(?) Is there a point to talking about pure consciousness, and if so, what is it?
Ossorio: It seems to me that I've encountered this question before, and my recollection is I tried to answer it substantively. Let me go the other way this time, and indicate what are the considerations involved in making that decision.
Number one, I would never say that there is no point in talking that way. History is full of exceptions to universal principles. Remember from your test taking days, "Never say always" and "Never say never," and that's why. Even if there were no point currently in talking that way it wouldn't surprise me if sometime soon there were. Because people clearly have some inclination to talk that way, and if they have the inclination to talk that way, some way or another they probably are going to find a way to do it that does make sense. So just dealing with "Is there a point to it or not?" is probably relatively fruitless, because any answer is going to get outdated.
So let me talk instead about the issues. Why wouldn't you talk that way? And let me give you a thought experiment. Imagine we've got here a blue circle and I say "Gee, that would look great, if you took away the form and the color and the texture." [delayed laughter] Incidentally I say, "What would look great?"
Well that's the kind of question that talking about pure consciousness invites. What makes you think there is such a thing? How would you know it if you had it? How does having that kind of consciousness differ from not having consciousness? Now, if as Tonyís talk suggested, this is the kind of thing that you have to live through an experience of, before you are going to talk sense about it, then most of us I suspect are eliminated because we haven't had that experience. On the other hand, speaking of having that experience, we are back to, how would you know if some experience you had was that experience?
Now, there's a different angle on that, and that is the notion of boundary conditions. In the few places where Iíve discussed boundary conditions, one of the things that comes out pretty quickly is that anybody who deals with that kind of subject matter, inevitably talks in strange ways. And some of them are bad. For example, if you're talking about faith and you say, "Faith is knowledge with no evidence to back it up", that makes it sound like a pretty poor specimen of cognition, doesn't it? And yet it's true, faith is knowledge with no evidence to back it up.
However, if you also explain that evidence comes to an end, and that if you are ever going to know anything, you've got to know something without some further evidence, then it doesn't sound like such a poor relation to say that well, faith is knowledge without evidence. Or in the old days, when they talked about the "uncaused cause" to indicate that the sequence of causation comes to an end. You have a problem in what could possibly end it? And without a good candidate for what could possibly end it, you have to make up a super something to bring it to an end. A cause that isn't itself a cause. Well that's a mighty peculiar specimen.
That's the way you need to talk in order to make the kind of points you need to make, if you are talking about boundary conditions. Now this has the earmarks of that kind of problem. And I won't pursue that in detail because I don't think that it would be productive, but it has that feel about it. That there is another way of talking that would not involve this way of talking with its attendant difficulties. And certainly the discussions this morning indicate that you are dealing with a boundary condition there. Comments?
(?) Even is there is not a reason now, does that mean that there is not reason to believe that in the future there might be? Are you talking about instances where people haven't established some convention or customary ways to talk about it, or something at a more meaningful level?
Ossorio: I think the latter. Part of the reason people talk strangely when they reach boundary conditions is that they haven't sufficiently examined and analyzed the whole situation. When they do what usually happens is they come in with a different way of talking, not with terms that are the same as we use in everyday contexts, but with something very special about them. Like an uncaused cause, like pure consciousness.
(?) There are a lot of simpler models in pure mathematics of stuff that look like boundary conditions. I won't attempt to give any examples. All of them have this same kind of character, that they look sort of strange compared to the sort of finite stuff that we Ö..Typically, each of those kinds of situations spawn a number of different mathematical models all of which are more or less satisfactory ways of dealing with the boundary condition. None of them you would immediately fall in love with, because like you say, all of them have some kind of strangeness to them. But you would typically find two or three or four different such models, each with a different strangeness, and "you pay your money and take your choice." So it would not be surprising if something like that happened here.
Ossorio: Yeah, that sounds about right. Boundary conditions are boundary conditions. The problems they present are pretty much the same.