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Generality Of Thought

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Consciousness and rationality are two significant and defining characteristics of human thought. They are what distinguish humans from any other animal. When attempting to understand the relationship between body and mind, one approachвЂ"the argument from generality of thoughtвЂ"uses the quality of generality to arrive at the conclusion that thoughts are immaterial. It does so by first examining the relative specificity of thoughts, explaining that some thoughts are more general than others. For example, the thought of a red circle is more specific and less general than the thought of a mere coloured circle. This distinction is the very first premise: some thoughts are general. The second premise can be arrived at by way of a subordinate argument that’s first premise is: all awareness that is general contains general properties intentionally. This means that a general awareness contains within it all the general properties of that awareness. The second premise of the subordinate argument is that no awareness that is material contains general properties intentionally. This means that if an awareness is materialвЂ"say, an awareness that is experienced through sensory actsвЂ"all of the properties it contains are fully specific, and the least general. Based on the two premises of the subordinate argument, we arrive at its conclusion, which is also the second premise of the original argument: no awareness that is material is general. For example, if we were to touch and examine a red ball, our awareness would be fully specific. We would be examining the ball at a specific time and place, we would see it as being a fully specific shade of red, we would feel it as having a fully specific texture, etc. Since it has been established that any material awareness is fully specific and not general, we can arrive at the conclusion of the main argument: some thoughts are immaterial. Essentially, this is saying that general thoughts are immaterial. However, the argument goes on to hold that all thoughtsвЂ"specific or generalвЂ"are comprised of nothing but a collection of general thoughts. Since all general thoughts are immaterial, then the argument believes that all thoughts are therefore immaterial. However, many inconsistencies and incompatibilities arise when thoroughly examining the argument from generality of thought. For example, how can the argument be sound, if generality is a relative quality and materiality is an absolute quality? Furthermore, how can one person’s general thought be deemed immaterial if the same thought is fully specific when experienced by someone else? Finally, is it really true that all of the properties of an object are present in an awareness of that object, as put forth in the subordinate argument?

Generality should not be used to determine the materiality of an awareness because generality is not an absolute quality. No awareness can simply possess the quality of being general or the quality of being specific. Rather, because generality is a relative quality, an awareness can only possess the quality of being more or less general than any other awareness. In that sense, the quality of generality is similar to the quality of tallness. No person can simply be tallвЂ"he or she can only be taller or shorter than anyone else. On the other hand, materiality is an absolute quality. Any object, be it physical or mental, can either be material or immaterial, with nothing in between. Therefore, because generality is a relative quality and materiality is an absolute quality, the argument of generality determining materiality is flawed because they are incompatible qualities. To illustrate this, we can consider two thoughts; one of a red circle, and one of a coloured circle. Although both thoughts can be considered general, the thought of the coloured circle is said to be more general than the thought of the red circle. Therefore, this must mean that the thought of the coloured circle is more immaterial than the thought of the red circle. However, this is impossible. Because materiality is an absolute quality, no immaterial object can be more or less immaterial than any other immaterial object. Thus, whereas certain thoughts can be more or less general than others, no thoughts can be more or less immaterial than others. The only way that generality would be able to determine materiality is if some level of generality was said to create immateriality. If that is the case, then every awareness more or equally general would be immaterial, and every awareness less general would be material. However, who would decide which level of generality immateriality would begin at? This distinction has not been specified in the argument, and its absence lowers the soundness of the argument in its entirety. Therefore, because generality is a relative quality and materiality is an absolute quality, they are incompatible.

Generality should not be used to determine the materiality of an awareness because the generality of an awareness varies depending on the person experiencing it. If two people experiencing an awareness of the same object have different levels of knowledge regarding that object, then the awareness’ generality will change. For example, we can consider two people; one who designs computers, and one who has no knowledge of computers whatsoever. If the person with no computer knowledge were given a computer to look at, his or her awareness of it would only include the computer’s obvious, basic characteristicsвЂ"colour, size, texture, weight, etc. However, if the person with a high degree of knowledge about

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