A proposal for a series of Cosmos Café (CCafé) sessions or some other TBD format of a structured, organized, collective, close reading (of all or parts) of
Bernardo Kastrup’s (2019) The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality, Winchester, UK/Washington, USA , iff Books.
This is a book about what Kastrup calls idealism, an alternate ontology to the currently dominant physicalism paradigm (i.e., matter is what matters because reality/everything (should be) explainable in terms of the properties of matter). One need not be a philosophy freak to get in on this one. The word “ontology” may seem intimidating, but what it is really about is simply: what is reality and why do we think so?
This topic ties into and overlaps with so many subjects, themes and threads and authors that have been discussed and presented on this site that it would take too long to list them.
Nevertheless, it has long been clear to many of us here that the current, dominant (ontological) paradigm of modern, Western science is failing us. It can’t (and very often refuses to) consider and account for obvious phenomena, such as the so-called paranormal, or even consciousness itself. Its dominant position, however, makes life miserable for many, but without a coherent, viable, expressible alternative, we can’t shift, let alone re-frame, the ontological discussion, regardless of how necessary this appears to a lot of us.
Underpinning everything we think, say, and do is our own (personally flavored) ontology, to be sure. For most of us, it is better termed a belief, because it is hard for us to make it clear to others just why we think some of the things that we do, at least in a way that is convincing to others. I would like to shore up my own, of course, and think that Mr. Kastrup has provided a sound contribution to that effort, one that is originally organized and presented in a language that even laypersons can follow.
In spite of its systematic approach and its relatively clear language, it is nevertheless closely argued and full of logical detail. It is the kind of book that needs to be talked about with others, not just read on its own. I, for one, would like the opportunity for “sanity checks” of my reading. While not wanting to project my own shortcomings onto others, given the depth and seriousness of the underlying topic, I think others would also benefit from being able to “kick the tires” on this one before deciding on whether to take it out for a spin.
The “book” for the most is a conglomeration of articles which Mr. Kastrup got published in peer-reviewed, open-access journals. In other words, he took the classical, accepted approach to getting his ideas “out there”, and he was successful, even if these ideas run counter to the accepted wisdom of the community publishing them. In order to construct an overall argument for his idealist ontology, he provides some introductory writing to explain his approach and purpose, then arranged these articles in a logical sequence of five parts:
- Part I reviews the currently dominant non-idealist ontologies to uncover their inherent weaknesses.
- Part II presents his idealist ontology as an alternative.
- Part III systematically refutes objections that have been raised against idealism.
- Part IV discusses empirical evidence that contradicts the mainstream physicalist approach.
- Part V address two questions: why, even though the less convincing approach, physicalism has been able to become and remain the dominant ontological position, and what difference an idealist approach can make for our own lives and understanding of reality.
After this, he wraps up his “book”, including an Afterword by Edward Kelly, whom many of us know from our CCafés on Irreducible Mind , and an Appendix of another previously published, but not peer-reviewed, article on some of the consequences of taking such an approach. All in fewer than 300 pages.
Ideally, I would like to see at least an online threaded discussion of each of the sections and articles in the book, but video meet-ups to kick off the reading, one for each “Part” of the book, and one at the end to wrap things up. These could be organized as a series of CCafés or as a separate reading group or as a creative combination of the two or any other way that the potential participants would like to organize them. These video meet-ups would occur, I’m guessing, at about three-week intervals … but again, that’s up to the participants. Once agreed, I would be willing to take the administrative lead to ensure that threads and pages were set up for all the get-togethers, synchronous and asynchronous.
The question always arises as to whether one needs to invest in yet another book, but given Kastrup’s overall approach this becomes a secondary issue. All the “content” chapters and the appendix were, as noted above, previously published and are freely available online (links can be provided for access). What is more, if you get the free Kindle reading sample offered by Amazon, you receive all the introductory material plus the first two chapters of the book itself. All that would be missing is some of the material at the end, where it all comes together, but we could address that issue later.
Given sufficient interest, we could start whenever it is convenient for all interested parties. However …
It is clear to me that the current timing of the CCafé sessions is limiting to those who regularly appear. I would be willing to shift that time for these sessions to a timeslot more amenable to more participants (if a CCafé approach is agreed). All we need to do is agree on when that should be; if we decide on another format, we need to decide that anyhow.