8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve

Here is my shot at answering these quickly. I think I have six of the eight solved, but feel free to disagree.

1. Why is there something rather than nothing?

Nothing doesn’t exist, rather ‘no-thing’ is an idea that a thinking thing has about it its own absence.  I suggest that the question should be better worded “Why is there something rather than everything?” The answer to that is because the nature of awareness is to divide and insulate the wholeness of the largest inertial frame (simultaneous eternity) into multiply nested diffracted fragments.

2. Is our universe real?

Yes, but ‘real’ just means that it makes sense in the most possible ways to the most possible participants. The whole idea of ‘real’ is impossible in a universe of disoriented simulations. Realism is a matter of convergences of multiple channels of sense participation, so that greatest integrity of mutual reinforcement is the local standard, i.e. ‘In the land of the blind, a one eyed man is king’. A dream is real until you wake up into a more real experience. The previous reality is redefined within the richer participation as a dream, illusion, delusion, etc. This is not completely relativistic however, as realism is ultimately anchored in the Absolute inertial frame

3. Do we have free will?

Surprisingly yes, but not nearly as much as we might think. Despite the well-meaning misinterpretations of experiments by Libet and others, the possibility of a universe which is completely deterministic is incompatible with ordinary experience. In reading these words for example, there is no conceivable purpose that would be served if not for the possibility that the reader will consciously evaluate the ideas being expressed for use in their own personal agenda. These sentences do not address the sub-personal or impersonal agendas of neurology or evolutionary biology, but rather the person who is doing the reading. This is a complicated topic since consciousness is by definition held out of its own reach, but my understanding is that free will is no less real than determinism, and that both appearances are opposite-seeming points on a continuum of sense-making. Free will is what determinism is on the inside, determinism is what free will looks like on the outside, and the more we can relate to another, the more ‘inside’ we feel that we both are.

4. Does God exist?

You can call it God if you want to. Or Nature. Sense. Totality, Absolute, Tao, Singularity, Ein Sof, Brahman, Transcendental Signifier. I don’t personally anticipate a human-like face on this kind of ‘everythingness’, but there may be all kinds of alternate forms of intelligence which influence our lives from a ‘larger now’…ourselves in the future? Probably better not to think about it too much unless you really have no choice.

5. Is there life after death?

If time is a figment of awareness, then death could bring about the end of human constraints on time perception and a rejoining with the Absolute. In that case, there could not only be life after death, but many lives or every life after death. It is difficult to think of any circumstance which would satisfy everyone one way or another that there is or is not life after death. I will count this question as the first legitimately unsolvable in the negative. In theory, if we were able to connect the internet up to the afterlife or something so that we could communicate with the dead at will, that would probably satisfy most people.

6. Can you really experience anything objectively?

No. Experience is a juxtaposition of finite sense capacities. Without a subjective perspective, there is no sense, and sense is what defines objects.

7. What is the best moral system?

One which does not value a system over morality. Morality is a sense, and like other senses, some people have more finely developed capacities than others.

8. What are numbers?

Numbers are figures which refer to particular lowest common denominator themes in organization of experiences and objects. They seem enigmatic because all experiences and objects can be understood to ‘cast a quantitative shadow’ but they should not be confused with the concretely real experiences with which we might associate them. Reducing the universe to numbers is like trying to figure out the questions to a crossword puzzle based on the answers. It doesn’t work that way, but it isn’t obvious why. Numbers do not make sense by themselves, something real has to makes sense of them with physical presence and participation. Computers cannot be built out of a vacuum, they require rigid bodies capable of sustaining recursive enumeration operations – not fog or cartoons – only discrete ‘stuff’ can compute.

The Four Problems of Studying Consciousness (and their suggested solutions):

I. The Problem of Disorientation

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to any study of consciousness is that both the study and the study-er are aspects of consciousness itself. Infinite regress seems unavoidable, as well as a host of other ambiguities, some of which are embodied in timeworn philosophical puzzles. Everything from “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”, to “If a tree falls in a forest with nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, to Descartes “Je pense donc je suis”, and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave have to do with the issues of the origination of perception and it’s irreducibility to an objective fact. These same ambiguities have surfaced again more recently and confoundingly in quantum physics with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the observer effect, in cosmology with the anthropic principle, and in mathematics with self-similarity, incompleteness, and non-orientable topologies (e.g. Möbius strip, Klein bottle).

II. The Problem of Ubiquity and Ineffability

Another issue related to subjective orientation is the inability to escape one’s own perspective. To quote Buckaroo Banzai, “Wherever You Go, There You Are”. This is distinct from disorientation as far as it describes not only the limitation on the degree to which subjective and objective perception seem absurdly juxtaposed, but the extent to which this absurdity can even be understood. We cannot get outside of our own perception to say what it is or what it is not. The “Elephant in Every Room” is our own awareness. Sanity. Order. Experience. It is impossible not to take it for granted on some level. The universe that we make sense of is one which seems to already make sense. Our ability to derive coherence from our world is shaped by our experience, our learning of language and habits of attention. To reach beyond this anthropic frame of reference is insanity, or non-sense. Not only can we not get outside of ourselves, but when we try, our thoughts lose the coherence and intentionality which constituted the effort for self-transcendence in the first place. Wild absurdity and surreality can be somewhat intellectually domesticated or at least housebroken in the form of zen, (“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”), poetry, art, etc. So powerful is the sensemaking of the human mind that it has ways to explain its own inability to explain how it explains.

III. The Problem of Authenticity

Circularity and recursion it seems, are unbearable to the psyche in a way that they are not to a machine. In fact nothing seems unbearable to a machine, although a physical mechanism (such as an electronic or industrial machine) will fail under certain conditions. To isolate an essential difference between a computational mechanism (such as a virtual computer, Turing machine, or computer program) and an authentically subjective phenomenon seems tricky because of the problems of ubiquity and disorientation, but both of these analytical obstacles can be theoretically overcome. As Frank Herbert’s fictional Gom Jabbar revealed genuine humanity through the administering of extreme pain, the tolerance for unbounded states could possibly be used to distinguish mechanism from sentience. A machine can be left running by itself by default, while a living organism, even though its biological processes have mechanistic functionality, has a high level non-mechanical nature which allows the possibility of it questioning, adapting, learning, and taking creative initiative. More sophisticated machines can seem to us to simulate these kinds of subjective behaviors, but we should not assume that such pseudo-intelligent strategies are felt internally. The machine cannot understand what it is ‘thinking’ because its ‘thoughts’ are imposed from the outside. They are the consequences of a non-native scripted logic from an entirely different perceptual frame.

Whether a particular behavior is caused by an externally superimposed command or a native sense and motive makes no difference from the point of view of a third person observer, it makes no difference if the person that brings you your coffee is a robot or a person. Functionalism focuses our attention only on the inputs and outputs, and all methods of producing a function are reduced simply to means to an end. This is not the case subjectively. From the point of view of a sentient subject, it very much matters why they bring coffee, how long will they keep bringing it, and what will happen if they stop. A robotic servant has no such questions (if they did, they would not make a very good robot servant). The sentient being is experiencing an autobiographical narrative while the machine is not.

We might attribute sentience to a machine, or convince ourselves that we can, but it is not clear that this equivalence holds water in the real world. So far we have no indication that any computer program or machine intelligence has had any feeling or desire to resist our control. All of our AI games and simulations thus far have only served to reinforce the peculiar presence of the absence of presence. No self-hood. No essence. It is a disorienting feeling. Talking to a voicemail system or a GPS device can be perfectly adequate, even superior from a functional point of view, but these technologies present only a silhouette of consciousness – a verbal enactment with no underlying capacity to care, believe, or doubt anything. The only criteria is syntactic; whether or not the voice input can be parsed into data which matches it’s algorithms. While the brain and the mind do make use of this kind of computation in part, we should not confuse the computer aspects of the brain with the user aspects of the brain. When we talk to a device, it is still us – our sense and motives that are driving the behavior of the device. We use the technology as a prosthetic to augment our own mind, to derive insights for our own agendas, but the device itself has no agenda itself other than whatever physical transactions are taking place electronically on a semiconductor level. The machine is processing our voice characteristics as an a-signifying code, transduced digitally from the acoustic to the electronic to the linguistic and back without any true cognition or meaning.

IV. The Problem of Commonality

The Hard Problem of Consciousness and the Mind-Body Problem hinge on the deep division between our native subjective experience (naive realism) and our knowledge of the physical world. This issue has reached something of a fever pitch in neurology as medical technology has given us ever more evidence of the reality of the division rather than alleviating the paradox. We find no trace of our feelings or qualities of our experience in the cells and molecules of the brain. There is only synchronized association by time and position, but that seems to be all that they have in common. We feel, think, or do something and an MRI will register a pattern of activated brain regions which are reliably repeatable but which have no semantic significance independent of our subjective experience. The activity in the brain is incredibly complex and sophisticated spatiotemporally and materially, but in all other ways the activity appears generic. The biochemistry of the brain presents nothing extraordinary to explain the necessity for or a mechanism by which any kind of immersing, 3-D polymorphous theatrical presentation such as we experience could emerge. There appears to be no direct correlation between our subjective experience and the mechanics which ostensibly produce that experience.

Functionalism can only speak in metaphysical terms of ‘information’ or ‘interpretations’ to describe how semantic significance and the presence of qualia might arise. Ultimately these descriptions have medical value but provide no insights into the nature of consciousness. Instead, they actually obstruct inquiry and confuse the issue by bringing the reality of consciousness itself into doubt. It is as if the chasm which separates subjective phenomenology and objective physical science is so vast, the prospect of bridging the two sides so daunting, that we tend to regress into pre-scientific defensiveness. Some thinkers are compelled to argue that consciousness must be explained away – reduced to generic processes and probabilities which can and will be reproduced and simulated eventually. Consciousness in this view is seen as a ‘bag of tricks’ which binds to otherwise meaningless hallucinations for an evolutionary advantage. Other thinkers argue that consciousness is primary, and that it is physical reality that should be explained away through the ephemeral implications of quantum physics and the incompatibility of consciousness with physical substance. Both of these intellectual postures seem to harden into a bellicose incuriousity, with each side exaggerating the shortcomings of the other while bolstering their own position with ever more dubious rationalizations. Taken to their extremes, each position falls into pathological hyperbole – a monosense universe in which either we ourselves or the universe is not real.

V. The Symmetry Solution

To resolve the problem of commonality, we should clear our minds of our personal affections for either one of these intellectual dead ends and set out to consider other alternatives. We can begin this by noticing what the problem looks like in detail. What are these things like and what about them seems different from the other? It should not escape our attention that the experience of the internal self and the world of what we experience as being outside of ourselves are not merely different, they are precisely opposite in many ways (perhaps every way?).

Subjectivity seems to be private, interior, continuous, signifying, proprietary, figurative, and uncertain. We experience a perpetual now within which we can choose to focus our attention different subjects and objects. We can consider this or that. We can consider experiences which are happening now and we can superimpose happenings from memory or fantasy from the ‘not now’. We can blend these experiences into a fluidly flowing fugue of truthful fiction, or we can partition them rigidly as facts and errors. Sometimes the choice seems to be ours and in other cases the choice seems to be made for us. We can stand aloof from our perceptual reality, in profound monastic detachment, or we can be completely enveloped by the minutia of one ordinary thing after another

These two extreme perspectives reveal another aspect of the commonality problem. Big picture thinking tends to be abstract and theoretical, while concrete experience is tends to be small minded and provincial. It is difficult to bridge the gap between the universal truth and ‘news you can use’. Subjectivity and objectivity then, not only present two ends of the sense continuum but where they meet, in the profoundly esoteric blending and the hard junction of pedestrian common sense can be considered the opposite two poles of the continuum.To arrive at a description of the objective universe we have only to run through the list of subjective qualities and turn them upside down. Instead of ephemeral private experiences through time, we think of the universe out there as persistent public objects across space. Instead of a shapeless interiority which ranges from active teleology to passive spectatorship, the universe is a spaciously exterior teleonomy (unintentional progress, like evolution) which is unconscious. Where our experience pieces together bits of information to build coherent patterns, the universe breaks down patterns through entropy. The subjective experience explores through comparisons of ‘either/or’ while the objective universe can only be a paradox of ‘and’. Since the objective universe independent of any subjective orientation would be formless, it cannot said to be ‘real’ on it’s own. Likewise the ideal side of the universe, independent of any objective referent to serve as content for it’s perceptions cannot be said to be real. Even if perception could take place, it would be only a solipsistic fiction.

VI. The Realism Solution

It is understood how our stereo sense organs (eyes, ears) present us with a greater sense of reality than a single source could. This can be described functionally as triangulation but the experience is one not of additive sensation arranged like a Venn diagram intersection, but rather with an awareness of depth. With both eyes open and focused, we feel and we know that we are more directly in touch with the factual nature of our external world.

It may be the case that the relation between subjective phenomenology and objective universality makes epistemology possible. Whether we interpret the three dimensionality of our perceived external world as an indirect simulation ‘in here’ or a direct discovery of the world ‘out there’, the fact that it is wholly congruent with our ability to navigate the world suggests that our sense of the world is more accurate with this three dimensional realism than without it. This is not to say that this sense cannot be intentionally spoofed or produced independently of a real world referent (as in optical illusions or dreams), but it suggests that there is a concrete basis for realism beyond semiotic correspondence.

We may not always be able to tell that our dream is not real, but we find it even more difficult to deny the validity of what is. In an ultimate sense we cannot expect to be able to transcend our own subjectivity, so too can we not discount what relative objectivity we are privileged with. There is a degree of veridicality in our participation within physical reality which is not matched by merely realistic perception. As suggested by blindsight and synesthesia, (not to mention intuition) our sensemaking capacity extends beyond our conscious channels of sense. The fact that there is a difference at all between dream and reality, fact and fiction, suggests that a natural connection between proximal and distal reality is possible, at least in a loose overlapping sense. If everything were just solipsistic fantasy to one degree or another, why so much elaborate pretense to the contrary? Why fake realism so thoroughly?

Our connection to any real reality may be questionable philosophically, but the feeling of authenticity is certainly potent enough that the distinction between direct and indirect perception is really academic. Within our own perceptual frame of reference, our reality is real enough. The evidence of real consequences to our actions in the world is persuasive and internally validating of our own sanity. It is precisely the dissociation the realism of the world which defines delusion, dream, or psychosis. Were it not the case that realism had no roots in external correspondence, such unreality would be universally regarded as viable alternate realities. The willingness to entertain ungrounded solipsism as a reality is itself considered a degree of mental illness by many. As the saying goes, “Neurotics build castles in the clouds…Psychotics live in them.”

While we may play at blurring the lines between fantasy and reality or sanity and madness, it is sophistry to pretend that there can be no significance or authenticity that is exclusive to Earthbound realities. Fiction can inform reality and fact can inspire fantasy but there is no question that the distinct nature of the two arises from something more than only the degree of complexity. Physical reality is more than just a detailed and persistent dream, it is an investment in exhaustive universal continuity which no solipsistic or cinematic animation can match. At the same time, concrete physicality can have no realism without some kind of quasi-subjective experience to define and embody it.

VII. Privacy and Significance

In optics, the term specular reflection refers to the mirror-like reflection of an image, as opposed to the diffuse reflection of light illuminating a non-reflective object. This presents a good metaphor for realism in epistemology. We are able to distinguish between the mirror and the reflection through the mirror. Specular reflection not only follows our physical movements in a different way than diffuse reflection, but the composition of a specular reflection is qualitatively different. Specular reflection engages the viewer personally so that there is an awareness of a private, self-referential experience. Our sense is of a false view of the world being presented for us rather than an extension of the world. We watch, view, or look at reflected or false worlds – even in the case of live theater or a sporting event where there is no media literally redirecting perception, the nature of the spectacle is to figuratively divorce us from context literal context and transport us into an exclusive signifying narrative. Delusional states represent an overflow condition of this transportation, where the subjective sense of spectacle is insufficiently contained by the literal sense of the world. The fictive processes of the psyche dramatize and mythologize generic events and a-signifying coincidences. Similarly, in depression or other psychological flat affects, the personality grows incapable of indulging in positive imagination or entertainment it’s own sake.

Privacy and significance are features of subjectivity which cannot be simulated. We may hallucinate our private meanings onto objective conditions, but there has never been an occurrence of the contents of a person’s psyche suddenly becoming publicly accessible. All sharing of our private reality tunnels must be accomplished through some kind of sharing or expression. The mind never explodes out into the world as a collection of objects which can be examined directly and unambiguously. Neural imagery promises to someday bring a form of public access to the contents of the brain, but this too is only an intersubjective sharing rather than a true externalization of internal realities. You still need to be a person to internalize and interpret another person’s experience.

Whether or not our experiences are objectively meaningful, we cannot deny our qualitative experiences of meaning itself. Multisense Realism proposes that meaning is a primitive subjective phenomenon rather than an epiphenomenon or emergent property of objective circumstances. To say that all meaning is subjective is to diminish the significance of significance itself. It is actually meaning which differentiates the real from the unreal, so that rather than a metaphysical labeling mechanism, perception in Multisense Realism is a direct presentation of the contents of the self in its native language. Physiology and neurology are limited to insights which can be gained through physical instruments. This external world of objects in space is the polar opposite of our internal world of experiences through time. What we gain in scientific certainty and universality we pay for in the loss of the sense and motivation of the self, the identity, and life itself. It can be argued that a scientific worldview does not preclude us from enjoying a rich and meaningful life. While that is certainly true, it is also true that this can only be the case if we do not take the scientific worldview completely to heart. If we apply scientific orthodoxy literally to our personal lives, we would be considered pathological if not sociopathic. Forsaking all concerns except those of evolutionary biology and biochemistry, we would experience no distinction between eating a hamburger and eating our own pets. Our friends and family would become convenient strangers who populate the unremarkable locations we frequent. We would truly be strangers in a strange land, skeptical robots which have only a what and how but no sense of who or why.

VIII. The Sensorimotive Solution

Privacy and significance are the antidote for disorientation and ineffability. While we may not be able to isolate a single ‘meaning of life’ that is objectively true in a public, universal sense (such a thing would be impossible since meaning is by definition privately oriented) but it does provide us with countless meanings. Meanings great and small, meanings within meanings, meanings which develop over time, which can be remembered and shared. The fundamental unit of this phenomenon is sensorimotive experience. It is the concrete capacity to make sense of ourselves, our world, and to participate in it.

Whether it is sensation, cognition, or exercising will, the minimum requirement for experience cannot be described in terms of any particular electrochemical mechanism but it can be reduced to basic experiential components such as flux and flow, symmetry, cyclic recursion, sequence, radial nucleation, etc. These elemental proto-experiences can be considered an alphabet of universal gestures underlying sensemaking. From neurons and electrons to archetypes and theologies, the sensorimotive periodic table serves as an implicit framework. Arithmetic and scientific sense elevate the most literal and unambiguous of these principles but they also distract us from the nuanced and poetic potentials of the cosmos.

Sensorimotive dynamics provide the reconciliation of literal and figurative phenomenology which solves the problem of disorientation. The ability to feel, be, and do is the tent pole of realism, keeping subject and object distinct while weaving the here and now with the resonance of the then and there. It is complexity expressed through simplicity and the eternal balanced with the unrepeatable. Significance builds within experience as a cumulative entanglement of meanings and motives. It is unbearable as it is ecstatic. We play games with our own expectations and frustrations. The essence of the cosmos is to sense and make sense. This is the nature and purpose of consciousness in the face of its opposite: Entropy. Meaninglessness. Unconsciousness.

Entropy balances and contains significance by dividing its physical substance across space. Even entropy however has it’s own reflected significance and grandeur. Our ephemeral and insignificant lives can matter all the more in their incalculable unlikeliness. The mind numbing quantities of moments and lifetimes present on this planet, in our species alone is something which is made to seem more staggering by our inability to experience it directly. The magnitude of our limitation as human beings makes a mockery of our greatest achievements and elevates our most ordinary capabilities that we take for granted. To think and feel, to imagine and act in a world we can make sense of, to live an ordinary life – all of these things are nothing short of miraculous in the context of the vastness of universe. Only through multiple senses can we know its reality. To begin this process, we should reclaim our individual authority. Subjective orientation is not an epiphenomenon, it is the essence of all realism and causal efficacy. Purpose, meaning, and experience are the fountain from which reality is emerges. Objectivity is an equally important counterpoint, through its unyielding, unfeeling impartiality appears to us paradoxically more real than our own experience. Like a diffraction grating, the material side of existence interleaves obstacles with vacancies through which sense seeks figuratively transcend and reconnect.

  1. July 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    “If everything were just solipsistic fantasy to one degree or another, why so much elaborate pretense to the contrary? Why fake realism so thoroughly?”

    Experience (?)

    • July 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      Thats a retrospective judgment though. How or why from a prospective view of consciousness could infinite magical dream experiences be deemed lacking in some way which would invite the invention of realusm?

      • July 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm

        It may be that what you call my judgement, that realism is faked for the purpose of experience, is not a judgement, and is not retrospective. Your assumption seems to be that the judgement would be made from a state of consciousness that entailed a prospective view. The prospective view is a state of consciousness which happens when consciousness of self attempts to separate itself from action. This is impossible, since no consciousness or identity can exist without action.

        The prospective view involves a state in which consciousness of self attempts to divorce self from action, an attempt on the part of consciousness to perceive action as an object, and to perceive action as initiated by the ego as a result, rather than as a cause, of ego’s own existence.

        Here is an example:

        You may know yourself to be a good athlete, but unless you do something which displays that athleticism, all you have is an idea about yourself. This conceptual knowledge, about yourself, may not be enough for you. You might desire to experience that knowledge. You might look at images of the Tour de France, and think that you are a great bike rider. Your desire may drive you to actually buy a bicycle and ride. Such a sequence is not retrospective, is it?

      • July 11, 2012 at 1:17 am

        This WordPress theme doesn’t let me reply on the same thread but here goes:

        By the prospective view of consciousness I mean to say only the view of consciousness if you were to imagine the universe that could exist before consciousness came to be. Most people are unable to do this at all and can only think of consciousness as it is now and work backwards from there, rationalizing it retroactively. By prospective I mean that any view of consciousness that does not consider it primordial must rationalize it as having some kind of purpose in an unconscious universe without assuming that it ever will exist to begin with.

    • April 7, 2013 at 1:53 am

      Hello! The discussion between Craig and Otmar is almost as rich as the content above! It seems that you two are getting on very well here.

      Based on what Craig wrote in “8. What are numbers?”, it would/might be reasonable to conclude that behind every quantity (or number or objectivity) there is a quality (or subjectivity).

      • April 10, 2013 at 5:30 pm

        I would say that whatever the medium being quantified is already the presentation of qualities to some subjective participant. The sense which quantities themselves have which is independent of any particular medium (mathematics or numerology) is more of a back door which exploits the multivalent integrity of all sense. The subjectivity of quantity is figurative rather than literal, it is “as if” they had qualities of their own because they reflect qualities in a consistent way.

      • April 11, 2013 at 5:01 am

        Thank you for your elaboration, Craig.

  2. July 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Psychotic? Please.

    • July 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      If we take the idea literally that the world is only real to ourselves, and act on that assumption as a way of life, why would that be anything less than psychotic?

      • July 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm

        My world, the world I (Otmar) inhabit, only seems real to me. Your world, the one you inhabit, is what seems real to you (Craig).

        You assume that there is a one “the world”. You assume that one world exists isolated from you, exists independently of your thoughts about it.

        Consider a Virtual Reality (invented and designed by my former computer professor Myron Kruger). You sit at a station with a helmet on. Information (using your description of “information” ) passes to you. You interpret that information and form a percept. I sit at an adjacent station, processing the information I receive. You pay attention to certain aspects of the viewed “event”, I have other interest, and so pay attention to other possible aspects of the event (those different possibilities inherent in Heisenberg Uncertainty). You only have access to those events through your VR helmet.

        It is at this point that the nature of the source of the information is open. Does my belief, that the information source is an infinite number of possible worlds, make me a candidate for psychiatric help?

      • July 11, 2012 at 1:28 am

        I don’t assume that there is one externally real world at all, rather I think that we participate in many overlapping frequencies and intensities of sense experience. These experiences are shared in a sensible way – ie, we share animal experiences with all animals, geek experiences with all geeks, atomic experiences with all things composed of atoms, etc.

        I respect your view of separate worlds based on conscious co-creation of percepts but I think we can go further than that. Even though it makes sense on one level, our own experience is not consistent with a solipsistic closed system. Take this conversation for example. If we had no way to access anything beyond our own tunnel reality, why would we be compelled to try? Why are we so desperately looking for validation, pleasure, adventure, etc from something beyond ourselves? Why do we care how the universe really works if we have never had any contact with any such universe?

        So I think it’s not that simple. Sense allows us to be semi-permeable to realism beyond our solipsistic tunnel, if distorted in precisely the ways that make us who and what we are (and not a universal avatar of absolute experience). I think that interesting things happen when we have faith in sense and refrain from pigeonholing reality into an all-or-nothing schema of pure fantasy or pure realism. It is always both, and the inside of one is the outside of another.

        Your beliefs don’t make you psychotic, but only because you only think that you believe them. In your behavior, you show no signs of solipsism and never dare step in front of the speeding bus because you know it is only a creation of your mind. Some thoughts create some realities, but a lot of thoughts create no realities, and a lot of realities have been created by thoughts (or motives, actions) of many other things on many levels and scales of existence.

  3. July 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    “it is sophistry to pretend that there can be no significance or authenticity that is exclusive to Earthbound realities.”

    Are there some fixed mind-independent, objective, fully concrete, well defined objects and events out there? Or, is reality composed of possibilities, awaiting actualization?

    • July 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      Phenomena or noumena?

      • July 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm

        Could be either, but phenomena is enough. Visiting Paris has a different quality and depth of significane than imagining that you are visiting Paris.

    • July 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Nothing exists independently of sense. Human minds are only one category of sense though. Realism is composed of perceptual inertia across multiple sense entanglements. I think there is a tense juxtaposition of a relatively invariant subject and nested cycles of variance. The self is a continuity of expectations and presence which insists within a given inertial frame. Possibilities are about pushing the envelope of the inertal frame…pushing realism from the inside out.

      • July 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm

        The “different quality” comment (#9)shadows my comment (currently #3) about experience.

        “Human minds are only one category of sense though.”

        Not really sure what you intend to mean here. What do you take the “mind” to be?

        “Realism is composed of perceptual inertia across multiple sense entanglements.”

        “Perceptual inertia”. What’s that? Do you have a strong case for the existence of inertia, of any kind?

        ” The self is a continuity of expectations and presence which insists within a given inertial frame.”

        This sounds very close to my own definition of consciousness of self. And, it parallels some of my description of “the self”.

        That last bit, about possibilities? What is an inertial frame?

      • July 11, 2012 at 1:40 am

        “What do you take the “mind” to be? ”

        Mind is the cognitive format of sense. Verbal-intentional symbolic communication, as opposed to gestural, emotional, sensory, intuitive, etc.

        “Perceptual inertia”. What’s that? Do you have a strong case for the existence of inertia, of any kind?”

        Perceptual inertia is a term I use to describe what I think is the norm for our experience. For example, you can read these words because at some point you learned to read English. You no longer have to decode these strange shapes into meaningful words, the perceptual inertia that has been built up over years of reading English actually presents these words as readable to you directly. Your perceptual capacity has actually evolved so that you can be informed by written English forms which would not have been visible to you had you not learned the language. If you were familiar with other languages, you would recognize *that* it was English, but you would not see the text in a way that is semantically accessible. Your perception would only take you so far.

        In inertial frame is a term used in General Relativity to describe how something like a group of objects sitting on a moving train for instance, are not moving relative to each other. They are all moving at 50 mph together, and so are you if you are on the train, so within that inertial frame, you may as well be standing still. This changes of course when the train turns sharply and the objects respond differently enough that they might fall over or slide around etc.

        I am saying that this is the way perception works as well, and in fact general relativity is a special case of perceptual inertia. The coherence and holistic integrity that we experience in our lives, our identity, every moment, etc – our sanity operates on this same principle of common sense integrity. Experiences cling together like salt shakers on a moving train.

  4. July 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    ” there has never been an occurrence of the contents of a person’s psyche suddenly becoming publicly accessible.”

    What do you think the psyche is, anyhow?

    • July 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      psyche is subjectivity. feeling thinking imagining. the presentation of your own being.

  5. July 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    “The mind never explodes out into the world as a collection of objects which can be examined directly and unambiguously. ”

    That is a false claim. Look around you, in the room in which you sit. What is there that is NOT an expression of the contents of your mind? That is what your world is, the contents of your mind. What in the room is not the perceptual creation of your mind?

    • July 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      It’s not a false claim. I am surrounded by machined commodities which were designed by many groups of interacting people. Nowhere in this plastic bottle is the designer’s feelings about their family or friends. I am not living in a world generated only by my mind, it is a world that presents the interstitial gaps between all minds. If the world were the contents of my mind it would look a lot more like a Disneyland designed by Rod Serling.

  6. July 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    ” While we may not be able to isolate a single ‘meaning of life’ that is objectively true in a public, universal sense (such a thing would be impossible since meaning is by definition privately oriented)”

    First, have you ever heard the expression, “We are all one.”? An army is one army. A choir is one choir. What is true, is true in a subjective universal sense. There is no private orientation, there only seems to be.

    Experience is the sole (soul) meaning and purpose of life. It is what is it. It cannot be proven objectively or subjectively (reference Heisenberg and Godel)

    • July 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      I agree, experience needs no proof. As far as subjectivity transcending the individual I agree also, but even though the experience is shared, it is ultimately a private experience of synergy. It is not public in the sense that location is public. A fly can land on a soldier without joining the army but it always joins whatever it lands on. The fly landing is something we experience as a public literal event. Being part of a choir is a private figurative participation in an intersubjective event.

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