Idealism Vs. Materialism

Idealism entails that reality is what you experience: it’s the book, or electronic reader in your hands; it’s the room around you, with all its color, textures, and depth; it’s the sounds and smells in the air; it’s the feeling you have of being in your own skin right now. In contrast, the reigning materialist worldview is rather abstract: it postulates that, behind the ‘copy’ of reality you’re experiencing right now, there is the ‘real’ reality, which is not what you are experiencing. The dynamics of objects and living entities in that ‘real’ reality supposedly unfolds according to certain regularities and patterns – the laws of physics – that exist outside mind. As it unfolds, it leaves an imprint on your sense organs – like footprints – which your brain then uses to perform a reconstruction of reality inside your head.

A big part of the motivation for our culture’s current embrace of materialism is the observed regularities according to which reality seems to unfold: it is hard to imagine for most people that it is the unfolding of contents of mind itself – that otherwise voluble and rather unstable medium we associate with the ego – that obeys what we call the ‘laws of physics.’ Moreover, the world ‘outside’ feels very separate from our egoic minds. We don’t seem to have any direct mental influence on reality and often feel entirely at the mercy of impersonal, external forces.

As we discussed above, this impression arises solely because we ordinarily identify ourselves with only a very small part of our minds: our personal egoic awareness. Yet, each one of us has direct experience of the broader aspects of mind: when we dream at night: it is undeniable our minds that construct and project the entire universe of our dreams. It is created by a part of mind that we have no control over.

Imagine mind as the screen of a movie theater. Images on the screen represent the entire set of your subjective experiences. Materialism states that those images have an external source and are captured by ‘cameras’ – our sense organs – used to record the movie you are watching. Under idealism, on the other hand, only the movie theater exists: all images you see are generated in the theater itself, like a computer animation rendered in real-time, and have no external source. We can empirically identify certain patterns and regularities in the unfolding of those images. The so-called laws of physics are simply a model of these observed patterns and regularities according to which the pixels of these images seem to change.

Fragment from: Why Materialism is Baloney, Bernardo Kastrup

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