The World of “Matter” Is But the Appearance of Mind to Itself: The Footprints on the Shores of the Unknown Are Our Own
Rationalism As Egoistic Self-Abuse
Similarly, we have an argument against Idealism—more specifically the version of it called panpsychism, which is, by the way, the position being asserted here—by Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations. His conclusion is that the position of panpsychism is unintelligible. Stating “Could one imagine a stone’s having consciousness?” he concludes that if one could it would only amount to “image-mongery” (Sec. 390, p. 119e). The implication is that since we cannot do something adequately—that we cannot understand something completely—there is something wrong with it!
This kind of reasoning qualifies for the “All-Time Boners in Philosophy Award.” For the argument—while claiming not to be saying anything about the truth or falsity of a position, nor about its provenness or unprovenness—would want us to evaluate positions, and even possibly dismiss them as viable (i.e., as possibly true), based upon whether we (as a species) are capable of understanding them with our intelligence.
Whereas, not only does this limit our knowledge endeavor—removing it from any possibility of speaking of truth unless it somehow (miraculously, I suppose, or through some sort of chosen-by-God kind of privilege) happens to coincide with what is intelligible to us; not only does it eliminate the scientific and philosophical enterprises in their attempts at venturing, ever on, after what may actually be true (or at least “truer” than we had previously held); but it presupposes that what is unimaginable at one time, or to one person, will be unimaginable, or unintelligible, to all others in all other times.
This is one particular instance where Rationalism displays its egoistic self-abuse . . . hence its inherent fallacy. For we know by looking at the record that what is unimaginable at one time, or to one person, ends up being imaginable to another. For example, do we suppose that an early “animistic” hunter-gatherer could imagine a physical universe as we picture it today—with black holes, a heliocentric solar system, a Big Bang, quarks, and quasars?
Do we say that because this primal person could not imagine these that we must dismiss them as possible truths (i.e., as possible good models of our reality). Or must we say that our conceptualizations of these things amount to “image-mongery” and thereby dismiss them on those grounds.
This last point leads beyond it in compelling us to realize that all forms of what we call “intelligible” venturing after truth are already a matter of “image-mongery.” That is to say that all our attempts equate with imagining models of what is; none of which can be said to actually constitute the thing described inasmuch as the map cannot constitute the territory.
Hence we are led, again, to a realization of the inevitably anthropocentric nature of such arguments as Wittgenstein’s attack on panpsychism—and the equivalent degree of arrogance that corresponds with them. For the argument reduces itself to “if we can’t imagine something, it doesn’t exist!”
Leaving behind such a fatuous and uninspired rationale, let us return to the position of Idealism anew.
Scientific Arrogance Must Cease
For—even admitting these claims of the unimaginability or incredibility of an Idealistic or panpsychic position—that was then, and this is now. It may have been unimaginable in Wittgenstein’s time or incredible from Joad’s perspective to consider a non-materialistic view of Reality. However, in an age that has witnessed LSD; a revival of shamanism; the emergence of virtual reality; the concepts of quantum physics, holographic paradigms, morphic resonances, cellular consciousness, and holotropic minds; and consciousness research in almost every branch of the natural and social sciences at this point . . . in such a day it might be ripe to reconsider some of what has been prematurely, and I might say arrogantly, set aside.
I say “arrogantly” based upon what I’ve said elsewhere about the anthropocentric bias of scientists. For with an understanding of biologically constituted realities of species we gain an appreciation of the fundamentally limited and species-relative nature of our views of Reality.
Hopefully, we can set aside, to at least a little degree, some of the anthropocentric egotism which obscures any truly reasonable attempt at constructing fruitful reality models. That being so, we need to admit of the possibility … not of the “intelligible-to-Wittgenstein possibility,” but of the real possibility … of the prior fundamental reality of psyche over matter, of the observer over the observed.
The Footprints on the Shores of the Unknown Are Our Own
From the preceding it should be clear that I believe that consciousness is the only thing of the Universe or that it is at least the only thing knowable of the Universe. It should be just as evident why we would have such difficulty in acknowledging this obvious fact. Still, despite our modern difficulties with this worldview, it is not an uncommon position in philosophy. As Patrick (1952) describes Idealism,
Idealism, too, asserts that reality is one, that one being mind or spirit. For the Idealist matter is at best a representation or construct of mind. The world of “matter” is but the appearance of mind to itself. The world which the physical scientist talks about is, as Eddington says, in The Nature of the Physical World (p. xv), a “world of shadows.” What really is, in the final analysis, is of the nature of mind. (p. 185)
Patrick (1952) elaborates further, quoting Eddington:
A. S. Eddington, at the end of his chapter “On the Nature of Things” closing his striking book on Space, Time and Gravitation, comes to the conclusion that something of the nature of consciousness forms the essential content of the world.
The theory of relativity has passed in review the whole subject-matter of physics. It has unified the great laws, which by the precision of their formulation and the exactness of their application have won the proud place in human knowledge which physical science holds today. And yet, in regard to the nature of things, this knowledge is only an empty shell—a form of symbols. It is knowledge of structural form, and not knowledge of content. All through the physical world runs that unknown content, which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness.
Here is a hint of aspects deep within the world of physics, and yet unattainable by the methods of physics. And, moreover, we have found that where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature.
We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo! it is our own. (Eddington, Space, Time, and Gravitation, pp. 200-201, from Patrick, 1952, p. 116)
Continue with I Am You, and You Are Me, and We Are We, and We Are All Together: The Radical Rational View of Us and It and the Basis of the Belief of Non-Separation
Return to The Consciousness of Stones: Transpersonal Perspective, Part One — Affirming Idealism, Debunking Materialism, and Rationalism as Egoistic Self-Abuse
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