The linguistic con game of the 'mind/matter duality'

'Parallel Worlds,' by Selene's Art. Copyright by Selene's Art, used with permission.

I have recently been accused of proposing a metaphysics that simply replaces one form of reductionism with another: instead of reducing everything to matter, I allegedly 'reduce' everything to mind, the supposed polar opposite of matter. Underlying this accusation is the notion that 'mind' and 'matter' are dual concepts or polar opposites at the same level of abstraction, so that a reduction to either of them is seen as equally abstract. The suggestion is that there is a higher, truer, more enlightened point-of-view that precedes both mind and matter ontologically, and from which we can contemplate both mind and matter as a lower-level duality or polarity. As such, I allegedly fail to bring us any closer to that 'higher point-of-view,' instead replacing one abstraction with another.

If this is what you think, you've fallen for a linguistic con game; one that, unfortunately, plagues most of our culture. Mind and matter are not a true duality; and they aren't polar opposites. Since the time of Aristotle we've known that we must be careful about identifying true contradictory pairs, lest we incur in major logical errors. A very similar rationale applies here. Mind is not at the same level of abstraction as matter. As a matter of fact, mind is not an abstraction at all. Only matter is.

Before we continue, let me state precisely what I mean by 'mind.' I use the word 'mind' in exactly the same way that I use the word 'consciousness': mind/consciousness is that whose excitations are subjective experiences. Whatever mind/consciousness may intrinsically be, its patterns of excitation are our subjective experiences, which in turn are our entire reality. My use of this definition is not an attempt to be peculiar: it's simply a recognition that there is no universally-accepted definition of mind and consciousness out there, so I have to be precise regarding what I mean. From this point on, I will use only the word 'mind.'

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Since all we can ever know are our subjective experiences, matter – as something that supposedly exists outside all experience – is an abstraction of and in mind. We infer that matter exists outside mind, but even that inference is an experience that arises and exists within mind. Mind is what exists before we start theorizing, abstracting, or conceptualizing anything, including the very notions of reduction, duality and polarity. When one states that mind and matter form a duality, or a polarity, the statement itself arises and exists in one's mind as a subjective experience. One cannot step out of one's own mind and look upon it as a mere abstraction. Where would one be 'looking from' if not from one's own mind? Do you see what I mean?

All of our abstractions arise from and within our mind, the ground of our being. Therefore, it is obviously a fallacy to say that matter and mind are dual concepts or polar opposites. Matter is an abstraction of mind. We can never transcend mind so to see it as a member of a lower-level dual pair, for mind – whatever it may intrinsically be – is what we are before we begin conceptualizing reality. To say that mind and matter form a polarity is like saying that ripples are the polar opposite of the water where they ripple. It makes no sense. Polarities are valid only between different kinds of ripples – say, ripples that flow to the right versus ripples that flow to the left – not between ripples and the medium where they ripple. And since mind is the 'medium' of the experiences we call matter, there cannot be a duality between matter – 'ripples' of mind – and mind either. Matter isn't independent of mind.

The illusion of a duality or a polarity between mind and matter arises purely from language. It's a linguistic con game. In order to speak of the very 'medium' of subjective experience, we must give it a name. We call it 'mind,' or 'consciousness.' Then, in order to speak of certain specific patterns of excitation of this 'medium,' we also give them names, like 'matter.' Finally, we lose ourselves in our own linguistic abstractions and end up thinking of 'mind' and 'matter' as polar opposites. We delude ourselves into believing that we, the agents conceiving of polarities and dualities, are somehow different from 'mind;' that we can look at mind from the outside. We can't. Mind is what we are. It refers to our identity, not to one of our abstractions. It's the 'medium' of experience, not a type of experience.

When people implicitly assume that somehow there is a 'higher point-of-view' from which to contemplate the alleged mind/matter duality or polarity, they are abstracting away from their own nature. You are mind and you can't step away from what you are in order to see a true mind/matter duality/polarity. There is no such 'higher point-of-view,' just linguistic confusion that gets us lost in the forest of our own conceptual abstractions. When I say that all reality is patterns of excitations of mind, I am not 'reducing' the universe to an abstract concept – such as matter – but simply acknowledging the very ground of being.

Closing remark: in non-duality circles, the word 'mind' is usually taken to mean 'thoughts' or 'intellect.' As such, one could say that reducing reality to 'mind,' in this particular sense, amounts to reducing reality to intellectual conceptualizations. This, indeed, is just as bad as reducing reality to matter, which is itself an abstract concept. So please remember that, above, as well as in all my work, I use the word 'mind' as a synonym for what in non-duality circles is called 'consciousness.' This is more consistent with the terminology of Western philosophy.

Copyright © 2015 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Comments

  1. This is a helpful explanation Bernardo. What would you call an original phenomenon that does not have subjective experiences? Could this also be 'mind' in your lexicon? Would Nibbana be classified as 'mind'? Could a non-mental phenomenon be included in 'mind'? Just clarifying definitions.

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    1. Hi Pete,
      If experiences are mind in motion (i.e. excitations of mind), mind at rest is the phenomenon you refer to. It has no experiences -- it is phenomenologically empty -- but is pregnant with the potential for all experiences, just like a guitar string at rest is pregnant with the potential for all notes. Yet, notice that there is nothing to a vibrating guitar string other than the guitar string itself. In the same way, there is nothing to experience but mind itself. 'Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.'
      By definition, a non-mental phenomenon cannot be included in mind. I argue that there is no such a thing as a non-mental phenomenon. Even the potentiality for experience is a mental phenomenal, for the same reason that a guitar string at rest is still a 'stringuish' phenomenon.
      Cheers, B.

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    2. Thanks. So, the silent guitar string would be the 'Real' and it would be ontologically prior to the subject/object distinction that creates the world of opposites and appearances. Is that it?

      It's amazing how many idea can be conveyed using guitar strings...

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    3. What causes the excitation, the first move?
      Is it the reflection caused by the geometry of the consciousnesses, which you metaphorized as a self reflecting cylindrical aluminium folio?

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  2. Hi there.

    How I see your argument.

    P1. We can only ever know our subjective experience. (I interpret 'only ever know' as metaphysically necessary)
    P2. Our concepts are abstracted from different types of experiences.
    P3. But our concepts, such as duality between mind and matter,are contingent to the existence of our mind.
    P4. Mind is what we are, it is a medium of experience, not a type of experience.It is existing before we even begin abstracting.
    C: Therefore it follows that the notion of duality is merely a linguistic confusion, resulting from misplacing the ontology of mind as being another abstract principle that reality 'reduces' to instead of an already existent (or ground of being).

    However, given P1, it is not metaphysically possible (under my reading of 'only ever') to demonstrate P4. Since the Mind is not a type of experience, it is a different entity namely the 'medium' of experience, in which case we can have no knowledge of it, since we can only have knowledge of -our- subjective -experiences-. But if P4 cannot be justified, then you cannot justify any of your knowledge regarding anything about the Mind if the Mind is an actually existent entity but not a type of experience.

    As I'm sure you realize, rejecting the essence of P1 would mean the collapse of your philosophy, but how is it possible to reformulate it without losing the essence of idealism? The other option is to change your definition of mind to be included in P1.

    Interested in your response - Matt

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    1. Matt,
      The existence of experience (P1) implies that there is that which experiences (P4).
      Experimentally, this translates into the sense of "I am" inherent to experience and yet unshaped by conceptual identity.
      Cheers, B.

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    2. Bernardo,
      I may agree with you, but, let's not forget there is a jump from "there is experience" to "I am something not identical to this experience, I must be something that experiences". Here we have snuck in the Cartesian Ego.

      Now, if all we ever can know immediately is our subjective experience, and all else is an abstraction then the concept Mind itself, is an abstraction. Hence also, this Ego. And what does it mean to say that our identity (as you said we are mind), is an abstraction? How can we then 'know' it, it not being a subjective experience but a receiver of experience?

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    3. Matt, I am making no attributions whatsoever to 'that which experiences.' That's why I referred to it as 'that which experiences,' precisely to avoid loading it with any attributes. But experience is a phenomenon that, by its very nature, is inherently associated with the experiencer, even if we are not in a position to say anything about the experiencer's nature. Now, as it turns out, for my philosophy to hold, I don't need to say anything at all about the experiencer, so long as I can assert that it, whatever it may be, is there.
      Cheers, B.

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    4. Ah Matt, one more thing. If experiences are excitations of that which experiences, then we have to qualify your statement that "I am something not identical to experience." There is nothing to a vibrating -- i.e. excited -- guitar string but the string itself, is there? As such, there is nothing to experience but that which experiences. The experiencer and the experience aren't different ontological categories or entities. Cheers, B.

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  3. Bernardo, I'm intrigued, as the modern (post Descartes) notion of "matter" most likely came into existence with Descartes. My understanding is the question of duality was radically different prior to the modern age.

    Here's first an abstract example of a different take on duality (or polarity or whoever you'd like to call it:>)

    if i distinguish (not divide or separate into a duality) perceiving and percept, what is that Awareness within which both perceiving and percept arise?

    To give a concrete example:

    "I see a tree."

    Perceiving: seeing
    Percept: tree

    What is the relationship of the perceiving (seeing), the percept (tree) and the non-phenomenal Silence which embraces both, constitutes both, and into which both dissolve?

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    1. Another example:

      'I think a thought'

      'Perceiving': thinking
      'Percept': the thought

      Where's the object? Where's the duality? Isn't the thought simply an excitation of my consciousness? Why do we treat perception of supposedly objective things as different than the 'perception' -- i.e. experience -- of a thought or emotion? Many emotions, for instance, are totally outside the control of egoic volition, just like 'outside phenomena.' Many thoughts are collective (ideologies), just like 'outside phenomena.'

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    2. the "object" (which of course is "within" consciousness) is the "tree" (the perceived image or percept) and the "subject" is the mind-life/energy-body composite, which receives (unwittingly) the "IDEA" from cosmic or universal Mind ("Mind-At-Large" as you refer to it) and constructs (not "creates") the image filtered through the particular history of that (semi)-individualized mind-life/energy-body composite. The transcendent silent Awareness encompasses all at every moment - the semi-individualized composite, the true individualized Awareness which transcends space and time, as well as the cosmic/universal Mind (or mind at large) which for the unawakened semi-individualized composite makes use of it as a subconscious instrument. When the individual (beyond space-time) awakens, then, in union with universal Mind, acts as a conscious vehicle for the manifestation.

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  4. Just to make clear, I think it's a great way to describe the modern argument about mind and matter as a linguistic con game. I'm just exploring the possibility that this may not fully resolve the more ancient questions (East and West; not just Eastern) regarding duality - which generally understood matter as inseparable from mind; at least, as far as I understand them.

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  5. Ah, just re-read your closing note. So in your terminology, that non-phenomenal Silence is equivalent to what you're using the word "mind" for?

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    1. I think all experiences are excitations of the 'non-phenomenal silence,' or 'mind,' or 'consciousness.' As such, there is nothing but the non-phenomenal silence, or mind, for exactly the same reason that a vibrating guitar string is nothing but the string itself. The Heart Sutra says exactly this, in my view. It's perhaps the clearest of all Sutras.

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  6. This is one of the most helpful posts i've seen of yours in a while, Bernardo. It just sparked another question:

    As I understand the pre-modern questions regarding duality, they involved ideas and forms.

    I could give a Western/Greek example if I knew the tradition well enough (particularly with Plotinus, who I have some familiarity with and who strikes me as one of the most profound mystics of the West, and who inspired Jewish, Christian and Islamic mystics) but I know the Indians slightly better.

    So let me see if I can put this in terms related to your essay here.

    On the "objective" side there's "patterns of excitation". Ok, that makes sense. This is "spanda" loosely translated as "vibrations" in the Tantric tradition.

    On the "subjective side" (not yet what you're referring to as "mind", I think!!??) are ideas - which I guess are also patterns of excitation, which are reflected in our experience AS the objective aspects of the universe (whether objective thought patterns, emotions or the sensations which we refer to as the "external" world).

    Then there's mind, which in Tantra, of course, would be Chit - or more precisely, Chit-Shakti - indicating that Silent Awareness or Consciousness, at least in relationship to the world of experience, is always an active Energy or Force.

    Is this making any sense or have I missed what you're saying?

    Great post, sparks interesting reflections.

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    1. Well, I think there is only mind/consciousness. All experiences, of any kind, whether we call them subjective or objective, are equally excitations of mind/consciousness. What distinguishes what we call 'objective' experiences are mainly two things: (1) they unfold independent of individual volition (i.e. the volition of a dissociated alter of mind-at-large); (2) they are consistently shared across individuals (i.e. across different dissociated alters). Both these things can be explained by understanding individual living beings to be dissociated alters of one Mind: the 'objective' reality is then simply mental processes of mind-at-large that unfold _outside the alters_ and, as such, are collective and independent of alter volition. We call them 'perceptions.' What we call 'subjective' inner life is simply patterns of excitation of mind that unfold inside the respective alter. We call them 'thoughts', 'emotions,' and 'fantasy.'
      True imagination (imaginatio vera, in the alchemists' language) is a case apart: it is 'objective,' in the sense of being collective and outside alter volition. But it isn't perceived via the five senses. Swedenborg and the Ismaili philosophers considered the Imagination an organ of perception of obfuscated aspects of empirical reality that aren't available to the five senses.

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  7. Goodness, 4th post - I'm going to wait, to leave space for you and others - but after you respond, I may offer a more precise, analytic description of this process of manifestation - I'll wait to see if I've understood well enough what you've said so far. Again, great stuff.

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  8. I wouldn't want to characterize "mind" and "matter" as dual, but as polar. In an analogous way, I would want to see "subject" and "object" as polar. I referred to your form of idealism as reductionist because it reduce everything to the "mind" or "subject" side of the polarity. I don't know what the concept of "subjectivity" could mean unless it is defined in relation to "objectivity." If you want to posit some "non-dual" form of absolute consciousness or absolute knowing beyond subject and object (e.g., Hegelian dialectical idealism), I might understand you better. But it seems to me you are privileging subjectivity too much, obscuring the fact that it is impossible to define without reference to objectivity.

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    1. But don't you see that any object is already fully a part of subjectivity, and therefore part of its own field, and not an objective one? "Objectivity" is an illusion because the "field of objects" is a subjective field! Polarities are nothing but more dualistic abstractions (although personally I like "most subjective to least subjective" rather than "most objective to least objective" which entirely eludes the question of subjectivity)... It seems a pressing question that continually raises its head is: what would it take to finish with philosophy? Or, rather, can we be done with philosophizing? that is, with exercising linguistic-based performances of concepts which lead nowhere but into another cul-de-sac?

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    2. I can see that all mention of objects implies that a subject has experienced said object. But I am just adding the corollary statement, which I find just as obvious, that any mention of a subject implies that there are objects for that subject to experience. Calling objects an illusion and saying subjects are the only reality is exactly the sort of reductionism I'm trying to avoid.

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    3. Matthew,
      Try to step out of the conceptual framework that defines object in terms of subject, and vice-versa, just for a moment. Use your intuitive understanding of these words instead, just for the sake of argument. What I am saying is that there is only consciousness -- which dissociates into alters we call living beings -- and that all reality arises as complex patterns of excitation of/in this consciousness. Can we call this consciousness a 'subject'? In ordinary language, I think not only we can, but it's helpful for most people to understand what is meant. This is so because we are all used to thinking of 'objects' as things outside consciousness, and 'subjects' as that which is conscious. I am simply acknowledging and using this general intuition, and I think it is strictly valid to do so. My ontology can then be framed as entailing that the apparent objects are simply part of the unfolding and expression of the subject to itself.
      Cheers, B.

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    4. By the way, I deny that mind and matter form a polarity, for the same reasons that I deny them to form a duality. How do you differentiate polarity from duality anyway?

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    5. Duality would mean mind could exist independently and without reference to matter (or vice versa).
      Polarity implies they are each mutually dependent on the other: without mind, matter could not be matter; without matter, mind could not be mind.

      Of course, whether we think the relation between mind and matter as dual or polar completely changes what these concepts mean (e.g., Whitehead's understanding of "matter" as creative potential is not at all the same as Descartes, who held it to be extended stuff).

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    6. My argument applies to both duality and polarity then. I adapted the text to make this explicit.

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    7. By the way, in many traditions what you call a polarity is conflated with duality. Advaita is an obvious example, where duality is also meant as polarity (pairs of opposites). I understand and acknowledge your differentiation, but it doesn't change anything as far as my argument.

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    8. Here is the key change in the text:
      "To say that mind and matter form a polarity is like saying that ripples are the polar opposite of the water where they ripple. It makes no sense. Polarities are valid only between different kinds of ripples – say, ripples that flow to the right versus ripples that flow to the left – not between ripples and the medium where they ripple. And since mind is the 'medium' of the experiences we call matter, there cannot be a duality between matter – 'ripples' of mind – and mind either. Matter isn't independent of mind."

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    9. Bernardo, your analogy works for the way you are defining the concepts "mind" and "matter," but not in the way others (like Whitehead) are. This isn't to say you are wrong, just that there are other ways of talking that are, I believe, also elucidatory, and that avoid dualism. The proper analogy for Whitehead's polar reading of the concepts would be to say that mind and matter are like the trough and the crest of a waveform. They belong together and cannot be understood in isolation. The process theologian John Cobb, Jr. articulates Whitehead's perspective on the mind/matter polarity in this short essay: http://www.pandopopulus.com/mind-vs-matter/

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    10. Matthew, yes, I am speaking from within the context of my philosophical system, and arguing that, according to it, we cannot speak of a polarity, or a duality, between mind and matter. Of course, I also argue in my broader writings that Idealism is the best ontology. The latter is the body of my work.

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    11. Matthew,
      I gave the following answer to Pete below, which may be helpful for you too, perhaps:

      If the 'subject' is meant to be the ego, dissociated alter, personal awareness, finite consciousness, etc., then YES, I am all for the transcendence of the subject in this sense. This subject is an illusion; it isn't there to begin with. And the objects this subject sees are also an illusion: they are just the outside image of mental processes in mind-at-large, experienced from the dissociated perspective of an alter.

      BUT, if the subject is the experiencER directly implied by the very existence of experience, in the sense of mind-at-large as the experiencER of reality, then THAT subject isn't transcended because it is all there is. The objects, from its NON-dissociated point-of-view, are just its own subjectively-experienced mental processes, like imagination, emotion, thought, etc. At that level, there is just this one subject, experiences being its own excitations.

      Under no formulation of idealism -- in fact, under no ontology except for eliminative materialism -- can one deny or transcend the experiencER at the level of mind-at-large. Doing so amounts to denying experience, since experience implies the experiencer.

      I insist on using the word 'subjective' because the culture at large associates 'objective' with something outside consciousness and 'subject' with experience itself. I want to piggy-back on this general intuition so to emphasize that there is NOTHING outside of consciousness.

      Does this help?

      Don't get too bogged down in terminology and tortuous conceptual schemes, guys. What I am saying isn't that complicated if you stop trying to relate/label it with all kinds of other schemes.

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  9. sorry matt, to interrupt, just to possibly further clarify -

    I hope you’ll forgive me for yet another post – I thought I might save you a bit of time by anticipating one possible response – I’m aware that one of your major aims is simplicity and accessibility, and referring to an “ancient” and complex philosophic system might seem contrary to this. Trust that I share very much your aims, but I don’t know of any other systems that are as detailed as ones like the Tantra. So in order for me to better understand what you’re communicating, I just want to temporarily refer to this (actually, it sounds like Matt may be making a similar point - and it seems that he's actually agreeing with you:>) (i.e. non dual absolute consciousness beyond subject and object)

    Certainly getting interesting….

    Ok, now I should really keep quiet:>))

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    1. Hegel certainly wasn't the first to propose an absolute perspective beyond subject and object ("the identity of identity and difference"). Nargajuna comes to mind as an Eastern precedent. But Hegel's system is pretty darn detailed. It is the one I know best, at least. I have less trouble with the Hegelian form of idealism (even though I still disagree with it, preferring Schelling's Naturphilosophie) than I do with Bernardo's, though admittedly I haven't read enough to really know all the details. From the sound of the few posts of his I've read (especially this one), however, he sounds like he has adopted something similar to Bishop Berkeley's subjective idealism.

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    2. Matt, I'm not that familiar with Berkeley, and actually Greg Goode (a well known non dualist teacher in New York, who studied with -one of the foremost Berkeley scholars of the last century - I think his name was Blanchard) makes an interesting case that Berkeley has been misunderstood as a subjective idealist, and is actually much closer to Nagarjuna than people generally assume - but I'm afraid i can't make the case. Greg has a website on emptiness teachings in which he connects them to idealism; you might want to take a look.

      I've been confused previously by Bernardo's apparent switching between what I thought was idealism and non dualism, but I'm getting clearer (I think!) that he's saying something which is actually quite close to both Nagarjuna and Shankara (and I'm well aware there are boatloads of folks out there who will be appalled at the idea of assuming those two have anything in common, but for that argument, I can say I don't know enough to pursue it and again refer you to Greg:>))

      In any case, I do believe it's definitely worth your while to investigate a bit further into Bernardo's writings, particularly his latest 2 books, as he does address this. Peter Jones (who entered the first comment above) has been very active on Bernardo's forum this past year refining this very point.

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    3. I forgot to end that last paragraph, saying one of the major reasons why I think it's worth the time and effort to clarify your understanding of Bernardo's writings is he is making a valiant attempt to (a) make this stuff simple enough that non-philosophers can gain access to it; and (b) make it academically acceptable enough that it should have more useful, practical applications than other worthwhile but sometimes simplistic non dual writings.

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    4. Matthew, Chapter 2 of Brief Peeks Beyond contains a summary of my ideas. I always try to avoid giving myself labels ('Idealism' is one I adopted only hesitantly, surrendering to minimum communication requirements), so I won't offer a voluntary framing of my ideas under any specific idealist box. :) I feel something is always lost and other things erroneously attributed to my ideas when I try to communicate through labels. The best way to understand what I mean is not by finding the right label for it, but simply to read what I say in my books. :)

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    5. A very, very short summary is here: http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2015/04/the-reality-nervous-system.html

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    6. Thanks, Bernardo. I'll try and have a look ASAP. Apologies for labeling, but it is at least a helpful way to get to know each other ; )

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  10. There are three different dualities to be concerned with here. First is the pseudo-duality between mind and matter that Bernardo is rightly dismissing. If 'matter' refers to some mindless substance, then -- once one realizes that there is no such thing -- seeking to transcend mind/matter makes no more sense than defining a genus to include horses and unicorns.

    But there is the subject/object duality to be concerned with. However, there are two very distinct dualities which, alas, both go under the name of subject/object. One is the distinction between so-called subjective phenomena (thoughts, feelings,..) and so-called objective phenomena (sense percepts). Perhaps these could be better called 'inner' and 'outer' phenomena, those being how we naively think of them. The other duality is between what Merrell-Wolff calls the Pure Subject, on the one hand, and all phenomena on the other. Or, it could be considered as the duality between experiencer and experienced. Perhaps we could call it that. And then just drop the terms 'subject' and 'object'. The inner/outer duality is between two kinds of forms. the experiencer/experienced duality is between formlessness and form.

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    1. These segments from other replies above may contribute to clarifying this:

      Objectivity/subjectivity: I think there is only mind/consciousness. All experiences, of any kind, whether we call them subjective or objective, are equally excitations of mind/consciousness. What distinguishes what we call 'objective' experiences are mainly two things: (1) they unfold independent of individual volition (i.e. the volition of a dissociated alter of mind-at-large); (2) they are consistently shared across individuals (i.e. across different dissociated alters). Both these things can be explained by understanding individual living beings to be dissociated alters of one Mind: the 'objective' reality is then simply mental processes of mind-at-large that unfold _outside the alters_ and, as such, are collective and independent of alter volition. We call them 'perceptions.' What we call 'subjective' inner life is simply patterns of excitation of mind that unfold inside the respective alter. We call them 'thoughts', 'emotions,' and 'fantasy.'

      Subject/Object: What I am saying is that there is only consciousness -- which dissociates into alters we call living beings -- and that all reality arises as complex patterns of excitation of/in this consciousness. Can we call this consciousness a 'subject'? In ordinary language, I think not only we can, but it's helpful for most people to understand what is meant. This is so because we are all used to thinking of 'objects' as things outside consciousness, and 'subjects' as that which is conscious. I am simply acknowledging and using this general intuition, and I think it is strictly valid to do so. My ontology can then be framed as entailing that the apparent objects are simply part of the unfolding and expression of the subject to itself.

      Pure subject/all phenomena: If experiences are mind in motion (i.e. excitations of mind), mind at rest is the phenomenon you refer to. It has no experiences -- it is phenomenologically empty -- but is pregnant with the potential for all experiences, just like a guitar string at rest is pregnant with the potential for all notes. Yet, notice that there is nothing to a vibrating guitar string other than the guitar string itself. In the same way, there is nothing to experience but mind itself. 'Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.'

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  11. Mathew - Some great posts. I seem to share your view almost exactly. For instance,

    " If you want to posit some "non-dual" form of absolute consciousness or absolute knowing beyond subject and object (e.g., Hegelian dialectical idealism), I might understand you better. But it seems to me you are privileging subjectivity too much, obscuring the fact that it is impossible to define without reference to objectivity."

    I don't know whether this criticism actually holds since there is a lot of ambiguity here but it would also be the problem that I have. I'd agree that a Hegelian transcendence of subject and object for his Absolute Idea makes sense to me, whilst preserving the subjective side of the equation and disposing of the objective side seems impossible.

    I'm still trying to zero in on exactly what Bernardo is saying about this so am not sure whether I'm actually disagreeing with anything other than language or presentation. .

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    1. If the 'subject' is meant to be the ego, dissociated alter, personal awareness, finite consciousness, etc., then YES, I am all for the transcendence of the subject in this sense. This subject is an illusion; it isn't there to begin with. And the objects this subject sees are also an illusion: they are just the outside image of mental processes in mind-at-large, experienced from the dissociated perspective of an alter.

      BUT, if the subject is the experiencER directly implied by the very existence of experience, in the sense of mind-at-large as the experiencER of reality, then THAT subject isn't transcended because it is all there is. The objects, from its NON-dissociated point-of-view, are just its own subjectively-experienced mental processes, like imagination, emotion, thought, etc. At that level, there is just this one subject, experiences being its own excitations.

      Under no formulation of idealism -- in fact, under no ontology except for eliminative materialism -- can one deny or transcend the experiencER at the level of mind-at-large. Doing so amounts to denying experience, since experience implies the experiencer.

      I insist on using the word 'subjective' because the culture at large associates 'objective' with something outside consciousness and 'subject' with experience itself. I want to piggy-back on this general intuition so to emphasize that there is NOTHING outside of consciousness.

      Does this help?

      Don't get too bogged down in terminology and tortuous conceptual schemes, guys. What I am saying isn't that complicated if you stop trying to relate/label it with all kinds of other schemes.

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    2. Ha. Maybe this is the problem, that it isn't complicated enough!

      Okay, here's a challenge Bernardo. How would you connect monistic idealism with Lao Tsu's aphorism 'True words seem paradoxical'?

      This is what bothers me, that I can't make the leap from monistic idealism to nondualism. Perhaps they are, or may be, the same thing, but to me the latter solves well known philosophical problems while it is far from obvious how the former would do this.

      Again, this could be all about language. The lack of reference to and thus integration with mainstream texts I can understand, it may be counter-productive, but I struggle to finally join up this view of consciousness with the explanations of Nagarjuna, Lao Tsu, Al_Halaj, De Cusa, Plotinus and so forth.

      If it does join up then I'm happy, but would say that the name 'monistic idealism' seems odd and rather misleading for a view that endorses Nagarjuna. Both words would seem to imply an extreme view,

      The comments here have clarified a few things and it seems there's not much disagreement on anything except language and the final reductionist step in the theory. Which is par for the course on this topic.




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    3. I'm not sure it's a matter of being too complex. There are some extremely simple, widely accessible experiential/psychological aspects of subject and object that seem fuzzy in this particular formulation - but I can't say that definitively because I don't as yet get how to connect your (Bernardo's) language with ordinary everyday experience. I was trying to do that above, with the "i see a tree" example, but then the words started getting quite complicated.

      Maybe I'll post something on the forum. I think this is really good - getting a lot of things clearer that, at least for me, were rather cloudy. But I'd love to see it done outside the realm of conventional philosophic language altogehter, not being overly concerned about precise labels (this is me; i'm not speaking, of course, for Peter or Matt) but trying to convey direct experience. i don't know exactly when but I've had it in mind at some point to create a thread that has this more down to earth quality. I think i mentioned it above but i'm in the midst of so many projects at the moment I may be losing the thread.

      Anyway, simplicity - i like it. hope this all doesn't sound too muddled.

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    4. Bernardo is correct. He says upfront, When I say "mind" I mean "consciousness ". I don't do that but I understand his meaning. Semantics is the materialist's last sword.

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    5. Well, John, it is also the investigator's principle weapon for clearing away confusion. Let's say it's a two-edged sword that can be used for good or ill.

      Hey Don, are you suggesting that metaphysics is not down-to-earth? An outrageous idea.

      I've just posted a note on my blog pertaining to all this in order to sketch out my position without having to make it part of an existing argument. Comments welcome, but it's only a position statement.

      https://theworldknot.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/on-why-i-cannot-quite-agree-with-bernardo-kastrup/




      https://theworldknot.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/on-why-i-cannot-quite-agree-with-bernardo-kastrup/.

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  12. I might be missing something. Experience of "mind" is "known" through inference of "mind" through experience. I do feel like I've missed something. If I experience a particle of matter, and experience my observation of that particle. Then I experience mind through the experience of inference of the particle and mind.

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    Replies
    1. You talk of "mind" as "thoughts" or "intellect." What you say is correct in that sense. But, as I emphasize in the last paragraph of the essay, I talk of "mind" as "consciousness," as that whose vibrations are experiences themselves.

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    2. Ah, right, mind(consciousness) is formless, experience is the form. Things without form are beyond comprehension. I don't know why I was thinking of mind as intellect, ha , I didn't even realize I was till you pointed it out.

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  13. Calling it a "con game" seems to imply some intention on way or another. We should come out and say what we mean in terms of the abstraction levels of mind and matter! My interpretation of materialism and most philosophy is that matter is explicit on any level of abstraction, and that mind is merely related to experience. This does not mean that mind has its own level of abstraction or is separate from or the same as a specific order of material.

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