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I think there for I am or I am there for I think

  1. May 13, 2004 #1
    Me and My buddies have been debating this fact for the last few weeks. Can you base the fact that you exist on the fact you think or does it require the justification of others to prove existance. If so then is the only reason existance is posible the fact that everyone else acnowleges the fact that you exist and can you think without existing. :bugeye:
     
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  3. May 13, 2004 #2

    Njorl

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    I think I am , therefore I am, I think.
     
  4. May 13, 2004 #3
    No. Inanimate objects do not think, yet they exist.

    Though I am unable to answer this, your question has aroused a sum of questions I would like to have answered regarding the question.

    To prove existence? to whom? Why would you try to prove existence when there is nothing that doesn't exist (is that assumption correct?)? For something to exist, it needs to take up space, correct? (and there is no space with out something to fill it?)

    thank you :confused:
     
  5. May 14, 2004 #4

    Les Sleeth

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    I'd say neither. If thinking determines existence, then if someone could stop thinking, he'd cease to exist. Yet there are many documented claims of people who've learned to stop thinking (even if only for a few moments), but who still exist.

    And then, what possible difference could it make whether others agree that you exist (or not)? If a wall exists, for instance, but you have a group of wall haters who refuse to acknowledge that it does, will that allow them or prevent you from walking through it? Agreement from others is not the wisest way to determine truth.
     
  6. May 14, 2004 #5
    You think because you exist. But you know that you exist because you think. For there to be thinking, there must be (be=exist) a thinker.

    Thinking is not the sole measure of existance. If there is thinking, then the thinker exists. If there is not thinking, then, without further information, you can't say anything regarding the matter.
     
  7. May 14, 2004 #6

    hypnagogue

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    The most general answer is "I am conscious, therefore I am." Thinking (in the purely computational sense) wouldn't mean anything if there wasn't some consciousness to experience the thoughts. By the same token, one needn't think to have the same sort of first person verification of one's existence (just ask a Buddhist).

    The verification of others is irrelevant. If a room full of people denied that you existed, would you believe them? If you do not exist, how could you be conscious?

    And to clear something up:

    This might be a valid response to the claim "X exists if and only if X thinks." But that is not the claim; the claim is "X exists if X thinks." This latter proposition only claims that thinking is a sufficient, not a necessary, criterion for asserting existence. It therefore admits the possibility of the existence of things that do not think.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2004
  8. May 14, 2004 #7
    That is to be understood that consciousness is priori to existence? I am conscious, therefore exist and can think thoughts.
     
  9. May 14, 2004 #8

    hypnagogue

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    No, it is an epistemic entailment, not an ontological one. The only way I can be conscious is if I exist in the first place; therefore, from my knowledge that I am conscious, I can infer that I exist.

    IOW: I do not exist because I am conscious; rather, I know that I exist because I am conscious.
     
  10. May 14, 2004 #9
    That was my point, what the ontological explanation is, of the kinds of things that actually exist. Reductive explanations of things, seem to reduce to non-exitence. How can your statement be proven, if we can not reductively explain anything?

    Epistemic entailment, as you say, seems to be, an extended dispute between rationalism (reason) and empiricism (reliance on experience) over the respective importance of a priori and a posteriori origins.

    Well an explicit assertion, the brain did it and its implicit presupposition consciousness done it: :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2004
  11. May 14, 2004 #10

    russ_watters

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    But do they exist if you don't think? :surprise:
     
  12. May 14, 2004 #11

    Njorl

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    :tongue2: What about Rodin's The Thinker?

    Njorl
     
  13. May 15, 2004 #12
    Whether or not I think does not change the fact that the seperate entity (the inanimate object) exists.

    I was wondering, does the statement "I think therefore I am" imply that the body and the "spirit" are seperate entities? Does the "I" refer to a "spirit" or "soul" that exhibits the speaker?
     
  14. May 15, 2004 #13
    I think (heh) that the "think" in this case is supposed to refer to consciousness.

    You might want to re-word that first part. It could be taken to mean:
    I am conscious ->[causes] I do not exist
    While what you meant was:
    !(I am conscious ->[causes] I exist)
     
  15. May 16, 2004 #14
    A materialist approach is that thinking (consciousness) requires existence (matter,time,space) but not vice versa.
     
  16. May 17, 2004 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    I don't see how you can equate consciousness and thinking. That would mean if someone stops thinking, say for 30 seconds, they become UNconscious for 30 seconds. I have developed enough skill to stop thinking for that long, and I can report I do not become unconscious. If anything, it seems to make me experience a higher level of consciousness. One need not stop for 30 seconds to disprove your theory; even in ordinary thinking there are small gaps between thoughts, which would mean a person should be constantly alternating between consciousness and unconsciousness . . . yet that doesn't seem to be the case. How do you explain that?
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2004
  17. May 17, 2004 #16

    Les Sleeth

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    Not so . . . he said nothing at all about consciousness causing existence. I believe his point was, ". . . I know that I exist because I am conscious." If I were to rewrite his statement I would underline "know."

    I think he is saying that consciousness is knowing oneself exists. It is not primarily about thinking or existing; rather, consciousness is grounded in knowing.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2004
  18. May 17, 2004 #17

    hypnagogue

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    You're both right; Dan was correct to point out that my wording here was poor. LW, I think you misinterpreted what Dan wrote. In some logic formalisms the token "!" means the same thing as "~", namely the logical operation "not." So writing !(I am conscious ->[causes] I exist) means "It is not the case that the fact that I am conscious causes me to exist," which is indeed how I should have phrased it.

    Actually I would say that knowing is grounded in consciousness. Insofar as knowing means being aware of, it requires awareness to be in place before it can happen.

    One might object that 'knowing' and 'being conscious' can even be equated, in which case neither would be grounded in the other. However, to exploit the above terminology, I would characterize knowing as 'awareness of,' and consciousness simply as 'awareness.' If it is possible for there to be awareness without awareness of-- that is, if it is possible for there to be consciousness without any contents of consciousness-- then knowing and being conscious can be distinguished. Meditative traditions suggest that it is indeed possible to be conscious and simultaneously have no contents of consciousness, so consciousness should be taken to have a more fundamental existence than knowledge.
     
  19. May 18, 2004 #18

    Les Sleeth

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    Thanks for the clarification.


    I want to disagree with you a bit here mostly to test my own reasoning on this subject.

    I realize we might not define awareness the same way, so let me first explain how I see that. Consider the security system in a casino where cameras and microphones are linked to a video monitor, a recording system, and a computer. The system detects all movement on the gaming floor and picks up every sound, so we can say it is visually and auditorily aware. Like the senses, they transmit that information to a monitor (paralleling areas of the brain affected by sense data) and so the monitor is aware too. There is a memory that stores information, and even a computer which can evaluate the recorded data and so adds thinking to the system's capabilities. With all that awareness, memory and thinking power, is the system conscious?

    You defined knowing above as "awareness of," and I assume you mean awareness of "something." But the security system achieves that, so it seems to me that by your definition the system is aware, knows and is conscious.

    I say the system is not conscious because while the system is aware, it isn't aware it is aware. Thinking doesn't give it self awareness, and memory doesn't either. Something is still missing and that is, it isn't aware of itself being aware.

    A newborn infant (in fact, even a well-developed fetus) is aware it is aware. At birth it immediately gives us signs it knows it exists. I say it "knows" because there is never any question to the infant if it is comfortable or not, it knows beyond all doubt it wants to feel good. This self knowledge appears intrinsic, not acquired through learning. Meditation was a good example to cite because as you say, one can eliminate "contents." But the contents one eliminates is only what has been taken on; something still remains there, and actually that orignial, non-acquired aspect is exactly what one is after. In fact, the intensification of that intrinsic self-knowledge is the most powerful aspect to the experience. After I spend an hour in union, my first moments walking around are the best because of how aware I am of my own presence.

    Of course, if consciousness weren't sensitive, then it couldn't be aware of anything, even itself. Also, if what we experience weren't retained, then no individualness or learning would develop. Therefore, I believe consciousness is created by an innate/inborn triune: the ability to feel, the retention of what is felt, and self knowledge of what is felt and retained.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2004
  20. May 18, 2004 #19

    hypnagogue

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    I wasn't using 'aware' in my post the same way you defined it. Here's another shot at what I was getting at: being conscious = having some sort of subjective experience (having the quality that it is like something to be you); knowing = having some sort of subjective experience of or about something (having contents of consciousness).

    Stated this way, knowledge can't be more fundamental than consciousness. At best, we can equate knowledge with consciousness by saying that all subjective experience must necessarily be a subjective experience of something (eg a subjective experience of blueness, of straightness, of vagueness, etc.)

    However, it may be possible via meditation to achieve a state such that one has subjective experience (it is like something to be in this state), and yet has no subjective experience of anything-- no experience of blueness, nor of joyousness, nor of itchiness, nor of self, etc. Such a state could be characterized as pure "Is-ness" without any attendant "About-ness." If such a thing is truly coherent and possible, then consciousness can be said to precede knowledge.

    We have to tread very carefully here. 'Aware,' as you have been using it, is a purely functional concept. It follows that awareness of awareness, however that might be achieved, would also be a purely functional concept. If we then equate subjective experience with awareness of awareness, we are essentially espousing a functionalist theory of mind, which I don't think is the move you want to make given your prefered notions of metaphysics.

    By saying that consciousness is just awareness of awareness, you are essentially saying that phenomenal consciousness is just access consciousness, which is a physicalist position. But the physicalist position appears to be wholely inadequate for explaining consciousness. The short account of this inadequacy is

    (1) Physical accounts explain at most structure and function.
    (2) Explaining structure and function does not suffice to explain consciousness; so

    (3) No physical account can explain consciousness.

    A much more detailed account expanding on this basic argument can be found at chapter 2 of Gregg Rosenberg's online book A Place for Consciousness: http://www.ai.uga.edu/~ghrosenb/chptr2.htm
     
  21. May 22, 2004 #20
    We should first think about what we mean with existing. It is a word for something we experience. We experience existance of things. The main thing we experience is our own existance. So your own thinking proofs your existance for yourself... not your existing to others! We can only proof things to exist if we experience them. If you ask someone who never met person A if person A exists then he or she would answer "how should I know?", but if you say person A is standing right next to you, he or she would answer "ofcourse person A exists, what a stupid question". That doesn't mean person A suddenly became reality... it did to the person you asked the question to, but person A already thought of himself he existed. The fact that you exist is actually the thing you can be most sure of.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2004
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