Bernardo Kastrup on Consciousness

Jul 17th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Book News, Iff Books, Philosophy, Psychology, Science

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Bernardo Kastrup’s exploratory journeys through the thoughtscapes of philosophy of mind, ontology, neuroscience of consciousness, psychology, foundations of physics and philosophy of life.

A recent paper, published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, has peaked the interest of the scientific community and others. Bernardo has become a regular contributor at Scientific American and, following his latest essay there, discussions have continued across different forums. Here is an excerpt from the essay:

In 2015, doctors in Germany reported the extraordinary case of a woman who suffered from what has traditionally been called “multiple personality disorder” and today is known as “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). The woman exhibited a variety of dissociated personalities (“alters”), some of which claimed to be blind. Using EEGs, the doctors were able to ascertain that the brain activity normally associated with sight wasn’t present while a blind alter was in control of the woman’s body, even though her eyes were open. Remarkably, when a sighted alter assumed control, the usual brain activity returned.

Barrel Strength responded:

Bernardo Kastrup is a [scientist] who has broken from materialism as the basis for understanding the nature of the universe. Materialism is the doctrine that there is nothing in the universe except matter and its motions. Hence explaining how something so immediate, mental, weird, and undivided as consciousness arises from a material process becomes the “hard problem” of consciousness.

By contrast, Kastrup has become a thorough-going radical “idealist”. Not as in someone who is driven by ideals, but someone who considers that mind is the fundamental constituent of the universe.

[…] I have been reading Kastrup’s Why Materialism is Baloney to my considerable satisfaction. His writing is clear as water, but what he is asking you to imagine is that how you have been educated causes you to misperceive the world. It is not his language that is difficult. It is in seeing the world through fresh eyes.

“Ready to have your mind blown?” asked Outer Places, before continuing:

A new paper published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies claims that consciousness isn’t a unique property of humans—rather, the entire universe is conscious, and humans are all manifestations of its multiple personalities.

The proposition, based on research into dissociative identity disorder in humans, is meant to solve a perennial problem in philosophy: the “hard problem” of finding where consciousness comes from and understanding its true nature.

Mysterious Universe highlighted an important point made in the essay:

In essence, the claim here is that there is nothing to [an organism] but the revealed side — the extrinsic appearance — of the corresponding alter’s inner experiences. Yet, one may object to this by arguing that many parts of the body seem entirely unrelated to inner experience: whereas certain patterns of brain activity correlate with subjective reports of experience, a lot seems to go on in the brain that subjects have no introspective access to.

Bernardo was honored when Peter Dale Scott commented on his essay:

“I consider this a very important article for the understanding of human consciousness, psychologically, sociologically, and historically. It reaches conclusions that I had reached from quite different evidence; and in fact voiced recently in a poem.”

Salon reprinted the essay in full, and Conscious Entities gave a nice assessment of Bernardo’s ideas (Bernardo intends to prepare a response on his own blog soon):

Kastrup’s account does tackle a lot of problems. He approaches his thesis by considering related approaches such as panpsychism or cosmopsychism, and the objections to them, notably the combination or decombination problems, which concern how we get from millions of tiny awarenesses, or from one overarching one, to the array of human and animal ones we actually find in the world. His account seems clear and sensible to me, providing convincing brief analyses of the issues.

Big Think said:

Kastrup’s paper is an attempt to devise an explanation for consciousness that leaves no unanswered questions behind as other commonly held perspectives do, at least at our current level of scientific knowledge.

Mathematics Rising opined that

Kastrup’s analysis of these questions is thorough and precise.

In their reprint of the essay, Gaia asked

Has Kastrup’s monistic idealism solved the hard problem of consciousness or simply sidestepped it?

The answer to this and other questions should become clear as Bernardo’s ideas trigger further debate and command increasing interest in both academia and among the general public, potentially catalysing a significant shift in the way we look upon ourselves and the world. In the words of Prof. Edward F. Kelly, who wrote the Afterword for Bernardo upcoming book, The Idea of the World, “A major inflection point in modern intellectual history is close at hand!”

The Idea of the World

A rigorous case for the primacy of mind in nature, from philosophy to neuroscience, psychology and physics.

Paperback £14.99 || $22.95

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