Is consciousness a function of the human mind, or an aspect of Universal Mind?

This is my submission for The Dark Wheel, a collaborative vlogging project that I’m in the process of getting off the ground. Please check the site out for videos made by others on the same question. Better still, submit your own.


7 thoughts on “Is consciousness a function of the human mind, or an aspect of Universal Mind?

  1. insomniac says:

    Working on it.

  2. Ciara says:

    I find this idea interesting because I usually hear people talking about universal consciousness as being one with everything, but it’s kind of nebulous and requires you to give up on critical thinking to really follow it, which will ultimately makes the philosophy a failure when reality hits. This kind of consciousness, as you understand it, is the primordial base from which every living thing built upon, so where do you think it came from?

  3. Frank says:

    So what you guess and fabricate as a model of consciousness – I really saw no sustained argument in there, let alone something vaguely resembling evidence – is that there is this other non-material part of reality that is responsible for the supposedly mysterious properties of consciousness. You propose it isn’t material, but that the material world “follows” it. Well, that is called Cartesian dualism, whether you acknowledge it as an appropriate term or not. In fact I see no real gap between your proposition and the plain vanilla Deepak Chopra quantum flapdoodle.

    The problem with dualism is that it presupposes a connection between the two forms of substance, while at the same time it demands that they are completely separate. However, If they are not completely separate we should find some signs of abberation in the physics. IOW, we should be able to measure that the laws of nature as we know them do not hold in conscious brains. But alas, we have not a shred of a beginning of a hunge of a lead of a suspicion that that’s the case from experiment. On the other hand, if these two substances were completely separate, the non-material stuff cannot exert any influence on the material stuff and it offers no explanation for any observable in the world we perceive around us.

    The thing is, if you really had read about this subject, you would have known about this major knock-out objection to Cartesian dualism. And yes, also cognitive scientists that think there is a “hard problem”, like for instance David Chalmers, reject dualistic models such as your own.

    Another problem is that you start with declaring that there is something very mysterious about consciousness, but fail to address the question what consciousness is and what is so mysterious about it. Again the mistake is that of someone who only scratched the surface of the question and the literature. If you want some grasp of what consciousness is and what part of it is puzzling the scientists, philosophers and cognitive scientists, start reading The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger. It gives a dazzling insight into the human mind and how it simulates a self out of little pieces. Although not nearly perfect, the models scientist are making nowadays explain a lot, whereas your model of consciousness lacks explanatory power whatsoever. As such it shows the hallmark signs of crackpot theory.

    Another remarkable assertion you made on video is that the universal mind wants to evolve into our kind of consciousness. But evolution is a process in the material world. How do you jump to the conclusion that the non-material is subject to a material evolution process? How do you know that the universal mind you come up with, but provide no evidence for, “wants to evolve into us”? Did you speak with the Almighty Spaghetti Monster? Or did you mind read the supposed universal mind? Besides that, it’s as anthropomorphic an idea as anthropomorphic ideas can get, the kind you discredit later on yourself.

    And of course Stephen Hawking hasn’t elaborated on consciousness, he’s a goddamn physicist. So it’s not his expertise and he probably does right to keep silent on the subject. But wait, what about the cognitive scientists? Aren’t they suspiciously silent on cosmology? There might be a global conspiracy going on here. You are free of course to dish up any cosmic scale theory ofr consciousness, but don’t expect there to be no opposition to it. I personally think you are connecting some (partially non-existent) dots the wrong way.

  4. Darryl says:

    Frank, you completely misunderstand my argument. I’m a monist. I know what Cartesian dualism is and I definitely don’t subscribe to it. The problem with monism that there are two ways of looking at it: materialistic and idealistic. Neither suffices, as an explanation, because one seeks to make matter primary and the other consciousness. I’m a neutral monist, recognising that both go together inseparably.

    In any case, I don’t think we’re going to see eye to eye, because I detect a tendency to poo-poo abstract thinking, which is something I value greatly. So I’ll leave it there. Feel free to have another go, but I won’t be engaging in a back and forth with you.

  5. Frank says:

    Well, saying that you are a monist doesn’t magically make you one. Even when you try to declare yourself immune to articulated opposition up front on basis of supposed poo-poo thinking. Sounds a bit too much like a voodoo jinx to me.

    If you are a monist than please tell me how your model which supposes material stuff and the elusive mind stuff not being aspects of each other, differs from the dualism proposed by Descartes and others who supposed material stuff and elusive soul stuff not being aspects of each other.

    BTW, I’m a fan of both abstract thinking and fantasy. But at the same time I think it’s important that were a relation with the real world is suggested it’s crucial to provide something more than suggestion alone. What is your real world based evidence that consciousness is not a product of the physical substrate whereas all aspects of consciousness demonstrably depend on it?

    Well, I might end this with some jinx myself, to rid me of dialogue up front, but that would be a lame treat, wouldn’t it? If we are sending messages on the internet we should welcome dialogue or be silent forever.

  6. Darryl says:

    I’ll give you the condensed version of why I’m not a Cartesian dualist.

    Explaining reality in terms of matter and consciousness – this is just a model, not reality itself, in the same way that the particle and the wave are just models. In other words, language puts unnecessary and cumbersome constraints on ideas, forcing us into a kind of tunnel vision. Reality itself (that which exists beyond the tiny appearance of reality accessible to creatures) does not care about the theories we impose upon it.

    What we know is that the universe emerged from a singularity, an incomprehensible, impenetrable, infinite oneness. Reality “appears” to consist of both consciousness and matter, but again, these are just ideas about reality. When you get right down to it, consicousness and matter must be the same essence, because of their origin.

    Lumbered as we are with a history of Cartesian dualism, and an even longer history of religious tradition about the soul/psyche, the manner in which we’re conditioned to think puts some hurdles in our path. In trying to get past these, we can model it one of two ways:

    (1) Matter is doing consciousness.
    (2) Consciousness is doing matter.

    The two are actually the same thing. It’s not a causal relationship. The problem I see with the typical materialistic monism in the West is that it wants there to be a causal relationship. It sees the universe as essentially lifeless, where consciousness somehow sprouted on a planet like a fungus. This is not a rationally satisfying explanation. The hard problem remains. In getting to grips with that, I suggest that consciousness is every bit as fundamental to reality as matter. Life (and consciousness) exists in the universe because it is a fundamental property of the universe. Life does not come from non-life.

    Western thinking emphasises (1) at the expense of (2). Eastern philosophy tends to commit the opposite error of emphasising (2) at the expense of (1). Neither works, so we need a third option, a neutral monism that sees the base “substance” of reality as neither consciousness nor matter, but something else that allows for both.

    You state: “What is your real world based evidence that consciousness is not a product of the physical substrate whereas all aspects of consciousness demonstrably depend on it?”

    Don’t you see this is an impossible question. You ask for physical evidence that consciousness is non-physical. If I had evidence, then it would be physical, wouldn’t it? What I am confronted with is that consciousness is a mystery that science has not been able to penetrate. Therefore abstract thinking is required to make progress towards a workable theory of consciousness. If you conflate abstract thinking with fantasy (as you seem to), then perhaps you would like to ask Hawking for “real world” evidence of his multiples universes.

    The “dependency” you state can just as easily be modelled as a correlative rather than causative relationship. By analogy, you would never say that time depends on space, or space depends on time. No, you understand the mutual dependency of both together as space-time. Now, extend that understanding to consciousness-space-time (a singular essence), and you might begin to see whether I’m coming from.

    Now, please stop trying to stereotype me as a Cartesian dualist, when you’ve taken no more than a cursory look at my views. Why would I write a book called “I, Universe” if I saw myself as a “soul” separate from my physical body? Clearly, I don’t even regard the notion of “I” as separate from the entire physical universe.

  7. Frank says:

    You say your view is a neutral monistic one. Let’s have a closer look at that. You lump in life and consciousness in one and the same category. Why is not clear, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, you have good reasons for that. Next you say that life cannot come from non-life. This is not consistent with neutral monism, since in neutral monism two distinct categories (in your case life/consciousness and matter) come from a neutral essence that is neither life/consciousness nor matter. So your neutral essence is either not neutral (but exhibits the life/conscious part already) or your claim is incorrect.

    Please observe that I didn’t suppose a causal relation between your two substance categories. Still if these categories acting in the world add up to the things we experience (i.e. physics and consciousness) they should be related in some quantifiable way if with your model the world is to be explained at all. Actually space-time serves as a good example. According to special relativity an observer moving at the speed of light experiences no time dimension in it’s light cone. A slow moving observer will experience a much bigger time dimension. The relation between the relative velocity between observers and their space-time experience (i.e. the form of their light cone) can be exactly described by Einstein’s General Relativity.

    If with “correlative rather than causative” you mean a dependency as in the space-time analogy, than the question is how you model the (supposedly non-causational) relation between your categories. Please observe also that you yourself suppose an influence (causal or nor non-causal) from consciousness on matter with words like “consciousness is doing matter” and so my question to you still stands: What is your real world based evidence that consciousness is not a product of the physical substrate whereas all aspects of consciousness demonstrably depend on it?

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