The top-10 most fallacious arguments of materialists

(A much more elaborate, improved and accurate version of the contents of the video below has appeared in essay format in my book Brief Peeks Beyond, as well as in this freely available paper. The version below is kept for legacy purposes.)

Laughing jester, circa 1500. Source: Wikipedia.

So, what are they? Here is a list...
  1. Because we cannot change reality by merely wishing it to be different, it’s clear that reality is outside consciousness.
  2. Reality is clearly not inside our heads, therefore idealism is wrong.
  3. There are strong correlations between brain activity and subjective experience. Clearly, thus, the brain generates consciousness.
  4. Because psychoactive drugs change subjective experience, it’s clear that the brain generates consciousness.
  5. Because we are separate beings witnessing the same reality, reality has to be outside consciousness.
  6. The separation between consciousness and unconsciousness is dualist nonsense.
  7. Because reality behaves according to strict, immutable laws, it cannot be generated by consciousness.
  8. To say that a collective unconscious generates reality is equivalent to saying that reality is outside consciousness.
  9. The idea of consciousness generating reality is too metaphysical.
  10. Why would consciousness deceive us by simulating a materialist world?
And the reasons they are all wrong? Check out the video below... have fun!


Raving materialists and their nonsense

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

Francisco de Goya's The Madhouse. Source: Wikipedia.

Today I did something mildly exciting: I went to a militant materialist website and rattled the cage a bit. I felt the need to expose the scandalously flawed logic of a prominent materialist – a renowned neurologist – who argued that there were survival advantages for the brain to have evolved consciousness. These were his original points:
  1. The brain needs to pay attention and subjective experience is required for attention.
  2. The brain needs a way to distinguish a memory from an active experience. Therefore, memories and active experiences must 'feel' different subjectively.
  3. Behavior conducive to survival requires motivation and, therefore, emotion.
All three are incoherent arguments within the framework and logic of materialism itself. Within the materialist logic, attention has absolutely nothing to do with a need for consciousness. Computer operating systems have the mechanical equivalent of attention (interrupts, priority policies, task scheduling, etc.) while their activity is presumably unconscious; there is no need for subjective experience. Regarding point 2, the neurologist contradicts materialism altogether by assuming that memory and active experiences must 'feel' different in order to be differentiated, which begs the question of consciousness, instead of explaining it. There are millions of ways to classify and differentiate data without anything 'feeling' anything. On point 3: motivation does not require emotion or any sort of subjective experience. Within the logic of materialism, motivation is simply a calculation that aims at optimizing gain and minimizing risk/loss. The neurologist's attempt to present consciousness as something 'natural' or 'advantageous' within the framework of materialism fails the most basic internal logic.

So I went to their site and expressed the above. What followed was an assault by materialists. I reproduce the exchange below, in an edited and re-written form, for your entertainment. The questions were the attempts by materialists to defeat my argument. The answers are my counterarguments. The exchange was useful in that it illustrates very well the situation we face in our culture today: although materialists like to think of themselves as taking the rational high-ground, many suffer from an acute breakdown in simple clear thinking.

Q: There is strong evolutionary adaptive value for attention, for we can only do one thing at a time with our bodies.

A: Attention, as per the definition implied in your question, is simply the ability of an organism to optimize the utilization of its limited cognitive resources. That can be accomplished entirely without subjective experience, for it is merely a computational task. Subjective experience is not required for focusing an organisms resources on priority tasks.

Q: You are assuming a divide between objective/subjective things that does not exist.

A: The neurologist's argument is that there are survival advantages for consciousness to have evolved. If consciousness had to evolve – presumably from something unconscious – then initially consciousness wasn’t there. Clearly, thus, the original argument assumes the divide you talk about: initially everything was objective, and then subjectivity evolved later. Therefore, it's not me who is assuming the divide, but the neurologist who articulated the initial argument.

Q: I also don’t understand this divide between objective and subjective. To me, it’s just a change in perspective: 'objective' is essentially watching a computer’s processes from a second-person perspective. Subjective experience is the first-person perspective of those processes.

A: I don’t think there is a divide at all. I also think it’s all a matter of perspective: observation from within and from without. But now notice: if perspective entails subjective experience, and there is no divide, than idealism follows logically. That said, and to repeat myself, it's the neurologist's original argument that requires the objective/subjective divide. You guys can’t have it both ways. The moment one argues that it was useful for consciousness to have 'evolved' (presumably out of something initially unconscious), you are implying a divide. Otherwise, consciousness was there from the beginning. So you either agree with the neurologist's argument and accept the divide, or you reject the divide and reject this nonsense talk of consciousness having 'evolved.' What evolved were mechanisms of attention and classification, not consciousness. Consciousness was there from the start.

Q: Well, clearly consciousness evolved out of something unconscious: even if you classify all life as conscious, it evolved from non-life, which is clearly unconscious.

A: That’s where you guys contradict yourselves. First, there are all these righteous claims that the divide between consciousness and matter is artificial, dualist nonsense, woo, and what not. Then you turn around and say 'but hey, of course consciousness arose out of something unconscious, since life evolved out of non-life.' I find it all very amusing. You guys can’t have it both ways. Which one is it? Did consciousness evolve out of unconscious matter, or is the divide between consciousness and unconscious computers fallacious woo? The problem here is this: you keep on thinking that consciousness is in the brain, as opposed to the brain in consciousness. And since the brain obviously evolved out of not-brain, then you guys get all mixed up.

Q: Conscious animals evolved from non-conscious ones, though I would speculate this was gradual and there is no woo-divide between consciousness and computers. They are in no way incompatible.

A: A 'very gradual' logical contradiction is still a logical contradiction. If consciousness arose out of unconsciousness, there is a divide in the sense that something new has emerged out of something else, very slowly as the case may be. Otherwise, either consciousness was there all along or it still doesn’t exist today. The latter, of course, is absurd.

Q: What makes idealism meaningfully different from materialism?

A: According to idealism, your body/brain system is in your consciousness. According to materialism, your consciousness is in your body/brain system.

Q: It sounds like a recipe for solipsism.

A: It may sound like it, but it isn’t it. I spend a lot of space in my new book rejecting solipsism.

Q: A subjective viewpoint that can differentiate between memory and reality, illusion and reality, by way of feeling (which is really another way of evaluating) has an evolutionary advantage over one that can’t.

A: If you accept that there is a divide between consciousness and unconsciousness, then differentiation between memory and reality can be done by an unconscious computer. It can be computationally accomplished through tagging, which is done routinely in artificial intelligence systems. This differentiation is no basis whatever for claiming that consciousness provides a survival advantage. Now, if you don’t accept the divide and consider that everything is conscious to some degree, then you are contradicting the neurologist's original argument.

Q: What about the correlations between consciousness and brain states? What does idealism say about that?

A: The brain/body system is an image in consciousness of a process of localization of consciousness. This is analogous to how a whirlpool is an image in water of a process of localization of water. For the same reason that a whirlpool doesn’t generate water, the brain doesn’t generate consciousness. Now, the image of a process, obviously, correlates very well with the inner-workings of the process. You can infer a lot about combustion by watching flames safely from a distance. If the brain is the image of a process of consciousness localization, the first-person view of consciousness should correlate very well with what can be seen in that image from the outside, for the same reason that a lot about combustion can be inferred by watching flames.

Q: Why does my consciousness get drowsy when I take a medication that causes drowsiness?

A: Do you have any problem making sense of the fact that your thoughts (processes in consciousness) influence your emotions (other processes in consciousness)? Probably not. After all, what problem is there that a process in consciousness influences another process in consciousness, right? Now, you take a drug and feel drowsy. Under idealism, the drug is a process in consciousness (what else could it be?). It affects another process in consciousness (your alertness). The situation is entirely analogous to thoughts influencing emotions. What’s the problem there? If you see one, you are letting dualism creep in unnoticed.

Q: I’m confused by your terminology. The brain is an 'image'? It’s clearly a physical thing, currently in my skull…

A: Why is the physical thing in your skull not an image? Can you know a physical thing through anything but its images? (Here, I use the word 'image' in the broad sense of any percept.) A whirlpool is a very recognizable thing too. It’s right there in the water. You can point at it and say 'there it is!' You can even delineate its boundaries. It’s a very physical thing. Yet, it’s an image. In that sense, so is the brain.

Q: On what basis do you conclude that everything is conscious?

A: I don’t. I strongly reject that everything is conscious. It is materialists that often believe that. I think panpsychism is animism in disguise; a bad fairytale. There is precisely zero empirical evidence that any inanimate thing is conscious to any degree whatever. I see no reason to believe in that. But I do think that everything is in consciousness, which is a very different thing to say. Why do I believe that? Because it’s the primary datum of knowledge. Anything you knew, know, or will ever know is in your consciousness. Things outside consciousness are abstractions beyond knowledge. I prefer to stick to the most parsimonious explanation of reality that still can make sense of all the data available, and that is that all is in consciousness (not that all is conscious!).

Q: Most inanimate things would be at an extremely low level of consciousness compared to humans, but they do process information.

A: If you say that consciousness is information processing, you’re rendering the word 'consciousness' useless. That’s a rhetorical fallacy. Even Christoph Koch, who endorses Tononi’s Information Integration Theory of consciousness, rejects that consciousness is information processing, although he accepts that it is strongly correlated with information processing.

Q: Living things use their consciousness for survival and reproduction purposes. Computers use their consciousness for other purposes. There is a range of variation in levels of consciousness, from very simple ones up to complex ones like human consciousness. What’s so bad about that?

A: It implies panpsychism. That is, it implies that there is something it is like to be a chair, or a vacuum cleaner. In fact, it implies that there is something it is like to be parts of the vacuum cleaner, and combinations and permutations thereof, and… you get my point. The problem I see with it is that there is precisely zero empirical evidence that vacuum cleaners (or atoms) are conscious. To me, this is an attempt to make nature conform to theory, as opposed to theory conform to nature.

Q: Your idealism doesn’t sound very parsimonious because you’re effectively positing a new, more complex entity seemingly for the purpose of simulating a materialist universe.

A: Do you accept that there is such thing as consciousness? If you do, that’s all I postulate. This consciousness isn’t 'simulating' anything; it's simply doing what it does, and what it does happens to be the universe. This requires postulating no more complexity than materialism, for materialism also requires that irreducible laws of nature create the universe. It's we who invented the metaphysics of materialism as an interpretation of the patterns and regularities of nature. Nature simply does what it does. And clearly, as far as we can ever know for sure, it is in consciousness.

Q: If it's all a simulation playing itself out in mind, why can't we go through walls?

A: You’re projecting your prejudices and misinterpretations onto what I am saying. There is nothing in what I am saying that denies that nature unfolds according to the stable patterns and regularities that we’ve come to call the laws of physics. There is nothing in idealism that denies that, if you jump out of a window, you will fall. Idealism states that everything is in consciousness, not that everything is under the control of your egoic volition. Even large segments of your own psyche clearly aren't under the control of your egoic volition, otherwise nobody would ever have nightmares, or psychoses, or neuroses of any kind.

Q: I find your worldview unnecessarily 'meta.'

A: Materialism is the 'meta' worldview here, in the sense that it postulates an entire, completely abstract universe fundamentally outside the primary datum of knowledge, which is subjective experience. If anything, idealism is a rejection of the 'meta;' that is, a rejection of metaphysical abstractions.

Q: Your theory predicts the same things materialism does. I don’t see any additional explanatory or predictive power from asserting that the universe is mental.

A: Under idealism, when you die the story you call your ego or personal identity will die too, but not your fundamental subjectivity. Under materialism, on the other hand, all consciousness should cease upon physical death. That’s but one difference in the predictions of idealism and materialism. In my latest book, I elaborate extensively on how they differ in their implications, and offer empirical evidence for the predictions of idealism.

Q: Let me see if I’ve got this straight: there’s some complex collective mind-thing that is simulating a world in order to provide us with experiences which are exactly consistent with what they would be if materialism were true, to the point that our consciousnesses are also affected in a manner consistent with materialism.

A: There is no 'simulation' of materialism going on nor any attempt at deception. These are your own complex prejudices that you are projecting onto the very simple things I am saying. My claim is that reality is exactly what it seems to be: a process in consciousness. Colors, tastes, flavors, are all the real thing, and the world we see is not inside our heads. Materialism, on the other hand, states that color, sound, flavor, and all the qualities of experience exist only inside your head. The real world ‘outside’ is supposedly an amorphous, colorless, tasteless arena of dancing fields, akin to a mathematical equation, lacking all qualities of experience. It’s materialism that states that the real world is very different from what it seems. Idealism states the opposite.

All in all, it is useful to engage militant materialists from time to time. It gives striking insight into how a worldview that is so wrong manages to keep such a hold on the intellects of so many: it blinds you, immerses you in an unfathomable but insidious network of abstractions, hidden assumptions, and prejudices that infects every aspect of your thinking and judgement. It literally makes you unable to see simple and self-evident things right under your nose. It makes you project your own preconceptions, expectations, and misunderstandings onto everything others are saying, so you also become unable to listen. Deaf and blind, one can't escape the cage. It's surreal.


A brief, general definition of freewill

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

Some areas of the human brain implicated in mental disorders
that might be related to freewill. Source: wikipedia.

In my previous article, I explored the subject of freewill in the context of my own metaphysics: a formulation of idealism. In this brief essay, I'd like to generalize some of the principles I based my earlier discussion on, for the benefit of those interested in the topic of freewill but not necessarily interested in particular metaphysical formulations.

What is freewill? We all have an intuitive understanding of it, but when we translate that understanding into words, we often misrepresent the essence of our own intuition. Having pondered about it for a while, here is how I would define it:

Freewill is the capacity of an agent to make an intentional choice unconstrained by any factor outside that which the agent identifies itself with.

The word 'intentional' is important to differentiate a true choice from a merely random choice. A true choice entails a preference, purpose or bias of some sort, not the mere throw of dice.

Let's exemplify this definition by taking the agent to be a person. Personal freewill is then the capacity of a person to make an intentional choice unconstrained by any influence, limit, requirement or power that the person does not identify herself with. Note the emphasis on what a person identifies herself with, as opposed to what a particular paradigm implies the person to be. Materialism, for instance, entails that a person is merely her physical body. This way, if a person's choices are merely the outcome of deterministic physical processes in her brain, that would still comply with the definition of freewill above. After all, the processes in a person's brain are part of what the person supposedly is. Yet, most of us would intuitively and immediately reject deterministic brain processes to be an expression of true freewill. Why? Because, for whatever reason, we do not identify ourselves with processes in our brains. We say that we have a brain, as opposed to saying that we are a brain.

The definition above also circumvents a problem with libertarian freewill, which entails that a truly free choice must be completely non-determined. The problem here is that, from a logical perspective, a choice is either the deterministic outcome of some (perhaps unfathomably rich, incomprehensible, transcendent, meaningful and complex) process, or random. It is very hard, if at all possible, to find semantic or logical space for libertarian freewill if we insist on differentiating it form the latter two cases. According to the definition above, on the other hand, true freewill can be the expression of a deterministic process, so long as the determining factors of that process are internal to that which the choosing agent identifies itself with.

Most people identify themselves with their particular conscious thoughts and emotions, as subjectively experienced. Therefore, when agents are human beings, true freewill is the case if, and only if, all determining factors behind the making of a choice are part of the person's conscious thoughts and emotions: her opinions, beliefs, preferences, tastes, likes and dislikes, goals, etc. The fact that a particular paradigm, like materialism, insists that thoughts and emotions are brain activity is merely a conceptual abstraction that bears no psychological relevance to how a person experiences her own identity. This way, the definition of freewill above is independent of particular ontological paradigms, like materialism.

To say that our choices are the deterministic outcome of processes that we identify ourselves with does not refute the essence of our intuition about freewill. The appearance that it does is merely a linguistic illusion. Let me try to illustrate this with an example. I may say: 'I made choice A but I could have made choice B.' This statement is a clear assertion of my freewill; in fact, it captures the very core of what freewill entails, doesn't it? Yet, the statement implies that the choice was indeed determined: it was determined by me! In other words, it was the perceived essence of what it means to be me that determined the choice. Therefore, I can rephrase the statement in the following way, without changing its meaning or implications: 'I chose A because it is my perceived essential nature to do so, although there were no external factors preventing me from choosing B.' Formulated this way, the statement is clearly consistent with the definition above. Do you see what I mean?

When one says that one's choice cannot be determined by anything in order to be truly free, what one actually means is that one's choice cannot be determined by anything external to that which one identifies oneself with. After all, unless the choice is random, it must be determined by something, even if that something is no more than the perceived essential nature of the agent that makes the choice. True freewill applies in this latter case.

I hope this brief articulation helps sort out some of the linguistic and logical noise that so often clouds discussions about freewill.

Freewill explained

(An improved and updated version of this essay has appeared in my book Brief Peeks Beyond. The version below is kept for legacy purposes. A follow-up article has also been published.)

The movement of domino's is fully determined by the
laws of physics. Are our choices too? Source: Wikipedia.

In my book Why Materialism Is Baloney I briefly discuss freewill. My intent there wasn't to elaborate extensively on the meaning of freewill, but rather to place our intuitive notion of it in the framework of my metaphysical model. That model, as my readers know, could be seen as an idealist metaphysics. It states that reality is exactly what it seems to be: a subjective phenomenon existing in mind, and in mind alone. One of my readers, however, recently posted a very well-argued critique of my rather brief treatment of freewill in the book. His post in my Discussion Forum has prompted me to write this essay, for I think my reader brought up valid and relevant points.

What do we mean, intuitively, when we say freewill? I think most people mean an ability to make an intentional choice unconstrained by factors outside subjectivity. If a choice is merely the outcome of mechanical laws as they apply to the brain, and if the brain exists in an objective world fundamentally outside mind, then there is no such a thing as freewill. After all, what we think of as a free choice would be, in that case, simply the deterministic outcome of particle interactions in a world outside subjectivity. All phenomena in this objective world – like falling domino's – supposedly unfold according to strict causality and are, as such, strictly predetermined.

Under idealism, however, there is nothing outside subjectivity. As I argue in the book, a world outside mind is an unknowable and unnecessary abstraction. We can explain all reality – even its shared regularities – without it. The implication is that all reality is then fundamentally subjective. The difference between the 'outside' world perceived through our five senses and the 'inside' world of emotions and thoughts is merely one of misidentification, not of fundamental nature. Indeed, we merely misidentify ourselves with a particular subset of our stream of subjective experiences – namely, emotions and thoughts – while deeming the rest of the stream – namely, sensory perceptions – to come from a world outside ourselves. Both parts of the stream, however, are still entirely subjective in nature. Think of it in terms of your nightly dreams: you misidentify yourself with a character within your dream, believing the rest of the dreamworld to be external to you. Once you wake up, however, you immediately realize that your mind was creating the whole dream. In that sense, you were the whole dream, not only a character within it.

There is a sense, thus, in which my formulation of idealism directly implies the existence of freewill, insofar as it denies anything outside subjectivity. Yet, this may sound like a copout, for if our choices – purely subjective as they may be – are still the outcome of strict laws of 'mental cause-and-effect,' the intuitive meaning of the word 'freewill' somehow still seems to be defeated. Indeed, I emphasize in the book that my formulation of idealism does not deny that mind may unfold according to strict patterns and regularities, or 'laws of mind.'

To make sense of this we have to look more deeply and rigorously into the meaning of freewill. If we mean by it that a free choice is an entirely arbitrary choice, then we end up with randomness. Clearly, randomness is not the spirit of freewill: we know that we make our choices based on our prior experiences and preferences; it isn't merely random. On the other hand, if we say that a choice is actually the non-random output of a process that takes a number of factors as inputs, we are basically saying that the choice is determined by those factors. At first sight, this also seems to defeat the spirit of freewill. But does it really?

To answer this question properly, we must first bite an unavoidable bullet: it is incoherent to think of a free choice as a non-determined outcome that also isn't random. And a random choice is not intentional. An intentional choice must thus be determined by something; by some set of determining factors. The essential question here, which I think most people overlook, is: What factors? The core of our intuition about freewill is that the determining factors must be internal to us as subjective agents. Because nothing outside subjectivity can be internal to us in that sense, materialism immediately defeats true freewill. But my formulation of idealism again endorses it: according to the metaphysics in the book, our individual psyches are split-off complexes of the cosmic mind within which the entirety of existence unfolds as parallel streams of experience. Since there is nothing outside this cosmic mind, all determining factors of each stream can only be internal to our true selves. Freewill is thus true.

According to my formulation of idealism, choice is the outcome of mental processes. These mental processes may very well be 'mentally deterministic' insofar as they obey yet-unknown mental patterns and regularities that we may call the 'laws of mind.' But watch out: the 'laws of mind' are not necessarily reducible to the dynamics of subatomic particles. My formulation of idealism grants fundamental reality to things like feelings and emotions, and does not require them to be reducible to known physical laws. Since feelings and emotions are clearly valid determining factors in the making of a choice, the 'mental determinism' I am suggesting here is clearly of a very different order of complexity, richness, meaning and nuance than physical determinism. Moreover, the word 'law' must not be misinterpreted here: the 'laws of mind' are simply a metaphor for the observed patterns and regularities inherent to the natural flow of mind, not external constraints prohibiting mind from doing this or that. They describe what mind happens to be, not what it must obey. They are ways to describe observations – like the observation that most human beings happen to be born with two arms – not an imposition of limitations – like some nonsensical law requiring every human being to be born with two arms. When correctly understood in this manner, 'compliance' with the 'laws of mind' does not contradict the spirit of freewill.

In summary: my formulation of idealism states that reality is the unfolding of experience in a kind of cosmic mind. Since this entails that all choices are purely subjective, my metaphysics endorses our intuitions about freewill. Yet, it is inevitable that the unfolding of experience must obey determining factors: whatever processes unfold in the cosmic mind, they must necessarily be the result of the inherent properties of the cosmic mind. Its behavior and choices can only be a deterministic consequence of what it essentially is; there is nothing else they can be. In this sense, existence is 'mentally deterministic.' Finally, since all factors involved in this unfolding of experience in the cosmic mind are necessarily internal to it (there being nothing external to it), our intuitions about freewill are again endorsed: choice is fully determined by the internal subjective dynamics of our true selves.

POSTSCRIPTUM for readers of Why Materialism Is Baloney: I have intentionally avoided the argument above in my brief discussion of freewill in the book. I didn't want to lose the main thread of my story there by getting too deeply entangled in a difficult and contentious sideshow. That said, some readers may think that my position in this essay contradicts what I do end up saying in the book. After all, while here I acknowledge that free-willed choice is ultimately determined by unknown 'laws of mind,' in the book I take free-willed choice to be non-determined. This contradiction, however, is only an artifact of language: to say that a choice is non-determined in the sense of not being determined by anything other than what the chooser intrinsically is – which is what I implicitly say in the book – is the same as to say that a choice is only determined by what the chooser intrinsically is – which is what I say in this essay. To say: 'I chose A but I could have chosen B' is an assertion of freewill. Yet, it is entirely equivalent to saying that 'I chose A because it is my intrinsic nature to do so, although there were no external factors preventing me from choosing B.' Do you see what I mean? More on this article. Moreover, the hypothesized 'laws of mind' I refer to here cannot be explained, not even in principle, by the metaphors of mind that I use in the book (like the vibrating membrane metaphor). These hypothesized 'laws' far exceed the explanatory power of any intellectual model or metaphor, since the intellect is but a small subset of mind. Therefore, from the perspective and scope of the metaphors in the book, freewill is indeed non-determined.

The illusion of reality

Reality or illusion? Source: Wikipedia.

Following up on my previous essay summarizing the main points of my book Why Materialism Is Baloney, I'd like to explore here another topic covered much more extensively in the book: the elusive and subtle dichotomy between what we call 'real' and what we call 'illusory.'

We often hear today, particularly in spiritually-oriented circles like non-duality, that 'reality is a kind of illusion.' Strictly speaking, this assertion means exactly nothing: it's like saying that black is a kind of white. After all, reality and illusion are defined as opposites. Therefore, to say that they are the same thing simply renders both terms useless and semantically void. Yet, there may be something important hidden behind such an apparently illogical statement. The people who make the statement aren't interested in being logically-consistent, but in conveying a deep intuition about the nature of what's going on. What are they really trying to say?

Ordinarily, we differentiate reality from illusion by thinking of reality as something autonomous, outside our minds, and thinking of illusion as a creation of our own minds. This way, if the UFO one saw was actually a secret military prototype flying in the sky, then it was real. But if the UFO was merely a vision projected onto the sky by one's active imagination, then it was an illusion. So far so good.

Now, notice that this distinction between reality and illusion assumes the philosophy of realism: the notion that there is a reality fundamentally independent from, and outside, our minds. Otherwise, everything is a kind of illusion insofar as everything exists fundamentally in our minds as subjective experiences. This is what people are trying to say when they state that reality is a kind of illusion. They are basically asserting one or another form of idealism, the philosophy I articulate in Why Materialism Is Baloney.

Does that mean that, under idealism, there is no distinction between empirical fact and fantasy? No, that's not what it means. Idealism does acknowledge a distinction between fact and fantasy. But a less naive way to differentiate between the two is needed. Indeed, what we call empirical facts are actually shared, collective experiences. And what we call fantasies are personal, idiosyncratic experiences. In the book, I elaborate extensively on how a shared, collective experience that we came to call the 'world outside' can originate in the fabric of mind.

The above may sound simply like a semantic re-definition of terms, but it has profound implications if one truly internalizes its significance. Because all reality is a creation of mind, the distinction between our dreams and empirical fact is merely one of degree, not one of fundamental nature. Empirical fact is an experience with a higher degree of sharing but, ultimately, of exactly the same fundamental nature as your nightly dreams. If you close your eyes right now and vividly imagine a scene of your choosing, the fundamental nature of that experience will be exactly the same as the experience you will have when you open your eyes and look around. In that sense, nothing is real; reality truly is a kind of illusion.

The nature of nature, so to speak, is to dream and 'delude' itself. When we seek and project a 'true' reality outside mind, as materialists do, that is simply an expression of nature doing what it does: trying to 'deceive' itself according to timeless archetypal patterns. A sign of true self-honesty and intelligence is the ability and willingness to see through this primordial 'self-deception,' acknowledging the profound kinship between what we came to call 'reality' and 'illusion.'

If not materialism, then what?

Snapshot of the video introduction to Why Materialism Is Baloney.

Continuing on with my series of brief essays on subjects covered more extensively in my latest book, Why Materialism Is Baloney, I'd like today to summarize my main argument. This article, thus, is a kind of overview of the book.

The source of our bleak contemporary worldview is the materialist metaphysics: the notion that the real world exists outside subjective experience, and that experience itself is generated by particular arrangements of matter. This view entails that your entire experience of life unfolds within your head, for it is generated by your brain. The real world is supposedly a realm of pure abstraction, akin to mathematical equations, devoid of color, sound, flavor, fragrance or texture.

At first sight, materialism seems to make good sense. It seems to explain why we cannot control reality. After all, if matter is fundamentally outside mind, it’s natural that we cannot change things merely by wishing them to be different. Moreover, materialism seems to explain why we all share the same world: unlike a private dream, a reality outside mind can be observed concurrently by multiple witnesses.

Yet, materialism is not the only metaphysics that can make sense of things. In fact, among the alternatives, materialism is particularly cumbersome: since knowledge can only exist within subjective experience, a material realm outside experience is fundamentally unknowable. In the book, I explore a more parsimonious and logical metaphysics according to which reality is a kind of shared dream; according to which matter arises in mind, not mind in matter; a metaphysics that implies that consciousness doesn’t end upon physical death.

As readers of the book will see, materialism is based on two childishly flawed conclusions: it mistakes a world outside the control of our conscious wishes for a world outside consciousness itself; and it mistakes the visible image of a process for the cause of the process. The book argues that the brain is merely the visible image of a localization of the flow of consciousness, like a whirlpool is the visible image of a localization of the flow of water. For exactly the same reason that a whirlpool doesn’t generate water, the brain doesn’t generate consciousness!

Contemporary culture is extraordinarily biased toward the unprovable and clumsy materialist metaphysics. For instance, if I say that reality is a kind of shared dream, most people will take it to mean that reality is inside our heads. In fact, it is materialism that says that everything we experience is inside our heads: people, trees, stars and all! If reality is a shared dream, then it is our heads and bodies – as parts of reality – that are in the dream, not the dream in our heads. Somehow, our culture has come to attribute to materialism the intuitiveness of other worldviews, while attributing to other worldviews the absurdity of materialism.

In the book, I explore these questions in a rational, empirically sound manner. This isn’t a feel-good spiritual book, but a logical and rigorous exploration of reality. It looks past the cultural fog that for so long has obscured our view and negatively influenced our lives. It unveils a reality much more conducive to hope than the bleak materialist view implies. It concludes that life is pregnant with meaning and purpose, and that death is just a change in our state of consciousness. It is time we opened our eyes and dropped the insanity of materialism; 21st-century humanity demands a more mature, adult worldview. So join me in this exciting exploration, one that may just change your entire outlook on life and reality.