Science Ideated: The Fall Of Matter And The Contours Of The Next Mainstream Scientific Worldview
The story of how science and metaphysical materialism became seemingly intertwined is a curious one. Back in the seventeenth century, when science as we know it today took its first steps, scientists based their entire work on—what else?—perceptual experience: the things and phenomena they could see, touch, smell, taste or hear around them. That starting point is, of course, qualitative in nature. After all, the felt concreteness of the proverbial apple that fell on Newton’s head, as well as its redness and sweetness, were sensed qualities. Everything that appears on the screen of perception is perforce qualitative. As such, the starting point of science—then and now—is the world of qualities that we perceive around ourselves. Even the output of perception-enhancing instruments such as microscopes and telescopes is only useful insofar as it is qualitatively perceived.
Soon, however, scientists realized that it is very convenient to describe this eminently qualitative world by means of quantities, such as weights, lengths, angles, speeds, etc. These quantities capture the relative differences between qualities. For instance, an anvil feels qualitatively heavier than a feather, a difference in felt weight that can be conveniently described with a quantity: a certain number of newtons. Today we have units—quantities—to describe every discernible aspect of the world, including frequency, amplitude, mass, charge, momentum, spin, etc.
But then something bizarre happened: many scientists seemingly forgot where it all started and began attributing fundamental reality only to the quantities. Because only quantities can be objectively measured, they began postulating that only mass, charge, momentum, etc., really exist out there, qualities somehow being ephemeral epiphenomena—side effects—of brain activity, existing only within the confines of our skull. This, in a nutshell, was the birth of metaphysical materialism, a philosophy that—absurdly—grants fundamental reality to mere descriptions, while denying the reality of that which is described in the first place.
Indeed, at some point between the early seventeenth and the late nineteenth century, we began cluelessly replacing reality with its description, the territory with the map. Now we say that only matter exists—i.e. things exhaustively defined in terms of quantities alone—while the qualities of experience, which are all we ultimately have, are allegedly secondary, reducible, epiphenomenal. And so we now face the so-called ‘hard problem of consciousness’: the impossibility of explaining qualities in terms of quantities. That we find ourselves surprised at the intractability of this ‘problem’ is what is dumbfounding: we defined matter as something purelyquantitative—i.e. not a quality—to begin with, so it’s no wonder that we can’t reduce qualities to matter, is it?
The hope that we will one day solve the ‘hard problem’ is as foolish as hoping to reduce the territory to its map, a painter to his or her self-portrait. The hard problem must be seen through and circumvented, not solved. Our present metaphysical dilemmas—as well as the story that brought us to them, as briefly outlined above—would be comical if they weren’t tragic. In the space of only a couple of centuries, we tied ourselves up in hopelessly abstract conceptual knots and managed to lose touch with reality altogether.
If science is to progress beyond its present dilemmas—from those in the neuroscience of consciousness to those in the foundations of quantum mechanics, which have their roots in the same conceptual misstep described above—we must undo the knots and place our feet back on firm ground. This book is an attempt to help us do just that.
Indeed, leading-edge empirical observations are increasingly difficult to reconcile with metaphysical materialism. Laboratory results in quantum mechanics, for instance, strongly indicate that there is no autonomous material world of tables and chairs out there. Coupled with the inability of materialist neuroscience to explain experience, this is finally forcing us to reexamine our early assumptions and contemplate alternatives. Analytic idealism—the notion that reality, while equally amenable to scientific inquiry, is fundamentally qualitative—is a leading contender to replace metaphysical materialism.
In this book, the broad body of empirical evidence and reasoning in favor of analytic idealism is reviewed in an accessible manner. The book consists of a compact collection of essays written between 2017 and 2020. The original versions of most of them have previously been published in preeminent magazines and journals—such as Scientific American, the Journal of Near-Death Studies, IAI News (the online magazine of the Institute of Art and Ideas), the Blog of the American Philosophical Association and Science and Nonduality—as well as my own blog. They are collected here in a convenient format, ordered and grouped together in a manner that facilitates their understanding.
The essays have been revised, updated and sometimes extended. Often the original versions had to comply with editorial preferences not my own, whereas the versions in this book are my preferred ones: the ‘director’s cut,’ so to speak, reflecting my true tone and style. Two never-before-published essays are also included: Why Does Nature Mirror Our Reasoning? (Chapter 23) and Is Life More Than Physics? (Chapter 24).
The essays often—though not always—address subjects previously covered in earlier books of mine. However, they embody an increased clarity of argument developed since then. As such, the present book is my chance to cover old ground in a new, fresh way, sharper and more concise. In a sense, it is a grand summary of my ideas: each chapter contains a short and focused distillation of at least one of the defining thoughts behind analytic idealism. The resulting argument anticipates a historically imminent transition to a scientific worldview that, while elegantly accommodating all known empirical evidence and predictive models, regards mind—not matter—as the ground of all reality.
More than any previous book of mine, this one includes criticisms of metaphysical materialism, consciousness denialism, panpsychism and other philosophical and scientific views prevalent in our culture today. In a sense, it is a concentrated, blazing reproach—no punches pulled—of the insanity that characterizes our mainstream worldview at the present historical juncture. This reproach is issued in the hope that it may help us change our most dysfunctional ways, so we can live closer to truth.
Other Books by Bernardo Kastrup
Part I: On ‘Scientific’ Materialism
Chapter 1: Why Materialism Is a Dead-End
Chapter 2: Ignorance
Chapter 3: A Materialism of Qualities?
Chapter 4: Consciousness Cannot Have Evolved
Chapter 5: Consciousness a Mere Accident?
Chapter 6: Brain Image Extraction
Chapter 7: The Strange Psychology of Nonsense
Part II: On Consciousness Denialism
Chapter 8: The Mysterious Disappearance of Consciousness
Chapter 9: The Mysterious Reappearance of Consciousness
Chapter 10: No Ghost, Just a Shell
Part III: On Constitutive Panpsychism
Chapter 11: Panpsychism Ultimately Implies Universal Consciousness
Chapter 12: Sentient Robots, Conscious Spoons and Other Cheerful Follies
Part IV: On Analytic Idealism
Chapter 13: An Overview of Analytic Idealism
Chapter 14: Could Multiple Personality Disorder Explain Life, the Universe and Everything?
Chapter 15: The Unexpected Origin of Matter
Part V: On Physics
Chapter 16: Should Quantum Anomalies Make Us Rethink Reality?
Chapter 17: Coming to Grips with the Implications of Quantum Mechanics
Chapter 18: Reasonable Inferences From Quantum Mechanics
Chapter 19: Thinking Outside the Quantum Box
Chapter 20: The Universe as Cosmic Dashboard
Chapter 21: Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind
Chapter 22: Do We Actually Experience the Flow of Time?
Chapter 23: Why Does Nature Mirror Our Reasoning?
Chapter 24: Is Life More Than Physics?
Part VI: On Psychology and Neuroscience
Chapter 25: Transcending the Brain
Chapter 26: Consciousness Goes Deeper Than You Think
Chapter 27: Misreporting and Confirmation Bias in Psychedelic Research
Chapter 28: Yes, Free Will Exists
Part VII: Broader Perspectives
Chapter 29: Metaphysics and Woo
Chapter 30: The Conceivability Trap
Chapter 31: The Meaning and Destiny of Western Culture
|September 21, 2022
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