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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Science and Reality

Scientific naturalism rules out any supernatural realm, as does this essay. There is some indication that the future affects the pastGiven that such particles are not just in the lab, but in our brains, then our thoughts are likewise influenced by the future. And we all know that the past, in the form of memory and genetic programming affects the future. So it all moves in lockstep, exactly as it should. Past-present-future is illusory because immutable self is illusory. To the degree that self exists (not necessary for life), the role of such is clearly to play the role and enjoy the ride.

Concerning what it is to be (an ever so aware) human, science tells us, quite clearly, that free will is illusory. Nature + nurture (environment)reaction, so when we think we are acting (or not acting), we are really reacting, even with complicated tasks. There is no role of conscious self (there is only experience), which is to say it is not. Which is why pernicious concepts such as free will are beyond illusory: they have no meaning, except for convenience and self concept. This illusion of self happens to no one.

One may counter the claim of the non-existence of self with "gut feeling" or "I obviously am!" (am what: the centre of narrative gravity?) The consciousness that is home to such separate mind plus body assertions is, in fact, a mere bag of tricks, one of which is a non-conceptual theory about itself, gained through experience. Or, possibly, an emergent calculable state of matter. This collection of cooperating (?) cells we call our body has evolved the pro-survival tactic of postulating a self which then plays host to impulses, memory, and a sense of separateness.

It is unfortunate that influence by the future does not result in better decision making! Society then makes use of the (consensus) concept of free will in reacting to those bad decisions reactions.


  1. Otto, nice collection of hyperlinked essays. I may try to do the same this spring, with an emphasis is that is also introspective but more concerned with organic no-till gardening as a conduit to the zen-like states of awareness that you touch upon here (because in conservative Indiana, if it's a more tangible activity, I won't get weird stares, and maybe also get a small audience).

    Will share this one, thanks.

  2. It's really well organized and could be expanded a lot, Otto. I need to learn about "mouse-over" pop-ups for online publishing, to include really brief snippets to included hyperlinks. I think you are doing a great job with blogspot but there are some real limitations with this software, not sure if it's worth learning html to deal with these things in blogspot.. but you have the great content for sure, most bloggers have very little this original, especially with all credit given by links like this :-)

    1. Thanks, Dave, This writing style that could be described as "heavily hyperlinked terse prose" seems natural to me. I was also careful to link (mostly) to others who also appear to write from an illusion-free perspective.

  3. From my perspective, the mind, ie 'consciousness' is not a 'thing', or something that actually exists in the usual way we think of things existing. It's an experience that we have when the brain works properly.

    As for 'free will', we do have some small measure of it, as in 'do I eat chicken or fish?', some marry, others do not, and so on.

    1. You write that consciousness is "an experience that we have when the brain works properly." So far I am with you, but let's delve deeper: to whom does this experience befall? Or: Does experience require one who experiences? I feel that Occam's razor may apply here where the simplest (and therefore, most likely) interpretation dispenses of any assumption of independent, separate souls.

      Likewise for free will: When there is no self, free will loses meaning. The case, both religious (Buddhist) and philosophical, for this is in the first post, under the heading "Here is another method based on being nothing at all:" I won't be too upset if you don't go there, though. That enlightenment stuff isn't everyone's cup of tea!

    2. "To whom does the experience befall?" "Do we have free will? "It seems to me you are asking the wrong questions. For you to invoke Occam's razor seems rather precipitous, as well.

      Also, what exactly do you mean by the "self"? Are you religious? I assume you must be, since you appear to have equated a particular concept of enlightenment with religious jargon, which if it's what I think it is, I don't consider particularly enlightened. There is perhaps more than one concept of what enlightenment is, and they may not all be based on religion. You mention Buddhism, but perhaps you mean to invoke Gurdjieff? Ideas and concepts derived by religions are based on ignorance and superstition, always have an agenda, and should be avoided.

      You should also be cautious of 'philosophies', as they tend to be reflections of the thinking of particular periods of history.

      My impression is that you would greatly benefit from a little exercise that eventually empties the mind of the immense baggage of harmful, confusing and unfounded beliefs that clutter the mind, especially for those who seek enlightenment and have done a great deal of reading.

      It requires a certain mindfulness. Whenever you find yourself thinking you know something about the self, or the Self, or God, or enlightenment - you get the picture - let go of those thoughts, ideas and beliefs. If you wish, you can say "I am not that", and let go of the ideas and beliefs. See them as fantasies that are floating away from you like the breath you exhale. Also, avoid taking in new ideas, or developing new opinions. To achieve enlightenment, one must first empty the mind of the myriad of cluttering, distracting thoughts and ideas that fill it and confuse it.

    3. I merely borrow, David, from esoteric Buddhism the wonderfully concise term "anatta". No way am I Buddhist, though. I am atheist, according to the relevant Wikipedia entry.

      I appreciate your advice on unloading cognitive baggage. I won't say "I have none" (I try not to lie), but anatta, when taken seriously (as in: not just a mental exercise) does tend to neutralize such.