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My problem with materialism is that its practicioners seem to be unable to see their own minds or consciousnesses. I know you *can* see your own consciousness, i'm just not sure you understand it properly, given your (or their, if you are not such a materialist), insistence that mind *is* brain.

I'm sure you're familiar with the old "tree in the forest" thing. Here's how i see it: A tree that falls in the forest causes air to move, it causes sound waves to propogate in the air. However, if there is no ear to hear it, the pattern of moving air does not cause the vibration of tiny bones, which do not queue a chemical-electric signal into a huge mass of neurons, and no sound is heard.

Hearing a sound is an act of consciousness. The brain represents a complex pattern of chemicals and energy, and when the ear vibrates, the pattern changes in a certain way. That is the material aspect of the situation. But hearing a sound is an act of consciousness. Stop right now and listen: you will hear a sound (it is almost never really silent in the world). Air is moving, your ear is vibrating, a signal is being sent into the brain, the brain is responding.....and YOU are hearing a sound. The sound is not in the air: air is not being transmitted into the brain. The air is a carrier of a pattern of vibrations; the ear deciphers it and transmits it *in another form* into the brain.

Consider now the visual equivalent of a sound: a visual image, before you right now. Light bounces off particles, into your eye, which transmits a chemical/electric signal into the brain, where YOU see a visual image. Now, from a materialst viewpoint: where is the visual image? You know there is one, because you are seeing it. It is not, though, that there is a tiny physical computer in your brain, created by the signal from your eye...there is a tiny *mental* image in the mind, not in the brain. The brain has a corresponding state to every mental condition; but there *is* a sensorium, and it is not in your brain, any more than there is a picture of your wife on your computer's hard disk. There is a pattern of bits on your computer's hard disk; without a monitor, there is no picture there to see. No matter how you physically examine the hard disk, you will never see a picture unless you use software to correctly decipher the bit pattern, and display it on a visual medium. Similarly, no matter how you physically examine the brain, you will never see tiny visual representations, nor will you hear sounds, or smell smells. The *experience* of seeing or hearing or smelling (etc) is in the *mind*, and not in the brain.

does that make sense?


I really dislike your syllogism, too.

You say,

1. existence is objective
2. objectivity requires evidence
3. evidence is material
4. therefore, existence is material

1. is correct. Objective means without reference to an observer or subject. When you say "Existence is objective", i assume that you mean that the Universe exists independant of any being who happens to be experiencing it. That's fine.

But then #2 is a total left turn out of nowhere. Objectivity, which is in this sense the attempt to describe the universe not as it appears to the describer, but as the describer believes it really is, outside of her head. But this is not the same sense as it was in #1. In #1, you are stating an axiom: the universe exists independantly of any and all observers. In #2, you are saying that if an observer wants to pretend not to exist with regards to her description of some aspect of the universe, ie: she tries to tell it like it *is*, not how it *seems to her*, that such an act requires evidence of how the universe actually is in order to be convincing.

The objectivity of the universe in #1 requires no evidence. The universe Is objectively by Its nature. Since we are not considering any beings in the model, then who is the evidence supposed to convince? What sense does "evidence" make without a being to recieve it?

Then you say that "Evidence is Material" by which you mean that Material is somehow self-evident. Evidence about how the Universe actually Is is information, data, it comes via the senses, or is imagined in the mind. Buddhists, of which i count myself one, believe that mind is a sort of 6th sense...that we "sense" our thoughts. If you believe this, then the evidence is pure sense data. If you restrict yourself to the 5 senses enumerated by Westerners, then there is a separate category of evidence that is *not* material, but rather logical. Either way, what you are saying here is "the senses are sensing the universe, and the data i recieve in that way is "evidence" of how the Universe actually is.

Evidence is *of* the material, but is not material itself. It is sense data. Either way, though, it is irrelevant, because you lost the thread in #2. The materiality of evidence is irrelevant to objectivity.

Finally, in #4 you apply a chain of equivalencies to say a=b b=c c=d => a=d. Which is true enough in math. But since what you've really said is a=b c=d e=f => a=f, and that isn't true. Or at least, not necessarily true, by its form.

I love the "Objective vs Subjective" debate. I am a Subjective Objectivist myself. =o)

Everything we know about the universe, all the evidence, comes through the senses into the mind, and is processed there. Within the mind there is a complex model of the universe, in fact, a number of them all at once. The universe is not inside the mind; the mind is inside the universe. But there is a *model* of the universe inside the mind. And it is in that model that we live. Our body lives in the world; our consciousness lives in the model. The model has a material aspect: the brain. But as i tried to point out in my first response, i believe that there is a separate sub-universe that is entirely mental, in which our consciousness resides.

If you can accept that, then you must accept that if it is possible to have this simulated universe exist in the mind, then hypothetically, the physical universe could *be* the model (for every experience you have ever had has been mediated by the senses, and integrated into the model.) The universe could literally exist *only* in the minds of the beings who populate it.

I don't believe that's the fact. I believe there is a physical universe out there....I just can't prove it.


Thanks for your comments, Zenji. I will keep them in mind as I work on building the rest of my argument.

Two quick responses. The experience of consciousness -- or any experience of anything for that matter, what the philosophers call qualia -- is a mystery. We don't know how it works, nor, frankly, even exactly what it is we're talking about. As such it's a "gap" that mystics want to fill with their preferred metaphysics. However if we are to understand consciousness at all then the worst possible way to go about it is through introspection. That's like trying to figure out a magic trick from the audience. If you go backstage it's a lot more obvious what's happening.

My second response is that if the universe exists only subjectively, then it does not exist at all in the conventional sense. That's not what the word "exists" means. Once you concede that anything at all exists in the conventional, material, sense, then the game is over. That's the main point of my argument.

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