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What is Definition of Consciousness?

 
NL.
 
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15 October 2017 18:51
 
Shaikh Raisuddin - 15 October 2017 07:36 AM

Objectivity = Common Subjectivity


I agree (John Lennon: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”)


Interestingly, perhaps self-consciousness developed in part to monitor and assess this state of affairs. When our reality relies on shared reality, we need some’one’ to assess the degree to which it’s actually shared, otherwise our reality itself is at stake. If everyone really does see your version of green as red and your version of red as green, then presumably your assumptions about reality shift. So perhaps agency evolved in part to suss out, in the words of The Boss, “So tell me what I see, when I look in your eyes.” What is that light of consciousness reflecting?

 
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16 October 2017 01:53
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 14 October 2017 03:48 PM
Giulio - 08 October 2017 03:11 PM

In the spirit of trying to find an MVP (minimum viable product), I am wondering what would be the smallest thing that most people would agree necessarily implies consciousness (such a thing may not be unique).

What is the smallest thing that most people would agree necessarily implies awareness?

This can only be an empirical question: We may, individually, have experienced a particular conscious content that seems minimal to us as far as contents go. I think we would only need a few voluntary contributions from posters here to decide if there is likely a minimal content or not.

So, here’s mine. Well, I already described it but I can repeat myself:
I had fainted one night because of a backache while going to the loo. However, I was able to recall afterward being in what seemed like a state of consciousness with very minimal content. There was no sense of self. I wasn’t aware of being a person or even a human being or a living thing. I wasn’t aware of my physical environment (the light was on but all I was aware of was at best complete darkness). I had no bodily sensation (even though I had fainted because of a backache and was lying crumpled on the hard floor). I had no memory of anything, not even who or what I was. I had no sense of place or time. All I was aware of was just complete darkness and a kind of vague apprehension. And that’s it. Pretty minimal I would say but I’m sure we can do better! I also have no idea how long it lasted before I came round. And I could remember the episode very vividly and I still can today.

So, what is your own experience of minimal content?
EB

 

[ Edited: 16 October 2017 01:56 by Speakpigeon]
 
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16 October 2017 02:35
 
Giulio - 14 October 2017 07:53 PM
Speakpigeon - 14 October 2017 02:28 AM

But it seems to me that there’s no difference between the subjective experience of a toddler and that of an old wise man except in terms of the content available to each.

A very close friend had an inoperable brain tumour, and in the later phases it was clear that cognitive functions, personality, sense of awareness, states of consciousness were progressively distorted and eroded - but it happened in waves. One night he awoke out of a coma (his wife and I were there in the hospital room) and for a period of an hour or so he was back again as his normal lucid, engaging self - dry humour and all. Was it the case that all through that, when not unconscious, the difference in what it was like to be him can be explained purely by the ‘contents of consciousness’ vs a change in the process creating consciousness?

As outside observers, all you could do was to notice his objective, physical appearance, to you at that moment, and then infer from that the plausible state of mind he was in at that point. Whether he himself was subjectively aware of anything is anybody’s guess. Assuming he was subjectively aware, I would also assume he was subjectively aware of something, i.e. a content. We wouldn’t know that but it’s a reasonable assumption.
Now, what it was like to be him in that situation is just another way of referring to the content he was subjectively aware of on the moment. What it was like to be him was precisely the content of his subjective experience. I don’t see any difference.
There is a difference, however, between this and what you refer to as ‘a change in the process creating consciousness’, which seems to me to describe things from an objective perspective, not a subjective one. It’s a different point of view, like looking at a castle from the outside v. looking at it from the inside.
The problem we have, for now at least, is that we don’t seem to know how to relate these two perspectives. They are not necessarily contradictory as you seem to believe they are, but I certainly don’t know how to explain one in terms of the other, or even both in terms of something else and I don’t believe anybody could, at least for now. 

Giulio - 14 October 2017 07:53 PM

I guess it comes to definitions again. How do you define the contents of consciousness?

Content is whatever you are aware of on the moment, irrespective of any consideration of the material (physical, objective) reality (world) that is somehow represented and irrespective of whether this subjective content is to be explained in terms of this physical world or not.

It’s a conceptual distinction. All we have access to in terms of being aware of it is the present subjective content. The physical world this content may somehow represent is just something we believe exists. We’re very sure it exists but I don’t think we can say we know it exists.

Well, at least that’s how I see it.
EB

 

 
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16 October 2017 14:32
 
NL. - 15 October 2017 06:51 PM
Shaikh Raisuddin - 15 October 2017 07:36 AM

Objectivity = Common Subjectivity


I agree (John Lennon: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”)


Interestingly, perhaps self-consciousness developed in part to monitor and assess this state of affairs. When our reality relies on shared reality, we need some’one’ to assess the degree to which it’s actually shared, otherwise our reality itself is at stake. If everyone really does see your version of green as red and your version of red as green, then presumably your assumptions about reality shift. So perhaps agency evolved in part to suss out, in the words of The Boss, “So tell me what I see, when I look in your eyes.” What is that light of consciousness reflecting?

You have to ponder, what makes difference between

#1. Experience during Dream and experience in wakefulness
#2 Experience in madness and experience in sanity

then the only criteria that is left, is social criteria of common subjectivity to get rid of errors of pseudo-experiences. Though the experiences during sleep and in madness may be factual but the story may be wrong.

However in cases of scientific discoveries (eg Galileo) individual subjectivity may sweep to common subjectivity over time. This is also true with revolutionary social leaders who can influence common subjectivity with their individual subjectivity.

Now a day, Governments world over employ means of mass communication to regulate common subjectivity.

 

 
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17 October 2017 02:07
 
Speakpigeon - 16 October 2017 01:53 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 14 October 2017 03:48 PM
Giulio - 08 October 2017 03:11 PM

In the spirit of trying to find an MVP (minimum viable product), I am wondering what would be the smallest thing that most people would agree necessarily implies consciousness (such a thing may not be unique).

What is the smallest thing that most people would agree necessarily implies awareness?

This can only be an empirical question: We may, individually, have experienced a particular conscious content that seems minimal to us as far as contents go. I think we would only need a few voluntary contributions from posters here to decide if there is likely a minimal content or not.

So, here’s mine. Well, I already described it but I can repeat myself:
I had fainted one night because of a backache while going to the loo. However, I was able to recall afterward being in what seemed like a state of consciousness with very minimal content. There was no sense of self. I wasn’t aware of being a person or even a human being or a living thing. I wasn’t aware of my physical environment (the light was on but all I was aware of was at best complete darkness). I had no bodily sensation (even though I had fainted because of a backache and was lying crumpled on the hard floor). I had no memory of anything, not even who or what I was. I had no sense of place or time. All I was aware of was just complete darkness and a kind of vague apprehension. And that’s it. Pretty minimal I would say but I’m sure we can do better! I also have no idea how long it lasted before I came round. And I could remember the episode very vividly and I still can today.

So, what is your own experience of minimal content?
EB

 

Strictly speaking, all we can talk about are memories. Memories of feeling something, memories of rememebering something. Would you agree?

I am interested in the boundary between (a) a memory of having been in a conscious state and (b) memory of having seen or done something in a nonconcious state.

What is an example of (b)? I have had a few of these. Eg in sport, I may have just completed some complex high speed physical manouevre which may have involved responding to an opponent, and then immediately afterwards I experienced a memory of slow motion images of what just occured - even though I wasn’t conscious executing those moves at the time. Or driving for a couple of minutes on remote (my mind was elsewhere eg listening to a podcast) and then remebering in a flash something I saw in that period - something I wasn’t conscious of when I saw it. These memories are like images that don’t belong to me as much as those memories of events during which I am conscious. And I suspect if I don’t recall them immediately after they occur I may lose them forever. (What I am remebering now are just memories of remembering them just after the events, not the events themselves.)

Have you had such memories?

In your example of minimal consciousness, where you fainted, what were the qualities of being like in that situation that you remember that make you feel you were conscious? Or could it have been you weren’t conscious, but when your consciousness activated, enough of what had happened to you in that period was still floating around in your short term memory and you then consciously recalled that - and now you just remember that recall. Hopefully the question makes sense.

I am asking as I feel that the hall of mirrors of memory is deeply related to the question of consciousness (or any assoiciated subjective illusions), but not sure how exactly. Maybe certain memories have enough depth or complexity or properties of subjective feedback that we call them memories of being conscious.

 

 
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17 October 2017 09:14
 
Giulio - 17 October 2017 02:07 AM
Speakpigeon - 16 October 2017 01:53 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 14 October 2017 03:48 PM
Giulio - 08 October 2017 03:11 PM

In the spirit of trying to find an MVP (minimum viable product), I am wondering what would be the smallest thing that most people would agree necessarily implies consciousness (such a thing may not be unique).

What is the smallest thing that most people would agree necessarily implies awareness?

This can only be an empirical question: We may, individually, have experienced a particular conscious content that seems minimal to us as far as contents go. I think we would only need a few voluntary contributions from posters here to decide if there is likely a minimal content or not.

So, here’s mine. Well, I already described it but I can repeat myself:
I had fainted one night because of a backache while going to the loo. However, I was able to recall afterward being in what seemed like a state of consciousness with very minimal content. There was no sense of self. I wasn’t aware of being a person or even a human being or a living thing. I wasn’t aware of my physical environment (the light was on but all I was aware of was at best complete darkness). I had no bodily sensation (even though I had fainted because of a backache and was lying crumpled on the hard floor). I had no memory of anything, not even who or what I was. I had no sense of place or time. All I was aware of was just complete darkness and a kind of vague apprehension. And that’s it. Pretty minimal I would say but I’m sure we can do better! I also have no idea how long it lasted before I came round. And I could remember the episode very vividly and I still can today.

So, what is your own experience of minimal content?
EB

 

Strictly speaking, all we can talk about are memories. Memories of feeling something, memories of rememebering something. Would you agree?

Mostly, yes.
But there’s the borderline case where you can try to comment live on what you are aware of right now. If I see red then I can comment just saying ‘red’ out loud. But it will still definitely take some time for the word ‘red’ to come out so inevitably some time after the particular experience of redness it is commenting on. And if you’re still experiencing redness when it does come out, you can’t say it is the same occurrence of redness. 

Giulio - 17 October 2017 02:07 AM

I am interested in the boundary between (a) a memory of having been in a conscious state and (b) memory of having seen or done something in a nonconcious state.

What is an example of (b)? I have had a few of these. Eg in sport, I may have just completed some complex high speed physical manouevre which may have involved responding to an opponent, and then immediately afterwards I experienced a memory of slow motion images of what just occured - even though I wasn’t conscious executing those moves at the time. Or driving for a couple of minutes on remote (my mind was elsewhere eg listening to a podcast) and then remebering in a flash something I saw in that period - something I wasn’t conscious of when I saw it. These memories are like images that don’t belong to me as much as those memories of events during which I am conscious. And I suspect if I don’t recall them immediately after they occur I may lose them forever. (What I am remebering now are just memories of remembering them just after the events, not the events themselves.)

I guess we don’t even need to do anything. I can for example focus on how my right hand feels as it rests on my left shoulder, and then I can leave my hand there and start to focus on something else like writing a note. I will lose all awareness of how my right hand feels even though I think it will still feel broadly the same, in a sense, something I can easily verify by focusing again on it. In that particular example, I probably won’t have any memory of it without focusing on it, but there may be similar examples where I would. 

Giulio - 17 October 2017 02:07 AM

Have you had such memories?

Nothing specific that I can recall but I think it must be happening quite often and usually we probably just bin it.

Giulio - 17 October 2017 02:07 AM

In your example of minimal consciousness, where you fainted, what were the qualities of being like in that situation that you remember that make you feel you were conscious? Or could it have been you weren’t conscious, but when your consciousness activated, enough of what had happened to you in that period was still floating around in your short term memory and you then consciously recalled that - and now you just remember that recall. Hopefully the question makes sense.

It seems I just know it, now, and knew it just after coming round, that I was effectively conscious on the moment, if only minimally. I didn’t have any self-reflecting thoughts, though. Just darkness and apprehension. Absolutely nothing else.

If I was mistaken on having been conscious then, I might just as well be mistaken on having been conscious yesterday, or indeed 10s ago…

And, come to think of it, how do you even know you’re at all conscious right now?

Giulio - 17 October 2017 02:07 AM

I am asking as I feel that the hall of mirrors of memory is deeply related to the question of consciousness (or any assoiciated subjective illusions), but not sure how exactly. Maybe certain memories have enough depth or complexity or properties of subjective feedback that we call them memories of being conscious.

Given that it happened to me just this once as far as I can recall, I assume it’s not how the brain normally works. But equally, fainting is not a regular occurrence, even for me! All I can say is that I don’t see any difference in how much subjective experience I had or how intense it was in that instance compared to what I normally experience in normal waking hours. The difference was entirely in terms of content as far as I can tell. It’s even conceivable to me that I could experience something similar with some kind of meditation technique, although it would have to be pretty advanced.
EB

 

 
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17 October 2017 09:38
 
Shaikh Raisuddin - 16 October 2017 02:32 PM

You have to ponder, what makes difference between

#1. Experience during Dream and experience in wakefulness

If we use the distinction between subjective experience (being aware of) and its content (what one is aware of), then I don’t see any obvious difference between dream and wakefulness.
There’s obviously a difference in terms of content. The sense of self is pretty minimal during dreams, I would say, for example. I also don’t seem to ever recall anything from my waking hours during my dreams. In fact, it doesn’t seem I ever recall anything at all. Broadly, dreams feels like watching a film. You just forget yourself. But, maybe it’s just me.

Shaikh Raisuddin - 16 October 2017 02:32 PM

social criteria of common subjectivity

I guess I understand the idea but using the expression ‘common subjectivity’ can only lead to misunderstanding. Strictly speaking, as far as I know, there’s no subjectivity which is common to different people, not even to the same person at different points on time. What you want to call ‘common subjectivity’ can only be what we already call ‘objectivity’. Something is accepted as objective by a number of people once they all agree, individually, to accept it as such.
EB

 

 
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17 October 2017 18:09
 
Shaikh Raisuddin - 16 October 2017 02:32 PM

You have to ponder, what makes difference between

#1. Experience during Dream and experience in wakefulness
#2 Experience in madness and experience in sanity

then the only criteria that is left, is social criteria of common subjectivity to get rid of errors of pseudo-experiences. Though the experiences during sleep and in madness may be factual but the story may be wrong.


I’ve thought a lot about variations of the Matrix / Brain in a Vat / Tree Falling in a Forest thought experiment, and my conclusion is that we simply can’t know at the most ultimate level. I do think there are many interesting shades of grey before you get to that level, however. For example, I should probably add a caveat to that Lennon quote from another dreamer, Adlous Huxley - ““Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” While I do think there are many intersubjective ‘truths’ that are very much dependent upon the agreement of human minds, there are certainly many features of reality that do not yield to our beliefs no matter how strongly they are held.


Granted, that could all be happening in the Matrix, but at a functional level it probably doesn’t matter most of the time. Even if all of life is a sort of collective hallucination or dream (I don’t actually believe this, but I am saying, philosophically, I don’t think it’s possible to disprove this,) then it’s consequential to us while we’re in it. I think perhaps one of the most important things is coming to understand what exactly is important or consequential in this life - whether it’s a brain in a vat life or not. For example, when you talk about madness vs. sanity - what is madness? What criteria distinguish the person we thought was crazy but was actually way ahead of their time from the person who was truly ‘mad’? Not their ‘outlier-ness’ - that could be applied to everyone from scientists to social visionaries who were beating the drum of “No, look guys, I’m telling you, this really is true!” while the world said “No way. You’re crazy. The world is flat. The universe orbits around the Earth. People must be ruled by a king. It is not possible to end suffering (ok, that’s a more speculative claim from the Buddha, but had to add it,)” Etc. 


The ‘why’ here seems to circle back to intersubjectivity (i.e., it’s considered true when other people see it and believe it as well,) but not in an across the board way. We accept, for example, that some minority of people suffer from tinnitus, even though we have absolutely no way of subjectively verifying this. Perhaps if there was only one person in a village with tinnitus long ago people would have told them “Whatever, you’re nuts, you hear pretend bells ringing!”. And yet when we find a distribution of this across the population we easily say “Ok, obviously this is a thing, we should do medical research.” But… when we find out that a minority of the population reports similar experiences about being abducted by aliens, or that people with schizophrenia often have similar hallucinations, we don’t say “Oh, well, this must be a real thing then!”.


I find intuitions on how people accept things into collective reality really interesting, although I’m not sure how such things work.

 

However in cases of scientific discoveries (eg Galileo) individual subjectivity may sweep to common subjectivity over time. This is also true with revolutionary social leaders who can influence common subjectivity with their individual subjectivity.

Now a day, Governments world over employ means of mass communication to regulate common subjectivity.


Traditionally, since small hunter gatherer groups stopped being the norm, I do think this has been the role of early forms of governments, strict cultures, and tribalism. I feel it is fast being replaced by advertising, however. Sometimes I have the weird sensation of thinking someone can read my mind, only to realize we’ve probably been exposed to the same cultural messages sort of subliminally via ads. My friend and I were both making cauliflower mashed potatoes the other night, which I think was this crazy, Jungian synchronicity, as I thought cauliflower mashed potatoes were some exotic food that only I had ever heard of. A few days later I saw that Green Giant makes a frozen version of them at Target. It’s so weird to think that clearly I was exposed to that message and clearly it ‘got in’ out of the corner of my eye, just walking around in this zeitgeist, and yet I was entirely unconscious of this. I’ve had this happen other times as well - I think in part it’s marketing culture and in part we’re simply programmed to synchronize with our environment at an unconscious level.

 
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18 October 2017 10:40
 

Speakpigeon & NL

Rene Descartes and his ilk can be said to be the most misguiding philosophers. They have kept humanity misguided for over 400 years.

There is no self and there is no subject.

There is only objectivity.

The other culprit of human misery is, “Dictionary” which wrongly classified many verbs as abstract noun viz. music, memory and thus has messed epistemic entities with ontological entities.

 
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19 October 2017 08:42
 
Shaikh Raisuddin - 18 October 2017 10:40 AM

Speakpigeon & NL

Rene Descartes and his ilk can be said to be the most misguiding philosophers. They have kept humanity misguided for over 400 years.

There is no self and there is no subject.

There is only objectivity.


I sort of agree with this. However, then you get into a philosophical problem (the name / origin of which I can’t remember, I think it was one of the ancient Greek’s who wrote about this, maybe Aristotle,) of objectivity only being objective when viewed by someone. However, once you have a viewer, their viewpoint is subjective, so you need another viewer to observe the first viewer’s perspective to make that objective, and so on and so forth. Turtles all the way up.

The other culprit of human misery is, “Dictionary” which wrongly classified many verbs as abstract noun viz. music, memory and thus has messed epistemic entities with ontological entities.


On the one hand, I do think words can be the source of a lot of confusion (“Words are the source of misunderstandings”). For example, I’ve noticed it’s become fashionable in parts of my cohort to say the word ‘chemicals’ as if you are spitting an uninvited vermin out of your mouth. I’ve even seen this attitude applied to chemotherapy. But this makes little sense, as our own bodies are composed entirely (I presume, anyways,) of chemicals. I think that’s a case of an emotion tone overtaking a semantic label to the point of changing its meaning among people. Context can also cause a great deal of confusion in language. I’ll never forget, early on in my career while I was doing an internship in a short term rehab, trying to assess if a patient was “oriented times 3” and kind of rushing through the questions. What day is it, where are you, who’s the President… they leaned in with a conspiratorial look and said quietly “You see, that’s the big question everyone around here is trying to answer!”. It occurred to me that yeah, even if you were only mildly disoriented, if you woke up in a place with alarms and beeps and bright lights and people rushing by everywhere and people kept coming in to your room demanding to know the day, their location, and the name of the President, you might go “Wait, what the hell? Was there some kind of zombie-pocalyse and I’m here among panicked survivors?”


That said, I think the logical error in taking this argument to the other extreme is totally self evident. In what format are you communicating with me right now? Telepathy? The presence of pure consciousness? Interpretative dance? Or, is it, well - words? Maybe you don’t personally agree with every definition of every word out there, but if that was how language was formed, we’d be in Humpty Dumpty land. (“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”) Language by its very nature is an exercise in compromise and collaboration - we have to stretch our minds to see how a word looks to us and how it looks to another, thus creating a link between us.

 
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20 October 2017 00:51
 
Shaikh Raisuddin - 18 October 2017 10:40 AM

Speakpigeon & NL

Rene Descartes and his ilk can be said to be the most misguiding philosophers. They have kept humanity misguided for over 400 years.

That sounds like pushing it a bit.

Shaikh Raisuddin - 18 October 2017 10:40 AM

There is no self and there is no subject.

This has to depend on what we want to mean by ‘self’ and ‘‘subject’.

I take the self to be an impression supported by a set of memories, sensations, perceptions that retain coherence over time. So I don’t believe there’s any actual self, for example something that could go to paradise or something. So, I guess we probably agree but… not for the same reasons.

As to subject, I guess the word is indeed misleading. An proper subject would require an actual self. The subject would be the conscious, and self-conscious, self. But, there’s no self, so no subject either.

Still, there is something! So, we need a word for that.

Shaikh Raisuddin - 18 October 2017 10:40 AM

There is only objectivity.

Well, that’s definitely not how I experience things.
Clearly, the objective world is at best a construction between intercommunicating entities, which we think of as ‘people’. That’s how things look. Whether that’s actually true, I wouldn’t know. It might well be a complete illusion. All I can do is to believe, or assume, that there is an objective world.
I’m not even sure of what it is exactly if it does exist. All I can say is what it looks like to me, from the perspective of my subjective experience. And no amount of rationalisation could possibly change this. It’s just a fact, at least as far as I am concerned.
You may have a different experience of reality but even if you were right, I wouldn’t know how to check that you are. And, you’re not right. I accept that there maybe there is an objective world but I’m not sure about that either. The only thing I’m sure about is what I subjectively experience, or what I consciously experience, if you don’t like ‘subjectively’.
If words can mean anything and if there’s anything real then my conscious experience is just that. It is the only thing I know exists. All the rest, I can only assume, and at best believe, that it exists.
I’m not saying you don’t exist. I’m saying I really don’t know. I assume you do but I don’t have any actual knowledge of your existence. And, I also assume you would be in the same situation.
That’s how I can make sense of my own experience and it’s compatible with there being some kind of physical world, although I’m not sure of what it would really be like.
This way of thinking does leave open several possibilities: That there’s only my conscious experience and nothing else (solipsism). Or, that there’s both my conscious experience and a physical world, and they have the same nature (monism). And then, that both exist but they are of different natures (dualism).
I’d like to go beyond that but I don’t know of any argument that would do the trick.

Shaikh Raisuddin - 18 October 2017 10:40 AM

The other culprit of human misery is, “Dictionary” which wrongly classified many verbs as abstract noun viz. music, memory and thus has messed epistemic entities with ontological entities.

Dictionaries have only a marginal impact on how we communicate. Few people actually bother to look up words in a dictionary and, when they do, they often pay very little attention to the grammatical indications. What matters is how our everyday interactions lead us to settle for specific meanings. And it’s a messy process.
EB

[ Edited: 20 October 2017 00:55 by Speakpigeon]
 
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20 October 2017 09:29
 
Shaikh Raisuddin - 18 October 2017 10:40 AM

Speakpigeon & NL

Rene Descartes and his ilk can be said to be the most misguiding philosophers. They have kept humanity misguided for over 400 years.

There is no self and there is no subject.

There is only objectivity.

The other culprit of human misery is, “Dictionary” which wrongly classified many verbs as abstract noun viz. music, memory and thus has messed epistemic entities with ontological entities.

There is a subject in the sense that there is subjectivity. There exists an experience that isolates a concept. A lot of concepts that we require to communicate have no temporal existence beyond the context of conversation. I can admit that lots of things are simply markers for our imagination in this way but I’m uncomfortably saying that they don’t exist since they serve a necessary function. I think that the self has important function both socially and reflectively even if it isn’t a concrete thing.

 

 
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