Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

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Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#1  Postby Tamminen » July 13th, 2017, 11:08 am

As a small introduction, let me quote Ludwig Wittgenstein. He says in Philosophical Investigations:

I can know what someone else is thinking, not what I am thinking.
It is correct to say "I know what you are thinking", and wrong to say "I know what I am thinking."


But to my point.

Each of us is a subject, an I. Each of us can say: “I exist.” Now I can say to someone: “If you did not exist, the world would still be almost the same as it is now”, and there seems to be nothing wrong in saying so. But if someone says to me the same thing, I begin to think about it and translate it into my own language: “If I did not exist, the world would still be almost the same as it is now.” I get perplexed and start thinking about my nonexistence, and get still more perplexed. What does it mean to say I would not exist? How can I understand a world where I would not exist? Is there a fundamental asymmetry between me and others? And if there is, what does it mean? Can we explain reality in a way that saves symmetry?

Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? Or is there no problem here?
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Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?



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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#2  Postby LuckyR » July 13th, 2017, 5:16 pm

In order to address these issues it requires the ability to understand what one cannot see. If one is limited by their personal experience, topics such as the perspective from another's vantage point is a deal breaker and leads to conclusions as you document. OTOH, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see beyond the tip of one's nose.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#3  Postby -1- » July 14th, 2017, 12:18 am

The problem is that you believe that the world is different if you can't imagine it. As you perish, and there is no more you, (or as I perish, and there is no more I), I certainly won't be able to notice that the world did not change much; but now, before I perish, I can very well see that.

Also, whether I can see that or not, has no bearing on the state of the world. Proof: Let's say that the world would not change much if I did not exist. And I accept it as a truth. But yesterday I did not know that; the topic never even emerged. So what is the difference in the world between when I died five days ago and when I die two days from now? So what is the difference between if I perished before learning that the world would not change much if I perished, or if I perished after learning that the world would not change much if I perished? The outcome would be the exact same in both cases. So my knowledge of the world does not affect the world at all.

OR, MORE SUCCINCTLY:

OP, you wrote:

"What does it mean to say I would not exist? How can I understand a world where I would not exist?"

This is just it. The world and its operations are not a function of your (my) understanding it.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#4  Postby Tamminen » July 14th, 2017, 8:44 am

-1- wrote:So my knowledge of the world does not affect the world at all.

To make it clear, I see these self-evident facts: (1) there is symmetry between us, (2) the being of the world is independent of my personal existence. The question is: how is this possible? What is it that saves the being of the world from my nonexistence?

Maybe most of you do not find any problem in this, but I do. I am still waiting if there is someone who gets the point, and if not, I close the case. We see or we don't. Words do not help much.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#5  Postby Surreptitious57 » July 14th, 2017, 12:13 pm

You are worrying about your non existence but if you really were non existent then you would not be able to worry
about it. So the point is academic. This is no different to worrying about death. Why waste mental energy doing so
A MIND IS LIKE A PARACHUTE : IT DOES NOT WORK UNLESS IT IS OPEN
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#6  Postby Tamminen » July 17th, 2017, 9:54 am

To describe the seeming asymmetry between us:

There are many subjects in the universe, and I am one of them, an individual called Tamminen. But why am I not the individual called Mahatma Gandhi, for example, or an ant? What connects me to this particular person Tamminen? If I had no connection to or identity with any individual subject in the universe and the universe still contained all the subjects including a person called Tamminen, i.e. if I did not exist but Tamminen would exist with the same subjective properties as now, the community of subjects would be symmetric, but now that I exist as Tamminen, it seems to be asymmetric. So the point is: what connects me to a particular subject although there are many subjects in the world? What makes me identical with Tamminen and not identical with Elisabeth Taylor? Or why do I not feel the hunger of a starving man?

Perhaps it is these kinds of questions that made some people invent such concepts as universal consciousness, Brahman and the like, and it is also these kinds of questions that made me create those language games that I have been playing on these forums. Some of you may find them funny, some of you may find them nonsense, but for me they are serious attempts to answer concrete existential questions.

Wittgenstein was wrong if he thought that all metaphysical language games are useless play of words. Some of them may be, others are not, and I leave it for others to decide to which category my games belong.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#7  Postby Gertie » July 18th, 2017, 4:25 am

Tamminen wrote:As a small introduction, let me quote Ludwig Wittgenstein. He says in Philosophical Investigations:

I can know what someone else is thinking, not what I am thinking.
It is correct to say "I know what you are thinking", and wrong to say "I know what I am thinking."


But to my point.

Each of us is a subject, an I. Each of us can say: “I exist.” Now I can say to someone: “If you did not exist, the world would still be almost the same as it is now”, and there seems to be nothing wrong in saying so. But if someone says to me the same thing, I begin to think about it and translate it into my own language: “If I did not exist, the world would still be almost the same as it is now.” I get perplexed and start thinking about my nonexistence, and get still more perplexed. What does it mean to say I would not exist? How can I understand a world where I would not exist? Is there a fundamental asymmetry between me and others? And if there is, what does it mean? Can we explain reality in a way that saves symmetry?

Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? Or is there no problem here?


First can you explain the point the quote is making, I don't get it?

As to your point, yeah it's weird. But I think you just have to say OK this is the way things are, this is the nature of being a subject. If it doesn't fit some notion of symmetry, so what?

It also means other weird ****, like I don't know if anything but my own subjective experiences exist. Maybe when they stop, nothing else exists.

In reality, we have to go with what works.

-- Updated July 18th, 2017, 9:45 am to add the following --

So the point is: what connects me to a particular subject although there are many subjects in the world? What makes me identical with Tamminen and not identical with Elisabeth Taylor? Or why do I not feel the hunger of a starving man?


OK, once you accept there's a real world 'out there' independent of your subjective experience, and that you can know things about it, like the existence of Elizabeth Taylor who has her own subjective experiences, then you have a framework of known stuff to help you address your question.

Because then you can also know that humans evolved to have consciousness in a particular way, experienced as a unified field moving through space and time, with a specific pov and sense of self. The details of how that came to be become a matter of scientific enquiry.

However, it's not like most scientific enquiry, because subjective experience isn't quantifiable, its essence is qualiative. So it looks like our current scientific methods and models aren't well equipped to handle it, suggesting to me at least, that we need a more fundamental notion of reality which encompasses both quantifiable stuff, and experiential stuff. Which might be beyond our capabilities, or maybe one day we'll crack it...
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#8  Postby Tamminen » July 18th, 2017, 8:52 am

Gertie wrote:First can you explain the point the quote is making, I don't get it?

This does not directly clarify my point, but it is one example of asymmetry between the first person and others as we exist as a community of subjects.

As to your description of our situation, it is ok, I only want to add some metaphysical considerations that I find interesting and necessary if we want to go deeper to the existential level, the level of our life and death, so to speak. When Heidegger wrote about the concept of 'philosophy of life', he said it is a concept like 'botany of plants'. This is what philosophy is for me, and that is why it goes far beyond science, although it should not, of course, adopt anything which is against empirical evidence. I have tried to take care of both logical consistency and empirical validity in my posts, but because I have tried to express in them something that is very difficult to express in words, I understand that the point is hard to find, and I myself sometimes have the feeling that my sentences are absurd. But their intention is good.

Finally something to think about: I think reality is a community of Leibniz's monads migrating from one to the other as a succession of "nows" in subjective time.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#9  Postby Gertie » July 18th, 2017, 11:04 am

Tam

Gertie wrote:
First can you explain the point the quote is making, I don't get it?


This does not directly clarify my point, but it is one example of asymmetry between the first person and others as we exist as a community of subjects.


Have you just gotten the quote the wrong way round then?

As to your description of our situation, it is ok, I only want to add some metaphysical considerations that I find interesting and necessary if we want to go deeper to the existential level, the level of our life and death, so to speak. When Heidegger wrote about the concept of 'philosophy of life', he said it is a concept like 'botany of plants'. This is what philosophy is for me, and that is why it goes far beyond science, although it should not, of course, adopt anything which is against empirical evidence. I have tried to take care of both logical consistency and empirical validity in my posts, but because I have tried to express in them something that is very difficult to express in words, I understand that the point is hard to find, and I myself sometimes have the feeling that my sentences are absurd. But their intention is good.


My post was trying to point out that once you decide to accept the existence of a real material world out there, which you can (roughly) know things about, then you have to accept it pretty much as a package if you want to be logically consistent. Because by taking that leap, you have set aside the inherently private and and uncertain nature of being a Subject, and accepted you are just one part of a world of Objects, of Other Stuff, of Other Subjects. And that material world tells you empirical facts about Subjects like yourself, although it doesn't explain everything.

So I'm saying that I don't think you're being logically consistent by accepting other Subjects like Elizabeth Taylor exist, then pondering if she (and everything else) ceases to exist at your death. Because you've already accepted that she exists and the world will carry on. And you should logically accept that conscious experience comes in unified discrete packages, because that is what we observe, even if we can't explain it (yet).

However, if you don't take that step of accepting that an exterior real world of other stuff and subjects exists, only that it might exist, then it is possible it all ceases to exist when your experiences cease to exist, because that's all it is, your experiences. And if it doesn't exist, then you can't pick bits and pieces to ponder on, like why is Elizabeth a discrete different Subject to me.

Agreed?

Now if you're just saying that the external material world does exist, but ceases to exist FOR YOU when you die and stop experiencing it, which is what most of us probably believe, then yep, it's weird. But it's just the nature of Subjectivity, of being a Subject, how it works. It's asymetrical and cognitively/philosophically uncomfortable, but so what, it is what it is. It's fun to wrestle with philosophically, tho, I agree.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#10  Postby Tamminen » July 18th, 2017, 1:55 pm

Gertie wrote:Have you just gotten the quote the wrong way round then?

No, Wittgenstein says I cannot meaningfully say I know what I am thinking, because there is no knowing in it, but I can meaningfully say I know what you are thinking. That does not, of course, mean that I know what you are thinking. A property of our grammar that mirrors a property of our existence.

What I have tried to elaborate in my posts, in my own way, is trying to solve the paradox with two opposite self-evident facts, or facts that I see self-evident: (1) the being of the world is independent of my personal existence, and all subjects form a symmetric community, (2) when I die, and if my existence ceases for good, the world also ceases to exist, and the symmetry between me and others seems to break. The solution is in what I wrote in the last paragraph of the previous post and what I have written in other posts. So there is no inconsistency in my seemingly opposite standpoints. I have only tried to describe the paradox and show the way over it.

If this did not clarify anything, I try to be more precise in future posts.

-- Updated July 19th, 2017, 3:20 am to add the following --

To be a bit more precise:

Let us have these two sentences:

p: I cease to exist for good.
q: The world ceases to exist, even so that there has never been anything, no world, no me, no others, because also the past disappears.

p->q is true, and I am convinced of its truth. For me it is as self-evident as the Cartesian "I am".
We all know that q is false: the world does not disappear when I die.
Therefore p must also be false, since only a false statement can imply a false statement.
So my death does not mean my non-being, and everyone in our community of subjects can say the same. But this can be the case only if there is a temporal connection between us. This connection is the pure I behind each individual subject, the point of view or presence that migrates through all subjects adopting them as its manifestations on an endless journey.

This is a metaphysical hypothesis, of course, but the paradox that led me to this conclusion is obvious, I think, and I do not see any other possible conclusion.

But this all depends on accepting that p->q is true. And this cannot be proved, it can only be seen or not seen.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#11  Postby Gertie » July 20th, 2017, 6:52 am

Tam

Gertie wrote:
Have you just gotten the quote the wrong way round then?


No, Wittgenstein says I cannot meaningfully say I know what I am thinking, because there is no knowing in it, but I can meaningfully say I know what you are thinking. That does not, of course, mean that I know what you are thinking. A property of our grammar that mirrors a property of our existence.


OK, that looks like it opens a whole nother can of worms, so I'll just move on ;)




I understand the mind bending nature of the issue you raise, and its significance. And the difficulties involved in grappling with it, so lets look at why it's so difficult.

As background, we're raised from birth to treat the material world as real, the normal and foundational stuff of reality, embodying truths and existing independently of us. This is the world of Objective Facts. And we call these Objective Facts, because we agree about them. I see an apple, I point at it and you say you see an apple too. The external material world becomes an Objective Fact by consensus in effect.

A consensus of Subjects sharing and communicating similar experiences. And it's reasonable to infer there actually is a a real world of Objective Facts, including apples and other Subjects experiencing that shared world. And science explains to us a lot about how this shared world of ours works, from the big bang to how we ourselves evolved. The world of Objective Facts locates you as one of many evolved by-products of its existence, pretty irrelevant to its continuing existence. This is the knowledge, the Objective Fact, we absorb, how we come to locate ourselves in the scheme of things, 'from the outside in'. And the evidence suggests that when I die, my experiencing ceases, but other Subjects continue experiencing this Shared-Objective world.

But there's a problem. Because if I think about it 'from the inside out' I can't be certain this Shared-Objective world isn't just all mental experience, with no external reality. Maybe this external Shared-Objective doesn't exist at all, only the experiences themselves exist. In which case, if/when 'my' experiences cease, nothing remains. (But I can't really state the issue as 'When I die, the world ceases to exist', because the notion of 'my' experiences being embodied in a physical form which lives and dies is part of what I'm rejecting as necessarily real. See the distinction?)





So I'd put this way -

If I assume it's true that there is a real external material Shared-Objective world of many Subjects like me, then when I die that continues.

But the nature of being a Subject which only gives me direct access to 'my own' experiences means I can't know with certainty what if anything apart from those experiences exist, or what happens when they cease.


This approach to the quandary doesn't satisfy in a 'feely' way the way that experience is everything to the Subject, but it gives us a handle on how to grapple intellectually with it.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#12  Postby Tamminen » July 20th, 2017, 8:40 am

Gertie:

Making sure you have got the point of the paradox p->q in the post above:

In ordinary language it says: "If I did not exist, there would be nothing." But it does not say: "If I did not exist as an individual subject, there would be nothing." Remember the distinction between me and the metaphysical I. So I am certain that if I did not exist, there would be nothing, but, on the other hand, I am certain that there is a material world which is independent of my personal existence. And the consequence of this is all the metaphysical stuff I have written here.

So the key point is the question if the implication p-> q is true. All depends on it, and if someone proves that is not true, I am ready to abandon all my philosophical meditations. Fortunately it cannot be proved to be true or false any more than the phrase "I am here now" can be proved to be true or false.

If we agree on these basic starting points, I am eager to see what arguments you can offer to criticize my views. What you have written so far, I agree on, but those arguments do not touch the point of the paradox, being totally in accordance with my views, because I do not doubt the existence of the "outer world". I believe in it almost blindly, as opposed to Descartes. I only doubt the possibility of my nonexistence. If 'only' is a proper word here...

-- Updated July 20th, 2017, 10:59 am to add the following --

According to materialism reality consists of matter and its properties, and one of those properties is consciousness. According to ontological idealism, which is my standpoint, reality is a subject-object relation. If it were possible to remove the subject, also the object, i.e. the material world, would vanish. What we are talking about here is the relation of my personal existence to subjectivity in general, which is an internal property of reality. In other words, are there many subjects like the monads of Leibniz, or is there something that connects all of us to the same stream of experiences.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#13  Postby Gertie » July 22nd, 2017, 6:34 am

In ordinary language it says: "If I did not exist, there would be nothing." But it does not say: "If I did not exist as an individual subject, there would be nothing." Remember the distinction between me and the metaphysical I. So I am certain that if I did not exist, there would be nothing, but, on the other hand, I am certain that there is a material world which is independent of my personal existence.


Ah OK, so you're positing that there must be some eternal 'universal/collective consciousness' to resolve the paradox you have constructed? Think I've finally got it!

My point is still that the paradox isn't sound. Because once you accept that the external material world exists and you can (roughly) know stuff about about it, you're obliged to start from that knowledge/evidence to build your beliefs.

So you have to start by accepting that it looks like conscious critters evolved/emerged from a non-conscious universe. Consciousness doesn't seem to be eternal/fundamental to the universe.

When an individual subject dies, it seems like their consciousness ceases, and that's what's likely going to happen to all of us. And the world goes on.

The nature of consciousness seem to be that it emerges in discrete systems with boundaries, with a specific singular pov located within that system (body). Which means that when that body dies, its experiencing of the world ceases, for that individual, but not others.


These are the empirical observations and inferences you should start from. You shouldn't start by constructing a paradox and saying it doesn't fit with what's known. Because from all that we currently think we know, the existence of the universe isn't dependent on Subject-Object interaction, just the experiencing of it.

Now it might well be that what we currently know just scratches the surface, particularly regarding consciousness and its relationship to the physical, and what you suggest could be true. As a speculation about the fundamental nature of reality, it's fine.

But you can't start from assumptions like 'The world can't exist unless I exist', and then say the evidence doesn't fit, so there's a paradox, which must mean consciousness is fundamental to existence.

If you start from the evidence, your paradox simply doesn't arise.

Not the way I see it, anyway.
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Re: Is there an asymmetry between me and other subjects?

Post Number:#14  Postby Tamminen » July 22nd, 2017, 9:20 am

Gertie:

Ah OK, so you're positing that there must be some eternal 'universal/collective consciousness' to resolve the paradox you have constructed? Think I've finally got it!

Yes, but it is in us, it is transcendental, not transcendent.

My point is still that the paradox isn't sound. Because once you accept that the external material world exists and you can (roughly) know stuff about about it, you're obliged to start from that knowledge/evidence to build your beliefs.

I have started from that, haven't I?

So you have to start by accepting that it looks like conscious critters evolved/emerged from a non-conscious universe. Consciousness doesn't seem to be eternal/fundamental to the universe.

In the temporal, historical sense you are right, but concerning the whole of the universe, the physical space-time, it cannot be without subjects, I think.

When an individual subject dies, it seems like their consciousness ceases, and that's what's likely going to happen to all of us. And the world goes on.

The nature of consciousness seem to be that it emerges in discrete systems with boundaries, with a specific singular pov located within that system (body). Which means that when that body dies, its experiencing of the world ceases, for that individual, but not others.

I agree. Did you think I don't?

These are the empirical observations and inferences you should start from. You shouldn't start by constructing a paradox and saying it doesn't fit with what's known. Because from all that we currently think we know, the existence of the universe isn't dependent on Subject-Object interaction, just the experiencing of it.

I start from the paradox because it is the whole point here. The paradox between known facts and the meaning of my nonexistence.

But you can't start from assumptions like 'The world can't exist unless I exist', and then say the evidence doesn't fit, so there's a paradox, which must mean consciousness is fundamental to existence.

It is just this from which I must start, there is no other starting point. If there were no paradox, there would be no need to start anything. The paradox is the premise of my considerations.

If you start from the evidence, your paradox simply doesn't arise.

I start from evidence and the paradox. The paradox is a paradox precisely because it goes against facts. And still it is true. And it is this truth of it I want you to challenge, but you cannot challenge it by appealing to empirical facts, because the facts are already written in the paradox. You must somehow see the paradox differently than I do, to try to imagine your nonexistence. It needs reflection and a certain kind of insight. Something like Descartes' sum, 'I am'.

-- Updated July 22nd, 2017, 5:19 pm to add the following --

Now it might well be that what we currently know just scratches the surface, particularly regarding consciousness and its relationship to the physical, and what you suggest could be true. As a speculation about the fundamental nature of reality, it's fine.

I do not think there is a scientific solution to the mind-body problem, because I do not share the materialist view of consciousness as a property of matter. In fact I see no problem in consciousness, because it is one member of the subject-object relation and as such fundamental. Why do scientists think consciousness is a problem, not matter?

"The world is my world", Wittgenstein says in Tractatus. The world is a world of meanings and instruments. Modern physics holds the view that everything can be reduced to elementary particles and their interactions. It may be so, but those basic elements must be such that they can build structures that make it possible for the awakening subjectivity to experience the world. The world must be rational, and the subject-object relation that is the precondition of all being makes it rational. A world without subjectivity would reduce to nothingness, which is absurd and self-contradictory.

And that is why, if you try to imagine your nonexistence, you do not succeed. You can only imagine something, not nothing. And if you cannot imagine nothing, what sense is there to imagine that there is a world independent and outside of your nothingness? But this is not easy to prove with words if you have never thought it through and had a clear insight of it. It comes if it comes.

-- Updated July 24th, 2017, 3:20 am to add the following --

To clarify the distinction between the individual I and the transcendental I:

I can say to someone: “Look, I am here”, and the 'I' means 'I who have this body and these memories and so on'. But I can also ask myself: “Why do I have this body and these memories?” or simply: “Who am I”? Now I look at myself from outside. I transcend myself, and who is speaking now is the transcendental subject. I believe that the transcendental subject is transpersonal: it is the pure I that connects all of us so that there is only one I that migrates through all individual subjects. But the transmigration part of this is a hypothesis, and there are some problems in it that need further thinking, for example the relation of subjective time to physical time.

-- Updated July 24th, 2017, 4:56 am to add the following --

This is how I see the mind-body problem:

I exist as an individual subject and I have a relation to other individual subjects. Other subjects exist in exactly the same way as I, but because they are there outside of me, as others, they must be material organisms to be able to have a relation to me. So their bodies are their instruments of being related to me and other individuals. And in the same way I must have a body in order to be related to others. So the material world with all its organisms can be interpreted as an instrument for me and other subjects to be related to each others. What follows from all this is that there is a correlation between consciousness and the material world. When I see someone, something happens in our organisms and the rest of the world between us, some photons hitting my retina and so on. And when I think of something, something happens in my brain, in the rest of my body and in the rest of the material world. So I see with my eyes and think with my brain. My eyes do not see and my brain does not think, as opposed to the standpoint of materialism.

-- Updated July 24th, 2017, 4:21 pm to add the following --

The origin of the basic mistake of materialism seems to be the fact that everywhere we look, we see only matter, and even the instances of consciousness we meet seem to be strongly connected to material organisms. So we make the conclusion that everything, including consciousness, can in the end be explained and interpreted as properties of matter. But in this way we forget the totality of existence: that we are in the world and part of it, but, on the other hand, conscious of that same world, seeing ourselves as part of it. Instead of starting from the metaphysical presupposition that only matter is fundamental we should start from the totality: our being in the world. In this way the situation becomes a bit more complex, one one hand, but simpler on the other hand, because this way of looking at things makes it easier to explain many difficult problems, including the pseudo problem of consciousness. The basic mistake of materialism is trying to interpret, with no success, what 'we' and 'I' denote as properties of something more fundamental, and not seeing that they are basic constituents of reality, members of the irreducible subject-object relation. But there is nothing substantial in them, they are transcendental.
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