Kastrup’s Mind & Body Revisited

From the Horgan / Katstrup “Meaning of Life” TV podcast, this is Katsrup’s elevator pitch, or breakfast TV interview response, to the request to explain his thesis in one minute:

(1) There isn’t really a mind-body problem and the hard problem of consciousness doesn’t exist. The problem is we corner ourselves in a impossible situation conceptually. The problem(s) exists only conceptually in our intellect.

(2) The origin of the problem is when we conceptualise the ontological category we call matter (body) which is supposed to be outside and independent of mind (consciousness). Matter is an explanatory abstraction of mind. We postulate it to explain the regularities of experience. The fact that I can change the universe by an act of volition. The fact that “we” seem to be separate minds inhabiting the same planet – we come up with this explanatory abstraction in mind as an attempt to reduce mind to an abstraction of mind. This cannot work, we are chasing our tails.

(3) What nature is telling us is that from the inside I experience who I am, what it’s like to be me. From the outside that thing that I am looks like a body. So, what we call a body is the extrinsic appearance of our conscious inner experience, and since my body is made of matter, I think that all matter is the outer appearance of inner experience.This doesn’t mean my inanimate (mobile phone) object is conscious in and of itself. The inanimate universe as a whole IS conscious and every living (sentient?) being is conscious. Living beings are disassociated complexes, disassociated outers of the universal mind. So, then there is only mind …

(4) … there is no “hard problem” of consciousness and there is no combinatorial problem of panpsychism … because (3) [the stuff of] consciousness is fundamentally unitary to begin with.

(1), (2) and (4) I agree with.
(3) I don’t, as I said when I reviewed the book.

Let’s unpick what I find wrong with (3). Basically two things.

Firstly, he is clearer that inanimate objects are not conscious in and of themselves, but that “living” things are. This places emphasis on life rather than sentience? This seems arbitrary and leaves some definitional questions?  In  the book he elaborates at length on independent alters – identifiable patterns of alterity, of inner experience. Here he’s distinguishing between those that are and are not conscious of their inner experience using life rather than sentience? The idea of unconscious inner experience sounds more like Smolin’s “views” from “here”.

Secondly, if the universe is conscious and living things are conscious, we seem to be using consciousness if different ways? And it seems the difference depends on the arbitrary boundaries we call self, that is me and not me? There are many “things” with nested and overlapping “outer” boundaries. Ontologies are arbitrary, but pragmatic.

[Aside – as well as the pan-psychic combinatorial problem he is using the hard problem two-ways – the subjective view of the inner experience and outer appearance – and the problem of how consciousness can interact with the outers in ways that are volitional and affecting physical outcomes.]

I still think he is missing a basic trick. That the fundamental patterns – the inner experience of objects – need not be consciousness, not being conscious of that knowledge, but the knowledge itself – the knowable pattern  of information that makes up me, the independent alter, the object. (Smolin’s beable views [and beable is so close to Deutsch / Marletto]).

And given this one additional conceptual slip, we are free to see consciousness itself in the aware, knowing sense as an evolved property from inanimate to living, sentient and highly evolved intelligence. An evolved property of information patterns, just like the material “model” (ie physics) is a conceived and  evolved pattern of information.

As I said in my earlier review if he’s using the word conscious – That Which Experiences – without awareness of that experience, it seems like word-play. I call those information patterns.


[Post Note: I keep forgetting that this early post on the disagreement between Kastrup and Pigliucci resulted in a very interesting discussion thread, with several older sources to follow-up.]

[Post Note: Also, Katsrup’s “chasing our tails” problem of self-reference, whereby psychological understanding of physical (and psychological) is necessarily flawed or incomplete, put me in mind of Smolin’s point about understanding the universe from the inside, whilst being part of, the universe. Particularly like this terse summary:

Imagine [the universe] built bit-by-bit
from relationships between events.

It’s where I’ve been for two decades now. I posted this follow-up to articulate this after thought.]

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