676 thoughts on “Consciousness Cannot Have Evolved

  1. CharlieM: It is not the physical processes in my brain that have given rise to my writing this post, it is through my thinking activity. The physical processes are the means by which I make my thoughts known but they are not the creator of their content.

    Prove it.

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  2. Corneel:

    CharlieM: If we want to begin to attempt an answer to this question, we must begin by the process of thinking. Thinking is neither subjective nor objective. These terms are a conclusion we arrive at based on thinking. If we have decided that there is just matter or there is just spirit, or that reality can be divided into spirit and matter, then whatever view we have come to we have made this decision through the prior act of thinking.

    If you want to make a counter argument, go ahead.

    If you want to begin to attempt thinking, you first require a brain. regardless whether you think reality can be divided into spirit and matter, then whatever view you have come to you couldn’t have come to this decision without a brain. No brain, no thinking.

    And with that you immediately begin your epistemological enquiry with the assumption – thinking requires a brain. How did you come to that conclusion?

    So far we haven’t really gotten closer to understanding consciousness, have we?

    How much headway do you expect this little thread to make in this subject that has been the subject of endless debates for as long as there have been philosophers to discuss it? But if we are going to start somewhere we should try to eliminate all prior assumptions whether or not in the end they turn out to be justified.

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  3. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Isolating brains in the way you have done is an abstraction.

    So is isolating “thinking”.

    I’m not isolating it, I am putting it in the context of my conscious awareness. I have immediate awareness of my thinking. I would never be aware that there was a brain inside my skull unless I had been given this knowledge from external sources.

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  4. Alan Fox:
    newton,

    Indeed it was just a suggestion. Personally, I find using “awareness” and “self-awareness” much less open to misinterpretation than “consciousness” when discussing brain function. Keep consciousness as a medical term. I have no difficulty contemplating an evolutionary path for awareness. Bacteria are biochemically aware of their surroundings and those with motility can decide to move towards or away from stimuli.

    Despite the non-restrictive title of keiths post “ Consciousness Cannot Have Evolved” keith feels the relevant, workable definition of consciousness should be limited one that Kastrup addresses , phenomenal consciousness .

    “Most people think that the notion of phenomenal consciousness can only really be explained by example. So we might be asked to reflect on the unique quality of the experience we enjoy when we hear the timbre of a trumpet-blast, or drink-in the pink and orange hues of a sunset, or sniff the heady sweet smell of a rose. In all of these cases there is something distinctive which it is like to undergo the experience in question; and these are all cases of states which are phenomenally conscious. As Block (1995) puts it: phenomenal consciousness is experience.”

    http://faculty.philosophy.umd.edu/pcarruthers/Explaining-the-phenomena.htm

    From what I understand ,bacteria being aware of the environment would be classified as creature-consciousness.

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  5. CharlieM: I’m not isolating it, I am putting it in the context of my conscious awareness. I have immediate awareness of my thinking. I would never be aware that there was a brain inside my skull unless I had been given this knowledge from external sources.

    Can you have an awareness of the “ I” in “ I have immediate awareness” without knowledge from external sources?

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  6. Neil Rickert,

    Agreed, Steiner is largely nonsense with his “scientific spirituality”. Yet he was at least “spiritually sensitive”, which is more than can be said for many of the “spiritually numb” posters here. To champion “spiritually numb” people over those like CharlieM who easily veer into woo is your subjective anti-spiritual decision.

    I will defend Steiner & anyone’s “right to be spiritual” and “right to explore the spiritual realm”, even (especially) at a zone for skeptics. RS was part of a much wider, yet also loose movement of “holistic” thinkers, rightly imho pushing back against the extremes of narrow, analytic, indeed, atomistic over-rationalized, grossly decadent “western” thinking. One problem in the conversation about consciousness is that “some people just don’t want to elevate it.” Would you care to give a short explanation of why not?

    Imho, additional variables worry these people. Complexity. Ouch. Risk. No, thanks. Gotta save my job by making simple experimental contributions. It’s “keep it simple stupid” in much natural science. The great innovations are made by only a small few people, the visionaries & pioneers, 7% or less. The others in a biology lab do as they’re paid and told to do: crunch numbers, carry the equipment, take notes, answer communications, administrate, organize, advertise, network, write grant applications, wait for peer review of their papers, scheme up new titles or clever slight variations on older ones for papers saying more or less the same things as previous work much or most of the time, etc., dreaming of the day they might become ‘head of school’ or ‘lead scientist’.

    Got it, prepared for it; most folks here are still gonna be ‘skeptical’ of immaterial, non-natural ‘things’ or ‘existences’ in regard to even their own “consciousness” after reading this, period. Or after this period. Or the next period. Can the rest of the conversation then just not be framed as “attack the spiritual”? Or must it be so, because of skepticism? Could conversation not rather seek to explore what “the spiritual” might mean in the context of “consciousness”, yes, even within a “largely naturalistic” worldview that stops short of being “fully naturalistic”?

    As for consciousness “evolving” or “developing” or “emerging” or “arising” or “transforming”, etc., yeah, it can be ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ or somewhere in the middle, depending on who is addressing the question & assessing both “the evidence” and also the psychology of the person make the claim about “consciousness”.

    Do you consider yourself a “naturalist”, speaking now ideologically? Yes or No? If you answer, Yes, we’re simply not going to come to the same answer on this issue. I reject this unnecessary ideology as an exhausted attempt to recycle terminology from a bygone age. In the electronic-information era, our epoch now, it makes little sense to be a “naturalist”, sorry to the laggards here. Just imagine what “information” has done to the old conversation of “matter & energy is all that exists”, in which materialism was of course much more easily upheld ideologically than it is today.

    Have fun with “consciousness”, folks! Chalmers & co. are a different conversation topic partner for my works, than simply asking “could it have evolved?” almost surprised as if “history happens cuz here we are”. I suppose one could say my work involves “the effects of consciousness”; hadn’t thought of it that way before. Coming from a background in SSH, you can imagine that for me it is framed in a more personal way than it is for the naturalistic philosophers and philosophists like Kastrup who are given the most table space so far in the conversation.

    As for Kastrup, he seems a curious, strange combo. The Dutch-Danish connection lets me wonder. Leaving it at this for now, at the very least, variety I “woo” – “No ontological judgment” … “This is all technology” … “Changing our creation story” – Chopra (oops IDism soon): https://youtu.be/t_txcadOeAM

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  7. newton: From what I understand ,bacteria being aware of the environment would be classified as creature-consciousness.

    If you are looking at bacteria as conscious, then the word that you want is “homeostasis”.

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  8. newton,

    Early for appointment so…

    Reading on from your link, I see qualia get a favourable mention. I don’t think anyone yet has succeeded in giving coherence to that concept.

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  9. CharlieM: And with that you immediately begin your epistemological enquiry with the assumption – thinking requires a brain. How did you come to that conclusion?

    It follows from the observation that brain damage and neurodegenerative diseases negatively impact cognitive abilities, including rational thinking. There is some consensus about this thing, you know.

    CharlieM: But if we are going to start somewhere we should try to eliminate all prior assumptions whether or not in the end they turn out to be justified.

    You are in the habit of using “we” when you mean “you lot”. Dare I suggest you take your own advice and accept that some people are seeking a physical basis for consciousness?

    CharlieM: I’m not isolating it, I am putting it in the context of my conscious awareness. I have immediate awareness of my thinking. I would never be aware that there was a brain inside my skull unless I had been given this knowledge from external sources.

    No, you are not “putting it in context”. This, what you are doing here, is attempting to isolate the process of thinking from your physical self.

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  10. CharlieM: I would never be aware that there was a brain inside my skull unless I had been given this knowledge from external sources.

    Raised in isolation I suspect you would not think much at all. Thinking that we are aware of is draped around a linguistic core that we learn by social interaction.

    And regarding a connection between brains and what brains do, there’s plenty of evidence that brain injury results in impaired thinking.

    ETA ninja’d by Corneel

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  11. I don’t believe that Kastrup is saying that he believes consciousness cannot have evolved. He is saying that given the prevailing view as to how evolution works consciousness would not have evolved through these processes because it does not have a function that can be selected for. “Consciousness cannot have evolved”, by Darwinian means.

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  12. Agreed that makes a lot more sense. He might have said that consciousness does not appear to aid survival and reproduction, hence not be selected for. That would then imply that if consciousness nevertheless is an evolved attribute that emerged gradually, it is a byproduct of something else that was selected for.

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  13. Alan Fox:
    newton,

    Early for appointment so…

    Reading on from your link, I see qualia get a favourable mention. I don’t think anyone yet has succeeded in giving coherence to that concept.

    “Always with the negatives waves, Moriarty.”

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  14. Neil Rickert: If you are looking at bacteria as conscious, then the word that you want is “homeostasis”.

    Not necessarily, just going with the definition , from linked article, of different forms of state-consciousness and Alan’s example.

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  15. “if consciousness nevertheless is an evolved attribute that emerged gradually, it is a byproduct of something else that was selected for.”

    Iow, there’s never a “non-evolutionary” answer to such issues. Such is universal evolutionism, or universal selectionism, which are both clearly ideological positions, not ‘strictly scientific’ conclusions. This rationale seems to be: “If it didn’t evolve one way then it evolved another; and anyway, God didn’t do it.”

    The language of “emergence”, however, has its own “dialogue space” that differs from (co-)evolve, (co-)evolving, (co-)evolved, (co-)evolution, (co-)evolutionary, (co-)evolutionizing, (co-)evolutionarily, etc. It’s a more subtle & insightful philosophical language than practising ‘evolutionary’ scientists are usually familiar with, weighed down as they are with just doing science, oftentimes ahead of learning to clearly communicate it with due humility in their own knowledge, and lack of it.

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  16. phoodoo,

    Re: gradual, speed or pace is indeed one issue. Duration another to do with time.

    Change is still the ‘master category’, over both time & space, involving ‘evolution’. As well, ‘motion’ is a master over ‘evolution’. Without motion, there can be no ‘evolving.’ Any dissenters from this communication base?

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  17. Gregory: To champion “spiritually numb” people over those like CharlieM who easily veer into woo is your subjective anti-spiritual decision.

    And that is your own spiritual numbness. You think you see that something is missing in people who don’t share your theism. But you have not looked at what might be missing in your way of life.

    I will defend Steiner & anyone’s “right to be spiritual” and “right to explore the spiritual realm”, even (especially) at a zone for skeptics.

    I will, too. And I expect that many of the atheists who post here would also defend that right.

    However, it seems appropriate to point out to CharlieM that his arguments are not persuading anybody.

    One problem in the conversation about consciousness is that “some people just don’t want to elevate it.”

    I’m not at all sure what “elevate it” means there.

    Analytic philosophers appear to be caught up in particular ways of thinking, and are unable to break out of that. Their thinking about consciousness is very much constrained by that.

    Can the rest of the conversation then just not be framed as “attack the spiritual”?

    Somebody will have to explain what they mean by “spiritual” before that can happen.

    Do you consider yourself a “naturalist”, speaking now ideologically? Yes or No?

    No.

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  18. Neil Rickert,

    “it seems appropriate to point out to CharlieM that his arguments are not persuading anybody.”

    As if your arguments have been so persuasive?

    “Somebody will have to explain what they mean by “spiritual” before that can happen.”

    How about TSZ Moderator Neil put in a little work after all these years instead? It’s a pretty widely used English word, outside of some circles. I did a study of dictionary meanings of the term ‘spirit’ for a paper way back in undergrad. Lots of people can help you out in conversation, elder Neil, in case you’re still too lazy to list some options of your own, based on your own personal linguistic research.

    Please offer up your own “explanation” of what YOU count as or would accept as “spiritual”. Don’t let anyone persuade you of this “explanation” except for those who you wish to listen to as a way to aid in coming to your own meaning. Otherwise, just denying “spiritual” meaning in a forum such as this, often holds a person back, even if they may have some hidden inner wish to ‘elevate’ the conversation into the realm of what is “spiritual”.

    Anti-spiritualism among proponents of natural scientism, is indeed predominant, which is why I asked if you consider yourself a “naturalist.” Thank God, that ideology hasn’t sunk your spirit.

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  19. Gregory,
    I share Neil’s difficulty. Imagine you are explaining music to a deaf person or a painting to a blind person. Imagine the superiority you can revel in as you do it.

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  20. Gregory: As if your arguments have been so persuasive?

    I’m not particularly concerned with persuading people. When I present arguments, I’m interested in feedback from the responses.

    “Somebody will have to explain what they mean by “spiritual” before that can happen.”

    How about TSZ Moderator Neil put in a little work after all these years instead? It’s a pretty widely used English word, outside of some circles.

    It is very widely used within some circles. But that usage so taints the meaning of the word, that I have trouble seeing what it means outside of those circles. When somebody says “I am spiritual, but not religious”, I am not at all sure what they mean by that.

    Please offer up your own “explanation” of what YOU count as or would accept as “spiritual”.

    I don’t have an explanation. The familiar usage seems to have tied it to belief in fairies, goblins, elves, angels, demons, etc. And I do not see those as sensible entities.

    Otherwise, just denying “spiritual” meaning in a forum such as this, often holds a person back, even if they may have some hidden inner wish to ‘elevate’ the conversation into the realm of what is “spiritual”.

    I am not denying. I’m just asking for an explanation.

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  21. Alan Fox,

    There is no superiority/inferiority at play on my communications side. All can elevate if they choose to & I’m unworthy.

    When I read that some people see “Faith is a mode of perception” (McLuhan 1999), that “made my hair stand on end”, just as he said it would if people were to take “religion” seriously, which many people today admittedly cannot. (What is “theology”? Don’t talk about that ‘spooky’ stuff!) Please don’t play me as somehow insensitive to your difficulties here.

    All I can suggest is try harder, try again, try differently. And pray, even if you doubt it’s “real” & get impatient. No matter deaf or blind, those with ears can hear & with eyes can see. If there is will, try again.

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  22. In other news, Jerry Coyne goes after Philip Goff and panpsychism. A comment made me smile:

    What I find frustrating is every time I try to listen to a podcast about it, no one seems to define their terms and I don’t learn anything.

    I know how you feel, Diana! 😉

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  23. The solution is for you and Diana to do a little reading (in your case, three sentences would have done the trick) instead of expecting to be spoon-fed.

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  24. We have lots of anecdotal evidence of what happens tp consciousness when parts of the brain are damaged.

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  25. keiths,

    Keiths wrote this:

    In a short essay, Bernardo Kastrup argues that consciousness cannot be the product of evolution:

    Consciousness Cannot Have Evolved

    I disagree, but I’ll leave my objections for the comment thread.

    Just ignore me and post your disagreement with Bernardo Kastrup.

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  26. I guess my concern when it comes to “did consciousness evolve?” is “what’s the function of consciousness?” Figuring that out would seem to be rather crucial here.

    And for that matter, it’s by no means obvious that all persistent biological traits are the result of selection. For all we know, consciousness could be a spandrel!

    However, I don’t think that Kastrup is right to assume that functions are always quantitative, and that’s why phenomenal consciousness isn’t capturable in functional terms. The problem, it seems to me, is rather that functions are always relational. But phenomenal consciousness or qualia, as Kastrup seems to conceive of them, are purely intrinsic: there is something it is like to be in a state of seeing red, as that state, independent of all other relations.

    If there is something right about this analysis of qualia — that qualia don’t have functional properties, or can’t be captured in functions entirely — and if selective pressures can only work on functions, then Kastrup seems to be right: qualia can’t have been targets of selective pressure.

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  27. Asserting that matter can’t be conscious is a bit like betting the winner will change if you replay the video.

    If we don’t understand how matter can be conscious, then we have a ways to go in understanding matter.

    As for qualia, I am convinced that people do perceive colors differently. I am convinced my colorblind son sees green differently from the way I see it. And I have a nephew who sees no color at all. Same gene pool.

    Same applies to music. There really are tone deaf people who don’t perceive melody.

    And I had a college friend who couldn’t distinguish round from square by touch.

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  28. Rumraket,

    It’s not clear what it even is he thinks that is conscious. If he’s not a panpsychist, then what it is that is fundamentally conscious. Life?

    Turns out he’s an idealist. He writes:

    I feel increasingly concerned about what I believe to be a mounting and extremely dangerous cultural threat looming on the horizon: panpsychism, the notion that all matter has consciousness, as opposed to being in consciousness. At a historical nexus when new data and more critical thinking are finally rendering materialism logically and empirically inviable, panpsychism comes in as a tortuous but seductive bandaid. It threatens to extend the delusion of a universe outside consciousness for yet another century. In this essay, I’d like to try and raise the alarm about it.

    So the answer to your question…

    If he’s not a panpsychist, then what it is that is fundamentally conscious. Life?

    …is very Charlie-like: Kastrup sees mind and consciousness as fundamental, while the physical is secondary.

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  29. keiths:

    He believes that it isn’t adaptive and therefore could not have evolved.

    Corneel:

    That’s just false. It could be a spandrel.

    Right. Here’s an old comment of mine that makes an argument based on a similar point:

    To recap my argument in detail:

    1. Subjective awareness seems to be an inevitable byproduct of certain kinds of information processing.

    2. We can imagine a world in which identical information processing takes place without the accompanying subjective awareness.

    3. Behavior — being the result of purely physical interactions between the nervous system, the body, and the environment — would be identical in such a world.

    4. Thus, it is the information processing, and not the subjective awareness, that drives behavior in the real world. Subjective awareness is epiphenomenal.

    5. Because information processing drives behavior, it is visible to natural selection.

    6. Because subjective awareness doesn’t affect behavior, it is invisible to selection.

    7. Subjective awareness is shaped by selection despite being invisible to it. Why? Because natural selection shapes information processing, and information processing of a certain kind produces subjective awareness.

    Summary: Subjective awareness is epiphenomenal, but the (apparent) fact that it is an inevitable product of certain kinds of information processing explains why it persists and remains in correspondence with reality despite being invisible to selection.

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  30. keiths:

    Kastrup believes that experience is always present…

    Corneel:

    Isn’t he saying here that computers can do without experience?

    Computer scientists know that none of this requires experience, for we routinely implement all three functions in presumably unconscious silicon computers.

    His assertions are made in two different contexts. The first is made in the context of his personal idealism, in which consciousness is a ubiquitous substrate, while the second one (the one you quoted) is made in the context of standard physicalism, which he is attempting to refute.

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  31. Kantian Naturalist,
    “can’t have” seems a very strong claim, especially with regard to qualia which. in my view, are far from being established as a coherent category.

    We have a few points from which we can start looking at the recent evolutionary pathway of humans. We can establish by molecular phylogenetics who our closest living relatives are and how long ago humans diverged into a separate population. Fossils can put in a few signposts, looking at cranial capacity and changes in throat morphology especially. The earliest modern humans we know of were around by 200,000 years ago at least, we know large brains consume a large percentage of chemical energy so, all being equal, that should count against them selectively speaking. We know Neandertals had brains slightly larger than modern humans on average and we see few signs of sophisticated culture in their archaeology. Yet here we are.

    A large brain isn’t a single adaptation and aspects could be the result of more than one selective influences and those influences could have changed at different times and places.Climate certainly changed.

    So it seems to me there are still enough open questions that more research could answer and it is certainly premature to claim modern humans and their thinking apparatus did not evolve from earlier humans. Seems it’s a question that is more likely to be better answered via scientific endeavour rather than thinking about consciousness, phenomenal or not.

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  32. keiths: His assertions are made in two different contexts. The first is made in the context of his personal idealism, in which consciousness is a ubiquitous substrate, while the second one (the one you quoted) is made in the context of standard physicalism, which he is attempting to refute.

    But then he cannot just reject my premises, and will have to deal with my questions within that context.

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  33. Alan,

    …it is certainly premature to claim modern humans and their thinking apparatus did not evolve from earlier humans.

    That’s not what Kastrup is claiming. Did you read the essay?

    …especially with regard to qualia which. in my view, are far from being established as a coherent category.

    What do you see as incoherent about qualia?

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  34. Alan Fox: “can’t have” seems a very strong claim, especially with regard to qualia which. in my view, are far from being established as a coherent category.

    My point was only that if one is willing to grant Kastrup’s premises, then the conclusion follows rather straightforwardly. I myself am not willing to grant them.

    (For what it’s worth, my own view on consciousness is much closer to Keith Frankish’s illusionism than to Bernardo Kastrup or Philip Goff.)

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  35. I noticed that some commentators seemed confused about Kastrup’s views, since he denies that he is a panpsychist and he argues against materialism. Those are not the only games in town: Kastrup is an idealist. He holds that matter does not really exist. The fundamental or ultimate reality is consciousness. Thus he does not hold that consciousness is a property of anything — rather, consciousness is being.

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  36. I like the questions that Kastrup is bringing up.

    Supposedly qualia are the product of our organisation and so are not real in the sense that the world of measure and number are real. But evolution relies on qualia such as warning colouration, scent marking and such like. So evolution seems to require that sentient beings have perceptions that are not based on reality, that predators are aware of patterns of yellow and black, not that they are aware of wavelengths of light. But why is this evolutionary step of having inner awareness necessary at all, especially as it seemingly does not even reflect reality? The majority of organisms on the planet are very successful without the need for any phenomenal consciousness.

    I’ve read and heard Kastrup saying that he is a subjective idealist, an objective idealist, a monistic idealist, and that he declares declare himself an Idealist to make a point

    Here is a video in which he defends idealism against materialism.

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  37. Kantian Naturalist,

    “Kastrup is an idealist. He holds that matter does not really exist. The fundamental or ultimate reality is consciousness. Thus he does not hold that consciousness is a property of anything — rather, consciousness is being.”

    Shouldn’t that be called smth like consciousnessism (not clumsy at all!), instead of idealism? It privileges & centralizes “consciousness”, rather than “ideas”, it seems. Does simply believing in (the reality of) “ideas” automatically make one an “idealist”? Could someone please quote Kastrup actually addressing “ideas” as the basis for his ideology or worldview, rather than just calling it “idealism” and then saying nothing whatsoever about “ideas” in the definition of his perspective?

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  38. Rumraket:
    Imagine you are a rock. You have no sensory organs, and you have no brain. Yet you are conscious. What are you conscious of? What are you experiencing? If you’re going to say you still have thoughts of some kind that you are conscious of, what is making those thoughts? What could you possibly be thinking of, if you’ve never experienced anything. How did you even learn to think? You don’t have a brain.

    You treat a rock as if it were a separate object, an entity in its own right. But is it such an object?

    Kastrup says:

    Inanimate world objects are nominal partitions right. i mean where does the river end and the ocean begin? If a rock bounces from the mountain is the rock a separate object from the mountain? If you put it back is it not part of the mountain again? The boundaries of objects are nominal, they are arbitrary. They are determined by convenience.

    His position is a little more subtle than claiming that rocks are conscious.

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  39. Rumraket:
    If the brain is not making your thoughts, then what is the brain for? If you’re going to say moving your limbs, why is there so big a difference in brain sizes between species? Seems to me an insect brain can move limbs just fine, so what’s all the rest of the brain doing? Why did the prefrontal lobes develop? Are they not normally associated with controlling behavior? I have an endless amount of questions here, and the “consciousness is fundamental” people have no answers for any of them but to wave their hands in the direction of the hard problem. I can’t explain how the brain makes consciousness, which is true I can’t. But the brain still evolved, we all have one, a fact that appears fundamentally mysterious on the “consciousness is fundamental” view. They can explain nothing at all.

    We have no other way of knowing the world and everything in it including ourselves through conscious awareness. You say that you can’t explain how the brain makes consciousness. Surely this question begins with the assumption that the brain makes consciousness? Correlation does not prove causation. Consciousness and brain processes are two aspects of a single whole in the same way that thunder and lightning are two aspects of a single phenomenon.

    If we were part of a universal, cosmic consciousness how could we ever be aware of this fact? We need something to push against, the awareness of separation, of the feeling that we are in a sense isolated from nature. How could we develop reflective, self awareness without the mirror of the external world?

    And what would be the point of our separate sense organs if we could not combine them into a consistent whole? We do so by using our brains. Our brain processes are the means by which we can unify that which our senses give us as separate.

    As Goethe said, “Man himself, using his healthy senses, is the greatest and most exact physical instrument which there can be.”

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  40. Gregory,

    Of course, without ideas -> ideals, nothing here is really up for discussion, since people mean quite different things.

    Materialism – few people here will take that label, though perhaps a few do indeed embrace this outdated, very difficult to maintain nowadays ideology.

    Geneticism – perhaps no one here will take that label openly, yet people accepting atheism or agnosticism here promote this ideology widely in conversation.

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  41. Kantian Naturalist: My point was only that if one is willing to grant Kastrup’s premises, then the conclusion follows rather straightforwardly. I myself am not willing to grant them.

    That seems to be the consensus view among critics, both in comments posted under his article and elsewhere.

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  42. Kantian Naturalist: Thus he does not hold that consciousness is a property of anything — rather, consciousness is being.

    One neuroscientist critic made the point that consciousness is only a meaningful concept as a process, being conscious of something. Intransitively, consciousness makes no sense.

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