Truth suffers from too much analysis

On the Nature of Things-In-Themselves

Posted by allzermalmer on February 19, 2012

This blog is based on a paper done by W.K. Clifford. It was a paper in the philosophical journal called Mind, Vol. 3, No. 9 (Jan., 1878), pp. 57-67. His paper was called On the Nature of Things-In-Themselves.

Meaning of the Individual Object

Clifford points out that his feelings, and presumably ours, come in two different ways. He says he has the internal/subjective kind that he finds when he hears about some “bad news” and the feeling of sorrow, or the abstraction of “dog” accompanies many different dogs. He also says that he has the external/objective kind that he finds when he has the sensation of letting go and sight of seeing the ball fall from his hand and the sound it makes. The basic point, it would seem, is that he has certain feelings in which he can control in his experience, and the other is where he has no control over what happens in his experience.

“Here the word object (or phenomenon) is taken merely to mean a group of my feelings, which persists as a group in a certain manner; for I am at present considering only the objective order of my feelings. The object, then, is a set of changes in my consciousness, and not anything out of it.”

So the objective portion is what forms some sort of pattern and is outside of his control, and this is all a change that takes place in his consciousness. Those things that form this objective pattern or group that persists in a certain manner, is what he calls an “object”. So far, in what Clifford has brought up, he brings up no metaphysical doctrine of meaning, but only fixing what he means by the word of “object”. And Clifford holds that science comes to study the “objects”, but Clifford also brings up that these “objects” in his consciousness may correspond, but not necessarily, with something else, but that’s not necessary for what he is talking about. He eventually comes to say that, “The inferences of physical science are all inferences of my real or possible feelings; inferences of something actually or potentially in my consciousness, not of anything outside it.” (Italics are my emphasis).

Distinction of Object and Eject.

Remember that Clifford brings out that “objects” in his consciousness, and physical science studies those things in his consciousness or what are possible things to be in his consciousness. But there is one thing that isn’t an object of physical science, because it isn’t a possible object of his consciousness, which he sums up this way:

“When I come to the conclusion that you are conscious, and that there are objects in your consciousness similar to those in mine, I am not inferring any actual or possible feelings of my own, but your feelings, which are not, and cannot by any possibility become, objects in my consciousness.”

Now he does bring up what the “objects” of his conscious is. The process of your body motions, like your brain and nervous system, are inferred from anatomical research, are all possibly visible to him. This means that what you experience isn’t possibly visible to him, but what your body does are all objects of his study. He later goes on to bring up what he calls the “Eject”, which is to be different from the “Object”.

“However remote the inference of physical science, the thing inferred is always a part of me, a possible set of changes in my consciousness bound up in the objective order with other known changes. But the inferred existence of your feelings, of objective groupings among them similar to those among my feelings, and of a subjective order in many respects analogous to my own,-these inferred existences are in the very act of inference thrown out of my consciousness, recognised as outside of it, as not being a part of me. I propose, accordingly, to call these inferred existences ejects, things thrown out of my consciousness, to distinguish them from objects, things presented in my consciousness, phenomena.”

This points out that he has the objects of his consciousness, and he “ejects” out the existence of something which isn’t part of his consciousness. He throws out, from his consciousness, something else that is held to exist but isn’t possible for it to be an object of his consciousness. And there will be objects which will become symbols of the ejects, which will be called the the conception of you. In other words, he has the object of his consciousness which will be of bodily motion, which can be like that of the brain and nervous system, and this will become the symbol of what he considers to be the eject of other people’s consciousness.

“The existence of the object, whether perceived or inferred, carries with it a group of beliefs; these are always beliefs in the future sequence of certain of my feelings. The existence of this table, for example, as an object in my consciousness, carries with it the belief that if I climb up on it I shall be able to walk about on it as if it were the ground. But the existence of my conception of you in my consciousness carries with it a belief in the existence of you outside of my consciousness, a belief which can never be expressed in terms of the future sequence of my feelings.”

This helps present one of the fundamental ideas about what is the difference between “Object” and “Eject”. The object is something in our consciousness, while the eject is something that we project out from our consciousness onto what is an object of our consciousness. The Object carries within it a set of other beliefs that have been found to be an object or act in our consciousness. Like walking on the table is something that has been an object of our consciousness, and so when we think of the object of table, it carries with it other sets of beliefs about the object based on them being part of our consciousness. But when it comes to an eject, this can’t really hold. For ejects aren’t possible observations in our consciousness. But we still project things out, like other beliefs, onto the eject.

Formation of the Social Object

Ejects are things that dominate our thoughts and lives. We typically believe in the existence of other minds, and we interact with them. With Ejects, it profoundly alters the objects. In other words, the existence of other minds, which are ejects, helps to alter the way we view objects. C.K. Clifford tries to give us an example of how ejects help alter how we view objects.

“This room, the table, the chairs, your bodies, are all objects in my consciousness; as simple objects, they are parts of me. But I, somehow, infer the existence of similar objects in your consciousness, and these are not objects to me, nor can they ever be made so; they are ejects. This being so, I bind up with each object as it exists in my mind the thought of similar objects existing in other men’s minds; and I thus form the complex conception, ” this table, as -an object in the minds of men,” or, as Mr. Shadworth Hodgson puts it, an object of consciousness in general.”

Clifford is pointing out that he has certain “objects” in his consciousness, and thinks that there are other minds which also have similar objects in their consciousness. Now these objects in other people’s consciousness would also be ejects themselves, but an indefinite number of ejects. As Clifford said, “ejective in respect of what it symbolises, but mainly objective in respect of its nature.” It’s object in respect to its nature because he has it in his consciousness, which gives it an objective nature. This complex conception, which is the ejective objects in other minds, is what Clifford calls the Social Object.

“…an object is formed in my mind, a fixed habit causes it to be formed as social object, and insensibly embodies in it a reference to the minds of other men. And this sub-conscious reference to supposed ejects is what constitutes the impression of externality in the object, whereby it is described as not-me.”

What he goes on to point out is that language seems to help us form the idea of external objects, or the not-me. We come to think of the language that we speak to be a sign of consciousness. But the point he comes to make is that language, it seems, to help us form the idea of externality or the not-me. The point of the social object is also based on language, and this helps to form the idea of the social object.

Difference between Mind and Body

As Clifford points out, “Your body is an object in my consciousness; your mind is not, and never can be.” Your body is objective, and so it can be studied and follows the laws of physics, chemistry, and etc. This can all be observed, and that’s because it is an object of someone’s consciousness, or my consciousness. As Clifford says, “every question about your body is a question about the physical laws of matter, and about nothing else.”

“A certain variable quality of matter (the rate of change of its motion) is found to be invariably connected with the position relatively to it of other matter; considered as expressed in terms of this position, the quality is called Force. Force is thus an abstraction relating to objective facts; it is a mode of grouping of my feelings, and cannot possibly be the same thing as an eject, another man’s consciousness.”

What is objective is what is present to your consciousness, and these objects in your consciousness are connected with relative positions of other things in your consciousness. This helps to form the idea of Force, or the quality that is called force. This idea of force isn’t an eject, and that’s because it doesn’t deal with other peoples objects in their consciousness, which we can never find out. And the basic point is that body is an object of consciousness while the mind isn’t an object of other people’s consciousness. And here’s how Clifford takes it.

“But the question: “Do the changes in a man’s consciousness run parallel with the changes of motion, and therefore with the forces in his brain ?” is a real question, and not primd facie nonsense. Objections of like character may be raised against the language of some writers, who speak of changes in consciousness as caused by actions on the organism. The word Cause…and misleading as it is, having no legitimate place in science or philosophy, may yet be of some use in conversation or literature, if it is kept to denote a relation between objective facts, to describe certain parts of the phenomenal order. But only confusion can arise if it is used to express the relation between certain objective facts in my consciousness, and the ejective facts which are inferred as corresponding in some way to them and running parallel with them. For all that we know at present, this relation does not in any way resemble that expressed by the word Cause.”

Clifford points out something interesting, which is that cause has no place in science and in philosophy, and only finds itself in our language and not the world. He next points out that if we do use the idea of cause, it only shares itself in a relation between the objects of our consciousness. But the brain of someone else is in our consciousness, but their consciousness is itself not in our consciousness. Thus, we can’t say that the brain is the cause of someone’s actions in the sense that the brain caused them to have certain conscious experiences. Cause, at all, can only work in the phenomenal world, and consciousness of others is outside of the phenomenal world. So, in a sense, he seems to be bringing up that the world of the objective and ejective (others consciousness, if not our own) run parallel with the objective kind.

Clifford tries to make it clear the difference between eject and objective world, as follows: “To sum up, the distinction between eject and object, properly grasped, forbids us to regard the eject, another man’s mind, as coming into the world of objects in any way, or as standing in the relation of cause or effect to any changes in that world.”

Correspondence of Elements of Mind and Brain-Action

A certain ejective fact is change in your consciousness, which isn’t viewable by anyone else, or shut off from the rest of the world. But there is a certain objective fact which is a change in your brain, and these two facts run parallel from one another. This is a parallelism of complexity, or an analogy of structure. Clifford gives an analogy with sentences and words for what he means.

“A spoken sentence and the same sentence written are two utterly unlike things, but each of them consists of elements; the spoken sentence of the elementary sounds of the language, the written sentence of its alphabet. Now the relation between the spoken sentence and its elements is very nearly the same as the relation between the written sentence and its elements. There is a correspondence of element to element; although an elementary sound is quite a different thing from a letter of the alphabet, yet each elementary sound belongs to a certain letter or letters. And the sounds being built up together to form a spoken sentence, the letters are built up together, in nearly the same way, to form the written sentence. The two complex products are as wholly unlike as the elements are, but the manner of their complication is the same.”

Me saying something isn’t the same thing as me writing it down. But both of these things have elements that they are built up from. These things are very nearly the same, but the point is that they’re not exactly the same thing, but only similar. Your shirt and my shirt are similar in that they are polo shirts, but they are of different colors, if not of different sizes. As Clifford points out, the mind and body are of the same manner of their complication, but they are products of wholly unlike elements from one another. That becomes the bottom line, and that’s how they run parallel.

Clifford goes over the complexity of things in his consciousness. We are constantly bombarded by things in our consciousness, and we find that those objects of our consciousness are made up of simple parts that become complex. For example, the apple (which is complex) has a size, taste, feel, color, and sound going with it. Our consciousness is filled with complex things, or are objects of our consciousness. But, this is basically in agreement with what David Hume had to say on issue like this. Clifford says, “Not only are my objective perceptions, as of a man’s head or a candlestick, formed of a great number of parts ordered in a definite manner, but they are invariably accompanied by an endless string of memories, all equally complex. And those massive organic feelings with which, from their apparent want of connection with the objective order, the notion of consciousness has been chiefly associated,-those also turn out, when attention is directed to them, to be complex things…Under these circumstances, it seems to me that consciousness must be described as a succession of groups of changes, as analogous to a rope made of a great number of occasionally interlacing strands.”

Clifford goes on to point out that, in agreement with Hume, there is no Ego, or no Self. What he finds is that this only comes about when we reflect on the past, which is done by the memory. Thus, memory helps to form this Ego that we have, which is all found in our consciousness. Take the example of pain when it is before consciousness, that is not a feeling of pain that I myself feel. But when I reflect on it, it becomes my pain.

“A feeling, at the instant when it exists, exists an und fur sich, and not as my feeling; but when on reflection I remember it as my feeling, there comes up not merely a faint repetition of the feeling, but inextricably connected with it a whole set of connections with the general stream of my consciousness. This memory, again, qua memory, is relative to the past feeling which it partially recalls; but insofar as it is itself a feeling, it is absolute, Ding-an-sich.”

Memory, as a feeling, is a Thing-in-Itself. Memory, in some sense, helps us to form consciousness as Clifford would have it. He lists three things that helps to form it, or that consciousness helps for form something complex. We have a stream of things that come to become compacted with one another, or these simple things become compacted to become complex. They consist of 1.) new feelings, 2.) fainter repetition of previous feelings, 3.) links connecting these repetitions. These three things help to form consciousness. 2 and 3 are based on memory, in some sense, and this memory is the thing-in-itself. This helps, it would seem, to form consciousness.

“The conceptions of a particular object, as object, is a group of feelings, symbolic of many different perceptions, and of links between them and other feelings. The distinction between Subject and Object is twofold; first, the distinction with which we started between the subjective and objective orders which simultaneously exist in my feelings.; and secondly, the distinction between me and the social object, which involves the distinction between me and you. Either of these distinctions is exceedingly complex and abstract, involving a highly organised experience. It is not, I think, possible to separate one from the other; for it is just the objective order which I do suppose to be common to me and to other minds.”

Now the distinction, as he stated, are between Subject and Object. But you’ll notice that he brings up “highly organised experience”, which is based on memory. This memory is the thing-in-itself, and helps to form the basis of the Subject and Object distinction.

The Elementary Feeling is a Thing-In-Itself

This section is where Clifford comes on to make a big point.

“The conclusion that elementary feeling co-exists with elementary brain-motion in the same way as consciousness co-exists with complex brain-motion, involves more important consequences than might at first sight appear. We have regarded consciousness as a complex of feelings, and explained the fact that the complex is conscious, as depending on the mode of complication. But does not the elementary feeling itself imply a consciousness in which alone it can exist, and of which it is a modification? Can a feeling exist by itself, without forming part of a consciousness? I shall say no to the first question, and yes to the second, and it seems to me that these answers are required by the doctrine of evolution.”

So he says that elementary feelings don’t exist in consciousness, or there isn’t any consciousness when there’s an elementary feeling. This means that consciousness only exists when there are complex feelings. But he does say that there are feelings when there is no consciousness. Clifford said that consciousness was a little more complex, like the type that we have now. But with the theory of evolution that Clifford is talking about, consciousness of latter times before us or further into the past, the consciousness that was had was of a simple nature. We can infer consciousness of other human beings because they look to be as complex as us, and so we infer that they have a consciousness that is similar to ours. But we’ve evolved from simpler things, and Clifford is saying that there was simpler consciousness in the past.

“As we go back along the line, the complexity of the organism and of its nerve-action insensibly diminishes; and for the first part of our course, we see reason to think that the complexity of consciousness insensibly diminishes also. But if we make a jump, say to the tunicate molluscs, we see no reason there to infer the existence of consciousness at all. Yet not only is it impossible to point out a place where any sudden break takes place, but it is contrary to all the natural training of our minds to suppose a breach of continuity so great. All this imagined line of organisms is a series of objects in my consciousness; they form an insensible gradation, and yet there is a certain unknown point at which I am at liberty-to infer facts out of my consciousness corresponding to them!”

This helps point out how when we go back from the complex to the simpler and simpler, that he seems to hint at consciousness to get simpler and simpler than what we have. So he points out that Consciousness, which he earlier pointed out was complex, or our consciousness, is made up of the simpler. This simpler stuff is also a feeling that we don’t feel. But in an earlier evolutionary state, it existed as well, or at least in past evolutionary steps with something like a mollusc. “Such elementary ejective facts go aloug with the action of every organism, however simple; but it is only when the material organism has reached a certain complexity of nervous structure (not now to be specified) that the complex of ejective facts reaches that mode of complication which is called Consciousness.”

Here is a very telling point that he me makes. “But as the line of ascent is unbroken, and must end at last in inorganic matter,
we have no choice but to admit that every motion of matter is simultaneous with some ejective fact or event which might be
part of a consciousness.” Remember that an ejective fact is part of an other mind, which isn’t ours. So these things that are in motion also have some sort of simple feeling, or some simple consciousness that is not like ours because ours is a complex one. This in turn means that those things we find in motion, even inorganic things, have some feelings that are very simpler than ours. And we are built off of these simpler things through our evolutionary history, and all these simple things add up to form something complex, which forms our consciousness. He lists two corollaries.

“1. A feeling can exist by itself, without forming part of a consciousness. It does not depend for its existence on the consciousness of which it may form a part. Hence a feeling (oran eject-element) is Dinzg-an-sich, an absolute, whose existence is not relative to anything else. Sentitur is all that can be said.

2. These eject-elements, which correspond to motions of matter, are connected together in their sequence and co-existence by counterparts of the physical laws of matter. For otherwise the correspondence could not be kept up.”

The simpler elements are Ding-an-sich, or a thing-in-themselves.

Mind-stuff is the reality which we perceive as Matter

“That element of which, as we have seen, even the simplest feeling is a complex, I shall call Mind-stuff. A moving molecule of inorganic matter does not possess mind, or consciousness; but it possesses a small piece of mind-stuff.”

So it would seem that Mind-Stuff form the simplest of things, and he points out that when these simple things come together, they start to form sentience. It is only when these things come together more and more, they can form consciousness like us. We can take the example of a bacteria, which is form of simple things, or formed of some mind-stuff. When more and more mind-stuff comes together, and through constant evolution, they come to form sentience like us.

When inorganic things take a complex form that is called the living human brain, there is a corresponding mind-stuff, because mind-stuff is the simplest of things that is the basis from which complex things are built off of, these mind-stuff in that form take on human consciousness like having intelligence and volition.

Let us say that person X sees person Y looking at a candle stick. Both Y looking at the candle stick and the candle stick are objects of person X’s consciousness or mind. An image of this candle stick, which is of the optical variety, is formed in the retina which sends never messages to form a cerebral image inside of the brain of person X. The cerebral image forms part of the complex disturbances in the brain. This cerebral image is just as much a possible sensation, sensation of the brain disturbances, as the image of the candle stick itself that person X is having. The cerebral image itself is an imperfect copy of the candle stick image itself, that person X is having. Person X is having in their body a cerberal image, but the candle stick image is something that they have present to their consciousness. But the cerberal image and visual image represent one another, but in an imperfect way.

“Now the candlestick is not the external reality whose existence is represented in the man’s mind; for the candlestick is a mere perception in my mind. Nor is the cerebral image the man’s perception of the candlestick; for the cerebral image is merely an idea of a possible perception in my mind. But there is a perception in the man’s mind, which we may call the mental image; and this corresponds to some external reality. The external reality bears the same relation to the mental image that the (phenomenal) candlestick bears to the cerebral image.”

The candle stick is not the external reality, in which the candles existence is represented in person Y’s mind. That is because the candle stick in person X’s mind. Remember, X can’t see if the candle stick is in anyone elses mind, because that is just an eject and isn’t possible for that image to be present to person X. And the cerebral image in person Y’s brain a perception of the candlestick, that’s because the cerebral image is a possible perception in person X’s mind. (This is a very important point).

The candlestick image and the cerebral image are made both of the same stuff. And so external reality is made up off the same stuff as person X’s mental image, which is mind-stuff. “As the physical configuration of my cerebral image of the object is to the physical configuration of the object, so is my perception of the object (the object regarded as complex of my feelings) to the thing-in-itself.”

Cliffords conclusion comes down to this: “Or, to say the same thing in other words, the reality external to our minds which is represented in our minds as matter, is in itself mind-stuff.” This means that the world external to us, and what causes our mental images, if not cerberal images, are mind-stuff. But we don’t have perfect representations of the external world, and these imperfect representations are called the material universe. This comes down to that the thing-in-itself is the mind-stuff. The mind-stuff is what affects our consciousness, or that mind-stuff affects our consciousness. And as we paid attention, the mind-stuff is what makes up the simple stuff from which our consciousness is a complex growth of, through evolution.

Clifford lists these two things as the two chief points of his doctrine.

“Matter is a mental picture in which mind-stuff is the thing represented.

Reason, intelligence, and volition are properties of a complex which is made up of elements themselves not rational, not intelligent, not conscious.”



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