The Beginning of the Beginning -Part 2



§2. The Paradox of Consciousness


By now the Beginning has wandered from the opening of the chapter to its end, from the end of the chapter to its whole, from the whole to the English language as the means of communication between reader and writer, and from the process of communication in English to a philosophers' language that communicates among the participants in the millennial process of the quest for truth. And still the way of the beginning has not reached the end that would be intelligible as its true beginning; for the appearance of a "philosophers' language" raises new questions concerning a problem that begins to look rather like a complex of problems.

There is something peculiar about the "philosophers' language": In order to be intelligible, it had to be spoken in one of the several ethnic, imperial, and national languages that have developed ever since antiquity, although it does not seem to be identical with any one of them; and yet, while it is not identical with any one of the considerable number of ancient and modern languages in which it has been spoken, they all have left, and are leaving, their specific traces of meaning in the language used, and expected to be understood, in the present chapter; but then again, in its millennial course the quest for truth has developed, and is still developing, a language of its own. What is the structure in reality that will induce, when experienced, this equivocal use of the term "language"?

The equivocation is induced by the paradoxical structure of consciousness and its relation to reality. On the one hand, we speak of consciousness as a something located in human beings in their bodily existence. In relation to this concretely embodied consciousness, reality assumes the position of an object intended. Moreover, by its position as an object intended by a consciousness that is bodily located, reality itself acquires a metaphorical touch of external thingness. We use this metaphor in such phrases as "being conscious of something," "remembering or imagining something," "thinking about something," "studying or exploring something." I shall, therefore, call this structure of consciousness its intentionality, and the corresponding structure of reality its thingness.

On the other hand, we know the bodily located consciousness to be also real; and this concretely located consciousness does not belong to another genus of reality, but is part of the same reality that has moved, in its relation to man's consciousness, into the position of a thing-reality. In this second sense, then, reality is not an object of consciousness but the something in which consciousness occurs as an event of participation between partners in the community of being.

In the complex experience, presently in process of articulation, reality moves from the position of an intended object to that of a subject, while the consciousness of the human subject intending objects moves to the position of a predicative event in the subject "reality" as it becomes luminous for its truth. Consciousness, thus, has the structural aspect not only of intentionality but also of luminosity. Moreover, when consciousness is experienced as an event of participatory illumination in the reality that comprehends the partners to the event, it has to be located, not in one of the partners, but in the comprehending reality; consciousness has a structural dimension by which it belongs, not to man in his bodily existence, but to the reality in which man, the other partners to the community of being, and the participatory relations among them occur. If the spatial metaphor be still permitted, the luminosity of consciousness is located somewhere "between" human consciousness in bodily existence and reality intended in its mode of thingness.

Contemporary philosophical discourse has no conventionally accepted language for the structures just analyzed. Hence, to denote the between-status of consciousness I shall use the Greek work metaxy, developed by Plato as the technical term in his analysis of the structure. To denote the reality that comprehends the partners in being, i.e., God and the world, man and society, no technical term has been developed, as far as I know, by anybody. However, I notice that philosophers, when they run into this structure incidentally in their exploration of other subject matters, have a habit of referring to it by a neutral "it." The It referred to is the mysterious "it" that also occurs in everyday language in such phrases as "it rains." I shall call it therefore the It-reality, as distinguished from the thing-reality.

The equivocal use of the word "language" pointed toward an experience of reality that would have to express itself by this usage; and the quest proceeded to the structure of consciousness as the experience engendering the equivocation. But is this answer a step closer to the Beginning? At first sight it rather looks like an expansion of equivocations. There is a consciousness with two structural meanings, to be distinguished as intentionality and luminosity. There is a reality with two structural meanings, to be distinguished as the thing-reality and the It-reality. Consciousness, then, is a subject intending reality as its object, but at the same time a something in a comprehending reality; and reality is the object of consciousness, but at the same time the subject of which consciousness is to be predicated. Where in this complex of equivocations do we find a beginning?

In Search of Order , CW Vol 18
Ch 1, The Beginning of the Beginning,
§2. The Paradox of Consciousness,
pp 28-31.

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