Cosmos Café [2020-03-10] - The Idea of the World 2 (Part II)


Recorded 10 March 2020


This time around we are going to take a closer look at Part II of Kastrup’s book, “An Idealist Ontology”. It encompasses three chapters (a preamble and two content articles; a format that will be repeated in the other sections of the book) which, in his own words, “comprise the core of this work.” (IOTW, p. 52) The reading for this session encompasses the largest contiguous block of text in the planned series of cafés dealing with this work.

(What now follows is a quasi-summary of Chapter 4, the Preamble to Part II.)

After making clear in Part I why he believes the current, dominant, physicalist ontology needs replacing, in this part he develops an idealist ontology to do just that. The chapters in this part “articulate and defend a present-day form of the ontology of idealism, according to which all existence consists solely of ideas: thoughts, emotions, perceptions, intuitions, imagination, etc.” (IOTW, p. 52) His contention is that the facts of nature are essentially phenomenal; that is, that what we experience as the inanimate universe is in fact “simply the extrinsic appearance of impersonal mental processes.” (IOTW, p. 52) He state that “Nature is unequivocally telling us not only that there is something conscious inner life looks like from a second-person perspective, but that this ‘something’ takes the form of what we call ‘matter’ […].” (IOTW, p. 52) His book, then, "seeks to look at nature without theoretical preconceptions: if the matter in a working brain is the extrinsic appearance of conscious inner life, then – at least in principle – so should the matter in the inanimate universe as a whole be. (IOTW, pp. 52-53) This view of reality, however, sounds to many as counterintuitive. He hastens to point out that it is essential to distinguish between idealism and solipsism, for they are often incorrectly confused. Solipsism maintains that the world is your individual, one might say personal, dream: all that exists is what you think. Idealism, by contrast, asserts that “the whole universe I in mind, but not in your individual psyche alone, for mind extends far beyond the boundaries of personal introspection.” (IOTW, p. 53)

He lays out his theory in two chapters. Chapter 5 explains our classical, non-contextual world under idealism, emphasizing that “the notion of a mental universe is the most parsimonious and powerful explanation of our daily experiences. The chapter argues that existence consists of patterns of self-excitation of one universal mind.” (IOTW, p. 54) In other words, other living organisms are “dissociated alters of this universal mind”, which he calls “mind-at-large”. In his idealist view of reality, the inanimate universe (and all alters, of course) are external to our individual psyches (i.e., “out there”), but still within, or inside, universal mind. (IOTW, p. 54) In Chapter 6, then, he tackles th quantum notion of “contextuality”; that is that the properties of the physical world, such as the position and momentum of objects, “do not exist independently of observation.” (IOTW, p. 54) Stated differently, “The physical world we perceive isn’t merely discovered by observation, but created by it.” (IOTW, p. 54). What he is attempting to show is how the naïve-realist notion of an autonomously existing external world is untenable. It is in this chapter that the shows how idealism makes sense without being reducible to solipsism.

Part II provides the theoretical foundation for his idealist ontology. Part IV will deal with the empirical case for it.

Reading / Watching / Listening

Kastrup, Bernardo (2019) The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality [IOTW] , Winchester, UK/Washington, USA , iff Books, pp. 51-122.

Kastrup, IOTW, Ch 5, An Ontological Solution to the Mind-Body Problem (online)

Kastrup, IOTW, Ch 6, Making Sense of the Mental Universe (online)

Seed Question Complexes

  • How convincing do you find Kastrup’s case as presented in this part of the book? What do you consider to be the strong points of his argumentation? Which weaknesses, if any, can you identify?

  • Has Kastrup in fact provided an ontological solution to the mind-body problem? How do you understand his notion of “spatially unbound consciousness”? His use of the psychological process of “dissociation” is a somewhat creative approach to allowing for the existence of other living organisms. What is your view of this approach’s tenability? Have you been convinced?

  • How do you feel about his dive into quantum physics and the notion of “contextuality” (in a sense, a microcosmic approach) as a way of making a case for his explanation of macrocosmic reality (that is, the world as we encounter and experience it)? Has this approach helped you make sense of reality, or make sense of the notion of a mental universe in general?

  • Has your reading of this part of the text modified your understanding of what he was trying to achieve in Part I of the book. What further consequences has your reading had for your own understanding of reality?

Context, Backstory, and Related Topics

Suggested Agenda

  1. Welcomes (especially if we have new participants)

  2. General overview of the session

  3. Gather first reactions and open questions that might be answered in our discussion

  4. Engage the reading from the vantage of Chapter 5 and Chapter 6

  5. Round-up and preview of coming attractions (what’s up next time)

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I will do my best to attend, Ed (@achronon), at least for the first hour, and to read the background material. Thanks for organising this!

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It’d be great to meet up again over a good read. It’s been a while. Looking forward to it.

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Greetings!

It just dawned on me that the North Americans changed their clocks to daylight-savings’ time (DST)this weekend. (Why they think they have to do it this early was never clear to me, even when I lived there. :thinking:) Still, when I set up the page for our session, I scheduled the time as I always did, for 8:00 pm (20:00h) CET. At this late stage of the game, I am reluctant to change the meet-up time in any way. I mean, regardless, till both NA and Europe are on DST, there is a discrepancy and half of us have to make some kind of time adjustment.

So, this is a heads-up for the North Americans participating: please double-check the time so we’re all online together!

At the end of our meeting, we can discuss how we want to handle the session that will be scheduled for March 24. We Europeans aren’t changing clocks till (as usual) the last weekend in March.

Thanks.

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@achronon et al ~ I just want to let you know that I’ve listened to your first couple sessions and enjoyed them very much. Following up on a point from your last meeting, I think it’s important to note that idealist metaphysics do not necessary translate into progressive politics, even though I believe ‘consciousness’ is essential to enlightenment in the social sphere. I hope you are able to get in sync across time zones. I look forward to hearing more. Keep up the good thinking!

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Since the chats do not show up in the recordings (and tip o’ the chapeau to @Douggins for the fabulously quick turnaround time on this one!), here is the link @MarcoM shared with us regarding philosophers’ and science’s obsession with Occam’s Razor.

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The recording is available (slow connection had me use the gallery view, a smaller file size for download…sorry @johnnydavis54!)

I will likely miss the next session also based on the time change but still following along. A quick thank you to @achronon for facilitating these discussions. I am started to see why you chose this “page-turner”! I am learning/have learned more about philosophy than I have in a long while from the stream of connections derived from trying to understand Kastrup’s work (I suppose it is all footnotes to Plato when it comes to Western thought…though I did learn recently that Schopenhauer gained depth in his idealism from the Vedas.)…for this small mind, the human “mind-at-large” has quite a load of words and works built up explaining the world seen and unseen, some more clear and more concise than others.

A question that arose from the Part II readings (and may have been addressed): His focus is on the spatially unbound consciousness in Chapter 5. Why does he not include or even briefly mention temporally unbound consciousness in his essay? Did I miss something?

In response to the first 20 minutes of the recording …I too question the making of the cut of consciousness. Appreciating the discussion on this thus far. Looking forward to the remainder of the discussion. Another good one!

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Before anyone thinks I’m all wrapped up in myself and have to respond to my own posts, I’ll just throw in that I had @MarcoM’s link and posted it for everyone, including myself. :upside_down_face:

I had to check the link’s validity and stopped to read the blog, which I can only recommend to the rest of our group. Marco makes clear what happens when you take a suggested rule-of-thumb and elevate it to a status for which it was never intended: you’ll end up getting into all kinds of trouble.

Yes, Einstein said it much more clearly and effectively for us moderns; the principle William was advocating was noble … unfortunately, obsessions never are.

Thanks, Marco.

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Ah, great minds work alike, kind sir. I had flagged that phrase as well in my reading. It would seem that the entire notion of “time”, in any of its various manifestations, is conspicuous by its absence, not just here, but elsewhere in the book. It gives me certainly pause for thought. Thanks for bringing it up.

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