Now my question is this: if our consciousness flows like a river through all of our experiences, do we ever really and truly experience something purely? James claims that thunder breaking silence is not pure thunder, for it is "thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it." Therefore, it doesn't seem to me that any clap of thunder is pure; if it's breaking silence the thunder contrasts against the silence, and if it follows another clap of thunder, it contrasts with that clap of thunder. If our consciousness successfully blends itself through experiences in this way every time, how can anything we experience be pure if we are constantly relating experiences and objects to the immediate and far off past?
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Consciousness and Purity
I'm attracted to the idea of our consciousness blending rather than simply being jointed together. If our consciousness were "chopped up in bits," our daily experiences would have no relations to past experiences - including the immediate past. If this were the case, would our relations to ordinary objects be like new every time? Would we have to re-teach ourselves simple things in life? Would every time I ate an apple feel like a new experience, despite how many times I've eaten an apple, because my consciousness would tell me it is a new experience? Thoreau may claim so (only if it was eaten in the wild, its natural habitat), but the fact that our consciousness is not choppy in this way allows for us to relate our current experiences with past experiences, and our current relations to objects with past relations of objects, no matter how much time has passed between. I feel James successfully illustrates this concept through his description of thunder piercing silence when he writes, "For even into our awareness of the thunder the awareness of the previous silence creeps and continues; for what we hear when the thunder crashes is not thunder pure, but thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it. Our feeling of the same objective thunder, coming in this way, is quite different from what it would be where the thunder a continuation of a previous thunder."