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All matter is a cognitive ‘hallucination,’ even the brain itself

Neuroscience has conceded that the same cognitive structures that generate dreams also generate our experience of waking reality. It’s just that, unlike in the former case, in the latter the ‘hallucination’ is modulated by external factors. Be that as it may, the implication is still that all we colloquially refer to as ‘matter’ is a cognitive construct of our minds. However, as Aditya Prasad highlights, despite such acknowledgment most neuroscientists still surreptitiously seem to assume that the chunk of matter we call a ‘brain’ is special: unlike all other matter, which is ‘hallucinated,’ the brain is the thing that generates the hallucinations. But for the account to remain consistent, we must understand that the brain, too, as a material object, is part of the hallucination. The implications of this consistency, Mr. Prasad argues, are ineffable.

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Quantum fields are consciousness: A groundbreaking new theory by the inventor of the microprocessor

A new groundbreaking theory on consciousness proposes that qualia — for instance, the scent of a rose — reside in quantum fields. Federico Faggin is one of the greatest luminaries of high technology alive today. A physicist by education, he is the inventor of the microprocessor and the MOS silicon gate technology, both of which underlie the modern world’s entire information technology. With the knowledge and experience of a lifetime in cutting-edge fields, Federico now turns his attention to consciousness and the nature of reality, sharing with us his profound insights on the classical and quantum worlds, artificial intelligence, life and the human mind. In this discussion, he elaborates on an idealist model of reality, produced after years of careful thought and direct experience, according to which nature’s most fundamental level is that of consciousness as a quantum phenomenon, while the classical physical world consists merely of evocative symbols of a deeper reality.

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The ‘Fall of Man’ as the Freudian original loss

The biblical story of the Fall of Man is a symbolic representation of our universal experience of primordial loss, the Freudian pure lack, or “das Ding,” argues Dr. Sachs. The fall into the phenomenal world of perceptual experience appears from this psychoanalytical perspective as the “I” development of the human being.  The subsequent expulsion from paradise and the loss of the immediate presence of God are the trauma of this fundamental loss.

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The social pay-off of Idealism (The Return of Idealism)

Prof. James Tartaglia advocates for a revival of metaphysical idealism, arguing that it is misunderstood and often unfairly dismissed by the scientific establishment. By clarifying common misconceptions, Tartaglia reveals how idealism could offer significant social benefits, encouraging a more philosophical society focused on the primacy of experience.

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Reality is the tapestry of perception (The Return of Idealism)

The materialist worldview robs reality of its colour, temperature, smell, leaving us with a picture that is radically at odds with our common sense understanding of the world. Helen Yetter-Chappell proposes an alternative: reality is made of experiences, woven together into an experiential tapestry that persists even when we aren’t looking.

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Do we really live in a fundamentally physical universe? Are we essentially material beings? Essentia Foundation is a new force in the cultural dialogue about the nature of reality. Find out more about us.

Reading

Essays

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Mind is not what it seems: On the mental foundation of the world

In this short and direct essay, A. A. Adedire argues a key philosophical point: those who object to idealism based on the assumption that the order and regularity of nature is incompatible with mind are mistaking mind for the personal self. The latter, he points out, is merely a narrative created by mind, which mind then wrongly identifies itself with. What truly defines mind—the only constant behind all experience—is the very awareness of experience. The constancy of this awareness, Adedire argues, is entirely consistent with the orderly nature of the world, as well as its continuity, and can therefore constitute the very foundation of the world.

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The amazing parallels between the Kabbalah and physics

In this interview, Natalia Vorontsova discusses consciousness and science from the perspective of Kabbalistic Panpsychism with Prof. Dr. Hyman Schipper. The parallels between quantum physics and the ancient Kabbalah are astonishing. Having studied the Kabbalah for many years, Dr Schipper also explains how this knowledge is applicable to many areas of thought and how it has impacted his life. It’s a frank and heart-warming conversation.

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A subjective world can still be real (The Return of Idealism)

Philosophers since Descartes have questioned whether our experience reflects a reality outside of our minds. In this essay, Prof. Franks argues that the basic insight of Kant’s approach—perspectivism—harmonizes better with our ordinary experience of the world, and with Einstein’s relativistic physics, than Berkeley’s immaterialist view.

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Going beyond Einstein: Linking time and consciousness

Here is day 2 of Essentia’s Time and Mind conference, our scientific discussion of the profound mystery of the passage of time and how it relates to consciousness. Many physicists maintain that the passage of time is purely a feature of mind, beyond physics itself, while others argue that it points to some new physical paradigm, perhaps associated with the marriage of relativity theory and quantum theory. Certainly, the status of time in any final theory of physics remains unclear. What is clear, however, is that a theory that encompasses time and mind will have to go beyond Einstein’s Block Universe.

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Meta-survival: on the incoherence of localized, countable subjectivity

Through a careful series of thought-experiments, and starting from mainstream assumptions regarding the relationship between mind and brain, Ola Nilsson shows that the notion of multiple, individual, local subjects of experience is incoherent. Consciousness, therefore, cannot fundamentally be a localized, countable process.

Seeing

Videos

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Does quantum mechanics beckon the end of naturalism? (The Return of Idealism)

Naturalism, the idea that there are no gods, is the leading theory of our time. However, in this instalment of our The Return of Idealism series, in partnership with the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), Bruce Gordon argues that quantum mechanics not only beckons the end of naturalism, but also points towards the existence of a transcendent mind. Essentia Foundation’s position is, nonetheless, that idealism is entirely compatible with naturalism.

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Wittgenstein on the practical significance of the physicalism vs idealism debate (The Return of Idealism)

Physical realists and idealists argue about whether physical objects exist, whether they have standalone reality, or are just part of a world of ideas. But can they, at root, help us solve some other important philosophical questions? In this instalment of our ‘The Return of Idealism’ series, in partnership with the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), Prof. David R. Cerbone argues that Wittgenstein can help us return to more practical questions. Wittgenstein’s position is, indeed, that the metaphysical debate between physical realists and idealists is of little practical significance. We at Essentia Foundation strongly disagree with this: we believe that different metaphysical views have profound significance for how we experience the meaning of life, our relationship with the world, expectations about death, and have direct bearing on even very practical considerations such as how to further develop medicine and exploit phenomena such as neuroplasticity and the placebo effect. Nonetheless, we believe Wittgentein’s thoughts are worth considering, if only to make clear the degree to which they miss the point. This essay was first published by the IAI on 29 February 2024.

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Beyond scientism: Re-humanizing the mind (The Return of Idealism)

Non-reductionism, the idea that mental states are not reducible to physical states, is the new orthodoxy in analytic philosophy of mind. However, in this instalment of our idealism series, in partnership with the Institute of Art and Ideas, Dr. Giuseppina D’Oro argues that analytic philosophy’s conception of psychology as a natural science is beholden to the dubious ideology of scientism, therefore not acknowledging the autonomy of the mental.

From the archives

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The Recognition Problem in consciousness research

To complement the well-known Hard Problem of consciousness, Dr. Kumar introduces the Recognition Problem: one implicitly recognizes and defines consciousness only as completely as one is meta-cognitively aware of it. This is critical in the field of consciousness studies, for that which one is trying to account for—namely, consciousness—is implicitly defined by the limits of one’s introspective self-awareness. Claims of success in reductively accounting for consciousness are thus entirely pre-conditioned on one’s introspective apprehension of the challenge at hand. This may explain why, to some, there isn’t even a Hard Problem at all: they are simply incapable of introspectively recognizing that which the Hard Problem refers to.

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Superpowers may be real and science needs to study them

What if the humanities would open their horizon to more metaphysical possibilities? Prof. Kripal has written a book about a future in which the humanities study the full human. In these superhumanities, the weird, the psi—in short, the impossible—is taken seriously metaphysically: anomalous phenomena are not only regarded as subjective truths, but also as objective claims about reality.

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Thoughts are more real than objects (The Return of Idealism)

Idealism is often regarded as a philosophy entailing that the world exists just in our heads, which is obviously false. Rising philosophical star Dr. Jeremy Dunham argues that this view of idealism is a misconception. Idealism is a much more realist worldview than we think, and more realist than its alternatives, as it does not deny the existence of the most real things there are: thoughts.

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