A Deuteronomy on
Mind and Consciousness,
Δευτερονόμιον περὶ
Νοῦ καὶ Συναισθήσεως

Postquam homines sibi persuaserunt, omnia quae fiunt propter ipsos fieri; id in unaquaque re praecipuum iudicare debuerunt quod ipsis utilissimum, et illa omnia praestantissima aestimare, a quibus optime afficiebantur. Unde has formare debuerunt notiones, quibus rerum naturas explicarent scilicet bonum, malum, ordinem, confusionem, calidum, frigidum, pulchritudinem et deformitatem etc.; et quia se liberos existimant, inde hae notiones ortae sunt, scilicent laus et vituperium, peccatum et meritum.

After men persuaded themselves, that everything which is created is created for their sake, they were bound to consider as the chief quality in everything that which is most useful to themselves, and to account those things the best of all which have the most beneficial effect on mankind. Further, they were bound to form abstract notions for the explanation of the nature of things, such as goodness, badness, order, confusion, warmth, cold, beauty, deformity, and so on; and from the belief that they are free agents arose the further notions praise and blame, sin and merit.

Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics, Part I: "Concerning God," Appendix, translated by R.H.M. Elwes (1883), color added.

καὶ εἴτε μηδεμία αἴσθησίς ἐστιν, ἀλλ᾽ οἷον ὕπνος, ἐπειδάν τις καθεύδων μηδ᾽ ὄναρ μηδὲν ὁρᾷ, θαυμάσιον κέρδος ἂν εἴη ὁ θάνατος... εἰ οὖν τοιοῦτον ὁ θάνατός ἐστιν, κέρδος ἔγωγε λέγω· καὶ γὰρ οὐδὲν πλείων ὁ πᾶς χρόνος φαίνεται οὕτω δὴ εἶναι ἢ μία νύξ.

And if it [i.e. death] is complete lack of perception, like a sleep in which the sleeper beholds no dream, death would be a wonderful advantage... If death is like this, I say it is an advantage: for all time would thus appear to be no more than a single night.

Socrates, Plato's Apology of Socrates, 40c-e, Plato, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus [translated by Harold North Fowler, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1914, pp.140-143]; translation modified, with comparison to translation by G.M.A. Grube, Plato, Five Dialogues, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo [Hackett Publishing Company, 1981, p.43].

5.631 Das denkende, vorstellende, Subjekt gibt es nicht.

[The thinking, representing subject does not exist.]

5.631 There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains ideas.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921/22, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961, 1972, Translation by D.F. Pears & B.F. McGuinness, pp.116-117, more literal translation in brackets.

Die Welt ist meine Vorstellung.
The world is my representation.

Arthur Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Band 1, §1 [Reclam, 1987, p.3], The World as Will and Representation, Volume I [Dover Publications, 1966, E.F.J. Payne translation, p.3].

Bonum et ens sunt idem secundum rem.
The Good and Being are really the same thing.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 5, Article 1.

μὴ σκοπούντων ἡμῶν τὰ βλεπόμενα, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὴ βλεπόμενα· τὰ γὰρ βλεπόμενα πρόσκαιρα, τὰ δὲ μὴ βλεπόμενα αἰώνια.

Non contemplantibus nobis quae videntur, sed quae non videntur; quae enim videntur temporalia sunt, quae autem non videntur aeterna sunt.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

In these pages, I have reconsidered a couple of matters in terms of a "Deuteronomy," Δευτερονόμιον, Latin Deuteronomium, i.e. a "Repetition of the Law." I have done this with the system of Kant-Friesian metaphysics and with Kant's theory of geometry. Here I want to focus on mind and consciousness, which otherwise have been treated in other metaphysical essays, such as the ones on the soul and on cause and purpose.
Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer,
"ὁ Τηλεπατητικὸς above the Sea of Fog," 1818, by Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840),
Hamburger Kunsthalle

The existence that each of us possesses, as individuals, is a bubble of consciousness. We know that this exists individually because every day it winks out in sleep, and we come to consider that in death it may well wink out permanently. This is, alternatively, frightening and reassuring. Frightening because it means that we may be simply erased from existence; reassuring, perhaps, because we will not be around to worry about it, and also because we may have grown weary of the cares, crimes, miseries, and follies of the world, and we won't need to worry about them either. As Socrates vividly says above, all of eternity would then be like no more than a single night. Of course, Hamlet then worries, "To sleep -- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!"

The Greek terminology here is of interest. The Greeks wrote a lot about νοῦς, "mind," but more in terms of epistemology than of metaphysics. In Aristotle we see νοῦς as a way of knowing first principles, but we don't see it as an ontological entity, unless that is Aristotle's God, "thought thinking itself," νόησις νοήσεως, "thinking of thinking" [Metaphysics, XII, ix, 35]. Similarly, Plato's "Divided Line," sorting the levels of knowledge, puts νόησις at the top.

Other treatments are lofty but vague. Indeed, Plato has Socrates tell us that he read Anaxagoras, because he had heard that Anaxagoras has Mind -- "infinite and self-ruled," ἄπειρον καὶ αὐτοκρατές, according to Simplicius -- causing creation. But he found the theory disappointing, since Anaxagoras didn't say much about mind that really sounded like mind.

No one, however, could be as disappointed as with the treatment of mind by Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976), which is no more than a reductionistic, positivistic, and behavioristic dismissal of mind as anything special, either metaphysically or epistemologically. Neither Aristotle nor Anaxagoras, let alone Socrates, would find anything edifying or satisfying there. Yet Ryle then had the חֻצְפָּה, chutzpah, to actually found a journal, Mind, to promote his nihilism.

Ryle's dismissal is what people like John Searle have reacted against, albeit with not a lot that is more satisfying. Mind as an epiphenomen, obviously of materialism, is well entrenched. We get this particularly sour and chilling brush off from Searle:

But nowadays, as far as I can tell, no one believes in the existence of immortal spiritual substances except on religious grounds. To my knowledge, there are no purely philosophical or scientific motivations for accepting the existence of immortal mental substances. [The Rediscovery of the Mind, the MIT Press, 1992, p.27]

Searle obviously has no respect for the Thomists who are still around, which means he won't bother sparing the time for any version of Aristotelian metaphysics. That may be justified, but the possibility of "mental substances" in Kantian metaphysics is something Searle should acknowledge; and if he doesn't, then we are left to assume that he is simply a materialist, long after Democritean simplicity has any more credibility than Aristotle.

Consciousness is not something the Greeks really wrote about. Indeed, it is not all that clear they even had a word for it. The word "consciousness" itself is from Latin terms, cum, "with," and scio, "know," that admits of various interpretations, and have. In Greek, we can use συναίσθησις, which similarly combines συν, "with," and αἴσθησις, "perception, feeling." As in Latin, this also admitted of various meanings, but among them was "awareness, self-consciousness." Close enough.

With consciousness, we are in possession of perception, in its various forms, can engage in thought and memory, be aware of the internal sensations of our bodies (proprioception), and possess emotional states, which affect the body but originate in mental conditions. All this is, on reflection, attributed to a self, namely "me."

In Buddhism, these phenomena can be dissociated into five separate "aggregates," each a skandha, स्कन्ध. How those could ever be considered a single entity, or subsist in a single consciousness, was a challenge to Buddhism and still a puzzle to Hume. Buddhism didn't worry about it, since the purpose of Buddhist metaphysics is to dispense with the concept of "substance," in order to break attachments. Since the purpose was thus edifying, Buddhist philosophers were willing to live with the difficulty of explaining personal identity. The less we worry about it, the better.

The paradox of mental plurality and unity was then explained by Kant as the result of the process of mental "synthesis," which unites them according to rules. Synthesis creates consciousness itself, and it is an activity of mind that, of course, largely or entirely closes down in sleep, while the brain otherwise remains active. Indeed, Kant's theory was the first explanation of sleep in the history of philosophy.

As far as I can tell, it was only John Locke who ever noticed that the theory of mind in Descartes precluded the possibility of sleep, since "thought" was the defining essence of soul, which would not exist without it. Since the Empiricists always saw the mind as passive with respect to perception, not even Locke himself could explain the loss of consciousness in sleep.

Now we know that people with some brain damage, as from a stroke, may not be able to see parts of the visual field in consciousness, but they may nevertheless turn out to "know" what is there in an unconscious but accessible way, without being aware that or how they know it. This tells us that the mind is like an iceberg, with only a small portion above the surface in consciousness. This may comfort the materialists, but it shouldn't. They may be out of their reckoning.

Nevertheless, as we see above, Wittgenstein said, "The thinking, representing subject does not exist," placing him, or at least the "early" him, in the reductionistic and nihilistic camp of Gilbert Ryle -- not at all surprising for the time. Such an abolition of the very form of our personal existence, while perhaps appealing to Wittgenstein as a way to escape from the prison of his own unhappy mind, remains popular, of course, among Hegelians and Marxists, in their totalitarian political project, but also with people like Roger Scruton, who really should have known better.

Consciousness is a paradoxical state. While subjective, and vulnerable to any insults that may be inflicted on body and brain, it contains a representation of the world itself, and is our connection to it. The world vanishes as our consciousness vanishes in sleep. Thus, Schopenhauer said, "The world is my representation."

Yet we sense that the world will remain there even as our own consciousness may degrade, go away, or disappear entirely. The paradox of this seems to have been first properly appreciated by Descartes, who found he could doubt the very existence of the world. He was then stuck with an unanswerable dilemma and a dualistic metaphysics that was, at its best, incoherent.

The simplest solutions to Descartes were, of course, to abolish either mind or matter. The former is with us in the comfortable nihilism of modern materialism, which exists uneasily with the revealing paradoxes of modern physics, while the latter has been selectively popular as, in Kant's terminology, "idealism," whether sujbectively, with George Berkeley, where only souls exists, or with Hegel, as individual minds dissolve into a kind of Overmind, which is more or less little better than Aristotle's God, a God that knows individual existence no more than the Hegelian totalitarian state does. Indeed, it is the State that is more like God in Hegelian philosophy, and for his morally deformed modern acolytes.

Curiously, in among the physics upon which Searle relies for his materialism, there is the anti-Realism of Niels Bohr (1885-1962) himself, in which "unobserved things have no properties whatsoever" and simply do not even yet exist. Thus, the modern versions of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), who pounded the table to refute Bishop Berkeley, are touching an Alice-in-Wonderland mashup of "spooky action at a distance" and nebulous clouds of probabilities that not only offended Einstein's Realism but whose ontology floats off into the vaguest conceptual indeterminacy. This suits the nihilism of the moment, but it is a dishonest evasion of the perplexities that arise from Bohr's metaphysics.

The disinclination of Anaytic philosophy to address metaphysical issues ends up meaning that the most naive and ill-informed kinds of metaphysics are insensibly assumed. John Searle's metaphysics probably does not need to address the bizarre state of physics because he doesn't think he needs to worry about metaphysics at all. Democritus remains good enough. If Searle is honest about this, it bespeaks a shocking lack of curiosity, if not a failure of conscientious skepticism.

An alternative to what we might call the Carestian trilemma -- dualism, materialism, or idealism -- can be found in Spinoza, where thought and extension, the essences of the two substances in Descartes, are both simply attributes of a single substance, which is God. This is a dualism layered onto a monism, where the substance itself is invisible beneath thought and extension.

The cleverness of this is lost on many recent enthusiasts for Spinoza, who don't take Spiniza's God seriously and simply regard the excommunicated Jew as a materialist. This requires ignoring, not just God, but large parts of Spinoza's metaphysics, for instance that thought and extension are only two of the infinite number of attributes that actually belong to God but of which we are unaware.

More faithful to Spinoza was Einstein, whose regard for Spinoza's God was conspicuous but who shared Spinoza's principles that God is impersonal and unconcerned about the doings and fates of individual human beings. Such a God is neither jealous, angry, nor loving and thus is unrelated to the scriptures, traditions, or theology of religions like Judaism, Christianity, or ʾIslām. Einstein liked to talk about God, but it was not the God of Abraham, Isaac, or Moses.

Apart from all that, the formal equivalent of Spinoza's metaphyics turns up in Kant. Now, instead of the invisible God, we have the visible phenomena of experience. This is the visible world, and it means that we are directly acquainted with the real objects of experience, the ontôs ónta, ὀντῶς ὄντα ("beingly beings"), of Greek metaphysics, in what Kant called Empirical Realism.

The Cartesian objection, of course, is that phenomena are only representations, related to the genuinely real objects by causality. But look where it got him. Similarly, phenomena to Hume are only "ideas" in the mind, with external reality entirely closed, hidden, and unknown to us. We will never know what is really "out there." That makes me feel so much better.

Kant avoids this muddle by essentially turning the Cartesian world inside out. What was merely a relationship between matter and soul is now the axis mundi of both knowledge ("empirical") and reality ("realism"). The substances of Descartes, which became the divine attributes of Spinoza, are now perspectives of transcendence on phenomena. Thus, while Kant says that phenomena are the result of the mental activity of synthesis, the existence of phenomenal objects is not produced by this activity. Nor, for that matter, is our existence produced by such activity. If phenomena are ontologically immanent, then existence is transcendent.

While Kant distingished "inner sense" from the external sensibility of perception, the contrasting conditions of internal and external existence are underdeveloped in his thought. We get more to work with in Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl, but it is still not quite enough. With their conception of intentionality we have a way forward, even though they were still thinking of this in subjective terms, to the point that Husserl famously "suspended judgment" -- the Pyrrhonian epochḗ, ἐποχή -- on whether external objects even exist. But when Schopenhauer says, "The world is my representation," this means that our perception is of external objects and their existence. Ignore this, and you can get hurt.

What we find with intentionality is that my existence is the existence of phenomena internally as representation. But then intentionality spontaneously projects the content of representation onto external objects, much as Schopenhauer already described the process. This leaves our own existence as a privative, transparent emptiness, much as Sartre describes the "transcendence of the ego."

On the other hand, external existence is "hidden" behind the projected phenomenal content, just as described by Heidegger, in his distinction between "Being," εῖναι, eînai ("to be" in Greek, the infinitive) and "beings," τὰ ὄντα, tà ónta ("the beings" in Greek, a participle).

Sartre and Heidegger, of course, are themselves morally defective persons, with Heidegger, as Rector of Freiberg University, betraying Husserl because of his Jewish background, and Sartre engratiating himself with the German occupation of France by invoking his debt to Heidegger. This left Albert Camus permanently suspicious of Sartre. Apart from the metaphysical points cited, neither man represents edifying philosophy or contributes anything of value to the Kantian or Friesian Schools. Yet as disciples of Husserl's Phenomenology, they cannot be ignored -- and examinations of their personal morality, and the attitudes of their apologists (philosophically, morally, and politically), are instructive in their own right.

The internal and external worlds that we find in the dualism of intentionality are very different. The external perspective involves blind, deterministic causality. Kant already assigned these terms to the phenomenal world. What we can add to this is the character of the perfect aspect, by which the fixity of conditions is the ground for efficient causality, under the form of natural laws.

As we know from the practice of science, and see in the tradition of Spinoza, there are no purposes or final causes involved with any of this. This was always the challenge of theories of natural evolution, to explain how blind causes can produce organisms and organs that look purposeful -- I just saw a documentary talking about the "design" of the avian feathered wing. But no Darwinist believes in actual "design" -- and the Creationists trying to legitimize "intelligent design" are faced with multiple paradoxes familiar from traditional theology.

With causes, we are driven to action by things of which we are simply unaware. The choices we think we are making in consciousness are simply confabulations. What is unconscious rules the mind. As a determinist, Schopenhauer believed something like this himself; but its conspicuous appearance in modern thought is found in Freud -- and in Marx.

On the other hand, what we find in the internal world is rather different. We make choices, and we believe we are aware of the conditions of these choices. This is called "free will," which materialists are still at pains to refute. What goes along with this is the appearance of matters of value in this world. We perceive beauty in the world, and we make our choices in terms of what seems good. No one has ever investigated this more carefully than Socrates, always asking people why they were doing what they were doing.

Materialists are at a loss to explain these things, except in entirely subjective terms, or with sophistry. When it comes to their political opinions, they may be quite willing to judge others, especially capitalists, using their own subjective "values." Or they try to use Marxism, which is ostensively value free, despite using moral concepts like "alienation" -- but that is the paradox of Marxism, whose adherents are as intensively moralistic, intolerant, and "judgmental" as any fundamentalist Christian. Or even more so [note].

The nature of the good and the beautiful, and of all value, is one of the largest blind spots in all of modern philosophy, or in all philosophy back to Plato. One of the most challenging observations in this respect is actually due to Hume, who famously argued that matters of value and obligation, the famous "ought," cannot be logically derived from mere matters of fact, where only "is," indicatives, occur.

This continues to bedevil academic philosophers, whose confusion stretches from the conclusion that objective value therefore doesn't exist, despite the evidence of history upon which Hume himself relies, to the confused claims that imperatives actually can be deduced from indicatives. Since Hume's argument applies simple rules of deductive logic, those who don't understand or accept it do no more than embarrass themselves.

With the duality between fact and value, it should not be surprising that the best theories are going to involve an ontological dualism, as in Plato or Kant. What that means may remain obscure, until we take seriously the principle stated by Aquinas: Bonum et ens sunt idem secundum rem, "The Good and Being are actually the same thing." Yet this remains obscure in its own right. How can Being and the Good be the same thing? The dualisms or Plato or Kant may themselves contradict that.

Thus, what I have argued (here and here) is that the existence we ourselves possess, the existence in consciousness, is not itself being per se. We are dissociated from simple being by intentionality. My existence is the transparent, privative, emptiness of internal transcendence. As such, it is empty, corresponding to the similar practical emptiness of external existence, which is hidden behind phenomena. Because of intentionality, we have "lost" our Being.

This is conspicuous in the way that Hegel and Heidegger both address Being, whose emptiness seems no different from Not Being. Thus, Hegel's Dialectic steps from Being, to Not Being, to the synthesis of the two, which is Becoming, i.e. the character of phenomena -- collapsing being and value together into the judicial positivism characteristic of Hegelian philosophy.

In turn, Heidegger looks to the "uncovering" of Being, the ἀλήθεια, "truth," a process that is terrible, δεινός, and violent, and which, for Heidegger, revealed the Nazi Party. This may be a clue that Heidegger did not have a good theory -- while academic philosophers stumble in their dishonesty and desperation to conceal what this means. Their nihilism is so valuable to them.

Rejecting Hegel and Heidegger, the proper take is that Being does not need uncovering because, as value, it is already visible within our internal existence. In our intentional dissociation from Being as such, it nevertheless continues to cast a kind of shadow into our internal existence. We have not "lost" our Being entirely; it lingers in a ghostly way.

That is the appearance of matters of value, which reflect the inner independent character of Being, what I call "positive transcendence." Being and the Good are the same because the Good is the way the Being remains within our intentional existence. Not Being, which looms over Existentialism and its twisted values, the essence of Heidegger's nihilism and his Nazism, is not there -- as Parmenides might have warned us.

The presence of value from the transcendent is the most vividly presented by Plato, who appreciates that beauty, of all the forms of value, is directly available to the senses, and moving and entrancing to every sort of person -- although here we see that Plato doesn't even consider the power of music, except as a threat to morality, even though its beauty may reach more people at more times than even visible beauty can do, especially with modern technology. Just turn on the radio:

Now beauty [κάλλος], as we said, shone bright among those visions, and in this world below we apprehend it through the clearest of our senses, clear and resplendent. For sight [ὄψις] is the keenest of the physical senses [αἰσθήσεις, singular αἴσθησις], though wisdom [φρόνησις] is not seen by it -- how terrible [δεινός] would be our love [ἔρως] for it, if such a clear image [εἴδωλον] of wisdom were granted as would come through sight -- and the same is true of the other beloved [ἐραστά, singular ἐραστόν] objects; but beauty alone has this privilege [μοῖρα], to be most clearly shown [ἐκφανέστατον] and most lovely [ἐρασμιώτατον] of them all.

Phaedrus, 250D, R. Hackford, Plato's Phaedrus, Library of the Liberal Arts, 1952, p. 93, translation modified; Greek text, the Loeb Classical Library, Euthryphro Apology Crito Phaedo Phaedrus, Harvard University Press, 1914-1966, p.485.

Ironically, it is often scientists who wax the most eloquent about beauty, despite science containing nothing that would count as a metaphysic of beauty, except perhaps for mathematics, which treats of abstract objects whose physical reality, or even objective reality, is a matter of intense dispute -- totally precluding metaphysical questions about beauty. And while most actual mathematicians, and many physicists, are in fact Platonists, philosophers tend to be not only dismissive, but even contemptuous, of this, despite having no real clue how mathematicians access their intuitions and practice their discipline -- Heaven help them understand the Continuum Hypothesis.

Indeed, this is the evidence to which we should attend. If the external reality of physical existence contains beauty, there is nothing in physical laws alone to account for it, and the materialist can supply nothing beyond "the eye of the beholder" to account for the aesthetic judgments of the scientist, let alone the mathematician, who may seem like an extraterrestrial in his sentiments, as, after a fashion, he is.

Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) was invited to the meetings of the Vienna Circle, yet he was too diffident, if not intimidated, to ever tell the Logical Positivists that he agree with pretty much nothing they were asserting -- doctrines, like "verificationism," that really weren't even coherent. He was a Platonist, whose own grasp on ordinary realities endangered him in Nazi occupied Vienna and seems to have led to his death from starvation -- once his protectors, like Einstein (d.1955) and his wife Adele (1899-1981), were no longer available -- Adele having falling sick and was in the hospital for months.

We might in fact wonder how the internal world of our existence is so different from the external world revealed by our experience, even as the external world appears clothed in the beauty, grace, sublimity, and wonder that are meaningless in purely physical terms. Nietzsche, who accepted the subjectivity of value, and who saw all value as dying with the illusion of any kind of divine Presence, nevertheless saw all human activity as essentially aesthetic, while ignoring the metaphysic of beauty, and also of morality, that he had insensible inherited from Schopenhuauer, who believed no more in a personal God than Nietzsche did. Nietzsche otherwise had no metaphysical system of his own and owed too much to Schopenhauer to bother with a real critique. This incoherence, like the internal contradictions of Marxism, really makes Nietzsche's thought self-refuting. Nietzsche, of course, always a bit of a joker, didn't worry about things like that.

The puzzle of the ontological relationship of internal to external existence I address as ontological undecidability. While the conclusion is that there is no deciding between them, the ultimate challenge is what this means to personal existence. Bluntly, we want to know, "Do I survive death?" This is then about the application of the concept of "substance," which in Kantian terms is the concept of something that is durable, separable, and identical. Traditionally, substances have these attributes because there is an underlying reality, a ὑποκείμενον (of which substantia is the literal translation), that bears and accounts for them. That would be, for us, pace John Searle, the soul.

But such a thing, not visible to physical inspection, would be a transcendent object, while in Kantian metaphysics such a thing, among things in themselves, is not amenable to a consistent theory. It will generate Antinomies -- whose opposite pole we find in the Buddhist denial of a substantial self, the famous अनात्मन्, Anātman, doctrine. Indeed, while Aquinas derived his theory of the soul from Aristotle's metaphysics, Aristotle himself did not believe that the soul was immortal. Aquinas had to arbitrarily add that feature.

Less arbitrary may be the argument of Parmenides that Being cannot become Not-Being. While that might be dismissed as silly philosophy from the early days of the Pre-Socratics, it actually survives as the conservation of mass and the other conservation laws of modern physics, a very long way from the early Pre-Socratics. However, its application to internal existence, or to the soul, would require another step, although that is just what we find in the The Bhagavad Gita:

नासतोविद्यतेभावो नाभावोविद्यतेसतः
Nāsato vidyáte bhāvo, nābhāvo vidyáte sataḥ.
The unreal never is; the real never is not.

[2:16, Juan Mascaró translation, Penguin Books, 1962, p.49].

This is part of Krishna's argument that Arjuna's relatives and teacher cannot really die, even if he seems to kill them in battle. Therefore, he should do his duty and not worry about it.

Unfortunately, this does not really get us beyond Parmenides, as Krishna does not deal with the duality of internal and external. The materialist is fine with the real, namely matter and energy, being indestructible. But the soul, well, there is just no such thing. Ask John Searle.

Thus, we are left in the lurch about the status of our internal existence and any possible existence of a substantial soul among things in themselves. Elsewhere I have considered the clues to the soul found in considerations of personal identity, for which formal identifications seem insufficient. But this may not be persuasive.

We need something to break the tie between internal and external, and this may not be of rational content. That will not be as satifying to many as rational argument, but it may also address an aspect of things that turns out more important for other reasons.

I fear that for things like this, I always appeal to Heraclitus of Ephesus:

ὁ ἄναξ οὗ τὸ μαντεῖόν ἐστι τὸ ἐν Δελφοῖς
οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει ἀλλὰ σημαίνει.

The lord whose oracle is in Delphi
neither speaks nor conceals but gives a sign.

[Plutarch, De Pythiae oraculis 21, 404 E, The Presocratic Philosophers, G.S. Kirk & J.E. Raven, Cambridge, 1964, p.211]

The obscurity of Delphic pronouncements, as well as of the philosophy of Heraclitus himself, is well remembered; and the nature of "signs" themselves, σήματα or σημεῖα, has been given little to no philosophical consideration, indeed hardly more than faith itself. How can a philosopher take faith seriously when, by definition, it is believing something without rational evidence? And when we find philosophers, like Kant, calling something "faith," when he has actually substituted reason itself for any traditional meaning for faith? It is no less than an absurd sophistry, which makes no attempt to save the phenomena of religion.

But, in the best Kanian sense, a sign is the "third thing" that lies between and connects reason and faith. Many a modern person, who seeks religion but finds a great many different faiths, may search in vain for a way to choose one over another. Grounds for choice may be moral or aesthetic, but then the moral critique of religions is enthusiasticlly pursued by atheists, introducing grave doubts about the moral suitability of any. Aesthetic appeal would seem to trivialize religion as a matter of taste, although we might wonder if the Ahndung of Jakob Fries amounts to no more than that. In turn, Leonard Nelson does rely on morality, which means the rejection of all historial religions and the absurd construction of politics as a substitute for religion. I say "absurd," even though those who have turned politics in a religion, often of a totalitarian sort, are conspicuous in modern life.

Thus, a "sign" must have a qualium and a valence beyond the moral and the aesthetic, namely as the numinous, if not the miraculous. For this, we need Rudolf Otto, beyond Fries and Nelson. But such a sign can take many, many forms. A simple one is hearing voices, as occurred from Job, to St. Paul, to Muḥammad, to Jon Voight. When that happens, you can be told things. A curious kind of sign, however, is what Socrates receives. He heard a voice, φωνή, too, but it never told him anything. All it did was stop him from doing what he was doing. Why he should stop was something he had to figure out for himself. So the voice is never quoted.

Meanwhile, most of us don't hear voices, or have any other kind of sign. Were it the voice of Christ, we would then perhaps have grounds for believing his promise of eternal life. Otherwise, we are left with the tie, or worse, between internal and external existence. I have considered reasons for this. For the purposes of life, our "need to know" does not really extend into the hereafter. If we know what is good and beautiful, that is all we need to know to live a good life. If we want to know a larger significance, what this was all for, it demands more than reason.

Furthermore, while Kant postulated God as the guarantor of eternal reward for goodness, this contradicted his own moral principle that the motive for moral behavior is simply consciousness of duty, not the promise of reward. That is the difference between morality and prudence. If you do good and avoid evil out of fear of hell and the hope of heaven, this is less worthy than if you act in such a way for its own sake. Otherwise, you are simply playing the odds, like any gambler. But virtue is not gambling. This seems to mean that there is a moral reason why the hereafter is unknown.

Even Plato argued that the just and righteous person will be happier than one who is not. This is questionable, and, even if reasonable, uncertain enough that it seems insufficient as the basis for a life. And when the Stoics held that virtue is its own reward, it is not clear that such a formulation really helps very much. The just and righteous person should cling to virtue because it is worthy, not because of any conceivable benefit, even one of personal satisfaction. After all, if it just makes me feel good, then the hedonist can claim vindication -- we're just aiming at our pleasure.

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them:  the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.

Zwei Dinge erfüllen das Gemüt mit immer neuer and zunehmenden Bewunderung und Ehrfurcht, je öfter und anhaltender sich das Nachdenken damit beschäftigt:  Der bestirnte Himmel über mir, und das moralische Gesetz in mir.

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason [Lewis White Beck translation, A Liberal Arts Press Book, Bobbs-Merrill, 1956, p.166]; Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, A 289 [Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, Herausgaben von Wilhelm Weischedel, Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, Erste Auflage, 1974, 1956, p.300].

So we may not need to break the tie; but the strangeness of our situation, and of our world, warrants reflection. It is especially noteworthy that our bubble of consciousness, within which appear the anomalies of freedom, purpose, and value, does not present us with a passive diorama. These are all terms of action -- although value extends from the requirements of goodness to the beauty of the world -- Kant's "starry heavens above" down to the "moral law within." This does not seem accidental.

Indeed, the more we learn about the universe through science, the less its has to do with us and whatever we could do about it. The universe is a place of incredible distances, vast explosions, and blistering energy, with almost everything seeming to hurtle towards catastrophy. This is not comforting, as it looks very much like the Existential dread of Nietzsche's hopeless "Eternal Recurrence," or the endless cycles of Indian cosmology -- but then the goal of Indian religious practice is to escape the latter through Salvation. There is no salvation in Nietzsche's nihilism, merely the cruel and arrogant Übermensch, who keeps women as pets and enjoys the suffering of others.

We might note how often the vasteness of the universe is used to belittle human life. Compared to the galaxies and quasars, we are less then a grain of sand on the beach, in danger of annihilation at any moment. Sometimes, the more scientists wax eloquent about the universe, the less value they attribute to life itself, despite the revelation of its rarity and uniqueness. One might think that the very purpose of the excerise is to dismiss human meaning in favor of what is impersonal and meaningless -- until, of course, the beauty of the universe is asserted, despite the subjectivity of beauty simultaneously affirmed. We, whose lives are meaningless, nevertheless attribute to everything else a meaning that only we can give to it. I'm confused.

Another aspect of that are disquisitions on the ignorance and folly of the Ancients, and especially of Mediaeval religion. They didn't know about modern physics and cosmology, so of course they were ignorant bigots. However, the Ancient and Mediaeval worlds perform an essential service for us. A world without science allows free reign for the terms of internal existence. And the results, indeed, are not unambiguous. The gods are capricious, but, as Socrates says, every good thing we have is owing to them -- although Socrates did not want to believe that the gods were as capricious as in the myths. Nevertheless, it was always a world of personal meaning, and the beauty produced in human art generally was concerned with religion. The nihilists want to reduce the Parthenon to a storehouse and not really a temple, as though Athena Parthenos were a homeless derelict in residence there by accident.

For the topic here, of greatest interest is our fate in the hereafter. After all, Solon, I think, is supposed to have said that we can't say anyone was really happy until after their death -- too much can go wrong in the meanwhile. And on that ultimate topic human cultures have varied accounts. The grimmest versions we find in the stories of the Sumerian and Homeric afterlifes. The promise is little better than Nietzschean nihilism. The dead are miserable and even insensible. Gilgamesh, after his friend dies, with a vision of the underworld, seeks for immortality. He fails, despite his own semi-divine status. Meanwhile, Achilles, similarly semi-divine, who trades his life for fame, realizes, after a blood sacrifice revives him a bit, that the trade was not worth it. He would rather be a nobody just to be alive.

But we get other visions. Chinese belief, in a matter-of-fact kind of way, sees the afterlife as little different from the present life, bureaucrats and all, to the extent that living families arrange marriages between dead relatives -- and have an annual living/dead family picnic at Ch'ing Ming. We find a different tone in Egyptian religion, where the promise of a happy afterlife occurs, but it is not a sure thing. The dead are judged (as in Buddhism), and the living must make provisons for them. At the very least, the living are urged to speak the name of the dead and invoke them in prayer. This is in curious contrast to other cultures, where speaking of the dead requires careful ritual controls, or ought not be done at all, lest the improper presence of the the spirits of the dead disrupt the life of the living.

The Egyptian approach catches on. In the Greek Mystery Cults, like the Eleusinian Mysteries, a happy afterlife, in explicit contrast to Homer, is contingent on initiation. This rebounds back to Egypt, if it didn't actually originate there, in the cult of Isis and Osiris, where the latter was brought back from the dead, mainly through the efforts of Isis, fighting the opposition of their brother Seth all the way. Exported to Rome, the cult of Isis joins the growing ranks of actual Mystery Religions, which end up including Mithraism, imported from Iran, and Christianity, spreading from Judaism and adapted more to gentile tastes.

We see various currents in Christian theology about the afterlife. Since Jesus promises life, one might conclude that otherwise the dead descend to Homeric misery and insensibility. The Christian promise is thus conformable to the Eleusinian. However, the idea becomes more popular that the Underworld is a place of punishment, to which the damned are consigned, because of their sin. Thus, the Christian promise is as much redemption from sin as salvation from death. This is then complicated by the circumstance that many people are morally good, whether they have even heard about Christianity or not -- so Dante introduced a kind of earthy paradise into Hell, for the "vituous pagans," and even for the Sultān Saladin, despsite his being an infidel who inflicted catastrophic defeats on Christians. On the other hand, the traditional Christian principle was that Original Sin can only be eradicated by Baptism and Christian belief, meaning that non-believers are properly damned, whatever their apparent moral status.

Thus, the variety of visions of the afterlife sounds like nothing more than Kant's Antinomies, that we cannot expect a logically coherent system of transcendent objects -- remembering, of course, that the universe itself is a transcendent object and not an object of a "possible experience." The key move, of course, was Carestian Dualism essentially being turned inside-out by both Spinoza and Kant. We might call this the great "Antistrophe," Ἀντιστροφή, the "turning about," of modern metaphysics. Yet it is ignored by everyone relying on the Cartesian Trilemma: It has to be either Dualism, Idealism, or Materialism.

This "Antistrophe" is not the same thing as Kant's famous "Copernican Revolution." That switched the passivity of Empiricist perception into the activity of synthesis in the mind:

Entweder wenn der Gegenstand die Vorstellung, oder diese den Gegenstand allein möglich macht.

Either the object alone must make the representation possible, or the representation alone must make the object possible.

Kritik der reinen Vernunft, A92-93, Critique of Pure Reason, Norman Kemp Smith, St. Martin's Press, 1929, 1965, p.125

Clearly, if the representation makes the object possible, then the object is going to exist within the representation and we are directly acquainted with it. But representation is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for the object, whose existence depends on external reality. Those who drop things in themselves from the mix, like Hegel, lose that qualification. So the "Antistrophe" is a step or two beyond the basic "Copernican Revolution."

But the result of the "Antistrophe" is not quite the same between Spinoza and Kant. The substance of Spinoza's God is concealed by his attributes, the two we know, extension and thought. Thus, the attributes are, after a fashion, folded above the substance, concealing its inner nature and leaving it as something that we do not perceive, as such, directly. We perceive the effected and passive Natura naturata, not the active and creative Natura naturans.

Thus, modern fans of Spinoza are free to see this as the materialism that they prefer anyway, ignoring everything else in Spinoza's theory. Yet they do not need to misrepresent the impersonal and indifferent nature of that God, who gives not a fig about any of us or our fates. Spinoza's remedy was to shed the self, morally and metaphysically, and seek intoxicating mystical transport into the One. This can get called, paradoxically, "rational mysticism."

Kant's move, on the other hand, folds the duality of inner and outer under the center, so that what is evident and perceivable are phenomena, while internal and external substance themselves vanish into transcendence. This leaves us in a very different situation than with Spinoza. Transcendent space is not confined to Spinoza's God. It is opened up to all of Kant's "dialectical illusion" and all the possible objects that metaphysics and religion can imagine.

This was alarming to Kant, who desperately wanted to pare it back down to the "Postulates of Practical Reason" and to something more congenial to his rationalistic and moralistic pseudo-"faith" -- resolutely ignoring actual religions, the ones he even knew about, except for some sort of stripped down, probably Unitarian, Christianity. Yet if Kant took the Antinomies more seriously, and was not desperate to get something more comfortable, this could be left with room enough for religions unfamiliar to him -- or even just for Hinduism, which contains its own Antinomies.

Thus, neither Spinoza or Kant had any actual Faith, beyond their rationalism, and the very idea of ritual and religious practice was close to literally beneath their contempt. Yet even Kant was more sensible than Spinoza of "what we can hope," in that Kant at least thought that morality implies immortality, however specious his arguments, while in Spinoza individual existence, as in Hegel, evaporates like the morning dew -- what materialists were hoping for all along.

Unlike Kant and Spinoza is the sense here that transcendent existence embodies matters of value, as in Platonism. Kant has a fragment of that, since the Moral Law is our real clue to things-in-themselves, but this is only an aspect and an abstract fragment of Platonic Being.

Heidegger comes close to this, but with grave and significant differences. Thus, Heidegger's Being is hidden and must "uncover" itself (in its own sweet time) in events of violence and terror, such as effected by the Third Reich. But Platonic Being is, in its own way, already present, both in our own "recollection" and in the way in which phenomenal objects exhibit their own character by "participating" in the Forms.

There is nothing in the history of philosophy to adequately address the requirements of Plato's theory without reproducing his mechanism of reincarnation, etc.; and the "participation" business was always rather mysterious. Even Neoplatonism, which took care of Participation with the "declension of Being," substituted a mystical intuitionism for Platonic Recollection, paying more attention to Aristotelian epistemology than to Platonic. Nothing in the history of philosophy, that is, until Jakob Fries. Intuitionism remains the default epistemology for those in some kind of tradition comparable to Rationalism, such as Phenomenology.

The key is the theory of "non-intuitive immediate knowledge," which is unique. This was well appreciated and revived by Leonard Nelson, but then forgotten in turn by Nelson's own students, after his untimely death. The surrender of Nelson's students to the emptiness and nihilism of Analytic philosophy culminated in Grete Henry-Hermann's absurd praise of Behavior Study. The effort of Nelson's students in the 1970's to revive interest in him and Friesian philosophy thus actually self-destructed, born down by the weight of its own confusion and banality.

But non-intuitive immediate knowledge directly addressed Plato and Nelson's understanding of Socratic Method, which implies that the interlocutor of Socrates already knows the answers to questions, without intitially being aware of that. Plato's Recollection accounted for that, but nothing else had since then until Fries.

This adds to the issue here about consciousness. Knowledge that we possess but of which we are unaware is present in consciousness in a unique way. Plato's theory addressed it through the idea of memory, which we certainly possess but of which we are, in detail, generally unaware. When we do want to remember something, we know what that is like, and it is not always an easy or straightforward process. One might think, "What was the name of that actress, the one who dreamt of Manderley?" It may be like placing an order at a restaurant. Sooner or later, it ought to show up. Or the waiter might come back and say, "We're out of that" -- a service not provided by our memory, whose silence must often speak for itself. But even how we place the order is obscure. I recently was trying to remember something, and couldn't -- but then I woke up the next morning and immediately remembered it. Somebody was busy overnight.

This was a serious clue about the mind, something totally ignored by Descartes and other Rationalists -- let alone by all of Ancient and Mediaeval philosophy -- and not well explained by the Empiricists either, whose theory of the mind was almost entirely of something passive. Yet the activity of accessing a memory, which manifestly can take some time, bespeaks mechanisms wholly hidden from introspection. The full force of the mystery may not have been made obvious until Freud, whose own idea of the "preconscious," das Vorbewußte, was of something available to conscious access but that is nevertheless still unconscious. Descartes would have been dumbstruck. Yet we are aware of our powers of memory, and what might be remembered, in an obscure way.

But memory works very differently from what we actually see in Socratic Method and with non-intuitive immediate knowledge. The Platonic knowledge is actually present, but we access and use it insensibly. The obvious analogy is with a natural language, whose grammar we employ immediately, spontaneously, and competently, often without the slightest idea of what it is like. Even grammarians had little sense of how odd this is, at least until Noam Chomsky pointed out that the rules of speech actually being used are often very different from traditional grammatical notions about them. I have considered the complexity of just forming regular plurals in English elsewhere.

Recent discussion is that the conscious mind is really no more than a confabulation, with all the real activities of the brain accomplished unconsciously and then merely displayed, some small amount of time later. This goes way beyond merely rejecting free will. We are not just puppets, but self-deceived and self-deluded puppets. Not coincidentally, this returns us to a feature of Behaviorism, where consciousness can be dispensed with altogether, without loss. All the real activities of the mind are unconscious.

A reaction against Behaviorism, of course, got called "humanistic psychology," because the humanity had previously been lost. But if we were puppets, the temptation for the Illuminati is then for themselves to be the puppet masters -- an ambition already evident in censorship instructions from government to Big Tech companies, like Twitter and Google. It is illegal for government to outsource violations of civil rights. The law is clear, but we have not yet seen serious enforcement from the courts, where biased judges have acted to protect government lawlessness.

Orwell's classic 1984, which "Progressives" once thought was achieved in the reactionary Reagan Administration, is now their dearest amibition in a kind of digital GULAG, where the masses will mindlessly vote as conditioned. Looks like it is working. Chicago just voted out a bad mayor in order to vote in a worse one. Residents and businesses are fleeing. The abandoned and miserable condition of Detroit beckons.

Where Franklin said that we have a Republic "if you can keep it," between faithless judges and foolish voters, we have little chance of keeping it.

[4] Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ, ἠ ἀγάπη οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, [5] οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἐαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν, [6] οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ, συνχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ· [7] πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει.

[4] Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud; [5] love is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices in the truth; [7] love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13, see The Four Loves

The materialists think that unconscious mental processes mean that it is all in the brain. But they overlook the circumstance that the brain exists among phenomena, and its transcendent counterpart is among things in themselves. Thus, all the phenomena of internal existence, from free will to the pleasure of the first orgasm, tell us just as much about the transcendent as does neuropathology. This is where Spinoza's metaphysics (for those who understand it) works about as well as Kant's, with the addition of the non-intuitive Friesian factor.

Perhaps we are back to the same dilemma. Among things in themselves deterministic causes are at war, as far as we can tell, with freedom and beauty. But if freedom is an illusion, this means that Nature has played a very nasty trick on us. Life is meaningful only because of illusions. Evolution has formed us with a false experience of meaning, while the world is actually a meaningless Existlential Void. In this, would Nature be a malicious deceiver, like the Deceiving Demon of Descartes, or would Nature be doing us a favor by giving us a confabulation of value?

I suppose we can imagine an evolutionary argument, based on survival alone, that a species will be more successful if individuals are happy in their survival, and do not merely endure it. Our life with love and beauty is just a way of tricking us into reproduction and caring. Schopenhauer might like that. Nature's ultimate con game.

A problem with that may be that some of the most discontent people turn out to be the most materially successful. Generations of American children since World War II, raised in ease and plenty, become nihilists in their adulthood and buy into ideologies advocating slavery and mass murder in order to make things "better." The experience of Communism now fades from memory and is not honestly taught by the leftist ideologues of "education." Cuban exiles find their children coming back from college loving Fidel, from whom their family desperately fled in terror.

Oddly enough, we might consider whether Communism would make things better, confronting people with what real evil is, from which they had always been protected. Meanwhile, we have the equivalent of the Hitler Youth battling "fascism," i.e. things like Free Speech, which no Fascist regime ever allowed. So we see how "education" now inculcates ignorance, incoherence, and violence, while condemning knowledge and logic (and mathematics, science, etc.) as "white supremacy." The absurdity of this is protected when debate is suppressed.

At the same time, lives of empty "materialism" may drive one to the next question about meaning, not just that life may be happy and meaningful in itself, but that it has a larger signficance, that it is all for something more. How would an Evolutionary argument work for that? People often begin worrying about the afterlife in their old age, usually beyond their childbearing years, and in ways for which childbearing is irrelevant -- as in traditional Hinduism, couples surrender possessions to their children and become Forest Dwellers. Indeed, what would be an Evolutionary argument for celibate monasticism? Yet there are major religons for which renouncing the world is a major element, from Hinduism, to Christianity, to Jainism and Buddhism. Monks and nuns find a satisfaction in this life, but it is paradoxically not by valuing the things of this life.

In Marxism, dying for the Revolution is supposed to selflessly help others enjoy the advantages of Communism. But Marx was never clear about what the meaning of life would be under the "freedom" of Communism, without worry for the necessities of life. The autism of individual creativity has always been crushed out of existence by Marxist regimes; and when the only value is self-sacrifice for the benefit of others (mainly the ruling elite), there is nothing left to provide content to the individual freedom presumably achieved under Communism.

It is like the Buddhist metaphysics of "relative existence," where stripping away all external relationships leaves nothing but Emptiness -- śūnyatā, शून्यता -- whose point is the abolition of Self and, incidentally, attachments. So Marxism is stuck with a theory where only attachments count (by force and not by free choice), and this erases any promise or appeal from actual Communism -- which no Marxist regime has ever claimed it has achieved anyway -- rather than the socialist totalitarian slave state, where dissidents can simply be executed, as much of the population was in poor, ravaged Cambodia.

I don't think that Evolution will produce monasticism, unless it is a solution to overpopulation. But then monasticism does not seem to have arisen in places where there was an overpopulation problem. A key place of origin for Christian monasticism was in Egypt, but then Egypt was the place of just about the most productive agriculture in the Mediterranean world. We know that Egypt suffered drought at the end of the Old Kingdom, but then there was no contemporary monasticism -- that came centuries later.

Thus, it looks more like monasticism was one answer, not to the weather, but to the human condition. Religion may deal with the meaning of life beyond the present life, but monasticism intensifies this focus by the renunciation of this life altogether. We may be distracted by the history of monasteries being economically productive themselves, but then that qualification cannot be maintained when we consider hermits, anchorites, and mendicants. Such practitioners maintain a very severe withdrawl from the world.

Not a lot of this survives in Christendom. St. Francis of Assisi, who was a pure mendicant, founded an order that not only soon retreated to monsteries, but actually persecuted monks who wanted to continue as mendicants. The desire to embrace poverty as had St. Francis became heresy (in 1296 the "Spirituals" were declared heretical by Boniface VIII, although that did not end the dispute). Meanwhile, however, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism maintain mendicant traditions, although I don't think a lot of Buddhist mendicants continue in, say, Japan, where monks became "priests" and married on top of it.

Protestants, who have abandoned monasticism (earning derision from Schopenhauer), and atheists like to think that many traditional features of religion, like ritual, were actually the invention of scheming priesthoods to empower their parasitic institutions. However, while from the earliest information we have about religion in, say, Egypt or Sumeria, we see a class of priests and temple institutions, we find something different in peoples who survive on the fringes of civilization, like the Bushmen, Australian Aborigenes, the Laplanders (now called the Sámi, an "endonym" used by the politically correct -- like Suomi, meaning Finland and the Finnish languauge), nomads in Tuva (Tuvans who have not converted to Buddhism), and other people living along the Arctic. Their religious leaders were and are "shamans," a word we derive from "the Ural-Altaic peoples of northern Asia," i.e. Siberia and the tundra. But shamans are individuals who are part of no institution, let alone a cabal of conspirators.

A signature practice of shamans is spirit possession; but this even survives in later, intitutional, organized religions, for instance with the mediums who practice in the Chinese temples in Malaya, but who are not priests and are unaffiliated with any priesthood. Their possessing spirits may be socially non-conforming and rebellious. This was also evident in 19th Century Japan, when the "new religions" took advantage of the introduction of freedom of religion.

The spontaneous practices of ancient religions, organized or otherwise, bespeak dimensions of existence that modern materialism and nihilism have been stripping away from human life. The results have been ugly. The murders of witchhunts and the Spanish Inquisition achieved body counts that would be equalled every few days by Hitler or Stalin or Mao, all to make the world a "better place" without religion and tradition. The ideologies of the 20th century, even if still celebrated by the fools in American universities, are left with nothing to boast of. Yet atheism alone was supposed to lift off most of the evils that had always afflicted humanity. Not quite.

If meaning, value, and religion arose spontaneously in human life and were not the result of illusions generated by Evolution or by the scheming of a vicious priesthood, grasping for power, then their existence is a result of the nature of things, like the light of the sun, and of the inherent features of the human condition.

To say what those features are, we must turn to metaphysics; and the only theory in Western metaphysics that really covers the possibilities is that of Kant, with his own theory of things-in-themselves and what he called "dialectic," while the epistemologial side of the matter, providing a functional equivalent of Platonic Recollection, is the theory of Fries.

Thus, the determinism visible in the external world nevertheless corresponds to the freedom, meaning, and value evident in the internal world. The conflict between the two, such as it is, is described by Kant's theory of Antinomies. This is less of a problem than it may seem. Indeed, it comes up in the courtroom every time there is a question about the competance of a person to stand trial. If the person is not sane, this means that he is not free to make moral choices like a sane person, but is subject to psychological forces beyond his control and is morally irresponsible. This is a practial question that often must be answered.

The issue also has a political dimension, since there is a body of opinion that criminals are the blameless victims of society, which has made them the way they are. We might take this more seriously did not the same people also hold that their political enemies were racists (and guilty of other political crimes) fully responsible for their vicious beliefs and deserving of whatever sanctions or punishments society and the righteous "People" might inflict on them, perhaps violently. As we often see, determinists generally allow that there is freedom somewhere, not the least in their own enlightened opinions and goodness, by which the rest of us should praise and obey them.

Not all of our questions can be answered rationally. A Platonic theory secures the meaning and value of the world and of life. Beyond the world, we see a variety of often conflicting answers in religion. These cannot be resolved unless we believe we are given a sign. The Platonist, however, may be confident that, even without a sign, there is transcendent meaning, and this makes for a very different world than with the nihilism of the materialist or atheist -- which many of them may not even understand is nihilism, relying on the crushed reed of Nietzsche and Existentialism -- where the attendant politics curiously gravitates towards dictatorship.

There also is the sobering point that the reality of an afterlife may be withheld for a reason, and that is to preserve the difference, as we have seen, between morality and prudence. But there is more to it. Consider the moral reality of murder. In a merely material world, murder is the absolute annihilation of a person. As Clint Eastwood says in Unforgiven [1992], "It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have." No punishment of the killer can ever make that good, and the victim vanishes into Not Being.

On the other hand, if there is certainly an afterlife, then there is a remedy. The victim is not really dead; and while there will be trauma from the killing, we would imagine that Heaven will have remedies for this. As Krishna tells Arjuna, the people he kills in battle will not really be dead and consequently what he needs to do should not bother him. This makes killing sound inconsequential, and might it make some wonder if there is any good reason not to kill people? It just moves them on to something better.

So, what we would like is where killing matters, but not to a level of an unhealable wound in reality: a compromise between the being and the not being of the victim, who may have really been killed, but not so much, in some sense, as to really be dead.

It is hard to see how we can really split the difference; but that is really our general problem with death and the afterlife. Neither alternative sounds quite right, which may be why the Sumerians settled on death as miserable, while the Egyptians didn't. Nobody wants to maintain the paradox, but people do want a consistent resolution; and that is what a particular religion will do.

Meanwhile, those of us who have received no signs and possess no particular faith must settle for the Platonic Good. That is challenge enough to the materialists and nihilists, who for some reason would rather live in an Existentialist Void. Well, I suppose, if they can live in a meaningless world, more power to them. But if a meaningless world means a Nietzschean pursuit of power, this is an evil far beyond an absence of an afterlife.

Our conscious existence and the world we inhabit continues to contain its mysteries. What the transcendent conceals is something we might like to know; but then the Buddha did refuse to answer questions that did not "tend to edification," leaving the nature of Nirvāṇa, निर्वाण, obscure, just as Jesus would say little about Heaven. So the "need to know" looks like a real principle in this. What we really need to know, as Socrates would have agreed, is the good and the beautiful, τὰ καλοκἀγαθά.

The Emperor's New Mind, Roger Penrose, Oxford University Press, 1990


Philosophy of Religion

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A Deuteronomy on Mind and Consciousness; Note;
Marxist Value Theory

Because of the popularity of Marxist principles in the modern totalitarian university, and among the communists who are taking over American politics, this warrants some consideration of the problems at the root of the Marxist theory of value.

While the basic Marxist thesis is that all value is contributed to objects by the labor that produces them, this is qualified in the mature Marx as "socially necessary labor." That, of course, opens endless problems about what is going to be "socially necessary," although it does make it easier to say that someone who spends their whole life creating sculptures out of shipping pallets does not make things that will necessarily be of value to anyone.

Although we may have the impression that there is one metric of value in Marxism, the quantity of labor, there are necessarily two metrics in the theory, of which the "socially necessary" qualification is a clue. Thus, the labor necessary to make stone tools, the labor necessary to build pyramids, and the labor necessity to build an automobile are not just different in quantity. They are different in kind; and this goes along with the sense in Marxism that there is progress in history, by which life gets better over time, specifically in terms of the quantity, quality, and kind of the goods that can be produced for mass consumption.

Thus, while the Egyptians could build pyramids, they could not have built television sets. What's the difference? Since it certainly took more labor to build a pyramid than a televison, there must be a different scale of value by which the 20th century labor was more sophisticated than the 3rd millennium BC labor was. In Marxism, that scale can only be provided by the Hegelian "Dialectic," which accounts for increasing complexity and sophistication. Marx's version of the Dialectic does indeed provide the scale and the metric of value by which Marx can account for the progress of history.

However, there is nothing in either Hegel's or Marx's dialectic that can account for the sophistication of an internal combustion engine, or even a steam engine. The concepts of such things can never emerge from the word games that actually constitute Hegelian or Marxist "reasoning." Indeed, all the Marxist Dialectic is actually about is the "class struggle" that, for Marx, drives historical change. But then he simply overlooks the technological developments that underlie the changing conditions of that struggle, as new forms of "modes of production" come into existence.

Changing "modes of production" are essential to Marxism, especially since mechanization ultimately leads to the elimination of the need for the exploitation of labor, and so makes a communist society possible. But we search in vain for the way in which the Dialectic generates mechanization, or any form of technological progress. Marx himself seemed to think that the steam engine was the ultimate mode of transportation and that when the British finished building railroads, Capitalism would collapse, because there would be nothing more for capital to do.

It is not unusual for unimaginative people to think that everything that can be invented, has been invented. Marx and Engels were no different. If they had to explain where new ideas come from, they would be at a loss. Yet if automobiles and televisions are greater enhancements of human life, more than Egyptian pyramids, it is incumbent upon them to provide an explanation.

Of course, the embrassment in all this is that, once a dimension of value is admitted, over and above labor alone, and Hegelian sophistries are rejected as accounting for this, it must be admitted that the new dimension represents the value of capital, the very thing that Marxism is founded on rejecting.

Capital intensive production is founded on greater knowledge and greater skill, imagination, and discovery. Egyptian stone masons were obviously more sophisticated than the masons who built Stonehenge, since Egyptian stonework is often finished to within fine tolerances, even for very hard stone, like granite or quartzite. But fine machining in metals must wait until the 19th century, and only then can machinery be produced to operate at high speeds, high pressures, and high temperatures.

Thus, Marxism, which must allow a scale of value apart from labor, and which cannot account for technological innovation, cannot sustrain its own theory of value. But there is more. The ideal principle of the communist society is "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." This requires the "new man" of communism, who will be completely selfless and will work for the good, not just of himself, but for all. This is the "solidarity" of the workers, who might well adopt the motto, "One for all; and all for one."

What this means is that persons of great ability and few needs will find that most of the fruit of their labor goes to those with greater "need." If you object to this, you're a kulak, кулак, and perhaps deserve to be starved to death. Similarly, Jack London (1876-1916), said that any worker more productive than his fellows was already a "scab," i.e. a strike breaker.

So, the problem here is that obviously you are not entitled to the fruit of your labor, just like supposedly under Capitalism, with the difference that you don't even get paid when your production goes to those with greater "need," like Bernie Sanders. But then the obvious remedy for this is suggested by Jack London: just don't produce very much. Don't demonstrate your ability, which is actually what we see in socialist regimes, where there is then no incentive to be productive. Your efforts are just going to be sujbect to what Ayn Rand called "looting." You are doomed to being "exploited" by the politically privileged, what Lenin called the "vanguard of the revolution," who somehow live well, very well, without producing anything -- just like what we see in Washington, D.C.

The dynamic of Marxist economics therefore will be poverty, not the greater abundance predicted by Marx -- topped off with "alienation" greater than what Capitalism was supposed to be. Recognizing this, Marxists have moved to the approach that poverty is good, because it is better for the planet. However, no communist regime has ever had a good record on ecology. The Soviet Union used to dump nuclear waste into rivers. After the Fall of the Soviet Union, I had student immigrants who had lived near Russian rivers that where constantly red with toxic waste. So the whole business is a tissue of folly and dishonesty.

The Marxist-Leninist Theory of History

Value Theory

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