Here are my marching orders for this work.
William Ernest Hocking:
“The notion of survival haunts the dark corners of modern consciousness like an uneasy ghost, having no place in the day’s business nor in the counsels of state-building sciences. In philosophy, it has the status of an inheritance finding residual attention as a last chapter, an appendix, a footnote to other matters.
Just on this account its position as religious dogma is of primary importance; for here a faltering yet vital human concern most needs the considered respect and guidance of racial insight. This responsibility, requiring newly living perspectives as human experience alters its outlooks in other fields, is today largely evaded or mummed by religious institutions caught timorously in their ancient imagery. This imagery which taken literally is obnoxious to the sounder instincts of mankind they are seemingly reluctant to translate while rightly unwilling to abandon survival as a total casualty in the path of scientific advance.
In this impasse, philosophic thought, however hesitant, must enter as an interpreter beginning with a clarification of the meanings of death and life as they confront one another. With these meanings in mind, we may in due time open the ultimate issue of possibility, in the light of the sciences as well as that of prophet and poet, spokesmen for the intuitions of the race.”
The topic of immortality sits like a charity invite to the table of modern reason, if it is invited at all. In our pretentious scientific perspective ("ask your doctor if your heart is strong enough for sex") we presume to have a pipeline to truth through evidence-based data (perception—largely sight and sound) while intuition and subjectivity are relegated to the antiquarian status of fairy tales and lightening bolt throwing gods. The locker room mentality of today’s leaders advocates the following approach to death: “Do not waste time thinking about death; live well the time you have, and forget that it ends”.
Derision, disdain, and loss of government contracts awaits those who "waste time" on it. But it does not go away; it simply goes behind. I am not a philosopher. I almost wish today that philosophy had been my career. It seems to be where the actions lies, for that certainly is not in psychology. Instead, I became a physician, where largely I treated patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. One hundred and seventy thousand patient hours in combat related group psychotherapy taught me that dragons only chase us when we run.
Intuition and the above hours convince me that we do not just waste time on death and the possibility of immortality. Understanding of these issues might be impossible. However, William Ernest Hocking’s admonition on purpose does not ask whether something is possible, but only whether it needs to be done, and if the finger of responsibility points in your direction.
Well then, this issue becomes simple. We may not be able to understand death and the possibility of immortality, but we must try to do so. Apparently no one else cares about it. So we risk ridicule, confront the difficulty, and simply do our duty. Doing so carries its own rewards.
The previous passages capture most of what Berkeley has to offer. He eliminates the concept of matter and replaces it with spirit. This changes nothing in the way we approach reality in this world, but it is very counterintuitive. Most of the rest of his work here addresses our resistence to this idea. The Dialogue between Hylas and Philonous does so specifically, and I very much recommend it. Hylas explains the concepts to Philonous, which is essentially Berkeley explaining it to us. And this is pretty much all of us. So, we already have the big stuff, but it might not be clear what difference it makes.
The difference is life or death. Before materialism every society had a god or gods. This is a division of labor. Government no longer is everything. David and Goliath is no longer a sure bet with God in the picture. God allows hope. God suggests purpose. God gives meaning. Otherwise it comes from the executive branch of government and their handlers. There is no reason to fight if it is hopeless. That means there is no reason to try, and if consciousness is a genuine force in itself, no reason to experience it. Game over.
We are playing in ‘game over’ mode now. It is still not too late to rewrite metaphysics—to get back to God. If we do not, the name of the game becomes Greed, and the winners will become Lord of the Carbon Deposits. Matter is a category mistake, our tendency to treat abstract items as literal, i.e. the navy as an actual ship or mental as an actual place. It then can become anything or everything, and does.
A legitimate use of abstraction is to file the spiritual world under the class of “purpose” and the material world under that of “cause”. It is incredibly disruptive to view the world as merely causal. If flies against all our personal experience. Everything we do we feel is done by intent. We are not pushed to go play basketball, or drive to the lake; we do so because we want to. With Berkeley’s approach we do not have to hide the most prominent thing about our experience. Not so with materialism. The latter leads to a ghost in the machine, something in mental that carries purpose, with levers that mechanically affect the outside world. We pass the buck to a gremlin. Psychoanalysis, which overran its license for explanation, viewed mental and physical as both causal systems, in the middle of which lived the “conflict free ego”. What else could that be but a homunculus living in a non-place of purpose. Why not just use us? How could they not see the folly? Why can we not see the folly about leaving purpose to subatomic particles? They are supposed to be the reason we go to the game or the lake. How do they do it, flip coins? Einstein could not stand for that, “God does not play dice with the world”. Sorry, Albert, but there is no place for God in your world or your thinking. It’s all particles. So purge your thinking: It all means nothing; dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Live with it.
But we can’t. And we shouldn’t. Materialism, science, asks us to throw away experience. What else is purpose other than experience? We all stand up together and say we are pushed everywhere we go, but no one believes that. And no one acts consistent with that. If you take out subjective, what is left, rocks?
But Berkeley’s clean up work is necessary reading. It addresses our resistence, and illustrates his sensitivity. We will move more quickly through his work here and touch what strikes me as the highlights. You should get his writings. The Cambridge Texts on the History of Philosophy has all his works in one volume. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, and Three Dialogues between Hylus and Philonious are the ones you want. It is not philosophy. It is life.
25. All our ideas, or the things which we perceive, by whatsoever names they may be distinguished are visibly inactive; there is nothing of power or agency included in them, so that one idea or object of thought cannot produce, or make any alteration in another. To be satisfied of the truth of this there is nothing else requisite but a bare observation of our ideas. For since they and every part of them exist only in the mind, it follows that there is nothing in them but what is perceived. But whoever shall attend to his ideas, whether of sense or reflexion will not perceive in them any power or activity; there is therefore no such thing contained in them. A little attention will discover to us that the very being of an idea implies passiveness and inertness in it, insomuch that it is impossible for any idea to do anything, or strictly speaking, to be the cause of anything; neither can it be the resemblance or pattern of any active being as is evident from Section 8. Whence it plainly follows that extension, figure and motion cannot be the cause of our sensations. To say, therefore, that these are the effects of powers resulting from the configuration, number, motion, and size of corpuscles must certainly be false.
Mental and physical exist on different conceptual levels and to treat them as both substances will result in absurdities. Mental can envision, but it cannot produce; and this is not changed one wit by a government edict, such as the Veterans Administration, which mandates that post-traumatic stress disorder will be corrected by proper thinking.
35. I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that we can apprehend, either by sense or reflection. That the things I see with mine eyes and touch with my hands do exist really exist, I make not the least question. The only thing whose existence we deny is that which philosophers call matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this, there is no damage done to the rest of mankind who I dare say, will never miss it. The atheist indeed will want the color of an empty name to support his impiety, and the philosophers may possibly find, they have lost a great handle for trifling and disputation.
I love the way he puts this, and he adds the dimension that people can profit from materialism. Basically, materialism eliminates spirit, including God, which results in a void that government eagerly will attempt to fill. Printing presses always help in that endeavor. And they never step down gracefully.
36. If any man thinks this detracts from the existence of reality of things, he is very far from understanding what has been premised in the plainest terms I could think of. Take here an abstract of what has been said. There are spiritual substances, minds, or human souls, which will or excite ideas in themselves at pleasure; but these are faint, weak, and unsteady in respect of others they perceive by sense, which being impressed upon them according to certain rules or laws of nature, speak themselves the effects of a mind more powerful and wise than human spirits These latter are said to have more reality in them than the former, by which is meant that they are more affecting ,orderly, and distinct, and that they are not fictions of the mind perceiving them. And in this sense, the sun that I see by day is the real sun, and that which I imagine by night is the idea of the former. In the sense here given of ‘reality’, it is evident that every vegetable, star mineral, and in general each part of the mundane system, is as much a real being by our principles as by any other. Whether others mean any thing by th term ‘reality’ different from what I do, I entreat them to look into their own thoughts and see.
37. It will be urged that thus much at least is true, to wit that we take away all corporeal substances. To this my answer is that if the word ‘substance’ be taken in the common sense, for a combination of sensible qualities, such as extension solidity, weight, and the like, this we cannot be accused of taking away. But if it be taken in a philosophic sense, for the support of accidents or qualities without the mind, then indeed I acknowledge that we take it away, if one may be said to take away that which never had any existence, not even in the imagination.
Nothing changes practically in our “real world”. We still step out of the way of trains and cars, and do not try to eat imaginary apples. But, also, if we go home that night and reflect on the day, we do not pay homage to the quarks. We give credit where credit is due, and do not try to play god or assign it to others. To coin an aphorism: If we do not look up to something, we will fall for anything; and someone will always be around to offer it. Alternatively, those without a god will tend to act like one.
We can write until the sun cools and nothing will change except the number of pages. It is chalk talk, not taking the field. If the 21st century is going to be the one about consciousness, then we need to find its place in external reality. It is fine for me to outline a strategy, and without one it is probably impossible to get anywhere important, but getting there counts too. To make a difference my work here needs a miracle. An example of conscious effort making a difference would do, and it need be something more than raising one’s arm. People need to sit up and take notice.
Miracles must appear to be out of reach. Just getting out of bed should not constitute one. Hocking is my favorite philosopher, and one of his aphorisms is the approach that one does not ask if it is impossible, just whether it needs to be done, and if the finger of responsibility points to you. The answer is yes and yes for my rescue critters. Too many marathons have reduced my mobility to that of a slug. The dogs need to be walked, water needs to be changed, stairs engaged efficiently, in addition to other things like rekindling a basketball function once considered sacred. For me to walk effectively again, on my terms, not that of some medical assembly line (following intuition here), would be a miracle. It certainly would impress me, and an effective jump shot from fifteen feet would draw some attention on the court.
Standing between me and a miracle is fifty pounds. It sits there like the pyramids, no matter what meal or food group I skip. I do not use a scale, but basically, going from what is probably about 200 lbs down to 150 might be the jump start to make this all happen. I will be too thin, but this is about mobility, not aesthetics. And it is entirely a function of will. Will is entirely a component of consciousness. The Vatican does not care if I get there, but there is work in tandem here about helping the dogs, revisiting the court, and pursuing the goal of finding purpose in a causal world. The effort for mobility and writing converge. This is two birds with one scone. Theoretically I am wondering if gathering dispersity produces some critical mass. One cannot simply reduce the majesty of a miracle, i.e., all are winners and all shall have prizes, but one must dare to dream. The impossible sounds like a good place to start. Hocking thinks so.
So, hand in hand, weight loss and theory shall march forward. Impossible be damned! Dogs and teammates demand it. Let’s try a diary approach here (for me, not the blog). It will get tedious, but so is all data gathering. We are studying the invisible. What is the trigger than converts concept to action? It sounds like a quantum thing, i.e., that it simply jumps, outside of time and space, to another orbit. We will be thinking and starving, if that is possible. And if it is not, who cares? It must be done and the finger points to me. Maybe it is the impossibility itself that bridges conception and action. Well, in that light, we have enough of it around. I will be wowed, if nothing else, except thinner. The 700 (cal.) club sounds good, and little add on items sound verboten. Next train to Gastroville at 6 pm.
6. Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind, that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, to wit that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some eternal spirit: it being perfectly unintelligible and involving all the absurdity of abstraction, to attribute to any single part of them an existence independent of a spirit. To be convinced of which, the reader need only reflect and try to separate in his own thoughts the being of a sensible thing from its being perceived.
7. From what has been said, it follows, there is not any other substance than spirit, or that which perceives. But for the fuller proof of this point, let it be considered , the sensible qualities are color, figure, motion, smell, taste, and such like, that is, the ideas perceived by sense. Now for an idea to exist in an unperceiving thing it is a manifest contradiction; for to have an idea is all one as to perceive; that therefore wherein color, figure, and the like qualities exist, must perceive them. Hence it is clear there can be no unthinking substance or substratum of those ideas.
8. But say you, though the ideas themselves do not exist without the mind, yet there may be things like them whereof they are copies or resemblances, which things exist without the mind in an unthinking substance. I answer, an idea can be like nothing but an idea; a color or figure can be like nothing but another color of figure. If we look but ever so little into our thoughts, we shall find it impossible for us to conceive a likeness except only between our ideas. Again, I ask whether those supposed originals or external things, of which are ideas are the pictures or representations, be themselves perceivable or no? If they are, then they are ideas, and we have gained our point; but if you say they are not, I appeal to anyone whether it be sense to assert (that) a color is like something which is invisible; hard or soft, like something which is intangible; and so of the rest.
9. Some there are who make a distinction betwixt primary and secondary qualities. By the former they mean extension, figure, motion, rest, solidity or impenetrability and number; by the latter they denote all other sensible qualities, as colors sounds, tastes, and so forth. The ideas we have of they acknowledge not to be the resemblances of any thing existing without the mind or unperceived, but they will have our ideas of the primary qualities to be patterns or images of things which exist without the mind, in an unthinking substance which they call “matter”. By ‘matter’ therefore we are to understand an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist. But it is evident from what we have already shown that extension, figure, and motion are only ideas existing in the mind, and that an idea can be like nothing but another idea, and that consequently neither they nor their archetypes can exist in an unperceiving substance. Hence it is plain that the very notion of what is called ‘matter’ or ‘corporeal substance’ involves a contradiction in it.
19. But though we might possibly have all our sensations without them, yet perhaps it may be thought easier to conceive and explain the manner of their production by supposing external bodies in their likeness rather than otherwise; and so it might be at least probable there are such things as bodies that excite their ideas in our minds. But neither can this be said. For though we give the materialists their external bodies, they by their own confession are never the nearer knowing how our ideas our produced, since they own themselves unable to comprehend in what manner body can act upon spirit, or how it is possible it should imprint any idea in the mind. Hence it is evident the production of ideas or sensations in our minds can be no reason why we should suppose matter or corporeal substance, since that is acknowledged to remain equally inexplicable with, or without, this supposition. If therefore it were possible for bodies to exist without the mind, yet to hold they do so must needs be a very precarious opinion, since it is to suppose, without any reason at all, that God has created innumerable beings that are entirely useless, and serve to no manner or purpose.
23. But say you, surely there is nothing easier than to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books existing in a close, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, you may do so, there is no difficulty in it; but what is all this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call ‘books’ and ‘trees’, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive them? But do not you yourself perceive or think of them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose; it only shows you have the power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind. But it does not show that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind. To make out this, it is necessary that you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of, which is a manifest inconsistency. When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are all the while only contemplating our own ideas. But the mind taking no notice of itself, is deluded to think it can and does conceive bodies existing unthought of or without the mind; though at the same time they are apprehended by or exist in itself. A little attention will discover to anyone the truth and evidence of what is here said, and make it unnecessary to insist in any other proofs against the existence of material substance.
Berkeley is not an end here. This is not a course on Berkeley. Rather, Berkeley is one of the first to see the dangers of materialism: the loss of meaning, spirit, purpose, and hope. Life becomes eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die; or its less jolly cousin, all is fair in love, war, and death.
I want to include enough of Berkeley’s writing to give you a feeling for his work. He is a good read, and the issues in the seventeen hundreds are still central today. This is not just history for history’s sake, but rather an review of our basic metaphysics to avert possible (or probable) collapse. For myself there is almost no limit to the gain I can receive by repeated effort here. The goal is to support faith with enough belief that one does not feel there is only one option—to close one’s eyes and jump. I want some conviction, and it grows with practice, not by revelation. The more I study Berkeley the more personal integration I develop. But what works for me will not be the same as what works for you.
What I am trying to say here is that there is no substitute for reading Berkeley yourself. I hope to offer the Cliff Notes version and introduce you to Berkeley the person. I think you will like him and suspect that your efforts spent reading him will be essential to truth in the twenty first century. His major point is that it is that matter is a construct, not a structure, and it puts a player on the field that just gets in the way, and draws penalties.
We have a group of his comments above that outlines his points. The first thing that jumps out is that our problem is hiding in plain site. As fish do not see the water, so we do not see our thinking. We think, with objects drawn from perceptions, and our attention naturally faces outward. It does little good to reflect while on an empty stomach. And apples grow on trees, although insights do not. Berkeley simply calls on us to reflect, to try to gain perspective through reason. All knowledge is not simply gained through perception, science notwithstanding.
The name of the game through reason appears to be contradiction. The correlate through science is observation (date through a sense organ, i.e. sight, sound, etc.) It seems to me that contradiction is itself based on observation, implicit experience that could also be called common sense. If you drive twice as fast you will not get to Carolina and California at the same time. Experience in the world, learned by repetition, tells us we can only be at one place at a time. Arriving at Carolina and California at the same time makes no sense, and informs us as certainly as seeing a tree in the yard. Berkeley simply asks us to think through our thinking through.
Human limitation to such reflection is not so much because the resulting concepts are too abstract for most of us to envision, but rather that we have become so familiar with our current metaphysics (theory of abstract connections) that it simply seems too strange. Quantum mechanics gives us such a problem. All it says is that we can at some times be somewhere and at other times be simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. We are stuck on somewhere in our experience, being able to mouth the words, but only with great difficult grasp the concept. We take the reality of matter as the fish take water, which makes it hard to get a grasp on it. It is simply so close that we no longer notice, like walking up or down stairs without looking, or brushing our teeth.
Berkeley understands this. He writes his treatise on the illusion of matter and realizes how people react to it. And this is what is great about him; he is aware of his reader and tries to address the problems. So seeing the reaction to his work, he follows it with a dialogue in the form of a play between two assocaites, Hylas and Philonious (I have no idea where he got the names.) The issue he was addressing is every bit as relevant today as it was three hundred years ago, and so is most everyone’s reactions. You really need to read the Dialogue between Hylus and Philoneous, not so much because you will then sneak in an awareness of the truth of his concepts, but that you will clearly see our resistance. Hylus makes premises that Philoneous agrees with (as do we as readers), and conclusions which appear air tight, and not so abstract as to leave us behind; but, nevertheless, the next morning it all goes away and nothing has changed. Reason fights poorly against habit; its only hope is persistence. We learn truth not through epiphanies, but through practice, and more practice. Truth is a skill, not a revelation.
The last line in paragraph six is sufficient to rest his case, if only we could put it to muscle memory. Doing so is not a natural action, like throwing a ball with one’s non dominant arm. He asks us to visualize fruit without an example—fruitness, on its own. Good luck with that. Fruitness equals matter. There is no nutrition in a name, only an object. And there is no value, other than convention, in presuming matter exists in a material world, other than habit. We could get by just as well by clumping perceptions together according to pattern and labeling them, than by adding an additional element. If we consider that we buy a left shoe, a right shoe, and a pair of shoes, we do not get more shoes by counting the pair as additional objects. One plus one does not equal four. There is no bargain here, only confusion among associates who read Berkeley.
I, personally, do not find Berkeley impossible to read, only difficult. He writes to be understood, not to confuse someone into submission. After several reviews, to me it starts to make sense. With some authors, i.e. Kant, I am willing to concede his points without understanding them, because some things might be simply beyond us. But there is always a price to pay for that. One gives up conviction with what has to be taken at someone else's word. It remains a weak part of our system. One the other hand, many people sound obtuse because they are faking it, hoping to dazzle us into submission. Alan Greenspan comes to mind.
In paragraph seven Berkeley replaces matter with spirit. Both are concepts, so we are free to pick either one. Nothing in the way we interchange with the world differs as a result of this substitution. We simply place “real” in a different file. We treat it no differently, but do understand it as such. Berkeley is not saying that mind is everything. There is a difference between perceiving and recalling. Nothing much happens standing in front of a fast moving train that one merely recalls. So we need a difference between perception and conception. We can certainly distinguish between a fast moving train coming down the tracks we are standing on from one we imagine. So something must exist outside our black box. Berkeley calls that spirit, the mind of God. Newton, Descartes, science, and our world handlers call it matter (electrons, protons, photons, gluons and the 396 other such little particles). Pragmatically, it does not matter what we call the sender of the signals that we receive as perceptions. Just get out of the way of fast moving perceptions, and do what you want with fast moving conceptions. But how we understand the world and its implications for our behavior is drastically different. Basically a materialist world is causal; it is blind chance, billiard balls all the way down. A spiritual world entails consciousness, and with it comes purpose, caring, wishing, intent, and meaning—basically, everything entailed in experience, without which, quite frankly, there is nothing. This is obviously no small issue. The burgeoning disaster of a materialistic world is the loss of meaning, and with it a lack of purpose, followed by a mad grab for anything and everything to fill the emptiness. If it all means nothing, what then is the point of anything? Hot tubs, travel, fame, power, money, and gourmet cooking do not do it. Without reasons it is all distraction. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
He attacks matter in a variety of arguments, each of which by itself would be sufficient to debunk it. So if one would work, why send in the whole posse? Because the issue is intractable, based not on reason, but habit. The argument in paragraph seven is that if the only hard evidence we have are perceptions, then we should take note that something has to perceive them. For an idea to exist in an unperceiving thing makes no sense because ideas are the precipitate of perceptions. Rocks have no ideas. That a tree falling in the forest makes a sound is only true if something is there to hear it, whether one tree falls or a thousand. Without a perceiver there is no perception. An unthinking substance has nothing to support. Matter has nothing to do with the external world, other than in our conceptual error. Reality is supported by spirit, not quarks.
At this point one has to wonder whether this line of thought has just
fallen off a cliff. Materialism is so ensconced in our world view that no one
checks its credentials anymore. Doing so is simply dismissed as preposterous, or
worse, sacrilegious. But where is the court of appeals in which an honest debate
could be entertained. Surely we could entertain propositions on the basis of
reason, but bias has to be considered as well. We do not want to think that the
foundation of our world view is suspect. Doing so sets one apart from society,
and demands that something else take matter’s place. Religion does not suggest
itself, because materialism itself is a reaction against the subjectivity of
religion. Truth may not be tied solely to molecules, but it certainly is not
tied merely to ideas. Blending the two requires some understanding of how mental
can interface with physical. But no one has been able to do that, probably
because the wrong players are on the field. Reality is not Descartes’ dualism of
mental and physical substances, nor Newton’s monism of physical; but, rather, it
is a monism of consciousness, ours and a higher power’s.
I find some comfort in realizing that if one divides matter indefinitely
you eventually end up with . . . . . you. That must mean something. And while
spiritualism in the form of gods has always been around, consciousness viewed as
different from mental is new. Consciousness is active as opposed to mental, which
is passive. Mental is the film strip as it goes through the projector.
Consciousness is the light, upon which all the images are dependent. The
twenty-first century will be the century of consciousness, an independent, active
force. And it gets support from an unlikely quarter, quantum mechanics, which
quietly and persistently produces evidence that consciousness is an agent.
Quantum mechanics is dragging the physicists, kicking and screaming, into the
twenty-first century. Einstein wasted the last two decades of his life betting
against it. Somehow that never seems to be mentioned.
Again, the world is constructed out of consciousness, ours and a higher power’s. The physicists might grant consciousness as a power before seeing a
higher consciousness as God. But we are all going to have to realize the latter
to survive. Consciousness (speculating only about ours) is not just another
force, like gravity. It is unique unto itself, and outside of time/space. We
have a lot to learn. The year 2314 will look nothing like today—except, perhaps,
The remaining paragraphs quoted above continue the arguments against matter. I do not find them self-evident, but neither are they impossible. What seems to be impossible for us is to hold on to reason, which logic should compel, when it runs into emotion. Truth will eventually win that battle, but not in the lifetime of those who fight for it.
Finally, the argument in paragraph twenty-three is especially interesting. It is a variant of the fact that it is impossible to intentionally not think of something. To not think of something you have to remember what to not think about. You are trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And to think that being able to conceive of a tree out there independent of consciousness shows that it is independent, proves nothing, because all the while you imagine the tree you carry awareness of it in your back pocket. Everywhere we go, there we are. It’s called consciousness.
4. "It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects have an existence natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding, but with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world; yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question, may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense, and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations; and is it not plainly contradictory that any one of these or any combination of them should exist unperceived?"
There is a horror to this statement if you stare at it too long: basically, we can never get outside of ourselves. Everything we perceive we view only as our images. We see our creation of perceptions, and nothing more. The “reality” of reality is forever beyond our reach. We are trapped in a black box. We presume that our vision is like a pinhole camera, reflecting accurately, albeit upside down and backwards from what is outside, but nevertheless, an accurate rendition. But the apt metaphor is not pinhole camera, but rather, satellite TV. Our internal creations are not photographs but art. The waves sent down by the satellite bear no resemblance to the pictures on our monitors. There is an us in everything we perceive that converts signal to perception. We are active, not passive, in all our perceptions, and hence can never know what an object appears like in itself, because for us there is no “in itself”. We cannot get out the way. There is no way without our "without us". It is our way or the highway.
So it makes little sense to presume matter, real stuff from which we “see” as if the abstraction is logically the same is its elements (i.e. we see the navy in the same way as we see the ships). The navy cannot be seen, it is an abstraction of the ships as they function in union. And matter is an abstraction of the component sensations that we clump together to identify individual objects. In the real world there is not tails, barks, fur, wet noses, devotion, and dogness. Dog is all of the other items grouped together and given a name. Dog is not on the same conceptual level as the components that make up the name, any more than the navy exists independent of the ships.
This perhaps sounds more complicated than it is when one considers it. Fruit is not something that can be conceived independent of an example of fruit, i.e. apple, orange, banana, etc. The term fruit is an abstraction we use to organize information. Rather than paging through endless random ideas to find something to eat, we just call up the term fruit and have a broad array from which to choose. Abstraction is what sets us apart from most other living creatures. It makes us more efficient. So it is pretty simple that we can picture only instantiations or examples of fruit because they are actual objects; but the category fruit is only a concept. Concepts cannot be perceived; they are conceived. This would be easy if we typically reflected on our mental functions, but being “behind the camera” we can never perceive ourselves. We can see our hands, arms, legs, etc, but not the seeing of our seeing these structures. That is why we can assume the tree in the front yard is exactly like our perception of that tree—we omit our active component in its creation. Basically matter occupies a place for us the same as does the term fruit. It is where we group everything that is outside of ourselves, and that is useful, but it is not visible. Try as we may we will never perceive a “fruit”, only an apple, orange, banana, etc. Matter is a concept, not an object. We would see this if we only looked, which Berkeley suggests that we do.
Outer space is not the last frontier. Inner space appears to be. (A statement, itself, which repeats the error, but I shall let stand for poetic license.)
And. . . . if we cannot get matter right, and realize that it is concept, not structure, what else do we get wrong? The answer appears to be: time, space, mind, matter, purpose, cause, and consciousness. We need to turn the camera and look at our looking.
It might be time for a review of my writing. The end of this work is coming into view, not just from Berkeley here, who started us on this journey, but other reading that I have jumped to recently. My writing started about eight years ago. I was about to retire and had been reading philosophy for several years before then. Prior to that philosophy felt like chasing one’s tail, and I identified myself with science and its offspring. When you are young, you learn tactics; later in life, you reflect on strategies.
One of the authors talked about an experience his father had in which he felt trapped on a ship that was sinking. No escape, no survival; just like life in a materialistic world. It is hard to keep looking away; one can only stand so much football until all the colors bleed into brown. I could not shake the feeling. Retirement and sinking ships. What else was left?
My answer came from the process of confronting, rather than avoiding, existential issues--largely my adoption. Also, my work with the veterans showed that time did not heal all wounds. Passivity only prolongs the ordeal. Some doors need opening.
The prototypical antagonist in my life has become the ashes to ashes materialist, who has all the answers, and is going to live for today (at anyone’s expense) because tomorrow we all die. We find them in any discipline, including religion. So the idea became to face death, essentially to resurrect spirit as a legitimate entity in the universe. It does not make sense that the world is just bosons or space/time strings heaped together in a dark corner of nowhere. We do not experience ourselves as aimless, so why be so presumptuous about there being no purpose in the world. The shills of the materialistic world handlers espouse that position, and profit from it, but we do not have to buy it. It becomes an issue of faith versus belief. Forced to choose one or the other, a person probably does best to choose faith. But we do not have to choose. The two are not exclusive. Faith can lead us to dashboard talismans and miracles by committee, but belief can lead us to apathy and entitlement. Faith is a product of reason, belief a product of perception. Faith gives us hope. Science gives us facts. But faith without reason is just wishing, and facts without theory are just distraction. At some point in a materialistic world we are going to stop seeking the holy grail in something smaller. Purpose is not going to be found down there, sitting in a gluon. Eventually we get down to nothing—except ourselves. And if we exclude purpose, then what possible sense can anyone make of anything we try to do.
Too bad for the physicists, but a box of rocks is not going to explain the world. From where I peer out from my reading, it appears that we have not got any the big issues right. Berkeley shows matter to be a category mistake. Ryle reduces mind to the same. There is no matter, no mind, and no time or space other than as mental constructs. Kant eliminated time and space as actual entities. Einstein turned gravity into warped space/time. Walker connects us to quantum mechanics and the need for consciousness as a primary force. How are we doing so far? What is left from which to build a universe? I understand that the above concepts are mere statements and most people will not take them as valid, but we can look at the evidence for these positions, and you can decide for yourself. Personally, I follow the rule that it has to genuinely work for me, not just that I wish for it. Metaphorically, my tail has to wag. The trick is not to lower the bar, but to be open to new paradigms. This is not wishful thinking. It is daring to think.
The tipping point is Evan Harris Walker’s book, The Physics of Consciousness. The Bell experiment in quantum mechanics gives scientific data to support consciousness as a basic force in the universe. Once we thought everything was earth, fire, water and air. Recently it was electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force. That is not much difference for two thousand years of work. Now we have scientific evidence for consciousness as a force in nature. We do not have to throw away everything we have gained through Newtonian physics. We adapt it. Descartes had a dualism between mind and matter. Physics rejects that. Materialism is a monism of simply matter. The future is a dualism between consciousness and matter (as defined by Berkeley.) The rocks must share. Consciousness is not a time/space thing. Basically, life is no longer simply dust to dust, ashes to ashes. We may have to explain ourselves some day, but we are no longer working under strict time constraints. Walker's book is essential to any dialogue on these issues.
For me this change of perspective causes a change in experience. Finding out what we are is no longer an end, but merely a means. If there is something more than what materialism offers, then we can look at death with less horror and spend more time engaged in experience. There may be more to life than a gravestone. I can breathe now, and my sense of purpose becomes more compelling. Death has a leash on it, and we can perhaps keep it out of the garden. From this new perspective my work becomes more important. Knowing what we are allows us to be what we can become. Ernest Becker felt that humanity suffers from an ability to confront death. I have always agreed with him, and my work with post-traumatic stress disorder supports that position. Humanity has a post-traumatic stress disorder. With that disorder the defenses against facing death cause more problems than the trauma itself. This means that much of the world's difficulties today might be amenable to change.
Purpose is what sets us apart from pool balls. We reach; pool balls are pushed. Purpose is what we are about, if corruption and compliance does not keep it from us. We see that purpose more clearly if we are not hiding from dragons. Like learning Zen, the goal of learning it is not simply so that one can sit around speaking nonsense. It is to clear the constraints of logic in order to open a perspective on truth. The goal of my writing, finding out what we are made of, turns out not to be an end, but merely a beginning. It frees me to walk closer with the truth, and to better pursue my purpose. But knowing is not the goal; acting on it is. Purpose gives meaning to everything. It is both priceless and timeless. That beats daytime TV.
So my dilemma today is not what to do for the rest of my life. It is how do I fit it all in. This is not about havng fun or completing a bucket list. It is about coordinating personal truth with cosmic truth and pursuing the responsibilities that one confronts. It is about creating, not consuming. Purposeful living is when you have to force yourself to stop an activity, rather than to start it. The value is in the doing. It feels like one could do it forever. Maybe we can.
Our Christmas dog was hours away from a gas chamber in southern Missouri on Christmas eve, and today (January 6) her snow picture was featured on Fox2 News, not because of her story but because of her happiness and energy. Good for her.
A Christmas Carol
My other half posted a “bah humbug” on her Facebook site several days ago. Christmas involves family, which is hard for us to celebrate since neither of us ever had one. This is not melodrama, just reality. My story was included in a People Magazine article entitled Castaways—about babies being left in parks and doorways.
Soon after Rhonda expressed her Christmas joy, a woman from southern Missouri posted on the site about a dog who was scheduled for the gas chamber on Christmas Eve. That was too much to take, even for a Scrooge, so we claimed her. The two of us run an animal rescue. As I write this, at 2 pm on Christmas Eve afternoon, Mia would be being dragged into the gas chamber where she would struggle in horror for her last breath. Instead she woke up after a long night’s sleep and was licking Rhonda’s face on the couch in the living room. The Rescue is the centerpiece of our lives. It needed to be established, the finger of responsibility pointed to us, and we responded. It is entirely a labor of love. This is all weekends, no weekdays. It is being seven years old and going to the pond to play with the frogs, rather than dragging in on Monday morning to get to the coffee before facing the day.
I am trying to capture the experience for us to be running a shelter. The payoff is intrinsic. The joy is the wagging tails. It is not fun; this is not a bucket list item. It is purpose, what you might die while doing and not even notice that you died. The rescue is successful, but, again, that is entirely subjective. Most people would have no interest in doing this. Most people are people related. We are dog related. The basic principle that supports our rescue is that the dog is not a means, but rather an end. I was always a means and could not fix that for myself, but I can for Mia. I am sure that our rescue is not like most other rescues, just like we are not like most other people. We are different from the rest of the world, and are different from those who are different from the rest of the world, in that we have done something with our difference. And importantly, none of this would ever have happened had we experienced normal childhoods. Our rescue is wonderful. A non subjective measure might be that our website received 250,000 hits this year. We get calls from all over the country. But that misses the point. The point is that our rescue flies under its own power. Each dog we save is a reaction to our experience of being castaways. The disaster that was our childhood becomes the foundation of what we do today. Before, we were pound puppies; now we rescue them. Pain has been transformed into purpose. And the satisfaction we obtain is largely intrinsic, which takes the effort out of work. Perhaps purpose is always born out of distress.
Saving this dog is our Christmas, and neither of us would change it for anything. We are different; but then so was our experience. I would not want to retrace our steps, but would also never want to go back.
It is not the cards you are dealt, but how you play the hand.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.