It's mid-August. It's hot. I'm in a living is easy frame of mind. I haven't had a caffeine fix for quite a few hours. Not the best time to address the question I set out in the title of this post. "Does an objective non-symbolic world exist?"
But philosophizing can't wait. This subject has popped up in some blog post comments. Here's a sampling of what's been said (with a few spelling errors corrected).
Janya: I know, it is hard to digest, because after all its all personal experience, and what objectivity does ANY purely personal experience hold? We have dreams and sometimes, enthusiastically describe them to family and friends, but it doesn't hold the the same meaning to them that it does to the dreamer.
Janya: Because, strangely but so simply so, GOD cannot be reached merely by "going in" is because the objective fullness of GOD is outside! What is inside is our own stuff and IT'S relation to GOD, Karmic Lords etc. It is purely subjective in the sense its personal to us.
Me: Janya, that makes sense to me -- that our relation to God (I prefer the term "ultimate reality") is purely subjective. No one else can know what we feel, not really. Not about God, not about food, not about music, not about anything. Feeling is us, our own, our private subjective world.
Like you said, outside is where objectivity lies. Not perfect objectivity, because our attempts to understand the world objectively are made by people with those above-mentioned subjective feelings. But on the whole, it seems true that there's an objective shared world, and a subjective personal world.
Janya: Indeed, thinking, feeling and willing are all three, private states of being. And just like the external, objective world is shared, the internal subjective world is also sharable, even across time and space. Such is the case with my description in the controversial post; a descriptive in common with Heraclitus and Faqir Chand; personalities who I knew absolutely nothing decades ago,when this occurred.
The point is, that this is evidence of an objective, verifiable, shared inner/subjective experience/world even across time and space.
Roger: "The point is, that this is evidence of an objective, verifiable, shared inner/subjective experience/world even across time and space."
---explain in detail, the evidence that you are claiming. How would one know that there is sharing? Sounds like more honest sincere babble. Janya, you seem OK. All this is No Big Deal.
Roger: Brian, could you write something on a mental image of an objective reality, say a chevy pickup truck. We can all visually picture and subjectively experience such a truck at a Chevrolet dealership. Then, what would be a shared objective, INNER, subjective experience? Why any better than an outer subjective experience?
Now, I'm not going to be able to clear up this whole question of subjectivity and objectivity, because no one ever has, and I'm certainly not capable of being the first to do so.
I just find the question deeply interesting.
It goes to the heart of what it means to be human; how "science" relates to "art," using those words broadly; whether consciousness is an independent attribute of the cosmos or an artifact of physical brain functions; and many other issues.
Back in the early 1990s I'd started to work on a book about mysticism and the new physics, which later became "God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder" (now out of print; I'm working on a revised version). I was struggling to figure out how to organize my thoughts.
Then it hit me. In a Victoria B.C. hotel room, during a vacation with my wife. I'd been pondering the nature of subjectivity and objectivity. Suddenly I knew how I'd approach this. A two by two matrix, four possibilities, popped into my mind. (Indented excerpts are from the revised book manuscript.)
First, there's a subjective and objective reality.
Is there a reality independent of ourselves? If so, it is objective. Is there a reality that only exists within our own personal consciousness? If so, it is subjective.
This produces a distinction between the objective domain of science and the subjective domain of art. A scientific truth exists whether or not any particular individual does, while a work of art springs from a personal rather than universal consciousness.
Second, there's a symbolic and non-symbolic reality.
In human consciousness there are private and public domains. The public part is what can be shared with other people through symbols. The private part is what remains essentially incommunicable, known only to the person experiencing it.
...Not everything that is experienced is expressible. Further, there never is an exact correspondence between a symbol and reality. Something always is missing from the description. For example, even though the symbolic language of mathematics is extraordinarily effective in describing the laws of nature, a mathematical description of how nature operates is far removed from the reality of nature itself.
I argued that this produces four states of being, which I pithily described with the italicized words: (1) subjective and non-symbolic, feeling; (2) subjective and symbolic, thinking; (3) objective and symbolic, observing; (4) objective and non-symbolic, contemplating.
The last state of being is by far the most controversial. I still consider it to be a possibility, but I no longer believe in it as strongly as I did when I wrote the book.
Referring to the comment conversation mentioned above, Tanya appears to believe that contemplating (or whatever other word you want to give to this state) can put us in touch with an objective, non-symbolic world.
In other words, a sort of real dream. Or a real feeling.
It isn't possible to provide any evidence of that reality. No photograph, mathematical formula, precise description, audio recording, scientific experiment, or such. Yet if there truly is something objective yet non-symbolic, it is as real as anything observable. It's just inexpressible, incommunicable, ineffable.
Which raises the Big Question: how could anyone know whether his/her non-symbolic experience is of something objective, or subjective? Tanya argues that if several people describe an "inner" experience in similar ways, then this points to it being objectively real.
However, in this case the experience would be of something symbolic, because the reality can be captured by words. The various people can agree that they experienced the same thing, because their descriptions of it are so similar.
In this case, the reality seems to fall into the area of science, not religion, spirituality, or mysticism. Seemingly there should be objective signs of it, since the reality can be reliably observed and described by a number of people.
So in my current way of thinking, any objective non-symbolic reality is always going to be definitively known by only one person: whoever experiences that reality.
There's no way for him or her to know whether anyone else has also experienced it, because it is non-symbolic, incapable of being described in any way.