This entry extends and clarifies my post, Blackman Versus Butchvarov: Objects, Entities, and Modes of Existence.
For Butchvarov, all consciousness is intentional. (There are no non-intentional consciousnesses.) And all intentionality is conscious intentionality. (There is no "physical intentionality" to use George Molnar's term.) So, for Butchvarov, 'consciousness' and 'intentionality' are equivalent terms. Consciousness, by its very nature, is consciousness of something, where the 'of' is an objective genitive.
Now let's introduce 'mind' to mean the same as 'consciousness.' Of course, for Butchvarov there are no individual minds, no plurality of mental substances of a Cartesian sort, no egos as inhabitants of consciousness, and as a consequence there are no mental acts either. (Every mental act is a mental state, and if there are no individual minds, then there are no states of minds.) So, while consciousness is consciousness of something (objective genitive), consciousness is not consciousness of something (subjective genitive). Consciousness is neither relational nor quasi-relational ("relation-like" in Brentano's phrase) as it would have to be if there were individual mental substances and mental acts. For Butch, consciousness is, if not a monadic (nonrelational) property of objects, then more like such a property than like any other extant ontological category. Butchvarov's 'one-term' theory of mind is well summarized in the following passage:
. . . The mind is not an individual thing, whether one possessing monadic mental properties or essentially the origin of rays of consciousness; . . . nor is it the brain or any of its states. We can say rather that the mind is in the things we ordinarily describe as its objects, that it is nothing but the set of certain characteristics of objects in the world. [. . .] They are such characteristics as being perceptual (including its species, being visual, being tactile, etc.) being imaginal, being memorial, perhaps being purely intellectual. (Being Qua Being, 255)
Note first that this passage justifies my using 'mind' and 'consciousness' interchangeably in the characterization of Butch's position. Note second the phrase, "mind is in the things we ordinarily describe as its objects," a phrase that is not to be understood as having the same sense as Aristotle's famous remark at De Anima 431b20 where he says that "the soul (psyche) is in a certain sense all things." Aristotle's view is a sort of identity theory: mind and thing known are formally identical. Butch is saying something different: mind just is the apparentness or manifestness of objects, an apparentness that is not an apparentness to a subject. You could say that for Butch there is an accusative of manifestation but no dative of manifestation. He doesn't speak in these terms, but they seem to me to fairly describe his position.
Butchvarov's theory of mind has the consequence that what many philosophers would consider to be act differences are not act differences but differences on the side of the objects. Consider the differences among memory, imagination, and perception. For Edmund Husserl, these are differences in types of mental act, differences in act quality. Gustav Bergmann says something similar though he employs different terminology. Butch, however, construes these as properties of objects, as is eminently reasonable given his Sartrean theory of consciousness. Thus a centaur that is imagined is an imaginal nonexistent object, while the hallucinated pink rat is a perceptual nonexistent object. Being-imaginal and being-(non-veridically)-perceptual are nonrelational properties of nonexistent objects. This is not only a reasonable line to take given a Sartrean theory of consciousness, but seems positively entailed by it. For if consciousness is devoid of inhabitants such as egos, mental acts, hyletic data, contents of any kind, epistemic intermediaries of any stripe, then all distinctions must lie on the side of the object.
Given these clarifications, to say that x is mind-dependent is to say that x is dependent on consciousness, either logically or causally. Now the issue is whether or not Butchvarov's nonexistent objects are mind-dependent, either logically or causally. If there were no consciousness -- consciousness conceived in the Sartrean way in which Butch conceives it -- would there be any nonexistent objects? To put it another way, if there were no consciousness, would there be an object-entity distinction? This distinction is equivalent to the distinction between existent and nonexistent objects. So the question could also be framed as the question whether, if there were no consciousness, would there nonetheless be nonexistent objects?
What's at Stake? The Question of Idealism
Why are these interesting questions? The domain of objects is a domain logically prior to that of entities. Entities 'result' from the application of the concept of (material) identity to this domain. Entities are objects that are indefinitely identifiable with other objects. To be an entity is to exist and to exist is to be indefinitely identifiable. So it seems that entities are logical constructions out of objects, constructions that come about by the application of the concept of identity to the logically prior domain of objects. So if objects are logically mind-dependent, and entities are built up out of objects, then entities are logically mind-dependent. If this is right, then Butch is committed to a form of idealism in the sense that, if there were no mind (consciousness) there would be no objects, and -- since entities are logical constructions form objects -- no entities either. Accordingly, what exists depends logically, not causally, for its existence on consciousness.
The point, then, is that if objects are logically mind-dependent, then Butchvarov is conmmitted to a form of idealism.
This is not an idealism like that of Berkeley for whom everything is either a mind or a content of a mind. We have already noted that for Butchvarov there are no mental substances (and consequently no divine mental substance) and no mental contents either. Mind (consciousness) harbors no 'inhabitants' to use a term that Butch borrows from Sartre. So if Butch is an idealist, he is not a Berkelyean idealist. He is more like a Kantian transcendental idealist, though it would not be quite right to call him a Kantian either.
Are Butchvarov's Nonexistent Objects Logically Mind-Dependent?
I claim that Butchvarov's nonexistent objects are logically mind-dependent, i.e., logically consciousness-dependent. I will present the argument for this claim in terms of the imagining of a centaur.
Imagination is a type of consciousness. So if there is a nonexistent object (a centaur for example) that has being-imagined as one of its intrinsic properties, that object logically cannot be if there is no consciousness. It is contradictory to say of a nonexistent object that (i) it actually (not merely possibly) has the monadic property of being imagined, AND (ii) it logically can be without consciousness. It follows that imaginal nonexistent objects are logically mind-dependent. One can argue similarly for perceptual and memorial nonexistent objects.
Now in a comment on my original post, Butch wrote about the nonrelational properties picked out by 'imaginal' and 'perceptual' that "THEY ARE EXPLICITLY INTENDED TO EXCLUDE REFERENCE TO A CONSCIOUSNESS." Well, maybe they are intended to exclude reference to a consciousness, an individual conscious self or subject or Cartesian ego, but surely they cannot exclude reference to consciousness as Butch conceives it, namely, as something like a monadic property of objects. If an object falls under a species, how can it fail to fall under the genus of which that species is the specification? If an object has the specific monadic property of being-imagined, how can it lack the generic property of being an object of consciousness? Certainly it would be incoherent to say that an imagined centaur has the monadic (nonrelational) property of being-imagined but lacks the monadic property of being an object of consiousness. This is because imaginal consciousness is a species of consciousness in general.
Butchvarov as Transcendental Idealist
My argument is as follows:
1. If objects are logically mind-dependent, then Butchvarov is committed to a form of idealism.
2. Objects are logically mind-dependent.
3. Butchvarov is committed to a form of idealism
I have already argued for the premises and the conclusion follows by modus ponens. Well, what's wrong with being a (transcendental) idealist? Perhaps, in the end, nothing. But to those of us who have a realist sensibility it does seem dubious that the very existence of the universe depends on consciousness as Butch conceives it. One has the sense that there might not have been consciousness, and that the universe would have got on quite well without it. One has the sense that there might have been no consciousness at all, and no objects at all, but only entities. (Of course, if that is possible, then an entity cannot be the 'result' of the application of the concept of material identity to a logically prior domain of objects which, in themselves, are existentially neutral.)
Can I translate this realist 'sense' into something more like an argument? Let's see.
It is clear that for Butchvarov consciousness is not an attribute of human organisms or an attribute of members of any zoological species. His is not a naturalistic but a transcendental conception of consciousness. Consciousness cannot be studied by studying the brains of animals. Nor can consciousness be studied by any introspectionist method: consciousness, as "diaphanous" (Moore's term), as a "wind blowing towards objects" (Sartre's phrase) offers nothing definite to introspect. So when I say that there might not have been consciousness I am not saying that there might not have been conscious organisms -- though that too is true. I am talking about consciousness as Butch conceives it. Surely he is committed to its existence, even though it is in a sense nothing, no-thing, to allude once again to Sartre. It is nothing, no-thing, or rather no object, because it is radically other than every object, precisely as the consciousness of objects. And if entities are those objects that are indefinitely identifiable, then consciousness is no entity either: consciousness is not an entity because it is not an object and therefore not identifiable indefinitely or otherwise. And yet consciousness is not a pure nothing, a nugatory nothing, if you will, ein nichtiges Nichts, to borrow a phrase from Heidegger. For if consciousness were a pure nothing, then there would be no objects either. Butchvarov is a phenomenologist, and the bare phenomenological minimum is the distinction between consciousness and objects. Objects appear, ergo there is a difference objects and their appearing. Both terms of the difference must exist.
So consciousness exists, but its mode of existence is different from the mode of existence of entities. I think we must conclude that Butchvarov is committed to at least two modes of existence, one for entities, the other for consciousness. Accordingly, 'exist(s)' in 'Consciousness exists' and 'Entities exists' is not being used univocally. This should prove to be a problem for Butch. But how could he avoid it? He cannot say that consciousness is nothing at all. So he must say that it exists in some way (some mode). And surely it cannot exist in the same way that entities exist. For, again, an entity is an object that is indefinitely identifiable, but consciousness is not (and cannot be) an object; hence consciousness cannot exist as an entity. How then are the two senses of 'exist(s)' connected. If there is no specifiable connection beween the two senses, then we have sheer equivocity.
Now if consciousness exists, then presumably it exists contingently. What's more, if consciousness exists,then presumably its existence is contingent on the existence of certain entities like human beings, despite the fact that consciousness is not an attribute of organisms in nature. Even if consciousness is transcendental and impersonal and non-egoic, neither an attribute of brains or of Cartesian thinking substances, it is reasonably assumed to be 'tied' to certain organisms in nature, especially if it is not 'tied' to any immaterial substantial selves. For how could consciousness 'float free' of any 'anchor'? What I am suggesting is that without without animals like us, consciousness (in Butchvarov's sense) could not exist.
This is not obvious, but suppose you deny it. Then you are saying that consciousness could exist even though it is (i) not an attribute or property of brains, (ii) not an attribute of Cartesian thinking things or souls, (iii) not tied in any way, i.e, not dependent for its exstence in any way, on any organism. I submit that under these conditions the term 'consciousness' has been stretched to the breaking point.
Now for my main argument:
1. It is logically possible that there be existents but no consciousness. In Sartrean terms: it is possible that there be an en-soi without a pour-soi. It might have been like this: there are all sorts of beings, but no consciousness of them.
2. There is consciousness iff there are objects of consciousness.
3. It is logically possible that there be existents but no objects.
4. If there are no objects, then there are no entities. (Because entities are indefinitely identifiable objects.)
5. It is logically possible that there be existents but no entities.
6. (5) is a contradiction. (Because 'entity' and 'existent' have the same meaning.)
7. One or more of the premises must be rejected.
But which one?
To reject (1) is to hold that, at every time, and at every possible world, at which there are existents, there is consciousness. To reject (2) is to break the correlativity of consciousness and objects to which Butchvarov is committed. To reject (4) to to reject Butchvarov's central doctrine that existence is the indefinite identifiability of objects.
So it looks as if Butch must reject (1). But if he rejects (1), then he is a transcendental idealist.