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RE: [xmca] Consciousness "only a part of the material quality of the man-sign"

I have previously sent later notebook fragments that echo the text below;
but this section from CSP?s 1868 published article ?Some Consequences of
Four Incapacities? seems so squarely on point with this discussion that I
think I now should send this entire 8-paragraph section. So here goes:

§4. MAN, A SIGN [footnotes omitted]

5.310. We come now to the consideration of the last of the four principles
whose consequences we were to trace; namely, that the absolutely
incognizable is absolutely inconceivable. That upon Cartesian principles the
very realities of things can never be known in the least, most competent
persons must long ago have been convinced. Hence the breaking forth of
idealism, which is essentially anti-Cartesian, in every direction, whether
among empiricists (Berkeley, Hume), or among noologists (Hegel, Fichte). The
principle now brought under discussion is directly idealistic; for, since
the meaning of a word is the conception it conveys, the absolutely
incognizable has no meaning because no conception attaches to it. It is,
therefore, a meaningless word; and, consequently, whatever is meant by any
term as "the real" is cognizable in some degree, and so is of the nature of
a cognition, in the objective sense of that term.

5.311. At any moment we are in possession of certain information, that is,
of cognitions which have been logically derived by induction and hypothesis
from previous cognitions which are less general, less distinct, and of which
we have a less lively consciousness. These in their turn have been derived
from others still less general, less distinct, and less vivid; and so on
back to the ideal first, which is quite singular, and quite out of
consciousness. This ideal first is the particular thing-in-itself. It does
not exist as such. That is, there is no thing which is in-itself in the
sense of not being relative to the mind, though things which are relative to
the mind doubtless are, apart from that relation. The cognitions which thus
reach us by this infinite series of inductions and hypotheses (which though
infinite a parte ante logice, is yet as one continuous process not without a
beginning in time) are of two kinds, the true and the untrue, or cognitions
whose objects are real and those whose objects are unreal. And what do we
mean by the real? It is a conception which we must first have had when we
discovered that there was an unreal, an illusion; that is, when we first
corrected ourselves. Now the distinction for which alone this fact logically
called, was between an ens relative to private inward determinations, to the
negations belonging to idiosyncrasy, and an ens such as would stand in the
long run. The real, then, is that which, sooner or later, information and
reasoning would finally result in, and which is therefore independent of the
vagaries of me and you. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality
shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a COMMUNITY,
without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase of knowledge.
And so those two series of cognition -- the real and the unreal -- consist
of those which, at a time sufficiently future, the community will always
continue to re-affirm; and of those which, under the same conditions, will
ever after be denied. Now, a proposition whose falsity can never be
discovered, and the error of which therefore is absolutely incognizable,
contains, upon our principle, absolutely no error. Consequently, that which
is thought in these cognitions is the real, as it really is. There is
nothing, then, to prevent our knowing outward things as they really are, and
it is most likely that we do thus know them in numberless cases, although we
can never be absolutely certain of doing so in any special case.

5.312. But it follows that since no cognition of ours is absolutely
determinate, generals must have a real existence. Now this scholastic
realism is usually set down as a belief in metaphysical fictions. But, in
fact, a realist is simply one who knows no more recondite reality than that
which is represented in a true representation. Since, therefore, the word
"man" is true of something, that which "man" means is real. The nominalist
must admit that man is truly applicable to something; but he believes that
there is beneath this a thing in itself, an incognizable reality. His is the
metaphysical figment. Modern nominalists are mostly superficial men, who do
not know, as the more thorough Roscellinus and Occam did, that a reality
which has no representation is one which has no relation and no quality. The
great argument for nominalism is that there is no man unless there is some
particular man. That, however, does not affect the realism of Scotus; for
although there is no man of whom all further determination can be denied,
yet there is a man, abstraction being made of all further determination.
There is a real difference between man irrespective of what the other
determinations may be, and man with this or that particular series of
determinations, although undoubtedly this difference is only relative to the
mind and not in re. Such is the position of Scotus. Occam's great objection
is, there can be no real distinction which is not in re, in the
thing-in-itself; but this begs the question for it is itself based only on
the notion that reality is something independent of representative relation.

5.313. Such being the nature of reality in general, in what does the reality
of the mind consist? We have seen that the content of consciousness, the
entire phenomenal manifestation of mind, is a sign resulting from inference.
Upon our principle, therefore, that the absolutely incognizable does not
exist, so that the phenomenal manifestation of a substance is the substance,
we must conclude that the mind is a sign developing according to the laws of
inference. What distinguishes a man from a word? There is a distinction
doubtless. The material qualities, the forces which constitute the pure
denotative application, and the meaning of the human sign, are all
exceedingly complicated in comparison with those of the word. But these
differences are only relative. What other is there? It may be said that man
is conscious, while a word is not. But consciousness is a very vague term.
It may mean that emotion which accompanies the reflection that we have
animal life. This is a consciousness which is dimmed when animal life is at
its ebb in old age, or sleep, but which is not dimmed when the spiritual
life is at its ebb; which is the more lively the better animal a man is, but
which is not so, the better man he is. We do not attribute this sensation to
words, because we have reason to believe that it is dependent upon the
possession of an animal body. But this consciousness, being a mere
sensation, is only a part of the material quality of the man-sign. Again,
consciousness is sometimes used to signify the I think, or unity in thought;
but the unity is nothing but consistency, or the recognition of it.
Consistency belongs to every sign, so far as it is a sign; and therefore
every sign, since it signifies primarily that it is a sign, signifies its
own consistency. The man-sign acquires information, and comes to mean more
than he did before. But so do words. Does not electricity mean more now than
it did in the days of Franklin? Man makes the word, and the word means
nothing which the man has not made it mean, and that only to some man. But
since man can think only by means of words or other external symbols, these
might turn round and say: "You mean nothing which we have not taught you,
and then only so far as you address some word as the interpretant of your
thought." In fact, therefore, men and words reciprocally educate each other;
each increase of a man's information involves and is involved by, a
corresponding increase of a word's information.

5.314. Without fatiguing the reader by stretching this parallelism too far,
it is sufficient to say that there is no element whatever of man's
consciousness which has not something corresponding to it in the word; and
the reason is obvious. It is that the word or sign which man uses is the man
himself. For, as the fact that every thought is a sign, taken in conjunction
with the fact that life is a train of thought, proves that man is a sign;
so, that every thought is an external sign, proves that man is an external
sign. That is to say, the man and the external sign are identical, in the
same sense in which the words homo and man are identical. Thus my language
is the sum total of myself; for the man is the thought.

5.315. It is hard for man to understand this, because he persists in
identifying himself with his will, his power over the animal organism, with
brute force. Now the organism is only an instrument of thought. But the
identity of a man consists in the consistency of what he does and thinks,
and consistency is the intellectual character of a thing; that is, is its
expressing something.

5.316. Finally, as what anything really is, is what it may finally come to
be known to be in the ideal state of complete information, so that reality
depends on the ultimate decision of the community; so thought is what it is,
only by virtue of its addressing a future thought which is in its value as
thought identical with it, though more developed. In this way, the existence
of thought now depends on what is to be hereafter; so that it has only a
potential existence, dependent on the future thought of the community.

5.317. The individual man, since his separate existence is manifested only
by ignorance and error, so far as he is anything apart from his fellows, and
from what he and they are to be, is only a negation. This is man,

                ". . . proud man,

                Most ignorant of what he's most assured,

                His glassy essence."


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2009 1:44 PM
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Consciousness




There certainly is a distinction between the President and your  

thought of the President, and between the taler in your pocket and  

your thought of this taler. But again you are siding with Kant, and  

against Marx.  The difference is not that one is mental and the other  

is material. What makes the dollar bill real is not its material  

character, but the practices, customs, laws of a community. Your  

thought of the dollar is different, but not because it is in your  

consciousness. You could write on a piece of paper the statement:  

"There is a dollar in my pocket," and we would have a material object  

(writing on paper), but the same conundrum: does it correspond to the  

reality? The same *impossible* conundrum, because how can a linguistic  

statement ever be said to correspond, or not correspond, to a material  

object? Only (again) because of the practices, customs, of a  

community. They are both equally material - or equally imaginary.


Ilyenkov cited Marx making the same point. Ilyenkov writes:


"[Marx] went on: ?'Real talers have the same existence that the  

imagined gods have. Has a real taler

any existence except in the imagination, if only in the general or  

rather common imagination of man? Bring paper money into a country  

where this use of paper is unknown, and everyone will laugh at your  

subjective imagination.'"





On Sep 23, 2009, at 8:35 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:


> But Vera, all the complexity and nuances of the idea of  

> consciousness and its relation to the material world (both its  

> substratum in the body and in culture and in its relation to its  

> objects) do not obliterate the categorical difference between the  

> President and my thought of the President. And reflecting on this  

> overnight, I am now convinced that this is an *important* as well as  

> a "bleeding obvious" difference.





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