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Showing posts from May, 2012

Video philosophy, part 2

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In the past few days, a couple new videos were released where I discuss some serious, and some a little more dreamy, aspects of metaphysics:



I hope you enjoy!

Copyright © 2012 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Tying up a few loose ends

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No, this is not another Novella post. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you, inspired by all the discussions and developments of this week. This article will be a little more fragmented than usual; more of a flow-of-consciousness thing. It won't be building up to any single conclusion at the end, but just parsing through several more or less connected ideas as a kind of overall balance of the week's insights and intuitions.

One thing that strikes me repeatedly when debating materialists is their non-thought-through, but understandable, notion that if a subjective mental state can be achieved through material means (say, drugs), then that is immediately construed as evidence for the notion that the brain causes the mind. In my debate with Novella, he alluded to Ketamine (a known psychedelic at lower doses) causing NDE-like experiences, or to magnetic fields causing OBE-like experiences, construing both as evidence for materialism. Perhaps people are so used to thinkin…

Novella's reply, part 4

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And here we go again. Novella replied with an addendum at the end of his previous post. You need to scroll down to see it. I wouldn't have seen it hadn't a reader pointed it out to me. But let's have a look at what he is saying now:

"He gives no operational definition of what “peak” means (seems like just another way of saying “intense”)."
Simply untrue. I find it amusing that Novella makes claims like this when the entire conversation is on record for everyone to see. Here is a direct quote from my previous response: "The fallacy here is that Novella talks merely of 'intensity,' while conveniently ignoring the other hallmarks of psychedelic experiences: Their structure, coherence, unfathomable complexity, and the fact that they are often described as 'more real than real.'" So I am explicitly adding structure, coherence, complexity, and sense of ultra-reality to the idea of intensity; not just saying 'intensity' in a different …

Novella's reply, part 3

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Continuing on with the discussion, Steven Novella's latest response can be found here. In the interest of brevity, in what follows I will focus on the key points of contention, leaving out the parts where I guess we simply agree to disagree, and the less significant parts where we may actually be close to an agreement of sorts. My focus on the points of contention should not be interpreted as a sign that I don't want to acknowledge convergence anywhere; I just think that debating contentious points is much more productive, useful, and interesting.

"Prior PET studies did show increases in brain activity with psilocybin."
Which was tentatively, yet cogently, explained in the Carhart-Harris study in question: "It is therefore possible that phasic or short-term effects of psilocybin show some rebound that is detected by longer-term changes in glucose metabolism." In other words, what the PET studies showed was not the effect of psilocybin, but a later rebo…

Novella's reply, part 2

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My exchange with Steven Novella continues. See his latest reply here. Below, my systematic, point-by-point response:

"What I do expect is that they will interpret my posts fairly and not criticize me for not exploring issues that I have explored elsewhere."
This comment, on itself, is fair enough; but in view of what Novella himself did, it becomes ludicrous. Novella wrote in his previous post: "Kastrup seems to be completely unaware of the critical concept of disinhibition and therefore completely misinterprets the significance of the neuroscience research." Now, I had written three entire, detailed articles exploring specifically this issue of disinhibition, all of which I explicitly linked in my original post. So I also "do expect ... that [Novella] will interpret my posts fairly and not criticize me for not exploring issues that I have explored elsewhere."


"In his criiticism [sic] he accused me as assuming causation from correlation, but I nev…

Novella's reply

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Steven Novella has replied, on his blog, to my earlier post on an older opinion piece he had written. While I appreciate his having taken the time to reply, I am also somewhat surprised by the sheer amount of space he dedicates to ad homenen attacks on me, which dilutes his argument and the quality of the debate. While I agree that dancing on the edge of a personal attack does make a debate sharper and more interesting, Novella exaggerates on this to the point of making his position look desperate and weak, which was, in my view, unnecessary.

Be it as it may, I'll focus on content, addressing his comments systematically:

"I further think that he probably just read one blog post in the long chain of my posts about dualism and so did not make a sufficient effort to actually understand my position."

This is correct. So let me take the opportunity to be explicit: I only read the post that was forwarded to me, and my comments were based on that alone. If Novella’s position in o…

Fantasies in the modern age

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The creation and telling of fantasies has been part and parcel of human life since primordial times. Myths and tales have always given expression to our unconscious processes, and their telling around the fire has played a critical role in the integration of the personalities of our ancestors. Originally, our ancestors did not distinguish myths from facts; fantasies from reality. To this day, as John Mack mentioned in his book Passport to the Cosmos, members of aboriginal cultures do not understand why we, so-called civilized peoples, make such a distinction, for both myth and fact are, equally, realities of the mind. Yet, Western society, at some point, established a break between these two worlds: It emptied the world of myth from its significance, relegating it to a mostly harmless but inconsequential category, while reserving all ontological value for the world of so-called 'facts.' This has now gone on for a couple of hundred years, with the effect of impoverishing our m…

Comments on a Steven Novella's piece

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I have been asked to comment on this opinion piece by Steven Novella. I found it to contain a mildly interesting but otherwise trite, superficial, and fallacious argument. Novella's main point seems to be that correlation suffices to establish causation. He claims that Egnor denies that neuroscience has found sufficient correlation between brain states and mind states because subjective mind states cannot be measured. He writes:

"What he is saying is that neuroscience can correlate everything it can measure (behavior) to brain function and brain states, but that neuroscience cannot measure subjective experience, therefore it cannot explain it."

This whole point is mute and irrelevant. Let's grant that there are indeed tight correlations between mind states and brain states (from personal experience, I think there are, so I actually disagree with Egnor here): That still does not show causation. Mistaking a correlation for a causation is a known fallacy in science, the…

Video philosophy

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I have been absent from this space for a couple of weeks now, which is not my normal way of managing the blog. The thing is, I have been spending most of my available time experimenting with communication through another medium: video. In this YouTube and Vimeo day and age, many of you suggested that I did that. So I thought I'd give it a try, even as a way to balance out the manner in which I communicate: so far, it has been almost entirely in written form, except for the couple of radio interviews I give each month. In this spirit, I want to share with you here the early results of my initiative. Below, are the two first-released videos (episodes one and five) of an interview series encompassing eight videos, six of which are yet to be finished over the coming months. The first video below basically lays some ground work for what follows, by attempting to dispel the myth that science has (almost) explained all reality and, therefore, philosophy (particularly metaphysics) is no l…