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Henry Flynt

(c) 1996 Henry A. Flynt, Jr.

Part I. Objections to Personhood Theory

  1. [1] Personhood theory originated in reaction to the totalizing objectification of modern science, an objectification which left no place for "the experience of consciousness." Personhood theory proposed to posit consciousness or mental phenomena as elemental. At the same time, personhood theory proposed to avoid taking mind as an autonomous substance.

    Originally, personhood theory reflected a certain hope that the observation that self, consciousness, subjectivity, and world, objects always appear conjointly, as a bond, could furnish a solution. But what that hope missed was that some of the objectivities which are most important ideologically cannot by even the most liberal standards be defended as immediates of any personal "world," and can only be included in the personal world as derivative and hypothetical beliefs. One does not see society, history, or scientific objectivity (at the subatomic level) as an apparition in front of one's face.

    And there is a still more severe objection to that original hope. To acknowledge consciousness as elemental does not bring an end to controversy but rather initiates controversy. There can be many ways of apportioning the personal totality which acknowledge consciousness as elemental and which superficially are equally plausible. And it is not inevitable that the personal totality be apportioned: there is radical unbelief or namelessness. Personhood theory cannot be justified as an account of the way persons are. It can only be defended as a penetrating scrutiny of the way one sort of person pictures self, alongside of engagement in coping or managing.

  2. We have the notion of a personal world characterized by a stable self-objectivities bond. But this notion is challenged by such phenomena as closing one's eyes, periodic unconsciousness, relaxation in a low-stimulus environment, sensory deprivation.

    Merely closing your eyes is a violent qualitative alteration of the self-world pattern. Being temporarily blinded is even more dramatic. Yet we take these disruptions in stride: by invoking the concept of the common objective world?

    Closing eyes relative to acting, doing, effecting. In acting, one relies heavily on memory or expectation, whichever one wants to call it. Picking up an egg: how hard to press and to heave. Have memory of sight-touch correlations in addition to memory of tactile sequence of actions (how many paces to cross a room, etc.). If I am deprived of the visual side, I attempt to carry out the tactile side with the correlated visual side present as a shadowy mental model, a schematic visualization. In so doing, I implicitly invoke an objectivity which persists when one of my senses is suppressed: the common objective world?

    But doing may not be the main issue. The point is the qualitative transformation of the passive self-world pattern. There is a Self or Mind which is constant through drastic qualitative changes in the "world" side of the pattern. Does it make sense to say that Self arises conjointly with World when Self persists while World undergoes violent qualitative changes? Argument that self is not bonded to world or conjoint with world or in an encounter with world?--Since self is not bonded to a qualitatively ("modally") definite and persisting perceptual field. Self is independent of the given field of the moment. Or do I have two selves, a seeing self and an unseeing self? (But in actuality I do not divide up the personal totality like this.)

    In fact, arguing for personhood theory, I do not manage via the notion of a self-contained mind passing through a landscape of things like a ghost. Self-conjoined-to-objectivities has some similarity to the self-picture by which I cope or manage.

    Returning to the account of my mode of acting when my eyes are closed, a methodological principle must be stated. These investigations demand that consciousness be taken as elemental. We always stand on both sides of the subject-object dichotomy. Thus, we cannot accept behaviorist psychology's claim to be the only valid method of investigating the personal use of perception, memory etc. in acting. Indeed, since we take consciousness as elemental, only first-hand evidence concerning personal functioning--or assertions capable of a first-hand test--can be accepted. Only evidence which has what psychology pejoratively calls an introspective component can be accepted. The evidence of behaviorist experiments cannot, as such, be accepted, because it is strictly second-hand; that is, the "scientific" psychologist proposes to ascertain how another person consciously manages or copes by observing exclusively from without how he or she accomplishes a given task in a controlled environment. In other words, I am directly disputing the contemporary tenet that empirical psychology has made introspection obsolete. Personhood renders purely non-introspective methods suspect, for conscious functioning is not a projection of behavior seen from without. That is also why investigations of how animals cope with being temporarily deprived of vision by behaviorist animal psychology cannot be primary evidence in this investigation.

  3. When I lie down and close my eyes to go to sleep, only the certainty that I can regain the world I have stripped away makes the deprivation acceptable? Children's reasons for wanting lights on while they sleep. E.g. the child fears being in total darkness because he or she fears that his or her sight may not return when the light does. Is the child's agnosticism always a source of anxiety, or is it only so in children who have been specifically habituated in "irrational anxiety"?

  4. Attempt to defend personhood theory from the challenge of closing one's eyes. Personhood theory is a journalistic account of how I manage or cope in terms of action and "psychic" stability--a journalism of the delusion from within the delusion. Thus, when getting a drink of water, if I close my eyes while doing it, the system of praxis and beliefs to which I am attached by thirst, etc., takes this qualitative shift in the perceptual field into account.

    But this defense doesn't explain the real issue, the passive issue of the constancy of Self through a complete qualitative change in World. My Self or Mind persists as a constant while the perceptual field mutates dramatically. What about blinking and stroboscopic lighting? As the different fields alternate more and more rapidly, I don't have the discrimination to compartmentalize the event series as qualitatively different states. Psychic stability requires me to perceive the event series as a special sighted state. Psychic stability is the overriding factor: although these mutations of the perceptual field are drastic, I don't perceive them as drastic.

  5. Dividing up or analytically decomposing the personal totality. Conventional thought requires me to distinguish my body from the rest of the corporeal world. There are my mind, my corporeal self, the remainder of the totality. But why not a division in which tables and chairs are numb parts of my body? Boundary between my body and all corporeality outside my body.

  6. Periodic unconsciousness. When you receive general anesthesia for a dental operation, you jump-cut from one episode to another, and have to depend on the dentist to tell you how long you have been unconscious. I have an existence without consciousness whose details I have to learn from without. I am also told from without of conscious episodes which I have forgotten. The need to posit periods in which I have an existence without consciousness.

    Dreams are determined as "mere illusion." My existence in periods of unconsciousness is given parity with my existence in periods of consciousness, on the basis of information about me from other people as outside observers.

    Periodic unconsciousness--my consciousness periodically ceases to exist. The only proof of my existence is information from other people. And yet idealism/solipsism would claim that other people are only an illusion created by my Mind. Or: I have to posit a latent consciousness which I do not experience--a latent consciousness which is not conscious.

    Contrary to my first assessment of the issue, the claim that my identity persists through unconsciousness poses a more severe obstacle to personhood theory that it does to Eastern thought. I have an existence at a time when the self/world pattern is virtually nonexistent. This is not a minor incoherence. It is an outright negation of personhood theory. If I insist that I exist when I don't have any personhood, then personhood theory loses its point. Either the gigantic paradox of total objectification is unavoidable; or the weight of the argument supports the speculation that my Mind is an autonomous, intermittently existing substance?

  7. Modern philosophy has produced various opinions about the structure of the personal totality.

    How do various philosophies treat a mental visual image or visualization? Husserl says that both a perceived table and a table-visualization are objects for the subject, objects of consciousness, in exactly the same sense? For Spengler, the table-visualization is "Alien" (das Fremde) even though it is a phenomenon of my mind--because it is a spatial apparition. Even though it is a phenomenon of my subjective mentation, it is impersonal.

    In my early radical empiricist analysis, I differentiated the table-visualization from a table-perception on the basis that the former is interior qua mental; and on the same basis, I classified it together with e.g. feelings--both are subjective mental occurrences.

  8. Did personhood theory reflect an indulgence of Husserl's belief that noesis/noema polarity, or the self/world polarity or split, is an absolute? How did I become involved with this belief which I would have seen through at the time of Philosophy Proper, Version 1 (1960)? In the state of radical unbelief, there is no basis to claim subject-object polarity within experience or sensation, or subject-"objectivities" polarity within experience. Radical unbelief dissolves any subject-object polarity in the personal world.

    Personhood theory begins with a totality polarized as a "self" facing a "world." But literal empiricism or radical unbelief exposes this polarity as a delusion. When I manage or cope conventionally, I conceive myself as a self demarcated from and confronting a world of objectivities. But this polarization, this structure, is derivative from the beliefs with which I surround the "sensory apparitions." It is belief which converts "non-mental experience" into perception of an object by a self--into a self "raping" the object. Without conventional belief, none of this structure is present. In the totality of literal empiricism (radical unbelief?), a visual-chair-experience (and already this appellation compromises the literalness of the empiricism) is neither me nor not-me. There is none of this so-called perception; there is no "I" engaged in raping objects which have an independent life. The "mystery" that "I in fact only see one hemisphere when I perceive a sphere" is eliminated when one admits that the "sphere" exists only in belief. A perceived sphere is a visual hemisphere plus a belief.

    On the other hand, the foregoing nullification of mysteries is not easy. To renounce the ontology of objects would be to renounce all culture and communication in their conventional sense.

    For literal empiricism (radical unbelief), there is no "me" confronting and raping a "world." There aren't any "perceptions." What is more, the post-Kantian proof of the object is just an insincere rationalization of the conformist life-world. The genuine challenges to empiricism come from another direction, as we shall see. The intentionality which Husserl discovered, the noesis/noema polarity, is induced by belief. What I wrote on "transcendental arguments" in Blueprint for a Higher Civilization, [2] pp. 33-5, conceded too much to Husserl. I agreed that "If there is experience, there must be subject and object in the experience." That is just what I should have refused to agree with.

    The reason I got involved with this myth of the polarization of the personal totality into subject and object, self and word, or whatever, is that I wanted an account of the process of a thematic self confronting objectivities, i.e. managing or coping in the conventional manner.

  9. In "Philosophy of Personhood and Dignity," 1980 typescript, page 16, I pondered using the experience of having one's dignity threatened as a transcendental argument. A threat to one's dignity could serve as a revelation of the non-immediate in the immediate. I proposed that ontology be centered on dignity.

    But how could I have humored such a rationalization? From a conventional viewpoint, getting sick can produce a profound general change of attitude, somewhat analogous to threatened dignity. But I would not write a philosophy of being sick; or propose an illness-centered ontology. So why the expedient of a dignity-centered ontology? It is unprincipled to use states of demoralization which attach you to certain beliefs as validation of those beliefs unto eternity.

    Actually, there is another reason for getting involved with the issue of dignity besides invoking it as a solution to the long-standing philosophical enterprise of "proving the world." I want to know what the personal world has to include in order for dignity to be at stake in it. The equivocal and charged word "dignity" is unimportant; it is to be eliminated in favor of various explications. (See Part V.) In turn, this knowledge gives me a superior analytical framework through which to understand concrete phenomena which require people to be viewed as wholes or to be viewed in terms of their whole thematic identities. (See Part II.)

  10. A crucial issue which arises in connection with personhood theory is whether is it possible to replace the common objective world with some other framework which still purports to produce an organized, identified world. Many illustrations can be given which seem to show that the common objective world is an immensely more convenient and efficient framework than personhood. Many examples in the foregoing discussion could be cited as arguments for the greater workability and efficiency of the objective-world framework.

    Compare the treatment of perceptual prosthesis in personhood theory and in the objective-world framework. The visual field is different according to whether I wear or remove my eyeglasses. Wearing my eyeglasses, I see a table before me; if I remove my glasses, I see a blur. Or, without my eyeglasses, I see a blur before me; if I put on my glasses, I see a table. Am I to understand that the table changes? Actually, this question is unfair to personhood: it is an integral feature of the personhood perspective to declare that I make the table into an objectivity--to do so is normal functioning. But personhood wishes to classify objectivities as relatively more palpable or relatively more hypothetical. Which is the palpable entity and which is the hypothetical entity, as between the blurred table and the focused table? Loosely speaking, I fail to achieve perceptions confirmed by other people unless I wear eyeglasses. What framework is there to explain what the glasses do, other than physical optics? Consider the action of a magnifying glass, a periscope, a telescope, a microscope. Or consider the use of a rear-view mirror. What is directly seen, and what is "perceived" only as inference or hypothesis? These questions may be challenges to dogmatic metaphysical empiricism and to Husserl's doctrine of perception. If I look at a sphere with a mirror as backdrop, so that images of front and back are available to me simultaneously, is the imputation of a back to the sphere no longer hypothetical? If what I see in the mirror is hypothetical, is what I see through my eyeglasses hypothetical? Where do my body and directness (my perception) leave off, and prosthesis and inference begin?

    Consider seeing the earth from an airplane, or from a space capsule. "Direct perceptions" which are possible only because of massive scientific technology. But also seeing a valley from within it versus seeing it from a mountain top.

    How better to collate the phenomena of shadows than by postulating that these phenomena are images produced by obstructions in light beams?

    What about conjuring, legerdemain? Should I identify the conjurer's performance with actuality because I cannot perceptually discriminate between the one and the other? Should I change this judgment if the conjurer shows me how the trick is done?

    Or consider the case so often discussed in Indian philosophy of a coiled rope in a dark corner which I perceive as a snake. If at a second glance I see a rope, should I conclude that the object changed? (Incidentally, Indian thought seems to agree in this case that I am in error when I perceptually judge the object to be a snake. Indian thought fails to square its objectivist position here with its overall thesis that the world is an illusion created by my mind, with no independent laws.)

    When I become ill, my entire personal world becomes "abnormal." When I recover, the world's normality returns. Should I imagine that the world changed--or that there was an objective world which remained the same while I changed?

    What is a medial researcher to make of paralysis if the framework of the common objective world is excluded?

    I should say again that some of the above questions are not fair to personhood theory. Personhood theory declares that I normally manage or cope by "making" objectivities, by relying on beliefs which "establish" objectivities. The genuine difficulties are as follows. First, the distinction between palpable and impalpable, direct and inferred, becomes questionable. Secondly, it seems far more convenient and efficient to postulate that the objectivities are primary, than to maintain that I derive them.

    In addition to the doctrine of the common objective world, we must consider Freud's doctrine that each person has a hidden consciousness, an unconscious consciousness or hidden mind. Reality is claimed for an individual idiosyncracy which is unobservable (in that sense, "non-immediate") to the individual. Personhood theory must classify the Freudian unconsciousness as a mere hypothesis. (But it is an attractive belief to explain the content of dreams, mood-changes, involuntary daydreams, and other subjective phenomena in emotionally disturbing situations and under the influence of psychedelics.) In other words, the Freudian unconscious demands that we ascribe more substance to it than personhood theory is willing to.

    What is at stake in the foregoing ruminations is the possibility of a genuinely post-scientific culture, the possibility of a counterattack on scientific depersonalization which is more than a withdrawal into compensation and petulance. We know that the totalizing objectification of modern science is monumentally incoherent. Why, then, does it seem so much more workable and efficient than personhood theory, say? What are the chances of finding a framework which produces an organized, identified world without depersonalizing us (understanding that the traditional makeshifts of religion and metaphysical idealism are not acceptable)?

    Physics is a depersonalizing objectification extrapolated from the matter side of the mind/matter dichotomy. Psychoanalysis is a depersonalizing objectification extrapolated from the mind side of the mind/matter dichotomy. Particle physics and psychoanalysis make claims for atomic structure and for the unconscious which are extremely cleverly worked out. With electron microscopes, you can see molecules. In dreams and in the "psychopathology of everyday life," you see the unconscious.

    A reply: to be convinced that you have seen a molecule when you use an electron microscope, you have to make an act of interpretation, correlated with a theory of how the device works.

    What are the incoherences of objectification? I have to believe that my existence and my experience are only shadows of an inanimate substance, a real reality which is always other than me. A science popularizer said that we are "intricate molecular machines." Just so. If I am to be aware that I am only an "intricate molecular machine," then I have to be at some impossible imaginary point of observation, outside the molecular machine which encompasses my self, to draw this conclusion. This human self-image is intolerably alienated. Dogmatic materialism and totalizing objectification are dangerous to your "mental health." There can be no higher civilization unless we can break this world-view.

    But can there be a less mystified, less reductionist, less alienated framework which is more workable and efficient than the objective-world framework? Or is the only alternative to totalizing objectification the piecemeal, specialized investigations of meta-technology?


    Actually, I am imposing extremely high expectations on the new framework. The objective-world framework did not arise as a homogeneous, all-embracing world-view. It took several hundred years for science's piecemeal pragmatism to encroach on other ways of coping until it embraced all of reality. Alchemy, the forerunner of today's chemistry and biochemistry, was quasi-animistic. Alchemical animism was eliminated in stages. There had to be successive campaigns against vitalism, teleology, the impossibility of synthesizing organic compounds, the impossibility of synthetic life-forms.

    In this manuscript, biological speciation through natural selection of random micromutations--and single-tree eucaryotic descent--will be abbreviated as "Darwinism." Around 1980, as a result of work of Stephen Jay Gould, Niles Eldredge, and others, it became possible for biologists to say publicly that there is little positive evidence in detail for Darwinism. Evidently there was a tacit conspiracy among paleontologists during the preceding one hundred years to pretend that the evidence supported Darwinism. Indeed, a subtlety is involved in Gould's and Eldredge's disclosure. What allowed the discrepancy to be disclosed was that Gould and Eldredge thought they could explain it away: in other words, their motivation was more damage control than intellectual honesty. Other cutting observations about Darwinism had been made earlier by Karl Popper and Garrett Hardin. Hardin observed in Nature and Man's Fate (1959) that Darwinism had been inspired by Malthus, and was a generalization of the ideology of competitive private enterprise and incremental social reform in Victorian England.

    Why was Darwinism upheld as an orthodoxy even though it failed to match the evidence and various criteria of scientificity? Recently, that too has been written about. Let me offer that Darwinism was the beneficiary of favoritism, because it was the least vulnerable proposal to explain the origin of the present biological species naturalistically. But this in turn means that the forces promoting secularism and naturalism--the drive towards secularism--was more powerful than is supposed by canard. Darwinism has been a scientific bluff used as a stopgap to wean the public from the parochial supernaturalist explanations of the biological species in the Old Testament etc. Now, after one hundred years, secularism is so well established that admitting the vulnerability of Darwinism is not likely to bring an end to secular biology.

    Obviously, the case of Darwinism contains a lesson about how new frameworks--in this case secularism/naturalism--become established. If the scientific outlook was universally valid, then the origin of human beings had to be the result of the blind activity of matter. Darwinism was a superficially plausible mechanism in which the blind activity of matter produced the biological species extant today. This model served as a bluff. The powerful social forces promoting secularism, scientific depersonalization, and institutionalized science would not forego the model just because it was empirically disconfirmed. Even the presentation of theory-dictated conjecture as fact, as in the equine phylogeny at the American Museum of Natural History, was accepted.

    In contrast, the expectations I am imposing on the post-scientific framework are extremely high. In part, this is because I think that science is so sophisticated that only a framework which yields some decisive advantage other than consolation can challenge it. The new framework should allow, say, a powerful technology of awareness/objectivity interdependencies which science cannot achieve at all. But the new framework may be extremely inefficient for transistor technology, say. To uphold the new framework, it might be necessary to run a bluff in areas in which scientific technology is most efficient--until we had accumulated a lot of experience in coping "unscientifically." Also I am not allowing for the possible need for going through several stages in which old and new frameworks are mixed.



    Challenges to literal empiricism

    Evidently I am treating "literal empiricism" as the least credulous condition, or as the irreproachable condition. What challenges can be directed against literal empiricism to the effect that it underestimates the conventional world? The attempt to "prove the world" in the tradition of Kant's "Refutation of Idealism," the "proof" which says that experience requires a subject and an object, therefore objects must be real. Certainly this challenge is not compelling. (It's a pun on the German word for experience.)

  11. Spengler suggested that even within subjective immediate phenomena, even within direct experience, some phenomena are impersonal--indifferent and inert; while others are absolutely personalistic. All phenomena which are emplaced in space, or possess extension, are impersonal. Moreover, spatial phenomena are completed, lifeless, and quantifiable. A perfect example of an impersonal subjectivity would be a visual-table-experience. Evidently the claim is that a visual-table-experience is more estranged and indifferent than empiricism can acknowledge; or that there is a contrasting zone of experience which is more personal and intimate than empiricism can acknowledge.

    Let me reply. Modern Romantics have sought to argue that people are not things. But they have maintained with equal stubbornness that things are things. They cannot apprehend experience without conceiving it as polarized between a living, dynamic self (a "soul" as Spengler calls it)--a "me" which is in here--and an object-zone which is "out there" and possesses the inert, indifferent autonomy of an objectively real thing. The object-zone is somewhat like apparitions on a shell surrounding "me." This myth is given a further twist by Sartre when he discovers that the indifferent object-side supplies all of the content of experience; and that the self is empty.

    The dichotomy which Spengler finds in subjective immediate phenomena has its source in the beliefs which make e.g. a visual-table-experience an object or objectivity. Beliefs give the experience the alien autonomy which opposes it to my "soul." Without these beliefs there is no basis to see in experience a zone of things which menace oneself in their soulless inertness. Spengler's dichotomy is an elaboration of portions of the Occidental myth which it has not occurred to him to question: this is evident in his pronouncement that e.g. a visual-table-experience inherently lends itself to quantification, more so than "life" or "self."

    Hennix: Is a toothache Proper or Alien, das Eigne or das Fremde?

  12. If I glance at a wall with an inscription on it, I perceive more than the inscription--I instantaneously and "automatically" associate a meaning or significance to the inscription. "I perceive more than is there." I have different species of reactions depending on whether the inscription is e.g. my own name, a word in a language I don't speak, or a mark such that I don't know whether it is a code or not (e.g. a Zebra label when they were new). [On the other hand, let me not underestimate my capacity to doubt the meaningfulness of common linguistic expressions as a matter of principle.]

  13. If I pass by a familiar place and a familiar object is absent, I have a dizzying perception of a deficit. This perception is instantaneous, prior to any search of my memory to identify what is missing. Evidently the perception superimposes a memory-related belief or judgment on the positive content of the visual field, in an inseparable way. Again, I see more than is there, more quickly than I can bring skeptical detachment or self-consciousness into play.

  14. Once I was lying immersed in water and leaned back, and my toes surfaced. All I saw was a pale blob of flesh rising out of the water, and I jerked back in fright. But in the next moment, I realized that I was looking at my own foot, and I relaxed.

    This case demonstrates that a genuinely undetermined apparition evokes fright and disorientation. What is more, in the case in question I made a snap judgment of the apparition, and reacted emotionally and behaviorally. These responses are instantaneous, and as such are inseparable from the perception.

    The reason why I can suppose as a philosopher that cognitive judgments are appended to, and separable from, experiences is that the experiences in question are expected or familiar. But in surprises, and frightful surprises, there is a noticeable cognitive judgment which is made more quickly than skeptical detachment can come into play, and is thereby inseparable from, or intrinsically integrated in, the perception.

    The claim might be made that survival demands that the organism make vital judgments instantaneously, prior to self-conscious contemplation.

    Moreover, when I "did a second take" and decided that the blob of flesh was my foot, the judgment calmed my emotions. Adoption of a belief had the effect of neutralizing the snap judgment and the emotional and behavioral responses integrated in the initial perception, and returning cognition and emotion to neutrality. This even suggests that a snap judgment of harmlessness is latent in the placid perceptions which usually constitute the data of my philosophical reflections.

    To recap, a genuinely undetermined apparition will probably evoke fright and disorientation. What is more, "knowledge"--habituated conventional interpretations or judgments--can lessen the fright.

  15. For completeness, I mention the claim that it is possible to have perceptions expressed as "ice looks cold" or "velvet looks soft." Evidently what is claimed is that a conclusion or inference is intrinsically integrated in the perception. Such a perception may be called "recognition." Here again I see more than is there? Also for completeness I mention what I call intermediate-zone apparitions: I see spots, my ears are ringing, the room is swimming. These apparitions cannot be classified in my dichotomy of mental and non-mental experiences?

  16. I have mentioned perceptions in which seeing more than is there, or making a snap judgment, is instantaneous and is thereby intrinsic to the perception at the moment. But there are altered states of cognitive morale in which one loses one's capacity for skeptical detachment or self-consciousness over a sustained period. Examples of such states are dreams and psychedelic experiences.

  17. In a fever, or under the influence of psychedelics, the personal totality can undergo attenuation or disintegration in the zone of the self or "me"--the zone Spengler identified as the soul. That is to say, there is a loss of presence, centered activation, drive. A zone of the personal totality which is called self or "me," and which normally goes unnoticed, is made noticeable by virtue of being threatened in certain rare or disregarded states. An unexpectedly intimate zone of the personal totality is found to be variable. What is more, in dreams, self or self-identity undergoes all sorts of anomalous variations. Recalling Spengler's notions, it could be claimed that the placidity of common experience depends on a stability of an intimate zone of experience which empiricism is too undiscriminating to acknowledge.


    In most of the above cases I have made the characterization that "seeing more than is there" is an inescapable aspect of the perception in question. It might be argued that these cases are evidences of transcendent phenomena in the immediate. The very occurrence of involuntary and instantaneous imputations of "more than is there" might be taken as proof that there is more than is there. Our very capacity for such imputations might be claimed to project beyond, or transcend, "what is there." Cf. Heidegger's pronouncement that Man lives always ahead of himself, oriented toward the future. (The "there" is already here. Man is already living in the "there.")

    But I have always understood that there are perceptions in which imputations of significance or objectivity are involuntary and instantaneous. Only in retrospect can one exercise skeptical detachment toward these imputations. Indeed, in dreams I lose the capacity for skeptical detachment for sustained periods. Conjointly, I involuntarily impute contexts of objectivity in my experiences from moment to moment over sustained periods of time. But any claim that these cases "prove the reality of the world" falls completely flat.

    If imputations of contexts of objectivity in experiences could prove the reality of the world, what would be proved most of all would be the reality of dream-worlds. It is in dreams that the phenomena being invoked are most vivid. But this is the opposite of the result wanted by the conformists and apologists. The irony is that the conformists and apologists who want a provable world do not at all want to prove that the dream-world is that world, that objective reality. Indeed, the apologists have an immense stake in claiming that dream-worlds are mere subjective illusions, and are not even slightly part of the public objective world. So attempts by conformist, apologetic philosophers to seize on the occurrence of "gullibility" to prove the public objective world are nullified by a trap which these very attempts create for themselves. The case in which the happenings operate so as to best support the arguments that the apologists wish to make is the case which the apologists must suppress to maintain orthodoxy.

    What do all my intricate imputations of objectivities in a dream prove about objective reality? The answer of the apologist must be: nothing at all. My perceptions in dreams do not even intimate any genuine objectivity or constitute any genuine objectivity whatever. The apologist must maintain that imputations of objectivities in dreams do not establish any transcendence or non-immediate whatever. No contortion of self-deception "breaks outside" to an objective reality: even the apologists are compelled to maintain this. The fact of my capacity for gullibility or "seeing more than is there" proves exactly nothing about the supposed objective reality surrounding my immediate experience.


    The only challenge to literal empiricism which is at all deep is provided by perceived motion. What is the interval of time required to observe the occurrence of motion? Must it be long enough to extend outside the present instant and to encompass a distinguishable past and future? Then since past and future are non-immediate, the perception of motion would have to involve perception of non-immediates or imperceivables. On the other hand, suppose we try to confine the observation of motion to a time-interval so short that no past or future is involved. We might have to make the time-interval a fraction of a second. And extremely short intervals of time are not immediates either. Extremely short intervals of time are constructs beyond perceptions.

    To express the point in a different way, how much distance does a motion have to traverse, and how much time does it have to occupy, before one has to appeal to one's memory to claim that the moving object was previously in a different position? If you concentrate, and try to test this point, you can narrow the breadth of the "immediate." Is the transfer of perceived movement into memory a moment-by-moment transfer, an instantaneous transfer?

    To say "I observe motion" is already a contradiction, because it means that the present instant must be stretched out long enough to establish that the moving object assumes distinctly different positions. So there is a claim that times other than the present are perceived immediately. Yet they cannot be, for past and future can only be "apprehended" as memory and anticipation.

    ?: Even these difficulties would not arise if one were not trying to organize a world or explain a world.

    Evidently what is being debated here is properly called "radical unbelief" rather than empiricism. I don't claim that empiricism makes sense as an affirmative metaphysical system: because it doesn't. If "there is nothing but immediate experience," then there would be no language in which to express this state of affairs (and I already understood this in 1960). The import of the foregoing discussion is negative. Empiricism and unbelief do not underestimate conventional reality. Ordinary personhood has no constituent which properly, affirmatively establishes objective reality.



    Excursion in geometry and philosophy

    The considerations in this manuscript have ramifications concerning the philosophy of geometry. We may ask what the location is of my mind in the space of indifferent physical entities in my environs. And further: If I can only see one side of a sphere at a time, and have to add the other side (to complete the sphere) by an act of faith, then solid geometry is just as much an imaginary geometry as non-Euclidian or four-dimensional geometry. (A plausible example of an observation which encompasses three dimensions: specifying a point above a horizontal surface such as a table?)

    We are finding that Spengler had a point, notwithstanding anything I said in rebuttal of him. Visually interpreted geometry is something one constructs in exterior environs which have been counterposed to, and divorced from, the consciousness or self. The notion of extension is plausible only in the environs. If space has to include both environs and consciousness, it becomes obviously indefinable? Given our indoctrination, there is a difference between "soul" and environs in that the concept of spatial location or extension is plausible for one but not the other? Then, three-dimensionality is not an immediate for sight, only for touch if at all?

    I began to stumble across these issues in "The Fundamental Reconstruction of Physics," without pushing far enough. How is it plausible that I can construct a visually interpreted two-dimensional geometry, a logic of positional relationships in the visual field? I have to fantasize a stable field, abstracted from the consequences of closing my eyes and shifting my eyes (and also from visual perspective, if I want a strict two-dimensional construct). But color, which is a quality of the visual field but not of the "soul," is also not a property of the tactile field (environs, object-zone). And spatial position (and color) can be a feature of mind (mentation or ideation) when visualizations are taken into account. Geometry is an abstraction which is grotesquely mismatched to the contours of experiences. Visualization: I reproduce the visual environs in my mind, and positional relationship becomes a feature of ideation. But this conclusion continues to make the realm of positional relationship into a shell surrounding me or a screen in front of me which my "soul" observes. Where is this observer's position incorporated in the network of positional relationships? Spengler did have a point about our indoctrination. We come to treat extremely artificial concepts as obvious. The self/world polarization versus the observer/screen polarization (which can be reproduced in ideation). Dependence of the observer/screen polarity on the visual modality. "Jive Space-Out," my electric violin solo which gives a synesthetic impression of space and emptiness. (Reverberated declamatory triple stops, repetition, increasingly long pauses.) To what degree is the extendedness of the "object-field" peculiar to the visual modality? Configuration of the "object-field" for the tactile modality. Observer/field polarization in the tactile modality? Reproducing this polarity in mentation? Where are feelings and moods in the positional network?

    What the "empiricist reply" to observer/screen polarization should be. One may speak of visualizations, emotions, self-observations as "self"-aspects. But as far as consciousness or selfhood is concerned, it may as well be considered to be "out there" with "my" table-apparition. More properly, the "out there" notion is nonsensical.

    Always test schemes of objectification against dream-worlds. Nobody wants to claim that the self/world or observer/screen polarization occurring in dreams manifests any objective "out there" whatsoever. "Feelings are in here, visuality is out there": why aren't the feelings "out there" with the visuality, i.e. why don't feelings permeate the personal totality? A child says "the room hurts," not "I have a toothache." [So say the textbooks.]

    "Where is consciousness located?" versus "Where is mentation located relative to the non-mental zone?" If I could visualize intensely, I could duplicate the non-mental visual field in ideation. Space is never concrete; it is always an abstract model superimposed by thought on perception?

    Euclidian geometry requires not only the ability to observe or visualize positional relationships, but also the ability to do, to make pencil and paper constructions. Cf. Hilbert's Foundations of Geometry.

    In 2, I noted that three-dimensional space occurs as a shadowy conceptual model which orientates one for action. The three dimensions are dimensions in which action is possible. On the other hand, this information is of no value in substantiating any formal geometry.

    Enumeration; magnitude; positional relationship. Positional relationship presupposes enumeration, i.e. a stable multiplicity of distinctions. I may have the ability to recognize positional pairs and triples without explicitly counting them. At what point do we switch from accepting impressionistic recognition of the degree of multiplicity to demanding a protocol of verification, i.e. explicit counting? Explicit counting must be carried out in time, using tokens which appear and disappear in time. (The empirical possibility of mathematics depends not as much on stable notation-tokens as on evanescent notation-tokens, since explicit counting is carried out with evanescent tokens.) How about counting positions by writing numbers beside them? If one were enumerating positions by observing numbers written beside them, all that would matter would be to discern the greatest number. But don't you have to verify, through a temporal procedure, that there has been no cheating in the assignment of the written numbers? E.g. a wall with 947 numbered points on it. It is the implicit dependence of positional relationship on stable multiplicity, which in turn is verified by a temporal procedure of enumeration, that caused me to reject Spengler's dichotomy, which assigns quantification exclusively to extension and space.

    (For professionally indoctrinated mathematicians, let me repeat the point made in "The Fundamental Reconstruction of Physics." Mathematicians have become virtuosos at extracting numerical networks from spatial arrays. But they have become so absorbed in this problem that they have forgotten that they have no rigorous procedure whatever for the inverse shift. Mathematics has no protocol whatsoever for constructing the array of positions in the visual field corresponding to a given lattice of numbers. "Imaginary geometry," which began as an exception, has become the whole of geometry. Mathematics has no procedure whatever for interpreting geometries in perceived space. The operational application of geometry in physics is carried out entirely by unformulated intuition.)



  18. When the portrayal of the ostensible personal totality is developed as in "Personhood II," the result is a massive dogma. People can read this portrayal and recognize themselves in it. However, the totality of the portrayal extends far beyond the moments of life or consciousness. When I am raking leaves or simply relaxing, I am largely wordless and do not conceive myself as this vast, intricate structure. Personhood theory is a generalized compilation which goes far beyond the moments of life or consciousness. Personhood theory is a massive collection of "information"; and this massive collection is not an immediate for us. We do not necessarily experience ourselves in this panoramic, detailed way. The circumstance that we do not go around with the panorama of personhood theory in our attention is a basic objection to it. Acts of belief are required to attribute this vast superstructure of detail to ourselves. (Indeed, we may not experience ourselves as in personhood theory at any time. The twentieth-century formalistic scientistic man, to whom I will return in Part V, may not recognize himself in the mirror of personhood theory at all.)

  19. Personhood theory, as a doctrine, is extremely dependent on and sensitive to language, to verbal embodiment. The distinction between "urge" and "desire" comes from the dictionary; it is not thrust upon me by experience. Personhood theory gives names to moments which do not necessarily appear in experience with names attached to them.

    But this objection, at least, has an answer. I'm not claiming that the names have priority over the experience, or that the attaching of names is the goal of the activity. Personhood theory originated using words as a means to grapple with problems of non-intellectual epistemology, if you will. The words have worked surprisingly well; the possibilities of expressing the inexpressible were underestimated. Personhood theory is not a project of accumulating abstract certainties. On the other hand, the modesty of this answer is a little out of date. Now that the search for a framework (producing an organized, identified world) which can overwhelm the objective-world framework of science is on the agenda, the question does arise of whether personhood theory is more viable in general than other frameworks. It is no longer enough for personhood theory to be a makeshift controlled by specific problems--even though that is the way it had to be developed.

  20. One of the most obvious objections to personhood theory is that it is a regression to a medieval anthropocentrism which is shameful given our contemporary knowledge both of the scope of the universe and of the possibilities of manipulating life and computing machines. The theory would identify consciousness with our human trivia, with the trivia of human biology. How shameful to make an absolute of our little niche in the cosmos. But to give personhood theory its due, it makes an extremely radical challenge to this contemporary cliché. We are little as biological entities in the astronomical universe. But personhood theory rejects this approach to our self-definition.

  21. A reader's objection to personhood theory. Why must my investigations produce an organized, identified world at all? Why must I produce another ready-made global framework? And why must I advance ideas which presuppose or endorse thematic personal identity? (Such identity could also be called longitudinal or global personal identity--identity over the person's whole life.)

    The following argument prepares for Part V.

  22. Many of the issues which surfaced in the foregoing discussion could be ridiculed as issues of the metaphysical structure conventionally attributed to the human psyche--the issues which preoccupied some modern philosophers. Positivism and scientism have already declared that we are better off dismissing these issues as traps? The issues are only imperfections of natural language? Why would not a "superior medium of thought" start from an extra-terrestrial standpoint beyond all these issues? Perhaps the foregoing disputes keep us from acceding to the superior medium of thought.

    Perhaps personhood theory fetishizes the metaphysical structure conventionally attributed to the human psyche. Why should conventionally acknowledged human structures be taken as the frontiers of "thought"? Perhaps personhood theory fetishizes our human limitations. Why could there not be extra-terrestrial sentient beings who had the advantage of us while not being human?

    Compare the situation when I encounter a fellow human who generally is more advantaged than me or has the advantage of me. Just in practical terms, what if I had an analogous encounter with a sentient non-human? My philosophy provides the insight that non-immediate or transcendent standpoints are nonsensical. Should that induce us to rule out the quest for a preferred existence outside mundane life?

    If meta-technology does not portray the panorama and detail of whole human identities, perhaps that means that it is nearer to the superior medium of thought. Perhaps meta-technology is operative without requiring as much credulity as personhood theory does. Less can be more, can mean less mythology (if the "less" is not reductionist.) Meta-technology omits an undesirable burden of assumptions carried by personhood theory.

    Dignity is a dubious aim: if it is an attribute of thematic personal identity and requires you to give credence to your longitudinal identity. The affirmation of your longitudinal thematic identity is not as worthy as the capacity to "rotate" the ostensible world or cultural determination of reality. Whoever has the latter capacity is in a position to make him/herself disappear to him/herself (without reductionist half-fantasies).


    On the other hand, it can be argued that all elements of meta-technology introduced so far presuppose the person-world to underlie them. (But it still doesn't follow that it is productive to specialize in personhood.) What about promulgating meta-technology, seeking its adoption culture-wide? To attempt to convince another person--to persuade a person of an idea or secure a person's comprehension of a cultural artifact--presupposes enough of the constituents of personhood that personhood's level of credulity is tacitly presupposed. To despair of other people also presupposes their (inadequate or self-attenuating) personhood.

    Some readers advised me to proceed as if I were oblivious to the matter of audience. But meta-technology is removed from the audience by the extent of an entire new civilization; it does not feed into any role in this culture. (Check the cases in which a "pioneer" seems to attract a public spontaneously by just being splendid, and you will find that the pioneer's role was already a cultural cliché.) The communication of meta-technology has to be consciously contrived. My personal contact with whatever potential audience there is has elicited a whole new level of bizarre behavior--which may be called cross-cultural obscurantism. I cannot refrain from bringing this behavior within the scope of the manipulation and analysis which I am developing.

    Meta-technology as a sorcery of chaos: who and what is the sorcerer?


    Some of the preceding defense of personhood theory is only tentative. Part II (conclusion) and Part V of these notes will say more about the role and rationale of personhood theory.



    Alertness-only mysticism

    One Buddhist sutra argued that sense-awareness cannot, in principle, be reduced to any conjunction of its physical requirements. The physical requirements, which are all indifferent entities or properties in the knowing subject's personal space, are incommensurate with the core of awareness. Well-made as this point is, it manifests Eastern thought's determination to strip world from alertness, to isolate alertness (from world) as a substance. "Alertness only." There is no instinct that comprehension needs content as well as alertness.

    Well, perhaps I am unfair. Eastern thought knows that "comprehension" commonly has a content. That is why it developed the practice called "meditation," whose purpose is to still mind and empty it of content (which is judged to be a contamination).

    The task is to explain and counteract cultural depersonalization and cross-cultural obscurantism, as well as cultural exhaustion and ritualized self-abasement. The problem of addressing these topics with an analytical framework which does not make us into shadows of a hidden reality has never been posed before.

    Eastern thought may be able to acknowledge that comprehension commonly has a content; and yet claim that such content can be stripped away from mind. But this approach cannot serve the task of personhood theory. I want an immanent critique of the usual palpable totality. I want an account of comprehension when it has a content--not when it doesn't.

    [1]The numbers are not text locations. They number individual arguments against "Personhood II," a previous selection in this web site.

    [2] Milan, 1975.