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    Rafael Eilon

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  1. Brant, For further clarification: by "exclusivity of physical existence" I don't mean "consciousness does not exist" but "consciousness is physical." Rafael
  2. Hi Brant, If everything that is correct is Objectivism, as you seem to imply, and if any number (>=2) of people labor under that idea, then you would see different people with different opinions, each claiming: "My view is Objectivism!" Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I am saying that she, and her associates, equivocated on this issue. I agree with what you say here, except that I cannot foresee any possibility that consciousness can someday be discovered to be non-physical. How would such a discovery be made? By non-physical means? I am not sure I understand everything you mean by this, but please bear in mind: Objectivism is not "Whatever is True," it is "The Philosophy of Ayn Rand." I have not challenged that existence exists or that consciousness exists, and I have not demanded proof. Please argue with what I said, not with things I did not say. I am not trying to prove "Exclusivity of Physical Existence." I am offering it as an unambiguous axiom. (And I have never stolen anything, not even a concept ). My formulation does not invalidate any of the rest of Objectivism, but it does put some of it in a different light; especially the natural limitations of human consciousness, even with regard to the control of mental focus. Thank you very much for your interest. Rafael
  3. Stephen, Thank you very much for all those very valuable quotes and pointers; but please allow me to summarize: if we look at the cumulative whole of what Rand, NB, and LP had to say about whether or not consciousness involves anything non-physical, I think it would be safe to conclude that Objectivism equivocates on this issue. My point is, of course, that the issue is quite important enough to justify an effort to achieve a firm and unequivocal position; which, in my judgment, should consist of a decisive and explicit denial of the existence of any non-physical entities or processes. As to what the chief proponents of Objectivism would say if put on the spot to take an explicit stand, I suspect that their respective positions would depend on who we ask: NB would probably say that consciousness must involve something non-physical; LP would probably say that the matter should be left to scientists and does not concern philosophers; and as to Ayn Rand... it is a great pity that she is not here to discuss this with us. Paul, You wrote: Even the "duality" of matter and energy is reminiscent of the mind-body relation. The "duality" of hardware and software also comes to mind. But I am still under commitment to write more about volition, and I will then give the mind-body relation some more detailed consideration. Thank you both for your interest. Rafael
  4. Rafael


    Hi Chris, There are some real dangers in our respective regions; we live under certain threats. But we take part as needed in keeping the country safe, and we take our chances. Focus helps only so much... Best regards, Rafael
  5. Thank you, Jeff, for this encouraging remark. Hi Paul, Stephen, and Jeff, I hope it is OK to address my next instalment to all three of you. Here goes: As it happened, Ayn Rand tended to avoid technicalities, so most of the relevant material is by NB and LP. By some incredible mishap, I cannot find my volume of The Objectivist Newsletter, so I will have to summarize NB's first relevant articles -- which set the scene for all that would follow -- rather than quote them exactly. I am referring to NB's article entitled "The Contradiction of Determinism," and perhaps one other article which deals with the free will issue. He then continued discussing this subject in two articles in The Objectivist, entitled "The Objectivist Theory of Volition" and "Volition and the Law of Causality." The gist of what NB says in these articles is that physical causation cannot account for human freedom, and therefore human conscious processes must involve some exemption from physical causation. He then narrows the field and locates this non-physical causation in the human capacity to consciously control the mind's degree of focus. It is this particular capacity for controlling the focus of mental processes that receives the title "volition." LP later repeated much the same line of presentation in OPAR. As I see this theoretical construct, it is thoroughly deficient in evidence, and is motivated by a host of logical fallacies. But most importantly, as a theoretical move it is like letting dualism set a foot in the door; and dualism, of course, rushes in. Paul, you quote NB as positing that matter and consciousness have some kind of "common ground." I think the search for some unknown common ground is ample evidence of dualism (see below for further explanation of this point). It is small wonder that REB further quotes NB as doubting that the mind cannot exist outside the body... The problem with such lines of reasoning is that their background science is archaic. Aristotle can be excused, because of the state of scientific knowledge at his time, for thinking in terms of a physical body and a non-physical soul; but even in such times he was wise enough to hold that the soul was a form --an attribute -- of the living entity (as REB observes). Other ancient Greek philosophers such as Democritus can also be excused, on similar grounds, for proposing a model of material particles composing physical entities and of mental particles composing souls... But we live in another era, in which science flourishes; so we are supposed to have some idea about the elements of physical reality: elementary particles, atoms, molecules, energy and energy fields, chemical bonding and other reactions, catalysed processes, bio-physics, bio-chemistry, the nervous system, etc., etc. Therefore we are in a position to know enough to realize that the common ground for all real entities is physical existence -- nothing more, nothing less. What then of human volition? As I said, the view that freedom of choice requires a non-physical kind of causation is unwarranted. I will discuss why this is so in a later instalment. But as a hint, I would like you to note that discussing causality in terms of either an event-event (a codename for: physical) or an entity-event (a codename for: non-physical) model is logically crude and contextually -- as before -- archaic. To be continued. Best regards, Rafael
  6. Rafael


    Hi Stephen, I am very glad to hear from you too. My region is not that dangerous, and I had been honorably released from military duties more than a decade ago, so of course I am OK, and so is my wife, and my 2 rebellious teenage daughters are coming along fine. I likewise hope everything is going well for you. Best regards and see you on the thread. Rafael
  7. Where does Rand state this dualism? This does not fit Rand's view of the relation between consciousness and physical existence as I understand it. I think she might have said that consciousness and physical existence share a common foundation, a common underlying reality. They might be considered different integrations of a common stuff. See Roger's post here.Roger quotes NB: "Rand shared my view, as expressed in the brief passage in Living Consciously, and she called that "underlying reality" by the name of 'little stuff.'" As Roger notes, in The Art of Living Consciously NB writes: For my part, I am in agreement with this view. And I see no reason to believe Rand would disagree with what NB says. Paul (Edit: It would be more precise to compare matter and consciousness. While matter and mind are clearly distinct, an underlying physical reality common to both cannot currently be ruled out.) Hello Paul, Thank you for your post and for the very valuable pointers. I am working (part time) on my reply. Please expect it in a day or two. I appreciate your interest. Best regards, Rafael
  8. Hello Chuck, Thank you for your comment. It is not always possible or desirable to discuss things "on one foot." I suggest that we keep both feet down. Your comment deals only with the everyday implications of the Primacy of Existence principle, not with its meaning in a broader philosophical context. The fact that "wishing won't make it so" is only an end consequence; it might be enough if you use the principle to rebut a "wishful thinker," but not when you deal with systematic approaches such as religious creationism, or the Idealism of Bishop Berkeley, or Kant's Categories. In such broader contexts, we must ask why "wishing won't make it so"; and a satisfactory answer must involve a discussion of causal relations between parts of existence. In such contexts, the PoE principle also does relate to which part preceded which and how the second part came into being. My point in starting this discussion is not so much to re-formulate the Primacy of Existence principle; it is to understand the essentials about how physical existence and human consciousness relate to one another; which is not an "on one foot" endeavor. If "wishing won't make it so" were the whole content of the Objectivist view of the relation between existence and consciousness, I would make no comment. As it happens, the Objectivist literature contains much more on this subject; I am trying to address the more technical aspects of this content. In particular, I challenge the doctrine that consciousness involves anything non-physical. I enjoyed reading your comment. Rafael
  9. Rafael


    Michael, Thank you very much for the welcome. I am looking forward to some discussion. Best regards, Rafael
  10. Rafael


    Hi Chris, 1) My most fundamental disagreement with Objectivism is in my essay; perhaps I will come later to my other disagreements, which are somewhat related. 2) I have discussed the Middle East situation several times on OWL and on Monart Pon's Starship Forum. It is not my central subject of interest, but I am open to questions etc. Thanks for the welcome. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Rafael
  11. Rafael


    Hi everyone, I am Rafael Eilon, an old-time Objectivist whose agreement with Objectivism is no longer as complete as it once was. I had been more-or-less active on OWL (objectivism@wetheliving.com) from 1994 till its unfortunate demise about a year ago. I am very pleased to see this new forum; congratulations Michael and Kat for a very impressive site! I became acquainted with Objectivism in 1961, when I read Atlas Shrugged and then The Fountainhead. I subsequently read everything by Ayn Rand and her followers that I could lay my hands on. I grew up in a Kibbutz in Israel (I am now a resident of Tel Aviv, Israel), and was educated with a strong Socialist (almost Communist) ethic. My acquaintance with Objectivism came as a shock and changed my perspective in a sort of personal revolution. It then took me more than a decade to wake up to the fact that Objectivism does not have all the right answers either... Anyhow, enough about me. I have read some of the threads on this forum and generally I am very impressed, so I would like to greet all contributors and express my appreciation. Last but not least, I want to call your attention to my essay "The Exclusivity of Physical Existence" which appears on the "Chewing on Ideas" section. As I say there, your comments are welcome. Thank you all and all the best, Rafael Eilon
  12. The Exclusivity of Physical Existence by Rafael Eilon Undoubtedly many subscribers to this forum -- perhaps most -- have gone through a phase when Rand's teaching had dominated their thinking; a phase when they thought that she had all the right answers, and all one had to do was study what she taught. I myself have gone through such a phase, which lasted more than a decade in my case. During that time, my admiration of Rand strongly affected my judgment; and I now think this resulted in a certain degree of blindness. Such a state of admiration-induced partial blindness is very common, caused by the idolization of an admired teacher. In most cases, however, the teachings of admired teachers have flaws; and gradually, with time, the eyes of even the most ardent admirer usually open to see those flaws. It took decades, as I said, for my eyes to open to what I consider the most significant flaw in Rand's teaching. At first, I only felt a vague uneasiness when reading her formulation of fundamentals; but with time and learning, my own view gradually took form with increasing clarity and certainty. Let me then get more specific and introduce my subject. Perhaps the most fundamental principle of Rand's philosophical system is the "Primacy of Existence" principle. The meaning of this principle is supposed to be very simple and axiomatic; in other words, such a key principle is supposed to be a clear and meaningful observation of a self-evident fact. Does the PoE principle answer such a description? I don't think so. (By PoE I mean here the Primacy of Existence principle, not either of Einstein's Principles of Equivalence.) Let me ask you this: when Rand taught us to "check our premises", did she expect us to keep a fundamental premise such as this one immune from checking? I am quite sure that Rand considered NO premise immune from checking. It is therefore rather alarming to discover how many difficulties arise when this particular premise is exposed to even the simplest logical query. Let me outline some of these difficulties. 1) Primacy in relation to what, and in what sense? Of course, everyone knows that the primacy is in relation to consciousness. But while it is natural for a believer in the primacy of consciousness to hold that consciousness is external to existence and separate from it, this is not the case for a believer in the primacy of existence. consciousness is a fact _of_ existence ("consciousness has identity", wrote Ayn Rand, who also wrote that "existence is identity; consciousness is identification"), so that "primacy" of existence in relation to consciousness does not mean that consciousness came as an _external_ result of existence, but that it emerged, at some stage of the evolution of existence, as a part of existence itself. Perhaps some forms of the primacy of consciousness are the exact inverse of this (namely, that existence appeared at some stage of the evolution of consciousness); but in both cases, the word "primacy" is not sufficient to describe such a relation. Appending this clarification to the PoE principle would, I am fairly sure, have met with Rand's agreement (and perhaps its equivalent can be found in OPAR or Peikoff's other presentations, if you look for it specifically). But the axiom raises further questions which readily carry us into "foreign territory"; i.e., they point the way down a logical path that leads away from Objectivism, to views that Rand would (apparently) not endorse. Consider the following: 2) How does consciousness relate to _physical_ existence? To Rand, consciousness is (apparently) the _antithesis_ of physical existence. Physical existence is causally determined by physical antecedents; consciousness (as Rand has it) is not. Physical existence can be analyzed in terms of basic physical constituents; consciousness (as Rand has it) cannot. Consciousness can study physical existence; physical existence (as Rand has it) cannot study consciousness (or itself). Etc. This is a form of dualism -- denials notwithstanding. What does this dualism mean when applied to the PoE principle? To understand this, I propose a simple thought experiment. Let us modify the principle by substituting "Physical Existence" for the more general "Existence"; thus we get a principle of the "Primacy of Physical Existence." In the context of such a modified principle, the Objectivist dualism means that the primacy is an _external_ primacy; in other words, it implies that physical existence preceded, and then "gave rise" to, something that is foreign and external to it (namely consciousness); something that arose from physical existence like "a Phoenix from the ashes", and somehow gained a _non-physical_ existence of its own. 3) Isn't it a form of mysticism to believe in any kind of non-physical existence? Apparently, according to Rand and her avowed followers, it is not. While Rand purports to oppose any form of mysticism, her definition of the term "mysticism" is far from clear; a belief that the "mind" is a non-physical entity certainly doesn't fall under that definition. As far as I can ascertain, Rand believed that the existence of the mind as a non-physical entity was self-evident and irrefutable. It is at this point that Objectivism and I part ways. To me, the definition of mysticism has become ontological, not merely logical or epistemological: I consider a belief in anything non-physical as mysticism. Consciousness (or "the mind") exists, of course; it is an active capacity of certain physical systems. It evolved physically and it remains physical. The metaphysical axiom thus loses its hazy appeal and becomes drily clear and simple: "Primacy of Existence" becomes "Exclusivity of Physical Existence." Ever since I became aware of this option, I have been unable to think otherwise. I think an educated person of our day has no excuse for believing otherwise -- and most don't. I shall leave the logical defense of this position for further discussion. Your comments are welcome. Rafael Eilon