meditation 1: Starting the PsychoPhiloSophical Journey

§0: situation: taking stock

thus far, my findings (in order of appearance) are:

  1. an awareness of (learned) ignorance: knowing that I2 am doesn't tell me what I2 am.
  2. an assertion that I2 know is true: I2 am.
  3. a fact that I2 accept as undeniably true: I2 experience.
  4. a privileged identification: I2 am an experiencer.

moreover, in accepting each of these findings as true, I2 know them; and, in saying that I2 have this knowledge, I2 know that I2 am capable of knowing; and, that is additional knowledge or an additonal finding.

§1: inquiry thru commentary: an organizational note

in some sense, a psychophilosophical inquiry advances thru renewed commentary on its own starting point; but, identifying a true advance is a problematic activity; for, philosophy accumulates a history even as it empties itself of its flaws.

I2 respond to this dilemma by dividing the results of my reflections into foreground and background commentary. foreground commentary is that which 'advances' the inquiry; and, therefore, will be presented in the sequence in these meditations. background commentary is that which clarifies the context of the inquiry against which it takes place

§2: commentary on the findings:

the first finding combines and connects old positive knowledge (that I2 am) with new negative knowledge (I2 don't know what i am), an awareness of not knowing. while learning to appreciate the novelty of a learned ignorance, I2 can't help noticing the way it highlights the second finding contained within it. this old knowlege seems to have hibernated within my worldview until drawn out into the open --- as if the meditation had washed away that which obscured this truth from view.

the fourth finding derives from the third; although, not immediately; and, contains the second --- thus, unifying my initial set of findings.

  1. I2 experience
  2. I2 am the referent of 'I2' whenever I2 say 'I2 experience'
  3. ∴ I2 am this which experiences
  4. I2 define this 'which experiences' as this 'experiencer'
  5. ∴ I2 am this experiencer.
  6. ∴ I2, this experiencer, am.
  7. ∴ I2 am.
  8. I2 experience; therefore, I2 am.

the transition from the conclusion at step 5 (ie. finding 4) to the conclusion at step 6 deserves extended comment because rearranging the words appears to have had the effect of changing 'am' from a linking verb to an intransitive verb.

grammatically, an intransitive verb takes a complement rather than an object. a complement is a word or phrase that completes the sentence by saying something about the subject (a subject complement) or about the the verb (a verb complement). examples:

1. I2 am this experiencer - 'this experiencer' is a subject complement because it describes the subject.

2. I2 am here - 'here' is a verb complement because it is an adverb modifying or completing the verb.

in step 6, the phrase 'this experiencer' has been converted from a subject complement to an appositive phrase. (an appositive is 'a word or phrase that precedes or follows a noun or pronoun and functions as an explanatory equivalent'. (source:

since there does not appear to be any difference in what is being said about the subject, I2, in step 5 and step 6, the question becomes what is the meaning of 'I2 am?'.

some might say that 'am' must have a complement because it can only function as a linking verb; and, thus, 'I2 am' is an incomplete sentence unless the complement can be implied or understood. in particular cases this might be possible. if you ask 'who is there?' and I2 answer 'I2 am' we would both accept 'here' as the implied verb complement. implied subject complements can easily be generated in the question answer format; for example: who is saying that 'am' can function as an intransitive verb? I2 am [saying that 'am' can function as an intransitive verb].

in any case, I2 am no closer to understanding the meaning of 'I2 am' when I2 use 'am' as an intransitive verb because I2 do not yet know what I2 assert of I2 when I2 say 'I2 am'.

consider 'I1 exist'. 'I1 exist' asserts that I1 exist because it asserts existence of I1.

similarly, although these may sound more awkward to a speaker of vernacular english, 'I3 be' asserts that I3 be because it asserts being of I3. 'I2 experience' asserts that I2 experience because it asserts 'experiencing' of I2.

I2 should be able to say 'I2 am' asserts that I2 am because it asserts ????? of I2.

this is not merely a case of a missing word; for, I2 can (and, hereby, do) remedy that trifling problem by coining the word 'amness' and defining it it mean that which I2 assert of I2 whenever I2 say 'I2 am'. the real problem remains: I2 still don't know what 'amness' means.

just formulating this thought in my mind snaps me out of my meditative state. I2 am stunned; for, despite accepting 'I2 am' as a self-verifying truth and/or as the conclusion of logical reasoning, it seems that ... I2 don't know what it means!

§3: uncertainty as to the meaning of 'amness'

I2 am again startled by the onset of learned ignorance. how is it possible for me to know that I2 am but not know what I2 mean when I2 say 'I2 am'?

I2 might hypothesize that 'I2 am' = 'I2 exist' and/or that 'amness' = 'existence' (where '=' means 'means the same as'). if it can be shown that 'amness' != 'existence'; then, this hypothesis would be proven false.

similarly, I2 might hypothesize that 'amness' = 'being'. if it can be shown that 'amness' != 'being'; then, this hypothesis would be proven false.

clearly, the next task is to examine the useage of 'existence', 'being' and cognate terms to determine whether these words assert anything more or less than 'amness'.

§4: the meanings of 'existence' and 'being'

current specifications for 'existence' and 'being' are problematic because these words are sometimes, but not always, considered to be synonyms.

in some cases, 'existence' and 'being' can be used interchangeably with no confusion or loss of meaning. for example,in the Third Meditation, Descartes alludes to God by saying:

I do not escape the force of these arguments by supposing that I have always existed as I do now, as if it followed from this that there was not need to look for any author of my existence.[CSM II, 33]

In the Sixth Meditation, Descartes writes:

I am beginning to achieve a better knowledge of myself and the author of my being. [CSM II, 54]

Descartes is not claiming that there are two separate aspects of his reality, existence and being, both of which were 'authored' by God. He's just using 'existence' and 'being' interchangeably.

however, when one is actually trying to discuss different 'reality types', confusion can develop because 'existence' and 'being' are still used interchangeably. I2 will try to focus attention on this problem thru a series of thought experiments.

§4.1: thought experiment: soapbox 1

suppose I2 want to say that the human individual is more than a human body and that this something more will survive the death of its associated body. I2 could set up a soapbox on any convenient street corner and harangue the crowd in HE, first person triplicate, by saying either:

I2 am and I3 will continue to be long after I1 cease to be.


I2 am and I3 will continue to exist long after I1 cease to exist.

surprisingly, both of these statements seem to convey the same meaning --- a meaning, I2 suspect, that virtually all of my audience will understand even if they disagree with me. in each case, I2 am asserting that some part of the human individual, the I3, will survive the death of its associated body, the I1. I2 do this by mapping the contrast between surviving and dying onto two uses of a single word, 'be' in the first statement and 'exist' in the second.

this contrast implicitly defines two distinct reality 'types': the reality type that I1 have and the (alleged) reality type that I3 (allegedly) have because I3 (allegedly) survive the death of my associated body. while it might seem obvious that we need a different word for each alleged reality type, this thought experiment demonstrates that, for some simple statements considered in isolation, it is possible to use the same word for both reality types. this practice gives the resulting statements a mildly paradoxical flavor (those listening in VE will hear 'I will continue to exist after I cease to exist') that might even seem desireable.

however, once we get into the realm of concrete philosophical discourse, we stumble over this ambiguity. For example, early in the Second Meditation, Descartes writes:

I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind. [CSM II, 17]

the crucial statement, 'I am, I exist', is effectively framed by the meta-statment, 'this proposition'. this implies that 'I am' and 'I exist' express the same proposition in slightly different language. thus, it is reasonable to infer that, for Descartes, 'I am' = 'I exist'. but, Descartes also writes:

these general kinds of things -- eyes, head, hands and the body as a whole -- are things which are not imaginary but are real and exist. [CSM II, 13]


so from what has been said it must be concluded that God neccessarily exists. [CSM II, 31]

a few people might be confused by these statements; but, not many. clearly, Descartes is not saying that God is a physical object or that hands are metaphysical beings. however, when he writes 'I exist' is he saying 'I have the same reality type that my hands have' or 'I have the same reality type that God has'? a modern materialistic/naturalistic philosopher of consciousness would accept the former claim; but, it's quite clear that Descartes accepted the latter claim. In the Fourth Meditation he writes:

I realize that I am, as it were, something intermediate between God and nothingness, or between supreme being and non-being ... [CSM II, 38]

I2 am not yet in a position to evaluate these claims and the resulting philosophies on their own merits. at the moment, I2 merely deny that either assumption is self-evidently true. consequently, if 'I2 am' asserts a claim that is self-evidently true, then 'amness' must mean something other than what is meant by 'existence' or 'being'. hence, the equation under consideration is false; and, instead, I2 accept:

'I2 am' != 'I2 exist' && 'I2 am' != 'I2 be'


'amness' != 'existence' && 'amness' != 'being'

§4.2: commentary on thought experiment 1

am I2 any closer to understanding what I2 mean when I2 say 'I2 am'?

as I2 consider this question in the light of thought experiment 1, I2 experience vaguely negative feelings while thinking that I2 was actually further from understanding what I2 mean when I2 say 'I2 am'. I2 was hoping to find that 'anmess' = 'existence' || 'amness' = 'being' because I2 wanted to attribute a reality type to I2. as I2 wondered whether wanting to know my reality type was some sort of personality quirk akin to being insufficiently 'tough-minded', I2 am struck by the realization that thought experiment 1 has amplified my awareness of ignorance: not only do I2 not know what I2 am, I2 do not even know what my reality type is.

it is not merely the case that I2 do not know the meaning of 'amness'. in the context of thought experiment 1, I2 don't know whether I2 have the reality type that my body has or the reality type allegedly possessed by that which allegedly survives the death of its body.

and yet, I2 know that I2 am ... real in some sense. by 'in some sense' I2 seem to mean 'having some reality type' although I2 don't know what type that is at this time.

that, then, is the meaning I2 give to 'amness'. 'amness' asserts of I2 that I2 am real (in some sense) and that I2 have a reality type without specifying what that reality type is.

in contrast to this definition of 'amness', thought experiment 1 suggests that 'existence' and 'being' assert reality and attribute a specific reality type to that which is said to exist or to be.

moreover, it is clear that there are two different meanings intended. consequently:

'existence' != 'being'

but, which word alleges which reality type?

§4.3: thought experiment: soapbox 2

the situation is the same as for the soapbox 1 thought experiment except that I2 say either:

I2 am and I3 will continue to be long after I1 cease to exist.


I2 am and I3 will continue to exist long after I1 cease to be.

I2 suspect that most listeners would understand either statement even if they disagreed with what I2 said. in each case I2 am asserting that something, the I3, survives the death of its body, the I1. I2 am mapping the contrast between that which survives and that which dies onto two sets of words: 'existence' and its cognate terms and 'being' and its cognate terms; but, which word goes with which concept?

I2 may be a philosopher; but, I2 see no reason to do unnecessary work. for the sake of clarity and, above all, brevity, I2 will avoid analyzing the linguistic history of 'existence', 'being' and related words; for, that seems like an infinite task unlikely to produce a univerally acceptable answer --- it hasn't yet, and philosophers have been at it since before philosophy began. instead, I2 will simply specify this useage:

existential reality - 'existence' and cognate terms refer, in the collective sense, to existential reality, the reality of mass-energy/space-time; or, in the particular sense, to particular existential realities, anything made of matter, energy, space, time or any combination thereof. hence, the human body is an existing thing or entity.

ontological reality - 'being' and cognate terms refer, in the collective sense, to an alleged ontological reality, an alleged fundamental reality other than the existential reality, a realm of being (for example, spirit or mind or something immaterial); or, in the particular sense, to particular beings or entities of this reality type. if there is a component of the human individual that survives the death of its body, it might be said that such a component is being (or is a being or has being).

the use of 'allege' in the specification of the useage of 'being' requires some comment. I2 am merely specifying how certain words will be used in humanese english. I2 am not claiming to know, at this point in the knowledge quest, either that there is or that there is not an ontological component of the human individual. I2 am merely specifying the vocabulary with which such an inquiry or debate can be conducted with greater clarity than is possible in vernacular english.1

§5: continuity

in the next meditation I2 will consider the reality type of the experiencer.

[1]: the absence of an analogous use of 'allege' in the specification of the useage of 'existence' also requires some comment. at this point in the knowledge quest, I2 might claim (if I2 were a hard-core skeptic) that I2 am not yet certain that I2 perceive rather than hallucinate this existential reality (the physical universe in general or my own body in particular). technically this is true; but, I2 will address this point shortly; and, I2 did not want to have to revise the specification for the useage of 'existence' so soon after proposing it. [Back]