Month: January 2022


I’ve had plenty of personal experiences with it, have heard of many others’ experiences with it, and have read of scientific experiments in which it’s been verified (among other sources, there was

Skeptics rationalize away personal experiences, dismiss the ubiquity of other people’s experiences out of hand, by giving them the convenient label “anecdotal,” because they’re not scientific, and incorrectly believe that no tests in parapsychology ever have positive results.

Some truths are elusive, so truth seeking is hard and can’t be done adequately according to a strict formula (such as analyzing for proof or believing anything accepted by academia), denial-by-default is a bias (see the ‘Doubting Doubt’ essay in, and one should take into account everything, including the “anecdotal,” carefully judging the legitimacy of each story or item on a case-by-case basis using whatever faculties of judgment one has available, even if they’re not absolutely infallible and objective, and diligently weighing each evaluation against other evaluations that may lead to alternate conclusions. This is true open-minded truth-seeking.

And the reason we don’t hear of tests in which parapsychological phenomena have been verified is that psi is extremely taboo in the scientific community (see You’ll likely lose your career and all scientific credibility for exploring and affirming psychic phenomena. People tend to think that if something extraordinary and amazing of any nature were discovered by science, then the whole scientific community would be all over it and they’d hear about it, but that’s naive. The scientific community is made of humans who are flawed and prejudiced just like everyone else.

And if you find flaws in all the studies you hear that confirm parapsychological phenomena, consider that maybe you’re holding a higher standard for those tests than for other kinds of tests, or that the flaws you find only allow for possible methods of cheating, subconscious calculations, or accidents that are extremely unlikely, actually less likely than the possibility of a spiritual universe (or some other kind of universe that’s not incompatible with such results, as opposed to your current worldview which is). Of course, the problem is that the likelihood of such a universe is a subjective assessment and you probably judge it to be zero or near zero, but I think that’s due to certain biases, which I’ll get into below. Also consider that maybe the psi-affirming experiments you’ve heard of are only the ones that are flawed, because skeptics wouldn’t share and make popular particular experiments that they can’t debunk.

The underlying prejudice against psi is the result of a totally mechanistic, physicalist worldview, under which no likely explanation for psychism is possible. But the physicalist worldview is far from proven; it’s just an assumption people make, sort of an extrapolation, due to the efficacy of science and physical theory.

It’s also due to scientism, which is deeply embedded in modern culture and hence something we can’t see that we’re a part of, like a fish who doesn’t know it’s in water, as it relates to the fact that anything immaterial is immeasurable by material instruments, and is probably immodelable, and is therefore outside the purview of science.

It’s also due to a deep-seated aversion to believing in things we can’t see.

It’s also due to the desire to feel as if we fundamentally understand everything in the universe. We’re driven to understand, especially the mysterious, as mysteries bother us until we explain them, and rationalists are driven to understand things analytically and mechanically. It’s also popular to understand things according to the academic worldview, which includes physicalism, since academia is seen as authoritative.

This underlying physicalist prejudice is the prime underlying reason for believing it’s irrational to believe in psychism, not anything evidence based.

Another reason for not believing in psychism is that rationalists, and many people who are just particularly rational, are afraid to believe in anything that they can’t back up, such as by referring to some academic study, especially when it wouldn’t otherwise be accepted by their rational peers (who are probably all scientistic physicalists for the reasons explained above), and they’re especially afraid to believe in anything that wouldn’t be accepted by their rational peers regardless of how much evidence or reasoning they can back it up with. They’re afraid of potentially appearing as wrong, or worse, irrational, because that would reduce their value, credibility and social status or respect in the eyes of their peers. (Most of us want to spread our beliefs to others as much as possible, which is why we wouldn’t want to lose credibility. It’s obvious why we wouldn’t want to lose those other things.)

Another reason, which might be the same reason people have a deep-seated aversion to believing in things they can’t see, is a reflexive kind of self-protection. I’m not sure of the real nature of it, but believing in invisible or spiritual things is somehow threatening to a certain common type of mind.

I guess it’s because of what such things could lead to. Schizophrenia. Psychosis. Life-transforming religious experiences. Awakening and hence abolishment of the ego and hence also of the capacity or will to deal with everyday life. Seeing things one doesn’t want to see. Or maybe just a systemic breakdown of one’s narrowly defined analytical/logical system of belief/evaluation (not that pure logic itself is inadequate, but a lot of what people call logical thinking is full of subtle, limiting presuppositions. See Maybe it’s because if you believe one such thing, where does it stop? You might end up believing anything and everything, which would be chaos. It may even be possible that some people have been in darkness for so long that a little bit of light is painful to them.

While all or most of those reasons for self-protection may be valid concerns for a large group of people, it doesn’t make their usually arrogantly held beliefs/denials/view of the world (probably also with disdain for alternative viewpoints and beliefs and/or the people who hold them) correct.

Another reason people disbelieve in some psychic phenomena, such as fortune telling and past lives, is because of the copious amount of falseness there is to be found in those areas. In fortune telling there are a lot of charlatans, and in past lives there are a lot of flaky people who say they remember pretty wacky stuff and everybody was Cleopatra (but actually, there are legitimate reasons many different people could have memories of being famous figures, explained here: But this isn’t a valid reason to reject fortune telling or past lives as a whole, because, if you think about it, those charlatans and flakes would exist whether or not the underlying phenomena are actually valid. In fact, if they are, there’d actually be more charlatans and flakes surrounding them than if there weren’t, because those movements would sort of “piggy-back” off the popularity of the real phenomena.

Another reason people disbelieve in spiritual ideas is the fact that the main spiritualist ideation we have in Western society is Christianity, which is dogmatic, barbaric, fear-based, guilt-inducing, homicidal, genocidal, sexist, racist, anti-scientific, self-contradictory, antiquated, absolutist and simplistic in its metaphysical worldview, and warmongering, spreading mainly via conquering nations. Granted, a few of these characteristics are merely biblical (the ideas of Christianity as the cultural phenomenon are much fewer than and different from the ideas contained in the Holy Bible) and/or historical in nature.

It’s a religion so absurd that the only way it can maintain itself is by being passed down from generation to generation, via the indoctrination of the very young. Because this is the main source of ideation for anything spiritual in Western society, even people who aren’t religious per se consciously or unconsciously associate all things spiritual/metaphysical with religion, specifically with Christianity, and hence those things get branded as absurd accordingly.

I’ve had one psychic reading (which isn’t exactly fortune telling, but it’s closely related I guess) in my life, it was without charge (and no, it wasn’t to lure me into paying for another reading later; she apparently just did readings for free), and every bit of it was spot-on. You could say that’s due to the Barnum effect, but that would be an assumption, and one that denies that I have the intelligence/keenness to tell the difference. Or you could assume it was cold reading, but we had just met, and I said very little and told her nothing about myself nor answered any questions (except “Would you like a reading?”), and this conversation was done online via text.

And I’ve heard multiple stories of facts from past life memories that the people “couldn’t have known” that were checked and verified. For example, one was a guy who remembered flying a plane in a war when it went down. From his memories they were able to pinpoint the area it went down at, and they found a buried warplane there that had been hitherto undiscovered. This was shown on TV. In another example, someone underwent hypnotic past life regression and remembered living in a certain house. She remembered the color and design of the wallpaper in, I think, a bathroom, and the investigator found the house, went to the bathroom and peeled away layers and layers of old wallpaper until he found that design.

So, there are examples out there of the real things among all the charlatans and flakes that would be there whether the phenomena were valid or not.

Another reason people disbelieve in the spiritual is the existence of the word “supernatural.” Everything spiritual is categorized as being supernatural, and the supernatural is painted as being totally separate from, or even in violation of, the natural. But the truth is that everything is natural. It’s all one holistic reality with different types of phenomena, objects or substances, some of which are physical and some of which aren’t, which may exist on a gradient of sorts, perhaps a gradient of density, which may be analogous to the difference between solids, liquids and gases. I wrote more about that at

A relevant philosophical view here is dual-aspect monism, also known as double-aspect theory: Though I personally prefer the less popular multi-aspect monism, because there’s no reason to assume the number of major kinds of substances or modes of reality out there is necessarily exactly two. Another advantage of multi-aspect monism is that, there being no particular set number of aspects, one is free to divide up whatever’s out there in whatever way one wishes, which may be called for since there could be various levels and degrees of branching of aspects of existence; i.e., it could be arbitrary where the divisions are drawn in many cases, such as it is, for example, in taxonomy.

Another reason people disbelieve in the spiritual is that they don’t wish to be associated with or are otherwise turned off by the kinds of people who tend to believe in the spiritual, or by the things they believe that tend to get lumped in with the spiritual. This is also a reason people don’t believe in flying saucers, even though the evidence for them is abundant (see I’ve noticed it’s true that most spiritualists are so open-minded their brains fell out. There’s also a statistical correlation between schizophrenia and mysticism. It doesn’t mean spiritualism is wholly wrong, it just means that most people err on one of two sides: overly skeptical or overly credulous (to simplify it a bit; there’s also rationalism versus gut thinking or winging it, trusting the establishment verses independent thinking, and other factors. I talk about rationalism, skepticism and scientism here, here and here).

In the case of schizophrenia correlating with mysticism, it could just be because schizophrenics more easily believe extraordinary things, or it could be because our monkey brains aren’t really designed to truly understand spiritual reality, or at least not with the analytic framework or attitude we’re trained to adopt in modern society or perhaps ever since the acquisition of language.

Regarding the rationalizing away of personal experiences I mentioned above, some people use the tools of knowledge of various cognitive biases to do this (and not to mention to discredit other people’s personal experiences as well). While those cognitive biases probably exist, they’re applied presumptuously, as if it must have been some cognitive bias or another just because it conceivably could be. Sometimes it’s a real stretch of the imagination, and every time it prevents one from trusting themselves, and stifles heart-based thinking, which is tragic and unwholesome. One such cognitive bias people assume must have happened, particularly regarding an abundance of synchronicities, is confirmation bias. I wrote about that here: and

Other tools of rationalization of one’s own experiences people use are things like the subconscious mind doing incredible calculations/deductions or acts of perception. As I mentioned regarding scientific experiments affirming psychism, while you can’t prove that the subconscious mind can’t do those things, some of the assumptions are so outlandish that it’s less likely than the possibility that spiritualism is true or that your worldview is false in some other way. The same goes for some of those other tools of rationalizing away experiences.

One thing to note is that we don’t fundamentally understand anything in physics. Meaning that, for any physical force, object, principle or whatever, you can ask why that thing is the way it is, and you might get answers in terms of more fundamental things, and you may ask why those more fundamental things are the way they are, and you may get answers to those, but eventually you’ll hit a place where we have no idea why anything that everything else is based on is the way it is. It’s just taken for granted because we measure it, or because it’s a part of a physical model that allows us to predict and manipulate such measurements.

And such base ideas are not really very many levels down. For example, we can model gravity’s behavior, but we have no idea why it exists. We can explain it as curvature in spacetime (and this explanation is dubious as I explain in and briefly explain somewhere in, but then we have no idea why mass curves spacetime, nor do we know why the gravitational constant has the value it does. Some people have theories explaining gravity which may or may not be feasible, but then we still don’t know why mass even exists. You can explain it with the Higgs particle, which is part of the Standard Model, but then why does the Standard Model apply instead of some totally different model? Or for that matter, why quantum field theory or general relativity rather than totally different mechanics? Why does the universe even work mechanically, in a way easily modeled and predicted by a mathematical framework? We don’t even know why anything exists, let alone why it exists in the particular way it does.

So this foundationalism that people hold where they think they fundamentally understand the universe, and anything that contradicts that understanding or can’t be explained within it is farcical, is baseless. See Feynman’s brilliant answer to why magnets work at for a little bit more sense of this anti-foundationalism of understanding that I’m talking about.

If there were an underlying, non-mechanistic, magical spiritual reality in addition to or giving rise to the material reality we see, it would probably appear to science exactly as the stochasticity behind quantum mechanics, so the efficacy of physical theory is no indication of physicalism.

To be honest, something like ghosts (another thing which there is a ubiquity of people’s experiences with—it’s common to hear of people who were staunch disbelievers, and must have dismissed some other people’s experiences, until they witnessed one for themselves, and there have been photographs of what are clearly ghosts that experts have analyzed and deemed to be unmodified) might not appear as patterns of quantum-random events, but rather exceptions to the laws of physics, but we never know that the laws of physics are absolutely correct or even as all-encompassing as we suppose they are. As Popperianism holds, you can’t prove a physical theory correct, only incorrect. They’re generalized as being universal or absolute by induction from a few observations of a few different kinds, often only under specific and/or controlled conditions, and we’ve yet to come across a ghost in a lab, at least one that stays there long enough for us to scientifically study it.

Extrasensory perception, on the other hand, may be expressed in the brain as the effects of coordinated quantum randomness and quantum amplification. It’s theorized that the brain operates on the edge of chaos, and in any chaotic system minute perturbations can cause large-scale effects via the butterfly effect. Quantum-random events should be such perturbations. I’ve also read of a discovery that quantum-scale events actually do have an effect on the neurological level, but I don’t have a reference. This is probably also how mind/soul/consciousness interacts with the brain in general, or rather, it’s the nexus between the mechanical aspect of the person and the non-mechanistic, substantive aspect.

It’s also possible that ghosts and other paranormal/spiritual phenomena/objects may be physically expressed as coordinated quantum randomness, given that, under quantum theory, virtually anything can potentially happen, even if the more surprising things are exceedingly unlikely if you assume no underlying rhyme and reason behind quantum randomness. See for evidence of uncanny coordination of quantum-random events in relation to collective changes in consciousness.

It’s also possible that the laws of physics aren’t as all-encompassing as we like to think they are and paranormal phenomena are simply out of scope, and/or the assumed reducibility of the macroscopic to the microscopic (which seems to be the seat of most physical-theoretical definition/limitation) isn’t fully warranted so there’s some degree to which “anything goes” on macroscopic scales. I wrote a lot more on the limitations of physical theory at

And observation, which causes quantum wavefunction collapse (and thus makes reality choose one outcome over another) is ill-defined in physics. While it’s widely believed not to actually require actual conscious observation but rather interference from anything, if I remember what I read right, there’s an infinite regress problem where, whatever interference happens within a system to collapse the wavefunction, the entire system (the previous system plus the interfering system) from the outside could still be an uncollapsed wavefunction, and if something from the outside of that system collapses it by interfering with it, then the entire system including that something from outside could still be uncollapsed from an even more outside view, etc. It’s possible that the buck truly does stop at conscious observation, on a macroscopic scale, because if consciousness itself were inside a superposition, each possible state of consciousness would observe itself and its surroundings as being in one state. I think this may be a case in which the assumed reducibility of the macroscopic to the microscopic isn’t fully warranted as mentioned earlier.

(It’s possible that I totally butchered the above, since I’m not a physicist and I have a bad memory, but something like the gist of the above is true.)

Furthermore, it’s possible that belief/expectation influences the way the wavefunctions collapse. See for evidence, and possibly more at

“At the quantum level our universe can be seen as an indeterminate place, predictable in a statistical way only when you employ large enough numbers. Between that universe and a relatively predictable one where the passage of a single planet can be timed to a picosecond, other forces come into play. For the in-between universe where we find our daily lives, that which you believe is a dominant force. Your beliefs order the unfolding of daily events. If enough of us believe, a new thing can be made to exist. Belief structure creates a filter through which chaos is sifted into order.” -Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune. (Granted it’s fiction, but it may very well be astute fiction.)

(Admittedly, while this idea allows for mind over matter in general and explains one particular part of spirituality, namely the principle that “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will move mountains,” and also could conceivably explain the law of attraction, it can’t explain a lot of spiritualistic things such as, for example, ghosts or ESP. However, it’s not necessarily all-encompassing of reasons behind quantum-random events, even though it might appear to be so at first take. And I suppose, either way, under this model phenomena like ESP and ghosts could just be patterns that are found in our reality whether one expects them or not, for whatever unknown reasons, no differently from how green grass appears as a common pattern in our reality.

Well, it’s a little different since we understand well why there’s grass, but of course we don’t understand it “all the way down” to some foundation, for reasons explained earlier in this essay, and either way maybe it’s incidental that we don’t understand some things like ghosts or ESP, with there being plenty of potential for learning, as opposed to there being no possible explanation. Although one major difference may be that an understanding of things such as ghosts and ESP would rest on non-physical, non-mechanistic principles, and that requires underlying reasons for quantum-random events other than the above principle. But, as we said, the above model/principle isn’t necessarily all-encompassing of such reasons.)

Another thought is that, since classical physics is basically just quantum behavior as observed in aggregate, it’s possible that everything is fundamentally non-mechanistic (yet not meaninglessly random), and the only reason reality appears to have a mechanical aspect is that we/our bodies live on an extremely large scale of existence. After all, there are trillions of cells in a human body with trillions of atoms in each cell. That’s a colossally large number of units, and as such it doesn’t seem like a reasonable place to set a default, normal scale of existence/observation (though admittedly classical mechanics still applies at much smaller scales than us).

But maybe that particular idea is actually infeasible; I’m speaking somewhat outside of my level of understanding of physics here. Particularly, the idea that reality is basically totally non-mechanistic only follows from the idea that classical physics is quantum physics observed in aggregate if all quantum behavior is stochastic, which I don’t know, and also, I’m not sure I named what’s an aggregate observation of what exactly correctly.

These possibilities may seem like presumptuous/wishful thinking or God of the gaps theories, but only if you don’t take into consideration my above points regarding experimental evidence, your own personal experiences, and the ubiquity of other people’s parapsychological and paranormal experiences. In that light, these possibilities only serve to show that the laws of physics do not contradict parapsychological and paranormal phenomena, and therefore a space is made for other argumentation for the paranormal, parapsychological, spiritual and whatever.

Also, why should the universe be as limited and mundane/mechanical as possible instead of as full, rich, and mysterious/magical as possible by default? The base assumption there is just up to one’s own predilections. And if you think a universe as full and rich as possible violates Occam’s razor, see

About Kant’s Phenomena and Noumena (and Other Observations)

I haven’t read much Kant, but I’m aware of his terms “phenomena/phenomenon” and “noumena/noumenon” and the fact that he thinks that the noumenon, the thing in itself, is impossible to reach or to know. The phenomenon refers to the thing (meaning any given thing, whatever you’re perceiving) as it appears to us. The noumenon refers to the thing itself, or the thing in itself, external to our perception of it.

We know the noumenon is something distinct from the phenomenon because it’s possible to be wrong about what you perceive, to perceive something incorrectly. Aspects of the way we model reality such as object permanence, the idea that an object stays where it last was or continues to exist and have a position even when we’re not looking at it and is observed to still be in the same place when we look again (unless it moved), also suggest the independence things in themselves.

I’m sympathetic to the view that the thing in itself is unreachable. While we know how something appears to us perceptibly, we can’t necessarily know the underlying relationship between the perception and what’s being perceived. And whatever we do know through observation or inference from observation about what comes between our perception and the thing itself, we wouldn’t know what comes between that thing and the thing in itself, and if we did know that from inference from observations, we wouldn’t know what comes between that thing and the thing in itself, ad infinitum. It’s the ad infinitum part that makes it impossible to know the full objective relationship between the perception and the thing in itself, and hence impossible to reach the thing in itself.

We also know empirically that the relationship between our mental impression of a thing and the thing itself is very indirect and arbitrary, involving many steps particular to our biology. For example, when you see the color of something, the full spectral envelope of the EM waves reflecting off of the thing (or sometimes transmitting through it, or emitting from it, etc.) is reduced by the cone cells in the retina to three dimensions (i.e. variables, not speaking of spatial dimensions here), then that information is relayed to the brain through the optic nerves, then the brain translates the three dimensions of color (basically, gradients of red, green and blue) to another color model according to opponent process theory (a yellow-blue continuum, a red-green continuum, and brightness), and then, in some totally unknown way, it makes us experience the result as unaccountable, indescribable and immeasurable qualia (such as the redness of red). And different animals see color in completely different ways due to different cone cells.

The retina also contains a plethora of other types of receptors, such as motion receptors, so we don’t perceive motion as simply the difference between neural inputs at one point of time and at another point of time. And the brain can automatically modify the image in ways that we never know, for example, there’s always a blind spot in our vision from each eye where the optic nerve connects to the eye, yet you never realize it because the brain covers for it unless you’re specifically doing something to reveal it. And people who have done LSD have seen how what they see can appear as real as ever, yet be completely wrong, thus making the whole phenomenon of sight seem fundamentally like some sort of usually informed hallucination.

And that’s to say nothing of the indirectness and limitations of the process of seeing something that happens outside of the eye-brain system. The spectral envelope of the light that reflects off an object is the indirect result of the chemistry of the object on the surface, the surface texture, and the nature of the light shining on the object, according to twelve or so physical principles. A few other contextual factors can influence how we see color too. Consider this optical illusion:

As you can tell from the bottom image, A and B are actually the same shade of gray.

And not to mention that, at least according to Elon Musk, there are no cone cells (which are the cells that detect color) on the outer parts of the retina, yet we see color in those areas of our vision because the brain extrapolates what it thinks the colors would be in those areas based on the rest of the image.

Then there is the fact that you’re only seeing the unoccluded surface of the object, and that according to the principles of perspective, while the real object is its entire innards. And you’re seeing it from a macro scale, so things appear solid, while on the nanoscale there is no solidity but only fields. And it seems to behave according to classical physics, which is only the mindblowingly counterintuitive physics of the quantum scale as measured in aggregate. So we can see that the mental representation we witness is very fundamentally different from the outside thing.

And, of course, even that scientific description of the outside thing isn’t necessarily absolute reality. You can take measurements, but you can’t measure the relationship between the measurement and absolute reality (supposing there is such a thing as absolute reality; either way, measurements and models can be discovered to be incorrect by future measurements). And measurements themselves have to be interpreted by humans, with all our flaws and subjectivity, and are limited to what kinds of measurements we can imagine given our particular mode of interaction with reality ultimately determined and limited by our biology.

Any sophisticated physicist will tell you that the best physics can do—the only thing physics actually does—is create models that happen to be effective at predicting and controlling things in reality as measured by us. It can’t directly access whatever metaphysical truth underlies our measurements and perception, nor can it infer it with objectivity, since a model can always be shown later to be wrong or incomplete, and either way there’s always the possibility of alternative models that are equally in accordance to physical observation.

An example of a model shown to be wrong and incomplete is Newtonian mechanics, which was later supplanted by general relativity. As an example of an alternative model predicting the same things, the model of gravity that most people accept as curvature of spacetime is only one possible framing of general relativity, invented by Minkowski, not Einstein, and which Einstein was initially opposed to, calling it “superfluous erudition.”

Arguably, it doesn’t even make sense to consider spacetime a thing in itself. Time is just a measure of change, an abstraction somewhat analogous to the measure of distance between positions, and space is just a kind of 3D measure of distance, or the imagination of the potential for an object to have different values for its position property. Empty space is the imagination that an object could have specific position values that none currently have. The mechanics of space is only the mechanics of how material objects interact with each other with respect to their position properties. And you can’t actually detect space, even in principle, so it makes no sense to posit that it’s a thing in itself that can have properties such as curvature.. I wrote more about this here:

Similarly to how science can only create models that effectively predict and control reality as measure, the best our own ideas of reality can be is models our mind synthesizes to predict and control reality as measured by our senses. We have no direct access to absolute reality or metaphysics (assuming such a thing exists), nor can we infer things about it with certainty, for the reasons I explained above in relation to scientific models. Plato’s cave allegory is highly relevant here. And consider that, even if you were able to step outside the cave and see the things that caused the shadows, it’s always conceivable that the reality you’re seeing is only the shadows on the wall of a further metaphorical cave, and so on and so on.

One argument I like to make as to how the thing in itself is not actually unreachable is that that external reality and our own minds are not ultimately separate; they’re both part of the same causal wave pool (we and our minds are actually parts of absolute reality), and our ideas and perceptions of reality are actually patterns from the rest of reality making it inward to our minds through causation. So, there being no absolute separation between the phenomena and noumena, there’s no reason the things in themselves, or the noumena, are absolutely unreachable. I guess this is a weak argument though. There being a causal connection doesn’t necessarily imply that we can understand the entirety of the causal connection, and hence we can’t infer what’s on the other side with certainty.

But does it imply that we can infer the outside reality to a well enough degree, or can the inside reflect the outside directly and accurately enough? Not necessarily. There could be any level of indirection, transformation, convolution, filtering and inconsistency/randomness in the nature of the causal link between the outside and the inside.

More importantly, as I’ve said in a few of my other essays, if external reality is non-ideational (which we suppose it is unless we’re philosophical idealists), then the difference between the nature of external reality and its objects and our ideas about them is more fundamental and hence greater than any other difference we can conceive of. It’s the greatest possible difference. This is because any other two things we can possibly compare and contrast must be things we’re conceiving of, i.e., ideas, otherwise we couldn’t think about them in order to define their differences.

By the way, I say “reality and its objects” above, but I think likely reality isn’t really separated into objects in any objective sense. It’s all one continuous thing, and we only separate it into objects in our perception and ideation (or I guess just in our ideation) because it’s convenient. For example, the chair and the floor beneath it are just one big collection of atoms, and where you draw the line between the two and the fact that you draw a line are arbitrary. You could say that there’s objective separation between the atoms themselves, but according to physics subatomic particles are actually just local excitations in fields that extend throughout all of space. I think any particle also is or has a field that extends outward (however faintly) indefinitely, but I’m not sure.

Furthermore, if any two objects or substances were truly metaphysically separate, then they would have no common language, ruleset, or underlying matrix of causality or even any basis to exist in the same time or space in order to interact with each other. The underlying causal matrix is one giant (maybe unlimited?) pattern of information, and things we consider objects are just selective delineations within this pattern.

By the way, when I say “information” above, it’s just for lack of a better word. I don’t believe reality is made up of information; I believe information is what we get when we measure reality, hence the name “information,” as in “the act of being informed.” Information is purely quantitative, and quantities themselves are empty. They lack qualities and actual substances, and a world without quality or substance can’t possibly give rise to qualia or experience, which are qualitative and perhaps substantive. It can’t even exist, because quantities are just abstractions, like math (see, and abstractions don’t exist as things-in-themselves.

Also, information exists as a series or other structure of absolutely separate values, which means bits of information can’t interact with each other for the same reasons absolutely separate objects or substances can’t as explained above.

I guess that’s debatable. I guess you could say the universe is all its information plus the laws that act on it, similar to Conway’s Game of Life, but I find that dubious. How are the laws connected to the information without a more fundamental underlying continuum? (Note that Conway’s Game of Life actually runs on a computer or is otherwise simulated by, or even conceived by or encoded with, something or someone that’s much more than the Game of Life itself.) And not to mention the questions of in what form do the laws objectively exist, why and how they act, and why they are the way they are instead of some other way. I guess those could be problems either way, but they seem to be more tractable in a less simplified, more holistic, more continuous, more substantive, and maybe even unlimited kind of universe or multiverse. And, of course, the problem that pure disembodied information can’t give rise to qualia or experience or even independently exist applies.

I tend to think that the universe is one holistic thing, and the laws and the things they “act on” are not fundamentally separate. Laws are just parts of a physical model that are inferred from what’s ultimately all patterns of measurement. I guess if laws are not truly separate from what they “act on,” then this implies that the laws (which actually are just parts of potential models) are ultimately no less complex or whimsical than the universe itself. (If you don’t think it’s rational to say the universe is whimsical, just replace “whimsical” with “random” or “stochastic.”)

I wrote a little bit more about the impossibility of everything being made up of information here:

Anyway, to get back to the original subject, I wanted to show that it’s not only our eyesight that’s indirect and biology-specific. Take smell for example. The smell of a rose isn’t really a property of the rose itself. The rose releases trace amounts of chemicals into the air, some of which land in the olfactory part of the nose and temporarily bind with other chemicals in the olfactory organ, which then sends signals to the brain, which ultimately somehow generates an unaccountable, indescribable and immeasurable qualia from that information. (Yes you may be able to describe a smell, but only in terms of other smells that the other person has already experienced.) Some chemicals we can’t even smell at all, and some other animals can smell such chemicals. A similar description to the above can be applied to the sense of taste.

Now let’s move on to hearing. The vibration of the air itself exists as compression waves that could be graphed as one long complex waveform, but the cochlea in the inner ear transforms that information from the time domain to the frequency domain. What it sends to the brain isn’t waveforms, but intensities of various frequency components. It applies something like the Fourier transform to the waveform. If you add up sine waves based on all the various frequency values (which is the reverse Fourier transform), you reconstruct the original waveform, so all the data from the original is in the frequency representation. So you could say you’re hearing most of the actual vibrational pattern, but it’s not like the brain is actually performing this transformation, so the nature of the sound you hear is drastically different from the nature of the original vibration.

And, of course, our hearing is limited to a particular frequency range, approximately 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz, or around 14,000 hertz for people over middle-age, or something like that. Sounds (as actual vibrations, not as what you hear—the term is bit ambiguous) can exist well beyond those limitations, and other animals have different ranges of perception. We also judge relative pitch on a logarithmic scale instead of a linear one, and perceived volume is much greater for high pitches than low pitches than the actual amplitudes, on a logarithmic scale. And, of course, as with the other two senses, the qualia we ultimately experience is unaccountable, indescribable (except by relating qualities of sounds that the other person has already experienced) and immeasurable. All such qualia are probably completely arbitrary, and they could be different for different animals.

They could conceivably even be different for different people. One of the most common questions I get on Quora is “Does everyone see colors in the same way?” There’s no way of knowing for sure. Just because we call the same colors the same names doesn’t mean we experience them the same way. We just learn by association that X experience (which is ultimately caused by the same light frequencies) maps to Y name. There are neurobiological reasons to think we all perceive color the same way, though, as well as the commonalities in what different emotions people associate with different colors (for example, blue=calmness).

A naive realist might say that the difference between the smell and the chemicals the rose emits is one of levels of description, but that doesn’t really make sense because the smell of the rose could be different for different species. Also, if the smell were actually something that surrounds or belongs to the rose as we intuitively think, then it would still be there when we’re not there smelling it. But we know it’s not, because the qualia or smell of the chemicals, which are what really surround the rose and and are there even when we’re not, is known to be purely a product of the brain (or I would actually say the brain/mind combination, as I don’t think mind reduces to brain processes. See

One further note is that, if philosophical idealism is true, and/or psychic perception is possible, or perhaps some kind of spiritual unity with the cosmos is, then the bulk of the above arguments against reaching the noumena doesn’t necessarily hold up. I’m a fan of philosophical idealism (see, and I believe psychism is very real. Because I’ll be seen as irrational for saying that psychism is real, I’ll take some time to explain myself here.

Welp, anyway, I guess that’s all I have to say about the unknowability of the noumena.

The Truth Is Not ‘Out There.’ Or Is It? Also, Is Truth Always Propositional?

A given proposition, or idea about the world, could be false. But what would it mean for something out in the world, independent of our thoughts and ideas about it, to be false? That would make no sense. The world isn’t made of propositions, and if it were they’d probably all necessarily agree with each other (otherwise the world would explode in a puff of ex contradictione quodlibet). The stuff of the world outside of thought just is. It’s just the existence of things, or maybe a continuum of quantum foam or whatever. Something that simply is can’t be false.

So, in a domain in which nothing can possibly be false, what does it mean for anything to be true? Nothing! Because that qualifier can’t distinguish anything in any way. If the fact of the trueness of all worldly things is logically necessary, then that fact isn’t intrinsic to the worldly things themselves, but rather it follows from, and is intrinsic to, our own logic/epistemology. If it were a property of the things themselves, then, on some sufficiently fundamental level of consideration, it would be incidental that those things are true, and hence it would be hypothetically possible for them to be false. But it’s not.

So, truth isn’t a property of things “out there,” but is solely a property of our ideas of things.

Since that kind of raises the question of what makes an idea true or not, I’ll get into that too. Let’s first debunk the correspondence theory of truth. It’s commonly explained using something along the lines of the following: “the cheese is in my pocket” is true if and only if the cheese is in my pocket. The problem with that formulation is that it’s essentially just a tautology. It’s merely repeating the original proposition, and the fact that it does so without quotes doesn’t mean much. Presumably, reality isn’t made up of propositions (those are semantical or semiotic and therefore can only be ideas in our heads), so the reality of the situation doesn’t exist in a form anything like the contents of the second occurrence of the sentence “the cheese is in my pocket.”

The relationship between the proposition and the reality isn’t nearly as direct or simple as it’s made out to be, and that raises deep questions of how the truthiness of the correspondence between the proposition and the thing itself can be objectively verified. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be verified to be true, but a process of verification needs to be defined in order to establish what it means for the correspondence to be truthful, or at least that’s one way to establish it. I talk about an inherent problem with the idea of defining an objective way of measuring the truthiness of the correspondence of any proposition with reality, involving an infinite recursion of uncertainty, in this essay.

Another standard theory of truth is pragmatism, which kind of says that the truth of something is established by its utility, but has some attendant stances that I don’t necessarily agree with. So I’ll give a name to that one aspect of the theory: the utility theory of truth. I think truth really is, or largely is, established by utility, or at least I can make a strong philosophical argument for it. There’s really no other way to determine truth. Our models of reality are developed solely through interaction with reality, which is indirect (via motor impulses as output and sense perceptions as input), and success in predicting reality and manipulating it to our will are the only possible metrics for judging the fitness of a model. A model’s utility/fitness in predicting or manipulating reality doesn’t necessarily mean it’s metaphysically or ontologically true (if “metaphysical or ontological truth” could even mean anything), so what we call truth is limited to being merely useful.

(Okay, there are also the coherency theory of truth (which I’d call an aspect, type, and/or managing principle of truth) and truth from authority, which I won’t go into except to say that truths such as names of things and the grammar of a language are a completely different, non-substantive type of truth.}

But the above arguments rest on certain common-sense premises that I used for the sake of establishing the respective arguments, that aren’t necessarily true and that I tend toward disagreeing with. The first such premise is the idea that external reality must be non-propositional, or at least non-ideational. This isn’t necessarily the case if philosophical idealism is true, and I make a case for philosophical idealism here. So, in contradiction to the title of this post, the truth just may be “out there.” I just wanted to make an analytical argument that holds under standard assumptions.

On second thought, even if philosophical idealism is true, the ideas that compose reality outside our individual minds probably can’t be false, again because of ex contradictione quodlibet, and also because, how absurd would that be? Unless all the ideas composing reality are necessary contained within various minds, which may hold falsehoods or disagree with each other. But this kind of impossibility of truth by way of the impossibility of untruth seems to be of a weaker sense, and I don’t particularly like it. I like to think that, if philosophical idealism is true, truth is “out there in the world” only waiting to be internalized.

On third thought, since the form of the ideas outside of our heads under philosophical idealism could potentially be so similar to the form inside, perhaps we might as well characterize an outside idea as truthful if and only if its internal representation in a person’s mind would be true. I don’t think that’s cheating too much. Or perhaps we could just group all the outside ideas together with the ideas in one’s mind in terms of what logic applies to them, and call them true in contrast to the potential falsehoods in one’s mind.

One small detail: I may be wrong when I say that ex contradictione quodlibet would necessarily be a problem if there were a false idea “out there,” in philosophical idealism, independently of one’s mind. People contain incorrect ideas all the time, and it doesn’t automatically cause explosions of contradictions every which way in their minds, so it’s conceivable that outside reality could be just as fault tolerant. Under non-ideational external reality, however, I think that internal coherency is much tighter, and something that was in fundamental violation of that coherency would cause an explosion of contradictions.

Of course, there’s the tiny issue of what it could possibly mean for something to be in “violation” of that fundamental coherency (or what it means for everything to be fundamentally “coherent”) outside of it being the presence of a semantic/semiotic/ideational falsehood, and it can’t, of course, be the presence of a semantic/semiotic/ideational falsehood because non-ideational reality can’t be semantical/semiotic/ideational. Maybe what simply is can’t possibly be in contradiction to anything else that simply is?

The second such premise is the idea that we can only synthesize models of reality or true ideas through indirect interaction with reality via our motor impulses and sense perceptions. This excludes any kind of psychism, including telepathy, clairvoyance, premonition, divination, mystical intuition, near-death experiences, being an empath, having the ability to see auras, and divine revelation/religious experience. Or even the light of truth just seeping through your skull and into your brain by way of something like osmosis.

These modes of truth acquisition, being more direct and not limited to the paradigm of utility, would be more objective. Some of them would be more objective not only because of their means of transference, but also because of the nature of the truths’ contents. For example, the truth learned through a divine revelation/religious experience would be of a kind that’s more beautiful, profound and spiritual/mystical, and hence arguably more connected to the universal, divine aspect of the cosmos, than a more mundane or tangible truth.

Scientistic/skeptical/rationalist/atheist/physicalist types would of course see these modes of apprehension as woo/fantasy, and might even believe them to be debunked by science. I address the sources of this mentality, point out some of its flaws, and clarify some relevant concepts in this essay and this essay.

What I said about the nature of what’s learned through divine revelation/religious experience of course implies that truth isn’t necessarily propositional or even semantical/semiotic, which I believe is actually the case with or without divine revelation/religious experience. It was just easier and more amenable to analysis to limit what we call truth to the propositional or semantical/semiotic. Is it necessarily even symbolic or language-based? (You could posit that the term “truth” has multiple senses/uses and one is propositional and one is so-called “feeling-based” or otherwise non-propositional, but that would be too easy. I think the essential meaning of truth is the same in all cases.)

One way of thinking, for example, is visually or even quasi-visually. Are the elements of visual thinking necessarily symbols, and do they necessarily work together according to a language? I guess they must represent real-world things or else they’d be useless, so they’re probably symbols, but then maybe the structures of visual thought holistically refer to real-world things rather than individual parts of the structures referring to different real-world things.

As for language, I couldn’t find a definition that’s not about languages of communication, and also I think I’ve heard that it’s been proven that there can’t be such a thing as a private language (but I’m highly skeptical/incredulous of such a claim), so I can’t really be sure if visual thinking constitutes/uses a language. I suppose, insofar as the answer depends on the definition of language, it reduces the question to a semantical one and hence isn’t very substantive anyway. Well, only partially to be honest.

But anyway, let’s not forget that a visual or quasi-visual representation of truth isn’t even the only alternative to a propositional one. And, I think, all thinking is really pre-linguistic and freely creative; language alone can’t be used to determine how to pick and arrange a bunch of words or symbols or whatever into a meaningful linguistic string. Language is only something we use to translate our thoughts into something communicable using freely creative processes.

Or maybe I’m just thinking of the term “language” too narrowly. I suppose, internally, if we think that a dog has a bone, we think of a dog, we think of a bone, and we think of a specific type of relationship or process of interaction between the dog and the bone. Maybe the dog is a subject, the bone is an object, and the type of process of interaction is a verb. Though, to be honest, a mere relationship is probably thought of as a noun and not a verb (i.e., a state and not a process) (“has” seems to be only shoehorned into verb form because it links subject and object and in English only a verb can do that) (but I guess a language could conceivably support noun, noun, noun?), and a process of interaction probably isn’t thought of as a categorical type or token, at least depending on what exactly the dog is doing with the bone.

Well, I suppose he must be either eating it or playing with it, but then, the actual idea of what he’s doing is a lot more detailed than that. And, for that matter, so are the actual ideas of the dog and the bone. The categories all those things exist under are merely details, only to be invoked upon communication with another. Or are they internally more overarching than that? The dogness of the dog, the boneness of the bone, and/or the eatingness or playingwithness of the action may be top-level (as if an idea exists as a tree of categories, which it doesn’t), but then the whole ideas still contain all the juicy details either way, and I’m quite certain that the juicy details, like the shape of the dog’s face, don’t exist as linguistic or semantic/semiotic constructs.

However, if we were to do some thinking about what we could do with the fact that the dog is eating/playing with the bone to produce a particular result, in a complex series of steps or with many other elements involved, would we reduce the concepts to categorical tokens to make it easier to think logistically? I’m not sure. Though I’m quite sure that, even if we would (and I think they would only be somewhat or mostly reduced), pre-linguistic, pre-conceptual, freely creative thought must be used underneath that linguistic manipulation, so the thinking is only partially linguistic.

But the original question was whether truth is necessarily linguistic/semantical/semiotic/propositional. Not to mention the question of whether it’s even necessarily conceptual. I think we can conclude at this point that it’s not necessarily linguistic/semantical/semiotic/propositional (as your thought about the dog, his bone, and his relationship to it, in all its juicy detail, could be considered knowing truth about that dog and his bone, and at least the juicy details are not categorical/symbolic, let alone propositional), but what about conceptual?

My feeling is no (for example, take a divine understanding of your true nature or essence, or the true nature of the cosmos, perhaps as revealed by a religious experience), but that raises serious questions about what truth actually is/means. I’ve heard there’s a specific part of the brain that activates when you know something is true, or maybe when you learn that something is true, I forget which, so maybe whatever thought or emotion you associate with the feeling of that part of the brain activating is truth.

Of course, that kind of defers the question to what mechanisms lead to that brain part’s activation, which in turn requires an understanding of how thought structures, thought processes and emotions are represented or expressed in the brain, and I don’t know if neurocognitive scientists have that kind of understanding yet. I’d bet they don’t. And, if they do, they may not know specifically how it relates to the activation of that one part of the brain.

(I don’t believe mind reduces to brain processes as the above seems to imply—see or—but it seems to be tightly coupled with it enough that thoughts, thought processes and emotions may be measured through their expressions in the brain. I’m not sure about emotions, though, since their loci of feeling don’t usually seem to be in the brain but in other parts of the body. However, I do know that religious experiences can be measured in the brain, or more precisely they’re know to have a measurable effect on the brain.)

Sorry if this post sucks because I know nothing of the rules of linguistics, the difference between linguistics, semantics and semiotics, which of those things propositions belong to, or whether symbols/tokens are necessarily categorical.

The Universe Is Neither Logical nor Illogical

The universe cannot possibly be illogical, because epistemologically it makes no sense to suppose it’s illogical if there’s no way, even in principle, of observing something illogical in the universe.

You cannot possibly observe an illogical event or combination of events. You may think, for example, of observing something violating any rule we know of or intuit about reality (such as two solid things taking up the same space, or maybe the superpositions known to actually occur in quantum mechanics), but any such instance would only necessarily indicate a previously unknown or counterintuitive aspect to the laws of physics.

To observe something that’s actually illogical, you’d have to observe something tantamount to, for example, a square circle. And you can never manifest or observe a square circle by definition. The concept of perceiving a square circle is logically self-contradictory, and hence it can’t happen.

The fact that the universe cannot possibly be illogical, for the above logical reasons, means that the “data” of the fact of the universe’s not being illogical isn’t “out there” in the universe, but necessarily follows from our own epistemology or logic. So, the universe cannot be intrinsically illogical.

If the universe cannot be intrinsically illogical, then it cannot be intrinsically logical either. The opposite of illogical is, of course, logical, and, if the universe could not have been anything but logical, then, again, the “data” of the fact that the universe is logical wouldn’t be “out there” in the universe, but would necessarily follow from our epistemology or logic.

If the universe were logical, then it would be, on some suitably deep metaphysical level, incidental that that it’s logical, so that it could hypothetically have been observed to be some other way. But, as we’ve already demonstrated, it cannot be observed to be any other way. Hence the universe is not, itself, logical.

Logic is therefore only in our minds and how we choose to assimilate, or at least synthesize an understanding/mental model of, the universe. It seems to be the semantic organizing principle of our minds, or one important, overarching aspect of it.