On Monistic Idealism and the Primacy of the Mind

 

At the time of writing, I am a pessimist. If there were any view of reality that could help me gain some optimism (and I am unsure of this), it would be the only one that I suspect may have some truth to it—that is, monistic idealism, or something very much like it.

Here I have expressed the views that would take, if I were to adopt the position myself. They would be my answers to the questions, which I have developed by thinking about it alone in my room, and by reading about everything in the world. They do not necessarily represent the views expressed by people who ascribe to monistic idealism, as I am not yet well-acquainted with the opinions of such people. Some of the ideas below are actually held by respectable people, while many others are simply wild and unwarranted speculation. I nonetheless consider it important to develop one’s own views before spoiling them with trends and consensus.

It is important to note, while reading this, that I do not actually know the answers to these questions. Rather, this is what I would say if I were forced, at gunpoint, to put on a suit and deliver all the answers from a podium.

What is monistic idealism?

Monistic idealism is essentially the view that consciousness is the ground of all being. Mind creates matter, and the physical world does not objectively exist outside of the mind.

What reason is there to believe this?

Monistic idealism can handle all the results of modern science, and it admits the hard problem of consciousness. It leaves the biggest questions unanswered, but nonetheless reduces the number of questions. It is a parsimonious description of the world.

What does this have to do with science?

The work done in science initially showed us that reality obeyed certain physical “laws.” Everything is casually linked in a testable and consistent way. Under the assumption that the “laws of physics” were the same everywhere, experiments allowed people to manipulate and understand (in some sense) the world around them by doing whatever worked the first time.

However, alongside this mechanistic aspect of reality, there has always been the philosophical question of whether something is “really there” if you are not observing it. Everyone is familiar with this because of the oft-repeated question: “If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Today, this question most often appears as a sarcastic or trite allusion to the navel-gazing futility of philosophical reasoning. But the question has a simple answer: no, the tree does not make a sound. One might argue that air surrounding the tree is disturbed, but a “sound” is an experience that is had when little bones rattle in the ears of an observer. If there is no observer, there is no sound.

The philosophical question of reality existing apart from observation does relativity and quantum mechanics. While the methods are highly complex and the interpretations contentious, a few simple and undeniable conclusions arise:

–         Physical particles do not have absolute positions or velocities. Moreover, particles exhibit wave-like behaviour, and do not actually have to “be” anywhere unless observation requires them to be there. They can be in two places at once.

–         There is no objective, universal “now”

–         There is no objective, universal speed of an object

The scientific results of the 20’th century could be viewed as counting against the objective existence of the physical world, except inasmuch as it exists “for” the observer. The evidence seems to indicate that the only thing that is “real” is what is observed. Particles/waves only exhibit specific behaviours when they are forced to for the sake of “observation.” Time and distance are not measured by a universal standard, but relative to an observer.

Many scientists would not endorse such interpretations, but it is up to you how you would like to interpret the facts.

What about the hard problem of consciousness?

The hard problem of consciousness, and the issue of qualia, is, in my view, the most insoluble problem that exists. Simply put, it is the question of why we experience information. Why do we experience anything at all? We are made out of the same material as all the inanimate objects around us. A materialist outlook can causally link every event in the universe, but it cannot account for the experience of information. Although various arguments (such as the inverted spectrum argument) have been formulated to illustrate the hard problem of consciousness to those who are not familiar with it, it is a problem that is obvious to any honest, living, questioning brain, and I think it is denied chiefly by materialists (e.g. Dennett) who depend on the robustness of scientific materialism for their personal well being, among other things. Ironically, deniers of the hard problem of consciousness deny even the existence of a problem. But while people are demonstrably susceptible to arguments about things that do not exist, they are unlikely to argue about problems that do not exist.

The uniformity of qualia (or, whether the colour red is experienced identically by everyone) is quite beside the point. No amount of correlation between the wavelength that corresponds to “red” and the behaviour induced in human brains can explain the subjective experience of the colour red. There is not, and there cannot be, any empirical description of a private experience, because there is no explanation provided as to why it should happen at all. Furthermore, it is often overlooked that everything in our lives—including the very arguments about the hard problem of consciousness, and the measurement of “objective” data—is a subjective experience. The vivid glow of the screen as you read this text against the black background is not objective data. It is an experience. There are scientific descriptions of these events that will predict all the events around you, and even your own actions, with great accuracy; but they exist only as the experience of taking the measurements, making the conjectures, and publishing the scientific papers. The “objective data” of wavelengths disturbing your retina and sending the signals to your brain exists only as the subjective experience of measuring the wavelengths, dissecting retinas, and recording the observations in vivid, subjective sense-terms. Data can always be described in terms of experiences; experiences cannot be described in terms of data.

If the hard problem of consciousness is so simple to recognize, why is there so much rigorous and detailed argument surrounding it? Possibly because by admitting it, one is admitting a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible to explain, and has mystical overtones. It feeds the wild speculation of New Age believers, among other things. This is thoroughly contrary to the mood that has been established in modern scientific circles, and it inspires (perhaps healthily) fear in them.

The hard problem of consciousness is the crux of monistic idealism, which suggests that consciousness is the ground of all being. Subjective experience of mind is the thing that is “just there,” the thing that was not created, but the thing that creates. One no longer needs to explain how all the material causes in the universe led up to such a queer, freak circumstance on one lonely planet. Rather, consciousness is the thing that cannot be explained. It is the first mover. It is the bottom of the mystery, and it bends the material world to allow for its existence, creating whatever causal chain is necessary.

“Primacy of mind?”

If one begins with materialism (without explaining any of the physical laws, and without explaining why there is matter in the first place), attempting to arrive at one’s present condition, the result is catastrophic, and the result is profoundly nihilistic. If one simply asserts the mind, however, one can truly believe in one’s own existence, and can explore even a cold and empty world as something that is beneath the mind, rather than the creator of the mind.

Hawking has recently co-authored a book (the Grand Design) which alludes strongly to these ideas. He touches on the lack of an objective reality, and even mentions the anthropic principle. He also discusses this idea of asserting the existence of the mind when he discusses a “top-down” approach to reality, calling humans the “lords of creation [in a sense],” because they have selected out the history of the universe in which conscious life exists. The authors do not even mention consciousness, however.  Why don’t they explore those ideas? They end the book by taking a stand upon the law of gravity, asserting that we exist “because there is such a law as gravity” and “the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” The authors then go on to say that because of this, there is no God necessary to “light the blue touch paper” and start the universe off. While the full complexities of modern science are inscrutable to all but a few (if any) human minds, the absurdity of such statements is obvious to all. The existence of these statements is best explained not by scientific analysis, but by psychoanalysis. Hawking is dying. He is running out of time to explain the universe, so he is making a stand on the best science of the day.

Monistic idealism is parsimonious because it does not assert an unobservable multiverse, nor does it leave all the physical theories of matter to be reconciled with each other. It asserts only what we all know to exist: consciousness. We are still left with huge problems, but we are perhaps closer to the truth about the huge problems.

So then what’s the point of existence?

This isn’t a religion. It doesn’t answer this question. A possible non-teleological purpose of existence is to have a bunch of minds, and the single, sole purpose of all physical matter (which is more a network of experiences than something that is “there”) is to ensure that no two observers disagree on what they are experiencing, hence arriving at a contradiction. This is the reason for the existence of oranges, squirrels, chess, cavemen, the universe, and everything. These things all exist only in order to maintain the consistency of our observations and allow us to communicate with each other—to consistently answer any question that can be asked by a subjective observer, with any degree of rigour. This explains the intense causal linkage between everything that is discovered by the scientific method. The universe that we observe is the only way that such minds can exist and communicate.

The teleological purpose of existence (if there is one) is totally inaccessible to human minds, and may or may not remain this way, in life or in death. But we appear to be moving towards something. Far be it from me to stifle your speculation.

So where did the universe come from?

Perhaps it did not “come from” anywhere. We (and any other conscious beings that exist, or “the consciousness” if there is only one big mind) create the universe, along with its deep history and its perplexing collapse backwards in time, when we ask the right questions. The universe exists because there has to be a consistent history that answers all the questions that can be asked.

Still. Why is there something rather than nothing?

Some people think that it’s possible to get an answer to this question. Some even think they have provided a satisfactory answer. I laugh in their faces.

Perhaps there’s no such thing as nothing?

Why the hell am I in this body with four limbs, a circulatory system, lungs, bones, etc.? Why are we born as little children, slowly coming into higher consciousness?

This is just the way it works out. This is what is necessitated by consistency of experience. Why you are experiencing your particular body during a particular time (rather than some other body and time) is still an unanswerable question, as is the question of whether there are other types of conscious beings.

Perhaps brains are like ham radios that both measure and distort the electromagnetic field (the “field” being, in this case, consciousness, or ultimate reality). Having a larger brain is like having a larger radio antenna.

What about paranormal phenomena?

Monistic idealism accommodates paranormal phenomena (if you believe in the stories that you hear from your friends), because it suggests the ultimate reality of the mind. Phenomena such as action at a distance, correlations of dreams with distant or unobserved events, vivid visions that appear to supersede physical reality, can all be accounted for under the hypothesis that reality is mental in nature; if no information exists to prevent the occurrence of an event (by making it logically impossible), this event can occur, even though it most likely will not.

But there’s just so much stuff in the physical world, including my body. When I leave an eraser crumb in the corner and come back years later, it’s still there. The physical world simply has to exist outside of the mind.

You only say this because you find your personal, consistent experiences of the physical world so convincing, which is what this is all about.

In fact that eraser crumb has a minuscule effect on everything in its surroundings (spatial and temporal), which eventually tie into someone’s singular experience of the world, such that the crumb couldn’t be in any other place when you look for it.

What about meaninglessness, suffering, death, oppression, emotional pain, pensions, and so on? Why do our lives involve so many useless details, and why are we so unaware of truth and purpose?

The evidence indicates that it is not ultimately important whether people are clueless, or suffer from meaninglessness. Most of the people throughout history were profoundly clueless, and they died clueless. This is probably going to be the case with us. We are part of something bigger that we cannot understand (even if you are an atheist who does not accept any of the arguments here, this is true), and at the moment it clearly does not matter to this big thing that we understand it, or live meaningful lives.

So again: what’s the point of existence?

How am I supposed to know? Participate in it, maybe, on the expectation that there is some kind of a story unwinding, and that the source of your consciousness is the ground of all being (therefore even though “you” will personally die, existence cannot be destroyed by death)? Love the other people? Try to figure something out that will be helpful?

What about morals?

Suffering and experience are the most real things that exist; therefore the golden rule holds, because the things you cause in other people’s minds are real. Also, on this view, hurting someone else may literally be the indirect or delayed injury of yourself.

Life sucks.

We actually don’t live that long.

Won’t everyone eventually die?

Well on this view, no, every conscious being cannot die (even though this is suggested by our understanding of reality, and modern physics), because subjective experience is what ultimately exists. The universe does not really exist in and of itself, and it cannot exist without observers. How consciousness will go on existing is a mystery, and perhaps if we live long enough we will find out. Perhaps when you die to drain back into the vat of bubbling, steaming mental awareness.

There are many who would assert that a lifeless universe can easily exist, since it is so easy to imagine. But it can only be imagined so long as you exist to imagine it. If we were to posit a God who is invisible, and does not interact with any human beings (nor has he ever interacted with human beings), the question of whether he is there is meaningless, and many would assert that he does not exist. These same people are quick to defend a universe full of lifeless rocks, containing no observers. But the very idea, in and of itself, has no meaning. This may seem counterintuitive, but some reflection will do it justice. In the lifeless universe, what speed does a particular particle travel at? How does time flow (and for whom does it flow?) Where are the particles? The results of modern science have destroyed our conceptions of objectivity in this regard. A lifeless universe is impossible to imagine, and the extension of this idea (mad as it may seem) is that there are no lifeless universes, and there never will be.

What about determinism?

We know because of quantum mechanics that the universe is ultimately not deterministic. Perhaps this is because consciousness creates matter, and things are only as certain (i.e. determined) as they have to be to keep all observations consistent. Human beings may or may not have free will, but since they cannot define it (because of the Standard Problem), those who can accept the mystery can live as if they have free will.

It may be argued that human beings must be determined because the structures in the brain are too large for quantum effects to play any role, even if quantum effects could be philosophically associated with freedom of the will. This is irrelevant because human behaviour ultimately is correlated with external factors that we have no knowledge of, and these are not determined. If a person is instructed to perform a certain action based on the timing of three random isotope decays, the person has just performed an action that resulted directly from a non-deterministic process. Additionally, various human behaviours arise from the givens of existence (i.e. the self-awareness, the knowledge of one’s own condition). These are rational thoughts that are not clearly “caused’ by any particular input. Rather, the input is the existence of the device that receives the input. This forms a feedback loop, which creates what we might commonly call a mystery—something that treads on its own assumptions.

What about the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics?

I don’t know, but let me speculate wildly:

Consciousness is absolute. The mind houses perfect abstractions. The physical world cannot contain perfect abstractions because it is dependent upon observation, and for whatever reason, it is impossible for such abstractions to facilitate the interaction between observers. They contain infinities. A circle can be imagined at some distance, but the closer one gets, the more the curvature must adapt to accommodate the information that is requested (analogous, perhaps, to requesting more digits of Pi). Pi is an infinitely long number, and it cannot be imagined instantaneously in its entirety, since subjective experience seems to require (for reasons unknown) limitation.

What is death? What happens when I die?

One might imagine that people are like a vast array of windows looking out onto a scene from different perspectives. When a person is born, a window is opened. When a person dies, a window is closed. What you personally experience is really not known, of course. Notice, however, that when you wake up in the morning, you seem to appear out of absolutely nowhere.

The teleological view of death is that it generates a larger and more holistic spectrum of experience (childhood can only be experienced once by a person who lives and dies, perhaps).

Why are we all split up into so many separate minds? Are we unique beings, or a single consciousness?

If there is one consciousness (i.e. pantheism), perhaps separate minds are the best way for it to learn something about itself. If we are unique individuals, I have no clue. I have no clue either way, really.

What about rational thought?

On materialism, rational thought becomes very difficult to explain, because every one of our thoughts (even this thought about rational thought) is enslaved by the causes that generated the thoughts. These causes have no more reason to result in a “right” answer than a “wrong” answer, since they are blind causes determined by arbitrary physical laws. There is no reason why they should not be hopelessly and irreparably deceived. On monistic idealism, rational thought is the ability of consciousness to manipulate and apprehend the reality that it creates, because it transcends and supersedes this reality.

What should people do with their lives?

Let me speculate based on the assumption that there is a purpose to the universe:

People engage in isolated and communal activities. Some of the isolated activities (science, knowledge, technology) advance the evolving universe towards something, like turning the pages of a story. The communal activities fill the pages of the story. The rest of the stuff that happens in between is largely bad, it seems, and the purpose of it is unknown to the individuals. It is possible that there is nothing specific that you are supposed to do with your life–that you can be aware of, at least. But you did not choose to exist. You are being forced to exist, and whatever mysterious and twisting nether is forcing you to exist is achieving its goal perfectly. You are meeting its needs. Be happy that you’re meeting its needs.

Does anyone else believe this?

Some very intelligent people, such as Christopher Langan, reach a similar type of conclusion. Langan is quoted as saying that “you cannot describe the universe completely with any accuracy unless you’re willing to admit that it’s both physical and mental in nature.” I think Langan is noteworthy because he is very smart, but he was also never poisoned by any academic biases of the day, and hence he does not feel pressure to deny the mental nature of the universe, or the possibility that it has a purpose.

*          *          *

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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25 Responses to “On Monistic Idealism and the Primacy of the Mind”

  1. If you were likewise dressed in a suit and forced to demonstrate the hypothesis(That it’s consciousness all the way down? I’m not exactly certain what’s being proposed.), how would you do it?

    • But it seems to me the same could be said for materialism. If you were asked to demonstrate the existence of matter existing entirely independent of consciousness, it is not only the case that you individually could not do it, it is in principle impossible – the moment you make the demonstration, you have “touched” matter with consciousness, and therefore your demonstration is proved false. I like the idea that quantum physics, relativity and the hard problem make idealism more attractive. But it seems to me the single most powerful argument against materialism is that it is utterly absurd to think that it constitutes an “explanation” of anything to say that out of pure chaos (the latest cosmology suggests that in the first few nanoseconds prior to the big bang, there were no “laws” of nature) some kind of regularities or “laws” just “happened” to emerge, and then by chance, continued to function as “laws” guiding something else (nobody has any coherent definition of “energy” of “physical” – which is now thought to underlie what we used to think of as the material substrate of things.” How anybody could think this is a useful explanation for anything is baffling to me. I have conducted scientific research, by the way, and have studied this for several decades, and moderated forums with other scientists, so I’m not unfamiliar with the counter arguments. They just don’t make any sense to me. And in fact, 80% of philosophers of science have given up on materialism also (they generally consider themselves “phenomenalists”, just to play it safe – but they sound like a cross between idealists and nondualists.

  2. (“consciousness all the way down” might be an apt way of putting it – it also involves the suggestion that this is a “participatory universe,” as I believe the term goes).

    I wouldn’t be able to demonstrate it aside from what was said here. My two biggest reasons for short-listing this idea on my “might be true” list are:

    A) The scientific results that lend credence to the lack of an objective reality without an observer / the observer-dependent nature of physical reality

    B) The hard problem of consciousness

    When it comes to big ideas, it’s pretty hard to “demonstrate” anything, in the sense of proving it. This one has a consistency to it that addresses several key givens about the world, though it leaves a lot of questions unanswered, as any idea will.

  3. “A) The scientific results that lend credence to the lack of an objective reality without an observer / the observer-dependent nature of physical reality”

    I have an issue with your application of quantum effects as related to matters of consciousness. To my thinking, there needs to be a better demonstration of the causal link between consciousness, observation, and quantum probability if you want to make an appeal to quantum effects as they may influence consciousness.

    “B) The hard problem of consciousness”

    Defining consciousness itself is hard. But it is getting easier as neuroscience progresses–has been making good stride ever since the homunculus was excised from human anatomy. Delving into consciousness by way of philosophy is like splitting the atom with a knife and fork; wrong set of tools; an fMRI is a better way, in my opinion.

    “When it comes to big ideas, it’s pretty hard to “demonstrate” anything, in the sense of proving it.”

    At this point, without a way of verifiably substantiating the proposition(s), it appears to amount to about as much on angels-per-square-micrometer of pin as it does to does about anything. A tempest in a merely hypothetical teapot.

    But this is coming from a dysteleological physicalist. 😉

  4. “there needs to be a better demonstration of the causal link between consciousness”

    What would you like? You need a subjective observer to make a statement about reality, and without one, there doesn’t seem to be a reality to talk about. This is compatible with the suggestion that physical reality isn’t “out there” by itself, although it doesn’t necessitate that conclusion on its own.

    “Defining consciousness itself is hard. But it is getting easier as neuroscience progresses”

    No, it isn’t. Not unless you deny the hard problem. Based on your statements, it sounds like you do. I’ve no interest in arguing that point; you can deny it if you like.

    “At this point, without a way of verifiably substantiating the proposition(s), it appears to amount to…”

    I don’t think so. It’s an interpretation of the facts, not an assertion of unobservable facts. And you haven’t defined any criteria for verification. If one denies that subjective conscious experience exists because it cannot be objectively verified, for instance, one has already assumed the conclusion. That has a nice no-nonsense air about it that meshes well with the attitudes of the day, but it also ends the discussion.

  5. “What would you like?”

    Something someone could read, reproduce, and verify, independently. You appear to have made a claim that quantum mechanics relates to consciousness in some tangible way. I’d like to know how you are doing that.

    “You need a subjective observer to make a statement about reality, and without one, there doesn’t seem to be a reality to talk about.”

    Yeah, I think so, too. I subscribe to a theory of mind that describes part of it in such a way that humans don’t just receive sensory input(reality), but also project a model of reality to do various things, like anticipate outcomes.

    “This is compatible with the suggestion that physical reality isn’t “out there” by itself, although it doesn’t necessitate that conclusion on its own.”

    Right; we’re real; grass is real; thoughts are real. Reality is no more “in there” than it is “out there.” Like Sagan said, “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.”

    “It’s an interpretation of the facts, not an assertion of unobservable facts.”

    Which facts are those? The one’s where quantum mechanics somehow impinges upon consciousness? I may have lost your plot if you’re referring to some other facts.

    “And you haven’t defined any criteria for verification.”

    I left that to you. At first you gave quantum effects as a form of verification. But you haven’t explained why or how you’ve done this.

    “If one denies that subjective conscious experience exists because it cannot be objectively verified, for instance, one has already assumed the conclusion.”

    I was not aware I’d given the impression that I deny subjective experience. Were you under the impression that I deny subjective experiences? If that’s the case, then I failed to communicate well.

    “That has a nice no-nonsense air about it that meshes well with the attitudes of the day, but it also ends the discussion.”

    I have no idea how one might answer the call to substantiate the hypothesis. Hoped you had that card up your sleeve, still.

  6. I think we’re diverging a bit, so I’ll reformulate what I meant by bringing up relativity and quantum mechanics–the salient results of these two discoveries have weakened the idea that there is an objective reality beyond a particular observer. There is no objective “now,” there is no objective “speed of an object” without an observer, and particles only pick states (i.e. exist) inasmuch as they need to to satisfy the “questions” that are asked (otherwise they remain in superposition). John Archibald Wheeler–who I believe held a view like this–called that general idea “It from Bit.”

    Those are a few bare facts. These facts can be interpreted a number of ways, but they are certainly compatible with the interpretation that our view of a static, objective reality is mistaken, and that consciousness is the wellspring from which matter arises.

    As for substantiating it, it is the hard problem of consciousness that gives rise to such thinking, among other things. When you ask for an “independent” verification, you are already making a few assumptions. What do you mean by “independent?” Who is independent? If I ascribe to solipsism, nothing and nobody can disprove my assertions. But that would be my fault.

  7. Yeah, we differ on the interpretation. Causal linkages are still unclear to me.

    By independent I mean that by following a line of action(or thought, if that’s all that’s left to us), one might produce the same results/conclusion, no matter the prior assumptions. Line running code, ideally.

  8. Wabasso Says:

    All I wanted to comment on was the rebuttal to ‘A’. We spoke about this briefly once. My understanding of the recent insights in quantum physics is that you just can’t measure, with any known tools, the precise values of traits like speed and position. This doesn’t mean that, while these particles are off being unobserved, they do not possess these values.

    Imagine you design a computer simulation where tiny organisms interact in a physics engine you’ve designed. There is some lower limit of granularity to the universe — each particle the lifeforms are composed of has to move between physical memory addresses, for example. Except you don’t want this granularity to be apparent to its lifeforms so none of the functions in the program allow measurement down to that level. Sitting at your computer you can send messages to these lifeforms explaining everything about their universe objectively. But they won’t be able to prove it for themselves that what you say is true.

    Did you look further into the double slit experiment and such following our discussion? Maybe my analogy doesn’t hold and there was some correlation between conscious observers and the paths particles would take. I just always took “observer” to mean “the apparatus”.

  9. “My understanding of the recent insights in quantum physics is that you just can’t measure, with any known tools, the precise values of traits like speed and position . . . . Did you look further into the double slit experiment and such following our discussion? Maybe my analogy doesn’t hold and there was some correlation between conscious observers and the paths particles would take. I just always took “observer” to mean “the apparatus”.”

    Yes, the uncertainty principle is know to me. What can’t be measured is both speed and position, but separately, they can; that the accurate measurement of one aspect inversely effects the accurate measurement of the other. Like the joke goes: Heisenberg is pulled over by a police officer, who asks, “Do you know how fast you were going?” To which Heisenberg responds, “No, but I know where I am.”

    I am only marginally confident that I even understand what you are proposing. From what I can gather you’re saying that consciousness is like an unconscious demiurge, or wrecking ball, depending, within a substrate of reality that conforms to an unknown set of rules. In any event, consciousness itself is transformative/creative. That quantum weirdness was posited in support of it did not, and still does not, demonstrate a causal linkage of a kind I could be reasonably sure about. Correlation, sure–that much is seemingly apparent. The reason I’m pushing for some kind of demonstration of the proposition is that in my travels on the Internet, quantum mechanics is often injected into situations that have nothing to do with it(see Deepak Chopra or What the Bleed Do We Know *shudder*).

    As to a physics simulation and universal granularity: It’d be pretty interesting. If well designed enough, yes, the subjects might never know anything otherwise. Could be consciousness is an emergent property of a sufficiently complex simulation. Like emergent properties in Stephan Wolfram’s programs/experiments; a few simple rules, and tada, complexities unforeseen. Fun to speculate.

  10. You seem to have missed the fact that someone else has entered the conversation (it’s OK, I’ve made this mistake before).

    Wabasso (do I need to call you that on here, or do you care if people know your name): I do not think it’s generally believed that these unmeasurable quantities actually exist. Also, your little scenario requires a programmer who knows about the hidden quantities. This programmer is basically some kind of God. I realize we’re abstracting, but we can only abstract inside the real system that we’re in.

    Kylenki: You’re quite correct; I am fully aware that quantum mechanics is often dragged into conversations to make mystical chatter sound legitimate. And I thought about that for a good few minutes about whether I should even be mentioning it, since I am not as competent in it as I would prefer. The only point I was making in this regard is that it fits with a model in which reality is only “there” to the extent required by observation. For instance, “checking” which slit the photon travels through eliminates the interference between the cases where it travels through both slits. But *why* are things like this? Why doesn’t matter/waves behave the same way when the information is unobservable as when it is observable? The idea of downward causation is compatible with this idea.

    Wheeler puts it best.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2002/jun/featuniverse/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=

  11. Wabasso Says:

    Sorry Kylenki. I phrased the start of my comment in a silly way so I can see where there would be confusion. When I got the reply notification via email I couldn’t tell who was replying to me either.

    That’s an awesome Wheeler article. It made me uncomfortable at first because it really is a counter intuitive concept. I relate more to Wheeler and it seems like you (rwzero) relate more to Linde. The idea of uncertain space blobs floating around out there is amazing.

    I still don’t see what the double slit experiment has shown us about human consciousness being any different from mica (see the article).

  12. Careful, careful careful; I didn’t say the double slit experiment directly shows us things about consciousness, though it does shows us things about reality, and consciousness is reality. For me, it’s all of reality.

    I do lean towards Linde’s comments. Even after the decoherence upon contact with the mica, “who” says the mica is there? Many people prefer to trap those questions in the “philosophy” pan of the sieve and go on with their “science,” but I loathe such fragmentation; it eats people alive.

  13. Chew on this.

    Subjectivity exists only when identity is applied to the observer. Within the context of Monistic Idealism, consciousness has not identity in its natural state. Neither does Awareness (focused consciousness). Therefore what seems to be Subjective is transformed into something that is neither subjective or objective (the field where the two arise). We must understand that the Primacy of mind entails an infinite field of consciousness where no single point can exist. It is because of this that identity is nothing more then an illusion of experience.

    In this field the three are Unified as co-arising noumena. (The observer, the observed, the experience of observation). There is truly only ONE thing going on. 😀

  14. Indeed it can come across as a ‘lonely thought’ but only when its missing the integral element. In Monistic Idealism its thought that without a conscious observer the phenomenal Universe does not exist.

    So how did it all get here? For more then 14 billion years there was no life and no observer. This may cause some to stretch their minds boundries but I feel that this infinite field of consciousness is ALWAYS aware of itself through the contextual field created by its very existence.

    Co-arising with this consciousness is a Law which governs its nature. Therefore the Universe can exist and evolve without a human conscious observer because of the Law which arises with it.

  15. This Law, of course, is Cause and Effect. 😀

  16. It’s a lonely thought because of the idea that there are no truly separate individuals; just different experiences for the one state of being. It’s kind of solipsistic.

    I don’t think this idea is meant to explain “where” the universe came from. However, on this view the billions of lifeless years without observers are nothing more than “present evidence of lifeless years without observers.” They didn’t “happen” in the true sense; nobody experienced them. They’re just a back calculation from the perspective of anyone or anything in existence that necessarily leads up to its existence.

    Whatever one’s philosophy, this last point is trivially true. Everyone has to accept a bit of anthropic principle.

  17. “Everyone has to accept a bit of anthropic principle.”

    I think I understand this, and why you can’t just pretend the hard problem of consciousness doesn’t exist.

    Is an objective external world still possible though? Can hard determinism be a possibility even if it can’t ever be proved?

    • This point about the objective physical world is perhaps more of a philosophical one than a scientific one. What would it mean for the physical world to objectively exist, or not? Can you show me a rock without showing me a rock? All I know it experiences. When people talk about atoms, I just know the experience of a world which behaves according to ways that are consistent with this idea of an “atom.” To say that “it’s objectively there” is experientially equivalent to “we all experience life as if there is this thing called an atom out there,” but in the latter case you can reduce it down to people’s experiences.

      I can’t imagine trees without people there to see them, and you can’t show me any, for obvious reasons.

      We do know that this quantum behaviour destroys the idea of things having to be in a certain state when “nobody is looking.”

      Determinism: I was pushing it when I wrote that paragraph. Perhaps hard determinism could be true behind the scenes, somehow. What I might have meant to convey was that we can never really know how it’s determined.

    • The way Determinism is resolved within the idea’s shared through monistic idealism is to say that the only “objective reality” which can exist is the one we choose from the infinite field.

      This is what I meant before when I say that the observed and the act of observation co-arise, simultaneously. Through the use of identity we create separation and through that illusion do we falsely perceive an independant reality.

  18. This is trippy as fuck, dude. Very thoughtful stuff and interesting perspectives on the meaning of life and everything that goes with it. While I don’t believe in monistic idealism, you still have interesting perspectives to share. I shared this post on Twitter and forums. ;p

  19. We all came from the Mother Pool of consciousness. Each of our souls is a drop from this pool. We are here to become more conscious by undergoing a vast variety of experiences.
    When we die our body returns to mother earth and our soul returns to the Mother pool of consciousness.

    Gordon

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