist)’ of the French philosopher Mr. René Descartes (1596-1650): ‘The principle establishing the existence of the thinker from the fact of his or her thinking or awareness’.
2. [Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary]: 1. ‘The philosophic principle that one’s existence is demonstrated by the fact that one thinks’. 2. ‘The intellectual processes of the self or ego’.

RESPONDENT: The translation of cogito into ‘I think’ is imprecise, and flawed. For what you originally said that the ‘I’ is already present in ‘I think’ is manifested in English in a way that is only a grammatical case in Latin.

RICHARD: Are you telling me that the ‘first person case of the verb cogitare’ correctly translates as ‘thinking’ ... instead of ‘I think’? That is, you are saying that ‘I’ is not implicit in ‘cogito’? Does this apply to all words or only ‘cogito’? For example: ‘amo’ (‘I love’ or ‘I am loving’) ... is this also imprecise and flawed and should only read ‘loving’?

RESPONDENT: No ‘I’ is implicit, but only as a grammatical form, not a substantive ‘I’.

RICHARD: Are you sure that ‘I’ is implicit only as a grammatical form (by ‘substantive’, I take it you mean the grammatical designation of a substance as in ‘noun substantive’)? As you have already said that Latin differs from English in this respect, I am curious as to whether this lack of substantiveness that you say exists in Latin occurs in other languages ... according to you?

The French version is ‘je pense, donc je suis’.

RESPONDENT: His use of the grammatical first person case is however problematic in that it clouds the clarity of the deduction, and this is what you are taking to be circularity.

RICHARD: It may be problematic for him and the adherents to his methodology ... but not for me. I find it very clear ... if he had meant ‘thinking’ instead of ‘I think’ he could have said ‘cogitans, ergo sum’. (French: ‘pensant, donc je suis’).

RESPONDENT: But when I say that therefore ‘thinking therefore I am’ is a better translation, I am speaking about the meaning in the context of what Descartes is saying, rather than what is a literal or lexicographic translation. You are right that ‘I think’ is the way we translate ‘cogito’.

RICHARD: Yes, I know this is the way it is translated into English ... but is it not the scholastically correct way to translate it? That is, accurately, literally and fundamentally correct? I only ask because you initially said: [Respondent]: ‘The translation of cogito into ‘I think’ is imprecise, and flawed. It is actually ‘thinking therefore I am’. Now you seem to be saying otherwise: [Respondent]: ‘I am speaking about the meaning in the context of what Descartes is saying, rather than what is a literal or lexicographic translation’.

RESPONDENT: But ‘thinking’ is a better translation of the intent of that maxim.

RICHARD: Ah, the intent of the maxim. Mr. René Descartes makes it clear in his Dedication and Preface to ‘Meditations On First Philosophy’ that he wishes to offer secular proof for the existence of soul ... and for the revealed God of the scriptures.

RESPONDENT: And this is especially true in that Descartes starts from nothing but what is experienced in the moment. The ‘I’ is not experienced at this moment. Rather the ‘I’ is inferred from the fact of their being any ongoing activity. Descartes was asked by a critic about this assumed indubitable connection between the existence of a subject in action, and he responded that he was not able to doubt it. That is what is striking about the maxim. Not that ‘I think’ already has an ‘I’ in it. But that thinking by necessity involves something that is thinking. So when Descartes says that ‘I think therefore I am’ what he means is ‘thinking therefore a thinker’. The I is empty without any content or characteristics, except for thinking.

RICHARD: As for thinking as an ‘on-going activity’ where ‘the ‘I’ is not experienced at this moment’ he says: [quote]: ‘But I do not yet know clearly enough what I am, I who am certain that I am; and hence I must be careful to see that I do not imprudently take some other object in place of myself’. [endquote]. Note well that he says ‘I who am certain that I am’ ... which is a tacit assumption. He then proceeds from this base: [quote]: ‘But what then am I? A thing which thinks. What is a thing which thinks? It is a thing which doubts, understands, [conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses, which also imagines and feels’. [endquote]. Now ‘a thing’ which thinks – and the ‘thing’ cannot be the body as he has already dismissed it as doubtful – is by no stretch of the imagination indicating merely a ‘thinking’ process happening of its own accord ... it is a ‘thinker’, a self.

Quite frankly, I fail to see how it is just a grammatical ‘I’ that you say is implicit but not substantive.

RESPONDENT: So the ‘proof’ of the maxim comes down to whether it is conceivable that there is thinking without a thinker. If you can conceive of this possibility, then the ‘proof’ has no force at all for you.

RICHARD: What is with this ‘conceivable’ business ... we are talking of direct observation here, not conceptualising. Mr. René Descartes makes a particular point of stripping away all conceiving, doubting, affirming, denying, willing and so on so as to get to the bed-rock ... that which is indubitable.

RESPONDENT: But if you cannot conceive of it, and I cannot, then the ‘proof’ is a striking example of a statement that proves itself without needing outside evidence or support. I do not know what it means to say that there is thinking and there is no thinker.

RICHARD: This is what makes it all pre-supposed and self-affirming ... do you see this? Look, I am not arguing that there is no ‘I’ doing the thinking – I call such an entity ‘I’ as ego – but what I am pointing out is that this axiom is not ‘indubitable proof’ of ‘I’s existence. It is an assumption ... born out by the fact that 6.0 billion people feel that they have an ‘I’ doing the thinking. It is this consensus that makes it a tacit assumption ... and thus the flawed ‘evidence’ of the axiom passes muster.

RESPONDENT: Descartes whole point is that from the ongoing activity (thinking) this ‘I’ is directly deducible.

RICHARD: And just how is it ‘directly deducible’ that an ‘I’ is doing the thinking if the only information given is the ‘ongoing activity of thinking’? How can an ‘I’ be inferred or reasoned solely from ‘the ongoing activity of thinking’? Is there not a lack of intellectual rigour in all this?

RESPONDENT: I explained what is meant by it above. It is not a ‘proof’ in a mathematical sense, but rather it is a psychological proof. As you know every proof in logic is predicated on the psychological fact that the deduction is seen as necessary and indubitable. It is not just a mechanical procedure but expresses a law of thought. And this is what Descartes was after. A maxim that had this same certainty. Can you doubt p therefore p? Or can you doubt p and q therefore p? So Descartes adds, can you doubt thinking therefore a thinker? For Descartes the answer was no.

RICHARD: Yet is this not because this was the answer that he was looking for so as to lay the basis for soul and god? Otherwise, all that can be reasoned is ‘thinking therefore thinking’. There is no way that, under the laws of thought wherein the proof of logic is predicated on the psychological fact that deduction is seen as necessary and indubitable, that an ‘I’ can be inferred, deduced, reasoned or logically implied from the bare information ‘thinking’ ... unless the bare process of thought is dominated by the affective faculty ... ‘me’ at the core of ‘being’. This domination I epitomised as: ‘we all intimately feel that there is an ‘I’ in there doing the thinking ... but we are going to make it look like we are logically proving it’.

It has been this fudging of the issue that makes the entire exercise into a tacit assumption.

RESPONDENT: Is the answer [can you doubt thinking therefore a thinker] for you, yes?

RICHARD: Of course.


CORRESPONDENT No. 20 (Part Four)

RETURN TO CORRESPONDENCE LIST ‘B’ INDEX

RETURN TO RICHARD’S CORRESPONDENCE INDEX

RICHARD’S HOME PAGE

The Third Alternative

(Peace On Earth In This Life Time As This Flesh And Blood Body)

Here is an actual freedom from the Human Condition, surpassing Spiritual Enlightenment and any other Altered State Of Consciousness, and challenging all philosophy, psychiatry, metaphysics (including quantum physics with its mystic cosmogony), anthropology, sociology ... and any religion along with its paranormal theology. Discarding all of the beliefs that have held humankind in thralldom for aeons, the way has now been discovered that cuts through the ‘Tried and True’ and enables anyone to be, for the first time, a fully free and autonomous individual living in utter peace and tranquillity, beholden to no-one.

Richard's Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-.  All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer and Use Restrictions and Guarantee of Authenticity