Interview with philosopher and author, Bernardo Kastrup examines the limits of scientific materialism.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Bernardo Kastrup, PhD., author of, Why Materialism Is Baloney. During the interview Kastrup discusses human consciousness as an emergent property of the brain:
Alex Tsakiris: I have interviewed some folks who hold very firmly to this materialistic view of consciousness of mind. There’s a certain fallback position they use when they realize there’s an absurdity to it. I’d like you to talk about this emergent property of the brain idea, where we’re still 100% brain based but somehow we introduce this idea of an emergent property of the brain.
Bernardo Kastrup: Yeah, I think it’s an appeal to magic, it’s a label for something that we don’t know or that we can’t even conceive to give it a label and it sounds like we know because we give it a name. Emergence is a phenomenon that exists, for instance, sand dunes are an emergent phenomenon of grains of sands and wind. They form beautiful patterns and when you look at those patterns they are unexpected. How can just grains of sand and wind form those patterns in those designs? But these are all examples of what philosophers call weak emergence. Basically, weak emergence is when you have a phenomena that’s surprising compared to its components, like in this case sand and wind. But which is still explainable by its components. You can still get used to both properties of what you’re seeing from the properties of its basic components like grains of sand, sand and wind. You can simulate sand dunes on a computer and get the same beautiful patterns. What people call consciousness emergent phenomena of the brain appeal to what Dave Chalmers, a philosopher, calls strong emergence and that’s when the phenomena you observe – the emergent phenomena cannot be deduced from the properties of its components. Consciousness cannot be deduced from spin, momentum, mass of subatomic particles. You simply cannot deduce the redness of red, the pain that we feel when we lose a loved one. You cannot deduce that phenomenology from spin, charged momentum, mass and whatever from the material world. So that’s an example of what philosophers would call strong emergence – I’m of the opinion that strong emergence isn’t coherent. It’s an appeal to the unknown. It does not appeal to magic, it’s not only an unknown it’s something that we can’t even conceive. There’s a gaping black hole in our view of reality. We’re given a name and we say we will find out about this in the future and it looks all cozy and warm and we get that fuzzy feeling as if we are honest there, but in fact there is a universe to be breached here. Once that will never be breached because it’s incoherent, it’s based on the fundamentally flawed interpretation of reality, that’s the position I take.
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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Bernardo Kastrup back to Skeptiko. Bernardo has a PhD in computer engineering and has worked as a scientist in some of the world’s leading research laboratories, including those particle smashing folks at CERN. He’s here to talk about his new book, Why Materialism is Baloney. He’s been a very popular guest on Skeptiko and it’s great to have you back Bernardo. Thanks for joining me.
Bernardo Kastrup: Thanks for having me back. It was fun last time.
Alex Tsakiris: It’s fun to have you here. Tell us about this book with this very provocative title that won’t be surprising to a lot of our listeners but certainly will be provocative to a lot of people, Why Materialism is Baloney.
Bernardo Kastrup: The first time I disclosed this title, people were sure my publisher wouldn’t accept it and I thought probably they won’t, but they did and I’m very glad. It reflects the essence of the book. It’s an effort I made over the past few years to organize my own thoughts about why materialism simply doesn’t make sense. Why – it sounds so plausible because it’s so embedded in the culture for so long for 300 – 400 years, since the beginning of the enlightenment. But if you really look into it you see that it doesn’t add up. Not only does it not add up it’s also not necessary to explain reality.
Alex Tsakiris: Tell folks before we get too far into it. We have to just start at the beginning. What are we talking about, when we talk about scientific materialism? What is it?
Bernardo Kastrup: Personally, I’d like to split these words. When people say scientific materialism it’s a philosophical and not a logical interpretation of science. Science itself is just a study of the patterns and the regularities that we can observe in reality. It doesn’t carry with it an interpretation in terms of saying, ‘Oh this is outside mind or not, it doesn’t matter for pure science.’ Scientific materialism is when you load the scientific observations of the regularities of nature with an ontological interpretation and you’d say; what you’re observing here is matter outside of mind that has an existence that would still go on even if nobody were looking at it. That is already an interpretation. It’s not really pure science anymore and the essence of materialism – scientific materialism is that is just what I said; the real world is outside of mind, it’s independent of mind and particular arrangements of elements in that real world namely subatomic particles, generate mind, generate subjective experience. Now of course the only carrier of reality anyone can know is subjective experience. So, materialism is a kind of projection, an abstraction and then a projection onto the world of something that is fundamentally beyond knowledge.
Alex Tsakiris: What you say in the book – and I like the way you put this – you say it’s our fundamental metaphysical assumption and I think that’s going to catch a lot of people by surprise because those are not words we generally associate with science, and yet as you point out we’ve done this little sleight of hand – or I guess our current paradigm has done this sleight of hand – where they’re taking metaphysics, substituting it for science and saying, oh no, that’s what we meant all along. So take what you just said and break it down for us, in terms of why you think that metaphysical assumption is as you plainly say, is just absurd.
Bernardo Kastrup: Materialism is an enormous metaphysical assumption. It abstracts our world fundamentally beyond knowledge because knowledge is a mind. Knowledge isn’t subjective experience. When you say that the entire universe is outside of mind – you’re postulating something fundamentally outside of knowledge something that you can only infer if you have very good reasons for it.
Alex Tsakiris: Hold on, break that down for us. Because I think that it sounds like a simple notion but it’s actually a tricky little thing to say about our experience is in our mind. Break that down for us, the inside/outside thing that you’re drawing out there.
Bernardo Kastrup: Everything that we can ever know our entire lives as far as we can ever know is an experience. It’s in mind, it’s a subjective experience. So we can break that down with a living example. The computer I have in front of me, the chair I’m sitting on, the table I feel with my hands, the lights in the office where I am, these are all experiences: color, shape, smell, sound. These are all experiences, they’re all in mind and that’s the only reality we can know. It’s the things we can touch, the things we can see, the things we can smell. What materialism states is that is all created by your brain and therefore it’s all inside your head. The real world has no color, has no sound, has no shape, the only thing you can compare it to, is a mathematical equation because it’s completely abstract according to materialism. In that sense materialism is an incredibly strong metaphysics – strong in a sense that it’s far out and unnecessary because it says that reality is not what you live every day, it’s not what you experience every day, that’s just a epiphenomenon, something you create inside your head. Reality is like a mathematical equation – pure abstraction, fundamentally beyond knowledge. That is metaphysics even more metaphysics than spiritual realms because people who are religious at least they expect that they will get the spiritual realm at some point maybe after death. And the metaphysics of materialism entails that the real reality will never be directly accessible by us because it’s fundamentally outside experiencing. It cannot be experienced. It’s only an abstraction of mind.
Alex Tsakiris: One of the terms you used in the book to drive this point home is the idea of self-localization and I love this analogy that you’ve really used for a couple of years but it’s a great one, and that is the whirlpool. Tell us about the whirlpool and this idea that a whirlpool generates water? Well of course that’s absurd.
Bernardo Kastrup: Yeah, and it’s the body and the brain – body system is a localization of mind. Like a whirlpool is a localization of water.
Alex Tsakiris: Break that down for us. A whirlpool is a localization of water?
Bernardo Kastrup: Yeah, that’s what it is. If you look at the whirlpool its water going around in circles for a little while. It’s a process in water that reflects localization of the flow of water. Now if all reality is mind, and I argue that there is no reason to think otherwise. Then the body brain system is an image of the localization of the flow of minds. That localization of the flow of minds is already like personal consciousness and of course it’s localized. We’ve lost awareness of the rest of existence, so our awareness is very localized. We only know the world immediately around us. The analogy I make is that the body brain system is to mind like a whirlpool is to water. It’s simply the image of a process of mind. It’s not the cause of the process of mind – the same sense that a whirlpool doesn’t cause water. It doesn’t generate water. It’s the image of a process of water flowing in a localized manner. The same applies to the body brain system, and in fact that explains why there are so many correlations between brain states and subjective states. One is the image of the other, so of course they are to some extent correlated.
Alex Tsakiris: Very good, as you know we’ve talked about this topic quite a bit on this show and have interviewed some folks who hold very firmly to this materialistic view of consciousness of mind. There’s also I think I’ve noticed and I’m sure you have too. There’s a certain fallback position that people have gotten into when they realize that that’s kind of – there’s a certain absurdity to that which you’re pointing out – you’re more than pointing out, you’re kind of pummeling them it. I’d like you to talk about this emergent property of the brain idea, where we’re still 100% brain based but somehow we introduce this idea of an emergent property of the brain.
Bernardo Kastrup: Yeah, I think it’s an appeal to magic, it’s a label for something that we don’t know or that we can’t even conceive to give it a label and it sounds like we know because we give it a name. Emergence is a phenomenon that exists, for instance, sand dunes are an emergent phenomenon of grains of sands and wind. They form beautiful patterns and when you look at those patterns they are unexpected. How can just grains of sand and wind form those patterns in those designs? But these are all examples of what philosophers call weak emergence. Basically, weak emergence is when you have a phenomena that’s surprising compared to its components, like in this case sand and wind. But which is still explainable by its components. You can still get used to both properties of what you’re seeing from the properties of its basic components like grains of sand, sand and wind. You can simulate sand dunes on a computer and get the same beautiful patterns. What people call consciousness emergent phenomena of the brain appeal to what Dave Chalmers, a philosopher, calls strong emergence and that’s when the phenomena you observe – the emergent phenomena cannot be deduced from the properties of its components. Consciousness cannot be deduced from spin, momentum, mass of subatomic particles. You simply cannot deduce the redness of red, the pain that we feel when we lose a loved one. You cannot deduce that phenomenology from spin, charged momentum, mass and whatever from the material world. So that’s an example of what philosophers would call strong emergence – I’m of the opinion that strong emergence isn’t coherent. It’s an appeal to the unknown. It does not appeal to magic, it’s not only an unknown it’s something that we can’t even conceive. There’s a gapping black hole in our view of reality. We’re given a name and we say we will find out about this in the future and it looks all cozy and warm and we get that fuzzy feeling as if we are honest there, but in fact there is a universe to be breeched here. Once that will never be breeched because it’s incoherent, it’s based on the fundamentally flawed interpretation of reality, that’s the position I take.
Alex Tsakiris: Yes and I would whole heartedly agree. It’s the ultimate passing of the buck if you will. It’s like let somebody else worry about it – I have this fancy term that I can throw on it so I’m glad we’re of like mind about that. But you know that really leads us into another question I wanted to ask, it’s a little bit outside of your domain, but not really because you’ve been in these battles, you’ve battled this prevailing yet absurd paradigm and I think one of the things that I bump up against over and over again, and I think I feel like I have to communicate to people that are on this journey with me is the – I always phrase it as “How can this be question?” You know, so you get at this for a while and you realize: one, that there’s this existing paradigm. Does it make sense that there’s a lot of evidence for mind /consciousness somehow being fundamental and that evidence pops up again and again, but there are all these smart people that think otherwise. How can it be? Moreover, there’s a whole society we’ve built on this that works and functions; again, how can this be? And I think for people that are kind of parachuting into this topic or have even just kind of nibbled around the edges and are trying to really grasp it, that’s one of the big challenges. How can this be? How can everyone be so wrong Bernardo and you’re right.
Bernardo Kastrup: Materialism I think is absurd when you look at it in detail. But it does on first sight – it does seem to explain at least two things that they’re very fundamental to our experience of reality, and I think that is the strength of materialism. That’s why it has gained so much momentum over the past couple hundred years. The first thing is if the world is fundamentally in mind – why can’t I change reality at will? If it’s a dream – why can’t I just dream something else – I am lucid, after all. The second thing is if it is a dream why do we all share the same dream? How come if I’m looking at the waves at the beach and somebody else is sitting next to me; that person will be seeing the same waves? How can a dream be shared like that? Materialism apparently explains these two things by saying the world is outside of mind – that’s why you cannot change it by simply wishing it to be different. And because it’s outside of mind it can be concurrently observed by multiple minds which would then get analogous experiences of that outside world. Now the problem is there are other ways to explain both the independence of the world from [inaudible -0:14:13] and the fact that reality shared. And we do not need to oscillate an entire abstract in improvable universe fundamentally outside mind and outside knowledge to make sense of reality and this is one of the things that I spend quite a bit of space in the book too – too explain this too empirical aspects of reality in a bit more parsimonious way. But to answer your question, I think materialism has originally gathered momentum because of these two things. This explanatory power it has to make sense of these still fundamental aspects of our experience of reality. Overtime however, I think psychological reasons would explain that – I mean Alan Watts already talked about that in the 60s. Real men stare the facts in the face – like we are just matter and we are going to die and there will be nothing left and if you’re a real man or a real human being – you stare the facts in the face and you acknowledge that. So in a sense it has become so popular precisely because it is so negative and so contour to the human nature. It makes people feel like – I don’t know – like they’re getting a badge of honor by admitting to this – like they’re more courageous and more intelligent than the foolish masses that are trying to delude themselves. Of course none of this has to do with the facts of the matter.
Alex Tsakiris: Right, but then again you can now – where does this take us? And you just alluded to that and you’re a scientist. Don’t you worry about this leap that we’re kind of taking, this leap of faith? But then again I guess you have what you think is a world view that allows us to stay inside the confines or the principles of science and yet incorporate in a more expansive view of consciousness, so I guess it’s time for you to tell us how that might work?
Bernardo Kastrup: Science in its pure form carries no ontological interpretations with it. It’s simply an effort to analyze and model the patterns and regularities of empirical experience. There is nothing in this view that I promote that reality is fundamentally mind. There is nothing in it that argues against a large part of the experiences of mind unfolding according to stable, strict bottoms, and regularities. From that perspective I deny normal science – normal valid science. I don’t deny that nature unfolds according to very stable laws. I don’t deny that my egoic volition, my egoic wishes cannot change the world in a whim. I don’t deny any of that. I think that the patterns and regularity of nature are what they are and we have established that empirically. Of course that doesn’t mean that magic is fundamentally outside mind. We are observing those thoughts and modeling them in mind, so in my mind – my view of the world a particular ontological interpretation like idealism – a form of which I promote. There’s no deny in science. I’m at perfect peace with my scientific mind, and my scientific history and way of thinking despite holding the ontological position I hold, in fact I think it is a little more parsimonious position in that such – much more in line with the spirit of science.
Alex Tsakiris: Explain to us then your position regarding idealism?
Bernardo Kastrup: I reject the notion that reality is fundamentally outside our empirical, our subjective experience that reality is an abstract world, an outside mind, outside consciousness with fashionable words to use these days. I think the dualism that there risks is not a fundamental dualism off of mind-matter. It’s a dualism of high expectation. I think if part of mind, self-localized like a whirlpool self-localizes in water. An illusion is generated like an illusion of identity that makes us identify with that whirlpool with this body brain system and that creates an outside world that is outside egoic volition the ego is ideal conversation so indeed the rest of reality is outside the control of the ego. Because the ego is the whirlpool not the stream in which the whirlpool is located. Egoic volition cannot change the world at will simply by wishing it to be different. That will is missed there. It doesn’t deny that all reality is in mind and a shared dream can originate in this model if you considered it there can be multiple whirlpools in extreme continuing on with the analogy and yet there can be ripples in that stream that penetrate many whirlpools injecting the same information or analogy information into may whirlpools at the same time. In my mind that accounts for the fact that empirical reality is shared and not an idiosyncratic solid cyst dream.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, but Bernardo, come on, were going to have a hard time – a lot of folks are going to have a hard time connecting that to their life, and I think that’s the challenge for science, it’s the fundamental flaw of science, it’s lost its mission statement and that is to provide meaning and to help us understand meaning. To help us nudge a little bit closer to those big truth questions we have. You know, who are we? Why are we here? So it that’s your take on it, nudge us a little bit closer. What does this mean?
Bernardo Kastrup: Okay, let’s try to greet closer to our own personal experience of reality. Think about your dreams. When you dream at night, you dream of an entire universe, a world in that dream maybe a street, a house, and a city, whatever. And you dream of a character in that dream which you identify yourself with during the dream and while you are in that dream you think that you are that character and that the rest of the dream is the outside world. So I can dream of being a man in a house, walking around the house and thinking this house is outside of me because I identify only with that little character in the dream. When I wake up it’s obvious to me that the whole thing was generated by me. I was not only the little man walking around. I was the house too, and the city. I was the entire dream. My mind was doing the whole thing, but a split off psychic complex of my mind has turned into the little character in that dream and I identified myself with that subject of what my mind was generating, even though I was the whole thing. Now let’s bring it back to reality. In my view reality is a shared dream. We are the split of complexes of the dreamer. The difference is there is more than one now, in this shared reality. We are dreaming the whole thing up. We just happen to be dissociated and identifying ourselves with only a little character in the dream. If this is true than reality is the dream and that dream is in us, not us in the dream. In the same way that you’re nightly dreams are in your mind, not you in it.
Alex Tsakiris: But don’t we still have this subject, object problem or really a question that we have to answer, who is the “me”? Who is the “I” in this equation that you keep talking about? There does seem to be my experience is – and in everyone’s I think – I can only speak for myself, but no – our experience is that there is an “I”, there is a “me”. How do you factor that into it? I mean, it’s fine to say that I was dreaming and that was just a dream and now likewise I’m experiencing life, but that is dreamlike. There still is a subject in the equation that is behind all this in your understanding – in your world view – Parse that out, what does that mean? Who am I?
Bernardo Kastrup: I think if realities fundamentally mental there’s no reason to parcellate more than one subject. If everything is mind then there is mind, mind is the subject. Objects are imaginations within minds which are observed from several different points of view of mind. From that perspective there is only one subject, and you are that subject, and I am that subject too. What happens when we think of ourselves as separate, separate people is that we mix our fundamental sense of I-ness so to say with the stories that are playing in our minds and we take our identity from those stories as opposed to that fundamental sense. For instance, you still have the same fundamental sense of I-ness that you had when you were a kid, I think. You still think of yourself as the same person you were when you were five-years-old. There isn’t probably a single atom in your body that is the same. Your thoughts are different, your bodies different, and the reality around you is different, your opinions are different, your dreams are different everything about you is different. And yes you have the same sense of I-ness because there has been continuity throughout that time. Now you may identify yourself with the story in your mind today, I am Alex, I live in Southern California and I do Skeptiko. That’s a story. Your fundamental sense of I-ness has no story around it and from that perspective it’s completely undifferentiated – I have the exact same sense of I-ness that you have, and probably a fish has the same sense of I-ness. If you strip the stories away there is no differentiation, it’s just that I am feeling that we all have. I think that I am feeling is the only thing that is absolutely true. Everything else is imagined, it’s a story that we or whatever other split off the psychic complexes that one mind come up with.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, good enough. A couple things, first, you have to appreciate and I’m sure you do that this resonates with so many of the spiritual traditions that have been around for ages and it also resonates with the work that’s done by consciousness researchers, contemplatives who sit and meditate and go through transformative spiritual experiences and come back and say the exact same thing. But they bring with it a lot of other information about feeling in that gap because you have to recognize and speak to this. There is a huge gap between this notion that we really can’t conceive from our little brain here of this one consciousness – this one mind. We really can’t get from there to our existence – than the existence of us inside of a group like in my family that I love and care about and have some connection to. And then if I accept the idea that I may have lived a previous life, and I may live a future life. To try and bring that idea of one mind that you’re talking about which is a really simple idea, and spread it a cross this now much larger landscape of experience, much larger than materialism alone would have us kind of understand. Is a tough, tough task, can you really just so simply say; well, you know in my equation as your taking very scientific computer engineering approach. You’re saying, well, the equation says there’s just one mind, so hey, that’s it – there’s just one mind.
Bernardo Kastrup: I think strict, logical, and rigorous analysis of the date at hand our immediate experience of reality and whatever relevant scientific research we can get our hands on indicate this; to postulate multiple minds having fundamental and it’s fundamentally separate existence – it’s inflationary and unnecessary. It’s like postulating the flying spaghetti monster. Maybe it’s true but why would we consider it, if things could be explained in a much more parsimonious way.
Alex Tsakiris: Yes, but at this point we’ve kind of jumped the CASM here and we’re on the other side and everything is speculative. We cannot approach these topics from a scientific standpoint – in the same way that we did with our very simple materialism. I think that’s part of the allure of materialism. Materialism offers us the promise of measurement, that we really can measure things. This expansive view of consciousness blows that apart and says you can never measure anything unless you factor in consciousness; and oh, by the way we don’t really know anything about consciousness. It will always be that x-factor that we can’t understand. So through a certain extent I’m with you to a certain extent but I think there’s a lot of experiences along the way that we have to have some kind of explanation for other than say, oh, that’s just one mind, that’s just one mind. I mean take the near death experience that we’ve talked about so much on this show. Take the spiritually transformative experience that isn’t associated with a near death experience. Take the abduction experience which we’ve talked a lot about this show and cannot be dismissed, cannot be swept under the rug. Take the psychedelic experience – again we’ve talked about that a lot. You can’t just take all these experiences and say, oh, these are outside of our “normal” conscious experience, but wait a minute I have the answer. They’re all just mind doing what it does. They’re just different little whirlpools out there. Perhaps but I don’t think you can just wave your hand and say, oh, those are just other little whirlpools that we’ll have to explore later. I mean it’s kind of pulling the same emergent property of the brain trick.
Bernardo Kastrup: I think you’re completely right. I think we can’t do that. I mean it was not my intent to be that dismissive – all my answers are tentative. I approach them from the perspectives about someone who has looked at it and has chosen what I think is the simplest explanation with the most explanatory power and the attempt in the book is first and foremost to make sense of our ordinary consciences reality. Come up with an ontological interpretation of our observations that could give us sounds and an explanation for what the ordinarily observe. There are no ordinary experiences that people have. I mean there are too many, in abductions, spiritual experiences, and psychedelic experiences. I do think that we can fit – I think they do not contradict the philosophy I put forward because to say that it’s all one mind is to go to one extreme, but we also know that that mind differentiates itself – it has split off psychic complexes so to say. And there is nothing this philosophy that requires there to be only two levels, only the one mind and ordinarily reality. I don’t require that. I do not know what there is in between. Maybe there is differentiation, this localization process happens along an enormous as an incredibly complex hierarchy. Maybe our ordinary realities – only a tiny infinitesimal fragment of everything that is going on when that one mind decides to split itself off and create this reality and observe them from the localized perspective. If it is indeed a decision instead of just a natural phenomenon, the mind expressing what it is without a plan, which tends to be my position. But I don’t deny these things in between or on the sides. I don’t deny that there can be realities other than the ordinary one. I don’t deny that between this level where we are in recognition – experiential recognition of the one mind that can be many things in between, and from that perspective maybe it is valid to talk metaphorically about the soul, not as a ghost floating around in space and time because that’s a materialist idea, but a soul as a form of identity, personal identity a form of localization that survives physical death. I don’t deny the possibility that that is the case.
Alex Tsakiris: Right, because I think what a lot of people are going to be searching for after approaching this topic and having the resources that you provide in your book and on your excellent website that I have to mention again – Metaphysical Speculations, Bernardo Kastrup. Google that: Metaphysical Speculations, you’ll find it, because this is a topic that you write about frequently from a lot of different angles with a lot of different interaction of things that are happening in the world, in the media, and your response to it and how that fits in. So I think people can get a real sense for you as a thinker who is constantly trying to test your theory against what’s going on, but in that same way one of the things I like to do is kind of venture out beyond the theoretical and beyond the scientific show that I really appreciate and he’s been a guest on my show is Buddha at the gas pump, and my buddy Rick Archer over there. And here’s a different approach; look at people who are going through this process of enlightenment for lack of a better word and I’ve experienced it from a wide variety of different traditions, and that’s what Rick does. So he has people who are Buddhist as the name of the show implies, but they’re really a small number of those. They’re just these people that have either gone through meditation or have had this spontaneous experience or any different ways that they’ve experienced it, and they come back and say, ah! There is this larger reality. And Bernardo, so many times it’s exactly the reality that you’re talking about. It’s the one mind it’s a collective, but a long with it there’s a lot of other aspects to it that I think people are really searching for – they’re trying to grasp on to it, they are trying to understand because they’re the meaning questions. They come back and say you know what – it’s important to love other people. You know what the little things that you do when you connect with other people – that’s what it’s about, it’s about connection. They come back and say, oh, you know what – you really do experience past lives and those past lives whether you want to put the term Karma on it or whatever. They do have an impact on your current life and on your future life and then they’ll introduce all sorts of other concepts and they’re not always in sync. Sometimes one person says another thing and some person completely contradicts it, but I guess what I’m saying is – there’s a lot of questions that we have between this idea of materialism which shuts us down from any kind of expansive view of consciousness and it shuts us down from approaching any of those topics. But there’s still a huge gap from that and kind of – what you’re giving us – well, there’s one mind, so that’s what you get. I mean isn’t that in between really where we all live? What we’re all struggling with on a day to day basis as we try and figure out how to live our life and how to live our life with meaning?
Bernardo Kastrup: Yes, I don’t think that just to say it’s one mind, that’s not even the first of the book to say it’s all one mind. I mentioned that [inaudible -0:34:22] and I spent 99% of the book on the implications and ramifications of my view of reality. I don’t think it’s satisfying to just say well, it’s just one mind and therefore you don’t really buy your fundamental sense of I-ness will survive any process of mind localization or your localization that may come up. I agree with that and I agree we are looking for meaning. My own vision, perspective on the question of meaning is the following: A lot of people from Eastern traditions mainly, although in the west, it happens as well, it’s the so called fear of negative. Well, there is only one mind – everything else are the illusions and dreams of this one mind, therefore, nothings really important. I think that’s an aloof attitude that is life denying in a way. It denies the value of our experiences in life. In a way takes the meaning out of it because it’s just a hallucination of some deity – what’s the meaning of that? My perspective is that for the same reason that the lies of a liar, tells something about the liar. The illusions of that one mind tells something about that one mind and I think that is the meaning of life. To engage and observe this dream because it is a metaphor for something fundamental about the nature of mind, it’s mind trying to show to itself what it is through this whole [inaudible – 00:17:29] that we call existence in the universe. And our role is to try to interpret that and to make something out of that. That’s mind looking at itself in the mirror. So I don’t think the answer, oh, it’s just all one mind. I don’t think it ends the question at all. I mean, it doesn’t even begin to end. It may be true but it doesn’t begin to address the question of meaning. We have to go much further in that sense I agree with you.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s very interesting and deep, deep thought because what you’re really saying is, it maybe one mind and I’m sorry to keep repeating that over simplified term and I know it doesn’t capture very accurately what you’re really talking about, but I’m going to continue to use it because that’s well, how I am. Even if there is one mind – I am part of that one mind. I am that one mind or I am part of that one mind. I don’t want to get into to many semantic battles, but then what you’re saying is though my experience of that mind is the only importance and meaning I can derive from mind can be derived from my experience. So let me look at it, let me contemplate it, and let me be a reflection of it. So it’s kind of a give and take process as I try and find that meaning through my life. Is that –
Bernardo Kastrup: Yes, yes. Let’s take a dream. Let’s go back to the analogy with the dream. It’s amazing how reality stutter with things that we can use as great analogist for its fundamental nature. It’s almost not by accident I think. But anyway we go back to the dream. When you wake-up you know it was a dream and in that sense it was “an illusion”. It was just something that your mind dreamed up. Yet the entirety of depth psychology is based on the meaning of dreams and what it tells about you. What it tells about what’s going on in your conscious about your true motivations, your true fears, who you really are, all of your hidden aspects, your shadow, and your higher self, and which in psychology would be called the archetype of the old wise man and so on. So the entirety of the science, that psychology, in all its variations is based on the truths that exist behind the illusion of a dream. So to say the things that things are illusions were dreamed up doesn’t empty them of meaning at all because there is truth to be found in illusion. The illusions aren’t generated by something – something generates those illusions and it generates those illusions, not some other illusion. Why is it those illusions? What does it say about the thing that generates it because if it generates it it’s expressing its fundamental nature? What is it saying about its fundamental nature when it manifests its universe with all the love and all the hate, the pain, and the ecstasy, and the beauty, and the ugliness? What is it saying? What does it review about the nature of the dreamer? I think there is where the question of meaning lies.
Alex Tsakiris: Wonderfully said. So it’s all about the asking of the question more than it is about the answer, isn’t it?
Bernardo Kastrup: Without knowing you made a statement that is just relevant to something new that I’m writing down – I’m cooking in the background. Yes I think the role of the human intellect – this self-reflective aspect of mind that can only be created through the localization – the folding of mind onto itself and I think that’s the meaning of the localization. Only through the intellect can we ask these self- reflective questions like: Who am I? What’s going on? Why am I here? What’s the underlying nature of this all? Without the localization we would not be self-reflective, we would not be able to ask those questions. The answers don’t come from the intellect. It’s much to restrict. We see that in our experience of light. The intellect is much too restrictive – to even describe the beauty of music let alone the fundamental nature of reality. The answers come from the unconscious from the non-localized spot but the answers maybe lying there if they are not activated by the right questions; they’re as good as not being there at all. And I think that’s the role of this entire process of localization that makes us lose so much by identifying with the ego and by the brain system. But it allows for the asking of the right questions. And I think there, there, right there is the meaning of existence. When you ask yourself what does this mean? What am I seeing? What does this illusion say? Those are the questions that go straight to the unconscious, straight to the functioning part of minds to the core of existence, and something resonates there, I think, but that’s my personal experience. It’s not really my logical philosophy.
Alex Tsakiris: Well it’s a wonderful book again it’s; Why Materialism is Baloney. Bernardo, how do people get their hands on the book? And tell folks again what’s going on with you on your blog and on your excellent you-tube channel. You know we were chatting a little bit before the show. You’ve done an excellent you-tube on this book. It’s a great way for people to jump in and get a quick overview of what it’s about but you also have on your channel other interviews and dialogues, really interesting stuff. Tell folks about that.
Bernardo Kastrup: Yeah I have a three-fold online presence. I maintain this blog; metaphysical speculations which can be found at BernardoKastrup.com or you can search it on Google as well. I just share my thoughts there as they come – I write a number of essays and that goes about philosophy sometimes, about other topics as well, answer comments, and normally engage with people on that site. I have my Facebook page where I share links and also share some short thoughts and short ideas that sometimes I have on the you-tube channel which is also in my name Bernardo Kastrup. All are in my name Bernardo Kastrup you will find them all. Where I share some of my thoughts in video format and some public presentations I have given and some videos I have done myself, including what you alluded to, the short clip which is a teaser of the book with a very brief summary of what the book is all about.
Alex Tsakiris: Great, well folks should definitely check that out and check out this latest book. Bernardo has several other titles definitely worth reading. You’ll find all of those on his website. Hey Bernardo, thanks again for joining me. It’s been a great dialogue. It’s great getting back in touch and best of luck with this book.
Bernardo Kastrup: Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me. It has been a lot of fun again. I’m looking forward to listening it online.