An interesting twitter conversation

Tweeting away...
Photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released in the Public Domain.

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 structured manner.)

(REMINDER: After 50 comments you need to click on "Load more" at the very bottom of the page to see new comments)

Copyright © 2014 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.


  1. Excellent Bernardo. Always wonder when a non idealist argues what do they believe is fundamental? I suspect Michael has no answer but would be interested if he does. Please ask him what is more fundamental than consciousness. However I suspect Michael worldview is no thing can be known. If this is true then he couldn't understand the truth if he heard it because then the not knowing would be over his worldview threatened. You must start somewhere if you want to get anywhere. A worldview without a fundamental source always leads no where. That's the point.

  2. Very good.

    I like that you bring in what I've recently been considering the 2nd greatest absurdity of materialism - the idea that it is perfectly ok to say "the laws of physics just 'arose' (utterly and completely by "chance") and equally ok to say they just 'continue' to function absolutely the same through space and continuously throughout all time (also, utterly by 'chance" - and to take all that as a valid "explanation" that needs nothing more.

    Michael challenged you several times and you rightly came back (I'm elaborating here, of course) and said, "really - and how then does "materialism" or how to physicists "explain" how the laws of physics just "arise".

    Since - as far as I understand the latest cosmological theories - there are many physicists who believe there was a very brief moment of pure chaos before the "laws" arose - you have two miracles that materialists for some reason don't feel a need to explain

    1. "something" (chaos) arises out of nothing.
    2. laws arise (by chance) out of chaos.

    The third miracle, to me, given that the laws arise from chaos, is - if the universe is completely mindless, then wouldn't' one expect such laws/regularities/patterns which just happened to arise by chance, to simply descend back into complete chaos? But no, materialists want us to believe it is a perfectly sensible thing to say, chaos arises from nothing, laws arise from chaos, and then these laws continue, unchanged, for billions of years.


    Of course, the most absurd thing the materialist does is to invent, in your terms, the abstract shadow world, unknowable in principle. It always amazes me that this most obvious fact, that there is simply no need to invent such a world when all we know, all we can ever know, is consciousness - that it is so profoundly difficult for those committed to materialism to understand.

  3. (follow up) I do "get it" that people have been conditioned - nay, indoctrinated - since early childhood - in this astonishing belief system. But how did you free yourself from it? It might be interesting to explore this a bit. Find once committed materialists, and ask them, what was the trigger?

    I myself was a quite devout atheist/materailist as a child. I decided I was an atheist when I was 5, and I loved math and science and thought they had the answers to everything. One day when I was 17 I read a book which said that religion wasn't at all about belief or faith but each religion, at its founding, began with experience. That was it. The whole world changed for me. BUT - and here is where it would be interesting to hear others' journeys - it took many years to articulate an understanding of science which was consistent with this new vision.

    And this brings me back to Michael - it would be interesting in a conversation with him or others like him - if they are open and not intransigent skeptics/debunkers - to find out what their experience of science, of awareness, of belief and disbelief, is. What is it for them, personally, that makes them hold on to materialistic beliefs?

    Some are quite open about it - Susan Blakemore and Ray Hyman say outright, the evidence for psi is very strong, but they're afraid to accept it because it means the end of science. So that's easy - if they can be shown that accepting psi does NOT mean the end of science, but perhaps only the end of materialism, it might be easier for them to accept it.

    The thing is, you have to know whether you're talking to a potentially open-minded person or an outright fanatic. Gerry Woerlee, clearly, is a fanatic materialist. I tried talking to him for 3 years and the 10 of us who were trying int he Amazon comments section concluded it was impossible. Jerry Coyne is probably the same. But Sam Harris is someone who many think might be open to thinking differently (I for one vote for you trying to talk to Sam; forget about Dawkins).

    So, more of these conversations. It will be interesting to hear from others and find out - what do you think it is that makes people hold on to materialist beliefs, and if you yourself once had them, what was it that gave you the ability to let go of them?

  4. Hi Don!
    Your experience is fascinating to me. You determined yourself to be an atheist at 5yrs. That is an important developmental time.
    Are you able / willing to mention the reasons for your decision of this at this young age? Especially since it is a logical fallacy - to try to prove a negative, because one can't know if they are looking at an open or a closed system.
    [ Please don't take this as a personal attack - it is certainly NOT intended to be! But, Carl Jung identified atheism as a neurosis, a form of denial of a deep-seated fear. I'm guessing it may often come from their experiences of being parented - for obvious reasons. ]
    At any rate, here is my experience for you to think about - which I hope you find interesting. I was raised as a fundamentalist 'Christian'. After experiencing my family trying to hide its 'melt-down' and numerous paradigm 'train wrecks' I decided to take my belief model of reality and set it all aside - to see what parts might be later validated and what parts wouldn't be useable. I still experienced some sense of a 'presence' (?) of a 'higher power' (?). But, I knew I needed to build a model of reality, based on experiential evidence - w/o any 'blind faith'. So, I began to study mysticism and the occult - looking for experiential evidence of any 'spiritual' reality, realms or afterlife. I had regularly experienced spontaneous OBEs. I also began to remember bible accounts that sounded very much like OBEs, also. The remaining Christian 'friends' I had now all abandoned me - as a heretic. Now I was determined to see if a non-material reality existed and OBEs seemed the most direct path. That was 20+ yrs. ago. I'm now well into building a new, but flexible / adaptable model - based on experiential evidence of expanded awareness or consciousness.
    So, my model is still 'in process'. But, I still need to find the mechanism that allows this reality awareness to become observable. So, I'm studying new physics, consciousness science and its apparent coupling to a greater reality. Cheers! :)

    1. oh, i just found this - Jordan, I responded to you in a separate post on the forum. I'll be looking forward to hearing your response.

  5. Hi Jordan. Welcome. Don is great. You've come to the right place. Please join us at the forum link above for many mutually respectful and enlightening discussions of the larger reality. Another good place to start is on Bernardo Kastrup youtube site. He has many great insightful short videos which clearly describe the larger reality from a scientific perspective. Many of us here are scientists or interested in science. I for one an a physician and scientist with the group. Would love to hear more about your OOBES on one of the forums above. I too have had them. Bernardo is brilliant and very down to earth despite his vast scientific training and experience. Home sweet home.

  6. "self-reflection arises with biology..."
    It seems Bernardo thinks that the very first self-localisation process happened with biology? That's odd. Is that a position to appease the materialists? Why would self-localisation not have happened before this universe, this dream began? Biology is one way of doing it, one image of that process, but there is no reason at all to assume it is the first way or the only way of doing it.

    1. I don't deny the possibility that this might be the case. But my attempt here is to make sense of empirical, consensus reality (which may not be, and probably is not, the only reality). As such, I focus on the phenomena we know and acknowledge collectively today. With such limitation in mind, I think we only have evidence that biology is the image of localization.

  7. It seems that Michael is seeing B's Idealism as simply a 'deeming' of a fundamental substance, much like Materialism's 'deeming' of a material one. It ought to be stressed that B's Idealism allows us to know the truth about all this, while M's Materialism does not. That is, they are not interchangeable in the way the Michael assumes, although it would be a natural assumption for a materialist. .

    I agree with him that Idealism needs to make some predictions that Materialism does not, and clearly consciousness is one such rather obvious prediction. What is so often missed would be that this Idealism does not just solve but also predicts the 'hard' problem, and also all well-established results of metaphysics. To say that it makes no testable predictions is to say we have not examined it carefully.

  8. Michael makes some good points. I think he is correct when he says that 'deeming is not logical' in response to Bernardo's claim that choosing consciousness as the ontological primitive is logical. (This may not have been copied above but is in the original Twitter exchange). Unless of course by 'logical' Bernardo simply meant reasonable.

    The materialist can argue that choosing non-consciousness as an ontological primitive is equally reasonable. They can point to the evidence, as Michael does, that non-conscious matter has been around an awful lot longer than biology and self-reflective consciousness. It would seem a reasonable starting point then to assume that maybe something non-conscious is behind matter and self-reflective conscious biology.

    Bernardo's position is that Mind came before anything of this universe, but there is no evidence for that, that is his assumption. Our immediate evidence of consciousness is of the self-reflective consciousness of biology not of non-self-reflective Mind. Michael's point is, I think, that an assumption of non-self-reflective Mind that preexisted the universe is no better an assumption than that of a non-conscious ontological primitive.

    1. I don't even know how to respond to this other then to point to this very article, my books, videos, essays, where I tackle precisely these points... you're stuck in a loop, seeing symmetries where there aren't any. My response to the points you raise are everywhere.

  9. The thought experiment of a dream is often used as an example of why consciousness generating matter is more logical than thinking matter can generate consciousness, but using dreams as an actual example, as evidence, that idealism already happens in our current knowable experience, is a tautology as dreams are assumed to be experiences happening entirely in consciousness and are then presented as evidence of such. For the materialist dreams happen in the brain, in non-consciousness.

    1. You fail to see that matter-outside-mind is an INFERENCE motivated by the argument that we need to make such an inference in order to explain reality. The thrust of my work is to show that such inference is NOT needed to explain reality. As such, the decisive criterion in favor of idealism becomes parsimony, which is the same criterion used to reject the flying spaghetti monster in favor of natural selection. You keep trying to find a symmetry where there's none.

  10. 'I argue we can explain all on the basis of consciousness. Bonus: we avoid the "hard problem"'
    The hard problem isn't avoided at all, it is merely reversed. How can consciousness come from matter, simply becomes, how can matter come from consciousness. To say the former is obviously impossible and the latter is obviously apparent, really doesn't get us anywhere. What is it about your analogies that supposedly explain the latter, that aren't equally applicable to the former? What is stopping the guitar string from being matter and the vibration of the string being consciousness? So too with the spinning top and the ripple in the water.

    1. Stephen, consciousness is empirically undeniable, unlike matter-outside-consciousness, super-strings, branes, etc. There is no symmetry here. Consciousness is the only carrier of reality you have ever known or will ever know. Everything else (theories, entities, abstractions, etc.) are creations within consciousness, as far as anyone can ever know for sure. Thus, why should we take anything else as primary, instead of consciousness itself, provided that we can _explain_ observations by taking consciousness alone to be real? This is so self-evident, so obvious, it is perhaps difficult to see... I don't know... I find it amazing that people struggle with it.

  11. I find Bernardo's amazement at how difficult it is to understand why it's not obvious that consciousness is "the only carrier of reality we can ever know" - I am so totally in tune with that amazement. It was many years ago that this dawned on me and I initially - utterly naively and foolishly - thought that just pointing this out would immediately change people's minds.

    To quote Milton Friedman (not the economist; the advisor to Gerald Ford who once said, after Richard Nixon was out of office, "At long last, our national nightmare is over" ) "boy was I wrong'! (he said this with a great laugh, having once been a super conservative, after he saw the destruction and chaos launched on the world by Ronald Reagan).

    Yes, i continue to find it utterly amazing that you can't just point this out and people go, "oh, I see what you're talking about."

    But you shouldn't feel in any way dispirited Bernardo - your book and writings are among the clearest I've ever come across. If you ever feel I'm being too critical in my occasional rants trying to get you to connect with others or whatever, it's just me enjoying so much this process of seeing you wrestle with how to communicate this and wanting to add my 2 cents (sorry, I'm writing this in Starbucks waiting for someone to show up for an evaluation and this is terribly unedited)

    keep on keeping on!

    1. I derive great encouragement from you and the other regulars in the forum, Don. I never felt unfairly criticized by you.

  12. I personally don't like using twitter as a debating medium. I think that the character limit for posts is far too small. It makes it easier for people to post sarcastic one-liners as a substitute for having a real point, while making it harder for people like you to explain an idea.

    Despite Michael's antics, you definitely got the better of him. Well done!

    1. Thanks Eric! I share your reservations about Twitter. That's why it took me so long to surrender to the need to join that platform. That said, I confess I'm having fun... :)

    2. When I tried to debate for idealism on twitter I ended up getting spammed and straw manned. The materialists who debate there have no interest in understanding your point of view and having a genuine debate. I think I'll stick to the forums. I'm glad you're having fun though.


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