On Sartre’s Nausea . . . so to speak

I publish here various culture related materials. Of course, the site is devoted to a book but the book is titled “Culture vs. Copyright.” So, even formally, my culture related posts are quite justified. As for essence, one of the main conclusions in the book is that you cannot “deal with culture” as with material properties. That is plain silly. All I post here is to get you feel that culture is “different.” Maybe, I hope, some pro-copyright, pro-patent, etc. enthusiasts one day will see the problem, at least… The below happened after a Post-Existential Philosophy club meeting a few days ago.

We did “slow reading” this time. Which is, in my view, philosophy reading. I would say “reading” for you cannot “read” philosophy – she requires thinking, discussing, working out, coming back… No, you cannot “read philosophy” – that would be just waist of time. Fiction can or even must be read – there you need to get involved. You stop for moment to think of something and you fall out of the story. Philosophy is just the opposite. So, we did it as slow as possible. Three paragraphs in an hour and half. Three short paragraphs, barely half page of the Diary in Sartre’s Nausea.

What does Sartre say there? In very general terms – things are getting independent and deceiving. They use every opportunity to pretend they are not what they used to be: a door knob turns into undistinguished cold object, a fork wants to be peaked up in some other way it used to be, face of an acquaintance pretends to be not a face and when gets caught turns into some unfamiliar one, a hand pretends to be a white worm… The man whom things play with makes an effort to put them in place and they obey but the effort is needed… And he doesn’t know what’s wrong: whether it’s him who’ve changed or it’s things, actually all things (the phenomenon expands) change their ways?

What’s the point? We don’t know yet where Sartre intents to lead us but he already made us think (it’s actually him plus our slow reading). And thinking I am going to indulge myself with.

First, how relevant is the question who is sick here: the man or the world? The question makes no sense for the man – what’s happening is happening, no matter how to interpret it.

Well, Kant would concur – yes we never know what “thing in itself” is for all we can do is to deal with a phenomenon as it is. But we can experiment, put things in specifically arranged circumstances, make them deal with one another and thus determine what they are.

Does Sartre have anything to answer? I believe he does. If things pretend to be not what they are how then can we conduct an accurate experiment? Furthermore, what will be an output? How to interpret it? Let Kant to think for now – there are other interlocutors.

Aristotle, most probably, wouldn’t pay attention to Satre’s sickness, for for him it would be nothing more than that. But he wouldn’t give Kant so easy time. What is this thing in itself? Something deep inside, what we cannot deal with? No way, what is “inside” is “inner form” which makes thing what it is despite all its fluid appearances and what you translate as “essence.” Your essence is inner form and it is the most definite and certain “thing.” Appearance, yes, of course, may deceive you. No wonder (now he turns Sartre) that man got lost – he doesn’t go after inner form, that is – does not deploy “nus” – his mind while senses can fool you, no questions about that. Uh, this is where the problem is – our hero is not sick, he is just a fool relying entirely on senses.

What else one may rely on? – Sartre goes. Imagination? For imaginary things they are both – your inner form or essence, revered Aristotle or your thing in itself, no less revered Kant. I cannot see them. I cannot deal with them. Thus they are of no use for me. And yes, I don’t know what things are, although they are what I definitely deal with. I don’t know how they are what they are – this is true but this is how it is. I didn’t mistake that hand for a worm, it seemed that but I fixed that. Don’t ask me how – I don’t know, I just relay to the fact as it is, for me. And not for me only, by the way. Many people knew the same guy (whom I could not recognize for a few seconds), called him the same name, shared impressions about him with one another. How it works? I don’t know but it does and I state just that…

Well, you can definitely keep this for a true fact but the only definite aspect in your assertion is that you know something… Even though that something may very well deceive you and actually it does… Uh, here is Descartes, of course.

Wait, Sartre says. I agree – the only certain truth is that I do perceive something. That grants me existence, thank you very much. But please, there is some certainty in all those uncertainties and deception, it sure is. I acknowledge – I don’t know how it works but it does. Do we or do we not understand how it works it doesn’t matter, let’s just be plain honest and recognize the fact: even if and when things pretend to be what they are not we manage to hold them accountable, put them in place and have them reveal what they are…

OK, let’s stop here, for now ;)

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Culture vs. Copyright got into Mountain View, Ca public library!

Culture vs. Copyright in Mountain View public library

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On Values, Consciousness & Human Nature / Take 3

Venis-ve-Adonis.E1Why values are perceived as essentially unchangeable (still an assumption)? How they emerge at all? What makes an idea or thing a value? Let’s look at some obviousnesses:

  • A value (positive) is something I want to have, so I see that something of value, of interest, of meaning, I develop a feeling for it. Does that mean I get the thing in my consciousness? That is not clear yet.
  • What if I cannot get what I want? A tension develops between the want and reality, thus the want obtains aspect of time: between past of unsatisfied desire and future of desire to be satisfied. Time! That means the wanted value becomes a fact of consciousness. And as wanted it doesn’t change.
  • What about a case when you want something just to be, to exist as such? That is all the same, even more so, for something “just to be” means you acknowledge its value not for yourself only but for somebody else or even for humanity at large and even forever.
  • What about something becoming a value when disappears? Was it or was it not in my consciousness before that? Maybe not. You had no feelings for it. You didn’t reflect your relations with it. You didn’t reflect your attitude toward it. All these come to exist after it gone!
  • We have actually approached a paradox (which is encouraging): To become a fact of consciousness something must be of value <=> To become something of value something must be being aware of, obviously.
  • What about “shared values?” A shared value is in the analogues paradoxical relationship with human communication: to take seriously or, I believe, even just hear your idea I must value it and vice versa – to value your idea I need to hear it. This relationship allows for thoughtless communication which has always been another mystery for me, thus far.
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On Values, Consciousness and Human Nature. Some More

Let’s pick it up where we dropped off last time. At that point human appeared as an entity able to disrupt its own environment without provocation. In other words, humans are “anti-adaptive” creatures, in essence, by nature – their nature.

That means, there are humans inventing new things while other humans are able to acquire those new things, meaning – learn what they are, what they are for, how to operate them, etc. All that is doable by using speech. Another assumption popping up right away is that speech as such is the provocateur of invention.

The substantiating logic seems to be quite reasonable. Human speech allows expression of the same idea in different ways. That backfires on listeners and speakers causing individual differences in understanding of the same thing. This brings up disagreement – in between people and in individual minds, as well. And this is where creativity takes off.

two-emotions.edited-2In a disagreement we deal with a clash of values. What I see as positive you perceive as negative and vice versa. This is how I become aware of my value – you point out that I am mistaken, in your view. Of course, I can do the same service to myself but that doesn’t change the essence: I’d disagree with myself in this case and start thinking. Thus again we run into interdependence of values and facts of consciousness. The fine addition to the previous contemplating is that now we definitely see things of “positive value” and “negative value,” those we consider right and those we consider wrong, all the same – good and bad, adorable and despicable, etc. We don’t only see here neutral things, those we don’t have feeling for, meaningless for that matter. Really, why would one argue about a thing one does not care about?

So, it came to feelings. Can we define value as a thing I have some feeling for? I believe this works. What if I “value” something for being useful? Do I value the thing or its usefulness? Looks like the latter is the right answer. And this adds on another angle to understanding values as eternal and unchangeable. Do we “feel” like that about own feelings?

Now, a few more questions:

What about “competing” values? The question is whether we deal with this phenomenon in situations where a choice is required or values can compete “on their own?”

If a person has a photographic memory would it mean the person has a super broad system of values? This brings up a question of relationship between memory and consciousness… and values.

Why, exactly, different people perceive the same thing differently? Does this necessary depends on different values? Here relationship between perception, consciousness, and values comes up.

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On Values, Consciousness and Human Nature

What do we know about consciousness? Let’s do a little summary.

In consciousness we are aware of things. That means, we perceive things in time. That furthermore means we perceive things in time as being the same. That means we perceive things unchangeable, in a way, which perception allows us to register changes. That means we develop sense of time while perceive things as being the same. And that, in turn, means we are aware of ourselves for being able to register changes. That, furthermore, means that we are able to distance ourselves from the things we perceive in time.

This ability of the human consciousness to distance itself in order to perceive things as the same along with all the changes we are trying to approach.

Right at that point we can presume that keeping things “the same” is of value for humans. That is, whatever is acquired by our consciousness obtained the status of value. That is an assumption. The opposite assumption that anything of value is acquired by our consciousness seems even more reasonable. The third assumption that both above ideas are simultaneously right might be valid too.

Let’s put this in a slightly wider context. Human environment, generally speaking, consists of speech, communication, social relationships, tools, tool related activities, art, ideas and something difficult to define which we may call “human things.” And all of these somehow constitute our consciousness.

It is evident that above “components” are not isolated but form kind of “knots” where they support one another and develop. For example: speech-communication-relationship, speech-communication-tool-activity, tool-activity-art-human thing, etc. In any and all of this knots people create something of value and, at the same time, something they are aware of.

Now, let’s draw in some phenomena. We often remember bad things more vividly than good ones. That hints on a notion of “negative value” and questions our assumptions. We often realize that something or somebody was of value after loosing those. A challenge again. We often acquire some social norms which we are not aware of until break them and get punished. That is an issue either. Finally, we can value a thing for its functionality but that does not necessary mean we value the thing itself. This is a fundamental question.

These examples essentially are problem statements but as observations they still are helpful. Even without clear picture of how all above forces and phenomena work together we can see one distinguished aspect: That we can acquire in our consciousness only those things which become disruptive.

Or we can willfully disrupt our perception of a thing, all by our own,  without being provoked. In that case we do thinking.

Or we can willfully disrupt our own perception of the “All things.” In that case we do philosophy.

Now, if we never do that, never disrupt anything in our perception that means we do not think and thus we live like animals, although in human environment.

Furthermore, when we stress on one’s ability or inability to disrupt established values and come up with new ones we may now turn our attention to the person. We can ask what does it mean to be human taking into account all said above.

The answer this time is: One is human if able to willfully disrupt one’s environment.

PS. If we want to talk about adaptation of humans that might make sense in the context of disruption only, maybe as a some kind of secondary feature.

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On the Nature of Human Values

There was a philosophy meetup yesterday, May 29. Below is the outcome.
Human values for me (this is an assumption) relate to the consciousness as such but in a very special way. 1) In short and very roughly, consciousness reflects things as being the same in time. Having perceived things as same allows us to register changes. The logic is pure and simple: if I don’t see this changing thing as the same (unchangeable in a way) I cannot see changes in it either, because, in this case, one thing (in its previous state) disappears and another (in the next state) appears instead. 2) Values, in turn, in essence, are “things” which are always the same. Yo can change your values or your interpretation of a value but the nature of a value as you “value” it right now – to be the same in eternity. 3) Thence, the assumption: somehow essential sameness of values is responsible for that aspect of consciousness which is to reflect things as being “same.”
Whether this is for real or not, and if it is – how it works? That was totally in fog for me. What became clear yesterday is that value in essence is “of absolute value” in perception of that individual to “value” it. It is the logic of value. It is not compromised by anything until you start to think it over. But I am not talking about thing as subject of thinking but as subject of consciousness. A value is an absolute there. So, my assumption becomes a very concrete one: a thing becomes that of consciousness if and only if it becomes a value! And now a multitude of examples swarm in my mind! Just one: we remember only those things we are interested in – a daily life observation… And I am happy and grateful to my interlocutors!

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Queen Mary University of London Libarary bought a copy of my book!

Culture vs. Copyright in one of the libraries of the Queen Mary University of London!

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The Only Source of Human Morality

In my previous posts on the subject it was repeated several times over what I knew about morality from cultural studies, particularly from a philosopher Vladimir Bibler. We need to distinguish between morality as such and something which cannot be translated in English exactly, something pertaining to ethics, morals, conscience. Let it be conscience.

Sources of human morality

By Olga Gessen

Morality vs. Conscience


The difference is that morality as such is a code to follow, a set of rules, formal and stringent, a recipe for a “right” behaviour of some kind. Conscience, on the contrary, pertains to the personal choice which cannot be determined by rules.

One can argue that our choices are based on rules. Say, there is a commandment “You shall not kill.” Let call it a rule. Follow it and your conscience will not bother you. But what if following the rule is not possible? Say, you either must kill a killer or allow killing? What if two rules contradict one another? Say, you have to steal or let somebody die from starvation or disease? What if there is no rule fit the situation, not at all? What if following a rule just doesn’t seem right? Finally, what if you do not realize what rule is applicable here and now even if there is a rule out there, objectively? All these situations demand personal decision and personal responsibility. All of them challenge your conscience.


Those situations were explored in many books, plays and movies. And somehow we always sympathize with the “right” choice of a hero but that rarely coincides with following a rule. Or it does when the following is ultimately difficult, dangerous, challenging. How do we know what is right and wrong in such situations? The answer is: Somehow. More specifically, just a bit? We feel somehow which choice is more human, more honourable, honest, decent, etc. That’s it. It justifies itself and doesn’t require or even tolerate any outside reason or cause for itself. We just adore a hero capable of heroic conduct and, maybe, even try to follow it, turning the hero into a role model and her conduct into another code.

The Third Area?


Now. It appears that there is yet another, the third area in human conduct which pertains to morality. Something like “humane feelings.” Those are sympathy, empathy, altruism, compassion, etc. They seem to relate to morality but neither to following codes, nor to hard choices of conscience. What are they? Is there any relationship between the feelings and two others, morality as such and conscience?

I believe there is. I think feelings are just the other aspect, other side of any human action. Whether you follow a rule or make a choice, feelings are involved. All kinds of them. Actually, only totally automated act doesn’t involve feelings. But, as soon as an obstacle happens in the way of automated, habitual action, a requirement to overcome the obstacle and thus to make some choice invokes feelings.

And the next question will be where the feelings and a conduct based on them come from? Altruism, compassion, consolation… Let me remind you, dear reader, how all this started. There is a trend to explain those by “positive science.” Human feelings within this approach are forms of animal-like “adaptive” behaviour. I’ve met some proponents of the idea, that’s it.

On Adaptation

OK, there are some forms of chimps’ behaviour discovered there, some in experimental situations, some in natural environment that we can interpret as altruism, compassion, etc. They are. And those forms, probably, were generated in the course of evolution as means to adapt in a group life. Perhaps.

The thing is that humans do not adapt the way animals do. Humans invent tools, develop speech, relationship, skills, arts, etc. all that in relation to say some new activity. In general, every time when an animals have nothing to do but to adapt to changed circumstances humans reinvent themselves so that they could overcome circumstances. Moreover, when humans live in stable conditions and objectively have no need to change anything they still do. They do the same: create new things, tools, develop speech, relationship, etc. That is, humans break out of environment they had adapted to constantly.

Images of Culture

So much for the adaptation. Let’s turn back to “moral feelings.” Say “compassion.” What or better say “Who” you are thinking first of when you hear “compassion?” I believe, that will be Jesus. An image of culture representing the ultimate compassion. There are, of course, others out there. And there are other images representing other “moral feelings.” Self-sacrifice in the name of humanity? Prometheus. Courage in the name of truth? Giordano Bruno. I actually mentioned the role of a cultural hero in this respect in the very beginning. This is how the human feelings are created, spread, get personally adopted . . . and become personal feelings. They all get created against adaptation, they are just the opposite.


So, in the end, who we humans must thank for our morality? The answer is: ourselves.

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Is The World Limited or Unlimited?

The First Antinomy of four Immanuel Kant’s Antinomies (from the Critique of Pure Reason) is:
The world has a beginning in time, and is also limited as regards space.
The world has no beginning, and no limits in space; it is infinite as regards both time and space.

Kant offered a logical reasoning to substantiate both, thesis and anti-thesis. It has always been my understanding that Kant tried to reveal limitations to human cognition. As if he told us: These problems are beyond our abilities to solve, don’t even try, waist no time. Do what is doable. And that is logical.

Trying to convey the idea to my neighbour, a very smart girl a few days ago I, all of a sudden, understood there could be another conclusion, as logical as the Kant’s one and derived from the same antinomy:

If it is logically proven that the world can be limited and unlimited at the same time why then we don’t conclude just that? World is limited and unlimited at the same time! Go ahead now, research it as you wish: As limited or as unlimited! Why not?

We know that light can behave as a wave or as a stream of particles and the performance depends on the practical conditions, experimental or not. But we cannot tell whether light is wave or stream of particles! The very question now seams to be incorrect.

What about the world? Now I believe its performance in a experiment depends on how we understand it (either limited or unlimited) and respectively frame the experimental conditions. Then we can learn how the world performs when it is supposed to be limited and how it does if supposed to be unlimited. Experiments of both types will tell us something real…

What do you think? I like that.

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Culture vs. Copyright is a Finalist at The 2015 USA Best Book Awards!

Category: Philosophy

Culture vs. Copyright by Anatoly Volynets
Total Knowledge


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