Kant intro starting from speakability


CSH: New tack, starting from “the world must be capable of being talked about.”

Annie: Does it have to be though? I feel like the most important parts of the world are the ones you can’t talk about.

CSH: I agree. And Kant agrees also. But there is a sense world that you can talk about. Let’s define the real world as the one in which we can talk about an apple that we can feel and taste being heavy, red, apple-smelly, and sweet. Our sense world is one that can verify or reject our propositions (sentences that can be true or false) with real content. The content is real in that we cannot wish it away. This is a good world for allowing truth—it supplies a good place to practice making truth-claims. We can rest assured that our sense-aimed sentences can have objective reality, and can be true or false by virtue of sensory facts.

Say there are three pennies on the table. Then, the claim that “There are five pennies on the table” is either true or false (in this case, it’s false). That sentence is capable of being validated or invalidated by the sense world. Kant’s point is that the world that we can talk about (in a truth-aiming way) is a world that can be talked about.

  • Axiom: It must be possible for the world that we talk about to be talked about.

Annie: Well, if you’re talking about it then of course you can talk about it.

CSH: Philosophy is anal, and often begins with silly sentences that sound like they almost say nothing. But these sentences are safe anchor points. I know it sounds cheesy, but this is the way you make your system strong. So the first sentence is:

  • Axiom: The world that we can talk about must be a world that we can talk about.

Philosophy begins by imagining that it’s speaking to a skeptical audience.

If we know the rules of talking, of making truth-claims, then we also know the rules that the world must always follow if it is ever to enter our knowing. For the world to enter our horizon and come into consciousness as an object that can be talked about, it has already conformed to my rules of talking-about—i.e., to the rules of my inner grammar. If I know these rules, then I also know the world that has come through my filter. If I know the nature of the filter, then I also know the nature of the filtered world.

It turns out that there are some elements of truth-making that are true for all humans. These are the elements that allow us to construct and logically interrelate propositions.

Every proposition has the subject–predicate form. This includes ostensive judgments—i.e., propositions about sense-objects being given in present time.

The subject of an ostensive judgment is always this. The this points away from the speaker and towards the field of sensation. The thing that the this points to is not on the computer monitor.

Annie: What do you mean?

CSH: When you watch an animation of a rotating cube on your computer screen, there’s not actually a cube behind the glass.

Annie: Well, you’re seeing a cube through the screen.

CSH: We’re getting fresh pixels every 32nd of a second. We’re receiving a continual flood of fresh pixels. But we never cognize this flood of fresh, new colors as a flood of fresh new colors. Rather, what we cognize is something that perdures through time. What we cognize is not actually present on the screen. Kant’s idea is that the cube (as perduring substance) is constructed by the combinatory force of the grammatical subject, this.

Annie: Why isn’t it actually on the screen? I mean—it’s there, you’re seeing it on the screen.

CSH: Because all that is ever really present on the screen is only a single, momentary frame of the animation. All that is ever really present in sensation is frame n, or frame n+m, but never a perduring cube. When we watch an animation, what I cognize is this same old cube.

Annie: Because it’s moving in time.

CSH: But there’s no “it.”

Annie: The cube! The cube is it.

CSH: The cube doesn’t exist. All there is is frame 1, frame 2, frame 3, and frame 4.

Annie: But if there were no cube to exist in someone’s mind, then it wouldn’t be seen. So it had to exist in someone’s brain, just to be created.

CSH: But the cube, which is trans-momentary, is never present on the screen. All you get at any instance of presence is a single frame.

Annie: Yeah, but the combination of all those frames creates a spinning cube.

CSH: Yes! And that’s Kant’s answer. Kant says that the this is a combining rule. And the thing that this points to is not on the screen. The this forces us to look through the screen. The this makes us want to hook into something that’s not actually there, something that’s behind the flood, as it were. I don’t see a flow of constantly fresh photons, I see my hand—a hand that is continually one and the same. The this intends that my hand now “is the same as” my hand now.

My grammar intends something identical through time, but sensation gives only the opposite of such identity—a series of continually fresh photons.

Annie: Well the whole idea of identity is a big convoluted mess.

CSH: It’s a fiction. But Kant says that it’s a fiction demanded by grammar. That’s all he has to show.

Annie: Just because of grammar, the frames are combined together?

CSH: That’s right. And you realize this whenever you take Salvia.

Annie: It kinda makes sense.

CSH: When you take Salvia, the convincing power of the subject–predicate relation breaks down and space as a static 3D theater breaks down and is replaced by an intuition of an outermost skin, continually peeling away.

The this points to something that’s not on the screen. It points to combination of the frames. That’s exactly what he says. And combination of the frames produces, just by combining [this is the pure formalism parallel to the formalism isolated by Seung], a brand new and non-empirical concept called substance. Substance is a fiction. And what it refers to is that stuff that exists through time. Even though every part of my sense-consciousness is continually passing away in time, even though the river is constantly flowing, we imagine that the river also presents something unchanging. [And this is the riverbed—space, Kant says, is the only permanent.] There is something that is not an empirical content and which remains itself. This is never on the screen.

That thing that exists always at every time and which never changes is an artifact and a fiction produced by the force of the this. The power of my grammatical intent—my intending the grammatical subject this—invents a fiction. And the fiction exists in my imagination. This fiction is a fiction because it is not a present content or sense-reality.

Annie: What if you had no grammar? But you were still thinking about the this?

CSH: Not possible. Thinking about the this means uttering, or asserting, or positing … the grammatical subject. When I think (intend) the this, I right then force my imagination to provide an (imaginary) combination, which is the object of some grammatical element—subject, predicate, or copula. My imagination produces the object of my grammatical intentionality. My imagination produces a target for the this. This target is, as you said, combination of time.

Annie: Let’s say there’s no grammar and the only way you can express this is by drawing it, or playing music about it. There’s no grammar but you’re still thinking about what the fuck this is.

CSH: Then you’re using “this.” You can’t intend this without “this.”

Annie: But you wouldn’t call it “this.” You’d call it whatever you’d be playing on your instrument, or on the canvas.

CSH: But there’s still an it that you point to with your mind.

Annie: Is there?

CSH: If there’s an object for consciousness, there’s a this for consciousness.

Annie: In the case of drawing I think that’s true. But music’s a little bit more fluid.

CSH: Schopenhauer makes that point! He says music is the greatest art because it violates the this.

Annie: It kind of does—it violates the mind’s association with any kind of essence. Especially in jazz, where the music gets good only when the performers forget themselves, at which point the this dissolves. Which makes the this even more powerful: you see what’s happening only when the this is dissolved.

CSH: Yes, and that’s what good philosophical writing experience does for the writer. It takes the elements of experience running on autopilot (like the this) and it tries to see what the world would be like in their absence. You stop the congealing force of the this, and you’re left with a this-less flow, or flux, or pluralization, or dispersal of (what was previously) a unified knowing self. And then, from that position, you can re-assert the this and now you can see how it puts things together and congeals these artificial unities out of the five heaps—sensation, feeling, concept, volitional habit, and consciousness. And that’s why I think psychedelics are so helpful for philosophy. They shut down one or more elements of the autopilot. Then you see: “Ah! I’ve been making that up! That was me!”

Annie: If language is such a hindrance to discovering the truth of the way things really are, then why do we have it?

CSH: Well what do you get out of talking right now? Are you getting a kind of satisfaction?

Annie: Yeah.

CSH: I think that’s the answer. I think you get some kind of satisfaction from putting it into a language map. There’s also a satisfaction that comes from vegetative being in a non-mapping or Zen state. But monks also distinguish branches from snakes. They’re also using language. “Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.”

Annie: Are you a Zen guy?

CSH: Buddhism is just empirical psychology. It’s just about watching sensations and being honest about what’s happening. What is really happening here means registering the flood of sensations and feelings as they really are. And this means abandoning the world of human drama: the world of meaning, value, and physical objects. The suffering is parasitic on the story that gives the meaning- and value-content to the world. “She hurt me” is a story.

The real stuff of drama: adrenaline, cortisol, and certain neural pathways are firing in certain ways. And your body is constructed so that self-torturing is possible. The animal that survives is the one that feels and fears pain. The Buddhist solution is to (1) analyze experience into the five heaps, and (2) maintain focussed awareness on feeling. The Buddhist solution to suffering: sustained mindfulness of feeling (somatic sensations towards which we have attitudes) reveals that the occurring of a feeling is in fact a fluctuating.

For example, recall a really painful brake-up or fit of jealousy or heartbreak. Remember something that caused you great emotional pain. You’ll get a sick, queasy, fluttering, scared feeling in your chest. Now, be aware of this feeling as feeling—i.e., without all the window dressing (story) that sustains it. You can only describe the sensation itself—its qualities. For example, it’s vibrating, or tingling, or throbbing, or hot, or cold, and located here not there, etc. Be as honest and objective as you can.

The narratives that provoke your anger, that make you secrete the same chemical or fire along that same set of pathways, obscure the true nature of suffering’s stuff, which is structurally a wave, a kind of vibratory movement. Sensation is material movement; matter is sensitive. Atoms feel. You are a colony of trillions of tiny feeling particles.

Annie: So, when you get your heart broken …

CSH: Stop talking about it, and start feeling the chemicals directly, and describing them objectively: “Oh, there’s a fast, fluttering, bubbling feeling here.” Eventually, that self-protecting self falls apart, and what is unconditioned is revealed as transparent, and sensation flies through open, empty space. And there is a great relief.

Annie: But the self that feels so hurt when someone breaks up with you is the same self that can love someone so much. If you love someone, you’re facing the consequence of loving them by getting your heart broken. I feel that people these days don’t feel worthy enough to accept love. They’re afraid to be loved, because they feel they’re not worthy of it.

CSH: I should email that to Cuntbrina.