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Post 120

Monday, August 29, 2005 - 10:01amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

Don't waste your time.

I said a long time ago that the claim that

there is an independent, objective reality which exists (in some logical sense) apart from our apprehension of that reality

is a fairly sophisticated claim requiring a consideration of certain lines of evidence.  Rand was satisfied with establishing that with the axiom "Existence exists".  Questions like whether certain parts of existence are fundamentally mind related or subjective are the kinds of things that require deeper discussion.

Some people cannot see the problem with axiomatically granting a relationship whose correctness depends on the consideration of many lines of evidence.  We who do shouldn't take it personally when those people accuse of things that show that they never grasped our logic in the first place.

Cheers,

Laj.




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Post 121

Monday, August 29, 2005 - 10:21amSanction this postReply
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Laj,

With all due respect, there is no "logical sense" that even makes any kind of sense "apart from our aprehension [sic - apprehension]."

Neither logic nor awareness exist outside of a consciousness.

Michael




Post 122

Monday, August 29, 2005 - 12:37pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan: “For example, when I talk about whether monads exist (a metaphysical claim), that need not include when I talk about how I learn to count to ten (an epistemic claim).”

Sure, but since the concept Existence doesn’t say what exists, it won’t help you distinguish between monads and counting. The concept Existence doesn’t distinguish between thoughts and things. It just says existence is, which can mean anything – existence could be a doughnut, and still be consistent with the thought “Existence Exists”.

“I think I've said this before, but the concept of existence is like any other concept.”

But it isn't, and especially the way Rand uses it. It subsumes everything, not anything in particular; it doesn’t identify particular existents, it doesn’t distinguish one existent from another, it cannot be formed by integrating particulars.

The most glaring difference is that the concept Red is formed by the observation of actual red objects, while Existence is formed by just thinking, as Ed helpfully points out, when he says: “The act of grasping that statement implies consciousness.” But thinking about doughnuts also implies consciousness. There’s nothing priviledged about the term Existence.

If accepting the concept Existence means agreeing that some things exist, count me in. But it comes with a whole lot of other baggage, especially the notion that the primary axiom is a foundational thought, which it isn’t.

Brendan




Post 123

Monday, August 29, 2005 - 1:20pmSanction this postReply
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Michael: “1. "To exist" (fact external to awareness that is perceived through sense organs and conceptually integrated by a living organism with a conceptual consciousness)…”

Thanks for taking the time to spell out the various components of the concept Existence Exists. As I’ve been saying, Existence Exists is unavoidably theory-laden. Your point 1 encapsulates an entire theory about the nature of existence and consciousness.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not at this point questioning the truth of this theory. I’m merely pointing out that it is a theory, and cannot be contained just in the act of thinking about the phrase Existence Exists, unless one brings in a whole lot of other philosophical assumptions.

In Objectivist terms, Existence Exists just tells us that existence is it doesn’t tell us what existence is. As Laj say: “… there is an independent, objective reality which exists (in some logical sense) apart from our apprehension of that reality…is a fairly sophisticated claim requiring a consideration of certain lines of evidence.”

That’s also where I’m coming from. We’re happy to accept the fact of existence, but not the package deal that is Existence Exists.

Brendan




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Post 124

Monday, August 29, 2005 - 7:30pmSanction this postReply
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MSK,

I wrote a response to your post earlier in the day but my network was down so I couldn't post it.  I'm no longer in the mood to seriously disabuse you of your gross misunderstanding of my statement, so I wish you the best with the following question:

Can a proposition be true even when you, MSK, think that it is false?

If your answer is yes, then you hopefully understand the logical sense in which I claim that reality exists independently of our apprehension of it.  Whatever you read into my statement is up for you to decide, since you dislike explaining the views opposed to yours empathetically before criticizing those views. 

Cheers,

Laj.




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Post 125

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - 4:32amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

You state,
In Objectivist terms, Existence Exists just tells us that existence is it doesn’t tell us what existence is.
At first, when I read that statement, I thought, "Finally we are getting somewhere." Then it occurred to me that maybe you have a conception of consciousness as a disembodied awareness floating around in the universe, sort of like God or a spirit. It is not. It is housed in an organic brain, one consciousness per brain. And there are many consciousnesses, not just one.

I read some of your objections to axiomatic concepts and they do not make sense. Why do you want an axiom to do more that it is supposed to do? An axiom provides the foundation on which to build a conceptual scientific system. You claim that the "existence exists" axiom does not. So let's do it. What would you replace it with? The only alternatives are "non-existence exists" or "existence does not exist" or "non-existence does not exist," on which you can build nothing. This is really splitting hairs too, because there are only two alternatives, really - existence and nothing (non-existence). Once you accept existence as an axiom, then you move on to understanding what exists.

So, moving on. Your objection is sort of like criticizing the foundation of a house because you cannot flush the toilet yet. You object that the proposition "existence exists" doesn't break existence down into components. As I said, that is not the purpose of an axiomatic concept (especially since we are identifying something bigger than we are), but there is another issue that is being left out of the equation entirely.

A consciousness is based on sense organs. The aspects of reality that collide into us or bump up against us as basic sensory input are processed into percepts inside our brain, which then get integrated into concepts. That's all we have. There is no more.

That is the consciousness that makes the statement, "existence exists." Not some disembodied "all-aware" consciousness floating around the time-space continuum.

I suspect that we have no sensory organs to perceive some facets of reality, that reality is much more complex than what our organism is able to perceive.

The beauty of concepts is that they allow us to build devices that amplify and reduce this "colliding" to a size that our sense organs can perceive. (Telescope and microscope for sight, i.e. light waves, for instance.) They also allow us to transform one type of sensory input into a system that is perceivable by another sense. (A spectrum analyzer for sound, i.e. sound waves, for instance.) This process can be done with all five senses, but sight and hearing are the predominant ones, suggesting that the sensory input from them gives more details about what exists than smell, taste and touch.

If we are ever to perceive and understand aspects of reality that we have no faculties to perceive with, they will have to be transformed into sensory input that we can perceive. Either that or we have to grow another kind of sense organ. In simple terms, we have to use and build on what we have, not invalidate it.

I have no idea why you insist on trying to invalidate or belittle the proposition, "existence exists," but I see no gain in doing so. Only confusion and mental circles that go nowhere. I see every possible gain in accepting and building on it.

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 8/30, 8:30am)

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 8/30, 8:35am)




Post 126

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - 4:42amSanction this postReply
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Laj,

I will not keep repeating that logic is an attribute of consciousness. You either accept that or you don't.

Obviously reality exists independently of consciousness. That is a fact, not logic.

The logic starts with the axiomatic concept identifying such fact - concept formation being an exclusive activity of a brain endowed with such faculty. Logic always presumes a consciousness. Consciousness always presumes a brain. Brain always presumes a living organism. Living organism always presumes the temporary individual existence of itself.

The rest of your last post is inane bullshit, so I will not comment on it.

Michael




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Post 127

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - 7:01amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

The concept Existence doesn’t distinguish between thoughts and things. It just says existence is, which can mean anything – existence could be a doughnut, and still be consistent with the thought “Existence Exists”.

I agree.

But it isn't, and especially the way Rand uses it. It subsumes everything, not anything in particular; it doesn’t identify particular existents, it doesn’t distinguish one existent from another, it cannot be formed by integrating particulars.

Yes, the concept existence subsumes all that which exists. But you should not interpret the sentence, "the apple exists," as "the apple subsumes all that which exists." Rather it's just one instance of something subsumed under the concept existence. What the concept existence distinguishes is existing stuff from non-existing stuff. Fundamentally, X either is or it isn't. To reject this is to reject basic Aristotelian logic, no?

The most glaring difference is that the concept Red is formed by the observation of actual red objects, while Existence is formed by just thinking, as Ed helpfully points out, when he says: “The act of grasping that statement implies consciousness.”

I would argue that every concept is formed fundamentally from observation, but from those observations, further concepts can be formed just by analyzing (i.e., thinking about) those observations. Incidentally, do you think forming the concept "red" is not theory laden? 

If accepting the concept Existence means agreeing that some things exist, count me in.

...

In Objectivist terms, Existence Exists just tells us that existence is it doesn’t tell us what existence is.

Sounds good to me. That's where I'm at. Hey, would you mind restating your argument? I've lost sight of it.

 

Gotta run.

Jordan

Edited for clarity, grammar, and punctuation.

(Edited by Jordan on 8/30, 8:35am)




Post 128

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - 10:53pmSanction this postReply
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MSK,

I cannot find the part of my post where I wrote that logic is not an attribute of a consciousness.  Again, your penchant for contrarian posturing sans empathetic understanding is leading you astray.

Your response to this question might help you see the problem with the approach that you are taking to this issue:

If all animals were deaf, would sounds exist?

Cheers,

Laj.




Post 129

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 4:10amSanction this postReply
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Michael: “Then it occurred to me that maybe you have a conception of consciousness as a disembodied awareness floating around in the universe, sort of like God or a spirit.”

You can rest easy, Michael. I also believe that consciousness requires an organic brain. More to the point, since Existence Exists doesn’t say anything about what sort of things exist, it doesn’t tell us whether existence includes brains or consciousnesses, nor how many of these there may be. So it seems that this concept serves very little purpose. 

“An axiom provides the foundation on which to build a conceptual scientific system.”

Are you sure that Existence Exists is a foundation? Rand’s theory of concepts proposes that there is a conceptual hierarchy -- beginning with perceptual, first-level concepts integrating a limited set of particulars – that proceeds “upwards” towards wider and wider integrations.

For example, take the concept Table. This is formed by observing two actual tables, say a dining table and a coffee table, ignoring the differences – or as Rand would say, “omitting the measurements” – and then abstracting or “integrating” the similarities to form a concept.

One can also perform a similar procedure to form Chair. One can then integrate the concepts Table and Chair to form the wider abstraction Furniture. Thus, the beginnings of a hierarchy of concepts. The process can then be repeated up the hierarchical chain until we reach the “highest” and widest abstraction, which is Existence, which subsumes all the lower level concepts.

So staying with architectural metaphor, Existence seems to be as much a “roof” as a foundation. The foundations should surely be made up of the perceptual, first-level concepts. What do you think?

“You claim that the "existence exists" axiom does not. So let's do it. What would you replace it with?”

If you feel a really burning need for a fundamental idea, how about “some things exist”. It says pretty much what Existence Exists does. But why replace it with anything? You can quite easily discard Existence Exists with no loss of rationality. You should try it some time, just for a few minutes. Nothing will happen. Honest.

Brendan




Post 130

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 4:13amSanction this postReply
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Jordan: “What the concept existence distinguishes is existing stuff from non-existing stuff.”

Below you argue that “every concept is formed fundamentally from observation”. So how do you go about observing this non-existing stuff?

“Fundamentally, X either is or it isn't. To reject this is to reject basic Aristotelian logic, no?”

Sure, but we’ve agreed that Existence tells us nothing about existing things. Therefore, X could be anything, even “non-existing stuff”. Non-existing stuff is non-existing stuff, yes?

“Hey, would you mind restating your argument? I've lost sight of it.”

Check out posts 37 and 57. Remember post 57? That was the one to which you replied: “The argument you laid out wasn't Rand's. It was one you imputed to her. No sense in it. If there's time, I'll try to clarify her argument again.” I guess there just wasn’t time.

To save you more time, and for no additional charge, this is my argument in a nutshell: Rand has a thought, and then declares that something exists. But what is the “something”?

Brendan




Post 131

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 6:28amSanction this postReply
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Well how about here, Laj?
... the logical sense in which I claim that reality exists independently of our apprehension of it.
If you want to say something different, please say it and stop playing games.

Michael




Post 132

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 6:41amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

Just as I thought. You have completely misunderstood the axiom. This is evident in the statement:
If you feel a really burning need for a fundamental idea, how about “some things exist”. It says pretty much what Existence Exists does. But why replace it with anything? You can quite easily discard Existence Exists with no loss of rationality. You should try it some time, just for a few minutes. Nothing will happen. Honest.
How on earth (or even in a non-existing universe  //;-) can "some things exist" if existence does not?

LOLOLOLOLOL...

(Sorry... You did  mention rationality?)

Without the mirth, you seem to be confusing the growth development of the conceptual faculty with the axiom as held by a fully developed conceptual consciousness.

btw - Mankind has tried it for centuries. It leads to all sorts of justifications for torture, dictators, human produced destruction, you know the routine.

Try thinking about it seriously sometime. Just for a few minutes. Something good will happen. Honest.

Michael




Post 133

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 6:56amSanction this postReply
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Hi Brendan,

Below you argue that “every concept is formed fundamentally from observation”. So how do you go about observing this non-existing stuff?

Do chairs exist in my bathtub? I observe, and nope. Chairs in my bathtub don't exist. I observe what is in my bathtub; I note that nothing comes up chair; and I conclude about chairs that don't exist in my bathtub.  

Sure, but we’ve agreed that Existence tells us nothing about existing things. Therefore, X could be anything, even “non-existing stuff”. Non-existing stuff is non-existing stuff, yes?

We did agree, but X cannot be both existing and non-existing. "A non-existing chair that exists in my bathtub," if it is to be sensical at all, is just a confused way of saying "chairs don't exist in my bathtub," and should not be taken to mean that "non-existing chairs exist" because that entails a basic logical contradiction: a non-existing chair cannot be an existing chair, unless we mince context.

 

Anyway, I think post 37 is MSK's, and I figured there were enough related responses to your post 57 to save me the trouble. But perhaps not. Your nutshell is handy, but it's not so much an argument. Still, I'll respond to it.

Rand has a thought, and then declares that something exists. But what is the “something”?

Rehashing, what does "having a thought" compel us to accept? It compels us to accept (1) that thoughts exist, which means existence exists (existence axiom), (2) that thoughts exists, which means something exists (identity axiom), and (3) that having the thought exists, which means consciousness exists (the consciousness axiom). Do you accept this?

 

Now Rand continues that "to be conscious is to be conscious of something," by which I think she means something that's not the consciousness. This view of consciousness is theory laiden, the theory being that consciousness is basically reflexive rather than basically or solely self-substantive. This theory also entails an existence external to consciousness, something I don't think we can deduce from the axioms. If this is what you're getting at, then okay. But I doubt it's what you're getting at.

 

Jordan

 




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Post 134

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 9:53amSanction this postReply
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MSK,

So how does

... the logical sense in which I claim that reality exists independently of our apprehension of it.

translate into the claim that logic is not an the attribute of consciousness or that logic is an attribute of things that are not conscious?

If you want to misinterpret something, stop playing games - at least make the root of the misinterpretations clear and coherent.

If you are trying to argue that causality is not a logical relation, take that up with Aristotle and Rand.

The fact is that reality is independent of consciousness in a specific sense - that is the sense I described as "logical" because I didn't want to spend too much time delineating it, though it is a sense that is necessary for logic and reasoning to work.  Reality cannot be completely independent of consciousness, because that would make the claim that a proposition is necessarily or probably true an impossibility.

Laj.




Post 135

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 10:25amSanction this postReply
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Not misinterpret, Laj.

Taking you at your word.

You want to use logic (from your own consciousness) to claim that "reality exists independently of our apprehension of it" in a "logical sense."

Dude, reality exists. Period. End of story. Not logically. We can perceive and conceive of it logically. But it does not exist logically.

I repeat, there is no logic without a consciousnesses, not even your own.

But then you make the following breathtaking claim: "Reality cannot be completely independent of consciousness..."

LOLOLOLOL...

I've had enough. Back to primacy of consciousness...

Michael




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Post 136

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 11:50amSanction this postReply
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MSK,

I wrote earlier:

If you are trying to argue that causality is not a logical relation, take that up with Aristotle and Rand.
Rand and Aristotle both tied existence to identity and causality.

Omitting that part of my argument, in your usually smarmy and vapid manner, you write:


Dude, reality exists. Period. End of story. Not logically. We can perceive and conceive of it logically. But it does not exist logically.

Well, it is time for you to go re-read what I wrote earlier.  Reality is independent of consciousness in a specific way, but if reality has no properties that make it tractable to logical and rational analysis, how do we even analyze it in the first place?   If something doesn't have to be true or false, what is the point in arguing about it?

The fine line between calling reality "logical" or "ordered" and calling reality susceptible to rational analysis is so thin that if that is your primary point, your reasons for not admitting that I ceded that a long time ago are otiose.

Anyways, like I said, take it up with Rand.  Her essays on causality, especially "The Metaphysical and the Man-made" and Peikoff's exposition of causality as a corollary of the law of identity exist for all to peruse.

Laj.





Post 137

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 2:05pmSanction this postReply
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Laj,

In your quest to slay a dragon, you have missed a completely major point of discussion in posts (some mine) not involving you, so I do not know if you read them - or if you paid attention to them if you did. I presume you did, but anyway I will repeat.

Existence (fact) is one gigantic humongous thing that is all-encompassing, outside of our awareness and includes both us and our awareness.

The concept of existence (axiom) is something inside a conscious brain.

Your "fine line" is right there. The universe is not logical. The concept of existence is (that is, if you accept it as an axiom). There is a difference between fact and concept.

You seem somehow to be postulating that "logical order" or whatever exists independently of perception, thus it can fall under rational awareness. That is not the case. Rational awareness developed from sensory stimuli and integrated the rest through a conceptual faculty.

There was and is no logic before a mind.

At least I am starting to be able to understand how you can say something so sloppy as:
Rand and Aristotle both tied existence to identity and causality.
Identity and causality are not on an equal footing with existence as facts. They are under it and part of it. They exist, just like existence does. The concepts are intertwined because of one fact only. We are smaller than existence and are integrating a concept of something much larger than ourselves, one that includes ourselves. Thus we cannot separate ourselves from "identity" or "existence" or even "causality." We can and do isolate these different concepts, but as I mentioned earlier, they are facets of the same thing, not independent different things altogether. One depends on the other as a concept.

As a fact, one particular statement by Ayn Rand illuminates it (you did say go back to Rand?). To quote Adam Reed, from his Ontology of Space article:
In the transcript of the discussion session on the topic of axiomatic concepts (p. 241 in the 1990 Meridian paperback edition of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology), in answer to "Prof. B" during discussion of axiomatic concepts, Ayn Rand says that an existent is "anything which you can isolate, whether it is an entity, a relationship, an action, or an attribute." 
Please notice the word "isolate," meaning all part of the same thing. On the preceding page she called the difference between "existence" and "identity" (as facts from which the concepts are formed, not as the concepts themselves) an "issue of perspective." (Please see my "facet" analogy.) Then she made the following evaluation (the "it" in the quote being identity and existence):
And, you see, even though it is the same concept, the whole disaster of philosophy is that philosophers try to separate the two.
Sort of like claiming that there is a "logical order" without first having a "logic" with a distinct nature firmly lodged in a brain.

Michael




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Post 138

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 2:19pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Laj,

I don't think you will have much luck with an opponent who insists that a logical tautology is both fundamental ("Existence exists") and completely unnecessary ("Dude, reality exists... But it does not exist logically")...;-)

Anyway, leaving such clowning aside, a summary of the debate so far seems to be that "Existence exists" is just as acceptable to a primacy-of-consciousness advocate as it is to her opponent! So Merlin's criticism, that it is largely useless, while milder than Bradley's assessment, is the most telling. Milder again, Jordan has decided to accept the axiom, but does not consider it inescapable. But of course the whole point of Rand's axioms, particularly this one, is that they are inescapable - that one has no choice but to accept them in the first place, so Jordan's position cannot help but undermine this confidence. Finally, you and Brendan seem to be arguing from the point of view that axioms are theory-laden anyway, so they cannot be fundamental - and this seems to be pretty hard to disagree with, as everyone here agrees that "Existence exists" implies the existence of other theories, such as a theory of consciousness. So Rand's main selling point - the total inexorability of her formulations - seems to be an error, at least to most participants in this thread.

My own argument offers a further twist to the above. I agree that it is merely a Parmenides re-write (as seem to be other elements of Rand which logically follow, like her Parmenidean views on "nothing". I dare say it is something she just picked up without realising it!) However, I suggest that the descent into vacuousness is not just limited to Rand, but is the inevitable consequence of verbalist overreach - that is, *by trying to formulate a statement that encompasses everything, you end up saying very little*. And this is where "Existence exists", and likewise "What is, is, what is not is not" etc etc end up.

- Daniel



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Post 139

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 3:31pmSanction this postReply
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I was trying to remain a lurker on this thread, but MSK's "primacy of consciousness" view of logic was too inviting to keep quiet.

How does MSK believe we come to have logic as a concept? Is it an innate idea? Is it intrinsic to consciousness? It must be something like that based on what he has asserted so far:
The universe is not logical. The concept of existence is (that is, if you accept it as an axiom). There is a difference between fact and concept.
You seem somehow to be postulating that "logical order" or whatever exists independently of perception, thus it can fall under rational awareness. That is not the case.
Dude, reality exists. Period. End of story. Not logically. We can perceive and conceive of it logically. But it does not exist logically.
I repeat, there is no logic without a consciousnesses, not even your own.

I offer an alternative view. Logic, like identity, is an attribute of reality. It is objective, indeed the very standard of objectivity. Consider for a moment runner X in a race. He has either crossed the finish line or he hasn't. In other words, A or not-A. You might reply there is a borderline case when X's body is right over the finish line. Regardless, the timer for X in this race or a judge of it must decide exactly when X crosses the finish line. In other words, there is an instance of the Law of Excluded Middle. Also, X cannot be both past and not past the finish line at the same time. In other words, there is an instance of the Law of Noncontradiction.

Of course, there is no concept or identification of logic without a consciousness. But that does not imply there is no logic in reality to identify.




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