forums related to metaphysics

The random philosopher is back!

I took a rather long break from writing about philosophical stuff. I actually had some problems figuring out what i want to believe in. To be honest, i still dont know. There’s way too much stuff going on out there in this world to actually believe in certainity. Even so, i got something today that i’d like to discuss.

You know, i was surfing through various internet forums regarding philosophy, psi and all that stuff in the last few months. There are lots of those out there – many of them are really really bad. Especially if you search for something that isnt so close to the mainstream opinion its getting really really hard to find a place where people try to discuss seriously.

Well in the end i found 2 places that i did stick to. Let me tell you about those.

Firstly, http://www.skeptiko.com .

The forum got a nasty reputation in sceptic circles, just like the podcast. Im not saying that this is totally unjustified – theres certainly a lot of biased opinion there. But well, who is without bias, right? If you take your time to acquaint yourself with the opinion of the person who’s producing the podcast and you are able to dig through his opinion you get a lot of good stuff out of it. As a note on the side, its obviously a proponent-podcast. Dont exepct pro-materialism or pro-physicalism opinions here, even so people like Shermer, Coyne or Churchland where on the podcast. Even so, the mentioning of these names shows atleast that widely known people were engaged in discussions here.

Thats the podcast. The forum to that…ah well. Thats a different story. I heard it used to be a lot better a year ago. I joined it like in autumn last year. Its actually nearly equally divided when it comes to opinions. Theres one half that believes in psi and all those things and theres the other half that doesnt. The latter group dominates like 1-2 sub areas of the forum due to a restriction on several parts of the forum for sceptics. Certainly a good idea – i imagine that proponents sometimes just want to discuss among themselves without any snarky comments.

The 1-2 areas where sceptics are allowed, well… its rather typical. Sceptics pretty much flood the sections with stuff like “i dont believe in this, theres no proof for that…” and so on and so forth. If you are into that, go for it. I actually stopped writing there; its not helping at all to engage in discussions with people that arent even considering other opinions. I really tried that before; i actually can understand their opinions quite well. I used to (and sometimes i still do) believe vividly in these opinions aswell. Its rather hard for me to get away from them btw. Even so, just clobbering others with your opinion instead of enganging in serious discussions wont get you anywhere. No one is willing to budge just a tiny little bit there; and if you are willing to do that you will get “eaten” by them. Give them one finger and they’ll take the whole hand. But thats just my take on that.

A second forum i’d really enjoyed visiting in the last few months is the forum of bernardo kastrup: http://www.bernardokastrup.com/

He got a blog where hes writing about his opinion on all sorts of philosophical questions. As much as i know hes a idealist – you know, hes believing that everything is in consciousness. He got a google group attached to his blog website.

To be honest, im not visiting that forum enough. They are discussing about highly interesting things there while being quite nice to each other. I rarely see a worthless discussion over there. And if your question isnt too weird you will actually get honest answers. Note though that the people there are NOT all idealists. They value the fact that everyone there is free to keep his or her own belief. Its a rather unique community that helps Kastrup to discuss his opinions and to talk about his books. Even so, its highly sophisticated from time to time. I cant keep up with many of those discussions there and sometimes i believe their discussing about things that are too far away from reality.

Got to add to that, i really enjoy Kastrups google group because there are no “extremists” there. There are materialists (atleast there used to be, i dont know about right now), sure, but those guys arent bad if they engage in a normal way with you.

Even so, thats it for now. There are tons of interesting topics there and i used to pick some lines or posts from those forums to discuss about them here. Maybe ill do that again. Lets see. If you really like to engage in serious discussions and you are not sure about what you should believe i suggest Kastrups forum and blog. Really good stuff.

And well, if you want to work for your information a bit more and engage with sceptics that are used to discussions with proponents, use the first forum i mentioned.

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The Ism’s – a humorous explanation

After i did that post regarding my problems with a few things, lets get some other stuff going. I thought it may be interesting to talk about philosophy at its core.

Especially the “ism’s”. They are the paradigms that are the foundation of what people in this world believe. Everyone is basing his or her opinion on something like that; Even if you dont recognize it or deny it, you still do.

So, to explain those i got a quote from one of those forums im discussing things with other people:

Idealism: You have two cow thoughts. Who needs milk? That’s more than enough.

Panpsychism: You have two cows made up of thousands of cow particles. How this works, nobody knows.

Materialism: There are no cows, no milk, no you. Just atoms in the Void.

Dualism: You have two cows. You make a bunch of hamburgers, and now you have two infinitely precious cow souls which is way better than actual cows.

Creationist: Those cow fossils were put in the ground by Satan. Also, in the Garden of Eden cows gave out strawberry and chocolate milk.

Nondualism: By milking the cows, you are milking yourself….Stop snickering and get those filthy thoughts out of the One Mind!

Mysterianism: I think you have two cows, but I’m too lazy to check.

CSICOP: I saw the cows, milked them, and am now drinking the milk. Still, it’s too early to tell if you have cows.

Mediumship: I’m sensing your great grandfather had….a beloved cow as a pet….Oh, he was farmer? Lots of cows then – that counts as pets. What? Sorry, no refunds…

JREF: I won’t believe you have cows until I kill them and eat their meat. And you first have to make a check out to the “Amazing” Randi.

Dawkinsian: The cow only wants to pass on its selfish genes. Did I mention God sucks?

So lets explain those a bit more in detail. You may know one or the other already. Btw, some people may say that this isnt totally accurate, especially for materialism or stuff like that. My opinion is going form with that though.

Anyways, its starting with Idealism. You know, thats the stuff where everything is in consciousness. Therefore thoughts are enough. Its a form of monism. That means that there isnt anything else except things that are in consciousness. There is no separate objective world out there.

Panpsychism is getting more and more popular these days. Its basically descrbing that everything can be divided in its parts and everything got some sort of mind, soul or consciousness. Christof Koch would be one of those persons out there that believe in that. Note that human consciousness would also be a complex structure of many other things. I guess you could say that we achieve our level of consciousness due to the interaction of matter; matter would already be conscious, although the level of consciousness of a matter-particle would be on a primitive level.

Materialism? Do i need to explain that? Its the current mainstream paradigm; or well, its more like physicalism these days. Everything is matter or a interaction between several matter-parts. What is matter though? Well, who knows. There are explanations. But nothing explicit.

Dualism means that there are 2 several groups of things; a material group and a “soul” group. Science denies that kind of view these days; it was popular a few years ago(like, a few hundred years ago). William James was kind of a dualist, although im not totally sure there.

Creationism…well, thats basically what the church is talking about in some sort of way. The creation of everything due to a divine power. Although people laugh about that stuff these days it isnt like we can disprove that.

Nondualism.. monism. There is just one group. Idealism is propably something like that, just like materialism.

Mysterianism…everything is a mystery. Wooooo. I imagine that is the belief that we cant explain anything at all for real, even if we try.

CSICOP is a organisation for sceptics. In that case sceptics refers to people that are critical against everything. And with that i mean really everything. Im not sure if CSICOP is really like that, but they claim they are. Propably the guys that tell you that you can never be sure about anything at all.

Mediumship isnt really a philosophical group. Its more like people that like to believe in psi. Thats not really grounded in philosophy. You could categorize them in several other groups i guess. Although those people propably dont care about all that stuff. Btw, dont deny mediums and all that psi stuff just because it seems like pure madness. Theres a whole lot more going on than mainstream science tells us openly.

JREF is propably something like the new age fundamentalist organisation for atheists and all those other people that hold materialism/physicalism dear to their hearts. I personally would say they are on the same level than religious fundamentalists, but thats just me.

Dawkinsian..erf… i quote wiktionary for that:

“The concept of viewing genes as if they were the primary drivers and beneficiaries of the evolutionary process.” Its all about the genes. As the line above also states, it denies god.

Another philosophical view that didnt get mentioned is gnosticism. Thats basically about spritualism, although those guys think that they can achieve enlightment and stuff like that with being poor, sexual abstinence. Its also a approach that is related to a belief in god. The whole thing is a bit more complicated though. Dont blame me for not explaining that in detail right here.

These are not all views that are out there. Also its a bit of a humorous approach. Dont take everything serious. Even so, its a nice little overview of the most popular stuff out there.

Neutral monism – neutral what?

Hi.

Lets dive deep into something philosophical. And with that i mean something really philosophical.

For that, let me quote someone from your average discussion forum about all the weird things out there. Its about the philosophical system called neutral monisim(Before i start, in case you dont know – monism means that there is just one thing out there. Thats different to stuff like dualism, where there are two things.).

“The way I choose to express it myself is that reality is like a fractally recursive dialectic of (perhaps infinitely) regressing mirror repeats of an essential act of “relation,” where said relations are called out of a kind of fibrous All_Potential. This universal activity of “relating” is somehow ontologically active in the exact way that gives to the actualized realm a “sense of presence,” utlimately culminating in our Mind-World dialectic. However, even the most basic (discernible) instances of the relation are already capable of “detecting” in some sense the other partner or end of that dialectic relation. In other words, as I have expressed before, and as the article I linked expresses, there aren’t really any “things”…what exists is a stack of relations, perhaps finite, perhaps infinite. The quantum process of “observation,” whether by ourselves or by lesser systems, seems to me precisely the enactment of this process of actualizing relation…called out of All_Potential.”

That sounds pretty weird, right? Atleast to me it did. Not because i agreed or disagreed – it just that this stuff is in some way so abstract, i have a hard time understanding what this guy wants to express with that.

Anyways, before we analyse that, what is neutral monism anyways?

Basically, this:

“In philosophy of mind, neutral monism is the view that the mental and the physical are two ways of organizing or describing the same elements, which are themselves “neutral”, that is, neither physical nor mental.[1] This view denies that the mental and the physical are two fundamentally different things. Rather, neutral monism claims the universe consists of only one kind of stuff, in the form of neutral elements that are in themselves neither mental nor physical; these neutral elements might have the properties of color and shape, just as we experience those properties, but these shaped and colored elements do not exist in a mind (considered as a substantial entity, whether dualistically or physicalistically); they exist on their own.”(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_monism)

So, there is only one thing, and thats some sort of neutral stuff that contains mental aswell as physical things. Matter of fact, there isnt anything mental or physical at all. Those neutral things are not something that is getting created in our mind (idealism in some forms is talking about consciousness being fundamental to our world; that wouldnt be true in that case since the neutral elements would be fundamental). If im allowed to interpret it in that way (and im sure that other people disagree with that) – to me its some sort of neutral materialism. It denies the mental(and the physical too, i know) and its saying there is just one kind of elements; there are not the material we know, i got that, but they still seem to be “material” in some sort of sense – just different than that what we understand as material these days. Anyways…

The first quote of this blog post is a quote from a user that is pretty sure of him finding his own notion of neutral monism. Hes doing so by changing those somehow magical neutral elements to relations; but not just that. Hes going to that point where hes saying that there arent any objects or anything that could be in relations to each other; no, there are just relations that relate to each other. Hence everything would be described as relations. So, humans would be just a bunch of relations, related to each other. Your consciousness for example wouldnt be a “thing” – its a group of relations. If you take normal materialism here, well, that one is telling you that your consciousness is also a group of relations – but those relations are materialistic things related to each other. Relations between relations versus relations between objects.

So thats what that guy is basically implying. Of course, in case you are wondering, that whole thing is purely philosophical discussion. Unlike others who are trying to explain their theory with the world that we are seeing neutral monism is based on philosophical assumptions. If you are saying right now “wait, the others like materialism, idealism, whatever are doing the same”, well, you are right. But atleast to me personally their theories are closer to the subjective reality we experience. And well, from the very same wikipedia-article that i quoted before – if you might wanna read why neutral monism isnt as popular as others: Its basically because of the neutral elements. Its actually weird to think about something that is the base of everything we know, but at the same time we cant say anything about it for real. The first quote above tried to get rid of that problem with the notion that relations are the neutral element – even so, that doesnt help at all.

What can we say about relations? Well, just as much as about neutral elements, cant we? What is a relationship in that sense exactly? My mind would tell me that a relationship is a connection between 2 things. I could also ask the question: What does that relation relate to? Well bla, the first quote stated that they relate to another relation, dummy. Thats actually a infite loop of relations. But being the guy i am, i would ask: How do those relations look like? How can i imagine them? You cant say that those relations describe the properties between some things, because there are no things. Therefore, no properties. And thats what i was talking about – we are not capable of thinking of a notion for those kind of relations since all relations we know are between “objects”. And i cant really imagine a definition for relations that would fit the situation here(i mean, sure, go on and tell that you claim that relations without objects are possible – you wont find any way of proving that though. Btw, i account for humans as objects here). Therefore, i highly doubt that relations are the neutral element.

If there is any neutral element at all – well, i dont know. Could be. For all that i know, it could be everything. It could be consciousness – therefore, consciousness would be fundamental. But thats up to what you want to believe.

My take on beliefs and interpretations

Hi there.

Last time i did some definition-gibberish. Wasnt the most exicting stuff i assume, but its necessary if you want to talk about that kind of stuff (it would be even necessary to define it more clearly and to define even more… but lets do that when we need it, right?)

So, what will i write about right now? Well, if you are interested readers of all kinds of knowledge out there you might have noticed that proponents of various groups (that i described before) tend to swing at each other with several arguments all the time. They do it at debates since, i dont know, several hundred years. They do it in the internet since its possible there. And well, we all know those arguments that they trade. Materialists are arguing with neural correlations in the brain, dualists with NDE’s, theists with the bible (examples… these are not all arguments, obviously). Stuff like that. That kind of stuff did change in the last decades, im sure of it. But the essence of those arguments is always the same. People tend to take everything they can get to argue for their point of view. Im no different. I state it clearly for everyone to read: Im a dualist of some sorts. Of course i would try to use all the arguments i can get to argue for my opinion. And well, surely i will try to refute every other argument out there as good as i can. Im a human after all.

The thing with all this is: Every opinion, even if we think it is based on facts, is a belief. Believing isnt something that is exclusive to theism and religions. Everything we know is based on beliefs. Lets take physics for example. We believe that there are fundamental laws out there; and with those laws we are trying to explain the world. Gravity for example. Its there, right?  Well, in our subjective experience we believe so. We know these days how it works, right? We believe we know. We can explain it with the knowledge that we got from our research that is actually based on the belief of a fundamental system. And that very system is a belief in itself, filled with tons of assumptions. You know, our system of understanding of this world doesnt have to be true. I know that this is something where some are actually saying that it is not true and i actually should deliver facts to that, but ahm… Have you ever asked yourself if you could explain something differently? Something that you are certain of? There are possibilities to do so; those other explanations would still fit into the “knowledge” we have.

In the end its a matter of belief. And interpretations, of course. If you believe something; well, that something isnt anything else than a interpretation. Take the neural correlations that i already mentioned as a example. Materialism tells us that is a clear indicator for mind=brain, right? Well, is it? In the end there is a lot of propaganda involved too, i know, but materialism is a belief system that tries to explain everything with only matter; they try to interpret it within that system. No suprise here that this would be evidence; they interpreted it that way. The dualist would say that its awesome that science found out how to intercept the connection between the mind and the body.

If we are actually trying to be objective here, we are noticing though that science doesnt do anything of that at all. Both of them are wrong. Neural corellations are not proof of mind=brain or any stuff like that. We just map some cognitive and perceptive abilities to brainwaves and signals. Our thoughts, our memories and our consciousness isnt involved here (i know, there are people out there who are saying that they are involved, but ahm… if there are “interfaces” to our cognitive abilities and our perceptions, there may be some of the same sorts to memories, etc. too. Its like a computer; we are accessing interfaces) . And with this, mind isnt involved either. There are theories for that kind of stuff out there; some materialistic theories about that are kind of popular. But there are others too; and there are obviously tons of critics about every single one of them. They all make sense in their own belief system, thats for sure.

Fundamental to that all is though: Theories may be based on “known facts”, but they are speculations about how something else could be. Sadly, many people these days dont recognize this and take a lot of stuff for certain while it truly isnt.

Bottom line of this: We dont know as much as we think we do. We believe more than we think we do. People these days are actually just substituting these words for each other; the meaning of them isnt getting substituted.

Definitions related to the field of parapsychology

Hi there.

I actually wanted to do a post last saturday, but some stuff did hold me up.

Anyways, lets get into it. Ive got quite a lot of stuff i want to write about. But with what should i begin? Well, propably with the beginning. Lets define some fundamental things that will always pop up in discussions about parapsychology, consciousness and so on.

First of all, what are the current most popular beliefs out there?

If im allowed to do so i’d sepeate them into 3 groups. First of all, theism. You all know that one. In public its sometimes the only one of those groups that gets associated with the word belief, buts its clearly not the only one of them that fits the meaning of it. Theism is a broad field; fundamental to it is that there is atleast one god. There could be more though; it would be still theism. (Let me quote a source of wikipedia here… http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theism . Its not worth much since wikipedia is also kinda corrupted these days, but that one should get it kinda right). Its propably the largest group worldwide with various subgroups (you know, christianity, etc…).

The second group is materialism (nope, im not dividing that up into physicalism and naturalism and all that stuff). Fundamental to it is the assumption that everything is material. Everything. Including our consciousness. As much as i can say its pretty popular over in the US (Especially in various fields of science that are closely based on matter, like neuroscience). Europe seems to be a bit less aggressive about that, but its still here. Many people relate materialism closely to atheism; but in my opinion those two can be clearly seperated. You dont have to believe in a god to think that there isnt only material out there.

And that brings me to the final group. Some of you may say that its a subgroup of theism, but just like i already wrote, non-material-beliefs dont necessarly need a god. Two good words to describe that group propably would be spiritiualism/dualism. Those two words can be related to each other (depends on your definition of them), but they dont have to be. That group holds the belief that there isnt just only material out there. And thats basically it. Things like life after death and paranormal phenomena are getting related to it; the first one is propably one of the things thats pretty popular in that group, the second one not necessarly so. But besides that, both are not clear indicators for it.

Anyways, as you can see it seems like there are clear definitions. Reality is, there arent. There is way too many stuff out there that cant be clearly defined as a part of any of those groups. And well, there are propably many out there who would punch me for sticking their beliefs in any of those.

But basically these are the larger ones. If you go to a random internet discussion plattform that you know about, it will be basically two or more people of one of those 3 groups that are trying to boost their egos. If you really want to know more, read science papers or something. Not just the mainstream science, the others too. It will help you so much more doing that instead of discussing with people that are already sure what they want to believe. They wont budge anyways.

Anyways, since i want to talk a bit more about some ‘paranormal’ things, let me try to define some of that too:

Consciousness

I would gladly refrain from defining that if i could. Its propably one of the most talked-about things out there since humanity exists. So, what is consciousness? Some out there describe it as self-awareness, others as a combination of behaviour, emotions, awareness and all that other stuff. And well, there are also materialists out there that claim that it doesnt exist at all, but lets ignore them for now. If we take the rest of them, it may be a combination of various of that stuff. Self-Awareness and Awareness in general are propably a big part of it. And since self-awareness comes with various other things (like the act of thinking; did you ever try to be self-aware without thinking about youself?), they are propably included too.

What doesnt have to be included though are memories (and emotions dont have to be either; i know i mentioned them before though). But as always, it can be included since you cant clearly define those things unless you make assumptions.

Parapsychology

I already wrote that one (the title…), huh? Its basically the science of everything that is ‘paranormal’. Stuff like ghosts, life after death and especially psi are getting related to that. Western science usually treats that one like the black sheep of the family. Thats propably related to various frauds in the past (the rest of western science had those things too though; but as usual, no one cares about those) and the fact that this science is mainly based on subjective experience. Its not like the other kinds of science arent based on that; but most of them can be measured with machines or stuff like that. Most of parapsychology cant. Therefore most scientists of matter-related science fields wont take anything of it seriously (and thats a sad thing 😦 ).

NDE & OBE

Those 2 words are insanely common these days when you are talking with dualists about life after death. NDE stands for near death experience. That kind of stuff are the moments where people are being conscious while they are getting in life-threating situations (or while they are clinically dead). Moments where they shouldnt be capable of observing anything at all; but some of them still do. They are linked to quite a few symptoms like a bright light, seeing your dead relatives, etc. There are lots of theories for it out there (materialistic, dualistic…whatever.). Materialistic theories are often related to drugs and the effects of chemicals. Also science is capable of triggering a few of those described sympthoms (if its the same experience as living trough the real deal…i dont know, i never had something like that. Thats a subjective thing after all). Dualistic theories are based on the notion that there exists something seperate to our body. Therefore all of that is possible, no probs.

OBE stands for out of body experience. They are related to NDE’s in that way that they often occur while NDE’s are happening. They dont have to though. OBE’s are the act where people are leaving their body; or atleast they say so. Many of them are reporting various things they saw while the where flying around. There are cases where that stuff was accurate and true. A bit frightening in my opinion, but its out there. Materialistic theories try to explain it just like they do with NDE’s. OBE’s can also be triggered with the stimulation of the brain (and again, i dont know if that would feel the same as the real deal). And well, i heard that you can actually learn to do that stuff freely. Eastern spiritual science is propably something that could help here. Dualistic theories are trying to get around that with the notion that a spirit exists (not all of them of course).

To be honest, i dont know anything about theistic theories for both of them. I may assume though that those would be similar to the dualistic ones.

Thats propably enough for today (and im out of things to define for now anyways). You may want to remember at this point that these are not explicit answer to the meanings of those things. Especially consciousness is something that cant be clearly defined. Also, in all of that stuff there is a lot of subjective experience involved. Something that science these days likes to ignore. But well, i hope that i gave some of you a bit of insight on how you can define these things.