Do you know what at a ‘Thought’ is?
I don’t. [But then, nor do Universities which do a fine trade in refining it.]
The problem is that every time I work up a thought to nail this buzzing fly called ‘Thought’, I am squarely in the Self-Loop.
I Think. I Think that I think. I Think that I think that I think…
This thing I have nailed as ‘Thought’ by thinking about it, by that very fact, cannot be ‘Thought’.
It’s origin is unknown [grab that next thought please, and ask it where it came from].
It’s stage can’t be located. [Inside my head? Beneath the sink? In Kiev?]
It’s terminus is not found. [Where do all those thoughts go, like stairs in an escalator?].
I can’t see it. I can’t hear it. I can’t smell it. And any thinking about it, muddles it more. No self-respecting scientist would take seriously something to which he cannot give the simplest of coordinates.
Dodgy Fellow, this ‘Thought’. So try and not think a thought for the next sixty seconds.
Get back on the Meditation Mat.
[I cannot deny you the smile: at least one noted Philosopher majisterially defines a Philosopher as one who: ‘Thinks about Thinking’. Precious! The popular acronym used for this heavy insight in professional journals is Tat. Ha!]
What is it that I am absolutely certain about? The first Moon-Landing was actually faked in Utah. Cream-Pie widens the arteries. My mother really loves me. Maybe; maybe not.
But I don’t have these invidious doubts about whose thoughts are bouncing around in my head. The thoughts in my head are my thoughts. What happens in my mind is mine! mine! mine!
[Thoughts and Voice [Vox]; nothing more mine than these two. I’ll get to the latter later and follow its trace through history.]
I can wear your cuff-links and you can borrow my cologne. But my thought is my thought and your thought is your thought. And my thought is closer to me than both cuff-link and cologne.
There is nothing else on the planet that is so assuredly mine as ‘My Thoughts’. That’s why it is so real. As long as I have my thoughts, I have me. [Are you sure it is your thought you are thinking right now?]
So it was that René Descartes, founder of Cartesian method and Father of Western Academic Philosophy wrote:
‘Thinking. At last I have discovered it- Thought. This alone is inseparable from me.’ Cogito ergo sum.
[Descartes’ rationale was more nuanced than the standard academic bumper-sticker interpretation. We’ll get to it later in his less-known letters.]
‘Thought’ proffered Immanuel Kant ‘is cognition by means of conception’.
Cognition is a concept. A Concept is that which is ‘conceptually differentiable’. But ‘conceptually differentiable’ is itself a concept.
A ‘Concept’ says the Dictionary, is a: ‘a General Notion or Idea’. But ‘General Notion’ and ‘Idea’ are both very much concepts.
A concept has a public understanding while ‘conception’ is just a private view. Yet concept is for you a conception and conception becomes a concept in the dictionary, unchanged regardless of who looks at it.
Concept; Conception; Concept of Conception; Conception of Concept. All Concepts; or are they Conceptions?
What is the ‘Orangeness’ in an Orange? How do you miraculously, unhesitatingly, repeatedly manage to identify an Orange?
What is common between a sliced and a peeled Orange? A ripe and a rotten Orange? A nibbled Orange and a fresh one?
A picture of an Orange, the sound ‘Orange Juice’, the taste of Orange pop, the smell of Orange peel, the touch of Orange pip, the letters ‘O R A N G E’, on a page.
Orangeness is an idea, a concept.
‘I can’t define Orangeness, Professor, but I sure know how to pick one’.
When Thaetetus asks Socrates to describe ‘ Thinking’, Socrates replies:
‘As a discourse that the mind carries on with itself about any subject it is considering.
You must take this explanation as coming from an ignoramus. but I have a notion that, when the mind is thinking, it is simply talking to itself, asking questions and answering them, and saying yes or no.
When it reaches a decision-which may come slowly or in a sudden rush-when doubt is over and the two voices affirm the same thing, then we call that its ‘judgment.’
So I should describe thinking as discourse, and judgment as a statement pronounced, not aloud to someone else but silently to oneself.‘
I can silently unfold the phrase: ‘Elvis Lives!’, in my mind syllable by syllable in complete comprehension of its meaning.
Mental Verbalization is ‘I’ talking to ‘Me’. Monologue as Dialogue.
I don’t know what Mind is. But I do know this. Every time I say: ‘Gotcha!’, every time I hold forth on the Nature of Mind, I am back in the whirl of the Self-Loop.
‘The Universe belies you‘ wrote Voltaire the passionate skeptic, ‘and your heart refutes a hundred times your mind’s conceit‘.
Very wise-men have been trying to get a handle on this thing called ‘Mind’ for a few millennia and have gotten nowhere. Divine origin? The center of cognition, emotion and volition? The firing of synapse on brain tissue?
But this ‘Mind’ of mine [which of course I know exists] keeps giving me the slip. [And to further confuse matters, knowing folks say that Mind is also the depository of ‘Thought’, the dodgy character we just met.]
I can’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, touch it. And yet, darn it all, it feels awfully real and tangible to me. This ghost behind my nose and between my ears. For here is the epicenter of the Self-Loop.
And anything I pick and label as ‘Mind’ using this Mind of mine cannot be Mind, can be anything but Mind.
So. ‘What is ‘Mind’? As I said, that’s about where the wise-men left it.
The First Law of Consciousness states that you may not investigate your consciousness while being in an actively conscious state.
If you can consciously point to something as your ‘Consciousness’, by that very fact, what you have pointed to cannot be your consciousness.
‘Consciousness’: from the Latin ‘Con Scire‘: ‘to be awake; to know’; and related to Cognitionem, as in the words ‘Cognition’ and ‘Science’.
You cannot be conscious of being ‘Conscious’. You can be conscious. That’s it.
To be conscious of being ‘Conscious’ is the high road to fatal self-contradictions. An unwarranted, illegitimate doubling, an engendered plurality that makes what is simple and unclouded into a belligerent complexity.
You cannot, however hard you blink, wiggle or scheme, stand outside Consciousness to orate upon it. If you feel hemmed in, that is the idea.
[If you can convincingly hold-forth on the conscious ‘Unconscious’ in addition to the merits of mentating about Mind, your talent should not go unnoticed. The most convincing Couch Therapists all live on Park Avenue.]
The presence of an abstract unity, a unifying self-consciousness of thought and feeling and volition, an ontological presence of some form, is fundamental to how we view the world.
In fact the whole idea of ‘View’ and ‘World’ [not to mention ‘Idea’] takes conventional meaning only in its presence.
Immanuel Kant speaking for a millennia of articulate thinkers, a century after Rene Descartes, crowned it the: ‘Highest Principe in all Human Cognition’.
So come with me now to Königsberg, Prussia, circa 1750 CE.
From his Critique of Pure Reason, a volume that marked the domain of Academic Philosophy for several generations:
‘The ‘I Think’ must accompany all my representations..I call it pure apperception..because it is a Self-Consciousness..it is in all acts of Consciousness one and the same and unaccompanied by it no representation can exist for me.
The unity of this apperception I call the Transcendental Unity of Self- Consciousness..and this principle..is the highest principle in all human cognition.’
Here is Dr. Wilhelm Leibniz on his celebrated ‘Twin Truths’:
‘The immediate awareness of our existence and our thoughts furnishes us with the first a posteriori truths, or truths of Fact, the first experiences, while identical propositions embody the first a priori truths, or truths of Reason, the first illuminations.
Neither admits of proof and each may be called immediate.’
‘Transcendental Unity of Self-Consciousness’? ‘The immediate awareness of our existence and our thoughts‘?
No. We are not in the Himalayas amidst a mystical mountain-sect. Nor the corner of Haight and Ashbury.
We are in Hanover, at the Study of Dr. Wilhelm von Leibniz, a founder of Modern Logic and the Mathematical Calculus. [If you want someone to blame for your shoddy grades in Math, here’s the man.]
Thought, Mind and Consciousness; the Meta-trinity. The Meta-Trinity: the machinery that makes the machine-tools that make the machines that make the machine-tools…that make the Models.
There are two aspects which define the Meta-Trinity. Their self-referential nature, a repeated readiness to slip into the Self-Loop. And their intimate, inviolable relationship to ‘Me’.
Do not sit on a rocking chair and ‘think’ about this. It includes you doing any thinking about it. And the Self-Loop will have a grand run at your expense and grin all the way.