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Berkeley 3-f

(The comments on this post mistakenly used the previous quote and were written for that quote, but using material for the next one. So the comments are new, and I shall just leave them up here, although fix them for the book. )


3. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what every body will allow. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is whatever objects they compose) cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this, by any one that shall attend to what is meant by the term ‘exist’ when applied to sensible things. The table I write on, I say, exists that is, I see and feel it and if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it was smelled, there was a sound, that is to say, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their reality is to be perceived nor is it possible they should have any existence, out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them. 

The first part is uncontested. Our compassion or pride is part of our experience, not our biochemistry— molecules do not feel anything. Imagining is something we can do, but it produces no real pictures at a theater somewhere in our heads. To picture it that way is to make a category mistake,  trying to interpose predicates when logic disqualifies them. Real means something that exists in time and space. It cannot also mean something that does not exist in time in space without cancelling itself out. Contradiction is the referee of logic. Predicates of ‘real’ make no sense when applied to not real. We cannot sensibly ask how many imaginary footballs does it require to weigh as much as one real football, or does a mind weight less than a mole of helium atoms.  And perceptions have no claim to material independence. Green does not exist by itself in the world. It does not come from the ‘matter’ that reflects protons at 510 nanometers. ‘Green’ flees from anything perceived as green. All other colors it absorbs. Intrinsically, it rejects green. So how do electrical impulses become colors? No one knows, but we do know that colors exist only in minds, as do sounds, odors, tastes, pains, etc. No one asks “who’s pain is this on the bench?” A tape recorder can copy a song but not listen to it.

 At the risk of being repetitive, paraphrasing Ryle’s comment that she came home in a flood of tears and a Ford Focus, offers another example. Moods and cars cannot interface. They are like  minds and bodies. Moods cannot be placed in a trunk, and cars do not run more effectively if happy. There can be no more correspondence between mind and body than there can be putting sad in the back seat. Logic forbids it. This results in fifteen yard unnecessary nonsense penalties on both sides. Logic has its limits. A square circle resists conceptualization. So does a 30 mg idea. Less obvious, however, is the concept of vivid memories. Memories are ideas not perceptions. One cannot have a clever perception any more than he can have a 200 watt idea. Logic entails limits. A infinity which is limited makes no sense. The concept cancels itself out, probably even for God.

Some category mistakes are just for effect. We do not take them literally; i.e., an angry sky. But some are important and can poison the well all the way down. The two we are interested in are matter and mind. Explanations of both are designed today to answer the question, “Given that the world is mechanical, how do we understand mind, and matter? With that question we have just stepped toward Carolina when we are headed to California. The concept that the world is mechanical cannot simply be presumed; it constitutes the major question itself. Purpose offers an option to cause. It cannot simply be dismissed. Begging the question, mind lives in time, space, and cause; but only by fiat. Materialism then resembles a fiat currency (an analogy entailing a category mistake used for descriptive effect.) So mind has to be in a place, and action has to be cause rather than purpose. There are no other predicates to explain it. And matter can only be supported by more matter. We head out on a snipe hunt to find invisible matter that supports regular matter. Or, as Berkeley said, we raise a dust and then complain we cannot see. How long can we keep heading toward Carolina when seeking California? Until we stop. We have been doing it now for three hundred years. That should constitute a decent experiment. And the answer is that we are headed the wrong way.
 
The idea that we combine various perceptions, say about an apple, and take this combination as itself an entity (like the thirteen colonies becoming a confederation) is also something we concede can only happen in a mind. Things do not abstract themselves, and every level of abstraction has its own predicates that fit with it. A Constitution, for example, is not another political department like a legislature. It does not keep order through force, as a barrister or sheriff, but rather by rules, or ideas. We leave cause and affect for concept and coordination. Minds are like constitutions, not law officers. They are about organization rather than individualization. They are a higher order of abstraction, and cooperation or coordination, for example,  cannot be put in a drawer or given a number. They are about function, not structure. But what you see is what you get. There are not real actors behind the screen. We see representations. A cluster of representations identifies an apple, as a fingerprint an individual. So far, so good. But we then hypothesize something supporting the perceptions. Photons have to bounce off of something we assume, but that something cannot be like matter since the something itself is not perceptible. A foundation can support a house, but an invisible foundation loses credibility. Still, it is apparent that perceptions do not just happen. There must be something that makes photons bounce off of it.
 
So how do we explain the something. That is the crux of the difference between Berkeley and most others. Remember that the world has changed with the development of science. We now need to explain things in predicates reflecting a mechanical world. Prior to three hundred years ago we explained it with spirits. No one thought little pieces of stuff could explain the world. All cultures had a God. The definition of a Newtonian world is that everything can be explained on the basis of three things—time, space, causality. We are nothing but levers and billiard balls. So if predicates appropriate to cause are what makes sense, then support for perceptions must be matter. There is nothing else. This gets iffy because it is hard to imagine the universe without design, but perhaps smaller and smaller will serve to hide that fact.

So we are cool, on our own, and not dependent upon a god. Instead we can use god-particles. (This is beginning to loose its glamour.) Nothing changes with Berkeley. We will do everything the same except file our explanation. Science reduces everything to matter (cause); while spirituality reduces everything to spirit. There is a reality out there, it just cannot be explained in predicates appropriate to matter and cause. We have zero evidence-based data for matter, by the way. It cannot be seen. It is a lifeless shadow that supports representations, although as itself it cannot live in the same world as representations. That world is time, space, and cause; while matter in itself shares nothing with that. If you take away all the representations of an apple, do you have anything left? Appleness? How would you know? Science cannot be happy with this because appleness falls into the same class as ark angles and heaven. There is no evidence-based data  (perceptions) to determine truth or not. You might as well say representations are supported by a giant invisible turtle. Who could prove you wrong?

Materialism has to drop its pretense to science with its hypothesis of an invisible “stuff” which underlies and constitutes the essence of reality. “Show me the money”, shouts someone. And there is none, at least as far as we can see.
 
Berkeley makes a statement at the end which seems to cause confusion. He makes it sound as though things exist only when we perceive them. If we look away, they go away. This is not what he meant. Nothing changes about reality except its source. He had no interest in throwing away God, as do materialists, so real is supported by spirit rather than matter. Real is that which is willed in the mind of God. In choosing this way, design enters the world, along with consciousness, experience, and purpose. Going the other way one gets coin flips and improbability. 




Chapter 3-e

That was a review of the critical element of Berkeley’s thinking. It came from the introduction to his Of the Principles of Human Knowledge. We now go back to the number format started above:

3. “That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what every body will allow. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however, blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose) cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this, by anyone that shall attend to what is meant by the term ‘exist’ when applied to sensible things. The table I write on, I say, exists that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it There was an odor, that is, it was smelled; there was a sound, that is to say, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their reality is to be perceived, nor is it possible they should have any existence, out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them”. 

Comment: No one doubts that if someone reflects on our high school’s football game against Sequoia in 1957, that this occurrence can only happen in a mind. The turf is not going to do it. One can try to reduce mind to electrical impulses, but that is like trying to describe the image on your monitor by its computer code. Ones and zeros are not the same as memories. For sure we would never communicate in binary code–it captures nothing of the event. The view does not get better as we go smaller. It disappears altogether. 

We seek the holy grail, and even call it the god-particle, because ostensibly we will reach that entity which can be divided no further. But that can never happen. If a particle occupies space, it can be divided, and so on infinitely to never land. Indivisibility equals indestructibility, which means the particle would last forever. We have reached bed rock. This replaces spirit for the materialists. That we can never reach it does not mitigate the embarrassment that the driving force of the universe becomes progressively more minute—a word which also means trifling. It is like turning the lab over to the bacteria. I do not think we are going to find brilliance in smaller. And it is hard to conceive purpose as dwelling there. But if you rule out spirit, that only leaves blind chance, which is nothing to hang on to and simply will  not do. No one goes into battle without drawing on some talisman, even if that talisman is feigned indifference. 

The only reality we ever perceive takes place in our heads. A tree essence would not look like the tree representation we create in our minds. A tree essence would not look at all; it is conceptual, not physical. The perceptions are all we have, organized conceptually and given a name some of us call “tree”. The “entity in itself” is an abstraction, having to do with organization, not substance—like navy is to the ships. The only tree we know is our version of it according to how we process signals entering our black box.  Berkeley simply says that since representations are all that we have, perhaps that is all there is. Why do we need matter, which itself is not perceptible, to add authority to the perceptions? We see images in our head like images on a movie screen. The actors are not standing behind the screen. Still, we get what we want from the movie, just like we get what we need from the perceptions. Science only uses evidence-based data, meaning it has to come through one of our senses. No one ever sees matter existing as a “thing in itself”. So why a priori mandate that this grounding is a thing. Why not a being?  Once you start down this trail of concrete abstractions  there is no escape. It is particles all the way down to incredibility. Berkeley’s logic is that if the absolute existence of unthinking things, without the ability to be perceived, is to be the support of perceptions, then there is no support. The unthinking component rules out purpose, and the lack of perception rules out cause. No purpose; no cause. The world stops.  




Chapter 3-d

Metaphysics is not about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. It can be if it is a diversion, but it can also be the Los Alamos Project to help win a war. The war I am fighting is spirituality versus materialism, a.k.a., God versus government, or good versus evil (all right, the latter pushes poetic license). But there is a distinction that sticks: are we free to pursue our own ends, or are we only a means for others (as collectives or individuals)?
 
 
Berkeley talks about the limits of man’s knowledge:
 
 
 
"Philosophy being nothing else but the study of wisdom and truth, it may with reason be expected that those who have spent most time and pains in it should enjoy a greater calm and serenity of mind, a greater clearness and evidence of knowledge, and be less disturbed wtih doubts and difficulties than other men. Yet so it is we see the illiterate bulk of mankind that walk the high-road of plain, common sense, and are governed by the dictates of nature, for the most part easy and undisturbed To them nothing that is familiar appears unaccountable or difficult to comprehend. They complain not of any want of evidence in their senses, and are out of all danger of becoming sceptics But no sooner do we depart from sense and instinct to follow the light of a superior principle, to reason, meditate, and reflect on the nature of things, but a thousand scruples spring up in our minds, concerning those things which before we seemed fully to comprehend Prejudices and errors of sense do from all parts discover themselves to our view; and endeavoring to correct these by reason, we are insensibly drawn into uncouth paradoxes, difficulties, and inconsistences which multiply and grow upon us as we advance in speculation; till at length, having wandered through many intricate mazes, we find ourselves just where we were, or, which is worse, sit down in a forlorn scepticism.
 
 
 
The cause of this is thought to be the obscurity of things, or the natural weakness ad imperfection of our understandings. It is said the faculties we have are few, and those designed by nature for the support and comfort of life, and not to penetrate into the inward essence and constitution of things Besides, the mind of man being finite, when it treats of things which partake of infinity, it is not to be wondered at, if it runs into absurdities and contradictions; out of which it is impossible it should ever extricate itself, it being the nature of infinite not to be comprehended by that which is finite.
 
 
 
But perhaps we may be too partial to our selves in placing the fault originally in our faculties, and not rather in the wrong use we make of them. It is a hard thing to suppose that right deductions from true principles should ever end in consequences which cannot be maintained or made consistent We should believe that God has dealt more bountifully with the sons of men, than to give them a strong desire for that knowledge, which He had placed quite out of their reach. This would not be agreeable with the customary indulgent methods of Providence, which, whatever appetites it may have implanted in the creatures usually furnishes them with such means as, if rightly made use of, will not fail to satisfy them. Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers and block up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to ourselves. That we have first raised a dust, and then complain we cannot see."
 
 
 
What is the dust? Basically, it is category mistakes. That is when we consign attributes from one level of abstraction to that of a different level. Gilbert Ryle expounded on this, his classic example being a boy and his father on the estuary where the boy says he sees the ships but fails to see the Navy. The boy does not realize that the ships in coordination are the Navy; rather he is looking for some sort of larger, more impressive ship. Humanity just cannot leave spirit alone; it has to change it to a thing. So our gods step out of immortality into time/space and walk around on this planet. And in doing so they become idols. Idolatry is all about viewing spirit as though it can be perceived.
 
 
 
Berkeley focuses on matter itself as a conceptual mistake. There has to be something responsible for our perceptions, but nothing mandates that it needs to be a substance, a material something. Spirit works just as well as a source of support. And it does not consist of tiny little things called god particles, which itself is a category mistake.
 
 
This is no small issue. I stand here on the edge of goodbye, realizing that precious few people view "reality" as perception alone. Berkeley says everything exists in mind, and only in being perceived. Certainly ideas cannot exist outside a mind. There is no place to file them in a material world. My image of Willow School does not reside in my brain, and it disappears entirely if I am not perceiving it.  A picture exists, but not in time and space, only in perception.
 
 
There is a difference between a perception and an idea through reflection. A perception is grounded in something outside ourselves, but just not in "stuff". It can be grounded in spirit, a spirit apparently more powerful and more perfect than our own. This is not just a language n issue. It concerns the foundation of experience. Ground yourself in little mindless things or in spirit. Those are our choices. Everything thereafter is determined.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hell on earth is being spirit and grasping desperately for reality as matter. Matter is a category mistake, an illusion, the Navy as a bigger ship. Reality is that in which we ground perceptions, the agent that makes them happen. Today we think the world out there is just like our perceptions, and we desperately try to lose ourselves in it. But in so doing we ignore reality as spirit, throwing away the ice cream bar for the wrapper. According to Berkeley, reality, as we call it today, is an illusion. There is no "stuff" out there, only perception, idea, and spirit. As spirit, we can sit back and be; as particles, we can only press harder trying to keep them together. That is like a baseball player who hits singles trying to bat clean up. He gives up what he has for what he has not.
 
 
 
The edge of goodbye has mixed blessings. I realize that precious view people in the western world today view trees, mountains and stars as ideas. They hold on to materialism as the substance for its implied immortality. We might not be eternal, but at least matter is. We define material as eternal, i.e. energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The stuff that creates our perceptions does not perceive or think, is not conscious, and cannot be perceived. Whatever reflects the photons off of it on their way to our minds, we know absolutely nothing. That being the case, how does the "thing in itself", of which we can say nothing, differ from nothing itself? It doesn’t. But we call it something. We call it matter. That is a whopper of a category mistake.
 
 
Following Berkeley, one travels a different path from the rest of the world. The mechanics of living do not change. One still steps out of the way of fast moving trains, but the meaning for almost all activity changes. The end becomes "being", not bucket lists. Focus is less on the outside, which the world calls reality, and more on the inside, which the person calls self. Sharing and caring starts to replace power and position. There is no need to rush, since we are already eternal. We do not die, although the world for us as time and space disappears.
 
 
 
This shift constitutes a major revision. It is the most important thing we can do to survive and help the planet. I am just beginning the journey. Berkeley lights the way. I am not writing this book to inform others of Berkeley’s or my beliefs. I am writing this book to clarify those beliefs. Any exposition should be better at the end than the beginning, but one has to begin in order to reach the end. So off I go, leaving a way of life and walking a road far less traveled, although from the outside everything will look pretty much the same. Taxes will still need to be paid, dogs fed, moments shared. But the values shift. Again, what I learn from the inside of my being gains a higher value what I perceive from the outside. And hopefully, that desperate feeling of having to reach some tangible item outside, because of the illusion of such as an independent entity, will be replaced by experience today on the inside.
 
 
 
Fortunately, I do not have to convince anyone of this system. That, of course, is almost impossible to do. Reason does not fare well against emotion. Probably the horror of aloneness is the greatest fear we face on this planet. The sense of being entirely alone, such as drifting out into empty space, or being buried alive, touch the horror of that as well as anything. We may not be able to prevent death, for example, which we can only experience alone in a material world, but we can turn up the music and dance for the moment, or even until we wear out our last pair of shoes. But we cannot outrun it. People hate Berkeley because he says reality exists only in perception. If it is not perceived it is not there.
 
 
The reality of immaterialism, which we might call Berkeley’s system, is that we are forever alone, in a materialistic world, in a small black box--doubling as a theater. It is all dark inside our private experience center until the power goes on. Then we have wrap around video, surround sound, plus the sensations of touch, smell, taste, and proprioception. It is experience as we know it, but we can never poke our heads out of our box, and everything that comes in is modified by us. We are like satellite TV receivers converting waves into images. What plays in our heads need not the same as what comes into it. The TV satellite does not beam down little pictures and sounds; it sends waves that we transform into experience. And this experience exists only in our mind, not our brains. Unlike monitors, it takes up no space. The show we experience is not the same as the video waves. So what is the reality? Trapped in this private booth, we see only what goes on inside, never what is "real" outside. And everything we experience is only in our minds. All of the stuff we see out there, what we call reality, has no physicality. It is real, it is just not made up of matter. Outside of mind, of perception, it does not exist. The perception is real. We just infer the their cause. We say the perceptions are caused by matter. But there is no evidence or need for matter. Outside of perception there need only be a stronger, more perfect spirit. Reality can be perceptions backed up by a Higher Power, not just perceptions from nowhere. So no material, only Spirit. Good bye substance, Hello God. In a materialistic world, one cannot be more alone that Berkeley’s position. In a spiritual world, one cannot be more connected.
 
 
Let us review here because this is fundamental. Upon reflection most will concede that the only thing we can see are images in our mind. We lose sight of that, but what else could it be. We never see outside the box. We see perceptions, but never the actual things, like watching the world on a camcorder. That is it. We infer to reality; but we only infer to causes of those perceptions in what would be a spacial temporal world (which is also of our creation). Since we do not create our perceptions, something else must. We have two choices: cause or purpose. If it is cause then it has to be something with causal characteristics, i.e. extension and motion. It must be some sort of stuff, i.e., matter. And if so, we ought to be able to perceive it. But we cannot perceive it. It cannot think, perceive, reflect, or act. The world then is due to non perceiving, non thinking, non-conscious, imperceptible, dumb matter. This never inspires me.
 
 
If it is due to purpose, then it lives outside of a causal world of time and space, is reflective, conscious, perceptive, and concerned (one does not mindlessly have a purpose). If purpose is the ground to our perceptions, then reality is due to spirit. Perception then is grounded in the mind of a spirit, something more powerful and perfect than us. It can will a reality based on perception. It can will whatever it wishes, although perhaps not contradictions, i.e. square circles. Still a greater spirit, with more power, and more perfection, would obviously be capable of supporting a Universe with a causal component. God exists here, of course, although not tucked into time and space.
 
 
The horror of alone is enough to flee the black box analogy. There is another analogy that helps understand our position. We are like ships anchored in a harbor at night. One can see lights from the other ships but can never leave ones own and get on another. There is comfort in seeing the other ships, but we are prevented from being with them, forever in current reality. There will be few takers here.
 
 
But the harbor analogy is contingent on one’s basic metaphysical position. Is the world physical or spiritual? If it is physical, the analogy holds. Together means on the same ship, although do not look to close at that, be cause the closest we can get to another being physically is a geometry issue. And that is not the essence of connection. From the spiritual perspective, however, being on separate ships is not such a problem. Space and time do not exist. Only being matters, and we can be together any time we want–it is a matter of feeling, not proximity. Frankly, the closest I ever get to other beings is through my knowing, not my perceiving. The perceiving helps, that is probably why it is there, but togetherness is an experience that draws more from inside than outside.
 
 
Finally, I find some comfort in realizing that I do not need to convince anyone of what seems to be my evolving position (i.e., that matter is a category mistake). My writing is in an effort to determine the truth of the world, not to win votes. Most likely the truth will not be what we currently think, and everyone will hate any change that comes along. That is how it always works. People are burned at the stake for stating the truth. I need to convince myself here and can do so best by aiming for reality. So full speed ahead and damn the black boxes. It is a process. I do this for me to help live without being surprised by unthinkable horrors. It is sort of an anti post-traumatic stress disorder position, which perhaps is something I learned in my forty years of psychiatric work: the dragons only chase you when you run. So I press ahead, because the dragons still scare me. However, if this work goes somewhere, and someone wishes to borrow from it, be my guest. I would be more than happy if you find some benefit with it. And it is nice to see other lights in the harbor, even if we are anchored in place.
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter Three-C

Berkeley numbers his paragraphs. I shall list them as does he and follow each in his words with scribbling from me in the effort to connect his ideas to any I have that might be secured to something more than helium and hot air. (Trying to take some ownership.) There is more to Berkeley than eliminating matter from the universe, but we do not get to pick our dragons, and if we handle this one, the rest will get in line.
 
 
 1. "It is evident to any one who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind, or lastly ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colors with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive, for example, hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odors; the palate with tastes, and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color, taste, smell, figure and consistency having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name ‘apple’. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things, which, as they are pleasing or disagreeable, excite the passions of love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth."
 
 
He is trying to take stock of the furniture of the mind, and groups it as perceptions (from without) and apperceptions (from within), referring to both as ideas. The term idea seems to have become a mixed-breed, but I understand it best as whatever we are able to conceptualize in our minds. The signal, from whatever, has become identifiable. The world is populated with things (in common language), and the mind is populated with ideas (pictures or symbols that are real conceptually, but not physically.) Finally, Paragraph One sets the stage for the next, which adds inhabitants to the furniture.
 
 
2. "But besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations as willing imagining, remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call ‘mind’, ‘spirit’, ‘soul’, or ‘self’. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein they exist or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived; for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived."
 
 
Berkeley is most often dismissed as having wandered too far from reasonable, specifically, that reality exists only in being perceived. Supposedly, if you close your eyes the tree that stood before you ceases to exist–all is perception. He never said that, although he moved in such a direction. However, the fact that something is unconventional does not make it impossible. Relativity theory, non-Euclidian geometry, and quantum mechanics would have had to have been dismissed if that was the case. For me, Berkeley's ideas just seemed strange; now they appear correct. Also, Berkeley and Kant end up at essentially the same place; they just color it differently.
 
 
If you are going to study Berkeley, then follow him all the way through before passing judgment. Be active. For example, right now we might ourselves consider the components of our minds. What is up there? For example, we have vivid transient sensations from the outside, of which we can make faded permanent copies on the inside (ideas). We can recall these facsimiles more or less at will, plus we can combine them into new creations—although within limits. Centaurs, unicorns, and pigs that fly make sense, but square circles, what sound looks like, and imagining the perception of an insensible object does not. Then, we have emotions, which can suffuse both perceptions and apperceptions. If there is more mental furniture, it escapes my view.
  
So there are objects and subjects. We are the subjects, described as self, soul, spirit, or consciousness. This is Berkeley’s point in this paragraph; there is perception, reason, and will as an entity, however we name it. This entity experiences, reasons, and acts. We can perceive ideas. And we can perceive sensations. But we cannot perceive spirit. It does not live in time and space. In an evidence-based world one struggles constantly to cast spirit as perception. Holding on to the wind is hard, so we cast spirit as an object rather than a concept. This shuffle has kept humanity perplexed and frustrated for thousands of years. It is time to stop the mistake. Perceptions are in time and space; spirit is conceptual. Conceptually, I can travel from one side of the universe to the other instantaneously, which means consuming zero time. (In the real world sister photons can adjust their angle of spin spontaneously to stay in synch even if on opposite sides of the universe.) It can happen because mental is outside of time. Is it real? There a real mental school in your mind when you recall your grade school, but it exists outside of time. And it takes zero time to retrieve the image once you grasp it. We can mentally traverse the universe one time or one trillion times instantaneously, which is real, but only mentally--like Federal Reserve money. But then Kant says time and space are only conceptual, and he appears to be right.
 
 
 
Objects sit; subjects act. Action is the goal of the whole process. It is what we do. Action and purpose are perhaps synonymous. We perceive, reason, and respond. Reason sets response apart from reflex. Actions happen; they are new things in the world, not just the next step in a long line of careening pool balls or quarks. And they happen in a quantum manner. They leap, independent of time and space. There is not an inside correlate of an outside action. No levers are pulled; no little entities in our minds pull them. We pull them, as spirit, outside time and space, and hence not perceptible. That is what we do. That is what we are. It is not idea. It is not body (material). It is spirit, another component of the self, soul or spirit. We can never see it as we do "things". By its effects it is known, like gravity . . . . or God.
 
I am not out here just wandering around looking for pieces of truth. No one does that. People act for reasons. Molecules do not, they are pushed by forces, not pulled by goals. Goals are mental concepts. This is vital to understanding the world because if materialism is right then everything is simply attraction. Little pieces of substance just drift about following some natural law and plopping in place. If the world is causal then why do we spend all our time trying to do things? Why not just sit back and let whatever happens happen? And how do we explain the experience of intent or purpose? We decide to build a fence and take the necessary actions to accomplish that task. Is that whole experience simply caused by the random perpetual action of the pool balls (metaphor) put in motion by the Big Bang? The Big Bang has no intent, molecules have no intent, we then have no real intent, just the simulation of intent–but that experience itself is just randomly caused. Materialists and therefore science says that nature simply bounces about aggregating here and there into everything we see in the world, but never following a design. Then why is our whole experience that of purpose? There are only three explanations: 1) Because it is purpose, real, creative purpose, or 2) Because Nature thought it would be fun to play games with us, or 3) Because not only did blind chance result in a transatlantic cable, but it superimposed in certain components a superfluous experience of accomplishment. At some point one’s credibility simply screams out "ne mas!"
 
 
This impinges on me personally, and drives the whole business of my posts and books. Does that mean I am hopelessly biased, or does that suggest that science is partially sterile. Why would one wander about in life pursuing something that has no emotional claim, as science aspires to do by degrading subjectivity? I am fighting a war here. The new book is called "Republic, If You Can Keep iI" because we are not keeping it. And materialism (the doctrine that everything is made out of little pieces of matter) is why we are not. Materialism replaces spirit with rocks. It finds eternity not in God, but in a hypothesized substance. Berkeley will go on later here to claim that such a substance does not exist. If we preemptively grant this substance the quality of existence, then you can assign any attribute at all to it.  Being non-existent it can not refute or affirm any characteristic. Substance, if there is any, is presumed to be eternal. That is a good place to ground our existence because immortality is what we seek. It can replace Spirit or God, and allows people to substitute humanity and government for agency. If you want a fatal contradiction for the system we use today think of this: If the whole world is causal, then so was the development of the the conclusion that the world is all causal. That statement itself is caused, hence losing any claim to truth. There is no truth in random collisions. Truth applies to concepts related to reason and intent. It is sought. Materialism eliminates reason and intent. Do the math. (Hint--The claim everything is causal invalidates the claim itself.)
 
 
Our world handlers have to employ materialism because otherwise they need to contend with spirit and God. And they have thrown away spirit so they can become Lord of the dirt pile. They presume godliness by disqualifying God. And they pay for it by substituting promises for money. This cannot end well. Perhaps this offers an avenue for purpose, for us, like now.
 
 
The obvious connection to my personal experience is what I now call the smoking gun, i.e. that age twelve the only person in the room at the greater Andersen gatherings who did not know about my adoption was me. Everyone else knew best. Everyone else presumed authority. Intuitive truth went out the window and slavish subservience to pretentious authority prevailed., or one lived on the street. It is not hard for me to jump from the Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings to society today. The United States Constitution is based on personal freedom, leaving government only with the responsibility to prevent people from infringing on someone else’s freedom. We swear an oath in the military to support the Constitution of the United States, not to support the opinion of a president or senator. The latter position is a dictatorship. I gave up personal truth for security as a youngster. I hope not to do it again today. Does my personal experience get in the way of "objective" truth? No, my personal experience is the backbone of any significant truth.
 
 
Oh, and by the way: We are not very far along here, but if we are correct in our assumptions of the content of our minds (I am assuming that you signed on to the position of perceptions, apperceptions, emotion, and spirit) then Descartes is shorthanded in seeing us comprised only of mental and physical. Spirit has been left out, probably because it presents no representations. But there is more to life, Horatio, than we perceive through our senses.
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter Three-b

It is time to face the dragon. We are made to observe the world, not to observe our observing. We interface with the world in order to survive. We introspect to check for errors. Persistent errors are generally counterintuitive. We become familiar with the direct action and it becomes too close to focus upon. This allows errors to endure perpetually. Does this happen? Probably more than we realize. Use finance for example. The world has gone Keynesian. This means that one gets rich by spending. The spending is supposed to stimulate production. But like the stars crossing the sky, we get it backwards. It is production that stimulates spending. Give everyone a million dollars and nothing more will get produced other than tax attorneys. So today we have a world financial system built upon the wishes of the elite that is backed by false promises and can only collapse. We have a world wide ponzi scheme run by our handlers. Talk about wrong! If you do not believe me, check back to this site in a few years and see how we are doing. If you like evidence-based data, it will be pounding on your door.
 
The mistake we make in our quest for a metaphysics is to presume an entity that does not exist. There is no material substance underwriting the existence of the universe. We falsely infer one on the basis of interpreting the abstract as perceptible. We ground everything in a material substance that is non-existent. We used to ground everything in a spirit. There are different terms for this entity: spirit, soul, higher power, intelligence, consciousness, purpose, God. Calling it god is probably least useful because everyone has their own concept of that word. To Christians it means Jesus, to Islamists it means Mohamed, and so on and so on. No credit to religion, some of each will try to kill you if you disagree. So God gets reified into a physical entity and hence ceases to be spirit. For most of humanity’s existence we had a tri-part world: mind, body, and soul. Now the Zeitgeist is just mind and body. Personally I have long felt that simply does not work. There is no place for agency, purpose, or intent.
 
We are laying the cornerstone for our metaphysical structure here, so it needs to be right. We cannot simply assume mental and physical, the nice Descartian system, which has remained inexplicable for three hundred years. We need a place for purpose and agency. Soul, spirit, agency, intelligence, consciousness, purpose, higher power all work. There is no way to skip lightly through the logic. We can leave no stone unturned to find our anchor point. So I intend to take all of Berkeley’s arguments for a spirit and mind world and try to turn all of them into something itself grounded for me in more than words and copy/paste. We have to work to make it our own. That is how it gets grounded in our nature. In college I once played banjo in a little group that took a shot at folk music. We played at a school assembly and at a local bar. We copied the Kingston Trio. I would not want to live without music–it is probably the language of the gods. But likely there is little musical talent in my ancestry, and worse, we were just pallid copies of various artists rather than anything genuine. One does not have to write the songs, but there has to be a part of the artist in the product. There was no me, only someone trying to create a me by counterfeit. It is silly to even bring up this example because we are not talking about any talent here, but this is what came to mind in how I plan to play this chapter in understanding Berkeley. I will take all his arguments (excluding analogy, example, intuition) and then try to fit them to my understanding. I may be singing Kingston Trio, and doing so badly, but I want it somehow connected to something more than mere notes and stripped shirts.
 
Logic is abstract. It is hard to offer pictures of it; no trees, streams, or blue birds. But we need to address it. You do not have to. You can trust someone else for your metaphysics, me, even, on this issue. But I need to give it my best--for me, the dogs, and anyone else who cares. No one needs to sit through a boring song in a school auditorium again. One never gets that time back.
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter Three

(Here is the beginning of Chapter Three of Republic. It is about George Berkeley's ideas.)
 
 
 
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, first, lets take humanity out of its egocentric position, since other creatures are quite capable of hearing. But then the answer becomes, no, there is no sound without a sentient being to experience it. Sound is an experience; sound waves are merely causal events. So it is with vision. If a TV satellite sends down a movie, Hoosiers for example, it does not zoom down a zillion tiny pictures. It sends a computer code through electromagnetic waves, which looks nothing like the actual events. We construct experience. Learning that is another Copernican revolution. There have been several earth shttering conceptual events: the world not being flat; earth not being the center of the universe; and now, while we have not yet absorbed it, experience as constructed, not merely received. Everything is not just out there, shining like a new dime. How it appears depends on what is aware of it. Vision is a very compliced process, most of which we actively create. Again, a communication satelitte carries no picture anywhere along the process. Experience is translated into computer code, transmitted through electromagnetic waves, received by our physical apparatus, and converted into a "picture" that is "projected" on an invisible screen somewhere in our head (mind, soul?) There is no picture, no screen, no little person in our head observing the screen. So what do the real things captured on code really look like? Is it what is on the invisible screen in our head, the projection on our retinas, the nervous impulses in our heads, the computer code, satillite waves, the physical people of which the tape is made, and if so, is it Gene Hackman then, or Gene Hackman now? The point is there is no real thing out there. Real, as we understand it, is all in our minds. Trees are not "really" green; the just reflect sound waves at 510 nanometers. There is no color in the waves or that which reflects them, just like there is no sound without something to hear it.
 
It gets worse. Everything we perceive out there we process to produce experience. There are no real things out there in themselves. The operative word is "things". There is something out there, but the word "thing" implies an physical object, independent of consciousness. Everything out there then becomes contingent on dirt clods, quarks, or bosons. Those things allegedly cause the effects that produce our perceptions, which are our only access to a world outside our minds. The "real" world then becomes contingent on a mindless, unreceptive, imperceptable, non-conscious substance. Forget about purpose, design, or heaven-forbid, caring. But whatever causes the perceptions could be spritual. Materialism does not have a lock on reason. We cannot give them a free pass.
 
The facts are that experience is not passive. We construct it. Green lives only in mind, and so, apparently, does space, time, and causality. It is difficult to grasp the significance of this conception, which is that reality exists in being perceived. Real is all mental: space, time, color, extension, sight, hearing, motion. Quantum mechanics, by the way, struggles with this issue also.
 
It is fair to ask what causes photons to be reflected off of whatever reflects them, but a tree is green not because it just is, but because it absorbs all the other visual wave lengths, and we somehow portray 510 nanometers as green. But where, or how this happens no one knows. Photons and bosons do not lead to green. We create green, somehow. We are the DVD player that translates signals into something that can be interpreted as experience. It does not happen without us receiving an input,and that requires something transmiting an output. Something sends; someone receives. Without that there is no communication. That much is secure.
 
What is not secure is that we cannot simply presume that some physical structure underwrites the whole process. There are other options. It could be spirit that sends the signals. Berkeley contends this. He does not doubt there is something called reality out there which is different than fantasy. But that does not mean that our sensations are necessarily caused by some eternal substance or matter. That is a category mistake (more on that later). We simply attribute cause all the way down, which leads to an infinite regress. Something sends the signals, but that something does not have to be dirt clods or bosons. It could be spirit, or as Kant sees it, something about which we cannot say anything. We have a revolution awaiting us--actually, a counter revolution. A thousand years from now people are going to think we were foolish looking for a god-particle, when all we had to do was jettison the particle component. The Universe is surely not caused by a box of rocks. Call that a hunch. 
 
Plato grasped this issue as reflected in his Republic, Aristotle in his substance and form, Leibneitz in the monad, Berkeley in God, Kant in noumenon, Schopenhauer in will and representation, Locke (upside down) in Essays, Ryle in concept of mind, and thousands of reflective individuals now lost to history who fretted over this issue. It was and remains a problem. Autocratic presumption is not sufficient. We need to get this right. The first step to California is not toward Carolina.
 
We are party to the world, not a product of it. The camera does not view its lens, fish do not see the water, we ignore our contribution to perception. This is similar to the idea that the stars and planets rotate around the earth. After all, they start from one side of the sky and move to the other. But there is another explanation. It took humanity thousands of years to realize that the earth turning one way would look the same in the sky as the stars moving the other. We presume the familiar. Perhaps that is why we make so many mistakes (i.e. Syria). Philosophy is not always an empty activity. Abstraction is a double-edged sword. It can uncover issues too close to be perceived, where unquestioned presumptions can cause the most damage. We cannot fix what we fail to conceive.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

George Berkeley

There has been a shift in my life this year. I stopped running groups eight months ago. For the last twenty-five years of my career as a psychiatrist I worked entirely with combat related post-traumatic stress disorder. That was not by design; it is just where "the force" took me. Near the end one would have thought that some sort of summary or review of the whole experience would take place. Reason would expect that after logging 170,000 patient hours in out-patient groups that something should have been learned. Those kind of numbers do not occur on command. Something has to be going on inside–again, one would think.
 
Leaving was easy; the VA and I shared nothing in our approach to PTSD, and with the returning veterans from the middle east that was of some import. But the scary thing is how quickly it all faded. I might have just as well been treating charts. When I was in the Air Force, if one was on duty in the Emergency Room at night or on weekends you went to the flight line with all the other flashing red lights if a plane was coming in under a distress call. Accidents rarely happen, but instrument alerts are not uncommon, and every incident of that type is considered a potential crash. Sitting on the flight line one feels a major responsibility for those in the air. Perhaps it is just humanity, but this also was our team, the Air Force was a pretty cohesive and compassionate organization.
 
However, when not on the flight line, which was not the major responsibility for those of us in specialties other than the flight surgeons, I rarely thought about planes coming in. So it went with the vets arriving back from Iraq and Afghanistan. While I was working at the Veterans Administration, I felt a personal responsibility for these middle east vets. In my opinion, our therapy group was the last bastion of psychotherapeutic efficacy for PTSD left in the VA system. But when it became obvious that my experience was irrelevant for the course administration was taking, I realized there was nothing I could do for the new veterans. I quit over this issue. At that point these vets were no longer my responsibility. It was like not being in the ambulance on the flight line. My job shifted, quickly.
 
Which takes us to today. My personal post-traumatic stress disorder has received its response, and now is relegated to an unpleasant life event rather than an intrusive disorder. That leaves me with pluses and minuses. Conflict resolution is largely about letting go of what was and crafting new abilities for what is. Grief carries the load in that process. Thinking just cautions one to get out of the way. But the process is never complete and the dispositions never eradicated. One loosens up, has an ankle taped, and gets back in the game. This is probably like professional football; they always play hurt. But the pluses are that one sees both sides now. The world is not as pretty as for the day dream believers, but it is more honest. There is no Santa Claus. Government is for itself, not for the citizens, and if the population fails to set limits none will be drawn. There is no free lunch, and you are not going to win the lottery. These are good things to know--most people do not.
 
It becomes an issue of truth versus votes, liberty versus security. That is the point of this particular post. I feel I am now pursuing truth, rather than underwriting promises and pretensions. The Cialis commercial in the stupid tubs that tells the patient to ask his doctor if the patient's heart is strong enough for sex seems to fit right in with the authority sponsered sheeple approach. It’s pretty simple: if your chest hurts stop; if not, carry on.  Do you ask the doctor if it is all right walk to the mail box or have an extra croissant? How hard can it be to learn the rules for these things? Do we need specialists to tell us how to raise our children, government to tell us how to defend our houses, clergy to tell us how to pray, mayors to limit the size of our soft drinks?
 
At age thirteen I went to court for my adoption. The Andersens bought me at age three days, but apparently felt having done that would not pass muster in court, so they waited until my opinion had some bearing on the case. The judge asked at the hearing if I wanted to live with the Andersens or go to a boy’s home. It all seemed incredulous to me, and I opted for the Andersens. Losing my dog and my friends did not sound like a bargain. But from an inside perspective I essentially opted for security over freedom. My life on the outside appeared fine, but from an internal perspective it all felt pretend. It was. Even today I keep fathoming the extent of the problem. Only recently have I realized that when I was eleven years old and the greater Andersen family got together on Christmas and Thanksgiving at my "grandparents" house,  there were perhaps eighteen people present and I was the only one who did not know I was "adopted". That is not a family. That is playing one on TV, or like working for the CIA without having a security clearance. Meaningful dialogue came to a halt around me in those situations, snuffed out by the secrets. All the rest was scripted, and worn out years before.
 
I never had one meaningful interchange with my "father." We handled the business of life, sharing words, but not feelings. Words come from the head, feelings come from the heart. That is a pragmatically useful dichotomy to use, although we can do better than that for our metaphysics–and hopefully will. There was no firm structure on which to build an identity. Words cannot handle the winds. When I asked Stanley what would have happened to me if they had died before I was adopted, he guessed I would have gone "back to the orphanage". I would have done better growing up with wolves.
 
I do not have warm fuzzies that intact families have. I assume they do real together and experience a connection. I experienced nothing and pretended otherwise; but then there was always a real orphanage rooted in the background of my existence, and people are not stupid. They experience the flashing red lights somewhere in the interchange if they have the courage not to look away.  Stanley’s last words to me were that, "whatever happened to me before they bought me was none of my business." I had just asked him about the home they got me from. I was forty-six at the time, and he was in a nursing home. That did it for me.  His life became none of my business as well. We never spoke again. Stanley died several years later. I have never shed a tear. It was all pretend. Pretend cannot produce tears.
 
So what place does personal experience have in a quest for metaphysics? Well this is one of the points in contention here. I am questioning the whole value of the scientific method, of tossing away subjective in favor of objective. We are not trying to visit Mars here, just trying to experience genuine relationships.
 
My post-traumatic stress disorder was about being empty inside, which no one bothered to notice. The first person to ever ask me what adoption was like for me was during the photo session at my probable place of birth for People Magazine's story about "Castaways". In my opinion the official diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders overplays the role of violence as the stressor. I found a body on the way to work one day; It did not bother me at all. But finding that everyone lied to me about the basics of my existence caused no end of difficulties. Everyone has their inner sanctum of family. I do not. My backup was an orphanage. We can make a collection of "those without real families" and call it McSpecial, but they all would still carry an incipient wish for the real. My answer, besides all the grief of letting the idealized fantasies and their transference objects go, has been to view my rock bottom connection to my dogs rather than to people. I have never been without a dog. We know how to get along, and we do. And it works. If you had PTSD and now live a normal life, you have not adjusted to your disorder. PTSD is defined as undergoing a traumatic event or situation beyond the realm of normal human experience. Would you not expect, therefore, that a resolution would also be atypical? One more thing about PTSD. It is not just about the stressor, rather it reflects a disparity between load and capacity. One cannot run a marathon on a day’s notice, but with six months of training one can handle it with ease. A major component of PTSD is having no avenue to address it. Everything is easier with a wingman.
 
So I am including my personal experience here, because when all is said and done, that is what most of life is about. Science may get us to Mars, but experience is what makes it worthwhile. Subjective is the language of the soul. It is my heart, not my head, that leads me to believe there are more Copernican revolutions in our developing view of the world. Plato thought so, as did Aristotle, Berkeley, Kant, and Schopenhauer. So I will trust what I feel rather than what I am told. It is a learned skill to not swim with the other fishes. I am getting better at it. This particular blog is an effort to clarify the process. It is my view of the truth and that has now become my personal quest.
 
I care that we are ruining the planet, probably personally being more concerned about the animals that the people. I recognize that I have a disparaging view of humanity. I apparently belong to that class, but under protest. Yet it appears we can do something about our destructiveness, and my life purpose is to seek such a path.  I think replacing God with science has overstepped its bounds. It appears we make consistent errors in abstraction, called category mistakes, in which we interpret spiritual in terms of perceptual, from which there are endless traps. The most consistent is to conceptualize God in terms of objects rather than spirit. As a race it does not appear we can handle death, and that we erect innumerable noxious defenses to keep us from addressing the issue. Materialism does not have the last word in finality. Perhaps we are not just mental and physical substances, all based on the metaphor of billiard balls careening into each other. Government has replaced God as our hope for the future, and with it humility has been replaced by greed and desperate clawing to escape the disastrous hole of extinction we sense falling into but fear to address (society’s PTSD).
 
William Hocking did not ask whether something was impossible, just whether it needed to be done and if the finger of responsibility points in your direction. My PTSD experience and the effort in addressing that has set me apart from typical society. I do not fit well there. But outside of society its mistakes become more obvious. For example, Edward Snowden blows the whistle on the threat to the fourth ammendment rights, and Obama now talks about new controls to protect privacy. It would appear that Snowden’s actions could lead to something of value. But Obama says they were planning changes all along anyway. That feels quite unlikely to me. More likely the personal intrusion would have simply continued to grow. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. How much credulity do we have to surrender to keep buying the party line? How much integrity did I have to surrender by failing to notice that Stanley (my adoptive father) saying he always treated me as if I was his real son is not the same as being his real son. One is real and the other is pretend. How would he have taken it if I told him I always treated him "as if he was my real father?" That leaves another father, the genuine one, elsewhere. When does one stop the charade? Government never will. But individuals can. There are two parties to this transaction: one who lies and one who looks away. Don't forget that "those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security." To which I would add that those who give up personal truth for security deserve neither truth nor security.
 
Metaphysics addresses the issues that cannot be resolved through perception (largely sight and sound). God, freedom, and immortality are the issues that matter. They probably matter more than anything else, but there is that prickly issue of evidence. We have made minimal progress on any of these in the last several thousand years. Aristotle’s conjectures make about as much sense as Wittgenstein’s. There are leads, but people fail to follow them. How many of your friends are currently reading Kant, Berkeley, or Hume? I am going to take my sense of estrangement from humanity, along with my intuition that there is gold in those hills, to pursue a more synthetic metaphysics. The new book is where this is going, although the title suggests a different focus. But all systems sit on the most general concepts, which are metaphysical. A strong structure needs a strong foundation. We can leave no issue unturned. That is called post-traumatic stress disorder. Society can be as disfunctional as individuals
 
My past six months have been spent sneaking up on Immanuel Kant. If philosophy does not make sense to me I can fault the author or fault myself. But Kant felt like a traffic jam. I can grasp most of his compelling ideas, but few of his proofs, and his writing style is almost fatal. Things started to move when I began to view him as in the autistic spectrum. He was barely over five feet tall, had a physical deformity of his chest (probably pectus excavatum), had no pets, no art, no music, and no romances. His life was run by the clock and his interests largely in intellectual pursuits. He never married, apparently never dated, and spent most of his life on his work, but was also cordial and considerate. It was said of him that he might have been one of the greatest persons who ever lived had he been able to love. His sentences could stack qualifiers to the top of the page. Kant had important things to say, but a little subjectivity would have saved on coffee while trying to read him. We will come back to Kant in the book, but my shift to Berkeley got me out of dry dock and back onto the water. I hope to start on a Berkeley chapter in the near future.
 
 
Berkeley is perhaps best described as an immaterialist, i.e. the opposite of today’s dominant position of materialism or physicalism. Materialism grounds the universe in some physical substance, the smaller the better. Berkeley is most often today classified as an idealist, which has nothing to do with ideals, but rather ideas. The "L" is thrown in to make it easier to say. Berkeley is famous for saying that things exist only in being perceived. This never meant that the sun, moon, and stars were merely ideas, and disappeared when not being conceived. Rather it meant that perceptions were not grounded in some unthinking, passive, unreceptive, imperceptable "substance". The world is not just various piles of dumb rocks; it has design, there is an architect. I like Berkeley because he believes in a Higher Power, and that we have a spirit or soul or mind that is grounded in other than dirt clods, and hence immortal and free. Hooray!
 
I am proud to subjectively admit that I wish for those things and do not just strut around propounding that death is just a part of life and we should face it stoically while simultaneously enacting defense mechanisms that create a hell on earth. It does not take courage to whistle past the graveyard. It takes courage to admit one is afraid.
 
So off to Berkeley I go, and hopefully we will have a new chapter in Republic before too many months.
 
 
 

Forest & Trees

Idealism versus materialism has been a conflict for perhaps as long as recorded history. Idealism is not about ideals, but rather is the philosophical position that physical things are contingent on mental. Materialism reverses those positions. Knowing little about physical laws, the mind was given free rein to imagine any system it wanted–butterflies and ideas are free. So to explain the universe we ended up six thousand years ago at an apple tree. The problem with concepts linked in the mind is that reason is only tethered to itself. Helium balloons tied together do not become more secure.
 
 
Nevertheless, idealism ruled until the Enlightenment in the sixteenth century. We did not know enough about the physical world to even generate hypotheses. That changed with Galileo and Newton. "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" took the place of apples and serpents. Science rose to challenge revelation, as did individualism versus authority. The enlightenment celebrated reason over revelation and personal freedom over state and church autocracy. Reason would be the vehicle to guide mankind to the promise land, and science could replace God. Copernicus may have removed us from the center of the universe, but science is going to promote us back to prominence as the only purpose in a causal world.
 
 
But after three hundred years the honeymoon is wearing thin. As Hocking stated in the previous post, the state is not a viable alternative for a Higher Power. Science can take lightening out of the hands of the gods, but one cannot create consciousness out of quarks any more than one can create acorns out of ideas. Both thought and perception are necessary for experience. As Kant put it, concepts without perception are empty, while perceptions without concepts are blind. But empiricism has the upper hand today. The pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. According to Kant, that makes us blind. Perhaps that explains how we fail to see how the sky really may be falling.  "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."--Albert Einstein
 
 
We need to check in from time to time with the forest. That is the only way to get leverage on what might be too close for us to see. We have apparently reached a point of diminishing return in the ascendency of perception over apperception. Smaller particles and larger government is not going to restore meaning and purpose to what is becoming increasingly estranged experience. Twittering to the world how our waffle turned out this morning is not going lessen our dissonance. It is part of the problem, not the solution.
 
 
This takes me to a conflict I have in writing this post. How far does one follow personal intuition versus external reality? Kant was insistent that people should have the courage to follow their own thinking. The Enlightenment itself was based on reason and personal worth over autocratic authority. At the moment, a trivial issue from the outside feels like a critical one from the inside. Do I side with evidence-based data or personal truth?
 
 
The issue was a comment on the blog. A reader stated he liked the posts but felt they were too short. Could I make them longer? At face value this is simple. I could simply tell him that there are 436 pages with the same issues in the two books offered here for free download. But as an example of the problem society faces today gains import. Do we miss the forests for the trees? Forest was stamped all over the book explaining this as a site for downloading books. Did I fail in my explanation .or did the reader simply not take his eyes of the trees? I think we are conditioned to do the latter. The ruling elite does not want us to see the forest. And what is worse, we are content not to look. They tell us lies, and we believe them. All we need to do is think positive. The longer this goes on, the greater the problem becomes. Ultimate responsibility always lies with the citizens. There are more of them than there are of leaders. Who else could possibly supervise the supervisors? The system always breaks without individual responsibility to guide it, and shutting down is always better than a train wreck at the end, but we are almost a runaway already. 
 
 
So much for freedom, what about God? In court, proof of innocence is not demanded; sufficient doubt about guilt is adequate. Similarly, in metaphysics we do not need proof of a Higher Power; we just need sufficient reason to believe in One. Think about it. With all the wonder in the world is none of it is sufficient to consider the possibility of God. What do we need, parlor tricks and dancing bears? Is it not pretentious of us to ask? For one thing our higher power is not likely to match our conception of time, space, and causality. Everyone realizes those concepts make no sense at the limits, but they refuse to seriously consider those implications. If time is infinite, then it never began. And if space is a real why does it not have structure like everything else that is real? It has to end somewhere–but what then contains that limit? The bottom line is that we are looking in the wrong place for God if we expect him to show up in sandals on a mountain top. In fact we are wrong to be looking at all. Internal experience might be a better venue. Schopenhauer thought music connected us to God, Hocking preferred consistent perceptivity. But evidence from the inside might have more do with the spiritual than sensory based data. Apperception appears to be outside space/time. Reason led to an apple tree six thousand years ago. "That’s my story and I’m sticking to it" appears a bit stubborn today. "Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."--Albert Einstein
 
 
Suggesting that the reader look at the books on this site settles the literal issue that started this post. Explaining why the reader might have failed to see the forest for the trees could be an example of where we go astray. Hiding in plain site is where we miss most of our targets. With science there is no purpose, no God and no immortality. (It always amazes me how science can say it is entirely a causal world, and yet they experience their science as having a purpose of seeking the truth. But if science and scientists themselves are just pool balls bouncing around, they where do they extract purpose for their efforts. They too are caused, and they too mean essentially nothing.) Science says we are supposed to ignore the issues we cannot understand, and focus on those we can. Half a glass is supposed to be better than an empty one, but not if cannot set the big issue down. I do not think our life is complete if we do not ask what the universe might mean? The question has a life of its own.  "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a
holy curiosity."--Albert Einstein
 
 
The answer to that question, tentative or not, also determines how we live. If we conceive of meaning to the world, then we will wonder what that is. Speculation will define our purpose. If there is no meaning to the universe then it all means nothing and eat, drink, and be merry makes sense. The problem is that happiness is not an end, the harder one strives for it, the further it recedes. Happiness is what happens when one is living his or her purpose. It is a gratuity, not an end. If there is a God, it follows there is a purpose to the universe, and hence a likely purpose for us. Perhaps we should be seeking that. Apathy might be the disorder and consequence of our "evidence-based" perspective. It ignores everything that makes us different from rocks. "The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life."--Albert Einstein
 
 
Kant sought to make the world safe for faith. He did so with his "Copernican revolution." Copernicus took what was thought to be objective, stars moving across the sky at night, and made them subjective. They did not move, we moved. The earth rotated which we misinterpreted not due to our change of position, but to a change in the stars. Kant took time and space, thought to be objective, and interpreted them as subjective modes of function necessary for us to convert physical stimuli into mental concepts. Space and time are not out there. They are inside us projected into and fundamental for us to have experience at all. Our data has to make sense for us to use it. That sense comes from the time and place we impute to all perception. We know only perceptions of things outside of us, not the real nature of these things. Kant made the world safe again for faith by granting science its physical truths about perceptions of things, but the things in themselves lie outside our ability to conceive them. That of which we can say nothing we must confine to silence. God, purpose, and immortality cannot be perceived. Perhaps they are in some way accessing through apperception (that which comes to us from within). But for our purposes, that of offering sufficient reason to believe in faith, it works to know they are just possible, if not probable. Remember, faith is a choice, not a requirement. Science can not disprove God, nor spirituality prove it. And faith cannot prove there is a God, which is probably how it should be. Faith being a choice makes it our own, which runs laps around following orders. "Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man."--Albert Einstein
 
 
There is a logic to this post. There might be a sense of pretentiousness also. Weighty issues should be perhaps reserved for someone like the President. On the other hand, the President appears too involved with the trees to have much time for the forest. A congenial smile and upbeat personality might earn votes; but we need principles, not just numbers. On the other hand, principles and numbers might work. We are those numbers. The buck stops with us, the citizens. And we likely need help from above. 
 
 
 
 
 

Ringer

Turning back recently to metaphysics from the therapy wars, I had struggled long enough with Kant (he is not comprehensible for mere mortals), and turned to Bertrand Russell and then David Chalmers for a style break. They are brilliant, run laps around me, but I became worried that all the newer minds might be atheists. I do not think we can survive in a meaningless universe. Without a purpose in the world, then it is truly dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Don’t stare at that too long.
 
So I pulled out a book from my favorite philosopher, William Ernest Hocking. He is brilliant, articulate, and compassionate. In fact he is my hero--I am not too old for that yet. He allowed me to sleep that night.
 
I was so impressed with his work that I am compelled to cite a few pages here. This is right on point to what we have been discussing recently, and it cannot be said better. Hocking feels we have been running an experiment on getting along without God for the past three hundred years and thought we should see how it is going. It is the battle between humanism and religion. Interestingly, it appears he is also describing the therapy war we have just been discussing. So I am going to toss him the ball and run up the score a bit. It’s called a dialectic,  i.e., to ride one’s hypothesis until it shows a fallacy–and if it does, then correct it.
 
 
 
William Ernest Hocking, from Science and the Idea of God:
 
"Experience as a teacher shows us a good many things we might not otherwise have thought of; but perhaps its chief excellence is that it reminds us of things which we might easily have thought of, and perhaps did subconsciously know very well. It is not otherwise with this "mortal god" of ours, whom we are experimentally setting up in a place of the immortal God. As long as the immortal God is there to fall back upon, we can endure the defects of the finite deity we call Society. But once we abolish God, we become acutely conscious that Society fails to measure up to the role. The death of God leaves Society in the place of the Absolute; and like many another potentate who falls short of omniscience as well as omnipotence, we realize that his pretensions are tolerable only when he is humble and recognizes a law above him. Once his will becomes the definition of good and right, once the corporate selfishness of the state becomes the rule of virtue for the citizens, the moral individual knows that he is shut out from the free sky of his own convictions, and that a principle of evil has entered history in the guise of deity. Just in the moment in which Society is made an object of worship, just by that act man is warned that Society is something he cannot worship.
 
Like God, Society protects us and comes to our aid, so far as its knowledge and resources allow. But how far do they allow? Society has its cruelty, arising from its limitations, the more severe because it intends so well. It is never perfectly just because there is an appalling amount it never knows an can never find out. It is only partly responsive because it acts through men whose energy and patience give out. It knows how to deal with the usual cases of hardship in moderate numbers. When hardship becomes general, unusual, excessive its hands fall helpless; it can only "do its best" like physicians fighting a pestilence. It is partly tolerant, but it feels safest with its own kind; it accepts strangers and its own inner strange folk with a reserve which delays adoption. In the end its best services command the price of conformity, and the nonconforming have to learn an aspect of repression which is in part born of fear. Society rests itself but little on the waters of "dangerous thought"–a strange timidity for a God!
 
Just for the deepest wishes of the human heart Society has neither understanding nor sympathy It provides for the group the current coin of culture: it brings to each doorstep the products of the thinkers and the artists; it offers amusements and the enjoyments of art: these are the daily bread for which its worshipers pray. The tame and common desires are ministered to: the wild are prudently trimmed away, and those who would cater to them are censored out of sight. This is as it must be in a world which must regulate itself by averages and probabilities. But there is another and fertile wildness, that of the best in man. That also is shut away. Society has not yet come in sight of the meaning of that best. Everyman somewhere finds the social pabulum limited, and is irked by the sense of an inner starving or warp which gets no relief. It is the total ciphering of Society at this point which begets many of those mental cases which then, by a weird psychiatric circle, are referred to Society for cure. But for all men, the Providence of Society is superficial. Even language, its most perfect product, conveys only the coin of market and forum. It is just the unique individual who cannot speak and remains somewhere the inner rebel and critic of the world.
 
Most men surrender in large part to the commonplaces of Society accept a million petty compromises and ally themselves resignedly with the imperfect because the discover none but this imperfect God . They may happily find somewhere a relieving version of Society an individual friendship which gives breath to the suffocating regions of the solitary soul. A Society with personal love in it comes nearer God than a Society with nothing but social justice. But even so, this doubleness remains a defect in the deity; the halves of the soul are not brought together. It was this residual craving to which religion once brought its release. God was defined as he who knew "all men ignored in me". If then God becomes identical with "men" and their knowledge, this residual rebel called "the soul" must perish unsatisfied, and with it dies the most precious element of humanity, the growing edge of the self which is parent of the future.
 
It is one of the curious episodes of modern self-consciousness that Freud has well recognized and defined this function of religion, and then with a startling duplicity has poured scorn upon it. The strength of religious ideas he says is "due to the fact that they are the fulfillment of the insistent wishes of man". What are these wishes? One gathers that they arise from the common failure of both society and nature to sympathize deeply enough with the subjective kernel of the individual; and because of this the maturer man wishes that the domestic canopy which in childhood protected and spoke to just these deeper levels of selfhood should be projected in the great world as its essential attribute. God is the image of a heavenly father "created by a continuation of the child’s helplessness before his earthly father". Religion is thus diagnosed as an infantilism. Freud’s shaft strikes not religion, but first of all the human self and then the universe in which that self lives. His judgment is that the "most insistent wishes of man" would, upon maturity, properly cease to exist. And why? Because the universe has no satisfaction for them. Freud should be taken on as a patron saint of Humanism. But as a psychiatrist, I suspect that the prescription, "Extirpate your most insistent wishes," will achieve few cures, and that the cost of taking such advice would be the loss of all the poetry, all the art, all the unborn beauty of the future race.
 
The result of this first step of dialectic is that Society in the role of the "mortal god" is not a satisfactory substitute for the God of individual souls. When the sun is out of sight, the moon makes a brave and apparently independent show as a source of light; but if the sun were abolished, where would the moonlight be? "
 
 
 
Any questions?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In Review

This blog is a means to an end. The end is to finish the second book. Its title (A Republic, If You Can Keep It) is simple enough, but the underlying problem is not. I am after what mankind has sought since antiquity: God, freedom (of will), and immortality. The route to keeping our Republic lies in metaphysics, not merely social systems. And the issue is not failing to see the problem; it is looking away from it. Perhaps the title is a misnomer, but it keeps the focus on the practical--living this life, not waiting for another.
 
Having become enmeshed in metaphysics, however, silences me on this blog. The regress is almost endless. Kant spent ten years conceptualizing his major work, although it only took four months to write it. Something like that (minus the major work) could happen here. This site is fairly busy. People mainly read the blog. Ten years is a long time between posts. So I will try to do both.
 
 
The book should be relevant to anyone. The blog will be more personal and have more value for someone with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder because that is what colors my experience. The book will have to share time with the blog, but they should be complimentary. I would not be writing about metaphysics if I swam with the other fishes. No one in my town here is struggling with Kant or Hegel. However, something new typically comes from an individual working alone. Nothing innovative is ever created by committee.
 
So to track my current experience, I must reflect on my previous post. It needs revision. The interview occurred and did not go as I expected. It was not a battle between good and evil. It was simply some information about post-traumatic stress disorder. No one gave a political speech for the therapy offered to the new veterans. So erase the one to nothing score. But it missed the important message that what the veterans are getting is of dubious value and alternatives should be available to minimize the damage. We missed an opportunity to tell a message. My experience in this area pointed a finger of responsibility at me to express my perspective. That did not happen. We need an after action report to assess and improve. Somewhere I/we should have done better.
 
I know about post-traumatic stress disorder because I have it. So I get a view from the inside out. (Chapter One of Requiem.) Subjectivity can make one biased, but there is no doubt it adds to the data from which to theorize. And there is no doubt that the vets and I fit together because we share a similar problem. Helping them their issues helped me with my own. I would not have done the job as a volunteer, but the intrinsic benefits probably outweighed the financial. Burn out was never going to be a problem. Nor was listening to calamities. Hearing problems is not a stressor. Being unable to address them is the usual culprit, not unlike PTSD itself. However, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat has its moments.
 
So I understand PTSD because I deal with it myself, which helps with the connection. but one only lives well with it by having adapted one’s life to a new personal truth. Changes are required. Just as you could not lose your children on Christmas Eve and ever experience Christmases the same again, so could you never again walk blissfully in a park similar to that on which your buddy lost a leg. These things are forever. Such events change you, and you cannot pretend otherwise.
 
So what went wrong with the interview? The flip side of my understanding PTSD is having PTSD. Yes, it is attenuated, but only at the cost of living within limits. This might be similar to having diabetes. Unattended it can become unwieldy, but managed one can get by quite well. It takes me longer to prepare for an interview than someone with a clearer past. The station wanted me in a couple days, I needed a couple weeks. I have to consider more contingencies. Normal people and I almost speak a different language. If I attend to my issues, things can go well. But fail to do so, and I can arrive with my metaphorical blood sugar out of balance.
 
I wish I could have just walked in and done the interview, but I wasn’t comfortable without preparation. I can work around my issues, but not simply walk right over them. Knowing that, it made more sense to do what I felt necessary to give this story what it deserved. Twenty-four Iraqi/Afghan vets are killing themselves every day. The reporter did not realize how big a story we had. I felt it deserved my best. So we just passed in the night. I wish it could have gone better, but there was nothing malicious here. Perhaps next time.
 
Also, I need to rethink my position that metaphysics and post-traumatic stress disorder are separate issues here. Actually, they are intertwined. I see the world through PTSD. Nothing about my existence today fits the norm. Who reads metaphysics today? I would not be touching the subject but for my history. Also, my resolution for the possible salvation of humanity involves the concept of death as a form of existential post-traumatic stress disorder. That suggests we fail to see the truth because we can’t stand the truth. This view resonates with me because of my experience. Being subjective does not make it wrong–it may lend more credence.
 
Buddha said there are only two ways to go wrong on the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting. That makes the choice easy, doesn’t it?
 
 
 
 

Point of no return

 
Thinking can, and apparently often does, conflict with authority or convention. Truth can be at risk. Consider Copernicus, Bruno, and Spinoza. Why did nobody for thousands of years ask what the sky would look like if the Earth was rotating, rather than the sky circling? Copernicus delayed publishing his revolutionary theory until on his death bed. Bruno was burned at the stake for thinking there were other solar systems. Spinoza delayed publishing Ethics until after his death. Today, why do so few question how we can spend our way to wealth? Physical science vouches for more truths today, whereas yesterday conviction was mandated through revelation and authority.
 
We typically grow up trusting our caretakers; natural selection tends to eliminate the skeptics. So there is natural law, that we induce from experience, and authoritative law of the "because I said so" type. The later usually ends any debate.
 
I do not intend here to make broad general statements about the nature of knowledge, but rather, again, have been recently focused on the issue related to my previous employment. I worked with post-traumatic stress disorder at the Veterans Administration for twenty-five years, compiling about 170,000 patient hours of group psychotherapy. The number makes it hard for me to ignore the experience--it carries with it a certain responsibility. Once again duty called, although I no longer work there, and it raised the issue of whether I should present my reservations about the VA’s one size fits all PTSD therapy. A local television station will be doing a show about combat PTSD. I agreed to an interview and wanted to do everything possible to get ready for it. My message is important for the veterans, i.e., that they need an alternative approach. I modeled my preparatory activities on Bobby Knights’s aphorism that "the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." For three weeks I did little else but prepare, which made more sense than just showing up. Lives are at stake here. This is post-season play.
 
My life is not simple, although one would not notice that merely by observing my activities. I rarely leave the house. However, sitting at home before a desk need not equate to playing Slingo. It can be reading The Critique of Pure Reason. Kant might have an insight on eternity. Big fish might be out there in the dark sky. Still, it is hard for me to get a grasp on the issue that somehow in my unpretentious little existence something important could be happening. Yet following my personal truth has led me to see more combat veterans in group therapy than perhaps anyone else on the planet. I do not particularly like that fact, but neither can I can ignore it. Certainly, it was never planned.
 
The issue here involves reason versus authority. No one burns at the stake today, but they can burn out from the sheer effort of fighting Goliath. Yet the finger of responsibility apparently pointed at our group, or possibly just me. This group might have been the last one standing to oppose Cognitive therapy. We fought for our approach (Existential or "common sense") twice before and received support from Washington each time. Today’s conflict becomes a question of personal truth versus intrusive authority. The VA mandated that all treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder be Cognitive-Behavioral because of CBT’s claim to be scientific. This entails a major blunder, which goes as follows: 1) Science uses only data that can be seen or heard;  2) the mind cannot be seen or heard; 3) therefore, science cannot study the mind.
 
There is no getting around this. Science can study the brain, but not the mind. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put those premises together again.
 
Claiming to be scientific should send Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to the back of the class, not the front. I know what it is like to be a person because I am one. I do not have to walk out of the house and look in to see if anybody is at home. That is what science attempts to do. The psychology Emperor has no clothes. Someone needs to note that. The finger of responsibility pointed to me.  I even quit my job to buy back my opinion.
 
So philosophy was put on hold again for pragmatics. My interview now, in fact, will not even occur due to a logistical problem, the responsibility for which can probably be equitably distributed to both sides. I do not intend to run this drill again. This is the second such event. For the past three weeks Kant was set aside to prepare for the interview. I am retired now. The vets are in my rear view mirror. The mountains of Kant lie ahead, and they are where I need to go. I understand that something needs to be said about a plan that simply cannot turn out well, but not when no one cares. There is a price for persistence, and sometimes it is not worth it.
 
The last three weeks were all PTSD, but people do not want to hear what I have to say. Psychotherapy can make changes, but it cannot affect anyone who does not want to change. Change is paid for in blood, sweat, and tears. It is hard work, blocking and tackling, letting go, and starting over. The effort is worth it but does not feel like it every minute of the way. And motivation cannot be taught. Lou Holtz was asked how to motivate a football team. His answer was: "Get rid of those not motivated." I have something important to say, and have said it in Republic, but there is a point of no return. That is too bad. I feel sorry for the vets but am tired of the drama.  Authority,  1; Personal Truth,  0.
 
There is work to be done in metaphysics. It is a new team, and I shall get used to the surroundings. My intuition sees metaphysics as the last frontier for a possible chance at Man's salvation. Kant holds the possibility of immortality. The path would likely not be scientific, which might quite be why truth lies there. Some truths are more important than others. God, freedom (of will), and immortality sit at the top. Value is a qualitative, not a quantitative concept--another issue science deals with poorly. We have to stick with our personal truths. Authority should determine truth only for children.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About this site

This site was created to download a book that was in process, Requiem. That book is now finished and can still be downloaded by clicking the book cover on the Home Page or below. Requiem is about the state of the world and what we can do about it. It rests on 1) a premise that we are doing very badly, with a calamity of untold dimensions about to befall us, and 2) a premise that we will never get things right until we settle our metaphysics. Metaphysics deals with issues that cannot be resolved with empirical data--essentially the issues of God, freedom, and immortality. Reason necessarily tacks meaning onto the highest level of abstraction in its quest to find meaning. Whether or not a Higher Power exists anchors meaning to everything below it--which includes our entire physical existence. Inherent in this is our inability to come to grips with death. Ernest Becker wrote a Pulitzer prize winning book called The Denial of Death. He postulated that we cannot face death, nor leave it alone. Science lies in a parochial position which tethers us to material substance. It cannot provide evidence about God, freedom (of will), and immortality. And science offers little comfort against death, other than blind stoicism or blind faith (which of course is not science at all).
 
 
Central banking (that which grants counterfeiting privileges to the chosen elite) is now world wide. There is no escape from it. The world has never faced that before. What awaits us now has more potential for damage than anything humanity has ever experienced. Division of labor allows a geometric increase in our capacity to produce. Take that away and we cannot support one tenth of the current world population. Take away money, which is what the central bankers are doing, and you take away markets, which will reduce everything to barter and eliminate the division of labor. Do the math.
 
There should be no question about what social system works best, capitalism or socialism. The United States was capitalistic in the nineteenth century and produced enough to transcend marginal existence. Communism essentially collapsed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It produced armaments and little else. But socialism is taking over the planet. It promises the moon but pays for its handouts with counterfeit money. No country attempts to pay for entitlements out of taxes; they all borrow, which ends up being paid for with counterfeit money. The money is legal, but it is sterile. It is not the product of someone’s production. There are no commensurate goods introduced into society. It is just created out of thin air and paid for by the inflation that devalues the money of everyone else. There is no free lunch. Store up something while there is still time.
 
Requiem is intended to increase the individual’s capacity to survive. First we need to know our short comings. We cannot win this war when fighting the last one. My Vietnam vets cannot face today while they still have bumper stickers about Jane Fonda. We must resolve those things from the past that continue to demand our attention. Most of us have them. I offer mine as an example in Requiem, but Requiem is by no means an autobiography. That section is merely an example of unresolved issues that most of us need to resolve to be suited up for today.
 
The second part of Requiem concerns what we are. Are we mind and body, or mind, body and spirit, and how does either group function? This is important because purpose is essential to make any sense of human experience, and yet science excludes purpose. To science we are merely pool balls, not people. And what do we do with God and immortality? We may not be able to vote yeah or nay on these issues, but our implicit beliefs determine our total experience. Meaning flows downhill. If there is purpose in the universe we can have some hope; if it all blind chance then perhaps we should grab for all the gusto today. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.
 
Once we have done all we can to resolve issues of our personal histories and come to grips with a workable metaphysics, we are capable of organizing society. The facts are incredibly simple. Our limits are not due to ignorance. They are about intransigence. If the sun is not shining, we ask for the moon. The sun cannot shine until we come to grips with death. Is it simply dust to dust, ashes to ashes? If so, then we are doomed. Yet if there is more, blind faith does not seem to convince us. Faith needs some sort of marriage to belief. But belief on God, freedom, and immortality is outside of the bailiwick of science. We do not have the answers, but we need to know that we must somehow address those issues. Twenty-two thousand square feet homes are not going to bring comfort, nor an idealized other, nor international fame. There is no answer in substance. Is that because we are also spirit?
 
I wrote the above because the comments I receive on this site are about the blog. That is cool, but the books are the issues here, not the blog. People typically say that they appreciate the posts and look forward to more, but my blog posts are just comments relative to the more complete works. I get that the comments are on the front line today, but if anyone wants more, go to the books. Requiem has four sections. Do not get lost in the subjectivity of the first section. At issue is the universe, not personal experience; but, curiously, everyone of us can only experience the universe subjectively. Where ever we go, there we are. So let’s examine that for parallax and realize that objective is not the only game in town. Do not lose the camera in the pictures.
 
Book two, A Republic, If You Can Keep It, is in progress. It continues the same themes. Read the books, not just the blog.
 
 
 
                                                           Click on book for pdf.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

transitions

I  no longer work with the vets. That is a big transition, going from pragmatic issues to theoretical. My focus now becomes the new book (A Republic, If You Can Keep It.) The new:
 
 
Metaphysics is the division of natural philosophy that deals with ontology, cosmology, and epistemology. Translated this means: the nature of being, the order of the universe, and the structure of knowledge. A simpler and more dramatic explanation would be that it deals with God, freedom, and immortality. Also, it can be said that it is the division of philosophy that deals with issues that cannot be resolved objectively. Science is objective. It’s data must be evidence-based. This means it must be perceived as well as conceived. It gets its license by entry through one of our physical senses. We do not simply conceive science; we must also perceive it. For example, zebras and unicorns are both subjective, but only zebras are objective. Zebras might be just as unlikely as unicorns—but there they are. Science cannot deal with unicorns. Metaphysics does not deal with zebras. 
 
Evidence-based data has a legitimate cousin in pure thought called a priori, which means prior to experience. A priori reason is not the product of experience; it is the other way around. A priori reason is built into the system, without which experience would not be possible. If we were DVD machines, this is the part of us that turns electromagnetic waves into movies. It is this connection that gives a priori its legitimacy. Science gets its legitimacy because it reads signals. A priori gets its legitimacy because it allows us to read signals. Without a priori reason, science has no signals to read. Space, time, and causality are examples of a priori reason. They are part of our receivers, not part of the signals. This was what Kant called his Copernican revolution, that reason is not a product of the signal, but signals are product of our reason. Welcome to quantum psychology. There are laws to reason, just like there are laws to physics. The idea that "what it seems is what it is" (subjectivity) and "what it is is what it seems" (objectivity) is the holy grail that opens a new world to something more than unicorns. 
 
That more is God, freedom, and immortality. This is where it gets scary. Kant said there is a form to conception (subjectivity) than conforms to perception (objectivity), a hand in glove experience, the mind to body experience. Darwinism kicked aside the major prop to faith by suggesting that everything in the world could have occurred by blind chance. A person could previously look at the wonder of a creature like a dog and not conceive it could have come into being without a designer. Darwin said it is all just chance, pool balls to infinity. 
 
But Darwinism presupposes materialism. Analytic dissection of the term produces an equivalent statement that the whole universe can be explained on the basis of physics, which is totally causal, i.e. materialism. The world is blind chance, with no design and thus no designer. Darwin’s world had tired of kings, with their divine right, ordering everyone around. People thought they could do better directing themselves rather than trusting in corrupted faith. Chance looked better than tyranny. So they viewed Darwin as an improvement, but he never established there was no God. He simply ruled God out of bounds in such in his system and suggested how chance might result in a dog. (Sorry, I cannot escape my subjectivity here.) Darwin had a one horse race. No one seemed to care. He did not disprove God, he disqualified Him.
 
If Kant is right, Darwin is in trouble. Materialism says everything is just little objects bumping into other little things according to physical laws and becoming bigger things. But there is nothing other than randomness of little atoms or quarks. Kant expands the playing field to include thought, whereupon Darwin becomes impotent. Little particles are all there is. Atoms cannot bump into thoughts, quarks into the number four. Objects live in time and space, numbers live in conception. Cast where ever the atoms might be, they can never touch a number. How do we then explain the magic fit between conception and sensation? 
 
The apparent answer is that we again have a two horse race: causality versus purpose, materialism versus idealism, man alone versus man and God. Interestingly, I did not ask for much in the previous chapter—just that we keep an open mind to both positions. That makes sense here also. Those who corrupt science, like those who corrupt religion, need absolute power to defend themselves against inner doubt. Power, whether through science or religion, corrupts. Reason does not such limit itself. Science cannot rule out faith today, any more than faith could rule out science yesterday. Some day they will not hate each other. 
 
God, freedom, and immortality are the major issues in life today, as they have been since man could reflect. My basic premise for this quest is that we can only pretend to accept finality—i.e. death and disappearance. Being polite and gracefully stepping aside to make way for a new generation does not do it. Interestingly, my work with post-traumatic stress disorder leads to the conclusion that out of sight is not out of mind. I simply generalize here (as well as follow the lead of Ernest Becker) that death is a horror for all living creatures who can grasp the concept— a systemic post-traumatic stress disorder situation. The implication is that without a handle on death we spend our lives defending against it, and these defenses cause incalculable damage. If five million dollars does not provide security, then neither will five billion, if death is what that security is needed to prevent. Greed might lead to the five billion dollars, but Earth is a finite pie and much of that money comes at the expense of others.  
 
Basically, either we stand and face the existential problems of existence or we will destroy ourselves. A Higher Power alone does not appear to provide the requisite security. Perhaps faith needs a push from reason. Kant tries to provide that reason. For sure, we need to grasp these issues. The discipline called upon to do that is metaphysics. It involves dealing with the issues that cannot be solved by science, yet which will also not leave us alone. The question is whether we have some reason to believe in more than dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Perhaps faith and facts do not need be in perpetual war. Maybe we just need better facts. Facts alone (atheism) is never going to be enough. Faith seems to need some help. Kant started us out on that journey. Let’s follow.  
 
 
 
 

Trading Up

Opinions are not always free. This one was recently bought and paid for. I think it was worth it.
 
 
Truth and Consequences: 
 
Physical science has made great progress in the past three hundred years. Psychology has not. Three hundred years ago Descartes said there were two types of substances in the world, mental and physical, each of which affects the other. But no one has been able to figure out how they interact—perhaps because they do not. Maybe they are mediated through something else, like spirit or soul. Three hundred years ought to be enough time for us to rephrase the question.
 
Psychology is trying to catch up to the magic of physics. They are trying to be scientists of the mind. But they have a problem. Science eliminates subjective in favor of objective. However, experience is all subjective. So they eliminate their subject. Science can study the brain, but not the mind.
 
Nevertheless, the Veterans Administration has bought into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as the only treatment for PTSD because of its claim to be scientific. They are putting all their eggs in one basket, and, frankly, the basket has holes in it. Regardless of orientation, the only thing that has ever correlated with psychotherapeutic success has been the quality of the patient/therapist relationship. Yalom said that all therapy can be summarized in the verb "to be". CBT, however, is about ideas, not relationships. Ideas are not strong enough to support the weight of combat.
 
Our group logged about 170,000 patient hours. That is probably more than any other outpatient combat PTSD group in the country. We formulated some principles from those hours. One is that PTSD is chronic. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Seeing PTSD as chronic is not failing to aim for a cure; it is stopping the bleeding. The worst thing to do is to try to go back to life before the trauma. One has to let go of those days and craft purpose and relationships consistent with one’s new personal truth. Living pretend is not living at all. It leads to empty, and empty leads to disaster. Resolution of PTSD is common sense and hard work. It is blocking and tackling, letting go and starting over. There are no trick plays to victory.
 
CBT sees it that ideas have a causal effect on action. They believe this even though no one can explain that process. If they are wrong, they are wrong all the way down. As mentioned, not finding the answer in three hundred years suggests there might be an alternative explanation. Quantum mechanics is revolutionizing physics. Perhaps someday quantum psychology will give us an explanation. Until then, all positions are merely conjecture.
 
What matters here is not who is right or wrong. No one knows that today. What matters here is that the government is taking a one-size-fits-all approach. It could produce a one-size-fits-none result. It is essentially cost free to offer both approaches. So let the patient choose. People are supposed to be ends, not simply means. Are psychologists such experts they can take away a veteran's option to choose? It is the veterans's life; let him or her make the choice. These soldiers fought for freedom; they deserve the opportunity to express it.
 
 
Robert Andersen, M.D.
January 18, 2013
 
 
 

Immanual Kant

I have been lost in Kant. He is perhaps the critical philosopher of the last several hundred years. People thought about life in the 1700s, not about distractions. The issues were not esoteric. They were/are the big issues of life: God, freedom, immortality. To me, anything less is not worth our time. For sure, I am not foraging around in all this abstraction to discover a better way to spend my leisure time or win at Blackjack. We either get God, freedom and immortality right, or we fail—all the way down.
 
 
Kant is essentially incomprehensible. Confronted with material I cannot grasp, I can go in two directions: one is to presume it is narcissistic drivel and leave; the other is to accept my limits and double my bet. Kant is a pretty cool guy. I like him. I just don’t understand him, which leads me to stay in the game. Slow progress is being made. I nibble around the edges, reading what others say about him, jumping from book to book and even to different philosophers as they interacted with Kant.
 
Kant did three big things. What he called his Copernican revolution was to remove the real from reality. He did this by viewing our experience of the world as mere phenomenon, something that we create out of ourselves. Specifically, we organize data into a meaningful system on the basis of time, space, and causality. None of these things are out there in the world; they all get into our experience from our own minds. Plato’s Republic, with the scene of people able to see only shadows in front of them from light projected by a fire behind the real objects behind them, is an analogue of Kant’s understanding. In essence, we never see the objects themselves, only a projection on some holographic matrix in our mind. It is almost impossible to explain the mechanics of this, as we somehow go from physical sensations to mental images, amd no one knows how that trick happens. Kant says we see images, not the real things. He divided the world into images (phenomenon) and "things in themselves" (noumenon). We read phenomenon as outside of us, and we conceptualize noumenon as the cause of phenomena. Reality is not what we perceive. There is more to reality, Horatio, than perceived by our sensations. Kant thought we can never know anything about noumenon. Wittgenstein said, "that of which we know nothing, we must consign to silence." Depressing. I have spent five or six months on this stuff and end up with sensations and silence.
 
So Kant said time, space, and causality are not out in the real world, but rather, are projections from our minds. I think he is right. In the Critique of Practical Reason he rescues purpose from determinism, and in the process offers a rational basis for God and immortality. He makes the world safe for faith, gives us genuine purpose, and hope for more than dust to dust. These issues are the whole ball game, so we cannot leave Kant out. The rest of my life might fall into this quest for understanding. The project gives me a sense of purpose, which is all one can ask of life; but it comes at a price--I might not have the capacity for it. Kant gave one of his best friends a copy of The Critique of Pure Reason. The friend returned it saying that he had to stop midway, for if he were to continue he would have most certainly shot himself. I have some guns.
 
Here is the difficulty with Kant The following is simply one sentence:
 
"From what has been said it is clear that all moral concepts have their seat and origin completely a priori in reason, and indeed in the most common reason just as in reason that is speculative in the highest degree; that they cannot be abstracted from any empirical and therefore merely contingent cognitions; that just in this purity of their origin lies their dignity, so that they can serve us as supreme practical principles; that in adding anything empirical to them one subtracts just that much from their genuine influence and from the unlimited worth of actions; that it is not only a requirement of the greatest necessity for theoretical purposes, when it is a matter merely of speculation, but also of the greatest practical importance to draw its concepts and laws from pure reason, to set them forth pure and unmixed, and indeed to determine the extent of this entire practical or pure rational cognition, that is, to determine the entire faculty of pure practical reason; and in so doing, it is of the greatest practical importance not to make its principles dependent upon the special nature of human reason—as speculative philosophy permits and even at times finds necessary –but, instead, just because moral laws are to hold for every rational being as such, and in this way to set forth completely the whole of morals, which needs anthropology for its application to human beings, at first independently of this as pure philosophy that is, as metaphysics (as can well be done in this kind of quite separated cognitions); well aware that, unless we are in possession of this, it would be—I will not say futile to determine precisely for speculative appraisal the moral element of duty in all that conforms with duty, but—impossible to base morals on their genuine principles even for common and practical use, especially that of moral instruction, and thereby to bring about pure moral dispositions and engraft them onto people’s minds for the highest good in the world."
 
I am not going to see it to Kant’s credit that he never comes up for air. If something is going to change the world, it has to make sense to a lot of people, not just an esoteric few. To his credit, Kant was more concerned with getting the ideas down, than in making them accessible. But that is not good enough. Maybe that is where responsibility takes us today. In any case, I personally, do not have a choice. This stuff has got to make sense. I doubt many people in Missouri are reading Kant this evening. Someone has to do it.
 
Kant got into trouble with the authorities only one time, but it was on the issue of God. He believed in a higher power, but was trying to explain humanity as being outside the causal circle and capable of acting on purpose, with that purpose making a real difference in the world. Given that humanity got intoxicated with the concept that we did not need a God, that science can lead us to the promise land, people tried to follow suit. Laplace could respond to Napoleon that he left God out of his book because "he had no need of that hypothesis." Frankly, that might be precisely what we need, and if Kant is right about our never knowing the noumenon, a hypothesis might be all we ever get. Still, we have to use  it.
 
It is Kant’s proofs that leave us mere mortals in the dust. They are largely designed to replace authority with reason. Authority then was God. Today we worship the State; we have regressed. Still, I think we can find our way. We can concede that Kant somehow offers reason as an agent, without understanding a word of what he says. But I fail to see how reason itself can ever interface with objects. This is the mind-body problem in disguise. There is physics, there is reason; but adding them together is mixing oil and water. Kant cannot reduce a Higher Power to reason any more than Newton could reduce one to energy. That of which we know nothing we might have to consign to silence, but that does not mean it does not exist. And "that of which we know nothing" defines knowing empirically. Perhaps we know God through ourselves. If our sense of purpose is real, we might learn something about God. We would share purpose.
 
Intuition does not occur in steps, it jumps. Perhaps we are just updating our personal dynamics to quantum theory. In any event, my life course is planned. By tying me down it sets me free. On to the Critique of Judgment. Wish me/us luck.