Tag Archives: consciousness

G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit 90-91

9 Jan

I understand it has been awhile since I have published anything here. I say this all the time when transitioning into new material to discuss, so I just experienced déjà vu. Or is it jamais vu? I think it’s déjà vu. I hope you all have had a great Christmas and New Years and got lots of kickass stuff from your loved ones, as well has you giving kickass stuff to them. I also hope you got at least a little schwasted (slang word, sorry, it is a combination of shitfaced and wasted). I also have more posts beyond this one. When I told u I would deliver another post before Christmas about Epicurean prudence my computer succumbed to viruses, key loggers, spyware, and malware and I had to wipe the hard drive and recover. I have been on a 3 week break from school and have had no internet as a result because I only have internet at school. That post will really, for sure, come now.

Moving on, I have acquired numerous books this break and have acquired G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. I have been reading each one and contemplating upon it. Starting with number 90 in the book, I would like to begin discussing each proposition of the book on this blog.

The test begins with A. Consciousness, 1. Sense Certainty: Beginning with 90, Hegel begins by saying that what we see at first is for sure true knowledge of reality and that we should not try to grasp what we see. Hegel is basically saying that the observed object seen is immediate knowledge of what is. What is phenomenologically observed is what is. This is true, in my opinion, because due to metaphysical modal realism what is seen is what is.  Modal realism being the metaphysical belief that all things observed at any time t is real in one way, world, or another, a dream for instance, is real if it can possibly appear to you. Modal realism (by David Lewis specifically) combats the epistemological objection that something seen is not metaphysically real in existence. Object= Immediate knowledge. Object seen= What is.

Hegel continues in the same proposition by saying that the object seen should be not grasped, altered, or comprehended: “Our approach to the object must be immediate and receptive” (Hegel). We should not add anything to the object as it appears to us. It is understood by Hegel that the object should only be taken in and registered without altering it or adding anything to it, but it can be argued whether or not grasping and comprehending the object actually alters the object or adds to it. I agree with Hegel that all objects should not be comprehended, grasped, altered, or added to. A person coming to the world not having seen anything before with no record of protocol statements will find any object (and note that the object is the word Hegel uses to refer to what we see) odd and in need of understanding of interpretation. This new person will jump to grasping or comprehending the newly seen objects because confusing things immediately call for grasping and comprehension. This grasping and comprehension of odd objects by a recordless subject can lead to distortion of the object seen, therefore I agree with Hegel that in any observation (specifically of phenomenological investigation) should not only  be without additions and alterations but without grasping or comprehension.  People having seen certain objects all their life may or may not look to grasping or comprehension in a later stage of life, but when they first saw these objects they did use grasping and comprehension and their life long perception is distorted and damaged. Therefore, due to all of this, no grasping or comprehension should ever be done to the object because at some point this will result in alterations and additions distorting the said object.

This knowledge of immediate sense certainty is described further in 91. Sense certainty is stated by Hegel as a ‘rich’ knowledge because of its ‘concrete content’. This sense certainty is rich in its expanses. Hegel also describes sense certainty to be knowledge  that is truest because it is pure when it is not grasped or comprehended and nothing is removed from the object as it is immediately presented to us. At the same time sense certainty is a poor, empty, and abstract truth. Hegel claims that it is poor and abstract because all it claims is that it is. It simply has an ontological claim to truth. Furthermore, Hegel describes consciousness, or one having consciousness, as representing one as another ‘I’ or ‘this’. The object is also simply another ‘this’. Sense certainty (or a subject ‘I’ being certain of an object ‘this’) occurs just because of how the object appears to us with immediate knowledge. Sense certainty does not come about, according to Hegel, by the ‘I’ or the ‘this’ having importance over one another. For example, it may be thought that the ‘this’ becomes known by the ‘I’ having control over the object field perceived.  A solipsist would believe that the ‘I’ has importance over the object and the object has a certain level of potentiality to be known or certain about. “ I, this particular I, am certain of this particular thing, not because I, qua consciousness, in knowing it have developed myself or thought about it in various ways; and also not because the thing of which I am certain, in virtue of a host of distinct qualities, would be in its owns elf a rich complex of connections, or related in various ways to other things. Neither of these has anything to do with the truth of sense certainty: here neither I nor the thing has the significance of a complex process of mediation; the ‘I’ does not have the significance  of a manifold imagining or thinking; nor does the ‘thing’ signify  something that has a host of qualities….” (Hegel). He continues to state that sense certainty is true because of how immediate knowledge in the object seen just simply is.  Consciousness of sense certainty just registers and does no work beyond that.

One thing I think can be argued in 91 is whether or not the ‘I’ of the subject and the ‘this’ of the object take importance over one another (is the ‘I’ equal to the ‘this’), and whether or not consciousness in sense certainty does any work beyond just recognizing ontological existence and truth in the object. Thinking that the ‘I’ is more significant than any ‘this’ would cause the belief that the certain ‘I’ grasps and comprehends the object perceived therefore distorting the object. An ‘I’ being superior to other subjects and objects puts reliance on the view of that ‘I’.  If one is attempting to observe things phenomenologically (I shall explain more about phenomenology soon) a polarization or bias cannot be put on the evaluation of observations. Hegel’s work here creates the idea that any observation should understand that all things are level with one another and that it all is equal in truth. It is all difficult to explain in this proposition,  as it is to a degree difficult to understand in the first place. Reading it gives you an idea how to phenomenologically investigate and evaluate observations.

Essentially 91 explains that all observations should be free of all bias, polarization, alterations, additions and all other distortion. It should simply be understood during phenomenological investigation and observation that this immediate knowledge of sense certainty just is. Another way to describe immediate knowledge of sense certainty is that it has no content, just the ontological statement of truth when it immediately appears to the subject.

I could continue discussing these matters of 90 and 91 in the Phenomenology of Spirit because of how it is difficult to explain and even understand. I urge you (especially if you are a lover of philosophy and a philosopher yourself) to read this book. To really understand what Hegel is saying about consciousness and sense knowledge when understood phenomenologically.

I will talk more about this epistemological theory of perception called phenomenology including philosophers of the subject like Husserl, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.

Thanks for the support as always. If I misconstrued something Hegel talked about in 90 or 91 in the Phenomenology of Spirit please let me know by Twitter (cosmosZ), by commenting below, or by email at cosmosuniversez@yahoo.com


Henri Bergson Mind-Energy: Consciousness

9 Aug

I haven’t read any Bergson in awhile, so if anything I say in this post is wrong or misinterpreted please say so (you know how).  Bergson’s essay book Mind-Energy begins with the Life and Consciousness essay where he discusses the qualifications and characteristics of consciousness and the beings that have it. Naturally, when I read something I generate my own opinion about it whether it is for or against the author’s stance. Bergson had his opinions about what consciousness included, and they coincide with the definition of the word consciousness, even though he chose not to formally state it.

I want to state the qualifications of consciousness as stated by Bergson before discussing consciousness as a whole. “In like manner, consciousness in man is unquestionably connected with the brain: but it by no means follows that a brain is indispensable to consciousness” (Bergson).  Bergson states that consciousness coincides with a being having a brain of some shape or sort. “The faculty of choosing, at first localized in the brain, extends gradually to the spinal cord, which then, probably, constructs somewhat fewer mechanisms and also mounts them with less precision” (Bergson).  In this part of the essay Bergson makes the distinct boundary between brainless automatons and conscious choosing beings.  “…consciousness retains the past and anticipates the future, it is probably because it is called on to make a choice”(Bergson).  The previous quote leads Bergson to his conclusion that consciousness is the bridged gap between the recognized past and future. Also, he concludes that consciousness coincides with life. Bergson talks a lot about the brain and its components including the spinal cord to further elaborate upon his discussions about consciousness. I however am mostly interested in the main propositions about life and consciousness.

Concerning the proposition that consciousness coincides with a brain being present, I agree with Bergson in the fact that it would be an extremely rare situation where consciousness would exist in a being without a brain. Bergson goes to talk about parts of the brain especially the spinal cord that further make it known that consciousness could probably not exist without the being’s body having a brain. A brain is one generally accepted and known characteristics of conscious beings.

When he states that the conscious being has choice, he compares beings that are automatons (predestined without choice) and conscious beings that have choice.  Consciousness yields free choice. Automatons have no brain, and have no choice in their life.

The conscious being (stated by Bergson) almost always  coincides with life. The conscious being with the brain, also has life. The conscious being  must always have life. Finally, the consciousness is the recognizance of the being (and memory of) of the past and the future. All of these, and aforesaid things together make up the conscious being.

Concerning the characteristics of consciousness that the conscious being always has a brain, and that the being has recognition and memory of the past and future, I think they both are always true. There can never be a conscious being without a brain, or without recognition and memory of the past and future.  I elaborate so much upon the characteristics of consciousness because of the fact that the conscious being always having life, and the consciousness being dormant at times are specific in their truths and falsities.

First, the conscious being always having life is true only to some extent. Yet there cannot be a conscious being without life. There can however be life without consciousness.  There are beings without consciousness, and there are beings with dormant (Bergson’s term) or as I like to call it absent consciousness.  For example, there are plants such as the hibiscus. They have life and parts that function as a brain of the plantae purpose. The hibiscus however is not conscious. All fungi, protista, and monista are also not conscious of their surroundings and do not have memory or recognition of the world around them. From the plant phylum down to the monista there are no conscious beings because of the lack of brain parts, and the lack of recognition and memory of the past and future. The animal kingdom does however have beings that have life, a sufficient brain, and therefore consciousness.

The consciousness of the animal kingdom is difficult to distinguish because of the fact that many animals have limited consciousness. A fish sees a worm in the lake around it, grabs on, and gets hooked painfully in the mouth. He gets pulled up to the dock while the human grabs him, takes the hook off and lets him loose. The fish, after 10 minutes, forgets that the previous hooking ever happened, sees another worm with a suspicious shiny thing, and grabs on again. The fish has limited consciousness because of the fact that the past was only memorized and recognized for 10 minutes. Many other animals have this limited consciousness because of how the past and future are only recognized for awhile before their brain blackboard is erased. As the intelligence of animals goes on up to dogs, cats, bears and other mammals, the consciousness is much less limited. A dog being owned by an abuser gets horribly abused by the owner and gets rescued by the ASPCA, and one year later given to a loving caring owner. The dog would still be cautious and a little scared of his or her new owners because of the fact that the dog remembers someone of the same look having done something terrible to him or her. The consciousness is larger as the complexity of the animal goes up. There is little rhyme or reason to distinguish the less limited between the more limited, but it is easy to understand. Then humans have limited, to dormant/absent, to full consciousness depending upon the situation.

First, people who have mental disorders that cause problems in perception therefore cause problems in the memory and recognition of past and future. For example, if you have seen 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler meets this girl (Drew Barrymore) at this breakfast cafe in Hawaii where she eats breakfast and makes houses out of her waffles every day. After dating her, he understands that she was in a car accident where a part of her brain was damaged making her memory become erased every night when she goes to bed. Her dad and brother give her the same issue of the newspaper every day along with doing other things to make her think it is still the same day. She  lives one day, goes to bed, gets  up and thinks it the same day. She reads the same newspaper issue, and does the same thing every day to protect her from being confused. This mental disorder (among many others) causes her to have a very limited consciousness because she only remembers the past, and cannot recognize or remember the continuation of time or the future.

Also, consciousness becomes absent (dormant) when we go to sleep or lose consciousness (from drugs/alcohol or injury). When we have dreams we do not know or understand time. When we get up we do not know how long we were sleeping and we cannot remember well the dreams we had. The consciousness leaves for a time while we are sleeping or passed out.

Finally, I think that consciousness forever departs from us in the instance that we become ‘vegetables’ or people too sick to remain conscious, feed ourselves, or do other otherwise daily things. We cannot be conscious in this state because we cannot understand past and future nor can we have true recognition and memory of them.

I did this writing just because I understood and liked Bergson’s essay on life and consciousness and felt it necessary to state the characteristics of conscious beings to make the distinction.

Thanks for the support.

@Reply on Twitter, comment below, or email at cosmosuniversez@yahoo.com for comments on if I stated anything wrong, or if you have any other opinions.