The most famous characterization of consciousness I am aware of, of which there is some modicum of truth is,
“I think, therefore I am.” — Rene Descartes
A robust interpretation of this characterization of consciousness is,
“I consciously arrive at decisions about ‘who’ I want to be, ‘what’ I want to achieve, and ‘how’ I plan to get done whatever it is I seek to accomplish, therefore I am.”
Suppose we accept elucidation of consciousness in the preceding.
then is individuality?”
Upon acceptance of the elucidation, individuality is sum total of unique decisions and actions induced by who it is you seek to be, what it is you seek to accomplish, and sum total of unique paths induced by how exactly it is you set out to accomplish your ‘who’ and ‘what’.
If we term who you seek to be (your decisions), ‘aspirations’, what you seek to accomplish (outcomes of your actions), ‘goals’ or ‘objectives’, and term your plans (unique paths that are constrained or guided by actions you personally deem not valuable), ‘ethos’ or ‘values’, consciousness and individuality are reduced to sum total of aspirations, goals, and values.
Consciousness and individuality can be reduced to sum total of aspirations, goals, and values.
Rather rationally, we conclude that if we possess aspirations, goals, and values, we possess consciousness and individuality. We also conclude it is the unique path that is our very own life, a path defined by decisions, actions that generated outcomes, and guiding values that confers or evinces consciousness and individuality.
But if consciousness and individuality derive from uniqueness of paths, why is it life now is so full of herding mentality?
Why is it people rather choose to herd in context of whatever it is they find familiar? Why is it identity derives more and more from group affiliations, as opposed to consciousness and individuality?
Herding behavior connotes non-uniqueness, is contrary to consciousness and individuality.
Do we not conclude then that society has changed, that most people no longer derive a sense of consciousness or individuality from uniqueness of aspirations, goals, and values? If we find this indeed to be so, what exactly is source of this blatant philosophical shift?
There exist several competing explanations, of which I focus on two that somewhat are interrelated.
The first competing explanation? Whenever people have goals and values, but do not have aspirations, they never feel as if they are completing a journey. Life is made up of all sorts of goals that are achieved, and values for arriving at adopted goals. In absence of an aspiration marker, however, achieving of goals merely creates a void constantly in need of filling with more of goals and objectives.
An illustration of a person who linked objectives with aspirations is the British boxer, Lennox Lewis who surprised everyone by retiring at height of his boxing career, this after defeating in succession, Evander Holyfield (2–0), Rahsim Rahman (1–1), Mike Tyson (1–0), and Vitali Klitschko (1–0), all in a space of four years between 1999 and 2003.
By defeating all of those men, Lennox Lewis already proved he is one of boxing’s greats, perhaps almost as great, or as great as the great Muhammad Ali. Aspiration met, there no longer was any need for boxing matches. Lennox blindsided everyone by retiring at height of his career.
Granted, Lennox had to have managed money well for providing of himself with opportunity to focus on aspiration, as opposed to more of goals and objectives, namely boxing matches. The most important thing, however, is, he understood importance of subjecting goals to aspirations.
What is the greatest aspiration a professional boxer can have? To be regarded as one of the best boxers ever.
Whenever aspiration is well defined, there comes a time when in a particular context there is an end to goals and objectives. Retirement subjugates goals to aspirations.
The second competing explanation? In recent times, people increasingly are defining consciousness or individuality as capacity for disagreement, as capacity for stating a difference of opinion.
If this recent development is allowed to fester and grow, as increasingly seems to be the case in context of American politics and polity, society will become stalemated beyond measure. Not only will society become stalemated, but society no longer will have capacity for producing greatness in people.
Neither of Republicans nor Democrats will have opportunity for producing great leaders if they never work together for the common good.
For how to get around this for winning of elections, consider this post titled, Facts, Politics, and Governance for the People.
If you define yourself by your performance in any one argument, with focus on winning the argument, as opposed to arrival at some beneficial practical outcome, you in essence state that all of your who, what, and how are irrelevant to your consciousness and individuality. You declare that only what happens in midst of that one argument — whether you win or lose — matters for consciousness or individuality. Clearly, this does not make much sense if the path of our lives matter more than any one moment in time. Clearly, this cannot be construed to be a sensible definition of consciousness or individuality. Non sensibleness is evident in the fact that it takes at least 51% of people agreeing in the House, Senate, or Boards of Directors of firms for anything put to a vote to get done. Nobody then ever can become unique by disagreement because they always will have to agree with some other people for getting of anything done.
Winston Churchill is not remembered for winning arguments between Britain and Germany that led to the Second World War. He is remembered for his ingenuity, tenacity, and moral rectitude at engaging Germany in war. He is remembered for aspiration, goals, and values.
By the way, Lennox Lewis refused to fight a certain John Ruiz in the year 2000, resulting in loss of the WBA title, and retention of the WBC, IBF, and IBO titles.
Lennox Lewis is not remembered for arguing about whether or not he ought to fight John Ruiz. He is remembered for beating in succession, Evander Holyfield, Rahsim Rahman, Mike Tyson, and Vitali Klitschko. More importantly, he is remembered as one of those boxers who mastered the art and science of boxing.
If you search through the dust combs of history you will not find anyone who is remembered merely because they won or lost an argument. Every great person in those dust combs is defined either by aspirations, objectives, or values, preferably all three.
If our modern society is to survive, we must move away from recent tendencies at attempting to beat each other down in unnecessary, non-substantive, non-emancipating arguments over matters lacking in practical value.
sage once very sagely opined,
Sometimes it is fools who win arguments because the wise walk away.
Even when it comes to evil greats, aspiration, goals or objectives, and values never have been associated with mere argumentativeness. Adolph Hitler might have been evil, yet no one can call a man who from 1939 through 1943 fought Allied forces to a standstill a mere talker, a mere argumentator. Even when it comes to evil, typically there aren’t any great argumentators in the catalog.
It is better, however, to be remembered for good, not for evil. It is better to be remembered for noble aspirations, goals, and values. Uniqueness of opinion that does not derive from or translate into aspiration, goals, and values is redundant uniqueness of no value to anyone.
While some think evil greats are necessary for bringing out of nobility in others, I personally do not believe this to be so. I believe greatness rooted in noble aspirations, goals, and values remains within reach in a world totally devoid of evil. Consider that regardless of how great King Solomon was, with Candace Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia) attracted to visit and based on the evidence acquiescing to Jewish religion, David his father is considered greater. Two reasonably good kings, father and son, one considered better than the other. Philip of Macedonia was a great conqueror, his son Alexander the Great, as evident in the epithet also great. Both considered good men. Who was greater? Some think the father, some the son, one could say it’s a toss up?
If you will derive consciousness and individuality from aspiration, goals, and values, you are able to work with others, not resort to arguments for demonstration of consciousness and individuality. You no longer care you were not the person to broach the great suggestion. You are freed to collaborate around agenda created by others. By the same token, others are freed to collaborate around your agenda. In sum total, as a society we all arrive at a much better place, a more cognitive, healthier, happier place not just for adults, but also for children.
We owe the next generation — our children — no less a debt, to wit that we derive consciousness and individuality from our aspirations, goals, and values.