Showing posts from March, 2012

Memories and the brain

For over a hundred years science has been looking for physical traces of memory in the brain and has, so far, largely failed in such endeavour. Indeed, this video illustrates one of the fundamental difficulties of the postulate that experiences are somehow materially encoded in the brain. Since memories are themselves conscious experiences, many take the inability of science to locate them in the brain as evidence that consciousness is immaterial, as opposed to being merely a result of brain activity. However, recent scientific papers – of which this one is just the most recent example as of the time of writing – have been putting forward new evidence for material memory correlates. We've debated this briefly in this thread of the message board. Nonetheless, in this article, I want to explore in a bit more depth whether this new evidence contradicts, in any way, the hypothesis that consciousness is not a result of brain processes.

There are three hypotheses for the immaterial natu…

My philosophy and Sheldrake's morphic fields

[Updated 9 March 2016]
In the message board of this blog, reader David Bailey suggested that I compare my philosophy to Rupert Sheldrake's ideas, among which the hypothesis of morphic fields figures prominently. As regular readers know, my philosophical position entails that nature – indeed, reality at large – exists only insofar as it is a construct in the medium of consciousness; that there is no reality outside of consciousness, such an idea being simply a seductive, persistent, but unprovable and unnecessary abstraction. In philosophy, the position I hold is usually called idealism. My specific articulation of an idealist philosophy is elaborated upon in my books (particularly Why Materialism Is Baloney and Brief Peeks Beyond) and in several articles in this blog (particularly this one). The question then becomes: How does Sheldrake's hypothesis of morphic fields relate to my idealist position? This is what I hope to explore in this article.

In the short video above, Sheld…

NDEs and the after-life reality

Across the ages, people have reported amazing stories derived from their experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness. Though the underlying themes of these stories seem very consistent – as argued, for instance, by Dr. Richard Bucke (in Cosmic Consciousness) and Aldous Huxley (in The Perennial Philosophy) – the metaphors used tend to be enormously varied, culture-bound, and contradictory across reports. The stories of people who underwent Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) are no exception to this: while there is an unquestionable similarity and consistence of themes, the stories vary wildly in details and metaphors. This way, some report, for instance, to have met the Buddha, while others were in the arms of Christ. Such variety and lack of consistency motivate sceptics to claim that NDE reports are mere hallucinations of some sort. After all, if these people had witnessed a real, valid after-life realm, one would expect their reports to be consistent across the board and not so b…

Has academic philosophy lost its way?

Philosophy is the discipline of human thought that allows us to interpret and make sense of our experience of ourselves and of reality, thereby giving meaning to our lives. While science constructs models of reality to predict what will happen with certain arrangements of matter and energy under certain circumstances, philosophy asks the questions: What does it mean when reality behaves as if these models were true? How does it all relate to our condition as living entities? Without philosophy, science is merely an enabler of technology; it tells us nothing about the "nature of nature," despite Richard Feynman's best hopes. Science provides mechanistic tools that mostly work, but it is philosophy, even when done by scientists, which interprets those tools in the framework of reality and of our being. This way, the importance of philosophy for giving meaning to our lives cannot be overestimated. Yet, for over a century now, I believe, philosophy has lost its way and becom…