The elevator pitch of a world in consciousness

A dangerous web of concepts.
Photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released into the public domain.

(Updated 1 September 2015)

It strikes me how often discussions about the nature of reality get muddled in misunderstandings arising from concepts. Words like 'mind,' 'consciousness,' 'subjectivity,' and even 'world' can evoke all kinds of unintended meanings, depending on the listener's background, expectations, prejudices and proclivities. 'Isms' like 'idealism' and 'panpsychism' are even worse, since they hopelessly attempt to package, in only a few letters, the meanings of disparate and complex ideas that have taken many books to expound on. As a result of this conceptual pollution, we get caught in a dangerous web of words that make simple, self-evident arguments look tortuous, complex and even implausible.

Ideally, I would love to do away with words and convey meaning directly, through some form of telepathy. But until we figure out a way to do that, I'm afraid we're stuck with words. The best we can then hope to accomplish is to make as few assumptions as possible about the meaning that words will carry to different listeners. This extremely short essay is my effort to summarize my views on the nature of reality in precisely that way. In what follows, what I do not say is just as important as what I do say. So please police yourself to avoid projecting meaning onto what is stated below that actually isn't there. Here we go:

  1. I consider it self-evident that experience exists. The redness of an apple, the sweetness of an orange, the warmth of a hug, the spaciousness of a landscape: they all obviously exist as experiences, illusory or not.
  2. Therefore, I must acknowledge the existence of that which experiences.
  3. I argue that experiences are behaviors of that which experiences, like the dance of a dancer. For the same reason that the dance is nothing but the dancer in action, experiences are nothing but that which experiences in action.
  4. The behavior of that which experiences and the witnessing of such behavior by that which experiences are a single process: experience.
  5. Therefore, there is no reason to infer the existence of objects separate from that which experiences: its behaviors alone account for the entirety of what we call the empirical universe.
  6. I model these behaviors as oscillations, vibrations or excitations of that which experiences, much like a ripple is an oscillatory behavior of water.
  7. Given our linguistic associations, I consider it entirely valid to call that which experiences 'mind' or 'consciousness.'
  8. I also consider it valid to say that that which experiences is a 'subject,' despite the absence of objects. After all, our culture has come to consider experience a phenomenon exclusive of subjects.
  9. I argue that the inner-lives of different living beings are dissociated streams of experience of that which experiences.
  10. Finally, I argue that metabolizing organisms  that is, living bodies – are what these dissociated streams of experience look like from a second-person perspective.

For a book-length elaboration of these ideas, please consider perusing my latest book, Brief Peeks Beyond.

Available online.

(Please click on 'Load more' at the very bottom of the page to see the latest comments!)

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

Comments

  1. Awareness/Self/Consciousness is not a "doer". Sorry mac :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a prime example of conceptual pollution...

      Delete
    2. That Awareness/Self is not a "doer"? The life is full of paradoxes ,amigo.

      Delete
    3. Experience is dynamic, involves changes of state. It isn't static. A static state would entail no experiences. Therefore, experiences must be 'done.' And if all is one, than only the one can 'do' the experiences, even while being their witness at the same time. This is as simple as it is inescapable.

      Delete
    4. In a dualistic world - yes. Not from a non-dualistic standing. So it is a yes or no answer. This is a very subtle matter, Bernardo. Self/Awareness/Consciousness does not need experience to exist .We need the vehicle of body and mind in this world to be in this world. You think Consciousness/Awareness need body and mind to exist? It is a hidden logic here that is difficult to grasp.

      Delete
    5. Because Self/Awareness is ever - present and unchangeable. It exists prior to experience ,mind,body,universe - you name it. How can you beat this logic? You cannot do that. It is impossible :)

      Delete
    6. I never said that consciousness/mind needed experience to exist. I said that experience was a behavior of consciousness/mind. Consciousness/mind can still exist without behaving, without doing experience, in just the same way that water still exists without rippling. You are arguing against points I never made, attacking ghosts. And as for the logic, you aren't articulating any. You're just stating conclusions (which is valid, insofar as those conclusions arise from your direct experience). But statements aren't logical arguments.

      Delete
    7. Mind is dependent on thoughts ,body,brain,time and space. Consciousness does not depend on such I mentioned. Mind and Consciousness are never the same and never will be so I think it is a bad habit of the Western Mind to do keep such notion that it is the same. We have had that discussion before and I am stubborn about it and you are also. :) So I prefer talking about Awareness/Self instead of Consciousness. Western mind is polluted by this nonsense of not discrimination the words of mind and consciousness.

      Yes, it is a hidden logic. We have to examine for ourselves. It is actually very easy,but maya/holographic projection is creating ignorance about who we are.

      Delete
    8. David you have your own definitions of mind and consciousness. Good for you. But I won't waste time fighting about semantics here.

      Delete
    9. Western mind think mind and consciousness is the same. That is one of the problems of ignorance in my opinion. We have to learn to discriminate if we will examine who we are or if we want to be free from binding to objects or experiential entitty(the doer).

      Delete
  2. "doer" : Not an experiencer. Our mind/body experience something. But Self/Awareness/Consciousness does not experience anything. Experience is a reflection or projection of Self/Awareness/Consciousness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're projecting your non-duality associations with the verb 'to do' onto what I said. Try to read what I said without this conceptual baggage. As it is, you are beautifully exemplifying the very conceptual pollution I was talking about.

      Delete
    2. Experience is dynamic, involves changes of state. It isn't static. A static state would entail no experiences. Therefore, experiences must be 'done.' And if all is one, than only the one can 'do' the experiences, even while being their witness at the same time. This is as simple as it is inescapable.

      Delete
    3. Experiences is an object in our mind,because what is happening outside of ourselves is not happening outside. It is from a thought in our mind. We live in a holographic projection. Even Hawking think we do now(about information and black holes).

      You are loosing the battle of concepts even if you have good intention. ;)

      Delete
    4. Maya/holographic projection is hard-wired. We think our perception is showing the truth about consciousness/Self and about experiences. It does not.

      Delete
    5. Oh man, that's quite a conceptual soup.... whatever you say. Let's sing a Kumbaya now.

      Delete
    6. David, I guess you missed this part of the essay: "In what follows, what I do not say is just as important as what I do say. So please police yourself to avoid projecting meaning onto what is stated below that actually isn't there.'

      Delete
    7. I think you cling too much on the limits of Western Mind and concepts. It would have been better if we had a chat in sanskrit. ;) Ok, I will not bother you anymore today. Have a nice day. I have bought your books on e-kindle. Maybe I will comment on what you write later. this year.

      Delete
    8. It might be useful to note here what Maya actually means. Maya comes from the root "to build". It's analogous to creation or the world, not illusion. As Adi Shankara himself taught, when Tamas guna is dominant in the physiology, we experience the world as a covering. It seems real and the subjective unreal. When Rajas becomes dominant, then the world comes to be experienced as illusory. When sattva becomes dominant, then the world is seen as the divine play, Lila.

      In other words - the illusory bit is an effect of the state of the physiology, not of enlightenment. Nor of maya.

      Another of those neo-advaita misunderstandings that comes from people picking up second-hand interpretations rather than looking at the source texts.

      I would agree that referring to mind and consciousness as analogous is misleading. Mind is an effect of consciousness. From a kosha perspective, mind arises several stages into the expression of consciousness. I would describe it more succinctly as a field effect of the liveliness of self-aware consciousness.

      Delete
    9. The English word 'mind' is defined as the faculty of consciousness, thought, feeling and imagination. What Western Neo-Advaita calls 'mind' would be more appropriately called 'intellect' in English, or described as 'conceptual thinking.' I don't mind that Neo-Advaita tries to redefine the word for itself, but I choose to continue to use the word according to its regular English meaning.

      Delete
    10. Shoot, my comment got lost and I don't have time to rewrite it. Consciousness is actually no more closely related to intellect than to any of the five (main) senses. Seeing why was important for me. Thoughts may seem to "come from" consciousness while sense objects do not, but this is fundamental delusion. Not sure it's relevant, since you have to use the word "mind" in the way your readers understand it.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. There are always going to be people who want to raise a stink. Try not to worry too much about them, alright?

      Delete
    2. I don't think the points raised were dishonest in any way. I don't doubt for a moment the sincerity and good intentions of David. I just despair at having failed -- so spectacularly -- precisely at what I set out to accomplish with this essay: to try and avoid that people would read into my words things I didn't say...

      Delete
    3. Hey, it was crystal clear to me, and I'm going to guess it was for most readers. Unfortunately, I feel like "one size doesn't fit all" when it comes to words, and what might get through to some people won't get through to others, and they go back to reading into things you didn't mean to say.

      Delete
  4. :) LOL. I think it is nice to not take this too serious. Keep up the good work anyway if we do not agree on the definition of Consciousness and Mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK, but this is not at all what the essay is about......

      Delete
    2. Ok, what is the essay about if you will tell it in two sentences?
      Your friend, Deepak Chopra has said this many times - You are not your mind,thoughts,feelings,body and brain. Who are you?

      Delete
    3. Maybe my english is not the best,but the 10 quotes you have written in this article - it is from you or?:)

      Delete
    4. David, what you call 'mind" I call 'thoughts' or 'intellect.' What you call 'consciousness' I call 'mind' or 'consciousness' as well. As such, I don't deny the distinction you see between what you call 'mind' and what you call 'consciousness.' I just use different words for these two different things, because I come from the Western philosophical tradition. This is merely a matter of terminology, not of any substance whatsoever. And the essay obviously wasn't about the distinction between consciousness and the intellect... why do I need to summarize an essay that is already so short and to the point?
      PS: I entirely agree with Deepak, given what I know he _means_ by those words. Let me repeat it with my own words: you are not your intellect, thoughts, feelings, body... you are consciousness/mind, whose excitations give rise to the experiences you call your thoughts, feelings, body, etc. As such, your thoughts, feelings, body, etc., are not you; they are the behaviors or manifestations of consciousness/mind. You are consciousness/mind, which exists whether it's manifesting/behaving or not.

      Delete
    5. I want your short summary so I do not misunderstand.

      Delete
    6. Is Consciousness/Awareness unchangeable and ever-present?

      Delete
    7. Thanks for the answer. Sorry that I have misunderstood your intention about this text. Have a nice day!

      Delete
    8. No need to be sorry, David. Finding a way to communicate my ideas clearly is my own personal struggle.

      Delete
    9. David, I updated the text to try and make it clearer... I avoided the verb 'to do' now.

      Delete
  5. Nice essay Mr.Bernardo. I've given up on words long ago. It's just as well since, as you may have noticed from most of my post, that I can't articulate them very well anyway. I usually just point and grunt, but to me when my words are taken out of context or misunderstood, it just reminds me that I am not alone in this place. And thats ok.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bernardo, thanks for the pitch. I am not going to address whether it's coherent or not, but, I think it lacks any inspiration, ie What does it mean for the human condition? The elevator doors open . . . Now what?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is just an extremely concise summary, an elevator pitch. The implications and elaborations can be found in the body of my work, my books, talks, etc. The aim of this brief essay is just to clarify some basics and avoid language overload.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, Guess I misread the title. : )

      Delete
  7. I for one think that this essay does accomplish what it sets out to do. The key is for the reader to allow the flow of ideas as expressed to develop on their own, and to resist the temptation to insert redefinitions and reflections that disrupt the flow and make the statements non-sequitur. I actually think you might be able to use this as a research resource for studying people's reactions to your philosophy, Bernardo. You can try to isolate the point at which people start putting their own stuff in, causing them to claim that the conclusions don't follow.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This was very concise and to the point. I think you have accomplished exactly what you intended. In this comments section I think David is the exception not the rule.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very interesting and thoughtful Bernardo.

    From the point of view of the "ockham's razor" approach i've taken over the last 4 years (at least, when talking to materialists or the materialist-inclined), it's interesting to look at the progressive adding of assumptions in the list.

    Numbers 1 to 5 require almost no assumptions added on to basic experiencing. With 6, we start getting assumptions, and by #10 there is a rather large set of assumptions.

    This is not at all meant to be a criticism, just an observation. (If i wanted to be critical, I could say I agree with 1-5 and strongly disagree with 6 to 10, since I have a different set of assumptions, based on a different way of looking at 1-5, but that doesn't take away from the elegance and simplicity of the whole list).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Don,
      I'd say #1-#5 encapsulate the most parsimonious ontology possible: there is only one ontological entity acknowledged here, which is the minimum number for an ontology. #6 isn't a new assumption, but just a modeling device, a technique of description. It adds nothing ontologically. #7 and #8 aren't assumptions either: I'm just justifying a terminology convention here, choosing words. Nothing is added ontologically. #9 and #10 are inferences, not assumptions: we need to infer something beyond personal experience in order to explain the inner lives of others, unless we accept solipsism.
      Cheers, B.

      Delete
    2. I just added a comment to your Mind and Brain presentation - that was excellent in every way, exactly what you do best. I don't know how to respond to your comment - the article above as well as your comment here is just a complete conceptual mess. As you generally do when you attempt philosophy, you're mixing up metaphysical apples and carrots (not even apples and oranges). You're brilliant and brilliantly intuitive when you stick with what you know well - scientific research and seeing through the materialistic insanity. Your brief philosophy 101 overview of idealism you gave a the conference last summer is simple and easily accessible for those who want a framework - if you could focus on what you do well it would be such a great contribution.

      Delete
    3. I beg to differ about the conceptual confusion. In fact, I claim this summary is conceptually clean and precise. Stating that it isn't isn't enough: you have to point out explicitly what the alleged error is, and why it is an error. As it stands now, your criticism is entirely unsubstantiated and rather gratuitous.
      My answer to you just made sure we differentiated assumptions from modeling metaphors, terminology conventions and inferences. Obviously, these things aren't the same; they aren't all just 'assumptions.' It was surprising to me that you conflated these three conceptual categories in your original comment. That you accuse me now of comparing apples to carrots is a bit ironic.
      Perhaps your confusion arises from your not being familiar with modern philosophy outside spirituality, particularly analytic philosophy (http://www.philosophybasics.com/movements_analytic.html), and its strict and precise use of terminology and conceptual frameworks? Modern philosophy has come a long way, in terms of form and precision, from the vagueness and ambiguity of much spiritual literature.
      In any case, the entirety of my work is philosophy (ontology). I am not doing any science whatsoever in any of my books or essays. I am not doing experiments or creating predictive models. I am interpreting experiments and predictive models created and empirically confirmed by others. So the differentiation you suggest just isn't there.
      Whether I do my work well or not is up to the world.

      Delete
    4. Don, perhaps a more formal response is required? I've seen you criticize Bernardo recently, but the criticisms are generally vague ("conceptual mess"). I understand comments sections are not good places for greater details, but I think it would help both of you if you could nail down the very specific points of disagreement.

      Delete
  10. Capitalizing random things is usually a dead give-away that someone has built their own internal language. The above comments also reveal this: definitions during discussion appear too early on and it stops there. It looks like this discussion needs to be taken to Wittgenstein for processing! I recommend using more real-world examples to communicate matter-of-factly such that any layman can grasp what you're trying to say. Layman interpretations is a valid test of a writing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Bernardo, your article is clearer than the sand at the bottom of a shallow lagoon on a summer's day. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Most popular posts of the past 12 months

Dismantling idols: the current cultural inflection point

Thoughts and plans for 2017

Aristotle, Nagarjuna and the Law of Non-Contradiction in Buddhist Philosophy

Conquering the fear of oblivion (in 15 minutes)

Idealism vs. Common Sense