Interview on idealism

Snapshot of my interview with Et Vita.

An interview I gave very recently to Et Vita has just been published. It contains a nice overview of topics I address in my upcoming book tentatively titled Why Materialism is Baloney and, as such, is somewhat of a preview of the book. I hope you enjoy it!


  1. Nice interview! It made me very much look forward to your next book. I find myself in a great deal of agreement with the views you express (which, after all, is a lot of the reason I stay tuned to this blog!). But I do have a few comments:

    I personally think that an expanded science could investigate matters of ultimate reality, by including the data of non-ordinary subjective experiences, similar to how psychology includes the data of ordinary subjective experiences. I don't want to denigrate philosophy, but I think that an expanded science could fuse the two to a degree. In my view, a better science would be more philosophical and a better philosophy more empirical (in the broadest sense of the word). Do you have any thoughts about that?

    I really like your argument about the parsimonious nature of idealism. It turns the tables very neatly on the materialists! As a fellow idealist, though, I have to admit that that parsimony is compromised somehwat by the fact that we are forced to add in a collective unconscious, in order to account for other minds and for "external" reality. In other words, we are still forced to posit a something else in addition to, and fairly inaccessible to, the immediate contents of our minds. Both materialism and idealism are doing that same thing, which seems to soften the contrast between them in terms of parsimony (though I agree that a contrast is still there). At least, that's how it looks to me.

    I really like your analogy of the two levels of the dream--dream character and dream environment. That explains things so well. (I too am no fan of The Secret!) However, I do think that there is evidence for certain people (I'm thinking of spiritual masters in particular) gaining access to the part of the mind that is producing the dream environment. What do you think about that?

    You say, "The body is an image of a process in mind, so if the body dies, that's a clear sign that a mental process is changing or ending, which must correlate to a significant alteration of one's state of consciousness." But wouldn't the death of the body come from the part of mind that dreams the dream environment? Or does it come from the other part?

    1. Robert, sorry for the extremely late reply. Somehow this fell through the cracks.

      In my view science and philosophy are distinct:

      -- Science models the patterns and regularities of nature to make predictions, but it cannot make metaphysical interpretations of those patterns and regularities, since interpretations often cannot be falsified by direct comparison with nature;

      -- Philosophy (i.e. metaphysics) interprets the observed and proven patterns and regularities of nature by relating facts and phenomena observed with the observer, the process of observation, and the interplay between the three. It involves a form of introspection that doesn't belong in science.

      Naturally, we can declare a fusion of science and philosophy, but that would be, in my view, rather an arbitrary game of words. Modeling regularities and interpreting those regularities metaphysically remain two distinct things, in my view.

      Regarding the collective unconscious, I see quite some empirical evidence for its existence, so I don't think we need to take it out of a hat.

      I see death simply as a process of delocalization. The decomposition of the body is a phenomenon in the minds of those who stay in the "dream" of life. But since it's governed by the "laws" of biology, it's fair to say it occurs in the part of mind that generates the environment, indeed.

      Cheers, Bernardo.

  2. Bernardo, concerning this "Moreover, it is empirically clear that the 'collective unconscious,' unlike our egos, can operate according to the strict patterns and regularities that we've come to call the 'laws of nature.' Idealism gives no more credence to a possible violation of the laws of nature than materialism does."

    I had the following experience one early morning last year. Briefly, I was in a somewhat agitated state of anxiety and had been trying to walk it off outside in my neighborhood one night. After several hours of this I said something like "God your kind of hard to get a hold of sometime, could use some help". Shortly after around 0230 I was standing in front of my house, leaned forward slightly to put my hands on my knees, and suddenly heard this powerful low tone like a musical OMMM. There was even a crackle of static. Then I felt like a ripple of very low frequency energy above my shoulders and neck. It had a density like someone was taking a blanket and rippling it over my shoulders. I then felt this energy shoot forward away from me and to a point above and ahead of where I was standing. When I straightened up my anxiety and agitation were gone.
    I was totally awake. There was nothing that could generate this tone. There was no natural way I can conceive that a ripple of energy could be produced that could be felt like this. Could this be considered a violation of the laws of nature? It seems so to me. If we say that personal subjective experience is valid then can there actually be consensus laws of nature?

    1. Well, if all reality is mental, then all experience is real. The question is whether it is also _collective_. In other words, if someone else were next to you, would that person also have felt the ripple of energy? Consensus reality is -- by definition, under idealism -- the part of our experiences that are shared, synchronized across egos, and thus collective. The laws of nature describe the patterns and regularities according to which these _shared_ experiences unfold. Therefore, if your experience of the ripple of energy was entirely private (that is, if someone next to you wouldn't have felt it), then it doesn't violate the laws of physics.
      Cheers, Bernardo.