This intended follow-up has been stalled (pt. 1 here) for one simple reason: the premise presented in the embedded YouTube video is (for me at least) easy to dismiss out of hand and I haven’t wanted to revisit it. Nevertheless, here’s the blurb at the top of the comments at the webpage:

Is reality created in our minds, or are the things you can touch and feel all that’s real? Philosopher Bernardo Kastrup holds doctorates in both philosophy and computer science, and has made a name for himself by arguing for metaphysical idealism, the idea that reality is essentially a mental phenomenon.

Without going into point-by-point discussion, the top-level assertion, if I understand it correctly (not assured), is that material reality comes out of mental experience rather than the reverse. It’s a chicken-and-egg question with materialism and idealism (fancy technical terms not needed) each vying for primacy. The string of conjectures (mental gymnastics, really, briefly impressive until one recognizes how quickly they lose correlation with how most of us think about and experience reality) that inverts the basic relationship of inner experience to outer reality is an example of waaaay overthinking a problem. No doubt quite a lot of erudition can be brought to bear on such questions, but even if those questions were resolved satisfactorily on an intellectual level and an internally coherent structure or system were developed or revealed, it doesn’t matter or lead anywhere. Humans are unavoidably embodied beings. Each individual existence also occupies a tiny sliver of time (the timeline extending in both directions to infinity). Suggesting that mental experience is briefly instantiated in personhood but is actually drawn out of some well of souls, collective consciousness, or panpsychism and rejoins them in heaven, hell, or elsewhere upon expiration is essentially a religious claim. It’s also an attractive supposition, granting each of us not permanence or immortality but rather something somehow better (?) though inscrutable because it lies beyond perception (but not conceptualization). Except for an eternity of torments in hell, I guess, if one deserves that awful fate.

One comment about Kastrup. He presents his perspective (his findings?) with haughty derision of others who can’t see or understand what it so (duh!) obvious. He falls victim to the very same over-intellectualized flim-flam he mentions when dismissing materialists who need miracles and shortcuts to smooth over holes in their scientific/philosophical systems. The very existence of earnest disagreement by those who occupy themselves with such questions might suggest some humility, as in “here’s my explanation, they have theirs, judge for yourself.” But there’s a third option: the great unwashed masses (including nearly all our ancestors) for whom such questions are never even fleeting thoughts. It’s all frankly immaterial (funnily, both the right and wrong word at once). Life is lived and experienced fundamentally on its surface — unless, for instance, one has been incubated too long within the hallowed halls of academia, lost touch with one’s brethren, and become preoccupied with cosmic investigations. Something quite similar happens to politicians and the wealthy, who typically hyperfocus on gathering to themselves power and then exercising that power over others (typically misunderstood as simply pulling the levers and operating the mechanisms of society). No wonder their pocket of reality looks so strikingly different.

  1. Stephen L says:

    Your ad hominem attack on Kastrup is rather childish if your critique is that his inferences are “… impressive until one recognizes how quickly they lose correlation with how most of us think about and experience reality”. Well, at one time, most of us thought the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. Is this your measure of the validity of an argument: what most of us think?

    The argument that you admit you don’t fully grasp is one of ontology, the study of being/ existence. A consciousness-only ontology posits that nothing is experienced from outside of consciousness. Everything you experience is because you have consciousness of it. Consciousness is that in which all experience appears and is known. That goes for dreams as well, for how would you know you had a dream unless you were conscious you had it.

    It’s not a ‘chicken or egg’ proposition because idealism doesn’t ‘create’ a material universe. Consciousness can only lead to more consciousness. This is not something that Kastrup made up but comes by way of philosophers and metaphysicians going back thousands of years. What he does bring to the table is empirically-informed reasoning backed up by voluminous research (not presented in YT video interviews).

    Lastly, Kastrup shows disdain only for scientific materialism as he should. It is that which is eliminating all other viewpoints, including philosophy and metaphysics, from public discourse. You don’t need anything outside of scientism if everything can be reduced down to a mechanistic materialism. Every thing is just a machine.

    • Brutus says:

      Thanks for your comment. We’re gonna disagree here, which is fine by me.

      My objection to Kastrup’s haughty tone is not primarily because the subject matter is out of scope for the general public but because experts in the field oppose his views rather vehemently. Hard to judge where the scientific consensus rests; I’m not familiar enough. As it happens, I agree that materialism is a poor model for human value and philosophical orientation, but that’s apples and oranges. Materialism is pretty effective in an engineering sense, which if far more limited.

      I don’t find your remarks about ontology and consciousness anything but self-referential (the stuff in the box is, well, the stuff in the box). Considering Kastrup has on offer an entire cosmology, it has to pass the straight-face test. His airplane cockpit metaphor is a substitute for Plato’s cave, where we purportedly see only the shadows on the cave walls, not the objects casting the shadows. Well and good enough, if one can bend the mind sufficiently to that perspective. But barstool wisdom laughs at the supposition, much like Johnson’s refutation of Berkeley’s doctrine of immaterialism (which Kastrup discusses). Bridging that chasm is no small thing, and any cosmology that fails to translate effectively to regular folks is impotent. In fairness, however, Kastrup has a free, 9-hour online course to explain and support his views, which is much better than simply playing the scientific authority card. I haven’t the patience.

      Maybe my phrase “material reality comes out of mental experience” is poorly constructed. But clearly which phenomenon is first or more fundamental is at issue. Whether one or the other is or isn’t generative is perhaps a different question, but that subtlety is probably too arcane for me. Perhaps you can enlighten.

  2. Stephen L says:

    Who are these ‘experts’ you are referring to? And what counter arguments do they present? Scientists themselves have no time to address questions out of the philosophy of science as they are too busy practicing science. Fishes don’t ask what water is, they just swim in it. An appeal to authorities as a refutation of a philosophical argument is as useless as an appeal to popular consensus.

    Plato’s allegory has people emerging from the cave into the light of day and understanding reality at a deeper level than shadows. Kastrup has no such development. His point made via metaphor of a dashboard is that we have limited sense faculties that collect sense data (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste). We couldn’t possibly perceive all that ‘is’ reality. We couldn’t handle it and in his lecture series, Part 1, he notes the empirical research of Karl Friston (Cognitive Dynamics: From Attractors to Active Inference, available here: ) that says as much.

  3. Stephen L says:

    Part 2

    But you don’t need to reference that research to determine that our sense of reality is limited. Dogs have 50 times the number of scent receptors for every one humans have. Dogs’ smell acuity is 10k to 100k greater than ours. We’re missing out on their reality. We can only perceive a reality available through our dashboard (senses) which is very different than a dog’s. So it is with an infinite number of physical aspects of reality.

    Your charge that my point about consciousness would indeed be self-referential (or solipsism) if you defined consciousness as limited to the brain/body. But again, in idealism, consciousness is taken as the ‘ontological primary’, a first axiom, in a timeless philosophical argument. Within this argument there is nothing more primary to the cosmos than consciousness (essence preceding existence). How consciousness is defined or not, is too large a subject for a blog post.

    Kastrup did not invent this position. What is novel about his ‘analytic idealism’ is that he uses science research, up-to-date physics and neuroscience to argue against physicalism, and for metaphysics. This not only helps us revisit times when we had greater respect for metaphysics (almost all of human history) but takes us into new territory.

  4. Stephen L says:

    Part 3, end

    By the way, McGilchrist someone who you have written about in the past is in the same camp as Kastrup. McGilchrist sits on the board of Kastrup’s philosophical foundation, Essentia, and believes in panentheism (all is within god), which is a form of idealism.

    So yeah, its complex and not everyone’s cup of tea. But please do not dismiss something out of hand because it is not graspable in a 2-hour video. If physicalism has eliminated all which cannot be explained by science from our lives, preposterously thinking that everything can be reduced down to algorithms, then there is no need to rile up the ‘regular folk’ or the drunks on barstools crying in their beer with all this philosophy stuff. But for those that don’t want to just complain about our dead-end status quo, and would like to consider looking at reality through empiricism and introspection, the work of Kastrup and others in the field of metaphysics might offer a measure hope in understanding the human’s place in the cosmos (cf. Max Scheler’s book on the subject).

  5. notabilia says:

    Credit goes to the post’s author for enter this miasma, and winningly investigating its pretentious claims to “empiricism.” McGilchrist goes on Christian podcasts these days – another in the line of religion-snookered academics. Metaphysicians – heal thyself.

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