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Henry Flynt

Part IV. Personhood's Self-Cancellation

(originally Dec. 9, 1981)[1]

1994. ?--Re-deriving the "Is there language?" trap in personhood theory. The achieved insight is said to be the most general source for destabilization, or meta-technology.


1. So far I have compiled information on personhood by moving from proximate cognition to higher levels of integration of the person. I have not singled out any constituent of personhood as being of overriding importance. Nor have I proposed an organization of the person-world which establishes particular constituents as crucial, and subordinates the remaining constituents to them.

Now I am prepared to make such determinations. I will identify the crucial constituent of personhood. My basis for selecting a certain constituent as being of overriding importance is efficacy. I ask, what choice of primary constituent yields an insight, an illumination, which is most helpful in accomplishing a certain sort of task? I look at my compilation--my journalism of the person-world--and ask, what is the task I most want to accomplish? And what in this compilation of "information" is most incisive for that task? I am going to give personhood theory a direction which may be entirely unexpected. The only excuse for doing so is that the result is going to give answers to the questions I most want answered.

Tentatively, the primary constituent of personhood will be taken as "language." But the constituent has to be focused much more rigorously than that. Many surprises remain. What is most important about "language" is not its appellative or denotative aspect: the name-relationship.[2] What is most important is the modality of veracity, realism, descriptive authenticity, or representational veracity, in relation to the declarative and interrogative "attitudes."[3]

A work of narrative fiction utilizes the appellative aspect of language; but it suspends the issue of veracity, realism, descriptive authenticity, representational veracity.[4] That is why fiction's way of employing language is not of overriding importance in personhood. The moments when I care about veracity, realism, descriptive authenticity, representational veracity: those moments are of overriding importance.

My work on personhood theory has provided an important lesson which I must not lose sight of because I am now "making a return to language." Even though I am going to focus on "cognitive language," the person-world perspective will continue to resist equating the universe of thought or illumination to "the self as verbal cognition-machine." After all, personhood theory was going to be a non-intellectual epistemology. It resists confinement to a cognitive-linguistic strip on one edge of the person-world.[5] The right approach was established in a question in Part II of these "Critical Notes," (section)E. To restate and expand that question,

What are the interrelations between

a) the ontological-epistemological-cognitive preconditions for the modality of veracity or realism or descriptive authenticity or representational veracity, relative to the declarative and interrogative attitudes;


b) the role of veracity, realism, descriptive authenticity, and representational veracity in e.g. self-presence and centered activation, esteem, morale, regularity of the life-world, culture-correlated configurations of faculties, objectification, the "why" of one's preoccupations, the possibility for sublime self-assertion?


2. It is fundamental in personhood that I am at risk of being deceived by other people, of being told fairy tales, of being cheated or defrauded. It is fundamental that I am at risk of being deluded.

(i) While dreaming, I impute some quality of objectivity to the dream-world. I make an attribution of realism to the dream. Then, upon awaking, I judge the attribution (in retrospect) to be a delusion.

(ii) Episodic memory is indistinguishable from a daydream except for one thing: in episodic memory I add the attribution that "this happened," an attribution of representational veracity or realism.[6] The attribution of the "this happened" may be accurate or not accurate.

(iii) The full repertory of conceptual thinking allows me to ask whether my imputation of the quality of objectivity to the waking-world might be a delusion.[7 ]In other words, is my present waking episode a hallucination?

(iv) Regarding my posture toward the future and the imperative of acting: sometimes I push forward confidently, unquestioningly. But I cannot always do so. I experience uncertainty, asking "what should I do?" Apprehension, expectation, anticipation. In more detail, we consider the future, the next moment, the future toward which urge and action are directed. Only when language is employed can there be avowed expectations and thereby a future conceived as such.[8] Our non-verbal enactment of futures in fantasy is not enough to constitute avowed expectation: the capacity for assertion must also be available. Moreover, recall that in Part II, (section)G, I defined personhood as a state-of-action under a condition of apprehension.

To review, our theme is that the primary constituent of the person-world will be taken as "language." But the constituent has to be focused much more rigorously. I will use the label proto-semantic consciousness-event. Let us recap the numbered examples.

(i) The attribution of realism in a dream (imputation of a quality of objectivity) is a proto-semantic consciousness-event.

(ii) The attribution of the "this happened" in episodic memory is a proto-semantic consciousness-event.

(iii) (Self-consciousness of) my imputation of objectivity to the waking-world is a proto-semantic consciousness-event.

(iv) My posture toward the future and the imperative of acting involves proto-semantic consciousness-events. E.g. apprehension requires an "attitude of assertion."

1994. Examples of proto-semantic consciousness-events are: a mental presentation non-verbally intended as representationally veracious; a non-verbal imputation of realism in lived experience.

Such events, we find, can be taken as central to personhood. (For example, apprehension toward the future is the crux of one definition of personhood.) In the present reflection, we must consider the interpenetration of proto-semantic consciousness-events with the whole person-world, if we are to seek a non-intellectual epistemology.


3. As I explained in "Personhood II" (1991 revision), H.3, knowing self-deception is a constituent which usually turns up throughout ordinary personhood.

a. I can suppress painful self-consciousness by frantically affirming what I doubt or disbelieve, or by repressing what I suspect.

b. Instead of acting upon objectivities to get what I want, I can withdraw to gratification in fantasy, or imaginary gratification.

c. I can becloud the imperative of implemented choice-making, in order to dull its risks and loneliness. (One of the most vivid risks is that of subsequent self-condemnation if my choice proves to be regrettable.)

One important and extreme procedure of knowing self-deception is to obtain gratification from mental play-acting. When a personally motivated representation of your identity is concerned, you indulge in a representation of yourself which you know is untrue to the present (and to past and future as well). (A Walter Mitty fantasy.) But also, a group of people can engage in mental play-acting with respect to impersonal doctrine. I call this a shared pretense or consenting sham. Culturally supplied doctrines seem pervasively to have the character of consenting shams.

But culturally mandated self-deception has an even more general role. (Cf. "Personhood II," F.4.) Inasmuch as ordinary personhood means facing objectivities, I strive for logico-perceptual coherence of the objectivities. But the ordinary personhood which internalizes the consensus reality never remotely achieves such coherence. Yet one typically does not judge oneself to be insane--i.e. one judges oneself to be sane. And one typically feels that there is an adequate degree of coherence of the objectivities.--Because the gibberish by which one manages in getting from one moment to the next (in the sense of momentary problem-solving) is culturally approved gibberish.

Knowing self-deception is a negative disclosure of caring about veracity and realism. The modalities of veracity and realism are presupposed when self-deception rebuffs veracity and realism.

Earlier, I spoke about the impossibility of always pushing forward confidently, unquestioningly. I spoke of experiencing uncertainty, of asking what I should do. Sometimes this modality arises at the highest life-long level of integration of the personal totality. The question becomes which thematic identity I should commit myself to.

In Part II, (section)E (gloating meretriciousness), I showed that negative disclosure of caring about veracity and realism can be inseparably involved in esteem and thematic identity. "I like myself because I am a liar, a cheat, and a fraud." "I'm glad that the tenets I avow publicly are false." Veracity, realism, descriptive authenticity, representational veracity have to exist so the persons in question can make a life out of trampling them.


4. Thus, to summarize, personhood intrinsically and pervasively involves a capacity to make attributions of veracity, realism, etc.; and a capacity to question veracity, realism, etc.--or just to question, in a moment in which one wants a realistic or veracious answer. When these capacities, attributions, attitudes are not articulated verbally, that is when my new designation of proto-semantic consciousness-event is most needed. My definitive assessment of why the earliest paradigms of personhood seemed inert is that they did not make these proto-semantic events central. Without imputations of objectivity, attributions of "that-happened," judgments of veracity or realism, wariness toward deceit and delusion, self-observed self-deception, and apprehension, expectation, anticipation, the person-world does not "arise" or subsist.

In short, inherent to personhood is the capacity to ask or doubt "Is this actual?" or "Does this exist?" in the sense of "Is this what it pretends to be?"

1994. The capacity to ask, does this presentation match the reality which I infer? (E.g. is this episodic memory veracious?)



1. Another widely-pervading constituent of the person-world is belief[9] in (the existence of) non-immediates. This constituent overlaps with proto-semantic consciousness-events. These two specifications of constituents allow me to look at the same subject-matter from different angles; and thereby to gain greater range or flexibility for my methods.

Belief in past and future times (distinctly separate from the present) appears at the proto-semantic level as the attributions of realism involved in acts of memory and expectation. At the semantic level, it appears as e.g. use of clocks, or as past events which are not accessible via "daydreams," but only via sentences about them.

Fundamental in personhood is the self's comportment to "objectivities." The same process of comportment can be described in different ways. Either -- I believe in the stability and persistence of a table (when I am not looking at it, etc.); or -- I impute a context of objectivity to a glimpse of a table (or visual-table apparition). Then, there is the identification of the table I see with the table I touch. Either -- I believe that the visual and tactile tables are the same; or -- I seek to make an objective table, a coherent table-object, by identifying the visual and tactile tables.

But the latter manner of expression does not permit the conclusion that this identification is a straightforward, unexceptionable stipulation. On the contrary: the usual "stipulations" cannot yield coherence at all moments.[10] It is more honest to say that the ordinary organization of the world is made of beliefs than of collations or stipulations. "Stipulation" connotes a discretionary (or voluntary and optional) rule-making action which is independent of all matters of belief. But rule-making is independent of belief only relative to the tenets of a specific doctrine. The notions that regularities can be discerned, that there is a language in which to formulate rules, and that there is an "I" to discern and to formulate, are in no way independent of beliefs. The activity of "making a rule to unite and unify a visual apparition with a tactile apparition" not only presupposes beliefs but indeed presupposes highly abstract beliefs. What do you mean, "unite" a sight with a touch "in thought" to make a "substantial integrality"?[11]

The entire attribution of consciousness to other people--specifically, "intentions of consciousness" such as purpose, planning, manipulation, duplicity, cordiality, resentment, vindictiveness--is a matter of beliefs. A closely related matter of belief is the meaningfulness of language, the medium of transmission of thought between myself and others. The conception of my "self" as a unitary personality demarcated from the environment and continuous through time (including sleep/waking alternation and unconsciousness) is a matter of beliefs. The expectations which guide my actions, my realized choices, are matters of belief (causal belief, in fact.).

The survey I have just made concerns the role of beliefs in informing the elemental life-world or person-world. That I have memory and expectation, that I conceive object-gestalts, that I attribute consciousness to other people, that the "I" of the moment conceives a sustained, continuous self, that I act in accord with cause-and-effect expectation: these are basic to the ordinary personal totality. Beyond this there are elaborate intellectual systems--myth, science, political-economic ideology--which it is superfluous to dwell on. One distinction between the "systems" and the elemental beliefs is that the systems are specialized, i.e. they are monopolies of small minorities in the community (in many societies).


2. The investigation of personhood leads me to notice a manner of expression which might otherwise have gone unremarked. "I do"; "I see"; "I believe." It is the self of the moment that is referred to here; but what is notable is that the totality-of-the-moment is verbalized as an "I" doing, seeing, feeling, thinking. All this verbal ego-demarcation is assuredly informed by belief.--But now there is a circle, for who is the believer? Belief is the ego as self-caused cause? (Also, "self" is a trans-personal abstraction in the foregoing. The fallacy of determining a particular with an abstraction which would have to have the particular as its inspiration.[12]) There is a zone more intimate than belief in the conventional sense, the zone in which belief is constituted as a believer's act.

The structure of our language requires that belief presupposes a self to espouse it (not a life-long self, just a self of the present). Espousal is willful thought. Yet the constitution of a self is a "matter of belief." Of course, I already noted the oddity that the personhood paradigm is expressed as "I this," "I that"--but that "self" confronting a "screen" of visual apparitions, grappling with contents, etc., is just what ordinary personhood is about.

The self of the moment or self of the present is turning out to be as much of an oddity as proto-semantic consciousness-events or beliefs in non-immediates. "I have the option of credulity or radical unbelief." But in a state of radical unbelief there is no ground for the I-concept. The self doesn't necessarily appear with actions; actions can be performed absent-mindedly. The self doesn't necessarily appear with sense-receptiveness: the room can get a little warmer or lighter without my being attentive to it. The moment where something is palpable as a self is the moment of willful thought. The self appears with thoughtful willfulness or attentiveness.

Proto-semantic consciousness-events, and beliefs, are closely interrelated with willful thought--which is the palpable self. To visualize a table is willful thought without a semantic event or belief. (I don't mean ideation of the meaning of the word "table"; I only mean visual ideation, and I"m mentioning "table" to make the example concrete, easier to follow.)

So what do we have? A palpable self sometimes manifested with beliefs and sometimes manifested without beliefs. But that's like saying that the palpable table is sometimes manifested as a sight, sometimes as a touch. The "substantial integrality" claimed for the palpable self is a matter of belief. But the self is unique among substantial integralities installed by belief, because the form of language, at least, requires the self as believer of the belief that installs the self. Let us conclude that the I-of-the-moment, or ego-consciousness, is a self-creating fiction(?).



1. Let me return to the question at the end of (section)A, and pass to the illumination to which this text is devoted. Ask the question "Is this what it pretends to be?" of the question "Is this what it pretends to be?"

1994. Is the question Is this what it pretends to be? what it pretends to be? Does the presentational question--this quasi-semantic presentation--signal an objectively real question?

If the question "Is this what it pretends to be?" is not what it pretends to be, then you cannot question whether it is what it pretends to be. It must be what it pretends to be for you to be able to ask whether it is what it pretends to be. The answer is an automatic "yes" if the question can be asked. Yet nothing has established that the question is asked (that the presentational words are objectively meaningful).

Let me heuristically invoke the mode of impersonal epistemology, hoping that this displacement/standard mode will help rather than confuse. No a posteriori evidence has been provided that semantic consciousness-events exist, i.e. that the apparitions which are "indicated" as semantic consciousness-events have the trans-experiential dimension required for a semantic consciousness-event. But the situation is more acute than this remark recognizes. "Some evidence that they exist is needed." Yes, some evidence that what I conventionally indicate as semantic events are what they pretend to be and not illusions. The conceptual thinking which supposedly is constituted of semantic consciousness-events has this "requirement of verification of realism" as its foremost inalienable norm. That there are semantic consciousness-events needs to be a contingent actuality so that it can be verified. But it can't be a contingent actuality. "That there are semantic consciousness-events" is too true. The question is settled and disposed of before anything (contingent) has been established or verified. We need to be wholly outside of the question "Is this what it pretends to be?"--and we can't get outside it.[13]


An instructive case appears in my "A Refutation of Arithmetic."[14] Consider

This sentence is in English, and the proof

(1) that it is in English is just the sentence

itself, which is in English.

Does that seem like permissible reasoning? Then consider

This sentence in in French, and the proof

(2) that it is in French is just the sentence

itself, which is in French.

No matter how much you are convinced that (2) expresses a delusion, there is nothing, proving that (2) expresses a delusion, which is not a hysteron proteron. (Here it is not permitted to "prove" assertions by citing sources of authority which are more derivative than what is to be proved. We don't prove the existence of God by looking it up in the Bible.) The form of (2) is automatic self-validation; and this form closes the circuit in such a way that testing (2) as a contingent actuality can discorroborate but not disconfirm.


The illumination which emerges from this meditation is that the whole realm of semantic consciousness-events takes the form of automatic self-validation and therefore is caught in a circuit of futility.

2. Viewed along the axis of semantic consciousness-events, personhood is in a bind of global self-cancellation, or impossibility, or irreparable conflict with the norms of its subsisting or establishment or installation.

I don't know if it will help, or make things worse, if I make the following heuristic statement. The foregoing is a demonstration that the person-world "does not exist." [Curiously and ironically, "Eastern mysticism" promised to provide the same illumination. But I deliver the promised "demonstration" here and now; while Eastern mysticism defers the demonstration to some inaccessible thought-escape from empirical consciousness.]

Let me continue heuristically, hoping that elaboration will help if the foregoing was not sufficient. The insight that personhood does not exist is not a privation--except for those who were incorrigibly credulous and addicted to "creedalism" in the first place. Again as a heuristic illustration (maybe a misleading one--I don't know), dreams don't disappear in consequence of what you decide about their realism. That is, there is a phase of experience which the inherited culture calls dreaming which does not disappear. But the whole of your experience may be profoundly reshaped in consequence of what you decide about dreams' realism.

The insight which I improperly express as "Personhood does not exist" gives us a means of destabilization more powerful than ever. Personhood theory (as I said in Part I of these "Critical Notes") began in a climate of capsulized existentialism and social organicism. The wish from that quarter was to escape subject-object estrangement, guaranteeing a familiar world, through simple faith in the inseparability of self and world. But that very goal undercut itself in a shockingly counter-intuitive way. We found that personhood theory's only use is as an undermining dynamic. This lesson has now been carried all the way. I have irrevocably diverged from anyone who wanted personhood theory to be a creed which could serve as a religion.

Having begun Part I of these "Critical Notes" only a month before Part IV in 1981, I posed the task as one of finding a framework which produces an organized, identified world without depersonalizing us. I pictured this problem as one whose solution might lie far in the future, and might require a whole series of theoretical pastiches and bluffs. But here I have already reached the end-result (for the incredulous modality). This result places the project of meta-technology in a different (and to me more plausible) light. The "framework" is not a creed. Rather, it is a "short-circuit" of the person-world. So the "ultimate knowledge" is not a dogma but an undermining illumination. The task of personalist meta-technology is now to spell out all the methods this undermining illumination opens to us. The job of II below is to begin to spell out how this approach is going to work.

A framework as called for in Part I of "Critical Notes"--which would be pseudo-consistent--might still be important at a certain level of credulity or stage of transformation or praxis.

As framed, this discussion is an exercise in astute hypocracy. A rigorous regard for levels of credulity would make the text too counter-intuitive for today's reader--although a rigorous reformulation could in the future be highly instructive.



1. The illumination is supported by consideration of beliefs in non-immediates as surveyed in I.B above. Let me ask,

Are non-immediates actual?


Are there non-immediates?


Do non-immediates exist?

As in I.C, the affirmative answers to these questions, the declarative correlates of the questions, are automatically self-validating. But now the automatic self-validation is indirect. It involves an intermediate moment. Non-immediates have to exist so the question regarding their existence can be meaningful.

That is why I began with the question of semantic consciousness-events, because it is at the center: it is the intersection of non-immediates with our reflection upon them.

Strictly, what is at issue is the realm of non-immediates, the non-immediate realm. My point doesn't turn on the fallacy of inferring existence from conceivability, because that fallacy pertains to a specific non-immediate, whereas what is at issue is the realm of non-immediates as such. Meanings would have to belong to this realm.

Nevertheless, the present avenue of discussion produces a useful subsidiary result. Non-immediates must be actual if we can reflect upon them. Yet nothing has established that we can reflect upon them, i.e. that our purported reflection upon them is what it pretends to be. Nothing has proved that the "thoughts" which are indicated as reflections upon non-immediates have the trans-immediate or trans-experiential dimension. That there are non-immediates needs to be a contingent actuality so that it can be validated. But it can't be a contingent actuality. The question is settled and disposed of before anything has been established or validated.

Non-immediates comprise a realm which as a whole is automatically self-validating and therefore is caught in a circuit of futility. Viewed along the axis of belief in non-immediates, personhood is in a bind of overall self-cancellation or impossibility.

Semantic consciousness-events and beliefs in non-immediates are self-validating mirages(?), yet that is epistemologically unacceptable. They are exposed as circuits of futility annulling the person-world. You have memories but you can't have them. You have expectations but you can't have them. You believe that the Empire State Building exists when you are not looking at it but you can't so believe. Coming back to the "I" of the moment, it is a self-creating fiction(?); it is caught in a circle of self-installation.[15] This circle perhaps annuls personhood along a different axis. You are a you even though evidently you can't be a you, even though the "you" is an impossible fiction. "I am stuck with myself and with being here even though it is impossible that I should be here." Now personhood is becoming dizzy. Now we should be able to read uncanny moments directly out of the person-world.

Here is, perhaps, a better heuristic illustration than the example of dreams which I gave in C.2. Consider "perceived space." It pretends to have depth in the visual mode, but there is no way to expose that depth in the visual mode palpably. I stand on the other side of the room from my desk and say "The chair is nearer me than the desk." But there is no way I can validate this visual impression, or even say what this visual impression means (as long as I remain within the static visual modality.). Like depth and depth-distance or away-distance in the visual field, personhood is an impression which cannot be substantiated--as it were.

Kant's Copernican revolution in philosophy was to announce that all the things we were supposed to believe but couldn't prove are "innately added by the mind." Very well. There remains only one qualification. These innate additions of the mind are impossibles.



These issues of the momentary "I" and of whether belief is possible at all constitute the intimate zone relative to which my very early philosophy failed to square the extremism of its conclusions with the explanations that prepared the way for those conclusions. That's why I preferred the "Is there language?" trap: it required no affirmative assertions about the possibility of the "I" as believer.

Referring to manuscripts published in Blueprint for a Higher Civilization, "Philosophy Proper," Chapter 5, makes an attempt to analyze believing, avowal, or espousal as a mental act. On rereading this chapter, I find that it largely anticipates the present discussion. I was clear from the beginning that beliefs could not be what they pretended to be in conventional thought, since if they were, then insofar as they genuinely referred to the non-immediate, they would have succeeded in getting outside the immediate. I claimed that I could analyze and explain the consciousness-event indicated as a belief while remaining within the immediate. But in so doing I would radically change the reference of the word 'belief': that reference would be radically flattened. I took as my paradigm those proto-beliefs which are effected through visual ideation, without especially involving the thinking of a sentence. When I believe that a table is behind my back, I visualize the table--a mental experience--and "comport" myself to this visualization as if it were a non-mental experience. This "comportment" is called the "attitude of assertion" (what I here call the attribution of "there-then" or of "this-happened"); and already in 1961 I explained it as a conscious self-deception experience. This is an ingenious attempt to explain how events pretending to be beliefs in non-immediates can arise entirely within the immediate. I missed only one thing: the presupposition of the "I."

Returning to the topic in Blueprint, "Philosophical Reflections," I asked: Why are we so skilled in the self-deceptive reflex that I find in language and belief? Is not the very ability to concoct an apparently significant, self-vitiating and self-deceiving structure a transcendent ability, one that points to something non-immediate? Commenting on this passage in "Reconsidering Empiricism," I.D, I said:

Given that language and belief have been discredited to the point that even the claim that one has language and beliefs cannot be defended, the remaining paradox consists in one's impression that one has language and beliefs. This paradox must go unexplained and unresolved.

Again, the "Is there language?" trap had the advantage of vitiating everything without having to take a position on the feasibility of locating the "I" or of various thought-gymnastics.

Instead of trying to second-guess my 1961 explanation, let me turn again to the example of dreaming. In a dream, I experience a complete, real-seeming world with all the depth of objectivity, past, future (including memory, expectation, apprehension), other people's intentions, causation, language, etc. In particular, I believe that the world around me, which has the depth of imputed objectivity, is actual. Then I awaken, and in the convention of modern culture, I conclude that the entire experience was a phantom, mirage, hallucination, delusion. What, then, was my belief-in-the-reality-of-the-world as it occurred within the phantom-world? (And I have awakened from dreams in dreams, too; what is the reality of a dream in a dream, a hallucination in a hallucination, a mirage in a mirage, a delusion in a delusion?) The problem of belief in waking life is very comparable. If I am afraid of jumping out of a window in a dream, is my dreamed-fear real, given that the entire world-realm toward which it thrusts is a phantom? The conventional wisdom is that a fear can be genuine though inaccurate, when the specific event feared is an improbable future. But do I have a fear--if the future-as-future, the entire zone where one or another specific event will have to occur, is a phantom with no objective standing? That is how modern culture judges a dream. It is not just that the "me" errs in specific beliefs; the "me" and the world-realm, the being-in-a-world, have no objective standing and are phantoms. To repeat, then, are fears, are hopes, are beliefs, are attributions of objectivity actual: if both the "me" and the entire world-realm toward which it thrusts have no objective standing and are phantoms? Is there any "me": if the personal totality is a phantom with no objective standing?

Even more refractory, if the world-realm is hallucination, delusion, fantasy, who is the fantasizer? There is the implication that hallucination, delusion, fantasy have to have a self as their subject, a self capable of thinking willfully.

1991. But while the self is in the mirage, there is no question of the self "holding" the mirage. Only when the error is being recovered introspectively does a self detach from it.



The foregoing discussion has offered an exposé to the effect that consciousness-events which involve signification, non-immediates, attributions of realism, "me"-centricity are impossible--in the sense that they cannot be what they pretend to be, or that their establishment is circular. It was pointed out that according to the norms of this culture, when I am dreaming, all my expectations, fears, attributions of intentions to other people, attributions of realism to the world go for nothing: I awaken, and the entire world-realm is dismissed as a phantom. Now I have no wish to claim that waking experience is a dream. I'm claiming that waking beliefs, attributions of realism and veracity, etc., when tested against their own standards of significance or substantiality, are found to be automatically self-validating and thereby empty. Thus, they are flattened to the status of "impressions" in the sense in which visual depth is an impression; and one can compare them to imputations of realism in a dream, which one subsequently decides to have been substantively empty. The difference between my exposé and the Eastern tenet that waking life is a dream is that I don't have to escape from waking consciousness to arrive at my exposé. The exposé is available within waking consciousness, to anyone who retraces the argument. Another important explanation is that I make no claim that being-in-a-world will "disappear" with the presentation of my exposé. Being-in-a-world remains, but it is now exposed as hopelessly paradoxical. Again, the situation is analogous to one's impression of visual depth: you usually suppose that you are seeing radial distances, yet reflection reminds you that the notion of "seeing radial distances" is nonsensical. Reaching once again for a heuristic comment, I say that the person-world is permeated with illusory dimensionalities.

  • Personhood theory was originated, also, as an analysis of cross-cultural obscurantism. It announced that there are palpable mutual deformations among e.g. factual perception and reason as counterposed to "social" role and esteem.

  • The new exposé has the effect of knocking these mutually deforming constituents flat--or what is the same thing, of exposing them as paradoxical rather than stable.

  • There are, then, two counter-acting levels of instability here for personalist destabilization. This is intricate and dizzying indeed. It would just extend the delusion to try to define the relation of these instabilities abstractly and analytically. Exploration through extreme praxis is the way to draw the conclusions. I proceed to that in II below.

    I was already moving toward the latest result in Part II of "Critical Notes," (section)E, when I expressed the attitude of gloating meretriciousness sarcastically in the sentence "The universe exists so I can be a rat." The person who prides himself on mendacious pragmatism has an inner cognitive stress, because he has nothing but his avowed lies to "prove the realities" to which he prostitutes himself. (The career scientists I keep meeting!) Instead of a world-realm held in place by autonomous facts or constraints, we are finding a world-realm constituted of vicious circles or question-beggings (to use the ill-conceived jargon of logic). Ordinary personhood is, so to speak, an atemporal, a priori generalization of "prostituting yourself to a reality which has only your prostituted sensibility to prove its reality." Further understanding is best gained from whatever concrete praxis we can develop.

    * * *


    The issues of I.E comprise a zone of acute dizziness. My present inclination is not to try to sort out this zone by abstract-dogmatic speculation. Rather, I wish to test this zone, to put it on trial, by making it the arena of an extreme meta-technology, by finding instrumental procedures in this zone which stretch it and expose it. I also test it by proclaiming extreme positions just to see if they are maintainable.

    I say, for example: it is impossible to fear jumping out of a window. Does that seem outrageous beyond all reason? What if I add, "in a dream"? Is the declaration absurd then? Is the fear of jumping out of a window in a dream an actual fear, or is it an event flatter than it pretends to be--an emotion enclosed together with its object in a world-realm that is entirely a phantom?[16]

    One may transfer Heidegger's famous analysis of the human condition into the dream-world. Is there any being-there or being-in-a-world in a dream-world? Does the "me" in a dream experience actual anxiety or boredom? Are authenticity and inauthenticity possible to the "me" in a dream?

    I hope that the above illustrations will prepare the way for what may seem to be pointless extremism, pointless paradox in the pages to follow. So far from engaging in sophistry, I am trying to raise meta-technology to the level of personalist destabilization. If the sections that follow are less conclusive than "Intersensory Discorrelation"[17] or "The Logic of Contradictions,"[18] that is because the new insight--that the personhood I am embroiled in all the time can't be there at all--is so extreme that I don't have its incisive applications yet.



    1. Theses on "It can't be what it pretends to be"

    [You may add "in a dream" to each of these theses if that will make them more plausible.]

    It is impossible to fear jumping out of a window.
    It is impossible to believe that my father died years ago.
    It is impossible to be an Ego. It is impossible to be-in-a-world.
    [It is impossible to be a personal object for another person.]
    It is impossible for people to show disrespect for me.
    It is impossible for another person to mislead me.
    It is impossible for me to attribute to another person purpose, planning, manipulativeness, duplicity, cordiality, resentment, or vindictiveness.
    Your reaction to the symbol [[infinity]] cannot be what it pretends to be.
    The judgment that "This piece of paper is not defaced with ink-stains, it has writing on it" cannot be made.
    It is impossible for me to impute meanings in thought to words I see written or to the talk I hear.
    It is impossible to make the distinction between fiction and chronicle.
    No assertion can be inconsistent (because no assertion is real).
    Being exposed to bad philosophy can't degrade my thought processes.

    2. Procedures to flatten proto-semantic consciousness-events

    Apprehend all memories as daydreams.

    Apprehend waking life as a dream so that no impersonal order of nature can be abstracted from it.

    Apprehend each experience as "singular" or intermediate-zone.[19]

    Apprehend all expectations or plans as mere daydreams with no attribution of "this-will-happen," no imputation of "probably there-then."

    [Objection: You can't do this in normal life because you have to act, and representations of the future and causal expectations are indispensable inputs to action. Only in no-mind action, or no-mind fulfillment of urge, can you do this; and it is very untypical, requiring a protected environment.

    Reply: No, no-mind action in this sense is the only possible kind.]

    3. Anomalous context of action

    A dream: the police start shooting at me. If I can get a few yards farther on the top of the hill I will be past the line of fire. I take a headlong dive and awaken in the middle of the dive to find myself diving forward on my mattress in the front room of my apartment. The action is carried on continuously through waking up and through the associated change of setting.

    A dream: I start to whistle but can only whistle a single high note. I half awaken but continue whistling, or trying to; the dream action continues into waking. But I cannot change pitch or whistle clearly because my mouth is taped. As I realize this, I awaken fully.

    Discussion: I have had experiences in which a headlong dive or an attempt to whistle continued from dream to waking: an action continued to a different state-of-being or reality-type. These experiences have the guise of causally continuous actions. I cannot bring them about at will.

    4. Procedures of identity synthesis

    The person I am in my dreams is much more limited in certain ways than I am in waking life. My waking preoccupations are totally absent from my dreams. Instead there is bland material about my early life which could apply to any child or teen-ager. This phenomenon provides the possibility of concocting an identity in which character is not constant. (Contrary to "Personhood II.") Intercut my character in dreams with my character in waking life.

    Regarding the activity of retrieving forgotten "objective" information about one's history and ancestry: old photos, letters, etc. Trying to integrate them into one's conscious identity. There may be a large incongruity between the present, and this supposedly objective information. You have forgotten the details supplied by the documents so completely that you wouldn't know the difference if the documents were forged. Then the activity of concocting a unified identity from present memory and the documents might as well be myth-making.

    5. Counter-meta-technology

    Logical paradox can't exist (because language is not objectively established). Thus the uncanniness of the waterfall perception (negative afterimage of motion) cannot be correlative to verbal paradox.

    Ascertaining a logically impossible world-state in a dream may be a matter of testing present experience against a veracious memory.

    The dream in which my father was alive and dead at the same time. I was sitting with my father; I had an experiential memory (like a daydream but conjoined to the attitude of assertion "this did happen") of my father's demise and burial. One component of the experiential inconsistency was present occurrence, while the other was memory-dependent.

    But such tests are impossible.

    Is it possible to see depth in the Necker cube, which after all is a flat drawing? (Yes, in the sense of an "impression" [which cannot be substantiated]?)


    6. What can self-insecurity teach about ontology?

    Let me continue with the point that the ("depth" in the) person-world is impossible. Presumably the strongest test of this point would be a state in which personhood was beside itself. One state in which personhood is acutely beside itself, not so much at the level of factual perception, but at the level of overall integration, is the state of self-insecurity or personal disorientation. I refer, in other words, to not knowing what one wants, what one is good for, where one is going--and to feeling a pervasive lack of assurance. The present discussion claims that this state of being beside oneself is impossible. That is to say, self-insecurity is palpable as an "impression"; but it can't be what it pretends to be.

    Of course, confidence, serenity, etc. would have to be equally impossible. But the terms "confidence," "serenity," etc. often refer to states in which being-beyond-oneself disappears from view and is not posed as an issue. I have to be more precise about the condition I'm interested. in. People who spew out continual bluff and misdirection, and people who absorb themselves with senseless tasks, don't pertain to this inquiry, nor do people who manifest self-confidence by being workaholics. Being beside oneself has to be self-conscious, has to be capable of self-observation, before there can be anything to inquire about.

    I am not so concerned with the person who is a misfit because of having a highly original, distinctive identity which has not yet matured. I am most concerned with lack of a direction from within, with undistinguished personal disorganization.

    "It is not possible to be self-insecure." What an outrageous thing to say. But we must scrutinize self-insecurity, which says many different things (I am miserable, I am untalented, I am ugly, I can't think straight, I can't get organized, I lack assurance, I don't know what I want, I don't know where I am going), to see if we can expose its "depth" or being-beside-oneself as illusory.


    I am not asserting that self-insecurity is a mirage for the purpose of curing self-insecurity. I am providing an extraordinary, cognitive challenge to the self-insecure person--asking the person to test his or her insecurity against the illumination which would collapse it. The self-insecure person is placed at a juncture to experience an astounding disillusionment or mirage-annulment.

    To repeat, this is not a cheap therapy which is telling people they don't have a problem in order to make the problem go away. Getting rid of self-insecurity in the sense of making people cheerful and well-adjusted is of no interest here at all. Indeed, eagerness to sweep away self-insecurity works against perceptive observation of it. (And just to keep the record straight, I note that there are aimless people who are self-satisfied. We call them beachcombers, vegetables, etc. I am not commending beachcombers.) This investigation is ontological, not pop-therapeutic. I want to get close to self-insecurity to look for conjuring tricks which support it. These tricks might be of interest in an extreme, personalist meta-technology.

    I may note that one facet of self-insecurity is self-judgment--the varieties of which were listed in "Personhood II." People judge themselves pragmatically, judge their level of fulfillment, judge their own sanity.[20]


    One difficulty in setting up this exercise is that the quality of information on self-insecurity--and what is needed is first-hand or introspective documentation--is extremely low. Self-insecurity is conceived as failure and is therefore an occasion of shame and censure. It is assumed to reduce your value to other people and also to render you defenseless to their hostility. Purposiveness is more valuable than irresolution. There is an imperative to be cheery and to be legitimately occupied.

    If I attribute self-insecurity to another person, to do so seems to verify a lot of conventional tenets. Self-insecurity is the other person's subjective collapse. There is a real world which goes on its way regardless of one person's subjective inadequacy. The subjective inadequacy only renders that one person less valuable, less well-defended.[21] By promising easy reassurance, you can capture the person as a pawn. In order to open up an avenue for my investigation, I must contradict this conventional wisdom with some iconoclastic pronouncements. Self-insecurity is not possible. The distinction between the subjective world of the insecure person and that of the secure person cannot be drawn.

    So do not let shame, guilt, and presumptions of unimportance inhibit confessions of self-insecurity. I want you to give yourself permission to be self-insecure, so that you can challenge it cognitively--as opposed to trying to escape to a state of self-confidence. (The ability to do this is one aptitude for meta-technology.) What I want is comparable to a very perceptive, complete report on a conjuring trick--a report that gives us a chance to pinpoint the move which fools us.