Self-Consciousness Explained #1 – Implicit Reflection and Poly-valence

Marcus Schmieke; Kränzlin, 16 September 2018

This article is based on a small shock that I suffered in summer on a breakfast terrace on the Mediterranean Sea. I read an article by Gotthard Günther, whose work I have been studying for 25 years with the aim of understanding the nature of reality but especially of consciousness. I became convinced that our current dualistic consciousness is only a stage of development to a multi-valence and found an ally in Günther’s philosophy. Thus, I was even more struck by the following statement of Günther:

“It would be a mistake to assume that a tri- or generally n-valued structure of experience could ever develop in an individual consciousness… We would not be in a position to identify such beings as addressable subjects.” [i]

This sentence immediately turned into its opposite in my understanding. I understood that it was precisely for this reason that I could not recognize as such the multi-valued consciousness that always surrounds me and always communicates with me, and that it must naturally elude any attempt at explicit reflexion, which is always two-valued. At the same time, I gained the insight that my own consciousness is more than dualistic in nature, but in its current stage of unfoldment it moves primarily in dualistic references.

In the following discussions Günther’s multi-valued formal logic is ultimately only a system of places that arranges and correlates bivalent explicit reflections. The levels of consciousness contained therein are all explicitly reflexive and thus objectifying.

Johannes Heinrichs therefore distinguishes the underlying implicit reflection from the bivalent explicit reflection, which he regards as a condition of the possibility of a subsequent explicit reflection[ii]. In the Kant´schen sense, implicit reflexion is transcendental. The explicit and arbitrarily iterable explicit reflection cannot grasp the essence of implicit reflexion itself. In his ontological model Johannes Heinrichs describes this implicit reflection as polyvalent in the sense that the self-consciousness corresponding to it unfolds only in relation to three further ontological components. The implicit reflexion needs as moments the material being, the you and the spirit manifested in it as medium of meaning, which forms the in-between reflection on being and you and thus creates the possibility of linguistic communication. Self-awareness here is entirely in the sense of Kant and Fichte’s reflexion, but presupposes the complex implicit context of reflexion of at least these four components. Self-confidence can only emerge from implicit reflexion if the material being, the spirit and the you are included in this process. Only the resulting explicit consciousness is capable of explicit reflexion, which, objectifying, necessarily generates the subject-object duality.

The tetravalent ontological model of I, You, Matter and Spirit assumed here by Johannes Heinrichs derives this basic structure additionally as the four stages of implicit reflection, namely in the context of the discovery of mutual social reflection. This form of implicit reflection cannot be regarded as composed of individual bivalent reflexion steps, but as a single execution of transcendental self-consciousness.

Gotthard Günther’s approach of formalizing the possibilities of theoretical consciousness beyond the established bivalence of logical formalism can only make use of explicit reflexion, which is necessarily bivalent, as a subsequent reconstruction. As an iteration of such explicit reflections, it cannot do justice to the inner richness of implicit reflection, as Günther repeatedly deduces, but without distinguishing between the two types of reflection. The infinite possibility of iterating explicit reflection leads to dialectics and the unfolding of reflexive processes in history, but never to the reconstruction of the underlying self-consciousness. Each iteration stage of explicit reflection represents only a snapshot of the historical development of real self-consciousness or its possibility. Günther now makes use of a trick by defining self-consciousness as the final total reflection on the possibility of the infinite iteration of reflection[iii].

“The content of this new reflection is thus the idea of the totality of the infinite sequence of iterations (and not itself an iteration that others could follow)… and thus regards as its theme the (objective) infinite depth of self-consciousness as real existence.”

“The idea of self-consciousness is therefore equivalent to the idea of the wholeness of the infinite series of reflections of the bound (particular) consciousness. Thus, however, self-consciousness occupies the place of the transfinite origin of each infinite series of reflections, …”. [iv]

In this final total reflection he again sees two thematic variants, which he sees related to each other in the relationship of a thematic inversion. The thematic inversion exchanges objectively and subjectively or definitively and infinitely and thus leads from the ego to the you and vice versa. Günther defines thematic inversion for the logic of meaning analogously to the sentence of the forbidden contradiction of the logic of being. Meaning as a pure relationship of reflection, and thus the innermost expression of subjectivity, is always conceivable only in objectivity, thus as his own opposition. In the attempt to grasp the subjective sense, we grasp the counter-reflection associated with it. According to Günther, every motif of reflection is thus understood as a thematic inversion of itself[v].

“What is now subject to inversion is not a reflection, but subjective reflection itself. Through inversion, it now loses its subjectivity and becomes objectivity, objectivity and being. The result of this inversion we already called the you or the ultrafinite power of self-consciousness. We can easily convince ourselves that the formal rule of the law of inversion has been strictly adhered to: in the transfinite power of self-consciousness, infinite subjective reflection is thought of as perfect, as wholeness, i.e. definite; the object side, on the other hand, is understood in the transfinite dimension of objectivity. If we now carry out the thematic inversion of total negation, objectivity appears as definite in the ultrafinite power, subjectivity as infinite, and that is the determination of self-consciousness as you! The you appears as definite object in the world but as inner (subjective) infinity of reflection”[vi].

Thus Günther’s attempt at reconstruction leads to exactly the fourfold ontology that Heinrichs regards as underlying implicit reflection. The theme of material existence is joined by the theme of spiritual meaning, which corresponds to its reflection. The theme of the ego is joined by that of the you, again in the relationship of a second form of reflection, the thematic inversion. Two types of reflection lead first from material being to meaning, then from meaning to self-consciousness and in this then from the ego to the you. In Günther’s reconstruction, the implicit quadrivalence of self-consciousness then dissolves into a quadrivalent structure of reflection.

In Günther’s approach, genuine polyvalence lies outside the realm of explicit reflection and the associated real self-consciousness. It cannot naturally be experienced in a consciousness that operates within the framework of the logical propositions of duality.  Thus the Günther´sche approach remains unsatisfactory, since it cannot fulfil its own claim. In Heinrich’s approach, real added value lies before any empirical insight on the methodical level of the transcendental. In the lived reflection Heinrichs sees the implicit experience of polyvalence, because in the experienced the four ontological poles I, You, Matter and Spirit are not separated from each other. They are only later differentiated conceptually from each other as a work of explicit reflection.

The distinction between implicit and explicit reflection is fundamental here, but on both levels, namely the underlying ontological of the implicit and the logical of the explicit, the same reflexive basic structure occurs. The tetravalence of both systems contains two mutually reflexive pairs that are in a reflective relationship to each other. Mind and matter behave like sense and being in a mutual reflective relationship of a fundamental nature. Here not only the conceptual reflection of the material in the spiritual is included, but also the opposite reflection of the spiritual mathematical laws of nature in the material.  The subjective pole of I and You has an inner reflexivity, but at the same time it is reflexive to the objective sense of matter pole. Also in this superior reflection the corresponding counter-reflection is contained, because the spiritual-material objective has subjective traits in the material as well as in the spiritual pole.

The equation of the spiritual and the psychological visible in language stands for this, as does the recognition of quantum physics that matter is subjectively known at its core.

The underlying tetra-valence considered contains two ontological themes, the subjective and the objective, which are each distributed over two ontological areas, namely meaning and material being on the objective side and I and you on the subjective side. Thus, thematic relations of reflection can be found within the objective and subjective, whereby ontological quadrivalence can be grasped as two ontological themes, each of which raises the question of what is the one that is described by the respective thematic reflection. This One does not seem to be accessible to explicit conceptual reflection. What is the one objective described in the pair of concepts matter and spirit and what is the one subjective that appears as I and you? And what is the One One that is grasped in the conceptual pair of these two One. What remains is the realization that our consciousness experiences this One in its implicit polyvalence. The explicit consciousness then grasps this power of explicit reflection in four terms, which cannot be reduced to each other and therefore implicitly have to be multi-valued.

From the point of view of the currently prevailing theoretical consciousness, this double-reflexive structure can best be described as orthogonal complementarity.  Reflexivity appears methodically as complementarity if it is captured together with the associated counter-reflection and double reflexivity as the complementarity of two complementarities, whereby the thematic inversion of the associated counter-reflection is also captured[vii]. I call the second complementarity orthogonal because this geometric property provides a key to the formal capture and continuation of the underlying concept.

Gotthard Günther, Die aristotelische Logik des Seins, Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik, Band 1, S. 393, Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1991

Heinrichs, Johannes; Logik des Sozialen: Woraus Gesellschaft entsteht; Steno 2005

Gotthard Günther, Metaphysik, Logik und die Theorie der Reflexion, Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik, Band 1, S. 27 ff., Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1991

Gotthard Günther, Metaphysik, Logik und die Theorie der Reflexion, Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik, Band 1, S. 36 f., Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1991

Gotthard Günther, Metaphysik, Logik und die Theorie der Reflexion, Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik, Band 1, S. 34, Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1991

Gotthard Günther, Metaphysik, Logik und die Theorie der Reflexion, Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik, Band 1, S. 41 f., Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1991

Marcus Schmieke, Orthogonale Komplementarität, Transzendentalphilosophische Begründung der Einheit physikalischer und psychischer Grundbegriffe, Kränzlin 2018




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