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:
- 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.
- Therefore, I must acknowledge the existence of that which experiences.
- 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.
- The behavior of that which experiences and the witnessing of such behavior by that which experiences are a single process: experience.
- 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.
- I model these behaviors as oscillations, vibrations or excitations of that which experiences, much like a ripple is an oscillatory behavior of water.
- Given our linguistic associations, I consider it entirely valid to call that which experiences 'mind' or 'consciousness.'
- 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.
- I argue that the inner-lives of different living beings are dissociated streams of experience of that which experiences.
- Finally, I argue that metabolizing organisms – that is, living bodies – are what these dissociated streams of experience look like from a second-person perspective.
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