You are on page 1of 2 Week 10, article 22 April 26th, 2014 One of the great enigmas of existence is self-reference.

So often, paradoxes reduce to situations of self-reference. When a man says, "All men are liars," is his statement true, false, or undecidable? Self-reference continues to baffle scientists, philosophers, mathematicians and logicians. They have all failed to understand why. It's because self-reference is the province of zero and infinity, the two numbers that cause conventional "laws" to collapse. A computer would go into an infinite loop trying to solve a problem of self-reference. It would never halt. In such a system, everything outside the self-reference is reduced to zero - it does not exist. It is nothing. It would go on forever proving and disproving itself. Over and over again, the mystery of existence reduces to the mystery of infinity and zero. Everything that is most profound is contained in these supremely mysterious numbers. Douglas R. Hofstadter, in his book, talks about Strange Loops, which he defines as follows: "The 'Strange Loop' phenomenon occurs whenever, by moving upwards (or downwards) through the levels of some hierarchical system, we unexpectedly find ourselves right back where we started. Implicit in the concept of Strange Loops is infinity since what is a loop but a way of representing an endless process in a finite way?" He argued that consciousness comes from a strange loop. There's much to be said for this view. He says, "In short, an 'I' comes about in my view, at least - via a kind of vortex whereby patterns in a brain mirror the brain's mirroring of the world, and eventually mirror themselves, whereupon the vortex of 'I' becomes a real, causal entity." We would amend this to, "Patterns in the mind mirror the brain's mirroring of the world, and eventually mirror themselves." In other words, it's the sensory information that a physical brain provides to an abstract mind that allows the mind to reflect on that sensory data and

then, finally, to reflect on the fact that it's reflecting on it, at which stage it is conscious of its own consciousness, hence it is selfconscious and has completed the required strange loop. We ourselves are units of self-reference. That's what the "self" is. We live permanently inside our own minds. Strictly speaking, we can never prove the existence of anything other than our own thoughts. We are forced to make the assumption that an external world exists and that other minds exist. But we can never prove this. It will always be an assumption, the ultimate leap of faith. If the centre of our existence - our self - is an infinite loop in some sense then how can it ever die? Sure, on its infinite journey it can take on many forms - different outward appearances, but it can never truly perish. It is an immortal, transcendental self. Zero and infinity, the flip sides of each other, are at the heart of existence. Everything else is defined with respect to them. The finite can exist only in relation to the infinite. That is the key to comprehending the cosmos. The self - a unit of self-reference - is born of infinity and, like energy, can be neither created nor destroyed. It endures eternally, as all infinities do. Self-reference in tandem with the universal property of mind cannot help but give rise to self-awareness and consciousness.