On HumansFebruary 26, 202301:14:4869.23 MB

17 | Could Mind Be More Fundamental Than Matter? ~ Bernardo Kastrup

Our mental lives are full of purpose and feeling. Yet the world is governed by laws of physics which seem to lack a sense of either purpose or feeling. So how do we explain consciousness in terms of matter? 

The problem of consciousness is at the forefront of many dialogues between philosophy and science. So how deep is it?

Dr Bernardo Kastrup argues that it is very deep indeed. Or rather, it is a pseudo-problem that arises from us attacking it incorrectly. 

Kastrup's argument is as surprising as it is simple. He claims that we should never have tried to explain consciousness in terms of matter.  After all, the only thing we really know is that consciousness exists. "Matter" is but a concept we create to explain some aspects of our empirical experiences. So we should take consciousness as the starting point. 

What follows is a radical reimagining of much of common philosophical sense. It can feel challenging and mind-bending. Maybe it is the wrong path. But it is a path that for too long has been neglected as an unscientific option at the fringes of rational sanity. Kastrup is well-positioned to defend this "idealist" position with scientific rigour. Before becoming a professional philosopher he worked as a computer scientist at CERN - the world’s leading research institute in fundamental physics. Kastrup is pro-science and pro-empiricism. But he believes that to be genuinely empirical, we have to accept that all we ever know about the world is how the world looks, feels, or appears. It is here that our theory of everything should start from.

Dr Kastrup and Ilari discuss topics such as:

  • What is metaphysical materialism?
  • Why materialism was historically useful?
  • Why materialism is not nearly as intuitive as it sounds like?
  • The hard problem of consciousness
  • Is materialism compatible with quantum physics?
  • Is materialism compatible with neuroscience of altered states (e.g. psychedelics)?
  • Making sense of idealism 
  • Idealism does not mean that the world is all “my” imagining (cf. Berkeley)
  • Does the world have a Will? (cf Schopenhauer)
  • What about neutral monism (often associated with so-called “panpsychism”)?
  • Why the world is meaningful (according to idealism)
  • Why rocks and lakes are not conscious (even according to idealism)
  • Is there anything special about human consciousness?

Technical terms

  • Metaphysical materialism and physicalism (treated here as synonyms)
  • Idealism (in metaphysics)
  • Dualism (in metaphysics)
  • The hard problem of consciousness
  • Occam’s razor (“make your theory as simple as possible”)
  • Einstein’s razor (“make your theory as simple as possible, but not simpler”)
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, previously known as Dissociative Personality Disorder)

Work mentioned