The subject of freedom is a major theme in my writing. Depending on its context, freedom means many things to many people. Operationally speaking, we first encounter freedom as the freedom to act. Satisfying our biological needs frames this freedom. I associate Aristotle with this freedom because he was the first to recognize, as far as I can tell, the importance of the sensation/understanding connection. Freedom is not just a sensation, however. The freedom to pursue the pleasant while avoiding the unpleasant creates an environment out of which all other freedoms become actualized.
On another level, a higher level, phenomenological freedom expresses the question that theoretical freedom answers (the freedom to be logically consistent). This answer, scientifically speaking, is verified through its reliable predictions as they relate to our aesthetic experience (sense experience). This answer, sociologically speaking, allows for behavioral change and emotional growth. In other words, freedom (or lack there of) is continually being discovered in the “universal limiting space that defines it (structure).” As knowledge accumulates, life’s expectations and goals may change. The value and meaning of relationships may change. Something that had been sought for pleasure and comfort may, with increased understanding, become unpleasant, and so on and so forth.
The Psychologist, Jean Piaget, put the origin of structure and the symbolic content that it generates, in an organisms capacity for action. For Piaget, the knowledge of our objective and subjective experience begins in the recognition and coordination of sensorimotor activity. By locating the source of cognitive structure in the sensorimotor activity of babies, Piaget opened up the possibility that “structure” was grounded in nature– not in mind. Through his investigations, he was able to show how the subject and object poles of experience are products of experience. In fact, what we typically call normal cognitive skills, for Piaget, is a product of necessary developmental stages, i.e., sensorimotor, representational, and formal operative. Only after the individual passes through theses stages does one acquire “normal cognitive skills.” The subject pole and object pole of a child’s experience remains undissociated early in the sensorimotor stage, but after passing through the stage of formal operations the child (8-12 year old), in his/her capacity to invoke reasoned judgments and deductive reasoning, is then able to conceptualize what is not perceived (e.g., principles of conservation, reversibility, transitivity, etc.). For Piaget then, cognitive-awareness is not something we are born with; rather it is the product of an ongoing developmental process. This is important because it tells us that logic stems from a sort of spontaneous organization of activity; that the pre-condition for knowledge is an assimilation of a “given external” into the structures of the subject and out of these subjective structures arise, phoenix like, the genesis of self-awareness. Thus, not only do we discover the relationship of context/form interdependence in the ongoing activity of our accommodation/assimilation of environment, we also discover the relationship that binds natural structure to cognitive structure. For instance, our “self experience” of today is different from the “self experience” of archaic humans. The evolution of mind then, in addition to evolving structurally in time, also evolves linearly, across time.
So again, I say freedoms (and self) mean different things to different people. But there is another kind of freedom, one that escapes categorizations. This is Buddhist freedom–-a freedom we cannot sense, a freedom that is by definition indeterminate. Even so, paradoxically, much has been said and written about this freedom. Fortunately, the Japanese sage, and student of Zen Buddhism, Nishida Kitaro, has discussed Buddhist freedom without venturing outside the “limiting framework of freedom.” Nishida went looking for pure experience and found it in the “absolute free will” emerging from and returning to absolute nothingness. Nishida, in order to communicate this realization, created his own logic, the logic of basho. Nishida believed the only way to communicate ultimate reality was through a rational methodology. To be fair, I think his logic referenced existence more than analysis, but when you need to communicate the reality at the center of the creative world, where “absolute free will” lives in the “eternal now,” analysis by itself just can’t do the job. Anyway, three categories distinguished Nishida’s logic: basho of being, basho of relative nothingness, and basho of absolute nothingness. (Most of my information on Nishida comes from the book, Great Thinkers Of The Eastern World, Ian P. McGreal, Editor, p. 384-5) Basho logic describes three different levels of interconnectivity—the interconnectivity of three different “pulses of freedom.” The basho of “being” becomes the limiting space of existence while the basho of relative nothingness becomes the defining characteristic of that limitation. The basho of absolute nothingness, on the other hand, becomes the connectivity that grounds/connects all levels of freedom i.e., the basho that both supports and restricts all existence/freedom.
The fact that language will not (can not) permit a description of “fully enlightened beings,” is what inspired Nishida to create his basho logic. Was he successful? I cannot say, but I’m glad he tried because the second major theme in my writing is my search for a language rich enough to express all of freedom’s ramifications. Like Nishida, I believe that a sufficiently strong freedom language will incorporate logic (albeit a logic referencing existence and analysis) and the concepts of interconnectivity, interpenetration, transformation, reciprocity and content/form interdependence—content/form interdependence that moves through various transformations of itself while conserving meaning. The conservation of meaning is not unlike what we experience in simple arithmetic. In the same way that 1+1=2 and 177-175 also equals 2 etc., so to in content/form interdependence the content may change but the structure remains unchanged. Transformations like these are not limited to analysis. For instance, perhaps self-awareness is more than a product of mind/brain? Perhaps self-awareness is a product of structure? Indeed, perhaps without this structure there would be no mind/brain!
We are born into a world of knowledge and knowing, but the throttle of this knowing–the actualization of what is unique in human freedom, lies in our capacity to actualize our own non-being. Simply put, every time we ask a question we actualize our own non-being. Whether we like it or not knowledge expands, but when we ask questions, we accelerate this expansion by detaching ourselves from being in our capacity as non-being in order to more fully appropriate/appreciate the world around us. Our passive experience of time does not produce a great deal of knowledge, but because we bring the logical relationships implicit in the Affirmative Ideal to bear on an event, we are free to create judgments concerning the significance and probable cause of an event. Judgments concerning the nature of events, are determined valid across a continuum that ranges from sensation divorced from theory, at one end, to sensation reinforced by the most advanced and respected scientific theories available.”
Where do we (you and me) access our own non-being? We access it through the ~bb part of the b~b~bb structure (in our transcending For-itself consciousness—see paragraph below) which, in turn, is embedded in the other half of this structure, the b~b part of b~b~bb structure, or the part which goes by name—Mother Nature! It is in the b~b (continuity occurring in discontinuity, life/death) of the b~b~bb structure where scientific hypothesizes are confirmed or rejected. It is also in the b~b part of b~b~bb structure where we experience the immediately grasped, emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise which, of course, includes the emotions that drive our beliefs, concerns, intentions and deeds.
Evolution is not just associated with biology; it is associated also with structure. After a sufficient level of evolution/liberation is achieved, the ~~b structure per-mutates into the life/death structure of biological life—the ~bb structure, and, after more consciousness/freedom liberation, the ~bb structure per-mutates into b~b~bb—the structure that builds civilizations and asks questions like: how, why, when, and where did human consciousness come from? Our aesthetic experience (sensory/emotional) and our theoretic experience (language, number, logic, identity) are joined in the experience of b~b~bb. Probably the most difficult (and uncomfortable) thing to apprehend is that all reality/existence includes the non-being of God—the affirmed/logically implied existence of God not not being God (For that story see my blog posts describing the ~~b structure). That which connects/embeds everything to everything else—first through the history of universe/Earth (~~b), second through the liberation of life/consciousness (~bb), and third through the liberation of the participatory moment of a conscious self (b~b~bb), bridges the gap that separates science from religion.
Identifying Jean Paul Sartre’s philosophy as structuralism is, I am aware, pushing the envelope. However, an authority on structuralism has proposed this option (without, I might add, elaborating on it.) “One might go as far as to say…that structuralism is analogous to Sartre’s view of consciousness — it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” [Jean-Marie Benoist, A Structural Revolution, p. 1] In Sartre’s book Being And Nothingness, his chapter on Being-For-Itself is subtitled “Immediate Structures of the For-Itself.” [Jean-Paul Sartre, Being And Nothingness, p. 119] Structure is not hidden in Sartre as he defines the consciousness of the transcending For-itself (our self-space) as: “Consciousness is a being such that in its being, its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.” (Ibid. p. 801) In an extrapolation on Sartre’s definition of consciousness, Benoist describes the relationship inherent in consciousness as: “it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” My own reading of this relationship is: being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In either case, however, we end up with a description of content/form interdependence.
In so far as we find ”nothingness” at the center of Cogito, consciousness per se must be understood to be set apart from itself, therefore, Sartre’s pre-reflective Cogito will always form one pole of our conscious experience while the “objects” of consciousness will take their place at the other pole of conscious experience. Depending on where “you” focus your concern, the content of consciousness is either pushed to the front of consciousness (the unreflective consciousness), or, the object of consciousness is pushed into the background, as the “negation of consciousness” is brought into the foreground (the reflected upon object of consciousness). Together, our pre-reflective Cogito and the object of consciousness form our conscious experience of the knower-known dyad– content/form interdependence. In so far as this double movement turns on the pivot point of pure negation, the known exists for the knower, but the knower can never be fully known. As self-consciousness rises in consciousness, it is denied the possibility of becoming fully self-aware. This result, the incompleteness of self, brings us back to Sartre’s original definition of consciousness, or, “consciousness is such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.” This center of functional activity, this content/form interdependence that makes thinking possible, this symbol-generating movement of free thought that emancipates language, myth, science, and morality, pushes and pulls self-awareness down the road that hopefully leads to a more civilized society. In the absence of this center of functional activity, “thinking” is restricted to the manipulation of signs—mere sensual indicators, minus the symbols that carry the significance of those same indicators. In other words, in the absence of this center of functional activity, language becomes severely limited, if not impossible.