Tuesday, January 6, 2015

#6 / Being And Consciousness

Karl Marx said "consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness." 

In her comments on a recent biography of Vaclav Havel, by Michael Zantovsky, reviewer Marci Shore says "the idea that individual, subjective consciousness was derivative of one's objective, socioeconomic position ... [is] at the foundation of Marxism." She also recounted what Havel said in a 1990 address to a joint session of the United States Congress: 

Consciousness precedes being, and not the other way around ...

According to Shore, "many of the senators and representatives wanted to know what Havel meant, but there was no time to explain....Havel was headed to New York, to a club in the East Village."

It is quite believable that members of Congress wouldn't immediately pick up on the reference to Marx. Not too many members of Congress would even admit to having read Marx - and probably lots of them haven't. Unfortunately, it is also quite believable that a number of members of Congress might have difficulty in decoding this simple sentence: "consciousness precedes being...." It's not that often that our elected representatives think about "being." At least, that's my impression. 

As for me, I am kind of a both/and guy - but only to a degree. What Marx said about life "determining" consciousness is indubitably true. But the opposite is also true, and in the world that humans construct, it is, in fact, "consciousness" that ultimately determines "being." 

In other words, anything we can think, we can do - in the human world. That is because the human world is a world we make. 

I'm with Havel!

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  1. Gary, if you've never read Daniel Dennett's CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED I urge you to do so. I am pretty sure you would really enjoy it.

  2. Yes! http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2069.Consciousness_Explained

  3. I am going to take your recommendations! And thank you!!


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