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Science-Based Reasons Why Materialism Is a Dead End

Bernardo Kastrup points out that there is an “impassable explanatory gap between material quantities and experiential qualities.”

Bernardo Kastrup, a Dutch computer scientist and philosopher who has published fundamental theoretical reflections on the mind matter problem, offers some useful reflections on why materialism can’t really be true.

First—and we sometimes forget this—science only exists as it is perceived by the human mind. We could do it well or badly or someway in between. We could succeed or fail. But it is a world of ideas, not things. He writes,

Materialism—the view that nature is fundamentally constituted by matter outside and independent of mind—is a metaphysics, in that it makes statements about what nature essentially is. As such, it is also a theoretical inference: we cannot empirically observe matter outside and independent of mind, for we are forever locked in mind. All we can observe are the contents of perception, which are inherently mental. Even the output of measurement instruments is only accessible to us insofar as it is mentally perceived.

Bernardo Kastrup, “Why Materialism is a Dead-End” at iai.tv (November 15, 2019)

Perhaps one reason we sometimes forget this is that we imagine science to be the equipment scientists use or the journals in which they express their ideas. But is actually the ideas themselves, sometimes expressed as massive explanations of cell biology or sometimes as simply as E=MC2

Old dingy residential unfinished basement cluttered with storage of random things

And then we must ask, what about all the rest of life? Is an experience really just its material coordinates in the brain? There is no science reason to believe so.

Kastrup writes:

For starters, there is nothing about the parameters of material arrangements—say, the position and momentum of the atoms constituting our brain—in terms of which we could deduce, at least in principle, how it feels to fall in love, to taste wine, or to listen to a Vivaldi sonata. There is an impassable explanatory gap between material quantities and experiential qualities, which philosophers refer to as the ‘hard problem of consciousness.’ Many people don’t recognize this gap because they think of matter as already having intrinsic qualities—such as color, taste, etc.—which contradicts mainstream materialism: according to the latter, color, taste, etc., are all generated by our brain, inside our skull. They don’t exist in the world out there, which is supposedly purely abstract.

Bernardo Kastrup, “Why Materialism is a Dead-End” at iai.tv (November 15, 2019)

Materialism has the advantage of being simple: You are your body. Your mind is your brain. The universe is a collection of rocks floating around.

But the fact that we can even think these things shows that that’s not really the universe we live in.

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Must science be materialist? Philosopher Peter Vickers says yes. Philosopher and computer scientist Bernardo Kastrup says no. To claim that science must oppose non-materialist ideas is to make it into an ideology. We know little about some aspects of our universe.


Bernardo Kastrup argues for a universal mind as a reasonable idea

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Science-Based Reasons Why Materialism Is a Dead End