Showing posts from August, 2014

My philosophy and quantum physics

In my book Why Materialism Is Baloney, I argue that we do not need to postulate a whole universe outside consciousness – outside subjective experience – in order to make sense of empirical reality. The implication is that all reality, including our bodies and brains, are in consciousness, not consciousness in our bodies and brains. My worldview is compatible with a classical view of nature: it doesn't exclude the possibility that objects may exist in definite states and locations even if no living creature is observing them. Indeed, my worldview accepts a non-personal form of consciousness underlying all nature, in which objects can still exist as non-personal experiences, with definite outlines, even when not observed by personal psyches. The latest experiments in quantum mechanics, however, seem to defeat this classical view of empirical reality.* They seem to show that, when not observed by personal psyches, reality exists in a fuzzy state, as waves of probabilities. Although …

The greatest contradiction of common sense

This essay is about a shocking contradiction in our common sense about the nature of reality; a contradiction that you are probably totally unaware of. Becoming aware of this contradiction has the potential to change your life.

On the one hand, our common sense says that the colors we see, the sounds we hear, the smells we feel, the textures we sense, are all the actual and concrete reality. We take it for granted that they are all really 'out there,' in the sense of being outside our heads. On the other hand, our common sense also seems to suggest that death is the end of our consciousness. Even if we don't acknowledge this intellectually or spiritually, most of us fear the end of consciousness with enough sincerity to betray our belief in its possibility.

Now, the point of this essay is extraordinarily simple: these two common-sense beliefs are mutually exclusive. They cannot be both true. Either everything you sense around you right now, including the computer in front…

Magic mushrooms and brain activity revisited

In Chapter 2 of Why Materialism Is Baloney, I illustrate a broad pattern associating procedures that reduce brain activity with expanded consciousness. These include hyperventilation, meditation, ordeals, gravity-induced loss of consciousness, strangulation, cardiac arrest, brain damage, and even psychedelics. Indeed, a 2012 paper by Carhart-Harris et al. has showed that psychedelics only reduce neural activity, with no increases anywhere in the brain. This is counter-intuitive from a materialist perspective since, according to materialism, consciousness is brain activity (a totally inactive brain is, after all, a dead and unconscious brain under materialism). Recently, however, an inaccurate and misleading media report on a more recent paper by the same team has claimed that the researchers have now "found increased activity in regions of the brain that are known to be activated during dreaming." This, if it were true, would contradict the conclusions of the earlier study.…

Intellectual fundamentalism

(Disclaimer: this essay adopts the format of a fictional medical description of a fictional psychiatric condition – called "intellectual fundamentalism" – for the purposes of social and cultural criticism. The essay should be interpreted metaphorically, not literally. The signs, symptoms, causes, risk factors, treatments and preventive steps described hereinafter are not – insofar as the author is aware – medically recognized or cited in, for instance, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The author disclaims any and all responsibility and liability for any and all damages incurred from misinterpretation of this essay.)

Notice: although it would be natural for you to expect any criticism I write to be targeted at materialism or materialists, this time this post is not necessarily about materialists. What I say below, in my view, is as applicable to many materialists as it is to many religious literalists or people without any particular metaphysical posi…

An interesting twitter conversation

This is a somewhat unusual post, but I suspect it can be very helpful in clarifying my formulation of Idealism and general metaphysical position. Maybe many of the questions discussed below are precisely the questions you have.

First, a brief intro. As you've probably noticed, I very recently joined twitter (@BernardoKastrup). A lot of the discussions I've faced there thus far have been with militant pseudo-skeptics and focused on posturing rather than understanding. But sometimes something of real value comes up, when someone makes all the right criticisms, asks all the right questions, and tackles all the right points. This has happened in the conversation I reproduce below, which I trust you will find interesting. Many thanks to @MichaelDavidLS for this sincere and productive exchange. (PS: I've re-ordered some of the tweets to bring structure to the dialogue and make for easier reading. In the original discussion, we went back-and-forth on some of the topics in a less…