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A Theory of the mind of the other, and consciousness.

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Edited by Daniel Frederick Best, Wednesday, 5 Oct 2022, 00:02

I would like to open this blog post with perhaps a disclaimer, that whereas I myself was once very much largely into philosophy, and loved it greatly, today and these days I cannot say the same. 

But this is not to say that I do not have philosophical thoughts. But I can now say I much prefer physics and mathematics, because these are palatable and tangible endeavours, and as such have graspable answers. With philosophy, I very much have felt that I have not had anything so tangible as an answer. Having said that, and although I have come far from such a disposition, I also once had a very secure worldview about my religious outlook, and was able to explain my views about God and so on, and so forth. 

Now, this blog post has begun for the purpose that I can explain something that has occurred to me, from considerations about consciousness, and objective thoughts, and the inner mental existence of others. That's plainly the subject matter, nothing more, nothing less. But be warned, at present, although I feel I am close to being in a state of worldview similar in strength to that of my prior religious convictions, these thoughts here are being had out loud! 

So, we begin, largely in the vein of Descartes with his 'Meditations', wherein he sought to deny everything he knew and began from a rational "island" on which he built up his philosophy, by stating some basic facts about the mind and consciousness, and about the form of objects around us. 

It is known, and seems largely true, that one of the properties of mind is that it's contents are private. The ideas that we have exist inside our minds, and they are unknown to all others. Also, the mind is inside something. This notion seems to have been outlined at least in part by Hegel, and perhaps it was known to Kant, and certainly was purported around the enlightenment period. Nevertheless, that the contents of mind are personal and private can be gleaned by empirical investigation. Yet, this only applies to subjective ideas. 

It is a mainstay of some philosophy, that in the empirical world of experience, i.e. the physical world, that objects are ideas. That is, the things around us, the ornaments, the tools, the matter, the substances, these are all inherently ideas. Objects are ideas. QED. 

Now, talking as a singular automaton, namely, a person and being in his own right, the above is plainly true - and I certainly believe it. When I have thoughts, and do not express them, I can be certain that nobody else can know of their content. In addition, when I look about my empirical universe, I can be certain that I am surrounded by ideas. These all pertain to my own consciousness, that is, my awareness of my universe.  

But in saying the above, what I have previously not been certain of, speaking as a singular automaton, is the inner mental experience of others. Hitherto, this problem has been conceived naively, by myself at least. That is, I myself have mostly taken it on trust that other people have a defined consciousness, albeit one that I find extremely difficult to imagine for myself. I find, by way of an example, that when I observe others, and I try to place myself in their own position, that is, exchanging my consciousness for theirs, my thinking breaks down. I have failed to see for myself what it is that others glean from being them! 

And in light of this personal failing, I have sought a worldview that makes sense to me. And I think I have a way of putting it so that it can make sense to others, too. 

To recap, I assume that consciousness is private and personal, and I assume that objects are ideas, and I assume there is no way of ascertaining the inner mental experience of others. 

So, subjective ideas are personal. When I think of a dog, there is no way for others to know what dog I am thinking of unless I act on the thought, by explaining it. 

But this breaks down once we consider that objects are ideas. Plainly, this is a concept that must be taught. Our intuition of "objects" is that they have a 'real existence' outside of ourselves. But these objects are ideas! How, then, can I share these ideas with other people? 

How, indeed, can I share these ideas with other people, and hence not consider myself a mind reader, or some such other mage? 

But we do share these ideas. When I show an article (some ornament or other) to a friend, we are sharing an idea. How is this possible? 

But then we realise: We do not have access to the contents of others' minds. Well, isn't that convenient? 

Nevertheless, the object does have reality. 

So, whereas I cannot be sure that others' have an internal mental experience, I can be sure that this property of mind can act as a cover for the fact that, in one or other sense, I know to an extent what is in their mind. I now come to understand that the property of mind that its contents are private, forever hidden, must go some way to explaining the fact that we can have the same idea at the same time, namely, the object in question (the ornament, the environment, the world... our hands and bodies!). 

Perhaps in some way this is a claim that somehow others can project their consciousness onto objects. But how can it be any other way? For somewhere along the line the existence of objective matter gives us more or less direct insight into the contents of others' minds. 

I am saying that whereas others' minds are historically unknowable, the existence of objective material in waking life gives us insight into the reality and existence of others' minds. 

As a caveat, I would also add, that the same cannot be said for dreaming life. When we dream we are exposed to ideas and thoughts entirely distinct from objective experience. In fact, this property is what characterises dreams in themselves! In fact, that is how we fall asleep into dreaming in the first place:- we disconnect from external life, and we drift into subjectivity, and a subjectivity that is completely shielded from waking life. It must be true! That is the difference between dreaming life and waking life. We dream, then when we wake up we know we are in reality, because we are surrounded by all the ideas that have been cultivated by our peers, our friends, our families, our counterparts, our ancestors and all those people we will never know, living or dead. The world into which we wake up is built of the objective ideas that these people have created. This is proof of the inner existence of others' minds! 

Whether all this pertains to the existence of God or not, I cannot say. But what we can ascertain from experience, the existence of God notwithstanding, is that all academic pursuit is, in one way or other, the pursuit of the endeavours of man, i.e. humans. We are the ones that have built civilisation. We are the ones that have designed the infrastructure. We are the ones who create facts - and facts can be created. 

But saying that, I admit, there is nature, and there are physical laws. There is space and time and matter and radiation and gravity. There are planets and moons and suns and stars and black holes and light. Nature, therefore, must be indistinguishable from God. And furthermore, we work in unison with God, creating and designing by his wont. 

But is humanity distinguished from God? We can say it is, by dint of our creative measures. And God would be happy about that, because we can revel in his glory. 

That is all I have to say about the matter. 


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