meditation 3: the origin of the I2

§0: situation

in the second meditation, after clarifying the terminology of reality types, I2 concluded that I2, this experiencer, am an experiencing reality. while this conclusion answered my first search-focusing question (what am I2?), it provoked another: 'what is the origin of the I2?'.

§1: the question of origin

§1.1: the attempt to bracket the question of structure

suppose I2 bracket the question of structure for the moment. suppose further that I2, inspired by Descartes, were to try to doubt or deny all existential or ontological realities, I2 would still need to account for my own origin. there are these possiblities that I2 will consider these in turn:

  1. that I2 am self-originating

  2. that other merely experiencing realities account for the origin of I2

  3. that the origin of the I2 requires at least one reality of type existential or type ontological --- a metaphenomenal reality.

§1.2: self-origination

I2 try to consider the possibility that I2 am self-originating; but, I2 can not comprehend how this could even be possible.

I2 am aware of belief systems that allege that there is a Supreme Being that is the self-causing, first cause of all subsequent causes and all their effects; and, I2 understand why someone speculating about the nature of a supposed Supreme Being might need to explain the origin of the first cause; but, I2 have to confess, I2 am unable to comprehend how any entity -- even a hypothetical Supreme Being with infinite capabilities -- could be self-originating. in any case, I2 have no evidence that I2 self-originated; and, I2 seriously doubt that the concept of self-origination can even be coherently applied to I2 whose only known ability is the ability to experience; consequently, I2 reject the possibility that I2 am self-originating.1

§1.3: like-origination

having rejected the possibility of self-origination, I2 will also reject the possibility that I2 could have been created by another experiencing reality not associated with any reality of another reality type. again, my only known ability is the ability to experience; so, there is no indication that some other I2 could create this I2. if I2 somehow found a way to explain how that happened, I2 would have to explain how the I2 that created this I2 was itself created. if some other I2 created that I2 and some other I2 created that I2 ... then I2 would have an infinite regress to explain. no, thank you; I2 will accept the hypothesis that I2 originate in/with/from an entity (or entities) of some other reality type(s).

the conclusion is inescapable ...

§1.4: another reality must be postulated

whatever accounts for the reality of I2 has at least this property: it is capable of originating this I2. by Axiom 3 of the logic of reality, that which accounts for the reality of I2 must itself be real; and, consequently, another reality must be postulated to account for the origin of I2; but, in rejecting self- and like-origination, I2 have ruled out experiencing realities. that leaves I2 no choice. I2 must postulate at least one existential or ontological reality to account for the origin of I2.

given that another reality must be postulated, it seems reasonable to formulate a hypothesis that might help quide the attempt to identify the reality or realities responsible for the origin of the I2.

§2: formulating a hypothesis to guide further inquiry

§2.1: a minimalist interpretation of progress thus far

I2 struggle to remain aware of just how little has been demonstrated thus far. I2 have concluded that at least one reality having a reality type other than experiencing must be postulated to account for the reality of the I2; but, while this conclusion is, perhaps, a strictly logical conclusion deriving from a reflexive self-awareness, it does not provide a clue as to the nature of that metaphenomenal reality.

§2.2: drawing inspiration from scientists

as I2 wonder how to formulate a useful hypothesis, I2 am inspired by the example of scientists who try to explain phenomena thru structure.

chemists and physicists explain many phenomena, the observable properties of matter, by reference to its structure; for example:

I2 conclude that I2 might reasonably hypothesize that the origin of the I2 is related to the structure of the I0.

§2.3: taking an inventory

clearly, there are two possible meta-phenomenal entities that might be invoked to explain the phenomenon of the I2:

clearly, we have concepts for each such metaphenomenal entity; and, in humanese, there are distinct pronouns to support first-person, self-referencing by advocates of various theories as to the origin of the I2; but, are there metaphenomenal realities corresponding to each of these pronouns?

I2 am tempted to begin an evaluation of the evidence that might bear upon this question; but, caution suggests that I2 first review the history of attempts to decide this question. it might be that the question has already been decided; or, it might be that the question is undecidable.

§3: the history of attempts to identify the originating reality

at this point, it seems that these meditations have intersected with an idiosyncratic review of the history of (mostly western) psychophilosophy that I2 began long before these meditations; and, which I2 will now cast into the subscripted pronouns of humanese english. this review of historical attempts to identify the metaphenomenal reality or realities that account for the origin of the I2 gradually led to a single conclusion, reluctantly accepted, which I2 present as a working conjecture:

§3.1: the indeterminability conjecture

Conjecture 1
the I2 is unable to determine the structure of the I0; and, therefore, is unable to determine the origin of the I2 --- given an inquiry limited to rational arguments based solely on:
  1. the recognition of self-verifying facts
  2. the analysis of the phenomenology of experience
  3. the acceptance of intuitively known truths

commentary on the indeterminability conjecture:

  1. the indeterminability conjecture is offered to focus the attention, during any review of the history of psychophilosophical inquiry, on finding refuting evidence.

  2. an inquiry limited in the manner described is confined to a zone of certainty in that it is based on a body of evidence that is certain and uses a method that, arguably, preserves that certainty.

  3. it is easy to understand that an inquiring skeptic might choose to limit a psychophilosophical inquiry to the zone of certainty; but, one may also choose to reject such a self-imposed limitation.

  4. the precise extent of the zone of certainty may vary over time; but, unless and until the I2 can determine the structure of the I0, the indeterminability conjecture divides psychophilosophy into two parts:

    1. absolute psychophilosophy - which reaches the conclusion that the structure of the I0 is [ I1 - I2 ? I3 ] - it consists of an instance of phenomenal awareness, its associated body and, possibly, an immaterial component.

    2. relative psychophilosophy - varieties of which vary the conclusion of absolute psychophilosophy as to the possibility of an immaterial component by assuming: )

      1. that there is no I3 - this is materialism, naturalism or physicalism; its structure diagram is [ I1 - I2 ]

      2. that there is an I3 of some sort - this is immaterialism, mentalism or spiritualism (in the kantian sense); its structure diagram is [ I1 - I2 - I3 ]


§3.2: the Descartes/Hume/Kant axis of thought

I2 will consider, very briefly, one example of a failed attempt to go beyond the indeterminability conjecture: the Descartes/Hume/Kant axis of thought.

§3.2.1: Descartes

Descartes, by means of the linguistic sleight of hand discussed in meditation 1 --- the confusion of existence and being --- conflated the I2 and the I3 in his first principle; and, he never completely overcame that error. arguably, he began this process; but, if so, it was cut short by his untimely death.

consequently, Descartes only considered the question of whether the I1 existed --- whether the experience of seeming to have a body was due to actually having a body. his arguments was convoluted, involving an attempt to prove that there was, in fact, a supreme being that corresponded to the thoughts about it that he found within himself; and, that this supreme being would never deceive Descartes into thinking that he had a physical body when he did not. unfortunately, Descartes' argument was challenged for being circular as soon as it was proposed and, in the nearly 400 years since he wrote, no one has answered these objections (except, of course, to his or her own satisfaction).

§3.2.2: Hume

Hume is most famous for concluding that there was no I3 based on two rather specious arguments:

  1. I2 do not know the origin of the idea of the I3; therefore, there is no I3.

  2. I2 have looked within and I2 do not perceive the I3; therefore, there is no I3.

the first is obviously absurd. we don't know the origin of our ideas about the I2; but, to conclude that there is no I2 would violate the first law of reality: nothing unreal is self-aware.

the second of these arguments is significant; but, only because Hume's extreme conclusion revealed a biased skepticism. he should have concluded only that the I3, if there is an I3, could not be 'seen' thru introspection; but, instead he concluded that there is no I3 at all. in addition, he failed to continue the argument to apply his skepticism toward materialistic interpretations of psychophilosophy. if he had noticed that he could not 'see' his brain either, he might have discovered the indeterminability conjecture.

in a way it is too bad that Hume lived before Einstein; as, he might have learned something from Einstein's remarkable restraint when drawing a conclusion from negative results. according to Martin Gardner, Einstein concluded only that the ether could not be detected; not, that there was no ether.

§3.2.3: Kant

Kant's conclusion (translated into humanese english) was the phenomenal I2 knew that there was a real noumenal Ix; for, every phenomenon was the appearance of some noumenal entity; but, that it is impossible for the I2 to determine the reality type of the Ix by simple self-consciousness reflection. materialism (the assumption that the noumenal entity generating the I2 is the Ix) and spiritualism (the assumption that the noumenal entity generating the I2 is the Ix) are equally unfounded; and, thus, the I2 has no way of knowing the reality type of the Ix.2

§3.2.4: evaluation of the Descartes/Hume/Kant axis of thought

the Descartes/Hume/Kant axis of thought has accumulated its mass thru nearly 400 years of commentary on its key insights or key delusions, as the case may be. consequently, I2 must step back, way back, from this accumulated mass to find a point of viewing-from, a perspective or a standpoint from which to see the 'big picture'.

Descartes opened with a claim that he could prove that he had discovered the true structure of the human individual: that the I0 consisted of three components or sets of properties deriving from two fundamental substances --- mind and matter.

Hume cast doubt on the claim that the I2 could detect the I3 and concluded that there was no I3. had Hume been correct in leaping to such an extreme conclusion he would have refuted the indeterminability conjecture because he would have been able to claim that he knew the structure of the human individual: that the I0 consisted of the I1 and the I2. since the reality of the I2 requires an originating reality, Hume would have been able to conclude that the I1 generates the I2.

Kant showed that Hume had gone too far; and, that one simply isn't able to determine the structure of the human individual by rational argumentation. Kant certainly captured the essence of the indeterminability conjecture, which is little more that restatement of his conclusion in a way that invites discussion of attempts to escape the 'kantian impasse' --- the inability of the I2 to determine the structure of the I0 and, thus, the origin of the I2 while remaining within the zone of certainty.

§3.3: my attempts to escape the impasse

§3.3.1: the phenomenology of the experience of seeming to have a body

each morning, as I2 reorient to this shared world, I2 notice that I2 am associated with I1, an apparently existing body, which I2 accept as the same I1 as apparently existed the day before despite knowing that I1 have changed in certain ways during the night. in some respects, I1 awaken refreshed and restored; but, in other respects, I1 awaken in need of maintenance; for example, if I1 did not have a beard, I1 would need a shave upon awakening.

I2 identify I1 as a body of the type I2 have learned to call a 'human body'; that is, a relatively hairless, primate body with two arms, two legs, a head and a torso which, presumably, contains the usual internal organs. this I1 has internal sensors and I2 have corresponding experiences. I2 have feelings of hunger that disappear when I1 eat. I2 have feelings of thirst that disappear when I1 drink. I2 usually feel tired after a day's activities; and, I2 usually feel refreshed afer allowing I1 to sleep.

I1 also seem to have external sensory organs thru which I2 become aware of my surroundings. I2 notice that I1 am a small part of a vast place that we call the world (or the universe, the physical universe, the multiverse or ... whatever). according to the doctors and scientists who have investigated this issue, I1 seem to be constructed out of the same 'stuff' that makes up the existential universe.

I1 seem to have limbs thru which I1 move this human individual around whenever I2 experience wanting to walk or run and by which I1 grasp objects that I2 wish to manipulate.

diligent phenomenologists could easily expand this description of what it is like to seemingly have a body; and, many have already done so; but, I2 experience wanting something more: metaphenomenal explanations for the body-related phenomena disclosed by such phenomenological descriptions. specifically, I2 would want to know whether the experience of seeming to have an existential body is due to actually having an existential body. for example, is the experience of sickness due to actually having an existential body that is under attack by viruses or other organisms, toxic chemicals or whatever? is the experience of seeming to perceive what I2 take to be external objects evidence that I2 experience perceiving or that I2 experience hallucinating?

thus, I2 seem to have reached a choice point. I2 could accept that the I1 am an existential object within a universe of such objects. or, I2 could accept that I1 (and the entire multiverse) am a construction of I3.

some philosophers, notably Descartes, reached a similar point and attempted to prove that the body does in fact exist; but, no such 'proof' has ever been universally accepted as valid. Descartes' argument was challenged for being circular as soon as it was proposed and, in the nearly 400 years since he wrote, no one has answered these objections (except, of course, to his or her own satisfaction).

I2 will admit that, when I2 reached this point in my meditations, I2 tried to prove, from experiential evidence available to I2, that I1 exist; and, that I2 failed in this attempt.

thus, I2 find myself in this situation: I2 accept as true a proposition (that I1 exist) for which I2 have no proof that I2 accept as valid.

from a strictly logical point of view, this is not really a problem. I2 simply acknowledge that I2 am assuming that I1 exist; I2 state the grounds which I2 believe reasonably justify making the assumption; and, then, I2 move on. I2 have already admitted that I2 do not aspire to the certainty of conclusions validly deduced from unassailable first principles; so, what is the problem? the problem is that I2 have actually embarked upon a philosophical knowledge quest. I2 am not just working out problems in a text book. so, when I2 say I2 accept as true that I1 exist, I2 am doing more than just making an assumption in the logical sense. I2 am also accepting in the psychological sense that I2 have made this unprovable point an assumption of my worldview.

it is shocking to have to admit this; but, there it is: if I2 did not accept that I1 exist, I2 would be stuck at this point trying to prove something about which I2 have no doubt. in the longer run, I2 must consider the implications of this event: at the core of every psychophilosophy there is an element of ... what? is it intuition, faith, choice, a priori knowledge or something else?

in the case at hand, it seems intuitively obvious that I2 may as true what I2 can not reasonable deny: that I1 exist.

§3.3.2: the phenomenology of paranatural experience

after considering reports of various paranatural experiences, I2 have concluded that, while individuals who consider such reports (and their own paranatural experiences, if any) will draw their own conclusions, there is little prospect their findings will ever become cumulative in the way that the findings of scientific research are cumulative. scientists of the present generation see further because they stand on the shoulders of their predecessors; but, those who consider reports of paranatural experiences stand on the ground as those who considered the golden verses of Pythagoras 2700 years ago; and, can only retrace the steps of their predecessors. despite reports spanning the millenia and stemming from disparate cultures, each inquirer can only draw a conclusion for himself or herself.

an I2 may draw a conclusion and move on; but, ultimately, the community of all seekers of truth --- a 'we' not an I2 --- can do no better than Jung who concluded "something happens; but, we don't know what".

it may well be that we can learn something more from further meditation on this curious inability to cumulate conclusions concerning paranatural experience; but, I2 will leave that task for another day.

§4: responding to the kantian impasse

clearly, acceptance of the indeterminability conjecture is one possible response to the kantian impasse; and, it is my response; but, of course, other responses are also possible:

  1. extending the impasse
  2. working harder to defeat the the indeterminability conjecture

§4.1: extending the impasse

one might respond to the kantian impasse with a stronger conjecture than the the indeterminability conjecture. one could speculate that the I2 could not determine the structure of the I0 or the origin of the I2 by any means whatsoever. the indeterminability conjecture merely states that this determination can't be made by the methods listed. as will be discussed, one might look for other methods by which to address the problem or for loopholes in the the indeterminability conjecture.

§4.2: working harder to defeat the the indeterminability conjecture

one might strive harder to draw a conclusion as to the structure of the I0 and the origin of the I2 by the methods listed in the indeterminability conjecture and without leaving the zone of certainty. given that no one tried harder than Descartes, who failed; it seems unlikely that this method will succeed.

§5: responding to the indeterminability conjecture

the indeterminability conjecture means only that absolute philosophy is unable to construct a complete answer to the question 'what am I0?'. one can only say that the human individual consists of an instance of phenomenal awareness; its associated primate body; and, possibly, an immaterial component.

it seems to this I2 that acceptance of the indeterminability conjecture is but a turning point en route to a greater understanding; and, that one must turn in some direction and take the next step. one could, however, simply walk away from the impasse and find another hobby either because an answer that is uncertain is not worth knowing or for some other reason. aside from giving up the quest, there are these options

  1. explore the impasse
  2. assume a way out of the impasse
  3. send out for more facts

and, of course, a mixed response might also be possible.

§5.1: exploring the impasse

acceptance of the kantian impasse does not necessarily evoke despair; although, of course, it might in some individuals. it might also lead to an appreciation of the mystery of phenomenal awareness.

§5.1.1: mysterianism

Colin McGinn states the mysterian position in a way that is anything but despairing:

I argue that the bond between the mind and the brain is a deep mystery. Moreover, it is an ultimate mystery, a mystery that human intelligence will never unravel. Consciousness indubitably exists, and it is connected to the brain in some intelligible way, but the nature of this connection necessarily eludes us. ... I am especially concerned to examine the reasons for this mystery. I am not just throwing my hands up in despair; I am interested in uncovering the deep reasons for our bafflement and examining the consequences of our constitutional ignorance. [The Mysterious Flame. p 5.]

§5.2: assume a way out of the impasse

provided that one is willing to give up the belief that the answer can be known with certainty, an acceptance of failure may begin a learning experience; or, it might point the way out of the impasse.

§5.2.1: learning from the failure to prove Euclid's fifth postulate

Euclid was never happy with his 5th postulate (that, given a line and a point not on that line, one and only one line could be drawn parallel to the given line); but, failed to prove it as a theorem resting on the first 4 postulates. for roughly 2,000 years there were sporadic attempts to derive the 5th postulate from the previous 4. all such attempts failed. finally, about a century ago, mathematicians embraced this failure. they discovered that by accepting an alternate 5th postulate an alternate geometry could be constructed every bit as consistent as euclidian geometry. consequently, it is now widely accepted that the 5th postulate simply can not be proven on the basis of the first four; and, mathematicians must now choose a 5th postulate if they want to go beyond the very limited number of theorems that can be proven within 'four-postulate' or 'absolute' geometry.

these might be called relative geometries in that the theorems provable within these systems are relative to the 5th postulate chosen.

similarly, one might construct a 'relative psychophilosophy' by postulating an answer to the question 'is there an I3?'. one might say 'no' and, thereby, construct some form of naturalism; or, one might say 'yes' and, thereby, create some of spiritualism or some form of dualism or whatever.

clearly, each of these postulates could be held as a hypothesis that is then subjected to testing; or, as an article of faith which is not. thus, emerging from absolute philosophy are both science and religion; and, unfortunately, scientism --- which I2 define as the ideology that results whenever an article of faith is allowed to masquerade as a hypothesis that is not subject to the testing normally required in science.

§5.3: send out for more facts

§5.3.1: acceptance of ignorance

not every attempt to go beyond the kantian impasse will be sound; but, most will involve a choice between beliefs about the structure of the human individual and the origin of the I2 --- beliefs which form the core of belief systems; and, which are accepted as true; but, which are not facts. it may be that one must have such core beliefs and a belief system or world view based thereon; but, one may still choose to contest issues on the basis of scholarship rather than gamesmanship. however, while arguments come and go and while some individuals may switch allegiences, the range of proposed answers may remain unchanged. for example, on the question whether the human individual is more than just a human body, the range of answers is:

  1. yes
  2. no
  3. I2 don't know

there is some room for embellishment, particularly with respect to the option 3. one might say 'I2 don't know (and I2 don't care)' or 'I2 don't know (yet)' or 'I2 don't know (and we're not ever going to know)' and so on; but, the range of options has remained unchanged for millenia; and, it has always been impossible to select a universally acceptable answer from among these choices. it may remain forever impossible to establish one answer as objectively, provably true and the others as objectively, provably false.

as I2 ponder the fact of present ignorance and the possibility that I2 may never acquire knowledge rather than belief as to the structure of the human individual, I2 reflect on the thought that it may remain forever impossible to establish one answer as objectively, provably true. one answer? I2 realize the implication of what I2 thought: there is only one answer that accurately describes the structure of the human individual. we may not be able to find it; but, I2 assume that any proposed answer must apply to all humans. any claim that the structure of some human individuals is different from that of others is outside the scope of psychophilosophy. it may be ideology or theology; but, it is not psychophilosophy.

in considering this principle as a defining characteristic of psychophilosophy, I2 glimpse an intriguing possibility: psychophilosophy has the potential to become a science rather than a philosophy!

science assumes that there is one and only one correct answer to a correctly posed question. philosophy is the realm in which competing answers are acceptable; and, indeed, it is sometimes preferable that there be no answer accepted as the one true answer. I2 suspect many would share the belief that it would be undesireable if one political philosophy was seen as holding the one true answer to society's problems.

as I2 think about this, I2 realize that there is another way in which psychophilosophy is like science. as previously mentioned, I2 do not strive for certainty; rather, I2 aim to improve upon current thinking. this implies accepting a risk of error. psychophilosophy could potentially transform itself into a self-correcting enterprise much like a science is self-correcting.

in any event, it is time to consider the possibility that scientific research might help determine the structure of the I0 and the origin of the I2

§6: preview of next meditation

clearly, the next step would be to consider the extent to which scientific research might help with these questions; but, will pause now and continue the inquiry in the next meditation, beyond absolute philosophy (under construction).


[1]: it is possible that some other, more skilled, philosopher will someday show that the I2 is, in fact, self-originating. I2 accept the risk that I2 will someday have to revise any position deriving from my rejectance of the possibility of self-origination. the consequences of my decision to accept this risk, while trivial by mundane standards, are philosophically catastrophic. even if I2 started from a position of certainty, as I2 believe that I2 did, I2 can no longer claim absolute certainty for any position taken after assuming this risk of error. I2 can live with that. after careful consideration of this point, I2 realize that I2 do not aspire to certainty or to finality. I2 merely aspire to greater insight. [under construction: a page devoted to the consequences of this surrender of certainty.] [Back]

[2]: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. New York: Doubleday: Anchor Books. p. 288; B: 418-422. (my translation into humanese english of the Muller translation into vernacular english of the german original). [Back]

[3]: how such a possibility can make sense can only be suggested by an analogy; and, I2 will borrow the holographic imagery first used in this regard by Michael Talbot. Suppose a piece of holographic film contains the encoded image of an apple. by 'encoded' I2 refer to the hologram that looks like an interference pattern and must be illuminated by a laser to retrieve the image; not the kind of hologram that shows its image in plain sight. if the encoded image holograph is cut in half and one of those halves is illuminated by a laser, it will show an image of the whole apple (although the image quality will be somewhat degraded). in some sense the piece contains the whole. see Talbot, Michael. The Holographic Universe. New York: HarperCollins. @16-17. [Back]

[4]: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. New York: Doubleday: Anchor Books. (Muller translation). 288; B: 418-422. [Back]