Mind-body dichotomy

Just happened to hear this old song that talks of “pure love” and it struck me as a perfect expression of the mind body dichotomy.

Hum ne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehakti khushboo
Haath se chhoo ke ise rishton ka ilzaam na do
Sirf ehsaas hai yeh, rooh se mehsoos karo
Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do, koi naam na do

Film: Khamoshi (1969)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Lyricist: Gulzar
Music Director: Hemant Kumar

Translation:

I have seen the fragrance of those eyes
Dont accuse my looks of any ties by a touch
This is just a feeling, experience it with your soul
Let love remain love, don’t give it a name.

Old Hindi movie songs were brilliant in terms of lyrics, melody and music. Over the last two decades, with a very few exceptions, they have lost all of that. Over the same time, misplaced idealism has been replaced by dogmatic pragmatism (yes, there is such a thing). Cause and effect?

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13 Responses

  1. Old Hindi movie songs were brilliant in terms of lyrics, melody and music. Over the last two decades, with a very few exceptions, they have lost all of that. Over the same time, misplaced idealism has been replaced by dogmatic pragmatism (yes, there is such a thing). Cause and effect?

    America went through the same thing. With America, the counter-culture of the 60s ushered in pragmatism and nihilism. The result is today’s Hollywood. It looks like India is going through the same thing. Post-modernism’s reach is apparently everywhere.

  2. I love to listen to old hindi songs, but now is not what they used to

  3. Dalton,
    Can you point me to some insightful writing on the counterculture? I have read Apollo vs Dionysius by Rand but would like to read more. Rand describes the reason vs mysticism aspect of the counterculture. I am interested in knowing of the political aspects.
    (Coincidentally, I just happened to read this post on Pajamas Media linking the Tea Party to the Hippie movement via this post by Jim May on The New Clarion)

    Incidentally, I would also be very interested in intelligent commentary on Indian culture but do know any place where I can get it.

  4. Was idly browsing profiles of the followers listed at the Ayn Rand – India blog. I forgot exactly how, but I guess it was from Nidhi Arora’s profile that I first happened to take a link to Aaditya Joshi’s blog, and perhaps from his followers, landed here. … Still having a look around, but then, this post caught the eye.

    Disagree a bit with your characterization of that song as indicative of the mind-body dichotomy.

    Translating a poem is always hazardous (and reading a translation is like touching the face of a lover with a hand in a glove—forgot who said it.) Anyway, here’s my try at translation, with a lot of parenthetical notes:

    I have seen [that] fragrance [of the soul subtly and slowly] emanating off those eyes [of yours];

    [But now] With that touch of the hand, don’t [go so far as] accusing this [glance of mine or this connection between us] of a [mature] relationship [, not yet];

    [Take it as if] This is just [a nascent/budding] awareness [of something special happening between you and me], [first] experience it with [your] soul;

    Let love remain love, don’t give it any name [or, loosely, don’t slap a label on it, not as yet].

    Nope, even if you leave my [prosaically bad] translation aside, no matter how you read it, I fail to see any mind-body dichotomy in it. Indeed, to call it MBD is to insult the poetry of it.

    Tch… The introduction into the poetry of that emphasis on the soul, and the shying away from the touch, together, do not imply MBD. If anything it just expresses the feminine reserve, that’s all. (We are talking of 1960s, and of Indian women.)

    And, in that last line, despite all that preceding shyness, the girl ends up so directly naming the emotion she feels, doesn’t she?

    –Ajit
    [E&OE]

  5. I suppose you could read it like that, especially in the context of “Indian women in the 60s” as you say. But I still think your translation adds something that is not there – the parts in bold below.


    [But now] With that touch of the hand, don’t [go so far as] accusing this [glance of mine or this connection between us] of a [mature] relationship [, not yet];
    [Take it as if] This is just [a nascent/budding] awareness [of something special happening between you and me], [first] experience it with [your] soul;
    Let love remain love, don’t give it any name [or, loosely, don’t slap a label on it, not as yet].

    As for the context of Indian women and the 60s, that raises the question of why there was so much “feminine reserve” in the first place. I am no expert on Indian culture, but I guess it was because of an acceptance of mysticism and the mind body dichotomy.

    And, in that last line, despite all that preceding shyness, the girl ends up so directly naming the emotion she feels, doesn’t she?

    Only if you read it your way without the dichotomy. At face value, combined with the lines above, I think it sums up the dichotomy – the idea of pure love, not tainted by any physical expression.

  6. I agree that the parts of my translation which you put in the bold are interpolations that I myself have introduced; these need not necessarily have been there. But then, note, (i) in general, the poetic form often requires such interpolations, and (ii) in particular, the kind of extra interpolations I supplied aren’t exactly ruled out by what is explicitly there.

    That apart, you have raised an interesting question: why there was so much reserve in the first place. You also go towards a good (i.e. valid) broad answer: mysticism and its attendent MBD, as the broad dominant philosophic trends in India (then, and in various forms, now). I agree that mysticism has been the dominant philosophy in India.

    Still, here, my point is: “dominant” is not a synonymn for “exclusive.” And, more. An explicit emphasis on the soul aspect does not necessarily mean or imply mysticism or the MBD.

    And then, here is a curiosity from my side. If you are going to take something only at its face value, then why not be consistent and refrain from applying any deeper philosophic analyses to it? Conversely (or is it obversely?), if you are going to apply something as abstract and general a principle as a fundamental phiphilosophic one, then why not also look equally deeper into that to which the philosophic analysis is being applied?

    Indeed, if a piece of poetry is refined and beautiful and thus stands on its own merits, and then if one goes ahead and applies a hierarchically inconsistent philosophic analysis to it, then it’s obvious what would be the loser: it would be philosophy. That was my basic concern here.

    To conclude. Nope, this is not a case where you can say that it is a great piece of art but I don’t agree with its philosophy. Or, that the metaphysics it conveys is bad but the piece is epistemologically superlative. Nope. You can say that in respect of Byron and Shakespeare. But I honestly believe you cannot apply an analysis in a similar vein to this piece.

    When it comes to poetry, there are very fine distinctions to be made with regards to the variety, acuity and transience of the various subtle, fleeting or evanescent mental states, esp. emotions. There is something to be said for the poetic license, not just at the level of ethics and politics (free speech), but also at the level of epistemology. The form requires us to approach it on its own terms—if we care to approach it at all. Given this, and the rest of this poem, I fail to see MBD (even after stripping off the social-cultural context in which it was written).

    Here is a translation of the complete poem to also touch on the remaining parts. Consider it in toto, in order to put the above piece in some context, and see if you still disagree:

    I have seen that fragrance emanating off those eyes,
    With that touch of the hand, don’t accuse this all of a relationship,
    This is just an awareness, experience it with the soul,
    Let love remain love, don’t give it any name.

    Love is not some talk, love is not sound,
    It is a silence which listens, and [also] is in the habit of saying [something],
    It does not extinguish, nor does it stop, nor has it stayed put in some [one] place,
    It’s a drop of light, it has been flowing since ages.

    Something like a laughter keeps flowering somewhere in the eye,
    And, hides itself at the eyelids from the brightness outside,
    The lips don’t say anything, but still, on those shivering lips,
    How many silent stories are kept holding back.

    I have seen that fragrance emanating off those eyes,
    With that touch of the hand, don’t accuse this all of a relationship,
    This is just an awareness, experience it with the soul,
    Let love remain love, don’t give it any name

    One final point. If you are going to accuse it of mysticism simply because the poet says the love has been flowing for ages (i.e. centuries if not millenia) whereas the average human lifespan is less than a century, then, you might as well accuse the entire Western civilization of mysticism—they call the beginnings of the influence of the more rational philosophic elements by the name: Rennaissance, which means: rebirth. By today’s “scientific” standards (and by what Ayn Rand didn’t know any better about), reincarnation is, you would say, an invalid idea, an arbitrary idea. So, go ahead, tell Peter Schwartz (?) that they he is a mystic too, because he ran a shop by the name “The Second Renaissance Book…”, calling it a *second* rennaissance, and thereby compounding his mysticism. Go ahead, do that! 🙂

    And then, apart from it all, of course, if you wish to merely express the angst of a typical software engineer/nerd (not necessarily you) which arises out of his summary failure in finding any reciprocation whatsoever to his romantic initiatives, esp. from Indian girls/women, then I am entirely eager to delete this whole comment, and to join any petitition to Indian women that you/software engineers/nerds might wish to send out. Consider me the first signee. LOL.

    –Ajit
    [E&OE]

  7. OK, I will agree that accusing the poet or even this particular song of MBD will require context that I do not have. I would have to watch the movie and read other songs/poems by the poet to do so.
    I have also already agreed that it is possible to read it your way and thanks for that interpretation. That allows me to enjoy the song better than I would have otherwise. However, apart from the two lines below I still don’t see any support for your interpretation

    Honth kuch kehte nahi kaanpte hothon pe magar
    Kitne khaamsoh se afsaane ruke rehte hain
    —-
    The lips don’t say anything, but still, on those shivering lips,
    How many silent stories are kept holding back

    Taking the song at face value (perhaps because I don’t have a poetic imagination) and combining it with the inescapable prevalence of mysticism and MBD in India, this song was a reminder of that prevalence.

    There is something to be said for the poetic license, not just at the level of ethics and politics (free speech), but also at the level of epistemology.

    Can you elaborate?

    If you are going to accuse it of mysticism simply because the poet says the love has been flowing for ages

    No I am not going to. I read that as a poetic rather than literal phrase.

    Reincarnation? I have seen you mention that on your blog without really making any substantive claims or presenting any evidence, except for that one recent post on consciousness. I didn’t understand your claim that consciousness is beyond time and space in the same way that existence is. I wanted to comment on that but could not find the comments section for that post. Do you care to elaborate?

    if you wish to merely express the angst …

    Ha ha. But no, I wasn’t doing that.

  8. No, the point is not the poet’s other songs or film, or anything like that. Unlike Aamir Khan (the actor)’s side remark, I believe that Hindi film songs do stand on their own—at least often enough. So, to settle the issue of whether MBD is shown by this song, IMO, it is not really necessary to go beyond its own words.

    Ok, let me put it what I see in it. You (by which I mean the same as “one,” here) really don’t have to parse the words and stop there. What you have to do is to take it in its entirety and ask yourself what kind of context it suggests. For instance, what kind of situation in life does it fit in. To me, it does this following (which is regardless of or orthogonal to how it was used in the film—the theme, plot, characterization etc. of the *film*)

    A guy and a girl are in the initial stages of developing a romantic relationship. The guy is eager to take it to the next level. The girl has developed feelings for him, but still is nowhere ready to go any further.

    There are both things that hold her back and things she wants to check out about him—his soul. And still, she is serious about him. How do we know this? Because, she inadvertently talks of certain serious, universal qualities of love. She is aware that a romantic relationship does something long-term to one’s own soul. There is just too much to risk. What if the relationship goes sour? In that privacy of one’s own soul, in those silently private moments (the ones which are left when the usual daily talking and chattering is taken away, so that confronting one’s own soul can no longer be escaped), if one has come to truly soulfully love someone, then that person, that love is what the soul is going to find “conversing” with. If this relationship goes sour, and if a romantic relationhip means so much to that girl, how is she going to deal with that kind of a soulful silence? Would she able to deal with a soul-searing soul-tearing pain if something goes wrong? That’s roughly what she is thinking of, in the first stanza. Thinking of, and, in saying it aloud, asking the guy to consider. In regards to a possible relationship with this guy, she is thinking of that kind of love which one makes think of some things that are almost eternal. Flowers have been flowering, sunlight has been blessing the earth, for ages. Since both of are engineers, we can extrapolate: people have been meeting, even mating, and life being continued uninterrupted, the offspring being a byproduct of the love. If something long-lasting is being mentioned despite also the emphasized transience, then what it all means is that we consider the existence of that long-lasting thing right in that transient. (I put it badly, but the idea I have in mind is something like seeing the one in the many—as applied to temporal things.) Now, this all is a real serious business. Are you that serious? Can you be? I *am* that serious about it all. That’s what the girl is indirectly saying.

    In the second stanza, she first emphasizes her simplicity. There may be light outside, but she finds it too dazzling or blinding. She expresses her inability to deal with that outside brilliance—without him on her side, perhaps. But that fear of the brightness outside is not because of certain darkness or void within her soul, she adds. She is not only aware but also eloquent enough to tell that there is a light in her soul. With diminutive expression, she tell, that love has been coming only up to her eyelids. Romantic love is so special, that she has not allowed to its droplets get sprayed on every Tom, Dick and Harry. It has been selective. And then, for all you know, perhaps there has been a romantic pain in the past too. There are stories, perhaps also of a past pain. And, perhaps, none of that, but stories of nothing but plain apprehension. Is he ready to deal with it all?

    She has seen a similar light of the soul in his eyes too. And, she has seen it spreading as softly, as unnoticeably, as unobtrusively as a fragrance. So, she suspects that may be here is a soul-mate. But, how can she tell that it is so, unless the guy also gives some indications that he understands such depths of what a romantic relationship demands. And then, he has already come forth, touching her hands. That is so easy to do. Is he forgetting that seriousness of the soulful romantic love that she has in mind?

    Whooo! I am done. (The passage was written purely on the fly and can be improved.)

    Yes, K. M., henceforth, I would instantaneously agree with you that there is MBD in it—so long as I don’t have it type as much. (I know you didn’t ask me to, but then…)

    About the poetic license, at the level of epistemology. … Actually, I cannot elaborate in terms of principles and all. But I can make it out, and give you some indicative examples.

    “Muskuharat see khili raheti hain aakhon mein kahin” or, a laughter-some thing keeps/is flowering in the eye. Now, as far as I know, it is buds that flower. Buds are a part of a plant. Eye does not contain buds. So, how can anything flower in the eye? Since the very cognitive essences of “flowering” and “eye” does not permit any flowering of anything in the eye, does not this phrase commit an epistemological offence? The answer is, with the poetic license, it does not. That’s why we have “Out, out, brief candle, life’s nothing but…” Man is not a candle. Defining by non-essential (and as in both examples here, strictly speaking, by non-existing) attributes is a cognitive crime. It invalidates the concept. Yet, we allow this kind of a leeway/concession to the poetic expression. There is a specifically epistemological part to that concession. That’s what I meant.

    Now, just a little bit about consciousness and reincarnation etc.

    First of all, thanks for telling me that I have readership like yours! And, if I may now ask, what is your name? Your background? How old are you? (If you wish, send me an email: [email address removed] )

    About consciousness being outside of space and time. No, frankly, I cannot elaborate on the fly. I will have to get into that mode (read up on the axioms and revive the connections and bring the issue alive in my mind once again), before I can elaborate on it. However, I think most of this would be unnecessary if you listen to the “Metaphysics of Consciousness” lecture by Dr. Harry Binswanger.

    Most briefly: the “outside” here is logical, not spatial. An obvious point, but can’t tell how many people get it wrong—they just don’t notice even the structure of that statement, namely that if one says: “X is outside of space,” it can only mean that the “outside” here is to be taken in a sense more basic than that of the spatially defined inside/outside distinction. Consciousness, as an axiom, underlies every aspect of your knowledge—conceptual, perceptual (the primary form in which reality is evident), and even sensory-perceptual (as analyzed later). Before you can grasp the concepts of space and time, first you have to perceive actually existing objects. No doubt they exist extended spatially, and are perceived to continue to exist. But still, the basis of all your knowledge is percepts. You first have to perceive objects before you can make the necessary observations to isolate the fact that they have these spatial and temporal attributes. If you agree to this point, the rest is very very easy. All that I then have to point out is that perception requires consciousness—which makes it logically outside of any spatial and temporal characteristics, i.e. outside of space and time. Dr. Binswanger also takes many examples from ordinary life, and many common wrong notions (e.g. can you locate consciousness to your brain? why?) His cassette is worth the money even in Indian Rupees—provided you have enough interest in that matter. Not entirely necessary. (See, how I act both as a salesman and anti-salesman, simultaneously.)

    Nice talking to you. I will post on reincarnation later. Sorry that I cannot point out anything that I cannot recommend without qualifications, i.e., without providing, so to say, not just a pinch of salt but a whole Gujarat-coast-ful of it. Nothing that can be directly recommended. But, if you have enough supply of the salt, then go through University of Virginia’s late professor Ian Stevenson’s researches on reincarnation. There is a gentleman in Pune who too has written in a remarkably better way as compared to the usual writers (but which, to me, is still unsatisfying), and it anyway is in Marathi. But yes, this gentleman has a better sense of the philosophic level than Stevenson. I will be consulting them both when I come to write my own thoughts about it.

    Bye for now. Can no longer type anything more. And yes, that poetry does show MBD 🙂 Please do let me know your background—it helps place people better; thanks in advance.

    Regards,

    –Ajit
    [E&OE]

  9. Enough about whether there is MBD in that song. I am sorry I don’t have even a fraction of your imagination.

    About the poetic license, the examples you give are metaphors. There is no epistemological offence if the metaphor is good – if it accurately captures and highlights whatever is meant to be highlighted.
    “muskurahat see khili rahti hai aankhon mein kaheen”
    Consider the more common “honthon pe khili muskurahat” (smile blooming on lips). A blooming flower is attractive/pleasant in the same way as a smile. Similarly when a man’s life is compared to a candle, that is a valid comparison as well if the intent is to highlight the fleeting nature of life. Man does age and “burn out” in the same way as a candle does. Usage of inessential characteristics is not just bad epistemology, it is bad poetry as well. A bad song comes to mind

    Jaan hatheli pe rakh lo
    Aankhon se moti chakh lo
    Teekhi teekhi tez tez yeh sooli par hai sej sej
    Imaan banaakar tum rakh lo
    Mohabbat hai mirchi, mohabbat hai mirchi
    Mohabbat hai mirchi sanam
    Uljhi uljhi, tirchhi tirchhi
    Mohabbat ki galiyaan sanam

    I wont attempt to translate it. No amount of poetic license is going to make that good poetry.

    Regarding consciousness,
    OK, I see what you are saying and I agree. Just to be clear, the following is how I would describe it. Space and time are attributes of existents. That is why one cant meaningfully ask questions like “how long have things existed?” or “what is outside the universe?” More accurately, space is an attribute of the relationship between existents. Time is an attribute of the motion of existents. Things don’t move in time. We conceive of time because we see that things move and we want to measure that movement. But it is meaningful to ask whether consciousness is spatially or temporally limited. And as you explained very well in that post of yours, one can indeed answer that question in the affirmative – there is plenty of evidence that suggests that consciousness is spatially limited to our body.
    So, to sum up, I am not sure why you mention a paradox in that post. The spatially limited nature of consciousness is indeed not axiomatic whereas the existence of consciousness is axiomatic. Why is that a paradox?
    Take your time to respond to this (perhaps on your blog). I can wait.
    Regarding reincarnation and the coastful of salt, no I am not inclined to read something like that. Put up your thoughts and I will read those instead.

    Will also send you a mail so that I don’t have to put up any details on the blog.

  10. You said: “I am sorry I don’t have even a fraction of your imagination.” … See it in placed in the bigger picture. Compared to great poetic imagination (e.g. this one by Gulzaar), both of us are quite in the same boat! So let’s indeed close the poetics chapter.

    “Usage of inessential characteristics is not just bad epistemology, it is bad poetry as well.”

    With that point, now I can put it better. What would be regarded as an essential characteristic, is context-dependent. I suppose that the context itself also includes *purpose*. Cognitive and aesthetic purposes are different. That’s how, I guess, the greater leeway being given to poetry (and to much less extent, novels) might be justified.

    “A bad song comes to mind…”

    That was one gem of a song! LOL!

    Regarding consciousness. Your initial part is just great. A couple of comments.

    You: “More accurately, space is an attribute of the relationship between existents.”

    I disagree on two counts.

    (i) Space is an attribute of *existents* themselves. Unless it were so, there could be no spatial relationships *between* them. … It is impossible to establish relationships between two or more existents unless each of them possess it already—prior to your grouping them together. You first observe the already existing similarities which both (or all) of the existents of a given kind already have in common (and then may regard one of the similar characteristic as a CCD).

    (ii) As far as finding the meanings of the terms space and time goes, “existents” is too broad a term. You have to qualify it. You have to say something like physical or material existents. Neither consciousness (which itself an existent) nor any aspect of it (including the products of its processes, e.g. knowledge, which too are existents) carry any spatial attributes. Above, I used the term “objects,” but yes, even I should have qualified it by saying “physical objects.”

    You: “We conceive of time because we see that things move and we want to measure that movement.”

    Another important application of the concept of time pertains to the matters of consciousness. We by nature have memory, and we can more or less directly distinguish between the present from the past. The concept of time pertains also to such distinctions, their ordering, etc. Thus, it is not movement-related alone.(Distinguishing the future from the present requires a kind of conceptual projection which is not as direct as distinguishing the present from the past. I am not sure whether past and present distinction can be said to be a matter of direct perception. I think it is so, but I need to think about it and cross-check.)

    You: “So, to sum up, I am not sure why you mention a paradox in that post. The spatially limited nature of consciousness is indeed not axiomatic whereas the existence of consciousness is axiomatic. Why is that a paradox?”

    First things first. It is a *paradox*. And, in a way (not all), you have resolved it. A virtual cigar/drink is indeed due—strictly so long as it is virtual!

    But, yes, there is more to it.

    Consider the material world. A physical object (e.g. a keyboard) is spatio-temporally delimited, even if the concept “existence” itself is not. This is not bothersome, some may say. What we apply is a procedure of (meta-mathematical) summation, they may point out. In effect, according to them, what we say is the following: Existence is the sum-total of *all* existents. Individual existents may perhaps be spatio-temporally delimited, but existence itself is not—as a sum-totality, it includes all individual existents, and therefore is beyond all of them. Hence, it “contains” not only spatio-temporal attributes but also space and time.

    Now consider consciousness. The only consciousness that one can be primarily and directly aware of, is one’s own. Therefore, the procedure of taking a sum-totality in the sense in which we use it for the physical world, is simply not applicable here. Whatever statement we may make, it has to be applicable to an individual consciousness—yours.

    There is a further, more subtle difference. You may argue that existence is a characteristic of every existent, and therefore the summation procedure is not even really required. Existence is already there as soon as you take any single existent. But as to consciousness: it is not a characteristic of *every* existent—only of your grasp of it. Further, consciousness is only a part of existence, *not* the whole of it—besides your consciousness, there exists all of the rest of the universe. Since not all existents possess consciousness, arguing from the fundamentality of the characteristic, in order to go “beyond” space and time, is not possible in the case of consciousness, as it is, for the case of existence.

    What metaphysically exists is an individual man. His body and and his consciouness are just two attributes of the same metaphysically existing entity: the individual man. One aspect (the body) is spatially delimited. The other (consciousness) is not. Neither the characteristic argument nor the sum-totality principle is applicable. (Indeed, if you notice, both these arguments are two parts of one and the same principle!) So, now, how do you resolve the issue?

    One final, related point. Think about the following—you don’t have to reply, because these points really require far more hard thoughts than a blog-time exchange, and that’s why I am so slow in posting about all that reincarnation issue at my blog as well. Anyway, here is the food for thought: Is the *existence* of consciousness conditional? If yes, how do you justify the statement “the existence of consciousness is axiomatic”? How can anything whose existence is conditional be axiomatic? Wouldn’t that condition then better qualify as the axiom? And, if the existence of consciousness is not subject so some condition, then I must ask: Do you believe in consciousness after death?

    (I will post a better version of this part at my blog soon enough. And, no, it was not a bother writing this reply at all. It was fun.)

    –Ajit
    [E&OE]

  11. Cognitive and aesthetic purposes are different.

    Agreed.

    Space is an attribute of *existents* themselves.

    Agreed. That was a mistake.

    We by nature have memory, and we can more or less directly distinguish between the present from the past. The concept of time pertains also to such distinctions, their ordering, etc. Thus, it is not movement-related alone

    Of course we can distinguish between the past and the present (perhaps because they have very different physical mechanisms? The present is experienced via direct perceptions, the past via memories). But I am almost sure that I don’t have any intrinsic ability to order memories unless the time of the event in question has been preserved in memory for some reason. For example, I remember reading different novels several year ago. I remember their content, but I don’t remeber the order in which I read them. So I don’t agree that time has any direct application here. I still hold that the concept of time arises from a need to measure motion. As a (perhaps senseless) counterfactual, would there be any concept of past and present if there were no motion?

    As far as finding the meanings of the terms space and time goes, “existents” is too broad a term. You have to qualify it. You have to say something like physical or material existents. Neither consciousness (which itself an existent) nor any aspect of it (including the products of its processes, e.g. knowledge, which too are existents) carry any spatial attributes.

    Consider the material world…

    I find the terms physical and material confusing and tend not to use them. I haven’t yet made up my mind about this issue but here are some questions.
    Is a stone material?
    Is an atom material?
    Is an electron material (if one accepts the QM interpretation that it is a probability cloud)?
    Is a thought material?
    Is a memory material?
    Regarding the last two, I think there is evidence to suggest that a thought is accompanied by some neural activity in the brain. Is there any evidence to suggest that there is something more to it? I don’t know of any. Same thing goes for a memory. There is evidence to suggest that memories are stored in the brain. Are they material?

    Is it correct to say that space is an attribute of entities (rather than existents) and some existents (consciousness in particular) are attributes of entities. If so, it is not useful to say that consciousness does not have spatial attributes. How could it? It is itself an attribute of something that does have spatial attributes. Is that not enough?

    What metaphysically exists is an individual man. His body and and his consciouness are just two attributes of the same metaphysically existing entity: the individual man. One aspect (the body) is spatially delimited. The other (consciousness) is not… So, now, how do you resolve the issue?

    Disagree. The body is the man, not an attribute of the man. Consciouness is an attribute of it. So I still don’t see an issue.

    Is the *existence* of consciousness conditional? If yes, how do you justify the statement “the existence of consciousness is axiomatic”? How can anything whose existence is conditional be axiomatic? Wouldn’t that condition then better qualify as the axiom? And, if the existence of consciousness is not subject so some condition, then I must ask: Do you believe in consciousness after death?

    All evidence indicates that the existence of consciousness is conditional. Why is that a problem in saying that the existence of (my) consciousness is axiomatic? It is axiomatic because it is implicit in everything I think or do. What does that have to do with the conditionality of my consciousness? No, I don’t believe in consciousness after death. No evidence to believe that. I simply believe that the body loses the attribute of consciousness at death. I don’t even think that death is a particularly interesting phenomenon. There are other ways in which the body loses the attribute of consciousness – a strong sedative for example. The only difference is that the conditions for consciousness (whatever they are) are not permanently damaged by a sedative as they are by whatever causes death – an illness or a wound or whatever. In fact I think most causes of death also only damage these conditions permanantly only to the extent that we don’t have the technology to undo the damage.

    Consciousness is a fascinating subject primarily because its boundaries are not clear. No one (to my knowledge) has written about what aspects of consciousness are open to scientific inquiry and what aspects (if any) must forever remain closed to inquiry. I have often pondered this question and will continue to do so when I have the time and inclination.

    P.S.
    I haven’t finished reading ITOE, so I might be using some words (entity and existent in particular) in ways subtly different from the way Rand used them.

  12. 0. You raise so many wonderful points, in such an interesting way (reading a first-hand thought, even if possibly containing some mistakes, is always a delight) that it would be impossible to discuss them all. In a way, not to discuss all the points is well in order, because you are still getting acquainted with (and digesting) Ayn Rand’s ideas on this issue. Many discussions possible today would become simply superfluous or unnecessary in the due course of time. … So, what I give below are just some notes on the points of departure and may be a hint here and there.

    1. Regarding time and memory. My basic point is that you cannot restrict the referents of the concept of time to the physical phenomena alone. This is the broadest point—there is more to time than only the physical phenomena. Let me take a slightly narrower version of the same point. (I will come to the question of what is physical, later on.) Thus, the example is still only from the physical domain, but not containing movement.

    Ayn Rand famously pointed out (II edition of ITOE) that if all existence was a uniform expanse of blue color, no perception (and hence no knowledge) would be possible, and also no self-awareness in that case. But you introduce just a speck of dust against that massive blue expanse, and suddenly, perception etc. all become possible.

    Let me take a variation on the theme. Imagine that that speck remains unmoved at a point, as a speck, only for a limited time period, and in front of your eyes, transforms into some imperceptible physical form, e.g. into an invisible heat radiation (which is too small for your other senses to detect). All of the following statements then are true:

    (i) You could perceive the speck in a given present moment.
    (ii) You could perceive the absence of the speck in a later moment.
    (iii) You can no longer perceive anything more.
    (iv) You can still distinguish the present absence of perceiving from the past in which you could perceive something—that speck.
    (v) You can tell that time has elapsed by considering the above all facts.
    (vi) There was no *movement* (in the primary sense of the term), and still you could tell time in reference to external world.
    (vii) Once the faculty of your consciousness has thus been allowed to operate (i.e., to at all be conscious of something), the mechanism of memory has automatically been activated, and is available to you. (Here, what I am not sure is this: whether you could tell that time still was passing after the speck disappeared, in reference to the psychological time-measurements that you had had an opportunity to grasp. I am inclined towards the position “yes,” but am not entirely sure, and am still thinking about it.)

    So, time does not require movement alone. You have to have something broader. Think: Will “change” do? Is time a measure of change? Does all change have to occur only in the external world? Are there any changes in the internal world too?

    BTW, the distinction between external and internal is this (my own idea, not checked with what Peikoff/Rand has said about it). In any process of thought or of knowledge, we use concepts. The meaning of a concept is the entities that it subsumes. The subsumed entities (i.e. existents) can be of two types. One, physical, and other mental. For an example of the first: a cricket ball. For an example of the second: a particular emotional state of pleasure which you experienced (or a concept of method you formed such as the concept of a number, e.g. of 3—there may be three entities in the world out there, but the number 3 exists only in the mind—even if it was formed in relation to the quantitative groupings observed ouside.).

    There are bodily (e.g. neural) processes corresponding to every mental process. However, this is a very high-level, detailed, scientific knowledge. When Sachin Tendulkar hits a six, you don’t queue up in front of a pathalogical lab awaiting the report indicating that the electro-chemical signals correlating with excitement and pleasure were indeed released in that moment. You *have* consciousness, and qua consciousness, you are conscious (of things—physical or mental) directly.

    Finally, it is an error to say that the body is the man, not an attribute of the man, and that consciousness is an attribute of it (i.e. of body). I think an historian of philosophy would call that a materialist premise.

    I think it’s high time we stopped this thread, though feel free to write me. But, first, I think you have to finish ITOE. Then, if you live in India, you may borrow Binswanger’s lecture cassette on Metaphysics of Consciousness from me at no financial charge, but after signing a “I will only listen and take notes but not copy the cassette” document. (I trust your morals. Also, overall, I know that Harry won’t/can’t bother to come to India and sue me or you even if we have no such a thing. But, frankly, in today’s times, wouldn’t signing a document like that also an actually spiritually uplifting experience by itself?)

    –Ajit
    [E&OE]
    PS: The electron is a material entity. Also the photon. Also the aether. (I was in search of a right word while writing my QM papers/thesis, didn’t find it then, and so ended up saying something like that the aether is a physical but nonmaterial entity, just to indicate a different meaning for the term aether that I had in mind. Now, I can put the issue better. In the sense in which philosophy uses the term “material” as in the material-spiritual distinction and as used in “materialism,” the aether too is a material entity. I won’t answer whether it is mass-less, except for a hint. The point is: it is “beyond” mass.)

    Let’s close this thread for the time being. We will return to it later.
    [E&OE]

  13. I think it’s high time we stopped this thread, though feel free to write me. But, first, I think you have to finish ITOE.

    Thanks for your comments. I will get back to this topic after finishing ITOE. I have just finished a reading of the main book but have not read the appendix yet.

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