Reflections about 2018 and beyond
|Main building of the University of Zürich. Photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released into the public domain.|
As I've confessed in a couple of recent interviews, since last year I have been focusing my efforts on the academic world. The sheer chaos and hysteria of the material that comes through social and alternative media these days mean that, in practice, it has become very difficult to reach the many reasonable, intelligent people I have targeted in previous years. My voice is but one in an endless cacophony of voices, many of which are outright nonsensical. It is difficult, even unfair, to expect from the average person enough investment of time, care and discernment to put everything in perspective. Reason is nearly drowned in this 'post-truth' world. What chance have I got to get my message across without the gravitas of academia?
My original motivation to reach out directly to the average educated person, as opposed to working through academia, was my disillusionment with what I perceive to be the bias of stratified academic views. Yet, facing this challenge may be inevitable if a real change of paradigm, in the Kuhnian sense, is to take place. So this year I am further advancing my efforts to confront this challenge. You may have already seen the many academic papers I have recently published. More are soon to come, including a major paper already accepted by the Journal of Consciousness Studies, a premier academic publication. Another significant paper will be published over the summer in Constructivist Foundations.
I have also been visiting academic institutions to dialogue and exchange ideas with academics. Last year, for instance, I've had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a workshop at New York University in Shanghai, China, organized by David Chalmers. This year, I've had the equally wonderful opportunity to visit and speak at the University of Zürich, where luminaries like Einstein, Jung and Hillman worked.
|At NYU Shanghai with David Chalmers, Daniel Stoljar, and several others.|
In parallel to all this, I have been busy making contributions to Scientific American magazine, the world's oldest continuously published magazine (in print since 1845!). This, of course, is a major part of my efforts to reach out to academia, and the effect has so far been very rewarding. You can find an overview of my essays here (at the time of this writing, my fourth essay was about to be published). This essay in particular represents a major step forward in getting the ontology of idealism—the notion that all reality is in consciousness—accepted by the mainstream at least as a viable—if not the most likely—hypothesis. Since its publication, I have received surprisingly positive feedback from significant figures in the world of foundations of physics.
Finally, my seventh book, titled The Idea of the World, has also been completed and is currently in production with my publisher. It should become available in the second half of this year. I reproduce below a brief section of the book, wherein I attempt to position it in the context of my earlier work:
Prior to the present volume, I have written six books elaborating on my views regarding the underlying nature of reality. Particularly in Why Materialism Is Baloney and More Than Allegory, in addition to a conceptual exposition I have also made liberal use of metaphors to help readers develop direct intuition for the ideas expressed. My intent was not to win a technical argument in a court of philosophical arbitration, but to evoke in my readers a felt sense of the world I was describing. As such, my work has had a character more akin to continental than analytic philosophy. I have no regrets about it. Yet, I have also come to recognize the inevitable shortcomings of the approach. Some readers have misinterpreted and others over-interpreted my metaphors, extrapolating their applicability beyond their intended scope. Yet others have simply become overwhelmed or confused by the many metaphorical images, losing the thread of my argument. Perhaps most importantly—given my goal of providing a robust alternative to the mainstream physicalist metaphysics—some professional philosophers and scientists felt they needed to see a more conceptually clear and rigorous formulation of my philosophical system before they could consider it.Later this year I will be speaking at a couple of important events, which will be announced in due course. These events, plus the major upcoming paper in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, the new book, the Scientific American essays, and then another major publishing announcement I will make in a couple of months, give me a sense of completion. My recent visit to CERN, and the opportunity to see the work of my early adulthood completed and operational, reinforces this feeling that a major cycle has come to an end. There are days I even feel that my life's work is essentially accomplished, only a little refinement and promotion perhaps still left to do. My dœmon no longer clamors for attention; in fact, he's asleep for the first time since I can remember. This extraordinary new psychological reality is both rewarding and frightening. It grants me a form of release, an easing of the weight I carry; but it also creates a void, an abyss, a disorienting lack of clarity regarding the way forward. It forces me to live in the here-and-now, something I have never been good at.
The present work attempts to address all this. Starting from canonical empirical facts—such as the correlations between subjective experience and brain activity, the fact that we all seem to share the same world, the fact that the known laws of physics operate independently of our personal volition, etc.—it develops an unambiguous ontology based on parsimony, logical consistency and empirical adequacy. It re-articulates my views in a more rigorous and precise manner. It uses metaphors only as secondary aides to direct exposition. I have strived to make every step of my argument explicit and sufficiently substantiated.
This volume thus represents a trade-off: on the one hand, its mostly analytic style prevents it from reaching the depth and nuances that metaphors can convey. Parts II and III of my earlier book More Than Allegory, for instance, use metaphors to hint at philosophical ideas that can hardly be tackled or communicated in an analytic style. As such, the ontology formulated here is not an expansion, but in fact a subset of the ideas I have tried to convey in earlier works. On the other hand, the present volume articulates this subset more thoroughly and clearly than before, which is necessary if it is to offer—as intended—a credible alternative to mainstream physicalism. Incomplete as the subset of ideas presented here may be, I shall argue that it is still more complete than the current mainstream metaphysics. This subset alone—as I elaborate upon in the pages that follow—should be able to explain more of reality, in a more cogent way, than physicalism. By articulating the corresponding ontology precisely, my intent is to deny cynics and militants alike an excuse to portray it as vague and, therefore, dismissible. If the price to achieve this is to write a book as if one were arguing a case in a court of law, then this book represents my case. You be the judge.
When contemplating these thoughts, a historical figure I feel great sympathy towards, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, comes to mind. At some point in his life, after he had written a number of books, Søren thought that his 'authorship' had been completed. He thought of retiring to the country and living an ordinary life. But none of it was to be. His dæmon would return, and he would write many more books, engage in many more controversies, until the last weeks of his short but extraordinarily productive life. Will this be the case with me? I honestly do not know. I now hover over a void, with only the vaguest intuition that the next phase of my intellectual life will be more inward-oriented than outward-oriented.