The Idea of the World – Review

We are witnessing a shift in worldview that is now slowly but steadily advancing. Three of my favorite writers tackling this much needed transformation are the terrific scientific thinkers Robert Lanza (Biocentrism) and Donald Hoffman (The Case Against Reality) and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup. The Idea of the World is his seventh book about idealism, the philosophical system that proposes that everything is in consciousness.

Firstly, his latest and most rigorous book yet, exposes the fallacies of physicalism (or materialism) that is currently the reigning metaphysics. This position posits that an objective world exists independent of our minds. Then it goes even further by claiming that this world outside experience somehow created our consciousness in the first place! By making the subject into object, materialism creates the insoluble ‘hard problem of consciousness’. Idealism avoids this major error in logic by positing that what we experience IS reality.

But also in idealism, there are objections to overcome which Bernardo does very eloquently in subsequent chapters. Questions such as why there is a relationship between brain activity and reported inner life, why we all seem to experience the same world, and why we are unable to alter the laws of physics with our minds. He also explains why the latest findings in quantum mechanics and neuroscience inexorably point to mind as primary reality.

Because of terminology, it takes some experience in philosophic reading to (fully) comprehend this work. So if this is a new territory for you, then it’s probably better to start with one of Kastrup’s earlier books, such as the excellent Why Materialism is Baloney. However, I found this work much easier to read than other philosophy-of mind-books by for example Nagel or Chalmers. Bernardo’s writing style is very pleasant and his arguments are extremely clear.

The mental model of reality is currently the best way we have for looking at the world. I am convinced that this will be the new common worldview, and that we’ll look back at some of today’s mainstream ideas, such as billions of microscopic robots in our brain forming our integrated minds, and that we’ll be really amazed at the delusions of today’s scientific culture. We’re not there yet, but great thinkers like Bernardo Kastrup are bravely paving the way.

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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