The actor’s questions are: Who am I? Why am I here? Where have I come from? Where am I going? * This is the fabric of self knowledge. For the question ‘Who am I?’, there is a social definition and there is a purely subjective definition: the gusher of subjective playfulness, curiosities, questions, orientations, synthetic productions of the dream-engine, gratifications, appetites, frustrations and impulses to mark the environment. Subjectivity is a strictly personal answer to the question “Who am I?”. For all the other questions there are also two answers, one focused on the subjective buzzing and bubbling and another focused on a socially assigned “I”.

As the philosopher David Hume declared in 1739, innocent subjectivity has a problem specifying its own existence due to the absence of a subjective appearance that can be measured and pointed out. It has existence before identity, or maybe existence without identity. It is pointless to undertake a study of something like “soul,” “mind,” “self”, “beliefs”, or “ideas” for example, because that discussion is about imaginary objects. Subjectively is not an object of any kind.

Subjective intelligence has a problem in its own non-appearance. It is a gusher of creativity, building a life and a way of being in a life with questions, curiosity, immediate gratification and suffering, ambitions, appetites, desire for self-preservation, and impulses to mark the objective world in ways which involve self-definition, self-creation, self-declaration, and attachments to others. Yet, it feels the lack of a stable image or essence as a fragility and questionability about its existence. Its existence is verified by that very agonizing, the “existential” dread or doubt of insubstantiality. Intelligence feels that its intellectual and emotional powers transcend voiceless but measurable nature, and yet cannot escape the ephemerality of its emotional, libidinous, actualizing, or intellectual presence. Everything that can be said of it is momentary, and soon something else will mark its presence. Subjectivity, that is, existence as a particular person, is exposed, unstable, and fleeting, especially in our volitional nature and our mortality. Personal acts of volition change and change and emphasize differences between one person and another. As individuals what we have is always sliding away and the unknown is bearing toward us. In youth and in life’s prime that is normally balanced by graces and opportunities raining continually and by the strength, skill, and endurance we can devote to getting along. Mortality means the rain of graces itself is slipping away. However, there is also a subjective accumulation.

There is an educational notion of “readiness”. Roughly, the experience of many teachers is that each student learns best what he or she is really wondering about simply from having reached a particular stage of personal development. To wonder is to approach the world with particular questions, but not questions formed in a language. Wondering is pre-linguistic, and pre-cultural, and originates in each individual outside social influences. Wonder does not need to be taught, and likely cannot be. Wondering and discoveries that follow from it are progressive, each discovery contributing to a new bearing in a person’s wondering, and although there are rough stages of development in most people, there are individual peculiarities. What one person wonders about is never exactly what others are wondering about, and that is the peculiar genius of every person. Each person’s wondering process could be seen as a peculiar force of nature that shapes the world by a principle that is not reducible to gravity, electro-magnetism, kinetics, mechanics, thermodynamics, chemical bonding, DNA, nuclear bonding, momentum, or inertia.

When subjective questioning evaluates and measures nature, the questioning is changed. A question is not a picture of the world, but its bearings and directedness change with satisfactions, disappointments, and discoveries. Its discoveries are part of its moment of directionality, evaluation, and measurement. Every discovery, satisfaction, disappointment, or surprise adds itself to the bearings of a question. Training and education work to the extent that they contribute to a person’s questioning. At a personal level within subjectivity, knowledge is a modification of curiosity, wonder, or questioning, the personal orientation or bearing which confers meaning on an environment. Every change is present in the instantaneous bearing or directionality of a person’s questioning. Everything that is part of the meaning of experience must be present instantaneously, as the question with which a person confronts, reads, and makes sense of sense-impressions. The instantaneous stimuli which fit into the bearings of questioning are those which make sense. Ultimately, a question is a person at some instant. Perception is a reading process, an interpretive activity by a person in a life.

* My Dinner with Andre, A Screenplay for the Film by Louis Malle, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, Grove Press, Inc., New York, 1981, ISBN: 0-394-17948-X. (p. 26. Attributed to Stanislavski.)

Copyright © 2011 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.