## Friday, December 26, 2008

### Action as a Basic Axiom?

While I was contemplating about a hybrid Aristotelian/Randian/Austrian ontology, I started wondering: is human action a basic axiom, like existence, identity, and consciousness, or is a non-basic axiom like entity or a corollary of an axiom like causality or non-contradiction?

First off, I wondered about Rand's distinction between basic and non-basic axioms. Existence, identity, and consciousness are said to be basic, while the only non-basic axiom that I could find (in OPAR) is entity. The distinction seems a bit weak: strictly speaking, the only basic axiom appears to be existence, while the others are implicit in it. A closer inspection will reveal, though, that the distinction holds. Existence and identity are 2 different aspects of the same irreducible fact (something is and something is, respectively), while consciousness is another irreducible fact (the law of identity also serves the useful purpose of being the basis of the laws of logic). Entity, for example, is a sub-divsion of existence, and while it is an irreducible fact, it still depends on existence in a way that identity and consciousness do not.

With that established, we can investigate the nature of action. Action, according to Mises in Human Action, is "purposeful behavior". He further defines it as "will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego's meaningful response to stimuli and to the condition of its enviroment, is a person's concious adjustment to the state of the universe that detirmines his life." Already, we can see that action depends on at least one of the basic axioms, consciousness. But is action irreducible?

To answer this question, it appears we must ask another: can the be consciousness without action? Can a self-aware being not have purposeful behavior? One example that comes to mind is an "unlimited" consciousness, which would have no reason to act. However, such an idea is rendered impossible by the primacy of existence; every existent, including a conscious being, has an identity, and is thus limited. Any unlimited attribute is an impossible contradiction (see OPAR and George H. Smith's Atheism for a further arguing of this point).

Here is another example: imagine an artificial intelligence, running on an isolated computer, with input but no output. Can this consciousness act? It would seem not. Thought isn't purposeful behavior; it is only a pre-requisite to purposeful behavior. Thus, I think we have come to an answer: action is not completely contained within the concet of consciousness, but is a basic axiom in its own right.

Comments from those more knowledgable than I are appreciated :-)