metemsolipMy daughter Sarah (who is planning to study theology) has insisted that I should explain here the idea of metempsychotic solipsism, something that came up when we were talking about something or other recently.

Basically, this is an improved version of reincarnation. There are various problems with the theory of reincarnation. Obviously people do not die and get born in perfect synchronisation, so it seems there has to be some kind of cosmic waiting room where unborn people wait for their next turn. Since the population of the world has radically increased over the last few centuries, there must have been a considerable number of people waiting – or some new people must come into existence to fill the gaps. If the population were to go down again, there would be millions of souls left waiting around, possibly for ever – unless souls can suddenly and silently vanish away from the cosmic waiting room. Perhaps you only get so many lives, or perhaps we’re all on some deeply depressing kind of promotion ladder, being incentivised, or possibly punished, by being given another life. It’s all a bit unsatisfactory.

Second, how does identity get preserved across reincarnations? You palpably don’t get the same body and by definition there’s no physical continuity. Although stories of reincarnation often focus on retained memories it would seem that for most people they are lost (after all you have to pass through the fetal stage again, which ought to serve as a pretty good mind wipe) and it’s not clear in any case that having a few memories makes you the same person who had them first. A lot of people point out that ongoing physical change and growth mean it’s arguable whether we are in the fullest sense the same person we were ten years ago.

Now, we can solve the waiting room problem if we simply allow reincarnating people to hop back and forth over time. If you can be reincarnated to a time before your death, then we can easily chain dozens of lives together without any kind of waiting room at all. There’s no problem about increasing or reducing the population: if we need a million people you can just go round a million times. In fact, we can run the whole system with a handful of people or… with only one person! Everybody who ever lived is just different incarnations of the same person! Me, in fact (also you).

What about the identity problem? Well, arguably, what we need to realise is that just as the body is not essential to identity (we can easily conceive of ourselves inhabiting a different body), neither are memories, or knowledge, or tastes, or intelligence, or any of these contingent properties. Instead, identity must reside in some simple ultimate id with no distinguishing characteristics. Since all instances of the id have exactly the same properties (none) it follows by a swoosh of Leibniz’s Law (don’t watch my hands too closely) that they are all the same id. So by a different route, we have arrived at the same conclusion – we’re all the same person! There’s only one of us after all.

The moral qualities of this theory are obvious: if we’re all the same person then we should all love and help each other out of pure selfishness. Of course we have to take on the chin the fact that at some time in the past, or worse, perhaps in the future, we have been or will be some pretty nasty people. We can take comfort from the fact that we’ve also been, or will be, all the best people who ever lived.

If you don’t like the idea, send your complaints to my daughter. After all, she wrote this – or she will.


  1. 1. Eric Thomson says:

    You are a good father. 🙂

  2. 2. Kevin Kim says:

    I wish your daughter luck with her theo studies. Most people who go into theology, as opposed to something like religious studies, normally have some sort of personal religious motivation. Is this the case with your daughter? (And if that’s too personal a question to answer in public, please feel free either to ignore it or to answer privately:

    In any case, your daughter may be interested in early John Hick on the subject in question: his Death and Eternal Life deals, in part, with metempsychosis/transmigration issues, as does his much thinner (but just as substantive) text Philosophy of Religion, in which he points out some of the same problems with reincarnation that you do. One caveat is that Hick, like Heidegger and Wittgenstein, comes in “Earlier” and “Later” versions, so your daughter might discover that Earlier Hick is at war with Later Hick on some issues.

  3. 3. Peter says:

    I don’t think she’ll mind me saying it’s not personal religious motivation (at least, that’s what she tells me!)

    Thanks, I’ll mention Hick, though I dare say she will read this herself.

    On the ‘waiting room’ issues, I suppose that if the world is all an illusion anyway, as I think some traditions would say, they don’t really arise.

  4. 4. Vicente says:

    In the frame of the current space-time and physics paradigm, reincarnation can’t fit. What concessions are you ready to make, for not discarding it in one single blow?

    To me, Spinoza was on to something, all that could exist exists for God (reality)to be infinite. What if reincarnation is just a way of identifying conscious points of view of reality, if we are just “God” senses to watch the infinite creation, all the good and all the evil. With no time, everything happens concurrently, and we just move through it, like going from one film frame to the next one, but with the film remaining. It would be like an epiphenomenal James conscious stream watching creation. We are all each other (reminds me we are the walrus by the T.B.). In this way, we also solve the multiplicity of consciousness or multiple minds problem.

    Good luck with your career, Sarah.

  5. 5. Lamy says:

    I got to a similar endpoint via an “everything happens” version of the multiverse. I think this idea originated with Wheeler, though I may have distorted it. It’s also related to Borges’ library of Babylon, which consists of all possible texts with all possible “typos” or variants. In both of these scenarios, each person / text is equivalent to every other through their variants.

    The multiverse also gives us some interesting possibilities for reincarnation.

  6. 6. Kevin Kim says:

    So now I’m curious to know what motivates Sarah to study theology, since most people who do so are personally invested in the subject. Sarah may be the first person I’ve heard of who is interested in theo without actually having an theological agenda of her own. Truth be told, an interest in religious studies might be easier to understand: you can be an atheist and be into religious studies, since it’s a human science along the lines of psychology, sociology, or anthropology. It’s much harder to study (and do) theology without being driven by a theological impulse.

    Assuming she has no intention of becoming a theologian, what does Sarah hope to do with a theo degree? Teach theology? If so, and if she’s of an anthropological bent, she might enjoy comparative theology, which would get her beyond the relatively narrow horizons of Judeo-Christian-Muslim (Abrahamic) monotheism and mingling with traditions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism—not to mention more tucked-away traditions like Zoroastrianism, which still exists in sad little pockets in Iran. And there’s no reason not to include polytheistic traditions in comparative theology—classical Greek and Mesoamerican streams are there for the exploring.

    Anyway… just curious. And if Sarah’s really up to a challenge, she can crack open a copy of Bernard Lonergan’s Method in Theology, a book that both you and she might find interesting because it’s purportedly about theology but is, in reality, more about cognition. Lonergan wrote a great deal about cognition, but my impression is that he did most of his writing completely uninformed by neuroscience.

  7. 7. Richard J R Miles says:

    Peter, you seemed to have got the attention of the ‘Facebook Human Consciousness Project’ but never mind.

  8. 8. Philosopher Eric says:

    When I told my wife the latest topic she said “Ha! Maybe that will do you some good!” Well maybe…

    I personally have no use for theory that has a supernatural premise, though I’m also not narcissistic enough to assume that my own beliefs are “inherently true.” (Surprised?) I assume that reality occurs purely through a “cause and effect,” or “non-magic” dynamic, simply out of personal convenience — magic makes logical assessments of how reality functions (or science), obsolete to the extent that this does indeed occur. Regarding my theory itself however, a supernatural premise changes nothing. Here instead of “evolution” being responsible for what we are, perhaps a “God” has instead implemented all of this business. So regardless of our actual origins, observe that we should still require a practical understanding of our nature. Therefore it might be stated that I’m actually working to help humanity understand God’s design!

    If so, however, then might you bring my work to your local Vicar to show him the great work that Philosopher Eric is doing for us all? This is not something which I would recommend, as religions often frown heavily upon anything beyond their own specific messages. (Narcissism?)

    Thank you Sarah for letting me get this one off my chest, and I am quite sure that your future studies will serve you well.

  9. 9. Hunt says:

    “Well, arguably, what we need to realise is that just as the body is not essential to identity (we can easily conceive of ourselves inhabiting a different body), neither are memories, or knowledge, or tastes, or intelligence, or any of these contingent properties.”

    The key assumption, of course. If memory, etc. don’t determine identity then something else does, but nothing else does, and the null id implies we’re all the same. I take the counter argument that memory determines a large chunk of identity, perhaps with a few of the other things you mention. I might be in a better position than most to think this is true, having been exposed to psychotropics (mostly legal) that alter most of those things. The one thing that remains, and the one thing that always moors identity is memory of who I am. If tomorrow I awoke with memories of being you, I would probably be you, for the most part. I might feel and act a little strange at first, but I’m sure I’d get over it.

  10. 10. Philosopher Eric says:

    Hunt you’re definitely preaching to the choir for me with that one! I consider “memory” to be a relatively complex third variety of input to the conscious mind (beyond “sensations” and “senses”), and it’s specifically defined as “past consciousness, that remains.” This work is found in “Chapter 9: The Conscious Mind,” and my brother was able to master it without reading one word more of my theory. For this discussion particularly I do recommend the PDF rather than the website, as it provides a boxlike diagram of my model of the conscious mind.

  11. 11. Vanessa says:

    Having read Robert A Monroe’s books about his explorations in other dimensions (‘Journeys out of the Body’ etc), it seems that we have to consider that we are able to ‘live’ other lives in non-physical form. The usual reincarnation argument seems to me to only consider human existence which, by its physical nature, puts us into a space-time scenario fraught with logistical problems. However, according to Monroe’s ‘communications’ with those who inhabit ‘other dimensions’ (for want of a better description), there is not a space-time factor in these non-physical dimensions and so in some way things are happening there simultaneously. Personally I can’t actually get my head around this concept – as somehow our various existences, physical or otherwise, contribute to our ‘personality’ which continues to exist even when our physical vehicle no longer does. There is also (apparently) a whole host of ‘souls’ who are not incarnated and can, if they so desire, can choose to incarnate here or elsewhere. Also (apparently) we do not use all our ‘soul energy’ in our current existence – just a small part of it (the rest residing wherever it is we came from and go back to), and it is possible to be incarnated in more than one place at a time, although not necessarily as a physical being. The idea that there is a problem because there aren’t enough souls to incarnate on Earth if we continue expanding is moot because there is so much of this soul energy available – it’s a bit like trying to imagine the vastness of our physical universe when we are just an infinitesimally small part of it. And these ‘souls’ aren’t really waiting patiently because the time factor isn’t really a factor at all.

    I must admit that I do find all this hard to rationalise but, in some intuitive way, it does make sense to me. If you really want to get into more detail (after first reading Robert Monroe), Bruce Moen, one of the graduates of The Monroe Institute that Robert Monroe set up to do research into human consciousness, has written some intriguing books – a series called ‘Exploring the Afterlife’. They are fascinating if approached with as open a mind as possible!!

  12. 12. Iacopo Vettori says:

    This hypothesis was called monopsychism by Liebniz referring to Siger of Brabant, Averrois and Aristotle. It is similar to a version of Induism by Adi Shankara. In modern philosophy, it was called “Open Individualism” by Daniel Kolak, who presented it as a solution for the problem of personal identity in his book “I Am You” (2004). Personally, I found my own version of this theory that I tried to describe in a reductionist way on my website, and currently I continue to write about it, comparing it with the Derek Parfit view that you presente in this site some weeks ago. We have a Group on FB that is called “I Am You”, with many partecipants, also having different views but interested in the subject.

  13. 13. Kar says:

    Doesn’t it sound a lot like the “Universal Mind Hypothesis”? I love it!

  14. 14. Vicente says:

    Hi Kar, long time no hear…

    Irrespective of Peter’s view, yes it does to me, indeed. But, if I remember well, the idea of some kind of self continuation is not present in the universal mind. It is more like the universal mind emerging hither and thither, with no continuation or link, isn’t it? In this case, the idea of continuation is central, memories preservation main issue (time concept is the underlying problem probably).

    Would the universal mind architecture consider some kind of “network drive” to store backups?

  15. 15. Kar says:

    Hi Vicente, long time no hear… indeed!
    I have hard time keeping up. Peter is cranking out one amazing article after another…

    As for the network drive, I think it becomes irrelevant when every consciousness is the same being. If each individual is one instance of the same universal mind, and it retains some memory of the universal mind, then it becomes unclear who is the reincarnation of who because they are only related by being related to the universal mind. There is no direct relationship among themselves.

    Funny that one can arrive at the concept of the universal mind from the concept of reincarnation by reducing the number of souls to 1, which I would argue is the most logical thing to do (no other number will fit the bill because all other numbers are arbitrary), and then at the end, the concept of universal mind renders the concept of reincarnation irrelevant, because they are now all different instances of the same universal mind, and left without some token (the soul) to pass along among themselves for reincarnation.

    Just checked out the book “I am you” on Amazon. It is $400 a piece! Otherwise it will be interesting to see how another person coming from another direction could come to the same concept.

  16. 16. Vicente says:

    Kar, yes quite funny, even the Upanishads, many centuries ago, already referred to the idea of one single light shining through different shapes and coloured windows (brains?), and free of charge btw.

    As always, the frustrating side is how difficult is to reconcile these concepts with our daily experience, and further more with the idea of space and time (flow) at any level.

    Actually, according to this model there is no really re-incarnation, there is one initial incarnation, and then a biological replacement chain to sustain the incarnated states(Peter, why only humans, why not animals and aliens?).

    There are examples for which we can accept this to happen, if we assume that fundamental qualia are the same for everybody, wouldn’t two people going through the same (or almost) phenomenal experience, be the same conscious entity from their own perspectives, during the experience at least?

    Still, main problems:

    1. Fragmentation: why do we experience this world as many?

    2. Time and memories: Why don’t we keep track of “previous” events? some monks affirm that beyond the brain memory they can access a more profound levels of recording related to some kind of universal archive… (nerwork drive?)

    Kar, consider that all these approaches force an epiphenomenal consciousness model, no free will is possible in any sense, I you are me, we can’t disagree, just watch what’s going from different perspectives, and even that is difficult to explain.


    Nosing about stimulated by your post, and some of the comments, I just learnt that among Oxford’s Theology faculty members there are a Prof. Sarah and a Dr. Sarah, which combined with the theological background of the name itself, and your daughters inclination, can be considered as evidence to support the metempsychotic solipsim names conservation law… 😉

    It seems that many have made them the same question…

  17. 17. Iacopo Vettori says:

    Kar, Vincente, your observations are right, but it’s possible to go further. I thought about this from almost 10 years, talking with many people with similar or different views, and studied the texts of Kolak and Parfit. My view is that once reduced the souls to only one, it is possible to get rid of the soul concept at all, and to come to a full reductionist theory. If we give up about the “network drive” and the “big soul”, what remains it just a function that may interpret the brain states as mind states, including the experience of the passing time. There’s no need to presume that this function must be considered as a different instance for each of us. This might be call “the subjective function”, and because it may comprehend a “subjective time”, I think it may leave room also for the possibility of free will.

  18. 18. Vicente says:

    Iacopo, yes we can sure go further, but why is it that we can’t access straight forward to this ultimate reality? why is everything a conundrum? why do we live constraint to this “way of reality”? if there is no time, why do we suffer the illusion of it? why is “the subjective function” output fragmented in many you and me…

    now I have remembered Placebo’s “every you and every me”, this post is funky(or pop)-evoking.

    Vanessa’s remark I do find all this hard to rationalise but, in some intuitive way, it does make sense to me , which I share, is also very intriguing, why on earth should we be familiar to these ideas that crash on daily prosaic facts, or is it that this is the very wrong concept in the first place, that nothing is prosaic and self-explained, and everything is such a mystery…

    I stick to Spinoza if reality is infinite then everything has to be…

  19. 19. Iacopo Vettori says:

    This theory cannot answer to all the questions, as any other theory. Everything will remain a conundrum anyway. But in my view, it is the best answer to all the problems about personal identity. Basically, I find it is the only definitive answer to the existential question: “how happens that I find myself to be one of all the existing beings?”. This question is much deeper than what may seem at first sight, and this answer is the only one that can definitively remove the sense of arbitrariness of all the alternative proposals.

    Anyway, I may suggest some answers to other questions you ask: if we think to the Max Tegmark’s classification of all the possible world, it’s reasonable to imagine that worlds like this are much more common than worlds where only one, unfragmented mind exists. The Darwin theory favours the proliferation of simple beings, and incidentally, to make it functioning it is necessary that these beings were not aware of their common “subjective function”.

    Maybe that the existence of a single unfragmented mind was the goal of the development of our cognitive capabilities. David Deutsch proposed this with the name “the final anthropic principle”. Anyway, I don’t want to support such teleological ideas. I stay to the simpler model where we are just like different characters played always by the same actor. Once we concede that the “time problem” is not a issue, we may see that it resolves in an easy way problems as the persistence of personal identity during our lifetime, and I believe that we may also avoid the apparent dualism that the example of the “single actor” may suggest.

  20. 20. Kar says:

    For the question of why we still experience this world as fragmented many, I have to quote Daniel Kolak’s example (I have been search online for some more info about his book) about dream: Even though in our dream, we experience other people as them, “they” are nonetheless the creations of our own mind. We experience the dream world as many.

    If we get rid of the universal mind altogether, how can we account for qualia?

    I have always thought that the philosophy of mind is intrinsically intertwined with the philosophy of time because the “flow” problem in time is really a problem of the mind. The A-series and B-series are only different because of the existence of consciousness. In a zombie world, time is just a B-series fact and the concept of “now” has no meaning. For a conscious mind though, the distinction is huge. One exists in “now”. But this now keep “moving” forward. Or does it? Why is there a special point in the time line that is so special? Why is “now” now? To exist is to exist now. To exist in the past might just as well be dead. Is the past real? Is the present real? Is the present world real? And the questions typically found in the philosophy of time gradual morphs into the questions found in the philosophy of mind.

    By the way, I found the book “A world without time” by Palle Yourgrau very illuminating….

  21. 21. Vicente says:

    Kar, are you accepting the solipsistic approach? because dreaming is the solipsistic reference scenario? and still, when dreaming I don’t access the acting characters subjective experience, if they had any !!??… So, is our “real” life (alert states I mean)also a dream?

    I don’t know, maybe fragmentation occured for the “single mind” to escape boredom and solitude…

    have a look at at the blogroll. I completely agree with Bownds, we are drowning in gibberish… in this sense, and resuming the other thread of this post, maybe, we should start paying attention to other “learning” techniques or methods… to somehow access “directly” to this reality… in theology, and this is where I am going to, this is called revelation … maybe an instant looking through a fleeting tear on the curtain can provide more knowledge than a whole life of melting your brain trying to understand Gödel… if not, maybe just forget about all these disquisitions and make something useful out of your life… based on any hypothesis of your own convenience.

    Thanks for the reference, looks very interesting…even just from the history of science point of view, at any rate.

  22. 22. Jorge says:

    There’s a story getting copy-pasted all over the internet called “The Egg” which is essentially metempsychotic solipcism.

    While it is certainly a feel-good metaphysical stance, and one that encourages ethical behavior (that ulcerated beggar starving to death? That’s YOU buddy!) it actually doesn’t really answer some of the really thorny questions, like “what’s the threshold of complexity required for consciousness?” and brings up problematic aspects of its own: “is there another time dimension that account for the order in which you reincarnate?” It’s also dualistic, like any other theory of reincarnation (except for Boltzmann-type reincarnation).

    Occam’s razor (on top of my usual cynicism) makes me look at this idea with profound skepticism.

  23. 23. Iacopo Vettori says:

    Kar, maybe qualia doesn’t need to use a universal mind to be shared, maybe they just suggest that the “subjective function” operates always following the same rules.

    Jorge, my effort in studying what here is called “metempsychotic solipsism” (and Kolak called “Open Individualism”), is just to show that it is possible to imagine a reductionist version of it. This would require al long discussion (I wrote many papers on my website), but basically I think that once reduced the “big soul” to only one, and once accepting the reductionist instance that every mental phenomena must have a physical counterpart, we may realize that this “big soul” is completely useless, so I introduced instead a “function of subjectivity” that doesn’t need to be thought as a “spirit”, but just represents the phenomenon that allow every state of brain to be interpreted as a state of mind, exactly what each of us experiences subjectively in every moment. I want to show that is more reductionist to think that it has no intrinsic identity, instead than to think that every time it assumes or inherits from the physical world a different identity.

    Moreover, I think that this conception does not need to give any explication about the functioning of the consciousness more than alterantive theories, on the contrary, it may ignore how and when the consciousness begin to manifests itself. Only other theories should identify a precise instant where a given consciousness raises, because they presuppones that in that moment it must occurr a definitive selection of a particular personal identity.

    I think that the “order of reincarnation” is a false problem. If we have a “subjective time” (that we experience directly) and another general relation that allows to sort some spatiotemporal events, we have all that we need to experience the life. There’s no way to determine a (useless) meta-time where the subjective experiences should be ordered. We ask for it only to satisfy a curiosity that anyhow, could not influence anything in the physical world. So Occam’s razor may safely cut it away, but this does not affect the plausibility of the theory.

  24. 24. Kar says:

    I think solipsism and panpsychism merge together under the universal mind or big soul or whatever concept. If we still use the CPU versus software metaphor, as the universal mind being the CPU and the individual people are the SIMs, the world is nothing but the action of the CPU playing out the simulation game. Isn’t this solipsism? But if you look further, even the virtual chair in the SIM world is the CPU playing out the game environment, everything gets a bit of the “mind”, there may be some quale associates with that. Isn’t that panpsychism?

    So, after that, solipsism or panpsychism, it is just a name.

  25. 25. Kar says:

    I have to think a little more about your point of getting rid of the “big soul” and still retaining the concept of qualia. To me, it seems like you will up with qualia that belong to nobody, which by definition, cannot be possible. It is not clear to me that when we talk about the “state of mind”, whose mind are we talking about. So, let me digest a little bit more.

  26. 26. Vicente says:

    Jorge, could you please provide us with “The Egg” the tale…

    Talking about EGG and global consciousness, you have remind me that there is an interesting initiative, I found long time ago, and had forgot about. (hosted by Princeton U.)

    The idea is that random envent generators (white noise) get biased when there are situations that make many people have coherent conscious experiences… like paying attention to the same thing.


    represents the phenomenon that allow every state of brain to be interpreted as a state of mind

    This is sheer dual-aspect monism, many times discussed in this place before…. hmmm “interpreted”… by who? how(the phenomenon)? a subjectivity function has to answer these questions.

    It leads to pansychism… where the conscious properties linked to every material element includes a subjective experience itself, then you are forced to revisit the combinatorial problem, how do all these subjective (PoVs) elements are combined to produce your own subjective experience? and so on.

    Kar, well yes everything gets a bit of the mind, but panpsychism preserves subjectivity (a fundamental element of consciousness concept btw), while for solypsism subjectivity is meaningless… it is a degenerated (in the mathematical sense) case of conscious theories.

  27. 27. Iacopo Vettori says:

    Kar, maybe you are right with your observation about qualia, but I actually don’t want demonstrate that reductionism is true, I just want to show that metempsychotic solipsism (or open individualism, according with Kolak) can be coherent also adopting a full reductionist view. I have a reductionist approach just because reductionists are the most skeptical people about this possibility. If we may concede the existence of something similar to a “big soul”, it is more easy to show the advantages of this theory versus the “many separated souls” model (I wrote a lot about it on my web site).

    Jorge, yes this is dual-aspect monism, it seems to me that it is the best explication of the existence of the mind in a reductionist approach. In many ways, I am following the same reasoning that Derek Parfit did in “Reasons and Persons”, where he considers personal identity in a reductionist way, but asks us to accept that our own survival in some cases may become undefined. Parfit quotes other reductionist philosophers and they try to carefully avoid any reference to abstract concept of persons, but they cannot deny that thought exists and “is going on”. So dual-monism appears as a reasonable way to relate mind events with physical (brain) events.

    What in my view is destined to remain undemonstrable by reductionism, is the necessity of the same existence of our mental experience. We know that it is true because we experience it directly, but for a reductionist, a zombie-world should work as well as our own world. This is the reason I am not interested to support a complete reductionist view, but I am convinced that metempsychotic solipsism / open individualism may have its good reasons whatever we think about this specific problem.

  28. 29. Vicente says:

    Thanks Jorge, funny tale.

    The point is that in the model presented in the tale, all the experience is gained in one go. It is not coherent with sequential re-incarnations, all incarnations are concurrent (overlapping for some time periods). Funny, but inconsistent even within the story frame.

    Well, the other possibility is that while the “soul” is going through one incarnation, the rest (all the other people) are just “dummies”, philosophical zombies! ha ha, just one conscious person surrounded by philosophical zombies, for each Universe. Nice one.

  29. 30. Kar Lee says:

    Interesting story Jorge.
    But this story violates one principle: Other than the number “1”, all other numbers are arbitrary. So this god guy who sends this human guy to his next reincarnation has to be this human guy himself. Otherwise there will be two gods. And if there can be two gods, there will be 3 gods, and etc. Why not? The natural question for the gods to ask will be “why am I this god and not that god?” The answer can only be all the gods are the same god, but they just don’t know it. Now we are back one full circle -> one universal mind to merge all minds.

    Vicente, I think it is more interesting to live among your “selves” then to live among zombies? 🙂

  30. 31. Vicente says:

    Kar, yes, but in practical terms it makes no difference, for the lifetime at least.

    Any idea why if this would be case, we are all this same universal conscious being, we are not aware about it. Amnesia epidemic?

  31. 32. Philosopher Eric says:

    As a completely “physical” philosopher (and a rebellious one at that), I am quite aware of how unwanted my own opinions are for this particular discussion. With apologies however, I do nevertheless present the following for potential consideration.

    My position is that it’s simply not possible for the human to effectively theorize supernatural dynamics of reality, and specifically because we mortals have no platform from which to practically test such theory. It may very well be that some of the above ideas are quite accurate descriptions of reality, though without our own “cause and effect” observations from which to assess them, we are destined remain quite lost in this respect. (So as Kevin Kim seemed to imply in comments #2 and #6, the most effective use of Theology might actually be to help support a faith based religion — or as I personally would suggest, “present an illusion that it’s founded upon something beyond just faith.”)

    Philosophers have spent many thousands of years achieving the same understanding null associated with theology, however, though I’m not ultimately troubled by this circumstance. Observe the rise of science over its past few hundred years of existence, as well as how humanity has thus been altered. In this great changing tide of understandings, how long might science permit philosophical elements of reality, to continue to reside beyond it’s domain? Given how desperately Psychologists and so on seem to need philosophical answers in order to effectively do their jobs, surely these barriers will soon be breached.

    Sarah… I did mention earlier that theological studies should serve you well, but I meant this not as “a destination,” but rather as “a journey.” (Ironically, I suspect than many theologians would tell you something similar.) As for the field of Philosophy however, I also believe it will provide humanity with “concrete answers” soon enough. In this transformation, I also do hope that your father will become a prominent player.

  32. 33. Kar Lee says:

    Vicente, I think it is like a SIM figure in Will Wright’s game. One Sim figure cannot know of another Sim figure’s “mind”. They occupy different RAM space, and one does not have access to the RAM space of the other. Maybe it is by design? Don’t know if you have seen people playing the iPad version of the SIMs game. The SIMs figures look very “real”. My kids like to check on how their SIMs are doing when they get bored.

    Think about it, these SIMs, no matter how intelligent their underlying programs are, can never figure out the existence of the CPU. Needless to say that any one can “understand” that they are just the different roles played out by the same CPU. That is not amnesia epidemic, but more like “by design”.

    But more importantly, often when we discuss the philosophy of mind, we ask “is the external world real?” Is the mind creating the illusion of a real physical world? Or is the mind an illusion created by some complex “real” materialistic systems. In this debate, one factor that is often ignored is the time factor. To say something is real, is to say that it exists now, at this present moment. If you want to argue that the past is also real even though it no longer exists (the past was real, but isn’t real, in layman sense of the word real), then by analogy, one has to accept that the future is also real. If you go down this path, then why is there a point in time that is called the “present” which is considered more real than other? If yesterday is real, why aren’t you worrying about what to order for yesterday’s breakfast but only focusing on the plate in front of you? Obviously yesterday is not as real as now. And the future is still something that is not completely determined (to most people, unless you are a determinist, who I am one, not
    by choice, but for the lack of other choices), so it cannot be real. So once you start arguing that the past is real, the present comes back to bite you and “reality really bites”.

    So for the sake of continuing the argument, let’s assume that only the present is real, or only the present external world is real. Then there comes a problem. If you try to think about what the Mars Rover is doing now on Mars, at this moment, you will be quite confused because what you mean by “now” is completely depending on your state of motion. When you talk about “now” on Mars (say the Mars Rover is just moving its solar panels to a certain orientation at this moment), the guy who is currently on a rocket ship zooming by you a few feet away heading toward Mars has a different now. This is just special relativity (simultaneity is relative). When you think of what is happening now, to this rocket guy a few feet away, your now on Mars is in his past. For him, the Mars Rover just finished its solar panel re-orientation event few minutes ago. For him, this event is no longer happening. No longer real. It is in the past. So, what is going on? Is that event still real? How can it be real to one person and “not real” for another in the same universe? If you don’t like the Mars rover, you can think of a dying Martian. For the rocket ship guy, the Martian is already dead. So, is the Martian alive or dead now? Whose now? Objectivity seems to have lost its meaning.

    Now, one thing that is more shocking about time is the argument Godel laid out: Einstein’s field equation admits solutions that have closed time loops, the so-called Godel universes. What it means is that if you keep going into the future (everyone is, intuitively) in these universes, you will end up in the past. And Godel argued that since this closed time loop feature is explicit in a class of universes allowed by general relativity, this is a common feature for all relativistically compatible universes, which differ from each other only by their material distributions and states of motion (roughly speaking). Therefore, what event comes before which loses its meaning (in a circle, no one is ahead of anyone), and the present loses its meaning.

    For us, looping back to the philosophy of mind, if the present loses its meaning, then the intuitive time, the A series in which time flows and has a priviliged “now” loses its meaning. The only way to reconcile this conclusion with our everyday experience that time flows is that time, the intuitive time that flows, not the “t” in physics equations, is a mental construct, only a mental phenomenon. Time does not flow. It is our minds that flow. Or if we only have one universal mind, it determines which now is now.

    And that is shocking!
    More on Godel’s universes:

  33. 34. privo says:

    Is it possible to construct an argument concerning difficulties in explaining “why now is now, here is here, i am i” in relation to group-level (group, society, mankind(s))?
    “Mental” experience of now is not only communicated (behavior), but also engaged via communication and co-behavior in production of artifacts (up to some compontents of overall niche-construction). For example:
    … well … exactly … what examples could support such an argument … in correct details?
    … considering all the forms of “celebration”: religious (e.g. a ritual), social (e.g. anniversary of establishment of some state), aesthetic (e.g. musical concert) etc. Most of components of these, that could be thought of as “construed in relation to conditions that imposes upon their reproduction” could be analyzed in models of attention. For example, isolation of time & space (e.g. special buildings, suspension of other activities), supplying enriching components from other domains (e.g. special clothes, foods and drinks etc.), temporal structure of given celebration, could be (partially) explained as supporting selective attention, memory, emotions (and the whole celebration supports social self-identification, commitment etc.) …
    Hmmm .. there surely are components that strongly relate to “nowness” … (e.g. when “live transmission” and “replayed recording” makes difference that can’t be easily functionally explained)
    … ? …
    What for? People (in large scale) do not seem to be changing their etics(es) because they discovered the problem of “why do i see the world through this special window (beam of channels etc)”. Maybe they would if we could add an argument for the whole “race” (why this planet, why this era (averaged “now” for larger light cones) …

  34. 35. Vicente says:


    Your example is interesting in theological terms, because you (we) have omitted the “creator”. The SIMs don’t know about the CPU or the own SW code, yes… the thing is that in this discussion, when talking about the single conscious entity, the gods, etc, we are not considering the “creation event”, is this conscious being self-created? creation is a meaningless concept? there is an additional creator above all?

    So what if what we are saying is that the SIMs are the programmer and hardware egineer?

    Regarding the Gödel solutions, (that was cruel, we were all relaxed talking about souls and Gods and you bring out the fiddly maths… and solutions including time loops)it looks more a mathematical exotic souvenir, dusty homogeneous mass distributions are a bit unlikely, no?. But it is interesting to see how physics present real scenarios that crack our common sense and are far beyond our imagination. To me, the effect that really makes our space time concept shake, is quantum entanglement. That’s why even strong materialism could give unspected solutions to the consciousness conundrum.

    So, my question was, if we are this “conscious universal creator”, how is it that we have forgot about it?

  35. 36. Kar Lee says:

    Maybe in the domain of the Universal Mind, memory is not an attribute. The reason I am saying this is because memory is such time asymmetrical. We remember the past, but we don’t remember the future. In a timeless world, the concept of memory simply does not exist. In the domain of the Universal Mind, if it can choose to experience at any time point as you and me, memory simply is not something that can be associated with it. We have memory because we are in the physical world. Thoughts?

  36. 37. Vicente says:

    Kar, well just consider the concept of knowing about it, being aware of it, ignore memories.

    It is true that we don’t remember all our knowledge simultaneously at one instant. But, we all know who are (implicitly, in general terms) at each moment, within our life frame.

    Maybe, it is a problem of focus. When being utterly absorbed by a task the notion of oneself vanishes. Maybe we are so focus in this life (constraint by our brains) that we are not aware of our very nature.

    Or maybe it is like a severe neurological condition when a person loses track of itself. That’s worse.

    Or maybe, the whole idea is wrong, and that’s it.

  37. 38. Philosopher Eric says:

    Though your discussion with Kar does seem to be playing into my hands, Vicente, I don’t think that we should use our own tremendous uncertainty to suggest that this theory might then be “wrong.” Notice that our ignorance about these dynamics should be quite irrelevant to reality itself. It is ultimately nothing beyond my own convenience that forces me into physicalism. And to be honest, my theory does answer virtually all of the great uncertainties that once perplexed me. But I must still not assume that there is no “soul,” “reincarnation,” or any other supernatural element of reality. All I’m actually saying here is that we can keep asking supernatural “maybe” questions forever, and still get nowhere.

  38. 39. Vicente says:


    Notice that our ignorance about these dynamics should be quite irrelevant to reality itself

    That depends very much on what reality layer you are referring to, and relevant for what aspect you are considering. At personal and social reality levels they are absolutely relevant. In fact, they dictamine our reality (and behaviour) to a great extent.

    “Reality itself”? what’s that? the whole of it, including everything? then, our uncertainties are part of it, and are as relevant as any other component e.g. the mean weight of apples.

  39. 40. Kar Lee says:

    I will be the first one to admit that the idea may be just totally wrong. So it is nice to keep that in mind. On the other hand, maybe the point of participating in this human game is to forget who you really are and just be completely in the game. I don’t know. Now, I think we are more into religion than are into philosophy in this kind of speculations. But it is a common concept in Buddhism that anyone can go through a sudden instantaneous realization of one’s own nature and attains Buddhahood. In Christianity, this kind of sudden gain in knowledge is more likely described as revelations. We are completely in religious domain now. Back to philosophy, I am claiming that some self knowledge can be lost, except one form: Qualia.

  40. 41. Philosopher Eric says:

    Vicente I do appreciate where you’re going with your last response to me — beliefs are indeed “real,” and they certainly affect our behavior. Also, far be it from me to contradict the “everything is relative” theory of Einstein. But yes I was instead referring to an “ultimate reality” idea, or something which lies beyond the concept of “observation” itself. Einstein actually seemed to grasp this idea far better than his modern contemporaries. While they generally interpret variability in our pathetic human observations as “natural uncertainty” (or “magic” in my view), he had a “beyond observation” perspective of reality from which to deny such uncertainty in an ultimate sense. So his associated “God does not play dice!” statement was indeed appropriate from an “ultimate reality” perspective.

    You’ve asked me what “reality itself” is, and I can’t say that I know this “ultimately.” But for example, if you and I each decide that the human does not reincarnate, our belief should actually have no bearing upon whether or not the human does indeed reincarnate. I do presume that you agree. Beyond my promotion of physicalism, this is all I that meant.

    I’d also like to mention that my own contemporaries range from the mildly annoying position of arguing with religious people against their beliefs, to various “heinous nuts” that demand the removal of religion from public places. How dare these people take my own physical perspective of reality, and ironically turn it into “some kind of religion”? There is only one thing which I know of that simply cannot be denied through physical observations, and this is “the nonphysical.”

  41. 42. Philosopher Eric says:

    Kar it is clear that logic comes quite naturally for you, though the following statement interests me most: “…some self knowledge can be lost, except one form: Qualia.” I wonder if you view qualia as I do. Do you see it as sensations of “pain,” “love,” “loneliness,” “hope,” “cold,” “itchiness,” “beauty,” and so on? And if such things are indeed “self knowledge that cannot be lost,” wouldn’t it be useful to define them directly as “self”? Furthermore, should we not consider this self idea as a punishment/reward dynamic, given that some qualia seem “good” to us, while others seem “bad”? If so, then perhaps this “personal relevance” dynamic is what our creator (or even evolution) devised in order to encourage/force its conscious entities… to indeed function consciously?

    Here I know that some will say, “Eric you are trying to entice Kar with your own theory, though ‘his qualia’ isn’t lost, while the self that you theorize is instantaneous.” But does the self that I propose indeed become “lost”? All reality, regardless of when, where, or any other dimension of existence, must be “real,” and this is by definition. So here there is no “loss” ultimately, but rather just different “coordinates of reality” (x, y, z, t, and so on).

    In practice, however, we humans obviously do lose things. From my theory there are just two elements which hold our own “self sense” together. The first of them is the conscious input commonly known as “memory,” or “past consciousness that remains.” Perhaps it doesn’t require much explanation. The second of them instead concerns anticipation of the future, and it’s effectively “sensations of hope and worry.” Here the only reason that we consciously “do anything,” is because we have positive sensation of “hope” that certain things will benefit us, and also because we have negative sensation of “worry” when we foresee circumstances that may hurt us if they aren’t corrected. This is the metaphorical “carrot and whip” of consciousness.

    I will certainly continue to discuss such things here in the future, though questions and comments will always be welcome.

  42. 43. Vicente says:

    Kar, yes, instantaneous enlightment or awakening. How could this happen? probably the brain enters, by chance, in a physiological state (brain activity dynamics-right brain waves spectrum)that is similar to the one achieved by meditators, after decades of practice. This can happen in complex systems dynamics. Really striking lottery. This is what I meant by peeping out through a fleeting tear in the curtain. Some buddhist schools believe that you can reach this state while sneezing, ha ha.

    About qualia, YES, I absolutely agree, this is the only evidence we have, the keystone to build a meta-physical edifice for our existence.

  43. 44. Kar Lee says:

    Eric, I look at qualia as feelings, not as sense data, but just raw feelings. The self, to me, is the owner of qualia, but not qualia.
    I find the idea Iacopo expressed on his website matched most what I think. It is quite a delight to see the same idea expressed by a different person in a different way.

    Iacopo, I will go to your website and leave a link to what I have written. What you called “io” is what I called the Universal Mind.

  44. 45. Philosopher Eric says:

    That reminds me Kar how my father once chided me about this “feelings theory” of mine. He was always the emotional “Captain Kirk” to my logical “Dr. Spock,” so he knew this would dig just a bit. But I won’t further explain my ideas to you now, and am quite happy that you’ve found a kindred spirit (and perhaps even literally!).

  45. 46. Vicente says:

    Kar, Iacopo

    Find below a link to a good new summary of Penrose and Hammeroff’s theory, that appeals to me that it could be deeply related to the Universal CPU physical substrate….

  46. 47. Collin says:

    I think that what you said made a lot of sense.
    However, think on this, suppose you added a little information?
    I am not saying your content isn’t good, however suppose you added a headline that grabbed folk’s attention?
    I mean Conscious Entities ? Blog Archive ? Metempsychotic
    Solipsism is kinda plain. You might glance at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they write article headlines to grab people to click.

    You might add a video or a picture or two to get readers excited about everything’ve got
    to say. In my opinion, it might bring your website a little livelier.

    Here is my page Need for Speed Most Wanted Hack 2014 New (Collin)

  47. 48. Sci says:

    @Peter: In light of this article, curious what your daughter thinks of a single Mind with DID? (Apologies for the successive replies!)

  48. 49. Peter says:

    I’ll try to remember to ask her next time she’s back from Uni.

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