Video philosophy, part 2

In the past few days, a couple new videos were released where I discuss some serious, and some a little more dreamy, aspects of metaphysics:

I hope you enjoy!

Tying up a few loose ends

German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers. See discussion below. Source: Wikipedia.

No, this is not another Novella post. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you, inspired by all the discussions and developments of this week. This article will be a little more fragmented than usual; more of a flow-of-consciousness thing. It won't be building up to any single conclusion at the end, but just parsing through several more or less connected ideas as a kind of overall balance of the week's insights and intuitions.

One thing that strikes me repeatedly when debating materialists is their non-thought-through, but understandable, notion that if a subjective mental state can be achieved through material means (say, drugs), then that is immediately construed as evidence for the notion that the brain causes the mind. In my debate with Novella, he alluded to Ketamine (a known psychedelic at lower doses) causing NDE-like experiences, or to magnetic fields causing OBE-like experiences, construing both as evidence for materialism. Perhaps people are so used to thinking of religion as the only alternative to materialism that other reasonable and non-supernatural logical possibilities don't even come to mind. If the brain modulates and localizes consciousness, without causing it, it is not only acceptable but expectable that physical interference with the brain will change subjective states. Not only that, partial de-activation of certain brain processes through physical means (e.g. drugs, magnetic fields, hyper-ventilation, asphyxiation, meditation, brain entrainment, ordeals, sensory deprivation, prayer, etc.) would be expected to allow consciousness to partially de-localize and expand, which is consistent with NDE- and OBE-like reports. There is nothing extraordinary about the possibility of inducing valid, transcendent experiences through physical means; just as there is nothing extraordinary about the possibility that consciousness is fundamental and not reducible. Assuming otherwise is a throwback to archaic preconceptions that modern thinking should be able to overcome.

Something else now. A lot of attention has gone this week into the Carhart-Harris psilocybin study. In a way, that's a pity. As I have always emphasized, what I believe to see here is a broad, ancient pattern associating peak experiences with activities that reduce blood flow to the brain. The psilocybin study is but one small part of that, albeit a particularly polemic part because of the associated fMRI measurements. So I am not surprised that my debate with Novella has ended up with so much emphasis on this particular work, to the detriment of the broader pattern: It was unavoidable, given the inadmissibility of nearly all other evidence from the perspective of the most hardcore materialists. Yet, at a fundamental level, there is no reason to look upon psilocybin effects as any more telling or important than those experienced by people who achieve transcendence (a.k.a. de-localization) through breathing techniques; or pilots experiencing NDE-like narratives induced by G-LOC; or aboriginals learning about the 'secrets of nature' through initiatory ordeals; or people experiencing higher states of transcendence after surgery-induced brain damage, as this paper reported; etc. In all these cases, we have instances of processes that directly damage or reduce blood flow to the brain, leading to peak experiences. Since the brain, like any organ, is powered by metabolism, reduction or cessation of blood flow must ultimately reduce or stop brain activity, whether one is measuring it with an fMRI or not. As such, the Carhart-Harris psilocybin study is both a blessing and a curse for the hypothesis that I am putting forward: It steals the focus from where it should be, as, in hindsight, my debate with Novella so clearly illustrates.

And this brings me to another topic: I've read many times this week the accusation that 'my certainty that materialism is dead is premature.' I didn't react to this, nor to a number of other comments, because I had no option but to be selective regarding what I could spend my time on. But as I sit here on Friday late afternoon, relaxing and anticipating the weekend, I'd like to come back to this. As an extreme skeptic (so much so that I am often described by skeptics as a believer!), I am sure of nothing but the fact that I am conscious. So attributions of certainty to my positions are misplaced. As such, I am not absolutely sure that materialism is false, in the exact same way that I am not absolutely sure of anything but my own consciousness. What I think is that materialism is not the best metaphysics for explaining the data and personal experiences at my disposal. If, during a debate, I seem to take too radical an anti-materialist position, it is to antagonize my debating opponent with the intent of forcing his best arguments to come to the table. That said, I sincerely believe what I am arguing; I'm absolutely honest when I stake a position for myself. And the problem I see with the modern skeptical movement is a lack of skepticism and critical attitude; namely, skepticism and critical attitude towards their own default positions.

Curiously, I started the week by writing a piece in which I was critical of the new New Age movement  a segment of society that has been very welcoming of my ideas, even though I suspect they are often not properly understood  and its fantastic narratives and uncritical approach to reality. And I now end the week in direct conflict with one of the main figures of the skeptical movement. As I mentioned in that earlier piece, "whoever tries to remain individually balanced now finds him or herself isolated and friendless in the crossfire between these extreme poles; a situation wherein its easy to be alienated and difficult to belong." How prophetic that was, only a few days ago. This whole thing makes me wonder: Would self-proclaimed 'skeptics' be able to be themselves without the soft targets of religious and New Age figures they've made a sport of harassing? And equivalently, would religions or the New Age have the same power of group cohesion and clarity of purpose if not for the 'skeptics' that constantly keep them in check? It's curious to wonder about the relationships of inter-dependency that might be at play here. One is tempted to step back and stare in awe at the social and historical dynamics underlying this entire hysteria of the modern age; an age where few actually see all the ways in which they've lost objectivity; and themselves. In pondering all this, my mind reaches back to Karl Jaspers and his brilliant assessment of the elusive pattern underlying human history. I feel humbled to recognize, in the brief blink-of-an-eye that my life is, a local expression of that pattern.

Let me take the opportunity here to take my hat off to Dr. Steven Novella, for his willingness to engage in a debate with an admittedly less qualified stranger as far as one of the specialisms in contention. He took (and maybe will still take) risks in doing so, but chose to be true to his own position. I respect that. I also reserve special respect for people who spend their lives helping others free themselves from, or at least alleviate, their pain and suffering; indeed, I can see no more noble occupation. If Dr. Novella chooses to discontinue our debate now, as he suggested in his last post, I will understand it. Perhaps better than anyone else right now, I understand very well the amount of time and energy that needs to be invested to engage properly in a debate like this; time and energy scarcely available to most of us. On the other hand, if Dr. Novella opts to continue, I will be honored and eager to carry on, for I think we've done (are doing) something good here. None of this means, of course, that I will take any less sharp, spirited, or confrontational a tone or attitude in the debate, if it continues.

There is no better way to end the week than to quote Jaspers:
Truth is that which links us to one another. (in The Origin and Goal of History, p. 10)

Novella's reply, part 4

(The positions I defend below have been much more extensively, precisely and clearly argued in some of my academic papers.)

The "peak" of mount Damavand, in Iran. Image source: Wikipedia. 

And here we go again. Novella replied with an addendum at the end of his previous post. You need to scroll down to see it. I wouldn't have seen it hadn't a reader pointed it out to me. But let's have a look at what he is saying now:
He gives no operational definition of what “peak” means (seems like just another way of saying “intense”).
Simply untrue. I find it amusing that Novella makes claims like this when the entire conversation is on record for everyone to see. Here is a direct quote from my previous response: "The fallacy here is that Novella talks merely of 'intensity,' while conveniently ignoring the other hallmarks of psychedelic experiences: Their structure, coherence, unfathomable complexity, and the fact that they are often described as 'more real than real.'" So I am explicitly adding structure, coherence, complexity, and sense of ultra-reality to the idea of intensity; not just saying 'intensity' in a different way.
He doesn’t address my points.
I thought I addressed everything of significance to the issues under contention, point by point. What did I miss, Dr. Novella? Let me know and I will react to it.
Psychadelic [sic] experiences are so emotionally mindblowing because they are outside of our everyday neurological experiences ... None of this  implies that there has to be more neuronal firing going on.
Novella repeats his vague claims but doesn't say very precisely where my argument goes wrong. So let me try it again in a more explicit way, in the interest of advancing the discussion in a more specific and precise manner:
  1. Psychedelic experiences involve all categories of mental function: all five sense modalities, all types of emotion, all types of cognitive activity (language and symbolic aspects, artistic aspects, logical aspects, the finding of connections between mental symbols, etc.), mental reconstructions of physical activities, etc.; all conflated together in an unfathomable apotheosis of subjectivity. So all aspects of mental function are encompassed by psychedelic trances, and brought up to extremely high levels of intensity. I have substantiated this claim with plenty of references in my previous post. For good measure I'll throw in this extra: At least two Nobel prize winners have acknowledged that their key insights were derived from psychedelic trances; (Curious? Here they are: Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, and Kary Mullis, who improved the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique in biochemistry. And let me keep Steve Jobs out of it.)
  2. Since Novella's postulate is that the mind is brain activity, from (1) we can deduce that psychedelic trances should thus make use of at least most resources of brain function normally associated with conscious experience. Were this to be untrue, the absurd implication would be that the brain normally uses significantly more metabolic energy to accomplish what it could accomplish with much less;
  3. We know empirically that extra neuronal firings w.r.t. to an ordinary baseline of activity, visible in an fMRI, are required for the most trivial of mental tasks. Were this not to be the case, an fMRI would have no use. As if it were necessary, I also provided scientific references to this in my previous post;
  4. From (1) and (3), or (2) and (3), we can deduce that, under Novella's postulate, psychedelic trances should make the brain light up like a Christmas tree (w.r.t. to an ordinary baseline of activity) when observed with an fMRI. As a matter of fact, this was the common materialist 'wisdom' before the Carhart-Harris study;
  5. The Carhart-Harris psilocybin study shows that, on the contrary, there are only decreases in brain activity during psychedelic trances;
  6. From (4) and (5) we can deduce that Novella is wrong.
Where is my argument wrong?
There is nothing “peak” about psychedelic experiences. They are just really different from what we are used to, because our brains are functioning differently. Some processing-intensive modules are out of the mix, like reality testing. So reality is constructed differently from anything we experience in normal wakefulness. Of course these are intense and life altering.
With all due respect, Dr. Novella seems to have no idea what he is talking about here. But I will let him fight this out with the researchers at Johns Hopkins; or those of New Mexico's School of Medicine (references in my previous post). Or, better yet: with the volunteers of those studies (see the movie clip I linked to my previous response), who are the only ones actually in a position to know whether the experience really is peak or not.

I'd like to close this post with a quote from Dr. Rick Strassman, the researcher who started the modern phase of psychedelic research, referring to the effects of the drug in his volunteers:
[Volunteers] unquestionably had some of the most intense, unusual, and unexpected experiences of their lives. [The drug] thrust research subjects into themselves, out of their bodies, and through various planes of reality ... it is almost inconceivable that [the drug] could provide access to such an amazingly varied array of experiences. (Rick Strassman, in DMT: The Spirit Molecule)
The book has several chapters on experience reports from his volunteers, ranging from mystical experiences, to encounters with entities, to expeditions into worlds of hyper-dimensional geometry; the lot. I recommend it to anyone honestly interested in learning what a psychedelic experience actually is.

Novella's reply, part 3

(The positions I defend below have been much more extensively, precisely and clearly argued in some of my academic papers.)

Neuroscientists evaluating fMRI images. Image source: Wikipedia.

Continuing on with the discussion, Steven Novella's latest response can be found here. In the interest of brevity, in what follows I will focus on the key points of contention, leaving out the parts where I guess we simply agree to disagree, and the less significant parts where we may actually be close to an agreement of sorts. My focus on the points of contention should not be interpreted as a sign that I don't want to acknowledge convergence anywhere; I just think that debating contentious points is much more productive, useful, and interesting.
Prior PET studies did show increases in brain activity with psilocybin.
Which was tentatively, yet cogently, explained in the Carhart-Harris study in question: "It is therefore possible that phasic or short-term effects of psilocybin show some rebound that is detected by longer-term changes in glucose metabolism." In other words, what the PET studies showed was not the effect of psilocybin, but a later rebound in metabolism. One should keep in mind that, unlike in the PET study Novella is referring to, in the Carhart-Harris study patients were in the scanner while the drug was being administered, which leaves little room for doubt on the timeline.
These experiences are only “intense” because they are so unreal. This does not require increased neuronal firing.
The fallacy here is that Novella talks merely of 'intensity,' while conveniently ignoring the other hallmarks of psychedelic experiences: Their structure, coherence, unfathomable complexity, and the fact that they are often described as "more real than real." (see Rick Strassman's study at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine, described in his book The Spirit Molecule). Novella is creating a straw-man by subtly, yet massively, under-characterizing the experience, and then casually explaining such under-characterization away. By implying that it's all about mere 'intensity,' he makes it all sound so innocent, while in reality the phenomenology he is taking upon himself to explain embodies the very peak of human conscious experience. Psychedelic trances, alongside mystical experiences, are well-known to entail the apotheosis of subjective experience in all its qualities and nuances: visual, auditory, tactile, cognitive, emotional, syntactical, logical, etc. Such peak experiences are what Novella has to explain without availing himself of extra neuronal firings; not merely an 'intense' experience. So let's make sure that we understand what we are talking about here, and not fall for this little semantic ploy.

In a study at Johns Hopkins (the actual paper is better than this link, but behind a paywall), researchers found that 71% of the volunteers described a psilocybin experience as the top, or among the top five, most spiritually significant of their lives. To get a taste for how volunteers describe psilocybin trances, have a look at a few reports at Erowid's experience vault. The video below may also help: Even though the substance used was DMT, the latter is very similar to psilocybin both chemically and phenomenologically.

After you've taken all this in, consider this: What Novella is saying is that all these peak experiences can occur without increased neuronal firing, and still be consistent with the materialist paradigm. Apparently, according to Novella, increased neuronal firing is not required for the brain to construct, starting for an ordinary baseline, extremely complex, coherent, populated 'worlds,' wherein volunteers undergo life-times of life-changing, complex, coherent experiences. If it's true that extra neuronal firings are not needed for this, one is then forced to wonder: What, then, are neuronal firings needed for? If the construction of an entire alternative mental universe can be accomplished by the brain without extra firings, why do we ever see the brain produce extra firings, and therefore spend more energy, for anything at all? An fMRI would be a useless tool in this case: It would always measure the same, static, unchanging baseline, whatever one is doing... after all, why spend more metabolism to do something that can be done with less? You see, if the brain can produce such peak phenomenology as a psychedelic 'trip' without extra neuronal firings, we might as well abandon neuronal firings as the physiological mechanism behind subjective experience, which defeats Novella's flavor of materialism. So, ironically enough, Novella's explanation is actually a liability for the mainstream interpretation of how the brain generates the mind. I guess Stuart Hameroff would find all this very interesting. (for the record, I don't subscribe to most of Hameroff's ideas)

But wait; that's not all. We know that the mere clenching of a hand in a regular dream increases neuronal firings in a way that is clearly visible with an fMRI, the same instrument used in the psilocybin study. So I ask you: How come extra neuronal firings are needed to produce the dull dreamed-up experience of clenching a hand, while they are not needed to produce the supposedly dreamed-up, peak experience of going to 'other universes,' interacting with 'entities,' transcending time and space, gaining deep understanding of 'hyper-dimensional' geometry, cognition, and universal history and telos?

Novella's position here simply doesn't add up; it's contradictory and defies reason. Where is Novella's renowned common-sense and skepticism when it comes to his own speculations?
Kastrup argues that if the above explanation were true, then we would expect one of three things: First, we may see increased activity in the disinhibited areas of the brain. This is not necessarily the case, however. The activity might be the same, but since it is no longer being modulated and modified by reality testing centers the net experience can be very different.
Here Novella is rejecting the first of the three scenarios I offered him. So far so good, since I believe all three scenarios are untenable. By rejecting the first he is still on the same page with me. Next, he makes a little intermezzo to talk about another topic:
Also – to clarify a point I made in my previous reply to Kastrup – I was not arguing that proportionality never exists when looking at brain function. My point was that proportionality does not necessarily exist in every case, and so the absense of proportionality does not break materialist correlation. There certainly is increased brain activity correlating with increased subjective mental activity, but this simple magnitude correlation does not hold when we are talking about the interaction among the various brain regions.
Though the comment above is a little vague and evasive, I construe from it that Novella actually thinks proportionality holds in principle, but is not easily measurable because of other dynamics taking place concurrently and which conflate in the final fMRI pictures. This was my original position, so he may actually be agreeing with me here. Let me unpack my thinking a bit more to see if we are indeed in agreement: As Novella explained, the materialist paradigm entails that consciousness is a physiological process in the brain. Therefore, materialists need to determine what specific physiological process is conscious experience (let's label it the 'consciousness process'). Once that is pinned down, proportionality, of course, must apply fully: If consciousness is the physiological process in question, all qualities of subjective experience must map onto measurable properties of the consciousness process; because they are the same thing. Of course, myriad other processes that also have a metabolic fingerprint may interfere and become intertwined with the 'consciousness process' through e.g. inhibition, which is why Novella denies (the ability to measure) proportionality at a more global and conflated level. If my interpretation here is correct, I'm absolutely fine with this.

Now, based on earlier comments of his, Novella seems to assume that the consciousness process is linked to, and dependent upon, neuronal firings. Indeed, when he earlier argued that psychedelic trances did not require "increased neuronal firings," he was implicitly linking subjective experience to neuronal firings. This way, Novella's position can be stated as following: There can be no conscious experience without associated neuronal firings (although that doesn't mean that neuronal firings are sufficient for consciousness, which is clearly not the case). For a neuron to fire, excitatory synaptic potentials must carry its action potential beyond the firing threshold; i.e. there can be no firings without excitatory processes. Therefore, I construe from all this that Novella in fact agrees with the following statement of my previous post: "...subjective experience is proportional to the intensity of the corresponding excitatory processes (for a given, constant level of inhibition, so the inhibition variable can be isolated)."

Now, if this is indeed true, I am yet more baffled that Novella believes that psychedelic 'trips' do not require, under materialism, extra neuronal firings when compared to the baseline activity. After all: (a) neuronal firings are metabolic gas-guzzlers that do show up clearly in an fMRI; and (b), as discussed above, psychedelic experiences must be associated with the neuronal firings of their corresponding excitatory processes. So where are these processes? Here Novella attempts the explanation under the second one of my three scenarios: is not unreasonable that, in essence, fantasies are going on in the background all the time. Our brains are pattern recognition machines, and there is a vibrant internal conversation going on within our brains all the time.
It sounds so reasonable at first sight, doesn't it? But make no mistake: What Novella is suggesting here is that the excitatory processes that supposedly correspond to the full-force of a peak psychedelic experience are playing out all the time in our brains. You may need some time to grok the full implication of this: What other people describe as the top experience of their lives, something they can hardly put in words and which changes their perspective on reality for life, is supposedly happening within your brain right now, as you read this; you just don't notice it. What for? Why? What evolutionary advantage could this have? Subconscious noise I can understand, but coherent, complex, unfathomable storylines playing out unconsciously and wasting metabolic energy all the time, for no reason? Well-constructed, consistent, otherworldly stories that the brain goes through the trouble of building and 'telling' even though there's 'nobody listening'? Well, I'll let you be the judge of that. But mind you this: There is no positive, objective evidence that Novella's promissory speculation here holds any water, so the only criterion of judgment is your reason and common-sense.

Now Novella moves on to address my third scenario: That, by some mysterious hypothetical mechanism, the inhibitions caused by the drug somehow lead subconscious 'noise' to coalesce in the form of a structured, complex, coherent peak experience, and yet without altering the metabolic signature of the original 'noise.' So the two key points that need to be tackled under this third scenario are: (a) What is this hypothetical mechanism that turns neuronal noise into coherent, peak (don't forget this; we're talking peak experiences here) narratives for no reason? And (b) How can such unfathomable phenomenological shift in experience be accomplished without any measurable change in the corresponding metabolic signature given that, according to Novella, experience is metabolism? He then writes:
I think Kastrup vastly underestimates the subconscious “noise” that is going on in the brain during normal activity.  There is a large amount of both psychological and neuroscientific evidence for the conclusion that there is a great deal of subconscious processing, including generating lots of noise. We attend demonstrably to a very small portion of this activity. Our brains select small portions of both sensory input and our internal communication to weave into a highly constructed narrative we experience as our stream of consciousness. Altering this stream significantly without changing overall brain activity makes perfect sense.
This is the full explanation he gives; His next paragraph is just more of the usual (and entertaining, I might add) mud-throwing aimed at me; So everything he has to say about the third scenario is in the quote above. Pause for a moment... Take a look at the quote again...

...Did you notice it?

He doesn't even attempt to tackle either of the two key points. He only states what I had already not only acknowledged but volunteered myself: That there is subconscious noise; well, "a great deal" of it. Duh. He simply repeats the framing of the scenario and ends with the unsubstantiated pronouncement that it all "makes perfect sense." This may be satisfactory to Novella, but certainly not to me.

So, in summary, Novella argues that my own second and third scenarios could actually be the explanation for the Carhart-Harris psilocybin results. But in doing so, he fails to address the reasons why I had rejected all three scenarios to begin with. Perhaps he's explained it all to his own satisfaction, but in that case I take the liberty to be a little more critical and skeptical. Either way, his explanations are merely tentative and promissory speculation, but that's okay. The real problem is that Novella creates, under both scenarios, a straw-man for the phenomenology he took upon himself to explain: Psychedelic trances are not merely intense experiences; they are the peak experiences in the world of human consciousness. By suggesting that such apotheosis of subjectivity can happen without a measurable delta in neuronal firings w.r.t. an ordinary baseline, Novella is actually flirting with shooting at materialism: If neuronal firings are not necessary to explain peak experiences, what are they necessary for as far as providing ontological grounding for consciousness? Without realizing it, Novella is, in a way, making my own point.

Novella's reply, part 2

(The positions I defend below have been much more extensively, precisely and clearly argued in some of my academic papers.)

Chimpanzee brain in a jar. Image source: Wikipedia.

My exchange with Steven Novella continues. See his latest reply here. Below, my systematic, point-by-point response:
What I do expect is that they will interpret my posts fairly and not criticize me for not exploring issues that I have explored elsewhere.
This comment, on itself, is fair enough; but in view of what Novella himself did, it becomes ludicrous. Novella wrote in his previous post: "Kastrup seems to be completely unaware of the critical concept of disinhibition and therefore completely misinterprets the significance of the neuroscience research." Now, I had written three entire, detailed articles exploring specifically this issue of disinhibition, all of which I explicitly linked in my original post. So I also "do expect ... that [Novella] will interpret my posts fairly and not criticize me for not exploring issues that I have explored elsewhere."
In his criiticism [sic] he accused me as assuming causation from correlation, but I never did ... In his new reply he does not acknowledge his error, or point out where I was wrong, or even give any indication that he understands his error.
To the extent that the specific post I was commenting on did put a lot of weight on correlation as evidence for causation, I hesitate on retreating on this point. But if that helps advance the debate towards issues of more substance, fine: Novella's position regarding the relationship between correlation and causation seems to be more nuanced and subtle than I gathered from the specific article I was commenting on.
The problem, from a scientific point of view, is that the notion that the brain modulates consciousness becomes operationally inseparable from the notion that the brain causes consciousness, at least in terms of the experimental relationship between brain function and mental function.
This is clearly untrue. The modulation hypothesis predicts that there are subjective mind states that do not correlate with objective brain states. Such prediction is invalid under the causation hypothesis. To make this more explicit: Modulation does not establish a fundamental ontological dependency of consciousness on the brain. Here is an analogy: A radio transmitter modulates a carrier-wave according to an audio signal, but the existence of the carrier wave is not dependent on the modulation process; it can exist even when not modulated. Therefore, under the modulation hypothesis of the mind-brain problem, one can in principle find special circumstances under which consciousness departs from the constraints of the modulation: Like the carrier wave, consciousness exists whether it's being modulated or not. But if one claims that consciousness exists only insofar as the brain generates it, then a single instance of a conscious state uncorrelated to a brain state would disprove the claim. So here we have the falsifiability test between these two hypotheses: If it can be experimentally determined that there are mind states uncorrelated with brain states, the causation hypothesis is invalidated and the modulation hypothesis becomes the more likely scenario for explaining the ordinary correlations between brain states and mind states.
There doesn’t seem to be anything coming from outside the brain – but worse, the concept is completely unnecessary. It is sliced away cleanly by Occam’s razor.
This is acceptable only if one ignores the wealth of evidence for the existence of mind states uncorrelated to brain states. Novella seems to dismiss all evidence related to, for instance, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), despite much of it being collected under scientific protocols, as in the work of Dr. Pim van Lommel; or that of Dr. Peter Fenwick; or of Dr. Bruce Greyson; and of so many others, like Dr. Sam Parnia, Dr. Raymond Moody, etc.. Perhaps a much-talked about paper titled "There is Nothing Paranormal About Near-Death Experiences" explains away NDEs, despite astonishing admissions of the paper's co-author after publication. Perhaps Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Eben Alexander – who, unlike Novella, has had a first-hand experience with NDEs and, therefore, has more data to work with than Novella  is not competent enough to find an appropriate materialist model for such data.

No, I don't want to go into a debate about NDEs, because I think the evidence extends much beyond NDEs, as I sought to illustrate here (a reference which I hereby incorporate as integral part of this response). A recent new tome is also rich in evidence for mind states uncorrelated to brain states. But independent of the validity of any of these references, my point is this: Though Novella is entitled to hold any opinion he wishes regarding the evidence available for uncorrelated mind states, the evidence is substantial enough (in the form e.g. of myriad peer-reviewed scientific publications, like van Lommel's article in The Lancet, to mention only one example) that reference to it in any debate about the mind-body problem is legitimate; it's a legitimate point of contention. To claim otherwise is to dismiss the validity of the peer-review process, which, for obvious consistency reasons, would force Novella to equally dismiss the other scientific results he uses to justify his positions. So I do not grant Novella's claim above, which I consider arbitrary and incorrect.
...the introduction of something as extraordinary as mental function apart from the brain is completely unwarranted.
The characterization of non-physical consciousness as "extraordinary" is a paradigm-laden, subjective, and arbitrary one. Thomas Kuhn has already cogently warned us about the dangers of this kind of biased, restrictive thinking.
He is citing controversial (at best) claims as support for his position. What he calls strong scientific evidence is laughable, is not generally accepted by the scientific community and only persists on the fringe.
This is ludicrous. I just referenced a paper above published in The Lancet. The psilocybin study I mentioned, and which Novella proceeds to comment on immediately after the quote above, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the USA. Is PNAS fringe? Is the peer-review process of The Lancet laughable? Controversial, yes; that's how science moves forward, which anyone marginally versed in history will be able to attest to.

Now Novella proceeds to criticize my characterization of brain processes as inhibitory and excitatory:
He [i.e. me] is confusing different levels of brain activity – this [i.e. excitatory and inhibitory processes] is an accurate description of the effects of specific neurotransmitters on specific receptors on neurons, they will either increase or decrease the activity of those neurons. But this is not a good description of how different parts of the brain interact ... different parts of the brain are active in processing information from other parts of the brain. They modify how the other parts of the brain are working, or the net effect of that processing on our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and net subjective experience.
So far, okay. But now he attempts to explain how subjects in which brain activity has been reduced through the use of a drug (psilocybin), and not increased anywhere in the brain, can experience unfathomable psychedelic trances:
When you remove one element from the committee of voices contributing to net experience, that experience changes. It may be that some some other “voices” are more prominent, because they are not being modified, inhibited, or drowned out by other parts of the brain.
This is generic, vague, and explains precisely nothing regarding the psilocybin results. It's curious to note, too, that what Novella calls "voices" are basically excitatory brain processes. That, ironically, brings us right back to my original framing of the problem, which Novella attempted to dismiss only a couple of lines earlier. Be that as it may, let me attempt to sharpen up the discussion and make the issues more explicit: For Novella's point to hold, he has to ground the psychedelic experience on a metabolic process somewhere in the brain; i.e. some brain excitation somewhere. After all, a completely non-excited brain is akin to a dead brain, which cannot produce subjective experience. Now, as I discussed in another article, which Novella is still ignoring despite my repeated references to it, I can then see three scenarios:
  1. New excitatory processes, not originally present in the placebo baseline, arise and grow due to reduced inhibition;
  2. Reduced inhibition causes ordinarily subconscious but coherent excitatory processes, already in the placebo baseline, to cross the threshold of awareness without any increase in their metabolic signature;
  3. When the drug de-activates certain (inhibitory) control centres in the brain, incoherent subconscious noise coalesces, by some unknown mechanism, in the form of a coherent psychedelic 'trip,' and yet with no change in its metabolic signature.
In my previous article (which I hereby incorporate as an integral part of this response), I argued why none of these three scenarios is a reasonable explanation for the observations of the psilocybin study. I submit that argument here, by reference, to Dr. Novella. If Novella prefers other scenarios, that's fine too; so long as we can move the discussion forward on explicit, sharp, and specific terms – not vague hand-waving or obscurantism.
He gives as an example the intense mystical experiences caused by some drugs or during out of body experiences. The latter is now known to be caused by inhibiting brain regions, not enhancing them.
That's precisely my point. Thank you.
Further, this is preliminary research and neuroscientists are still debating how to interpret it, so it is hardly a solid premise with which to discard the materialist paradigm.
This seems to be Novella's first sort-of-admission that the results in this paper are indeed problematic for materialists. But this aside, I explicitly acknowledged before that Carhart-Harris' and Nutt's paper is but one study, and that science is made from patterns of results, not individual results. Here I said literally: "I think that, although this research represents a milestone in our understanding of the relationship between mind and brain, it is just one study. Its results must be replicated before definite conclusions can be arrived at." However, I went on to say: "Yet, there is a broader pattern associating peak subjective experiences with reduced blood flow to the brain, as I wrote in another article." I stand by this. Moreover, let's not lose from sight the fact that this is a carefully conducted and extensively peer-reviewed study. There is a sense in which every research result is always preliminary (I've been a practicing, professional scientist too), but this one isn't a half-baked piece of work by any stretch of the imagination. As such, it is absolutely valid and legitimate to refer to it, despite its results being uncomfortable for materialists.
Kastrup also makes the simplistic and wrong assumption that intensity of experience must equate to greater brain activity (in the purely materialist model).
What Novella is referring to here is the notion of proportionality: the idea that the intensity of subjective experience is proportional to the intensity of brain activation. Let me start by saying that I acknowledge the existence of other notions in neuroscience, like e.g. "specificity," according to which specific experiences are associated to specific sub-sets of neurons. Specificity is contradictory with proportionality. Yet, sometimes the data fits better with the notion of specificity, and sometimes with the notion of proportionality. So some materialists use both notions, depending on the evidence at hand, to justify the paradigmatic assumption that the brain generates the mind. In fact, many other mutually-contradictory mappings between objective physiology and subjective phenomenology are often alluded to to substantiate materialism. I wrote about this interesting phenomenon before here (which I hereby add as integral part of this response). So when I alluded to proportionality, I was referring to an explanatory model that materialists do use, and have used when debating me, to justify their position. As a matter of fact, when one uses the ordinarily observed correlations between brain states and mind states to argue for materialism, one is flirting very closely with the notion of proportionality.

Still, Novella's example to counter the notion of proportionality misses the point entirely:
The massive frontal lobes, however, can have a largely calming effect. They can be furiously active while having the net effect of modulating emotions and experience specifically to make them less “intense,” from a subjective and emotional point of view. Anyone who has dealt with a patient who has had frontal lobe damage (and decreased brain activity) will know this to be true. Intensity of experience does not equal intensity of neuronal firing.
So he is saying that the frontal lobes may have an inhibitory role, so the more they are activated, the lesser the subjective experience. This is because they dampen the activation of other excitatory processes that correspond to the experience. Such effect is an obvious implication of the existence of inhibitory processes; it's what they do. But the point in contention here is whether subjective experience is proportional to the intensity of the corresponding excitatory processes (for a given, constant level of inhibition, so the inhibition variable can be isolated). Novella's example thus fails to address the point in contention.

Having said all this, none of the three scenarios I referred to above, and described in this article, depends on the notion of proportionality (in my argument under scenario 2 I briefly allude to proportionality, but clearly explain why it's not required to invalidate the scenario). So by dismissing proportionality Novella still does not help explain the results of the psilocybin study in contention. For clarity: My argument that the psilocybin study results cannot be explained by materialist assumptions does not depend on the notion of proportionality. I countered proportionality merely in an attempt to be complete in my analysis, since some materialists do conveniently use proportionality as evidence for their position, when the data in contention is conducive to it.
He should at least exhibit a little tiny bit of humility when confronting neuroscientists about neuroscience.
Truths and arguments stand on their own or fail on their own. Either way, they are not determined by authority, otherwise we would still be living under the notion that the Earth is the center of the universe. I believe I'm arguing objectively and with respect, and that should be sufficient. Now, the fact that Novella is a neuroscientist and I am not, as he so eagerly points out above, should only make it easier for him to destroy my arguments: after all, by his own admission, I am playing with a disadvantage here.

Novella's reply

(The positions I defend below have been much more extensively, precisely and clearly argued in some of my academic papers.)

Razmnama illustration of a debate. Source: Wikipedia.

Steven Novella has replied, on his blog, to my earlier post on an older opinion piece he had written. While I appreciate his having taken the time to reply, I am also somewhat surprised by the sheer amount of space he dedicates to ad homenen attacks on me, which dilutes his argument and the quality of the debate. While I agree that dancing on the edge of a personal attack does make a debate sharper and more interesting, Novella exaggerates on this to the point of making his position look desperate and weak, which was, in my view, unnecessary.

Be it as it may, I'll focus on content, addressing his comments systematically:
I further think that he probably just read one blog post in the long chain of my posts about dualism and so did not make a sufficient effort to actually understand my position.
This is correct. So let me take the opportunity to be explicit: I only read the post that was forwarded to me, and my comments were based on that alone. If Novella’s position in other posts was more nuanced, I’ve missed that, since I do not know Novella's work. But if this is an error on my side, Novella has committed the exact same error already in the title of his reply: Had he read anything of my work besides the post he is replying to, he would have seen that I am precisely not a Dualist, but a monist (for instance, see this). Therefore, he also "did not make a sufficient effort to actually understand my position." This comes back in several points of his reply.
Causes precede effects, so again if the brain causes mind then we would expect changes to brain states to precede their corresponding mental states, and in every case of which we are currently aware, they do.
In my article, I mentioned several models for the relationship between mind and brain under which the exact same phenomenology is expected: Changes to brain states leading to changes in subjective experience. My post was very clear about this, so I am surprised Novella seems to have difficulties on this point. To be explicit: If the brain merely modulates subjective experience (through filtering and/or localization, for instance), then one would expect precisely that disturbances in the brain would impact the modulation process and, thereby, alter subjective experience. I invite Dr. Novella to acquaint himself a little more with these other explanatory models of mind-brain interaction so we can continue with the debate in a more productive manner. As it stands now, his argument bears no relevance to the alternative models I brought up.
That the brain causes mind is not a philosophical proof (something I never claimed), but a scientific inference.
It is only possible to infer, from a correlation between A and B, that A is the only cause of B when, for all observed cases, B occurs after A. If B occurs without A, even in a single confirmed case, then, at the very least, there are more than one causes for B and B does not ontologically depend exclusively on A. So if mind states do not always correlate with brain states, one can infer, under Occam's razor, that mind is not ontologically dependent on the brain; i.e. the brain does not cause the mind. To repeat a point I made in my original post: There is strong scientific evidence for mind states that indeed do not correlate to brain states. So if anything is to be scientifically inferred from current observations, I'd say it is that mind states are not caused, but merely modulated, by brain states.
There are many examples where inhibiting the activity in one part of the brain enhances the activity in another part of the brain through disinhibition.
Again, Novella clearly did not take the time to read the links I provided in my original post. I elaborated extensively on this very issue of (dis)inhibition in several posts, including in my original exchange on this with Dr. Christof Koch. Please consider these:
  1. Response to Dr. Christof Koch
  2. Disembodied trippers
  3. Wanted: a new paradigm for neuroscience

Novella goes on down this hopeless path:
The psilocybin study is a perfect example of this. The drug is inhibiting the reality testing parts of the brain, causing a psychadelic [sic] experience that is disinhibited and intense. This is similar to really intense dreams. (my italics)
As I have pointed out in one of the links above, when you dream the areas of your brain that are generating the dream are clearly activated. For instance, if you dream that you are clenching your hand, the brain areas associated to hand motion show up in an fMRI with a clear increase in activation (see this). Yet, if Novella took the time to read the psilocybin study he is referring to, he will have read that the researchers "observed no increases in cerebral blood flow in any region." In other words, there was no increase in brain activity anywhere in the brain. So Novella's explanation fails before it even begins.

I have discussed the specific points Novella raises here ad nauseum before, so I won't elaborate more. I'm ready to continue the debate if Dr. Novella takes the time to read the three links above, and take the discussion from there.

Kastrup seems to be completely unaware of the critical concept of disinhibition and therefore completely misinterprets the significance of the neuroscience research.
This is precious. Coming from someone who accused me of creating a strawman for not taking the time to acquaint myself with his work, this particular comment is quite ironic.

The rest of Novella's reply contains a lot of hand-waving but no new argument of relevance to the point in dispute. In conclusion, I believe that he did not at all counter any of the points I originally raised. I'm certainly willing to continue the debate if Dr. Novella addresses, with more substance, the contents of the articles I originally linked to as part of my original post, instead of ignoring them as he has done so far.

Fantasies in the modern age

(An improved and updated version of this essay has appeared in my book Brief Peeks Beyond. The version below is kept for legacy purposes.)

The enchanted garden from the Decameron. Source: Wikipedia.

The creation and telling of fantasies has been part and parcel of human life since primordial times. Myths and tales have always given expression to our unconscious processes, and their telling around the fire has played a critical role in the integration of the personalities of our ancestors. Originally, our ancestors did not distinguish myths from facts; fantasies from reality. To this day, as John Mack mentioned in his book Passport to the Cosmos, members of aboriginal cultures do not understand why we, so-called civilized peoples, make such a distinction, for both myth and fact are, equally, realities of the mind. Yet, Western society, at some point, established a break between these two worlds: It emptied the world of myth from its significance, relegating it to a mostly harmless but inconsequential category, while reserving all ontological value for the world of so-called 'facts.' This has now gone on for a couple of hundred years, with the effect of impoverishing our mental lives, as Jung sought to highlight. Now, in the early 21st century, a new dynamics seems to be at play... a dynamics wherein the human collective unconscious seems to be once again trying to close the gap between 'fact' and 'fiction;' but this time in a new and dangerous manner...

Continuous alienation from our own unconscious minds  the realm of myths and fantasies  has left, as a the result, a scar in our psyches: We've become unable to derive psychic energy from anything but the stories that we believe to be objective facts. Our self-imposed cultural indoctrination that myths are inconsequential has left us, as adults, unable to derive meaning and significance from our own fantasies the way a child can. The craving that results from such alienation from ourselves has, in my view, been building up in our society for decades, even centuries now. We try to numb this craving by increasing the sheer impact of what we know to be 'mere' fantasies: Ever louder music, ever more action-packed movies, 3D, IMAX, Dolby Surround, virtual reality, high-tech role-playing games, etc. But, deep inside, we continue to live in psychic poverty, for we 'know' that those are just fantasies. So we turn to newscasts, reality television, and other sources of 'real' stories which we grant ourselves permission to 'believe.' But there, ultimately, we only find disappointment: 'Real' reality is too constrained and static to even approach the evocative power of myth. Poor we are, and continue to be, despite our desperate attempts at meaning and significance.

Realizing that the source of this poverty is the divide between 'fact' and 'fiction,' the unconscious seems, in modern times, to have found a dangerous and desperate way out: While it cannot close the divide, it can attempt to bring fantasy under the category of 'fact,' so we again give ourselves permission to derive meaning from it. In other words, there seems to be an astonishing readiness, on the part of many of us over the past few decades, to believe as fact that which is fantasy on the face of it. Only through such belief do we allow the stories to again reach us, bringing their richness into our psychic lives without the inevitable dismissal reserved for anything deemed 'unreal.' Our willingness to believe fantastic stories that are, at best, delusional and, at worst, cheap attempts at commercial gain, has reached literally incredible levels in some corners of society. As the collective unconscious must always maintain its global equilibrium, this very tendency towards unreasonable belief feeds into the development of an equally hysterical and biased skeptical movement, which is now better organized and funded than ever before in history. Action and counter-action: Balance is maintained at a global level. However, whoever tries to remain individually balanced now finds him or herself isolated and friendless in the crossfire between these extreme poles; a situation wherein its easy to be alienated and difficult to belong. True to this fact, this very article, if anything, will alienate me even more from both sides.

A quick look at a list of popular books and videos over the past couple of decades in the so-called 'New Age' gender  merely an example among many others – reveals an intriguing and recurring attempt to pass what seems to be outright fantasy for fact: Good extraterrestrial aliens trying, as you read this, to free humanity from the tyranny of secret societies and other conspiracies; Invisible inter-planetary wars taking place every day as we 'blindly' go to work in the morning; 'Energy waves' from the galactic center re-architecting our DNA to grant us access to 'higher dimensions;' Channeled messages from Pleiadeans who are about to re-enter human history to rescue the chosen ones among us; Special souls who are being born in human form with a specific mission to prepare the rest of humanity (poor dears) for some kind of ontological shift; and what not. Mind you, these stories are conveyed as fact; not fantasy. Their authors are telling you that this is what is actually happening. Some go as far as presenting them as scientific fact, pointing to an unlikely array of dubious, obscure, pseudo-scientific work on the one hand, and sometimes outrageous misrepresentations of legitimate scientific work on the other hand. As discussed above, the ideas of these authors could be considered merely naive and misguided. They may arise from over-active imaginations seized by the collective unconscious, hungry as the latter is for meaning, richness, and significance.

As such, and in all fairness, these authors are simply meeting a demand. They are tools of a supra-human process, not culprits of a crime. There would be no motivation for any of this if there weren't a collective, unconscious need for rich and meaningful fantasies conveyed under the label of 'fact.' If they were conveyed merely as fantasies, that would 'spoil the effect,' if you will. We want to be deceived; we need to be deceived, because that's the only way the unconscious mind has found to restore meaning, richness, and significance to what has otherwise become a vacuous and purposeless existence, devoid of much of its original evocative power. The current scientific paradigm, which governs the official zeitgeist of our culture, could be well characterized by the way Michael Prescott put it:
None of the key developments in your life was somehow meant for you. No one is looking out for you. No events in your past happened for a reason, and they aren't building up to any future purpose. The story of your life has no continuity and no destination - heck, it's not even a story - and there is nothing to strive for. You were not put here for a reason, you don't matter, and you're deluded if you think you have a "mission" in life. Face facts! You have no calling! The universe couldn't care less about you! Just give up!!!
Such situation is psychically unstable and unsustainable. Indeed, it's a wonder that we have survived so long like this.

Now the key point: This article may, so far, be sounding to you as though I were just 'psychologizing' the modern phenomenon of 'fantastic realism' on the one hand, and dismissing the corresponding stories as mere delusions and fantasies on the other hand. But to conclude this assumes that I don't see anything significant in the unconscious dynamics behind all this. I do.

As detailed in many of my articles, interviews, videos, and books, I hold the position that reality is a projection of mind. I subscribe to the notion that the continuity and seeming autonomy of reality arise from collective structures in the unconscious parts of our minds. Reality is, as such, merely the visible tip of the iceberg of the collective mind, if you will. Now, what I am suggesting above is that the unconscious is restless: It can no longer accept our current zeitgeist; our current cynical view of reality. There is enough empirical, psychological data to suggest that the unconscious craves desperately for new significance, new richness, new meaning. And if reality is just the tip of the unconscious iceberg, such unconscious needs are bound to end up manifesting themselves in reality in very palpable and concrete ways. In other words, because we no longer give ourselves permission to derive fulfillment from what is deemed 'unreal,' our unconscious needs may turn into actual fact in concrete reality. This way, the current hysteria around 'fantastic realism' may be a mere prelude to surprising developments in our near historical future. What now can easily be dismissed by reasonable minds as silly delusion or cheap attempts at commercial gain, may be mere harbingers of an unfathomable shift in our historical storyline.

What the future will bring is anybody's guess. But I, for one, believe it highly unlikely that the adventure of human history can continue much longer in such a meaningless, impoverished, and bland way as it has done for, say, the last 50 years. Creation, I believe, has a telos, and such telos has to do with the evocative power of reality as far as human emotions. An impoverished reality loses such evocative power and defeats its own purpose. Under such circumstances, reality becomes like an engine that began to stutter and is in need of maintenance. So there may be a significant way in which 'fantastic realism' may prove to ultimately be right, just not in the literal sense it's purported to be. After an overdue overhaul, who knows how fast the engine of reality will run, and how much evocative power it will again possess?

Comments on a Steven Novella's piece

I have been asked to comment on this opinion piece by Steven Novella. I found it to contain a mildly interesting but otherwise trite, superficial, and fallacious argument. Novella's main point seems to be that correlation suffices to establish causation. He claims that Egnor denies that neuroscience has found sufficient correlation between brain states and mind states because subjective mind states cannot be measured. He writes:
What he is saying is that neuroscience can correlate everything it can measure (behavior) to brain function and brain states, but that neuroscience cannot measure subjective experience, therefore it cannot explain it.
This whole point is mute and irrelevant. Let's grant that there are indeed tight correlations between mind states and brain states (from personal experience, I think there are, so I actually disagree with Egnor here): That still does not show causation. Mistaking a correlation for a causation is a known fallacy in science, the "cum hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy (see this). If mind states are correlated with brain states, there are at least four logical options:
  1. The brain causes the mind (this is the paradigmatic option);
  2. The mind causes the brain;
  3. Both brain and mind states are caused by a third, unknown, trans-material process;
  4. The correlation illustrates a pattern, not causation.
Option 4 needs some explanation. Alan Watts used this analogy to illustrate it: Suppose you are looking through a slit in a fence. On the other side, a snake goes along the fence. Through the slit, you see first the snake's head, then later the snake's tail. Every time, the tail follows the head. Do you then conclude that the head causes the tail? Or the other way around? No, the correlation between tail and head is merely the consequence of a broader pattern (namely, the snake's body form), not of local causation. Under option 4, brain states and mind states ordinarily correlate simply because they are both part of a trans-material pattern that we cannot see fully, in the same way that we cannot see the whole of the snake's body at once through the slit in the fence.

There are several hypotheses that equally explain the ordinary correlations between mind states and brain states without entailing that the brain causes the mind. I summarized them here. All these options not only explain the correlations, but require the correlations to exist in ordinary states of consciousness. So the observed correlations between mind states and brain states cannot at all be construed as conclusive evidence for materialism; to assume so is, at best, intellectually lazy.

Novella claims that "when the brain dies, mental function ends," and that this has been somehow proven by neuroscience. This is an absurd and logically ridiculous claim. We simply cannot know if mental function ceases upon death, since we do not have access to the conscious states of the individual who died. It's beyond evidence. The only way to claim this is to assume that mental states are (caused by) brain states; but that begs the question: It assumes that which one wants to prove in the first place. It's surprising that Novella seems to fall pray to such basic logical fallacy.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that there are non-ordinary states of consciousness where the usual correlations between brain states and mind states break (see details here). If only one of these cases proves to be true (and I think at least one of them, the psilocybin study at Imperial College, has been proven true beyond reasonable doubt; see my debate on this with Christoph Koch here.), then the hypothesis that the brain causes the mind is falsified. Novella ignores all this evidence in this opinion piece, and writes as if it didn't exist.

Novella talks about the possibility of inducing an OBE (Out of Body Experience) by exposing the brain to high-power magnetic fields that reduce neuronal firing in certain regions. What he fails to realize is that this is entirely consistent with the idea that the brain is a localization mechanism for consciousness: By reducing neuronal firings in certain areas of the localization mechanism, consciousness de-localizes, which is the OBE. He seems so consumed and blinded by his materialist position that he fails to see obvious logical alternatives.

Egnor's claim that neuroscience has so far failed to explain subjective consciousness is, quite simply, true. I find it hard to believe that there is any contention on this. I once wrote about it here.

Finally, Novella suggests that Chalmers is a physicalist. I believe this is a severe misrepresentation of Chalmers' position, even though it doesn't matter as far as the essence of his argument (which is logically fallacious either way). What Chalmers is saying is that there is an undeniable correlation between brain states and subjective mind states. Of course! Only a fool would deny that. But again, physicalism does not follow from that. Novella's repeated attempts to link correlation to causation are, at best, a sign of his lack of scientific imagination.

In my personal view, this superficial and intellectually light-weight opinion piece adds nothing of value to the debate about the mind-body problem.

Video philosophy

I have been absent from this space for a couple of weeks now, which is not my normal way of managing the blog. The thing is, I have been spending most of my available time experimenting with communication through another medium: video. In this YouTube and Vimeo day and age, many of you suggested that I did that. So I thought I'd give it a try, even as a way to balance out the manner in which I communicate: so far, it has been almost entirely in written form, except for the couple of radio interviews I give each month. In this spirit, I want to share with you here the early results of my initiative. Here are the two first-released videos (episodes one and five) of an interview series encompassing eight videos, six of which are yet to be finished over the coming months. The first video, above, basically lays some ground work for what follows, by attempting to dispel the myth that science has (almost) explained all reality and, therefore, philosophy (particularly metaphysics) is no longer needed.

The second video, below, which is actually episode five (the episodes are being shot out of order), talks about a favorite topic of this blog: the relationship between the mind and the brain.

Both videos above are more analytical in structure, well supported by evidence, and the arguments are constructed according to strict logic. To seek a balance with the more artistic and dreamy aspect of our minds, there is also a more imaginative video which simply tells a story about the 'Otherworld'... a story that dances flirtatiously on the border between philosophy and art; between fact and fiction.

I hope you enjoy the videos!