Tag: Philosophy

Yes, Dogs Smile

Google says, “For many years, animal behaviorists largely agreed that animals weren’t smiling because they were experiencing joy, but instead because of a muscular reflex. Because of this, most people also believed that dogs didn’t smile as a way of showing their emotions. That belief, however, has been challenged.”

So, for many years, the prevailing scientific wisdom was that dogs don’t smile. How typically and tragically scientistic, to reduce something so beautiful, that we all can plainly see with our hearts and minds, to “muscular reflex.” As if, because muscular reflex is a thing we know about, even though it’s obviously a smaller part of a greater whole of causation and meaning, we naturally attribute the whole of a dog’s smiling to that alone, as if it simply happens for no particular reason.

As with many other subjects and domains, science has been asking us here to ignore and occlude our own hearts and sensibilities and deny something beautiful. It’s sad that so many people tend to buy into such fatuities. Yes, it’s true that have a tendency of anthropomorphizing non-human things and animals, but, on the other hand, we also tend to discount one important principle…

There is a sort of connective aspect between all things/beings and their appearance, whereby things have a tendency to “look like” what they really are. Of course, things are bound to look like what they are to some degree, simply because we learn by living to infer aspects of things’/beings’ identities from their appearances. But by this “connective aspect” I mean to imply something more than that. I mean to invoke the mystical.

For example, we know that we can tell a lot by looking into someone’s eyes—we can see their inner light, their emotions, or whatever—but how? Just how much does the eye change in response to emotions, or with respect to one’s inner light, and why?

Some of that perception may not even be in the looks themselves. Maybe some psychic sense informs us of the person’s inner light and the physical sensation of seeing their eyes only acts as something like a “carrier wave” for that impression. How/why else would we be able to perceive spiritual light through one’s eyes? Gauging emotions from the eyes in the mundane sense is a little more understandable: evolutionary social psychology could have led us to express emotions via the muscles surrounding the eyes, and also the lacrimal (tear-making) gland because it’s “useful” for others to know how we’re feeling. But the associated changes in eye state are extremely subtle, so that would seem somewhat inefficient.

Maybe the connection between emotions and eye state isn’t due to utility at all but is a kind of side effect of our evolutionary development, like many other things, we simply evolved to or learn to read it. Or maybe it’s cosmic in a way and both the expression and the perception of it tie into the nature of life/consciousness itself. This possibility, of course, is in line with what I’m talking about more generally regarding the mystical connection between appearances and identity.

The same kind of connection applies to our entire physical form. The ideal human form is not sexy and beautiful just because we were Darwinistically evolved to be sexually and romantically attracted to people whose genes are more evolutionarily fit. They’re sexy and beautiful because they embody cosmic principles, truths or aspects, and/or because they embody traits of certain Universal, or perhaps earthly, gods and goddesses. “Beauty is embodied wisdom,” someone once said was whispered to them by an angel. (That’s especially interesting because I also once heard that angels love to whisper secrets.)

The face in particular conveys a lot of information about a person’s identity. Because of the prevalence of scientistic and scientific thinking, we tend to see all things and parts and aspects of things as functional “black boxes” that are separated from each other in every way except those ways in which they’re proven to be connected or correlated. Scientific thinking isn’t all bad, of course; it’s produced a lot of knowledge, but it rests on a mentality that must ignore everything that’s not overtly useful, categorically applicable, and particularly amenable to razor-like analysis and abstract modeling, being easily separable into independent factors, unlike the more holistic processing characteristic of right-brained thinking.

So, we carry this independent-“black boxes” worldview into many things, including our assumptions regarding the inherent meanings of various facial features—specifically, the assumption that there aren’t any. You can easily reductio ad absurdum your way out of that delusion, though, by imagining various characters you know as having the faces of completely different people and observing, intuitively, that it wouldn’t make any sense for some of those people to have some of those faces.

This, by the way, is why any kind of modification of the face that’s meant to change or mislead from its original appearance, such as cosmetic surgery, Botox injections, lip fillers, makeup and hair dye, are dishonest and unethical. The more our looks become something purely plastic/readily artificially manipulated, the less meaning physical beauty actually has. It’s kind of like how if you allow everyone forge whatever coins and bills they want to, money loses its meaning.

That’s an imperfect analogy, of course, since physical beauty isn’t necessarily a commodity and beautiful paintings don’t lose their meaning just because anyone is allowed to be an artist, but physical beauty is a different kind of subject because faces are not beautiful simply because of how they look, but also because of the personality characteristics, or perhaps even the DNA, that they signify—or, more accurately, synhcronistically reflect or convey.

That’s not to imply that all beautiful people are “beautiful on the inside,” as in they’re compassionate, fair, thoughtful, generous or whatever and that all ugly people are ugly on the inside, as in selfish, vindictive, petty, etc.; the correspondence isn’t that simple.

Anyway, harking back to animal appearances, it would also be a mistake to think something like, the fact that house cats look cute has nothing to do with the cuteness of their species’ personality. (Yes, individual cats tend to have very different and unique personalities, but by “species personality,” I mean the dynamics of how their senses, emotions, minds, etc. are fundamentally organized.) Similarly, we can tell a lot about any other animal just by the way they look, sound, etc.

Lots of eggheads love to point out when they think our perceptions of other animals having emotions and intentions like we do is misguided because it’s just anthropormorphization and the other animals are nothing like us, being just lowly beasts, but they’re (usually) very mistaken (as they’ll say this even when it’s obvious that there’s no other conceivable interpretation of the animal’s behavior to anyone with a modicum of apprehension). We tend to underestimate the degree to which all life is connected, not only by our evolutionary roots, but also I’d wager that consciousness and/or mind and its proclivities are primary, while biological evolution and brains merely shape and manipulate them to do their bidding, thus entailing a lot more commonality between human personalities and the personalities of other animals. I’ve written more about this in the second half of this essay: https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2023/01/28/why-altruism-really-does-exist/.

This principle of mystical/sychronistic coupling between appearances and identity or essence probably also applies to elements of the natural environment. Are mountains really majestic? Yes! Are rainbows actually happy and magical? Yes! Is the moon feminine, or at least very yin? Yes! Is the scintillating of the sunlight or moonlight reflecting off of ocean waves living? Probably! Is the sky and everything spiritual it represents inherently peaceful and calming, or did we just evolve to like the light blue-green color because it’s a color we see so often? Of course the former! Is snow delicate and gentle? Yes. The beauty of the natural environment reflects the beauty of life.

One thing worthy of note is that, in line with this cosmic principle of things tending to be what they appear to be, some people like to infer a lot of things from words and sentences other than what’s literally intended, based on things like the literal meanings or etymologies of names, alternate meanings of words used, words that sound similar to the words used, and possible innuendos/double entendres. There tends to be a lot of truth to that, but it’s tricky. It can be taken too far. Really, without digging deeper into a subject, you can’t know which of such inferences are valid and which aren’t. So they should be taken with a grain of salt if at all.

One other thing worth noting is that things or beings that are specifically designed to simulate, or otherwise “look like” or mimic, other things or beings, are one big class of exceptions to the principle of things uncannily tending to be exactly what they appear to be, because they’re essentially co-opting or overriding the mechanics linking identity to appearance, or another way of looking at it is that they’re taking advantage of and manipulating our cognitive mechanics of taking things as they appear to be, or more accurately, of linking specific identities with specific appearances.

As an example, AI such as ChatGPT is specifically engineered to produce similar output as living intelligence, so its apparent intelligence shouldn’t necessarily be taken as an indication of real intelligence. Similarly, a robot or computer that’s programmed to say “I love you” shouldn’t be taken at face value. Other examples of exceptions are online “catfish,” scams, phishing websites, lies/deception/misleadingness, camouflage, illusionary magic, CGI and special effects, costumes and masks, acting, advertisements, manipulation, propaganda, gaslighting, FOX News, politicians, and fiction. (Though, of course, fiction usually conveys more truth than untruth, the untruths being mostly relegated to the merely literal or factual levels.)

Returning to the science of dog smiles, it’s good that the once-prevailing wisdom that dogs can’t smile is finally being challenged. In this case, the self-correcting mechanism of science has actually paid off in a domain where it matters, where the truth is sublime and subtle. But all too often that isn’t the case, so please, watch out for that and protect your heart!

Why We Should Be More Comfortable With Contradiction

Non-contradiction is a fundamental basis of logic (less so for paraconsistent logics, of course, but I’m talking about normal logic here), and logic seems to be a fundamental organizing principle of semiotic thought, so it’s not without its merit. Often, intolerance of contradiction leads us to throw out ridiculous propositions and even enables us to maintain our sanity. However, an absolute commitment to non-contradiction in all areas, which is an implied virtue (if not always actually maintained), would probably be overdoing it.

As humans, a species of animal, which is a kingdom of Darwinianly evolved biological organisms, we weren’t necessarily optimized for the correct apprehension of truth. We were made to breathe, eat, drink, reproduce, socialize, perhaps make habitats and apparel, etc., and to do and understand all the natural things and elements that go with those things. Truth-in-general, on the other hand, encompasses a much broader arena than beliefs attendant to those specific abilities, even if truth is fundamentally based in utility. (It may seem counterintuitive, but truth-as-utility is a very strong philosophical theory, which I argue for in one of the paragraphs in https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2022/01/19/the-truth-is-not-out-there/.)

So, there are indubitably many things the average person gets wrong, and, as evidence for this, consider how many things people in general disagree on and sometimes argue over. If two people disagree, one of them has to be wrong. If 12 people all believe different things regarding a particular fact, 11 of them have to be wrong (notwithstanding https://i.imgur.com/8dSrPKA.jpg).

So, how does this relate to the need to be more comfortable with contradiction? When two or more beliefs contradict each other, if we don’t tolerate any contradiction, we must throw out one or both beliefs. We’ll probably choose the belief that’s more fundamental/systemic, is more strongly believed, and/or agrees with the most other beliefs (especially those that are more fundamental/systemic and/or are more strongly believed). If we happen to choose the wrong belief to keep and conform the other belief, then we’ll be wrong about two things instead of one. If we just allow contradiction to exist, on the other hand, we can safely be wrong about any of our strongly held beliefs without compromising other beliefs.

Of course, as implied earlier, sometimes it’s prudent to adhere to the principle of non-contradiction. So, when should we allow for contradiction and when shouldn’t we? I would say we should probably allow for contradiction when it allows us to hold beliefs or perspectives that are beautiful, divine, hopeful, constructive, brightening, forgiving and/or uplifting of ourselves or others, or that connect us with others or with life in the larger sense.

To be perfectly fair, I think there are many exceptions even in most of those categories; in other words, we don’t want to be so open-minded our brains fall out. So, just take the idea of ignoring certain contradictions to heart and use it judiciously. Probably you’ll make some wrong decisions about when to use or not use contradiction, because of wrong beliefs, especially those that are held so deeply that to abandon them would threaten your sanity. But you’ll probably still end up being a little bit Less Wrong, especially about some of those things that are vitally important.

Regarding the likelihood of a more fundamental/systemic belief or frame of reference being wrong, consider that, besides the inherent individual-level weakness in our ability to determine truth, there are the falsities promulgated under any given society via indoctrination and osmosis, and these tend to include fundamental aspects of our worldview. Westernism and the The Enlightenment in particular pose a very deadly frame of reference, which I write more about in some of my other essays. Religion is also a source of misguided fundamental beliefs.

There are some arenas of knowledge in which we may want to be even more tolerant of contradiction, and some in which we should be less tolerant. Mathematics, obviously, is an arena in which there should be zero tolerance of contradiction, because its proofs and consequent “truths” are absolute, so there’s no danger of adhering to non-contradiction causing one to be wrong twice. Also, non-contradiction is a fundamental pillar of math. You can’t have math, or can’t have it in remotely the same form, without non-contradiction. After all, math is nothing more than a specific application of logic, as shown by Frege, etc.

We probably want to be more adherent to non-contradiction in the sciences, too, particularly the hard sciences, because the scientific method makes for a somewhat more objective body of acquired truths. Even it is flawed, though (see The Crisis of Science and the reproducibility problem), so maybe we should allow for some amount of contradiction even in the sciences. On the other hand, non-contradiction is how science progresses, uprooting old and inaccurate theories, so perhaps we shouldn’t.

Note that the presuppositions of physicalism, anti-psi, anti-mysticism, etc. are not scientific per se, they’re just considered to be in accord with science because a lot of scientifically minded people prefer them, they’re more scientistic per se than scientific, and I especially encourage tolerating contradiction with respect to these convictions.

Speaking of mysticism, this is a prime example of an arena in which we should be even more tolerate of contradiction. I don’t mean only with respect to its contradictions with scientism and physicalism, but with respect to contradictions within the domain of mysticism itself. Mystical truths are so holistic, nuanced, complex, subtle, interconnected, multifaceted, multidimensional and open-ended that it’s not readily amenable to strictly logical analysis. I wrote more about this at https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/notes-on-science-scientism-mysticism-religion-logic-physicalism-skepticism-etc/#Mysticism.

And, since they’re so profound and transcendental, translating them into language is usually a brutal, butchering and misleading reduction, so it’s like the finger pointing to the moon: you’re meant to look at the moon, not the finger. Or it’s like a sign post, so that once you arrive at a certain awareness, you can reflect on the concepts you’ve learned to help clarify it and lead you onward. So, picking apart verbal representations of mystical truths by exposing contradictions, or selecting between them on this basis, can be very misguided.

Note, by the way, that, as hinted at earlier re “(if not always actually maintained),” many people already do hold a lot of contradictions between everyday beliefs and positions and their more philosophical takes, they just don’t do it intentionally or consciously, so they’re kind of hypocritical in that respect. Mostly these are people with the metaphysical convictions of physicalism and/or anti-spiritualism.

If a physicalist were to take their physicalism to heart in every context, they’d probably become a nihilist. If not that, they’d at least not be able to appreciate (and would probably also scoff at) a wide variety of things like song lyrics, poetry, nuances of interpersonal interaction, intuitions and thought constructs that they entertain on a daily basis, because all of these things tend to contain truths or other constructs that ultimately don’t make sense in any way that doesn’t assume something spiritual or mystical. Most people just aren’t conscious enough to realize the contradictions. This is good for the physicalist’s psychological health, though, or bad for their philosophical convictions, depending on how you look at it. I wrote some about these contradictions at https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/notes-on-science-scientism-mysticism-religion-logic-physicalism-skepticism-etc/#Naturalism, too.

Why I’m an Idealist

Maybe it’s just the reductionist in me, but I’m attracted to monism. To be fair, exactly one ultimate type of stuff seems less oddly arbitrary than two, three, or any other number of types (and an infinity of types of stuff sounds like a pointless clusterf_ck). Zero types of stuff sounds plausible too, but for some strange reason Stuff Exists rather than nothing ever existing.

Another good reason to be a monist is that, if two different substances were 100% totally unique, they’d have no common grounds on which to interact with each other. There’d be no language, protocol, or rules to determine in what ways one affects the other. They’d miss each other completely. And if two substances do interact with each other (and therefore and have the common mechanics necessary to do so), it seems fair to assume that they’re only patterns within a third, more fundamental substance—in other words that they “boil down to” the third substance—or that one of the two boils down to being merely patterns within the other.

Mind and matter/physical stuff seem like two totally distinct types of extant (hence the relationship between mind and matter being such a fundamental/popular topic in philosophy), but as per monism we should probably assume that either they both boil down to a third substance, or one boils down to the other. We know of no third substance, so the more parsimonious tack would be to assume that one boils down to the other. So, which boils down to which?

The more popular and academic approach seems to be that mind boils down to matter/physical stuff. I argue why this position is incogent and weak here.

Consciousness as an Illusion

Another easy tactic that physicalists use to eliminate the scary idea of life itself (i.e. consciousness and everything that goes with it) is to posit that consciousness must be an illusion.

Consciousness cannot be any less real than it appears to be, because its existence does not intrinsically imply anything that would be verified by any empirical or external means, so there is nothing to disprove or nothing further to discover that it “really” is, in the way that, say, water on the road can be shown to be really a mirage caused by a heated layer of air. There are no implications other than the direct self-experience, or awareness of consciousness by consciousness itself. And that is a universal experience, and attempting to deny it (as functionalists actually do) would be akin to putting one’s hand in front of one’s face in broad daylight and denying that it appears.

Furthermore, mind can’t be an illusion because it’s in the mind that an illusion exists. So if the mind didn’t exist illusion would have no meaning. Or if it’s supposed to be in the brain that the illusion exists then it’s only insofar as mind, in which the illusion must exist because illusion is a mental phenomenon by definition, is assumed to be an abstraction or emergent property of brain processes, and abstractions or emergent properties aren’t illusions. And even if they were, the mind Xm of Brain Xb wouldn’t be an abstraction or observation made by Individual X anyway; it would simply be its behavior, or perhaps an abstraction or observation only to outside observers. Or if, on the other hand, mind is a process of abstraction that the brain makes which creates awareness of thoughts, then that’s merely the nature of mind, not a refutation of it. In other words, what else would mind be assumed to be, and why? If mind were something other than our experience of it, we’d never know of it or have a reason to come up with the concept. And the meaning of a word is in how it’s used anyway, so either way the mind can’t be an illusion.

In other words, if consciousness is an illusion, what is it an illusion of? What is it that we erroneously think it is? If consciousness didn’t exist, how would we have the clear idea of what it’s like to be conscious? In order for us to even know of consciousness, we must have witnessed it at some time. Even if by some unlikely chance we knew of something we called consciousness that’s not really consciousness, it still must be consciousness because consciousness is whatever we’re referring to when we use the word. It can’t be anything else because the concept doesn’t exist in the realm of empirically known things / we know of it directly and not sensorially, so there’s no way to show that what we think it is actually boils down to another thing.

On a slight tangent, I wrote some notes on why free will is not an illusion here.

https://philosophy.inhahe.com/2018/04/13/notes-on-science-scientism-mysticism-religion-logic-physicalism-skepticism-etc/#Reductionism and https://philosophy.inhahe.com/2018/04/13/notes-on-science-scientism-mysticism-religion-logic-physicalism-skepticism-etc/#Illusion are also relevant.

Consciousness as an Emergent Property

People who desire to find explanations for all things under a physicalists paradigm often turn to the concept of “emergent properties” to explain how consciousness “arises from” inanimate material processes. Per emergent properties, macroscopic phenomena seem to arise out of nowhere as a result of the interaction of their microscopic parts, and consciousness seems to arise out of nowhere—at least in that it’s unaccountable for—so therefore consciousness must be an emergent property.

But emergent properties should be mechanically understood and derivable (such as by arriving at a snowflake by simulating water molecules or by reasoning about them with sophisticated math), or at least derivable in principle with enough knowledge of the workings of the system. That’s not the case with consciousness as an emergent property, because consciousness isn’t even a physical concept (like, say, snowflakes and their constituent atoms are). So emergent property as something truly understandable is thus abstracted and objectified as a concept, and then overextended to apply where it doesn’t belong. Thus, accounting for consciousness via “emergent properties” seems to me like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Consciousness is not a physical concept. By that I don’t mean that consciousness is not a physical phenomenon, which would be begging the question, but that epistemically the concept itself is not in the category of “physical things.” The things that consciousness is supposed to reduce to are physical, and therefore that’s a category error. It’s not of the same type of rational reduction as, for example, a car being the sum of its parts.

There’s also a certain irony in concluding that the mind and its ideas are made up of material processes: we know of our own inner experience first and foremost, and then as we develop, we gain concepts of things we think of as external to us, those things that are physical. But the external remains a secondary consideration both chronologically and epistemically. Then some try to account for the inner experience, including all of its ideas of both the internal and external, as subordinate to or secondary to the external (which is ultimately never more than an internal concept, insofar as we can know of it). It seems absurdly contortionistic.

Also, consciousness / experience as we know it (not as we theorize about it after objectifying it as a concept) is, in my personal experience, a fundamentally singular thing, and in that case it cannot possibly be made up of / arise from many smaller things. Complex collections of things do not make up fundamentally simpler things (except insofar as we see / abstract them as simpler things); to think otherwise would be irrational, because a thing is at least as complex as the sum of its parts. So it seems to me that consciousness / experience / self-awareness simply cannot be made up of non-living elements.

One strong reason that scientists and scientistics tend to think that consciousness is emergent from (or is otherwise produced somehow by) the brain is the extent to which damage to specific brain tissues affects, impairs or seems to completely annihilate consciousness and its faculties. This is far from proof that consciousness reduces to neurochemistry though.

Take the TV analogy for example. Imagine you have no idea what a TV is how it works and you discover one in operation. You perform various tests on it, discovering that if you manipulate its physical insides, its electrical flow, or even the magnetic field around it, the picture on the screen changes in particular ways, and those ways depend on exactly where and how you messed with the TV’s insides. If you screw with it enough you’ll even find that the video and sound cease completely.

The natural, naive conclusion would be that the TV somehow generates the TV show it’s playing on the screen and speakers and all its conceptual content, but we just happen to know better in this case. But we didn’t create the brain, and it’s too complex for us to fully understand from the ground up, so we can’t really know whether it generates consciousness or merely transceives it.. and in light of other arguments made herein, it seems more likely that it doesn’t actually generate consciousness/mind.

Tanasije Gjorgoski makes a good argument (in the form of reductio ad absurdum) as to why consciousness can’t be a property of a neural network here and here. I’ll reproduce the page at the first link here:

Playback argument (why a neural network can’t be conscious)

Here is simple refutation of neural-network producing consciousness idea. It can be used as attack to much more general set of systems, and hopefully I will be posting a short paper on this issue in next few weeks I hope.

Here is the simple argument:

Let’s say that the system is composed of “digital” neurons, where each of them would be determined by: input from other neurons, internal state, the calculation it is doing, and output it gives to other neurons. And because we assume it is not important how was the calculation made every neuron pk can be changed by any system which does set of output functions yi=f(x1..xj). Let’s suppose additionaly this system is conscious, so we will do reductio ad absurdum later.

Now, let’s say we are measuring each neuron activity and internal states for a 2 (10, 20) minutes, in which the system is conscious (maybe we ask it if it is conscious, it does some introspection, and answers that it is). We store their inputs and outputs as functions of time. After we got that all, we can replay what was happening by:

  • Resetting each neuron internal state to the starting state, and replaying the inputs which come from outside of the neural net, and first inputs which come from inside of neural net (starting state). As the function is deterministic, everything will come out again as it was the first time. Would this system be conscious?
  • Reset each neuron internal state to starting state, then disconnect!! all the neurons between each other, and replay the saved inputs to each of them. Each of the neurons would calculate the outputs it did, but as nobody would “read them”, they would serve no function in the functioning of the system, actually they wouldn’t matter! Would this system be conscious too?
  • Shut down the calculations in each neuron (as they are not important as seen is second scenario – because the outputs of each neuron are also not important for functioning of the system while the replay). We would give the inputs to each of the “dead” neurons (and probably we would wonder what we are doing). Would this system be conscious?
  • As the input we would be giving to each of the neurons actually doesn’t matter, we would just shut down the whole neural net, and read the numbers aloud. Would this system be conscious? Which system?

I have my own reductio ad absurdum against physical reductionism here. I have more or less the same arguments as here with different wording here.

Physicalism defies all heart-based perspectives and kills magic. It also defies tons of evidence for the parapsychological and billions of individuals’ inexplicable experiences. The only reason people subscribe to it (in general, at least) is that it satisfyingly explains (away) all mysteries instead of naturally living with and appreciating the mystery. It’s rooted in scientism and the left-brain-dominant thinking which is endemic to modern cultures. And it makes everything under the sun out to be dead and mundane. I wrote some insights into the fundamental biases behind physicalism at the end of this essay.

So, having ruled out mind reducing to matter/physicality, we’re left with matter/physicality reducing to mind. If this seems impossible, notice that, as pointed out in the above quote, we only know of any material things through perception, and perception can easily be generated by mind.

To be honest, characterizing everything not physical about us as “mind” seems vacuous and overly analytical. I believe there is more to life/consciousness/awareness/experience/the divine spark than either mind or matter. I think mind is an aspect of life, and I think it’s more accurate to say that physical reality is somehow produced by life per se than by mind alone. To wit, all that exists is life.

In what manner and for what reason does life give rise to the perception of material, which appears to be lifeless? I think there are two possibilities: (1) Physical reality is a projection of mind for the purpose of having a particular kind of experience, or (2) Physical reality is a perspective under which we perceive life or a particular part of life, which we incorrectly deem to be lifeless. If (2) is correct, then that raises the question of why some life (or all life?) appears to us to be lifeless.

Firstly, our mode of perception of the world depends heavily on the form of our beings, particularly our bodies (whatever they may really be) and their sensory apparatuses, and not to mention the size-scale at which we exist. We’re so immersed in our God-given (or at least nature-given) mode of perceiving the world that it seems to us that our model of the world is the one and only correct way of seeing it.

Plato’s cave opened our minds to the possibility that the way we see the world may not be the way it actually is. (Maybe there is no “the way the world actually is” because to be a perceiver of the world is to have a be form of being, which implies having a particular, perhaps necessarily arbitrary mode of perceiving the world, but there may be some modes of perception that are more direct or free from illusion than others.)

As another example, a even a periphery study of color vision will dispel any notions of realism in how we perceive objects—or at least their colors—pretty quickly.

So it could just be that our bodies are formulated in such a way that we perceive life (or at least some life), including the contents of our own bodies, as being solid, in stasis, mechanical and lifeless and we call it matter. We as humans, and biological beings in general, seem to be particularly suited for predicting and manipulating the world. Maybe being able to predict and manipulate the world means seeing it as mechanical—or seeing the mechanical aspects of it—and hence seeing it as lifeless.

One particular aspect of our bodies to go back to and consider is the sheer scale of size at which they exist, perform and perceive. Maybe we’re huge! We don’t seem huge to ourselves, but of course that perception is only relative to our own size. Think about it: our bodies contain something in the order of 100,000,000,000,000 cells, and each cell contains something in the order of 100,000,000,000,000 atoms.

If we could perceive matter on the cellular, atomic or perhaps quantum level, maybe we would see it more as a living thing! Just as it’s only in aggregate that quantum effects seem classical and deterministic and rocks seem solid and still rather than spacious and seething with vibrations of atoms and flow of electrons, maybe it’s only in giant aggregate that the flow of life appears still, mechanical and solid enough to be deemed lifeless!

Another possibility is that the entire physical universe is a spirit or a group of spirits that have lowered their vibration so much, for whatever reason, for better or worse, that they became dense enough and unaware and hence predictable enough that they appear material to us. Our bodies would be parts of one those spirits, of course; existing as a carnal being would actually be interfacing our consciousness with its. The being would be so large that it would envelope us and completely dominate our contextual field.

Whether material reality is a projection of consciousness or a way of perceiving it, the purpose of living in a material realm may be for us to interact with each other in a highly consensual/agreed-upon reality. This high degree of consistency would, of course, give us the impression that there’s an objective reality outside of us that has nothing to do with our own minds and their manifestations or with life itself.

Even disregarding most of the above reasoning, the chances that life is primary and material is secondary instead of material being primary and life being secondary are at least 50/50. (Yes, you could reason that the vast majority of the universe appears to be lifeless and life only appears to exist within biological organisms that evolved within the material universe, but you could also reason that the one thing we can be most sure of is our own consciousness/spark of life; everything external to it is, ultimately, theoretical.)

Now consider that the point of view that life is primary and that everything is life allows for much more hope, happiness, magic, and general possibility such as that of life after death, God, parapsychology and the paranormal, spirituality, the Mandela effect, synchronicity, the unity of all beings and between the internal and the external, etc. A more inclusive worldview is much more apt to assimilate beliefs, experiences and phenomena of various kinds that otherwise have to be dismissed or, at best, explained away given a few presumptive premises.

One may think that it’s is a non-theory because it’s not scientific, isn’t rigorously defined and makes no predictions, but it isn’t meant to replace or revise everything, or even anything, we know in science; scientific theory, as far as it’s valid, still stands because it works, while the part of scientific (or scientistic) thinking that’s countered by this theory—e.g. physicalism—has no empirical basis. This “theory” (or metaphysical worldview) merely undoes some undue assumptions about the universe (such as its being completely mechanistic and hence rigorously describable) and makes it more open-ended, allowing for the unknown, the mysterious, and the unknowable and utterly ineffable. It calls a spade a spade by admitting what aspect of the universe we don’t understand rather than dictating restrictions on what’s possible ahead of time.

Also, as per my writing on physical reductionism linked to above, this worldview allows for the possibility of an ultimate, or incremental, understanding/explanation of the universe whose bases are actually meaningful to us, rather than being ever-smaller subatomic particles or dry equations devoid of anything qualitative, because such bases could be found within us on a psychological, emotional or spiritual level.

I mentioned a little bit more in the way of arguing for idealism in this essay.

Analytical Vs. Continental Philosophy

Some people view analytic philosophy as superior to continental philosophy, perhaps because analytic philosophy is based on reason while continental philosophy is considered opinion or speculation.

But those people are looking for certainty in their beliefs, and insofar as analytic philosophy is certain it is merely tautology, in that all certain truths within it are merely isomorphisms or rearrangements of base axioms, such as those of the meanings of words and Aristotelian syllogisms, because insofar as one truth strictly derives from another truth without any further input from ontology/observation the latter is necessarily only a reflection of the former; and insofar as analytic philosophy is not certain it can easily mislead, because language is so dynamic that words can easily be put together to manipulate thought, producing one spin or another, depending on how one arranges words to create concepts. A concept can appear reasonable because the incompleteness of the definitiveness of the notion, or the other possibilities to the situation, are made subtle/covert by the craftiness of its articulation. As such, sometimes a contradicting concept to a compelling concept can appear equally compelling because of the crafty arrangement of the words of its expression in a different sequence.

So analytic philosophy reduces to uninteresting tautology and arguments that are compelling yet non-strict in a way that entails they could just as likely be sophistry as sound. By contrast, continental philosophy actually makes statements about the larger world and life, sometimes very deep/profound statements. While the author could be wrong or right and the text’s correctness can’t be determined purely analytically, it’s interesting, and you can apply judgement and evaluation to it on levels of sense beyond the merely logical, especially if you read many different continental philosophers and compare their views in order to gain perspective. Also, the statements of continental philosophy are not necessarily just speculation or opinion on the basis of their not being logically or empirically proven; they can be keen/apt/astute/insightful, even if still having an essential “subjectivity” to their (so-called) “claims.”

It is not strictly because of the dynamicism of language and its potential to lead or mislead thought that the incompleteness of an argument or the alternate possibilities involved are made covert; it is human intention and craftiness that result in this, even partly on unconscious levels, because the intention of the author is to convince the reader of his position and to look good, and the ability to wield words effectively comes naturally to us, so much so that we hardly even know how we do it. Of course, some authors may simply articulate their thoughts honestly without any clever use of phraseology to side-step the weaknesses of their positions, but the thought-elements of chains of reasoning themselves are somewhat analogous to words in how they can be dynamically arranged to lead or mislead someone (including the thinker himself). Both those things, the clever phraseology and potentially misleading chains of thought-elements, are semantical in nature.

As a side note, I think it’s more this chronic slipping of indefinitiveness through the seams in phraseology that makes certain philosophical positions more trendy or modern, or tearing down of or more compelling than other positions, than actual legitimacy or truth; so, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t believe that philosophy actually progresses over time; I think it merely changes its inclinations based on who made the last and more cleverly constructed argument. It’s much like debate in this respect, in that who wins the debate generally has little to do with who’s actually right and a lot more to do with who’s the stronger debater.