I was wondering what Kastrup says on pg. 16 where he states “Physicalism is also arguably irreconcilable with results now emerging from physics laboratories around the world” (list of references follows) . I looked up these articles and what these are about is that experimental evidence shows how quantum mechanics (QM) tells us that reality is non-local and/or non-deterministic. It is unclear to me in what sense this is supposed to be irreconcilable with physicalism? It is irreconcilable with our everyday local and deterministic realism, but that has nothing to do with physicalism (or materialism or whatever we may call it). IMO one should keep things distinct and discriminate better: one thing is the issue of physicalism, the other that of realism. True, however, is that most physicalists tend to reject the holistic and fuzzy reality of QM and stick at a classical notion of realism (that’s why they invented a plethora of so called ‘interpretations of QM’ which try to recover at any cost our naive everyday experienced reality). This connection is more of an ideological nature and interesting per se, and that Kastrup seemed to have captured (more or less unconsciously and confusingly).
Marco, I have to agree. This prompted me to get Beyond Realism and Idealism by W M Urban (1949) off my bookshelf. From the Preface:
“The issue between epistemological realism and idealism is not an issue of fact or logic but of cognitive meanings and values… this problem, which is insoluble on the factual or logical levels, is capable of solution when transferred to this higher court.”
Urban goes on to give realism as fair a treatment as possible; he identifies its single redeeming point:
“Genuine knowledge, the realist rightly sees, presupposes antecedent reality, the mind-independent character of the object of knowledge in some sense … The very purpose and meaning of knowledge is to be true to something beyond it; its very intent is to be governed by it and dictated to in certain respects. All this is indisputable, although it cannot be ‘demonstrated’. It is a logically unsupported judgment of value.”
I think Urban nailed it in 1949.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’m following you here. It has long been my understanding (belief?) that “everyday realism” (whatever that actually is) derives in some way from the edifice of “science” that has become accepted by us “mere mortals”. It is, it would seem, some form of of that “classical notion of realism”. At least that’s how I’m getting the connection, but please correct me if I’m wrong. In what ways is this at odds with physicalism? Perhaps I haven’t properly understood a vital point here (or with Kastrup).
Aren’t all those “interpretations of QM” they’ve come up with attempts to do just that? And if so, isn’t the motivation that non-locality/non-determinism doesn’t fit into their proposed explanations of reality to begin with. I have more or less thought that all these mental gymnastics and acrobatics are “evidence” that they want to “save the appearance”, as Barfield might phrase it, of their preferred worldview.
As y’all know, I’m easily confused, and one of the reasons I wanted to do this reading was to get all your help with sorting the confusion, for, as you aptly note, Mr. Kastrup is not always as clear as some of us might like. What am I missing? Any and all assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Please don’t think I’m picking nits here, but I’m not clear on what the differences are between “ontological realism/idealism” and “epistemological realism/Idealism”. Perhaps the problem is that I’m not clear at all on what the differences are between all of these -isms that are showing up (physicalism, materialism, realism, idealism, etc.).
Let me try to say what’s going on in my head, so that it is clearer why I’m perhaps confused: there is a school of thought (to neutralize somewhat the connotations of the -isms) that alleges that matter (little “lumps” of mass, charge, velocity, etc. which combine in multifarioius ways) is primary, and everything else, including our thoughts, feelings, and emotions ultimately derives from that. This school of thought is called variously materialism, physicalism, etc., but the foundational premise is matter first, everything else follows. By contrast, there is another school of thought that takes “consciousness” (whatever that may be) as primary, and everything else, including those “little lumps” I referred to above, as well as our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, derives from that. Those are only two schools of thought, but there are conceivably and apparently others. Would realism be one of those?
And, as I wrote that, it struck me that I have no real idea what that school of thought called “realism” believes. Perhaps someone here could help me out. That materialism and idealism are often portrayed as opposites doesn’t sit well with me, and I have the feeling that in this regard I’m not alone here, but what all the other options are isn’t clear to me either. Realism seems to fit into this category.
Again, any and all assistance in this regard is greatly appreciated.
; that is, “reality” (what we experience as the world around us, in most simplified terms) consists matter-based objects
I apologize if I thruw concepts on the table without clarifying. Let me try it again…
I was speaking loosely of “everyday realism” identifying it with what we, as humans, experience at a macroscopic scale where we see and touch objects like apples, chairs and tables. We reconstruct in our brains (or minds?) a specific ‘reality’ were these object have a certain concreteness and are localized in space and time. In QM we are dealing with an atomic or sub-atomic scale realm where the deterministic and local character we take for guaranteed from our everyday experience becomes meaningless, like the precise position, spin, energy of a particle, etc.
That’s what we would like… eh? “Please, all knowing science, tell us what the truth is and we will bow down and accept your verdict.” In physics there is no definition of “reality” (other than, perhaps, ‘everything that can be measured’… but that is not a definition you will find in textbooks, it is assumed colloquially). Fortunately, Nature is much more subtle than the human made conceptual enterprise we call ‘science’ and gives us tons of stuff to wrap our heads around, leaving us with lots of unanswered questions. Because, at the end of the story, science itself has no clue what ‘reality’ is or what ‘real’ means. In particular in QM, one discovers a ‘realm’ (language can’t avoid to self-reference here…) where objects are in many places at the same time (quantum uncertainty), are one if not observed but become split into two once observed (two quantum entanglement particles), show up with random values once measured (quantum randomness), are correlated instantly even if separated by light years (non-locality) and, as it seems, acquire one of several potentially possible properties by chance depending on the context of how an experiment is setup and only at the instant of measurement (contextuality), etc. So, what kind of ‘reality’ is that? Physicists and philosophers are fighting each other since decades now without being able to converge on an accepted understanding what the ‘real reality’ is.
That was my point and how I was confused either. Kastrup seems to imply that the strange quantum reality points against physicalism. However weird quantum reality might be I don’t think this speaks for or against physicalism. Realism is one thing and physicalism another. Because also in QM the basic building blocks of everything are still particles with a mass, charge, spin, etc.
Exactly. IMO most (even though not all, e.g. Carlo rovelli’s relational quantum mechanics isn’t) are desperate attempts to save the appearances as the old Ptolemaics tried to save the geocentric model with adding epicycle after epicycle. True is that most of these are physicalists (maybe a notable exception was David Bohm). But I would not confuse things here… the interpretations are about what kind of ontology QM is supposed to be based on. The issue of physicalism is a somewhat different one. Of course, the school of thought (materialism vs. non-materialism) one feels attracted to will determine also a different choice between realism or anti-realism. But, at least for me, materialism is the question if matter is fundamental, while realism the question if that matter exists at all.
But what does it mean that something “exists”? Hu… I better stop here…
Thanks a lot for this, Marco. It is extremely helpful, if for no other reason that I’m reassured that I’m not the only one running around with a bunch of questions in my head.
This is something like what I suspected, but I wasn’t sure. As Kyle’s (@dkpierce) Urban quote makes clear, “realism” is also a terminus technicus (Fachbegriff); that is a philosophically formal term (and I’m hoping he’ll help me get that sorted a little better in my mind, too). My reference to the “edifice of ‘science’” was a bit tongue-in-cheek, as I personally believe that “science” is, as it’s name implies mere a (meaning “one of perhaps several”) way of knowing, but as practiced most consistently in the “realm of measurement”, which can (and has been) rather effective, but certainly anything but omniscient. One can “measure” tables and chairs, of course, but not so much consciousness, but I think consciousness is every bit as “real” as are tables and chairs. And as you cogently point out:
It would seem that you, me, and Bernardo all agree that the more mental acrobatics involved, the more questionable the “explanations” become. That is one point, but certainly not the whole point. Yes, Rovelli appears to be trying a different approach, and perhaps it will turn out to be more productive (or not, who knows?). But we agree we need to get beyond saving the appearances. It would seem that both you and I agree that we need to be careful when doing so. (Like you, I downloaded the referenced QM-related articles, but unlike you, I have no real background for understanding just what’s actually being said, so I wonder about the connection for very different reasons than you. )
This all reminds me of a talk Stan Tenen (from the Meru Foundation on the possible interrelatedness of consciousness, physics, and the Hebrew alphabet, and that has been the focus of a couple of CCafé sessions … see here and here) who started one of his lectures with alerting the audience to the fact that when he said “is”, what he really meant was “could be”, but then the lecture would be too hard to follow – and it was hard enough as it was! It could very well be that Mr. Kastrup is overstating his case as a matter of expediency – sort of according to the motto: maybe it’s time to get past saving the appearances and just look for new explanations.
And having said that, your critique:
is certainly justified … well, at least you’ve convinced (and helped me understand) why he may be overstating his case at this point.
Good question, and I think that’s the one I’m really wrestling with, though, like you, I’m not sure I’ve come to a self-satisfactory answer yet.
Thanks again for the clarifications.
Dear Mr. Ed, I would recommend this dialogue from CIS. This staged improv, taking on roles of different world views, helps to capture the dynamics between the big isms that are showing up in our current mud wrestling in the sink hole.
It matters little who wins the match if both wrestlers are sinking. There are many ways of mixing it up as we try to figure out the ‘history of thinking’. This is a Herculean intellectual task and clearly not something that we have much of a chance of resolving without a sensitivity to how we are thinking.
Marco said Physicalism is a cage. I would say Physicalism vs Idealism is a wrestling match in a sink hole. I am sure other metaphors are all around us. And when stuck in a metaphor you don’t like what would we like to have happen?
I hope this helps you, Ed, as much as it helped me.
I think it’s confusing and has gotten more so in the course of our lives, as the relationship between philosophers and physicists has gotten more and more lopsided. Epistemology is about how we know things, while ontology is supposedly about what is “out there” to be known. But idealism and realism clash on the very question of what it means for a thing to be “out there” in the first place. For me it’s a real nasty knot, and I wish I could untangle it better, but I’m sure we will manage to clarify a few things along the way.
You’ve described physicalism vs. idealism pretty well, that’s how I understand it. It’s confusing partly because of the history of these arguments. Realism and idealism are the more traditional divisions, and on either side it seems like no one is too interested in actually solving the whole issue. What else would philosophers argue about? Do they intend to misunderstand each other? Anyhow, there are all sorts of other -isms to spice up the stew, like you say.
So the confusing thing for me is, what’s the diff between physicalism and realism? I think realism is more of a pure philosophical position with its own baggage, while physicalism is a more strategic weapon with which to do battle, carrying another set of baggage.
Kastrup is doing battle with physicalism much more than with realism. If he harped on the issue of how our ordinary view of the world is totally deceiving us, that would be fighting realism. Instead, I think he focuses more on how “lumps” of stuff aren’t what the physicalists say they are. For an example of an anti-realist, I would nominate Donald Hoffman, who recently wrote a book called The Case against Reality. I bought it, read it, and returned it for a refund, mostly because to me, he’s trying to define philosophy and everything else in terms of Evolution. I think that is because even though he is anti-realist, Hoffman sounds like a physicalist. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that being totally stuck on Evolution as the reason for everything is a deeply physicalist position.
So there’s part of me that says, go Bernardo, kick some butt. And then there’s another, more mature part that says, do you really think you’re going to vanquish the physicalists with facts and observations and reason? Or that any school of thought will vanquish another school with logical argumentation? I think W M Urban had it right, that you’d have to go to another level, the realm of values, to understand the real issues at work, and the religious fervor of the combatants.
I think you are right about Hoffman and I think he is wrong and right in some interesting ways. I think materialism emerges out of a hodgepodge of identities which each of us has to figure out from scratch. That time-space may not be fundamental is an insight I like. Hoffman’s assumptions about Darwinism strike me as shallow. We are more than an Icon on our computer screen. He uses a shallow metaphor to explain way too much. If consciousness, information, mind and high Tech are lumped together in weird ways it will be difficult to avoid relativism and/or exclusivism. As a dominant paradigm crumbles, we are no longer becoming what we were becoming. How can we develop a deep pluralism without going crazy?. For me it is a constant challenge inhabiting world views that make no sense to us. It is a big risk. Making metaphors together is central to making sense and this in my view is a very high level social skill that is underdeveloped in most of us. Poetry and Physics may have much in common.
Your remarks are greatly appreciated, Kyle. They are helping me to inch my way through the potential “sinkhole”, as John put it. In particular, your remark
was helpful. It is a nasty knot, and, again, John, at the outset, raised the “-ism issue” when he asked what the opposite of “idealism” was. That got the wheels turning for me. (I haven’t had the chance to watch the video he posted, but intend to do so as soon as I’m finished with this response.)
You should know right up front that I – or at least my thinking – has been very strongly influenced by Jean Gebser (whom, I believe you mentioned elsewhere you are reading or have read, so I need not explain too much here).
His assertion that “-isms” are mental (if not very often rational) structure configurations is what makes them all kind of suspect to me, and there is a whole passel of 'em scurrying about these days. In true Gebserian fashion, however, I’m eagerly awaiting their supersession – eteology – should Gebser’s envisioned impending mutation occur. I don’t think misunderstandings and differences will disappear, but I’d certainly appreciate less argument and more discussion (which is precisely what I like so much about the platform here). Taking one’s discussion partner seriously, regardless of how different your own position may be from theirs, is a good first step. And, for this reason, I appreciated that Mr. Kastrup started where he did with his book, namely with – and here I agree with you, primarily – physicalism.
It is my impression that physicalism/materialism has been the dominant ontology in recent years (and it has become increasingly loud and shrill … cf. the Dawkinses and Harrises, etc.) but it’s showing signs of serious wear. I have long thought that it is time to take a different approach, but what might such an approach look like? Bernardo’s is one, to be sure, and it seems to me to be one that can get a discussion going – as this thread demonstrates.
Well, for certain participants in the general discussion, that is precisely what must be done: present the “better” arguments. That was, at least ideally, the way of “science”, though Thomas Kuhn demonstrated very well that there were a whole lot of other factors involved in changing people’s minds.
This is not surprising, for there is an element of “religious fervor”, as you noted, in much of this discussion. And the fact that it can be accurately described as “religious” is also revealing. There appears to be more to this whole discussion than “the mental”, and in the course of our reading perhaps we can (and will) touch upon some of that. But for the moment, I’m trying to get my -isms sorted, and you’ve helped me out there.
Well, John, I managed to squeeze in the clip between responses and commitments, and once again, you’ve found a real gem. Thanks for the link. It was time well spent.
The backdrop of Steiner was, for me at least, especially satisfying, especially the notion that it is an excellent spiritual exercise to engage all the -isms, for the added-value that each has to offer. This is something we too often forget in the hectic of trying figure out what we believe ourselves. Their admonition to eschew both relativism and exclusivism (man! -isms everywhere ) was well-placed. Steiner’s admonition to find yours and engage the others is also wise advice.
We have talked and still do talk a lot about getting/being/becoming integral, but this little presentation and Q&A helped put those experiences into a sounder framework as well. I realize that condensing the cosmos into twelve approaches is risky undertaking, but the structure thereby provided does help to keep the undertaking manageable. Like Gebser’s structures: it’s not whether they’re right that matters; rather, what matters is that you have something to work with that can help you out when things get confusing, so too can this model provide orientation in confusing times.
In many regards I’m glad I didn’t know about it before we embarked on our odyssey here, but I’m more than happy that I’ve been able to put this one in my backpack.
Many thanks, John. Good one.
Can’t we say that physicalists are realists per definition since they posit matter as defining all of reality from the outset? The question is whether the non-physicalists can be a realist as well? Here the meaning of words are not just arbitrary. What does it mean that something is “real” if we do not refer reality to materiality? What does it mean that something is “objective” vs. “subjective”? Here it is where mind finds itself lost because it is tightly connected with the senses and a spatio-temporal thinking process that always, more or less consciously, imagines ‘solid objects’ or things ‘out there’ to be the ‘real’ things.
In QM the notion of realism has been illustrated by Einstein in his famous paper with Podolsky and Rosen where they state: "“If, without in any way disturbing a system, we can predict with certainty (i.e., with probability equal to unity) the value of a physical quantity, then there exists an element of physical reality corresponding to this physical quantity.” Nowadays we know they were wrong. There are things that, also without disturbing the system, can’t be known (e.g. the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time). For sure the EPR reality is out of question. Moreover, we know that ‘reality’ (ooppss… how should I call it?) is non-local and/or non-deterministic (the and/or is still a matter of debated but I bet on the ‘and’). So, physics can’t tell us much, other than that, if we are realists, we have to forget once and for all the naive realism.
I think that, at bottom, we will always get to the same point. These notions like “reality” and “existence” make no sense if abstracted from consciousness. One can’t say anything to be real other than our own experience. There is nothing we can absolutely be sure of other than that we are conscious. Nothing can be said to “exist” if not (directly or indirectly) in relation to a phenomenal content/event in consciousness. From this point of view matter appears in phenomenal consciousness as well, but the primitive is the latter not the former. So, being an idealist does not mean that one must embrace anti-realism. Not only, at that point I even don’t know what “anti-realism” means?
I can’t agree more. I didn’t read his books (and probably won’t) because by listening to his talks I got the impression he is more playing an academic game rather than genuinely searching for a truth or having the courage to stand for something uneasy. It is nowadays in fashion to explain everything and the contrary of everything with the principles of evolutionary advantage. He rides that wave successfully indeed. But I could not find substance in it. There is however something true in the icon on the computer screen metaphor, could be used to illustrate a form of idealism, but I don’t think it can be taken as proof for non-realism (‘real’ then is not the icon in itself, but the bits and bytes that represent it inside the chip memory).
At the risk of repeating myself (though it wouldn’t be the first time), I found the clip John posted extremely helpful in this regard as it deals with a framework for helping to keep things sorted. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly better than what I was working with before.
Ed, I am happy to hear that I have been helpful. I like the sinkhole image too.
I have gotten Gebser’s TEPO off my shelf and realize that I was going to read more of this but haven’t touched it in quite a while. I got the general outline and can recognize some of his terms when I see them, and hope this group might be an impetus to get into that more. When you mentioned an “integral diaspora”, well that’s a new one on me, but I can imagine there are lots of (new?) offshoots from Gebser.
There are a number of us here who have been (significantly) influenced by Gebser. (There’s a whole “Gebser channel” here on InfiniteConversations; I got to the site via a reading of EPO back in '16). Besides that channel, there are numerous CCafés that have dealt with Gebser and Gebser-related themes. (If you type “gebser” into the IC search engine, you end up with more hits than you can manage in an afternoon, I assure you. )
A lot of those Gebser “hits” will also take you to threads and other events on the site that have dealt with the general topic of “integrality” or “integral consciousness” in a variety of ways. There are a number of participants here who are very familiar with, say, Ken Wilber, and other thinkers who have built upon either Wilber or Gebser or both.
My own bias towards Gebser is simple: of all the integral theorists out there, he has a very “handy” approach (five structure : five fingers, no more than a handful), easily noted, even if it takes a bit of effort to grok what he’s up to. Should you want to or actually get into him more deeply, you’ll find plenty of folks around here who can answer questions that might arise or whom you could spar with if you’re looking to engage his thinking more deeply.
Oh, and another thing, John.
This clip reminded me that we really have to do a Steiner reading at some point. There’s a whole lot there that is worth looking into sooner or later.
Just wanted to get that in the back of all our minds.
A great idea. I have some suggestions. I visit the Steiner Bookshop in my neighborhood quite often. There is a lot of material to work with!
Dream Yoga Research Report 2/18/2020
The dreamer ( I/myself) is fully aware of morphing shapes in a blob of glowing liquid a few feet away. There is a sense of distance between self and the substance that has a malleable quality, like wax, and a sculptural quality like marble. As I watch I also feel a mood that the blob picks up on. The blob has an intelligence and is moving at speed that is hard for me to figure out. It is as if they blob is trying to create some imagery that is out of synch with my sense of time. I am aware that it is aware of my awareness and can , if I am anxious, create trickster, leering faces, if I relax, it assumes a wide variety of humanish shapes. I watch with a neutrality…and then something happens…I am inside a space with other humans and we are in very close proximity, in a mental space, attached to bodies, and sensing a field of interactive agencies. I notice I am standing next to a large man with a golden glow, blonde, a short cropped beard, a heroic figure. I ask his name telepathically.
He says," I am Ray." I put my hand on his heart chakra and tune into him vibrationally. I sense that we are neutral and are well matched in power.
I ask, " Shall we go to heaven?" He agrees to travel with me.
Then we are moved ( through a wormhole?) into another area with many humanoid persons and we enter an enclosed area like a cafe with mirrors everywhere. I notice my hands on the counter top and I tap out a rhythmic pattern. My partner, Ray, plays with the rhythm, too, and we enter a lively exchange. I feel and hear the patterns that we improvise. A young black man joins us and we create a trio. Then I notice that none of the mirrors reflect our image. I stop the motion and move to a mirror and notice I have no reflection. I turn to my companions and say," We have no reflection." There seems to be no reaction from them as if this is unusual. They are smiling. I am puzzled. Where is my self image? I have a sense of a body and a mind with other minds and bodies and agencies but without a reflected image. I wake up and reflect upon this odd condition.
I then return to a space that is much like my apartment but it is clearly not my apartment. There is a man there and he asks," How old is your apartment building?" I am puzzled by his question. He says," It was built in 1888."
I say," Yes and they want to tear down this building and build a shopping mall." Then I am aware that I am registering earth time and a slippery dream time at the same time. I say," This structure can be simulated by all of those who lived here. They can collectively simulate the entire city, each of these simulations are generated out of their individual responses."
Then I hear from beyond the dream building a man’s voice, shouting," Get a dog!" I feel there is a man hunt and an escaped prisoner or a slave running… I am alarmed as the door starts to open and a Stranger is on the other side of the door and I struggle to keep the door closed and try to lock it. The door is solid. I feel that I am not able to secure the space and the Stranger pushes through the door and I wake up with a start.
Meta-Comments upon this report. I declare that I am of sound mind and body and that all that I reported is true and factual.
But true and factual to whom? And is the physics of the physical the same or different from the physics of the dream? Who is asking these questions? Who is reading this?
And knowing what I/we know, now, about both realities, what difference does knowing this make?
Heaven or Hell might not pre-exist. Heaven and Hell may emerge out of our participation. It’s not subjective or objective, here or there, it can be both or neither. Heaven/Hell is created by each of us. We are participant- observers and we are interpreters. There is no pre-given answer to any question.
And is there a relationship between any of this and the Idealist vs Materialist conflict that Kastrup is engaged in?
Thank you, really helpful and mind opening. Lots to digest here. What I’m not convinced though if all these worldviews are indeed equally justifiable as Steiner/Betti seem to claim. Also, there are at least a couple of different idealist worldviews, including Bernardo’s objective idealism, and they are substantially different. Different worldviews have also different merits in terms of parsimony, explanatory depth, etc. I like the picture of the different worldviews as approximations to the central truth, I just wonder whether some are closer to this center than others…
Thanks, Jaime, for your response.
And how do you know when some are closer to this center than others? What let’s you know that?
Where is the body in these world views? And where is the body when we dream? And what kind of body is that? Is it material? physical? semiotic? liminal?
I find the notion that it is produced only by matter to be hugely uninformed. Of course, some persons may delete from a theory a performative element, I find this to be really odd way of relating to the idea of a world. If the Self, is a necessary illusion, as many materialists claim, what kind of illusion is that, if it is necessery?
I have a trouble with eminatative materialism. It strikes me as absurd. Other kinds of materialism are okay with me. Could a human skeleton have evolved without gravity? I don’t see how. Our bilateral symmetry and bipedalism are in relation to many kinds of earth dynamics. I don’t think we need to deny this.
Where is the boundary? What happens when something happens outside of our boundary conditions, which defy the laws? Anomalous experience can’t any longer be swept under the rug by the dominant, incomplete physicalist paradigm. These contradictions seem to be front and center to Kastrup’s project and he works within the paradigm, to make a break with it. Many of us, including Kastrup, may already be operating beyond it.