“New idealism”

I may be making a premature anticipation (if that is not a misnomer) about claiming a present or coming movement of “new idealism”. But let me make the case.

Idealism deals with the greatest and most long standing controversy in philosophy and for good reasons. It is the foundation on which you argue for your epistemology, which is the academic term for “how do I know” (anything).

I have argued for the past 18 months or so, for an idealist approach (your experience is different from the things it describes) to metaphysics as the correct one instead of the naturalist (your experience is the same as what is).

The problem, to me at least, arises when you have to combine the notion that your consciousness is all you ever experience while, when you recognise the structure of consciousness, it seems to only deal with what is outside your mind (and thus consciousness).

The structure of has the mind in a sort of black area in the middle that is not perceived, while the rest seems to describe something that is outside your body (and thus mind).

The problem is that perception is a part of the mind and the mind is only inside your brain. So whatever you perceive and recognise is only something that can be “presented” within the bounds of your brain. But that is clearly not the structure of conscious perception, which as I stated before deals only with “things” outside your consciousness, mind, brain and body.

So how do I square this circle. Well the only possible solution is that what you experience is not what the things are in themsleves but a kind of “derivative”. The radical sceptics would even say that you only have the experience and can say nothing about what they are based on (Kant: The things in themselves).

But I would axiomatically decide that the structure of this perception of external “reality” is always the same whenever I perceive, I can at least axiomatically deal with it. Metaphyscis comes before epistemology so i can never claim knowledge on this level, only state axioms (this is my philosophy).

One way of seeing that this is the valid way of interpreting perception is that whenever the first brain cell evolved, whatever it chanced to “perceive” from some vibration on its border, was something that worked towards the survival of the cell. But it never had any idea what it should use the “signal” for or even that it could be understood as a signal, simply because it had never perceived anything before.

The natural consequence is that no brain cell ever had any idea about what it is doing or whether or not it “describes” anything. And add to that. The sense data, as the “signals” evolved into, is not in any case the same as what they may be a “reflection” of, if they are indeed reflections of anything at all.

The only principle that can be responsible for creating a rational and useful consciousness is evolution. In so far as the use and ability to create something that works to further life, it will at some time appear. In the end it is up to individual rationality to figure out what to do with the perception/recognition you have got. Therefore it also has huge ramifications for a definition of knowledge … but that is another story.

In recent years, there has come forth at least a few prominent proponents of an “idealistic” approach to an understanding of consciousness. So as I stated there could be something called a “new idealism” on the rise, even if it sounds a bit bold. It could very well be argued that all possible stances on idealism has been proposed, from Kant to Hegel to Schopenhauer etc. (imho even Hume could be thrown in for good measure as he provoked Kant down that road)

Donald Hoffman has argued about a evolutionarily optimised consciousness by arguing that it makes no sense to think that brain cells would have evolved to describe reality, much less understand it. We have only evolved to focus on particular aspects (concepts), that furthers our survival. Everything else should and would be evolved out of consciousness. even if we do not know if there is something outside, we can say that if there is something, it is not what we experience and further more, we only experience what of it we need to.

Bernardo Kastrup has been arguing more around a fundamental philosophical approach to metaphysics and in my opinion argues correctly for a sceptical stance that must lead to an experience that is disconnected from what it is it may be describing. He accepts that there probably is something beyond our senses so to say, but whatever it is, it is only potentially constant in so far as we are able to conceptually identify what we experience. But since our experience can change we may not even have any kind of certainty of a correlation between conception and what that conception might be based on . I may have slightly misunderstood his arguments, but this is how I understand him.

I am happy that there is a growing interest in thinking idealistic in regards to metaphysics. When people make statements like “A reality independent of consciousness” (a commonly used phrase by so-called naturalists/dualists), it does make alarm bells go off in my head.

Where the “new” comes into “new idealism”, to me, is the combination with evolution, while not entering into neuroscience or anything like that.

Read More