The dawn of a post-materialist academic worldview



Since the ascendence of materialism in academia during the Enlightenment, no other theory of the essential nature of reality has truly been taken seriously in academic circles. Implicitly, to be an academic has, since then, presupposed a professional materialist stanceregardless of what one's private views might be.

Since the end of the 20th century, constitutive panpsychism and property dualism have garnered some modest momentum in academia. However, these ontologies are basically extensions of materialism: they add irreducible mental properties to what is essentially the same old objective substrate. Their modest level of success, instead of foreshadowing a significant shift in our worldview, in fact betrays the formidable inertia of the latter: although nobody has ever been able to articulate how physical quantities—such as mass, charge, momentum—could possibly explain the qualities of experience, in lieu of discarding the untenable concept of objective matter we've grudgingly resorted to applying bandages to it. The result is a Frankenstein monster whose sole appeal is to perpetuate a clumsy error: that of imagining an objective material world, outside and independent of mentation, to begin with. Future generations will look upon this embarrassing charade with merciless scorn.

Throughout the two or three centuries of materialist hegemony in academia, religious and spiritual movements have competed for the hearts and minds of ordinary people. New Age, non-dualism, Buddhism, and a host of other related worldviews have certainly achieved a degree of influence in our culture. However, their acknowledgment in academia is limited to some of their practical applications, such as e.g. helping to relieve stress. The metaphysics underlying these spiritual traditions, however, has achieved no recognition in academia, and often for good reasons: as much as their appeal to feeling, intuition and direct experience is legitimate when it comes to ordinary people, in academia different rules and standards apply.


I've bitten the bullet fully and made my case according to the exact same rulebook and value-system that underpins the case for materialism. The goal has been to win the duel using the weapons chosen by the opposition.


Having initially written six books meant for ordinary people, over the past three years I've focused on academia instead. My hope has been to legitimize and promote idealism—the view that objective matter doesn't actually exist, reality consisting purely of excitations of transpersonal consciousness—as a viable and coherent worldview, more tenable than materialism itself. I've subjected myself to the rules of the academic game, rigorously arguing on the basis of logic, parsimony, coherence and evidence. I've made no appeals to anything that could be construed as a handwaving excuse for lack of substance or rigor. I've bitten the bullet fully and made my case according to the exact same rulebook and value-system that underpins the case for materialism. The goal has been to win the duel using the weapons chosen by the opposition.

The result of this effort is The Idea of the Worlda book that collects a number of academic papers I've published in leading peer-reviewed journals. Although the peer review process has often been critical—sometimes outright unfair—the force of my argument has prevailed. Besides these articles, the book is enhanced by many new chapters meant to weave the different papers together into a coherent, complete, accessible argument for idealism; an argument that, although targeted at academia, can be understood by any educated person with a bit of patience.


The Idea of the World is probably the first and only academically-legitimized, uncompromising articulation of idealism since Hegel.


Academia may be plagued by skewed metaphysical intuitions, but it has one thing going for it: as long as you play the game by their rules, if your case is strong it will not be dismissed. Because of this kind of honesty, and based on the strength of my case according to their own value-system, my effort has met with success in academia.

The Idea of the World is perhaps the first and only academically-legitimized, uncompromising articulation of idealism since Hegel. None of the truly non-materialist ontologies discussed today has—insofar as I am aware of—received comparable treatment in terms of rigor and completeness. Their proponents usually don't even bother to engage in the academic game of logic, coherence and evidence, limiting themselves to vague appeals to feeling and intuition. This, I believe, is precisely the reason why these non-materialist views continue to be consigned to the fringes of our culture. It is also the reason why vulgar and loud proponents of materialism—who, while lacking basic understanding of materialism itself, often feel childishly emboldened by the academic hegemony of the view they purport to endorse—ridicule the followers of non-materialist views.


But things may have begun to change: we now see a worldview thoroughly and bluntly antithetical to materialism being taken seriously in academia; a worldview legitimized by the very rules and values that materialism relies on. I say so not only because of the dozen peer-reviewed academic papers that underpin this worldview, but also for the fact that The Idea of the World has a very special companion volume.

This companion volume is a doctoral dissertation I am going to publicly defend at the end of April at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands' best classical university according to the most recent polls, and one of Europe's best. The dissertation itself has already been unanimously approved by an academic committee (you can freely download it here and here), only the formalisms of the defense still pending. If successful, this will be my second doctorate, 18 years—almost to the day—after my first one.


Materialism has hidden behind the argument that no alternative metaphysics has ever passed the stringent tests of coherence, rigor and empirical grounding reigning in academia. But this is no longer the case.


My doctoral dissertation is not as complete as the book; for instance, it doesn't cover the idealist interpretation of quantum mechanics that constitutes one of the core parts of the book. It is also more technical and less accessible to a general readership, lacking the "preamble" chapters that make the book much more approachable. Moreover, because it is meant only for academics, the dissertation uses more jargon and presupposes more technical background. So it doesn't replace the book. But it surely reinforces it, lending it yet more legitimacy and credibility. After all, if the admittedly polemical ideas discussed in the book are well substantiated enough to grant me a second Ph.D., it becomes very difficult to dismiss them.

Materialism has hidden behind the argument that no alternative metaphysics has ever passed the stringent tests of coherence, rigor and empirical grounding reigning in academia. But this is no longer the case. So if committed materialists have ever dismissed your non-materialist views on the basis of this argument, you can now give them a copy of The Idea of the World, perhaps accompanied by a copy of my doctoral dissertation. Show them how out of date they are.

It is my hope that this book, and its accompanying doctoral thesis, will give you ammunition to advance your views on the basis of the same set of values, and according to the same rules of argument, which supposedly privilege materialism. Please use it liberally and help get the word out. We may be on the cusp of significant change; on the verge of consigning materialism to the waste bin of history (it isn't soon enough). However, in the era of social media, this change depends on you, individually. The Idea of the World is the weapon I offer you. It's up to you to shoot with it.

Comments

  1. Wholly in agreement, and think Hegel got the basics right in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bernardo: Materialism has hidden behind the argument that no alternative metaphysics has ever passed the stringent tests of coherence, rigor and empirical grounding reigning in academia. But this is no longer the case.

    Good comment. It reminds me of materialism's partner, capitalism. Capitalism argues that it's the only viable system for people to use. However, that's not the case:

    http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. I agree. Materialism provides a justification for the kind of technology that is destroying the earth. I published a very short article on OpEdNews on this: https://tinyurl.com/y52so8ug .
      j

      Delete
  3. Kierkegaard's piercing criticism of Hegel was to the effect that he built a castle yet lived (like all of us) in the shack next door. While I agree with Soren, I do not sense the same existential vacuum in Bernardo's thought. This, perhaps, is where the academic and the ordinary worlds must come together if knowledge is truly to advance and worldviews fundamentally change. What life is metaphysically must be inextricably related not only to how we live but also to how we ARE to live, which brings to mind Schweitzer's relentless focus on ethics as the key to comprehending individual life and civilization itself. Now that Bernardo has painstakingly and persuasively set forth the framework of an alternative idealistic understanding of the world, I hope he will consider further exploration into how this new idealism is to be existentially expressed, how the abstract is to be concretely lived out, in our personal and collective experiences of experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been playing with this idea for years now, but it's a daunting call. Frankly, as of today, I don't consider myself capable of expressing anything truly new and worthwhile about it... but who knows.

      Delete
    2. If you are looking for insight on how to make metaphysics practical in day-to-day life, consider reading "Science and Health" by Mary Baker Eddy and "The Art of Spiritual Healing" by Joel Goldsmith. While these are generally thought of as religious books, on careful reading you will see they overlap into science because they make predictions based on principles of cause and effect. "Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age" by Robert Peel lends further insight into what might emerge as a metaphysical worldview takes hold, and how metaphysics can be employed to solve even our biggest problems. Not sure what you'll make of the books, but it's well worth your time if you're hoping to explore the practicalities of metaphysics.

      Delete
    3. By the way, I love your books and can't wait to read this new one. :)

      Delete
  4. Pre order on Amazon does not ship to my country South Africs. Any other way to access this publication when published?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh... it should be available from local South-African online retailers. Otherwise, you can always get the e-book edition.

      Delete
  5. Wondering your thoughts on two academic books published by a group of scientists and MDs from the University of Virginia: Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love the books, love the guys :) I know them personally.

      Delete
  6. Could be more concisely written. Although I have a degree in English language, and I do understand all the words, this is heavy going. Flexing your intellect, means the writing doesn't flow easily for the reader. It's like driving on a bumpy road!

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Materialism has hidden behind the argument that no alternative metaphysics has ever passed the stringent tests of coherence, rigor and empirical grounding reigning in academia. But this is no longer the case."
    While it may be true that materialism has assumed the pretence that it is the only serious metaphysicalposition around, it was decidedly undermined by Rudolf Steiner's "Philosophy of Freedom" at the end of the 19th century. Regrettably Steiner's other work could not easily be approached by our academic culture and so his philosophical work has remained largely unknown. He builds on Goethe's scientific methodology and in my view addresses the central epistemological challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I thoroughly look forward to reading this book, and enjoyed this article, plus everything else that comes through the pipeline of your email broadcasts.

    Bernardo, I have a question for you, and it's one that I'm sure many others besides myself would love to know:

    If one is seriously considering graduate work in philosophy, do you have any suggestions as to where we may be likely to find allies, those doing work in a critical approach towards physicalism and scientism, who we might hope to work with/under, to join the good fight and continue the work without the upstream swimming of attempting to do so in a more conventional, materialist-dominated program?

    This might even be worth creating a separate post for, but of course I would welcome any sort of response. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment