19th century philosophy

Prompt #1

An example from my own experience that illustrates the reality of a non-representational dimension of reality is the phenomenon of falling asleep. We can come to know the will through falling asleep by practicing mindfulness meditation while falling asleep. I find the example of falling asleep interesting because, unlike other things such as eating and having sex, falling asleep is a function of the body that humans aren’t confused about. Often, we eat and have sex and characterize these actions as a doing of our own. In reality, it would be more accurate to call this the doing of the will. This is more obvious when we analyze falling asleep.

The body needs sleep to survive, so the brain, which is part of the body, basically shuts itself down for a few hours every night to allow for sleep. Obviously, sleep is something that comes over us and not something we make ourselves do. We might provide the proper environment to allow for sleep to occur, but sleep occurs when it does on its own terms, or rather the terms of the will. I propose that all actions are in this way, actions of the will and not some other personal source of motivation. This is consistent with Schopenhauer’s claims as he states that the will “alone gives him the key to his own existence, reveals to him the significance, shows him the inner mechanism of his being, of his action, of his movements” (Schopenhauer, WWR, vol. 1, bk. 2, §18). This would mean that when we humans get hungry, the bodily state of hunger is not a free choice of our own, and similarly when our brain states form in a manner that moves the body to the kitchen to ingest food, these brain states are not the choices of our own. Evidently, all actions through humans are acts of the will, and thus, Schopenhauer’s conception of the will as the natural force within us is inherently opposed to the idea of individual free will.

If we grant the existence of the will Schopenhauer describes, we can only save the idea of free will if we choose to identify ourselves with the will so that anything the will “chooses” to do is actually what we ourselves “choose” to do. However, since the will is a force of nature and nature within an individual isn’t separate from the nature of the universe, this still wouldn’t be individual free will.

Hegel IRL, Confusion Concerning the Present

Hegel IRL

  1. “What is the Now?”, we answer, for example, “The ‘now’ is the night.” In order to put the truth of this sensuous-certainty to the test, a simple experiment will suffice. We write down this truth. A truth cannot be lost by being written down any more than it can be lost by our preserving it, and if now, this midday, we look at this truth which has been written down, we will have to say that it has become rather stale.

Real-life example: Sayings such as “cherish the present moment” “focus on the present” and “stay in the present”. All real-life common phrases directing people to take an action toward the present can be the topic of my analysis. For my purposes, the Present and the Present Moment serve the same purpose in meaning.

These real-life examples are Hegelian not because they contain the word Present which is quite similar to the word Now which Hegel speaks directly about, but because these phrases have the potential to cause the same type of confusion that Hegel claims the Now has built into it. The confusion arises from the fact that Present can be somewhat of an ambiguous term. When Hegel says Now he refers to what seems like all night or all day which could also be understood to contain many Nows themselves.  For my purposes, I’ll take Now or the Present to be the thinnest slice of time one can actually conceive of. With this understanding of the Present, it is clear that one cannot manage to do anything aside from observing and being a part of it. This means that cherishing it is not only futile, for enough time doesn’t lapse for one to conjure up a substantial feeling about it, but also unproductive since as soon as you can acknowledge a single moment (slice in time) long enough to act upon it, itself and most likely a couple other moments have past and you are now left to conjure up the mental frame of cherishment about the next present moment you find yourself consciously aware of and the cycle of failure to capture ones aim shall repeat. Without getting into the discussion of what it means to focus, I will take it to be a mental frame as is cherishment, and apply the same reasoning towards it. Any mental action taken toward the present moment will face these issues of futility and unproductivity.

The phrase “stay in the moment” might be the most problematic because one quite literally cannot accomplish the task of the phrase. In one manner of thinking about this phrase, we might say one cannot help but be in the present, for time travel is not real yet so the past and future, which are all the moments aside from the present one, are unavailable to us. Telling me to stay in the present is like telling me to keep being myself. Well, I couldn’t be someone else if I wanted to and if I was being someone else, for example, suppose I am Being Thomas instead of Richie, well, I would Be Thomas, and remaining myself would require me to remain Thomas because, like while I’m Being Thomas I am indeed Thomas. Putting this slight digression aside we can assume that by staying in the present one means something along the lines of keeping your attention or awareness attentive or aware of the present rather than the past or future. This trouble here is still that once one finds themselves aware of a particular moment, they are immediately moved into the preceding one and so on, continuously, forever. These phrases have the best chance to be made sense of if we assume the word Present, as it functions in these phrases, to mean the universal present, which is not any particular Present, but the concept that they all apply to. (The phrase might still be hard or even impossible to make sense of this way, but it’ll be fun to at least ponder this possibility) The Present or the Now is the thing present to our senses and we clearly can’t stay in any one particular slice of time that my senses capture but I can Be in all the presents available to me and all the Presents include many non-Presents relative to each other. By this I mean that when one moment is the true sensuous moment, call this moment Alf, all the others that shall come after it, are not the true Presents while Alf is the Present, but if one ‘stays’, as in remains mindfully aware of each moment one after the other they are closer to staying in the universal Present than they are to any particular Present simply because they stay in contact or application of the universal Present. By doing this they can at least constantly Be ‘Present’. While of course, one cannot actually stay in a concept, it can apply itself to the concept and stay in a mindful mental frame which allows one to do this. If this is how we interpret all three of these phrases then it might be the case that this is a rare instance where we don’t completely fail in saying what we mean. Our language cannot escape referring to the universal and thus not capturing the true sensuous this, however, these phrases aren’t trying to capture the sensuous this they are trying to capture the universal. The phrases might still fail in saying what they mean so far as what they mean is unintelligible but at least here, what they say is also unintelligible.

  1. “We thereby of course do not represent to ourselves the universal This or being as such, but we express the universal; or, in this sensuous-certainty we do not at all say what we mean. However, as we see, language is the more truthful. In language, we immediately refute what we mean to say, and since the universal is the truth of sensuous-certainty, and language only expresses this truth, it is, in that way, not possible at all that we could say what we mean about sensuous being.”