By Prometheus Pyro
What kind of world do we live in? Is there a reality at all? Is there more than one reality? What is the relationship of consciousness to existence? Is the universe created, controlled, or altered by any form of consciousness? Or is the function of consciousness merely observation?
These are some of the broadest questions that can be asked encompassing some of the widest abstractions. What they have in common is their scope and subject. They are questions about the basic nature of reality, what is true of all things, of existence as such. They are not questions about what does exist but about what it means, if anything, to exist. They are questions about what reality as such is and what it is like. The subject they belong to, the concept which refers to questions of this level of abstraction and their answers, is Metaphysics.
How do we begin to answer such questions? We begin at the beginning. What we can say about everything that exists is simple: It exists. Regardless of what it is, there is something. This fact underlies everything else, including any attempt to deny it (as you and your assertion must exist for you to make any assertion).
That something exists implies a couple of things. One such implication is that anything which exists has a specific identity. For something to have no qualities is for it to not be. A thing with no attributes cannot even be imagined because such a thing would be nothing. To have any quality is to have it to a particular degree. To have an attribute to no particular degree is to not have it. To be something is to be some-thing. The sum of its qualities is what a thing is, it is its identity. To exist is to have an identity. Identity and exists are then the same fact looked at from different perspectives. To deny identity is to allow for the existence of contradictions, to affirm that something can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect. To deny identity, also, relies on the very idea you are attempting to deny. Every word you use, every concept you evoke, and everything referred to by them has an identity, or everything you assert is meaningless as it refers to nothing.
The other implication of existence is your own consciousness. That you can identify these facts implies that you exist and possess a mind. To make observations without being conscious would be a contradiction. Here again we see the validation of a fact by the inability to deny it without relying on it. To utter the idea that you don’t have a mind (and thus have no ideas) requires a mind (and ideas).
The name of the method of validation used for these three observations is Affirmation Through Denial. It is the mark of an Axiom (or Axiomatic Concept) to be necessarily assumed by any attempt to refute it. These three facts are the axioms of philosophy and, as such, the foundation of all knowledge. An idea either is consistent with them or is necessarily refuted by them because they are necessarily true. They are both the literal evidence of themselves and implied by all other things.
What is the relationship of consciousness to existence? Given the axioms we’ve just examined we can begin to apply them to some of our earlier questions. We’ve answered the second and third in the process, and have begun answering the first in doing so. If something exists then there is an existence, as existence is everything which exists. And if existence is everything which exists there is necessarily only one. So, is the universe created, controlled, or altered by any form of consciousness? Or is the function of consciousness merely observation? To put it another way: Does existence have primacy over consciousness or does consciousness have primacy over existence?
Solipsism is a very blatant instance of the primacy of consciousness (the idea that consciousness comes before and creates, or can directly alter reality). Solipsism is the belief that the only thing which exists is the mind of the subject (your mind). All objects of consciousness are allegedly illusions within the mind of the thinker. looking at the implication for this extreme example will illustrate what can be said of all variants of the primacy of consciousness.
Solipsism, of course, assumes that something exists, as every idea must. Namely it assumes the existence of our thinker, which is all we will need. Existence implies identity, to be is to be something specific. Identity implies causality, as the application of identity to actions.
This theory violates causality in that complexity requires development from simpler parts. A complex entity or phenomenon popping into existence from nothing violates causality. While anything popping into existence from nothing violates causality, complexity has to emerge from the less complex as it is composed of the less complex. Mental activity is activity, it is action. And where there is action there is necessarily an entity acting. For such complex processes to be possible a complex entity must cause them, it must be engaged in them. A mind (the sum of mental processes and attributes) comes from a brain. For something as complex as a brain to develop (regardless of what it is made of), it must have simpler parts. Parts which prior to forming a brain were not conscious. So something non-conscious must exist before consciousness can emerge, if anything exists at all.
Even a single consciousness implies an antecedent non-conscious reality in which, and from which, it developed. It implies this because anything implies existence, which through identity implies causality. A single consciousness cannot be the source of reality or exist without reality because it is necessarily the product of it, by virtue of being and acting.
Further, for there to be content of consciousness there must first be an external reality from which the elements of that content is acquired. To have content of consciousness without acquiring it is also a violation of causality. Even the most unique and outrageous products of imagination are the integrations of things perceived or their parts. Your dreams do not include colors you have not seen or sensations you have not experienced. All mental processes are processes of identification and integration, two broad kinds of action. Actions being actions of entities (causality): To identify nothing is meaningless. To integrate what has not been identified or experienced is meaningless.
To integrate nothing into something is nonsense. To form an entire reality (mental or external) from nothing, with no source of elements or parts, is nonsense. To accept integration of elements of experience but deny the existence of experience is insanity.
So much for solipsism. This applies also to any other form of consciousness as the source of reality. The thinker involved need not be you or even human for this to apply. This means that no God created existence as much as it means that existence is not a product of your own mind. This also takes care of any theory of a social group, or all people as a group and their “collective conscious” or “collective unconscious,” producing reality. The number of minds involved in producing reality does not alter these facts or make it any less impossible.
We have a reality which necessarily existed before any mind came along and which would continue to exist if all minds went out of existence. This all affirms the primacy of existence and the role of the mind as observer. Consciousness does not alter external reality, let alone create it. Its function is only to identify.