Dualism: an indefeasible formulation

I: Ought and awareness

You cannot fear reality if you are doing the right thing. That’s it! That is the Alpha and Omega of all ethics. Doing the right thing—but whence this right?

Cognitive choice, applying epistemic rules to Dasein, has ontological effects at the deepest level, which is vedana (by the way). Vipassana is about calming the mind enough (dharana; sati in Buddhism) to have it earnestly apply a certain method of instructing craving, of getting behind craving, getting its emotional-motivational roots by identifying with them—that is, through complete awareness.

Complete awareness, or full sensational awareness—these terms are are much better than mindfulness. “Mindfulness” is a weird quasi-misnomer because it sounds compatible passive peeking, still possibly pregnant with background reactive aversion. This was Freud’s great insight—every moment of consciousness contains pain that stimulates all sorts of extremely well-disguised aversion.

What we fail to include in the connotation of mindfulness is that fact that the act here is fully ontically generative. Being aware makes being, so “being mindful” means finally undertaking the ontic-constructive act intentionally and according to principles. And here I bring up David Sosa again. This is his thesis. Ultimate reality (at least within the scope of human access) is two. But these are not the “mind” and “matter” of naive realist substance metaphysics. Substances and stuffs carry the wrong connotation, the wrong epistemic content. The two ingredients that we commonly denote via subject and object are not thing-like. (Remember, the innate monism of reason itself—the essential identity of regulative unity, non-contradiction, and understanding—is a permanent affair. So even ontological dualism is tainted by it. We say that subject and object are thing-like because both are topics of propositional knowledge. And, being again, innately consistent, we take the known regularities of physical nature, which constitutes our objectively valid knowledge of objects, and from this simple basis end up unavoidably at physicalism. Subject and object make contact by being existents of the same category. This reinforces the already powerful grammatical basis for our prejudice for substance metaphysics. Short version: Ultimate existents are (1) topics, that (2) interact, and so must be (3) categorically homogenous. And since we (4) know that object-topics are physical, the (5) subject must be as well.

Of course, after Hume (and Gautama), we know that we have zero epistemic warrant for any claims about the subject being temporally identical. Kant solution was to say yes, but we do have an epistemic unity achieved in (1) the act of judgment and (2, with Strawson the Elder and revived by Andrew Brook) the unity of the composite object—Nature—effected through the consistent combination of judgments. Any unified vision entails a unified beholder, so that the latter can have or enjoy this unity. Kant’s argument, and this probably the best formulation I’ve read, is that the subject is at least as unified as the unity it cognizes in the object.

Anyway, since Hume it’s been common knowledge that the subject is not thinking stuff. It’s unity (as far as we are warranted to claim we know) is not of that kind or caliber. But there is something that sets the subject apart—what is it?

Clearly, it is rule-holding-ness. It is pure ought as an abstract energy—nothing materially (physically), but really involved as a causal force in our action. There really is an immaterial sphere of Oughtness, and this secretes principles out of sensation, feeling, and judgment (propositional meaning). Thinking and speaking and ought-asserting are how the subject-side of experience realizes the ought domain in a particular organism.

As soon as we reach this understanding, the substance prejudice forces us to now ask: Does the ought rest on an accidental material negentropy? That is, does it rest on nothing other than action that preserves homeostasis, and also the propagation of such homoeostasis-tropic islands of homeostasis? If so, then we cannot care about the ought domain—it is a burp, a side-effect of organisms complex enough to warrant an language-mediated awareness that takes the whole organism as the primary unit. The trick is to make the colony think of itself as more important than the cells.

But this need not be. At bottom, it may be the case that the only really important “us” are the atoms that make us up. We should be cheering for CHNOPS, really. Our lives should be about being grateful for (and towards) them. Wouldn’t that be the smartest execution of self-love? As a bonus, we would then get to relax, because they get to live for a really long time. If we identify the being (trans-temporal identity) of physical substances with atoms (and these with their nuclei), we are looking at a comfortable lifespan of at least 1034 – 1035 years.

II: Ought and self-determination

Another evidence for dualism: In educational psychology, there is the notion of internal locus of control. What is that? If there is a referent to the “what,” what is it like? The answer: it is the power of rules floating inside an organism that is really vegetative and dumb and not ready to satisfy the imagining-feeling-agent who is haunted by oughts, and by Ought, the basic ontological principle.