Recorded 24 March 2020
This time around we are going to take a closer look at Part III of Kastrup’s book, “Refuting objections”. It encompasses – as we have come to expect – three chapters (a preamble and two content articles) in which he attempts to respond to objections to his ontology, objections that can be anticipated, given the dominant role the physicalist ontology plays in modern thinking.
(What now follows is a quasi-summary of Chapter 7, the Preamble to Part III.)
Dualist, materialist, and physicalist ontologies have been the dominant paradigms for centuries. Over time, the non-specialist, for certain, comes to accept these as “given”; that is, thing we simply “know”, and have no need of even questioning. When someone comes along with a different view of things, it will quite naturally provoke strong reactions: one’s worldview is being challenged, and such a challenge can be felt as threatening. Nevertheless, it is the challenger’s obligation to engage the refutations as soundly as possible. This is the purpose, if you will, of Part III.
In Chapter 8, the three primary objections raised in Chapter 5 are looked at more closely and more extensively. A previous reading of Chapter 5 is not necessary, as they are addressed in a self-contained way. (Remember, each of the chapters of the book had been previously published independently. Cf. the proposal for this reading series and our discussion of the front matter.) In other words, it presents a more generic articulation of the idealist ontology being proposed. One of the key points worth noting, however, is the “necessary implication […] that a person’s metabolism – all of it – is the extrinsic appearance of the person’s conscious inner life.” (IOTW, p. 125) Recent evidence from neuroscience and psychology suggest, relatedly, that there may be unconscious mental processes, not just conscious ones, which would severely contradict one of idealism’s central tenets.
Chapter 9, then, takes this particular refutation head-on and “argues that, despite appearances to the contrary, we have no clear reason to believe that any mental process is truly unconscious.” (IOTW, p. 126) In a sense, he argues that we only have the illusion of unconsciousness as some processes are below the threshold of metacognition and therefore cannot be accessed through introspection. In many regards this is a challenge to much of the neuroscientific research being conducted toward uncovering the biological foundations of consciousness. Kastrup attempts to show how these studies actually presuppose consciousness, as opposed to reducing it to biological or biochemical processes.
In his own words, “All in all, Part III tackles all the objections to idealism I could think of.” (IOTW, p. 127)
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. 123-170.
Kastrup, IOTW, Ch 8, On the plausibility of idealism: Refuting criticisms (online)
Kastrup, IOTW, Ch 9, There is an unconscious, but it may well be conscious (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?
In Chapter 8, Kastrup specifically addresses 11 different objections to his idealist ontology. The questions which come to mind are the same for each individual case: Do you think he successfully refutes the objection? If yes, why? If not, why not? What did he do well? What could he have done “better”?
Chapter 9 addresses quite specifically the conscious/unconscious dichotomy, which is, for example, of especial significance to depth psychology. How convincing do you find his argumentation advocating that there actually is no such thing as “unconsciousness”? How significant is this for his idealist position?
Has your reading of this part of the text modified your understanding of what he was trying to achieve in Parts I and II of the book. What further consequences has your reading had for your own understanding of reality?
Context, Backstory, and Related Topics
Welcomes (especially if we have new participants)
General overview of the session
Gather first reactions and open questions that might be answered in our discussion
Engage the reading from the vantage of Chapter 8 and Chapter 9
Round-up and preview of coming attractions (what’s up next time)