Free Will?


1) Materialism rejects Free Will [FW], because it can’t understand how FW could possibly work. But neither can anyone!

Most materialists simply deny that FW is possible. E.g. Francis Crick, Susan Blackmore, R’d Dawkins, Colin Blakemore all say it’s impossible. (Not Dennett.)
Daniel Wegner writes that if I “really could” move my hand to switch on a light – or to make the tea – this would be magic — like opening a cave by saying ‘Open Sesame’ or the djinn appearing when Aladdin rubs his lamp. How can a wispy thing like Mind affect a solid thing like matter? Everything can be explained as machinery – except FW – so FW must be an illusion!

The fallacy is obvious. Just because you don’t understand how something works, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In the past nobody understood how birds could fly. So couldn’t they fly before scientists could understand it?

Pierre de Laplace’s “Demon” is often quoted (turn of C19):
SINCE, in the scientific universe, every effect follows every cause without fail,
THEREFORE, if there was an omniscient demon who could know the complete present state of every particle in the U,
THEN he would know the complete past and future state of the U in every minutest detail.

We must suppose that the present state of the universe is entirely the effect of its previous state and entirely the cause of that state which comes next. Imagine an intelligent being who (at some given moment) could understand all the forces which are acting within the universe, and the situation of every particle within the universe – a being sufficiently intelligent to be able to analyse these data completely. This being would be able to include in the same formula all the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and all those of the lightest atoms. It would see everything with absolute certainty, and have complete knowledge of every moment of the future, every moment of the past.

A common materialist view. Let me quote a reputable work of reference:

[…] It is now widely believed that every physical event can be accounted for solely in terms of antecedent physical events […] An empirically well-attested claim of modern science is the causal completeness of physics. […] Neurophysical properties are sufficient for causally accounting for behaviour.

A recent New Scientist goes along with this, thought it suggests that people just won’t be likely to give up the illusion of Free Will.
And indeed there is a problem. A.J.Ayer writes:

[The libertarian thinks] that my actions are the result of my own free choice; and it is because of my own free choice that I am held to be morally responsible for them. But [it is either] an accident that I choose to act as I do or it is not. If it is an accident, then it is […] irrational to hold me morally responsible for choosing as I did. But if it is not an accident that I chose to do one thing rather than another, then presumably there is some causal explanation of my choice; and in that case we [must accept determinism].

It’s very hard to get round this argument. I cannot at 7.30, affect or alter my state of mind at 7.29. Nor can I at 7.29 affect or alter my state of mind at 7.28. My state of mind when I make a decision is surely caused by my state of mind the previous moment plus any outside factors that have affected me in the meantime; and my state of mind at that previous moment plus any outside factors were caused in their turn – and so on for ever stretching back into infinite time — and I have no power in the present over any of these causes.
Unless my mind were somehow to step outside the causal nexus of the world into some other world as it were — and even then … because presumably the causal nexus continues outside our world too! And it has to continue, because my thinking has to cause my actions.
It’s understandable that philosophers are still arguing with each other about these questions, just as they were back in Athens around 400 BC.

2) Block Universe. But now this is an important issue: If everything I do is predetermined – and everything is predetermined right back to the very ultimate beginning of time, then we live in what philosophers have called a ‘block universe’, i.e. a universe which is completely fixed, in which everything has been determined from the very start of time – and in which everything is already fixed in the future to the very end of time.

Now if that’s the situation, what is the point of css? What on earth is it for? Since, IF the decisions we think we make are merely delusory, and IF they are subject simply to blind accident & iron causality, THEN it makes no difference whether we are conscious animals or unconscious machines and it makes no difference whether or not we foolishly delude ourselves into thinking we make decisions.

Come to that, what’s the point of Time itself? Why does it pretend to move if it isn’t really moving?
Of course we shall be told by materialists of the Atkins / Dawkins kind that there’s no point to anything at all. And they’ll rub their hands with glee.

3) Quantum Uncertainty Now during the 20th C we learnt that the laws of nature at the subatomic or quantum level depend not on strict iron causality, but on the laws of chance. But from the point of view of freedom, this is no better. For you can’t get personal autonomy from the wild hazards of chance any more than you can from the dreary refrains of causality.

Mind you, some of the workings of the brain are so delicate – they operate at the level of two or three quanta – that it makes it easier for one to imagine the “ghost” (mind) working the “machine” (brain). Sir John Eccles suggested this many years ago.

4) Memes.
Susan Blackmore discussed this with Richard Holloway on his Discs-without-a-Desert-Island program one Sunday morning.
The “meme” was invented by R’d Dawkins (in his Selfish Gene) Whereas a gene is a unit of genetic transmission, a meme is a unit of cultural transmission, i.e. it is a thought or an idea. According to this picture, the human mind is a kind of breeding ground, ready to be infected by notions. A bonnet waiting for its bees. Just as various sorts of mammal, insect, bird, etc, breed and compete for survival in the countryside, so ideas breed and compete for survival in the landscape of the brain. Memes are thoughts or ideas seen as independent, active creatures: We don’t think, the memes think for us. We don’t do the deciding, the memes decide for us.

Dawkins gives examples. The threat of hell-fire is a meme. So is God. A religion is “a co-adapted stable set of mutually-assisting memes.” Other examples of memes include ‘the arch, wheel, wearing clothes, alphabet, calendar, the Odyssey, calculus, chess, the song Greensleeves, deconstructionism’. He compares memes to computer viruses (for Dawkins the brain is simply a very complex computer). Uneasily he admits that scientific ideas too can be memes, and actually dares to give Darwinism as an instance – though he adds that the thing about scientific ideas is that they can be true.

But then are there ideas which aren’t memes? Is our notion of truth a meme? Are our methods of reasoning a meme? If so, how do we know what is true and what is not? Are there any ideas which aren’t memes? Can’t people choose their own ideas – or invent them?

As for the lapsed parapsychologist Susan Blackmore, she cites among examples of memes: ‘urban myths, farming, religion, the motto theme of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, stories of flying saucers and alien abduction.’ The Self Itself is merely a meme, a parasitic idea that breeds in our brains. As for Free Will, she writes

The self is not the initiator of actions, it does not ‘have’ consciousness and it does not ‘do’ the deliberating. There is no truth in the idea of an inner self inside my body that controls my body and is conscious. Since this is false, so is the idea of my conscious self having free will. Consciousness has no power […] Free will, like the self who ‘has’ it, is an illusion.

The memes (she says cheerfully) relieve us of foresight, purpose, hope and choice. In one of her books we even find her writing that she hasn’t written her own books.

But surely, if all ideas are memes, then the idea of a meme is itself a meme. Which blows the whole theory sky-high.

5) Problems with Determinism. The Moral problem. The Truth problem.

Now it’s obvious that determinism produces several problems. Here are two:
(1) If I don’t have FW then I am not responsible for my actions. In that case nobody deserves either praise or blame; in fact nobody deserves anything at all. The actions of the mass-murderer Gaddafi are simply caused by fate. Florence Nightingale is deserving of no praise whatever. The meaning of all human actions is completely removed from us. They no longer have any sense. Blackmore actually welcomes this! She welcomes the disappearance of ‘destructive emotions’. (I hope she doesn’t mean the disappearance of conscience!) (Blackmore 1999) How are we supposed to operate in a world devoid of morality?

6) Moreover, if I don’t have FW then I can’t arrive at truth — or anything even approaching it, such as likely theories, or trustworthy scientific findings. This is because: Scientific ‘facts’ are the result of provisional agreement after discussion, exchange of views, between the conscious minds of individual scientists. Now, if what my fellow-scientists – and also myself – think, is the result of a completely mechanical set of causes over which factors such as respect for others’ views, good judgment, respect for the facts have no effect – but merely the working out of pure determinism and pure accident – then what does this do to the notion of truth in science – or in any other activity for that matter?!!

So how can we abandon free will?

8 ) Kant & Causality

Immanuel Kant saw causality as being something we need so as to think with. Without it we can’t make sense of our experiences. (Anyway we simply can’t stop thinking in causal terms).
But we also need FW, because without it also we can’t make sense of our experiences. So equally there’s no way we could stop thinking in FW terms.

So according to Kant, we have to hold two mutually contradictory beliefs at the same time! It is impossible not to believe both opposites at the same time. Otherwise we can’t operate in the world. (This shows the inadequacy of reason as the so-called solution to all our problems.)

But does this actually mean we ARE free?

9) Theoretical solutions: a) Bergson; b) Kant; c) Thomas Reid: causation is a human intuition; we cannot use it to refute an equally strong human intuition.

a) Henri Bergson (1859 – 1941) Les Données immédiates de la conscience (1889): suggests that the problem is this: When we think of Time, we think of it in spatial terms. So we chop it up as if it were a line. A motionless line. And then we think that detachable bits of experience succeed each other, each one being the cause of the one which follows it. But Time isn’t spatial, so this imaginary ‘line’ isn’t the actual reality of Time, which is ‘a continuous boiling inextricable flow’. Once the Present has slipped away into the Past, Time solidifies: then, viewed in our memories, it looks as if you can indeed analyse it in spatial terms. But that’s merely a map, not the reality of Time as it happens, not the reality of our decisions as we make them.

So Free Will shouldn’t be conceived of spatially either. It’s not a line, but more like a surfer riding a breaking wave.
Does this solve the problem?
Well, we might believe it if we like. But of course, quite simply, our contemporary determinists reject B’s whole way of looking at the question. I can’t see how we could persuade them.

b) So now we go even further back & consult Kant again. He admits we can’t see how FW operates by looking at the phenomenal world. He agrees we feel FW, however – apparently unmistakeably – and that we feel the need to act morally — apparently unmistakeably. So he argues that since we recognize a moral law, therefore it follows logically that we must have free will. Because without FW, any thought of morality is quite pointless. Ought implies Can. You feel you ought; therefore you must know you can.

But where could this FW be “situated” (as it were), and how could it “operate”, since it doesn’t fit in with our common-or-garden everyday reason, with the ordinary laws of causality, etc. Yes, where or how could it exist? He suggests it might be (as it were) “out of sight”, “out of all human ken” along with all the truly hidden secrets of the Universe, those which are beyond human comprehension, in what Kant calls the NOUMENON. This is the hidden essence or reality of All Things, which is beyond our power as human beings in this world to perceive or grasp. Suggestion that the hidden power of FW is in the noumenon. But this is beyond our ability to examine because of the limitations on our senses and our understanding. (Guyer on Kant p 19 § -1, p 329 )

An encouraging idea however for people like myself who suspect that we human beings are, as it were, ‘secretly involved’ in a hidden spiritual world.

c) An argument derived from Thomas Reid (1710-96): that the problematic concept is not FW, which we experience happening every hour of our lives. The problematic concept is determinism.
For where does determinism derive from? It derives from our idea of causality. But ironically our notions of causality derive from Free Will. Do we not, from earliest infancy, test out our hunches about the nature of the world by interacting with it? What is commoner than a child throwing its rattle over the side of its pram? The child repeats the act again & again, roaring with laughter as the rattle falls to the ground, as the adult picks the rattle up and hands it back again & again. The child is testing out the following theory: “I do X, and Y follows, and then Z follows Y. I am the cause of X, which produces Y, which produces Z. And thus result follows cause.” And this is hugely enjoyable! But note, the whole idea of cause derives from the free willed action of the child!

How can an idea derived directly from our experience of FW be used to refute FW? It can’t, can it? We cannot use causality to defeat Free Will, because our very understanding of causality derives from the experience of our own free actions!

10) Colin Blakemore

In The Mind Machine, Colin Blakemore (a very eminent scientist) claims:

The human brain is a machine […] It creates the state of css and the state of self. [… It makes] no sense […] to try to distinguish between acts that result from (1) conscious intention and those that are (2) pure reflexes or that are caused by (3) disease or (4) damage to the brain. [Quoted in DiM, LoP]

In his book he gives a number of convincing examples of people who have done uncharacteristic, crazy or horrible things under the influence of drugs. He obviously thinks this proves his case. But, you know, it doesn’t. He himself (being a fair man) often quotes his subjects as saying things like “I didn’t know who was doing it. I didn’t feel in charge,” or “This strange feeling came over me. I had no control over how my body acted.”
Very oddly, Blakemore himself makes no comment on these remarks. He is so blinded by his own beliefs that he has failed to notice that his own selected examples of deterministic behaviour don’t support the case for determinism.

11) the fact is — as Stephen Priest puts it — we experience FW.
Stephen Priest writes:

The possibility of choosing one course of action rather than another is a lived human reality. Determinism is only a theory. […] Freedom is experienced to be the case but determinism is largely only thought to be the case. (229)

I.e. we’ve got the reality of experience against theory.

A description of the experience of determinism shows [that you can’t get rid] of freedom. There is a clear phenomenological difference between situations in which we feel ourselves compelled or constrained and [those] in which we do not. For example, in walking into a strong wind we feel the wind resistance against our body. In being held at gunpoint we feel powerless. On the other hand, in facing some awkward dilemma we feel all too free. (229)

Whereas determinism is just a theory. Plausible, persuasive, eloquently argued for, but just a theory.
Moreover, FW is one of the foundation stones of experience.

12) & Conclusion) Notice the materialist argument: materialism is true; therefore determinism is true; therefore FW is false. I believe we should turn this argument on its head: as follows:

“IF we can be sure we have FW– WHICH we can –
AND IF FW is indeed inexplicable in materialist terms,
THEREFORE materialism is false.”

Since FW does happen, therefore the choosing css must be outside the materialist / phenomenal universe. This is the only way it can escape the laws of deterministic causality. We should welcome this, because in that case css must be non-material.

THIS implies that we do indeed have a spiritual, non-material part – which moreover is vitally important.
And this is doubtless a part of Kant’s mysterious hidden ultimate reality – his Noumenon.

Immanuel Kant and the Noumenon

The Limits of Reason

Rational argument leads one to the conclusion both (1) that Time must have had a beginning and (2) that Time cannot have had a beginning.
Also (1) that Space must have a boundary, and (2) that it cannot have a boundary.
For when we try to imagine each wing of these contradictions, we find ourselves (at the same time) obliged to imagine its contradictory.
Rather similarly we find it equally possible to imagine (1) that we have Free Will, and (2) that we are causally determined.

Kant argues therefore that reason can lead us into contradictions. It is not therefore wholly to be trusted. Reality cannot wholly correspond to what reason tells us; and thus we cannot understand reality by the use of reason alone. We must therefore turn to experience.

The Limits of Experience

However, experience cannot provide certain knowledge of independent reality since (1) it cannot ever be confirmed that our sense-perceptions actually correspond in every detail to external objects. For we cannot step outside our own consciousness to check whether that consciousness is telling us ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ about external objects.
It is in any case clear that what our senses tell us about the objects around us is (at least to a large extent) relative to our senses. For example, the colours that we see in external objects are phenomena which are relative to our brain- and/or mind-processes.
Secondly (2) we cannot form any conception of objects independently of the categories of experience and thought, and all of these are subject-dependent. For instance, when I see any object, I see it as existing in time and space, as being of a certain colour, uttering certain sounds, smelling in a certain way, etc. In short I cannot see it independently of my mental conceptions and of my nervous system.

Our perception of the world is thus limited. Behind appearances therefore there must lie things which, by definition, could never figure in experience.

Among the things we cannot ever directly perceive, but which we assume exist, are the laws of causality. According to Kant (who received this insight from Hume) the causal connexion between events is a thing that we suppose on the basis of observation and experience, certainly, but which we can never observe. It too lies outside experience.
It must however be supposed; for without assuming causal laws we could not make sense of the world. Similarly, without assuming the reality of space and time, the world would make no sense to us.

There are thus features of the empirical world which we must necessarily assume, though these are neither observable nor logically deducible. But we have to presuppose them because we would not ‘understand ’ the world without them. Certain preconditions have to be met before there can be any experience at all; these preconditions are constitutive of experience. Brian Magee puts this particularly clearly:

If we think in terms of the metaphor of catching things in the network of experience, these are the meshes of our nets. Only what can be caught in them is available to us. Anything that passes through them untouched will not be picked up by us, and nor will whatever falls outside our nets altogether. Only what our nets catch will be ours, and only what they can catch can be ours.

Scientific law itself is in exactly the same position as ordinary experience. It is subject to the limitations of human understanding; it is obliged to work with such basic categories of the understanding as causality, time, space, the existence of objects, etc. Scientific law simply cannot step outside certain preconditions. It therefore cannot possibly assert its own immunity to the arguments of Kant. It is as much a human creation as any other aspect of the human world.

We find therefore that there are limits to our understanding: what our physical & mental equipment cannot mediate cannot be experienced by us. This does not imply that what our physical & mental equipment cannot mediate cannot exist. Far from it. That would be a logical fallacy obvious to the most down-to-earth common sense; though it is one which unfortunately most materialist philosophers fell into long ago.

On the contrary there are no grounds whatever for pretending that reality must conform to the narrow limits of what we human beings can understand, grasp or know. Indeed, the whole of the preceding argument shows that we must admit that, since there are visibly limits to our understanding, the universe must therefore contain a reality or realities outside the possibility of these being known by human beings.

This independent reality outside the possibility of experience is termed by Kant the noumenon. He names it this in opposition to the ordinary world of appearances or of phenomena. ‘Since all forms of experience are inevitably subject-dependent, therefore whatever the nature of independent reality may be, it must lie permanently outside all possibility of experience.’ For experience is an ‘interpreter’s translation’ of reality: whatever the ‘real reality’ may be, when we experience it, it has been transformed by our experiential apparatus into something which expresses it differently, approximately and/or partially.

The Five Ms

We attempt to overcome these problems by pooling our isolated experiences (our subjective perceptions) in negotiated collective agreements as to ‘What appears to be the case to most of us.’ We call these agreements ‘objectivity’ – though they are actually purely derivative and provisional. So-called ‘objective fact’, whether in science or in everyday life, derives entirely from a pooling of individual subjective experience. We elicit from these claims to ‘objectivity’ our notions of the Four Ms, namely matter, materialism, models and mechanism. These notions are often thought to constitute a total explanation of the world.

It will be seen that the alleged totality of this explanation is a Fifth M. I.e. a Mistake.

The Evolutionary Argument

It has sometimes been argued that we must know the nature of the world with some accuracy, since our evolutionary survival depends on it. However evolution will ensure only the minimum amount of knowledge (whether real or approximate) which suffices for survival. It cannot entail total knowledge.

Ultimate Reality and Free Will

Must we accept that there is indeed such an unknown as Kant’s noumenon? One of Kant’s most famous arguments is as follows. We do (most of us) have moral concepts which we do (most of the time) regard as meaningful. But for the application of these concepts to be practicable, such terms as ‘right, wrong, fairness, duty, ought, should not, choice, integrity, honesty’ need to be meaningful. But for them to be meaningful, we human beings need to possess Free Will.

Unfortunately, if determinist philosophers are right, there is no such thing as Free Will. Everything (they say) is controlled by the blind forces of causality which, if you trace them far enough, will reach right back to the Big Bang. And those things which are not controlled by blind causality are the result of equally blind chance. Such materialist philosophers (and also certain materialist scientists) believe that we human beings are simply mechanical objects of an extraordinarily complex kind, and hence we must be subject to the universal scientific laws of causality. Our belief that we have Free Will is simply a prescientific delusion. I call this stance “vimfortism” (from the Latin vim = by force, and forte = by chance

But, says Kant, “Ought implies can.’ In short, unless we can act autonomously, our feeling that we ought to has no explanation. If it is impossible for me to act as I know I should, all morality is false.

Some determinists go so far as to say that, yes indeed, morality is meaningless. But do they act like that? Do they in fact disregard all fairness and justice; do they transgress all notions of morality, value or compassion? Has any of them ever faced up to what such behaviour would entail? Of how others would begin to treat them if they did behave in this way? Of how they themselves would begin to bitterly complain of ‘injustice’ and of ‘being unfairly treated’, and would appeal in short to precisely those values whose existence (in their comfortable lecture halls) they deny!

We must conclude that the determinists refute themselves. We must assert that ‘Ought’ does imply ‘Can’. Moral values must be real; and our ability to act morally must be real too.

This carries with it a devastating conclusion. Neither moral values nor Free Will can be explicable materially. They must lie quite outside the mechanically functioning laws of nature,’ i.e. outside vimfortism. It follows that some part of the normal human being lies, not inside the empirical world, but outside it. ‘In this way … the fact of the existence of a transcendental realm, a part of reality that is not the empirical world, is rationally demonstrable, and is therefore known by us with certainty.’

We thus find a part of the noumenon present in ourselves.

What lies in the Noumenon?

Free Will is intimately connected with consciousness. And since materialist explanations of consciousness fail, consciousness itself must also be part of the noumenon. What else, however, lies in the noumenon cannot be known, since it is outside our ability to experience it. We cannot know whether there is a God, or whether there is life after death. But equally we cannot know that there is not a God, or that we don’t have life after death. Both the position of the believer and of the atheist are equally a matter of faith or trust.

It is however evident, from the fact that (if you start from materialist and rationalist principles) Free Will is inexplicable, that the transcendental realm of the noumenon must be held to contain / constitute / possess certain attributes of a non-material and spiritual reality. The remarkable insights of Kant thus provide powerful support for an anti-materialist philosophy.


Guyer, Paul (1992) ed. Cambridge Companion to Kant, CUP. Cambridge & New
Magee, Brian (1997) Confessions of a Philosopher, Weidenfeld, London



[“Css” = consciousness]

Is it possible we might survive death? To hazard an answer to this question we shall start with the most fundamental (and traditionally impossible) question of all.


Why is there anything rather than nothing?

As Robert Nozick reports, his daughter Emily, then aged 12, suggested the following: something cannot be created from nothing. Therefore something is the natural state.

I would add to this luminous insight the fact that consciousness cannot be created from unconsciousness, i.e. css cannot be created from matter. Consciousness is therefore the kind of something which is the natural state.

It logically follows from this that the Universe was created by a Consciousness.

It will be asked what created that Css, and then in turn what created that? But this question in fact will not do. We cannot have an infinite regression backwards in time, since in the real world (as opposed to the theoretical world of mathematics) completed infinities are impossible. (This is because the very definition of “infinity” means that an infinity cannot be complete or completed.) Time will therefore have been created at the same moment as the Universe itself. (In fact this is the orthodox contemporary view among scientists.)

This means therefore that at the beginning of things, “before” or rather “outside” the creation of Time itself, there was a “self-caused Mind”, “ens causa sui”, or the fact that explains itself. I would suggest that this “fact that explains itself” is the pure fact of css. The beginning of everything, or rather the stable eternal fact, is Mind.


If this is accepted, then it follows that the Universe exists because of css. It is either there so that css can be there, or it is there because css has created it.

And indeed we do need to suppose a Creator. For, as a famous calculation of Roger Penrose points out, the odds against the Universe being created by chance are so huge as to make such chance creation inconceivable.

We have found a purpose to the U. That purpose is the existence of a conscious Being or beings. There is good reason therefore to hope for our survival.


“Where” is css? And “when” is css? It is always here and now. We have customarily got this question upside down, for css is the locator, not the located. The events of life occur inside the space of phenomenal css.

The Upanishads’ “second bird” (the css that watches, not the phenomenal css that feeds, enjoys, sings, has sex) is, “at the back of” phenomenal surface css, the deep css which quietly and changelessly observes the passage of time. If you sit quietly enough you can (almost) feel it.

There is thus phenomenal css which lives through the everyday affairs of life; and deep css hidden (some say invisibly) within it.

Time is unlike other dimensions in that it is incomplete. For one can move only forwards in time, not to and fro as in the other three dimensions. Phenomenal css, we may speculate, is the result of the dimension of time having had one of its halves removed, thus causing the forward movement of time. Since deep css sits and watches changelessly, we presume that the latter is complete, i.e. still possesses both halves of its dimensionality. This is why it continues changelessly, and is recognizably the same when I am 78 as when I was 7.

Note the importance of css from a cosmological point of view. It is entangled with, and very likely causes, the forward movement of time.

We might speculate that deep css is “set back” in the Quantum Vacuum, from which phenomenal css drives time in the World. Certainly it feels as if our css is set back from the World, gazing as it were from one room into another through a false mirror. In short the world resembles a virtual reality. If it is a virtual reality, then clearly when death comes we survive the world.

However, if the phenomenal world is “inside” our csses, then the phenomenal Universe is presumably “inside” a total css which we might term that of “God”.


Materialism is the belief that there is nothing apart from what we apprehend with our senses. (Should one seriously believe something both so arrogant and so narrow?)

We may compare the brain to a television set, whose workings we can carefully examine and work out just how it works. But none of this will tell us anything about the programmes which are broadcast to the set. Similarly even an exhaustive knowledge of the machinery of the brain is not going to tell you anything about the phenomenal life of css.

We must reject materialism. It would be strange if css were created by matter, since matter is a set of appearances, and the phenomenal field is what creates the appearances of matter, namely the way we “see”, “touch” or hear” it via our physical senses. Whatever matter may “really” be, our css is shut out from, as in the series of paintings by Magritte entitled The Human Condition – in which the reality of a scene is concealed by one’s own picture of it.

Matter and css are connected through their mutual opposition. Css is percipere, matter is percipi. Css entirely and solely perceives and cannot be perceived, matter is entirely and solely perceived and cannot perceive. Neither shares any of the features that the other has. This is their definition. Css is therefore entirely active, matter is entirely passive. It follows that matter is locked into its own unconscious nature as matter. It must be a creation not a creator, and bears the same relation to css as the dream does to the dreamer. It is css which is the creator.

Apart from their obvious contradictoriness, or rather complementarity, the nature of the connexion between css and matter, as between mind and brain, is unknown. It obviously cannot be known – or at least cannot be known in a scientific way. This is because of the inaccessibility of css to investigation of the scientific sort. One should compare the impossibility of observing Free Will at work, or of understanding its workings rationally.

Css’s whole nature is that it perceives but cannot be perceived, whereas matter’s whole nature is that it can be perceived but is incapable of perceiving. Css is an impregnable castle. Not only is it impossible to look into anyone else’s css, but even if one could do so, then one would still be seeing what is going on in that css “through one’s own eyes”: in other words one would not be seeing through their eyes after all. Thus, not only can css not be stepped into from outside; equally css cannot step into either css or matter from outside.

These appear to be metaphysical restrictions embedded in the nature of things; and it is no good scientists, however ingenious, imagining that we can get round them. Particularly since css, being of the nature of the observer not of the observed, cannot be observed (except to a very limited extent indirectly).

As I mentioned above, the nature of the connexion between mind and body is unknown and, I assume, unknowable scientifically – though this does not exclude philosophical theories. However, there can be no doubt that there is such a connexion: every minute of every hour we experience our bodies responding to the commands of our minds, and our minds responding to the messages of our senses. This is known practically; to deny it is absurd.

Materialist science nowadays asserts (as its presuppositions demand of it) that css “must” be the product of physical processes. However, this is impossible. For how can css arise from what is, by definition, incapable of css? Since matter possesses none of the qualities of css, it is logically impossible that css can be derived from it. In fact – as one can quite easily find out by trying — it is impossible to imagine how anything conscious could be “manufactured” out of unconscious ingredients. Feedback is sometimes suggested as a model. However, this plainly won’t do, because the issue is not feedback, but consciousness of feedback.


Css is thus (1) interlocked with one of the four basic dimensions of the U, namely time. It
(2) is the opposite / inverse of matter;
(3) cannot be created by matter;
(4) must therefore either have been created independently of matter
or be an eternal denizen of the Universe.
But if it were created independently, as it were, out of some material the opposite of matter –then what would that substance be? It would be css. Thus css must indeed be an eternal denizen of the U.


Moreover matter is an affair of temporary appearances;
Whereas phenomenal css is involved with passing time, and “drives” it; deep css seems to be in harmony with permanent, still, eternal time.

Note that css is sometimes described as “ghost-like”, resembling gossamer, or a faint breeze – as if it had nothing “solid”, “substantial” about it. But no, this is delusory. Where do the experiences of “solidity”, “substantiality” originate? In the senses, i.e. in the qualia, the fundamental data of consciousness itself. It is the senses which give us the experiences of solidity and substance– the reason we think the world to be full of solid, sharp, uncomfortable things, so “unlike” our csses!

Actually therefore the whole opinion that we need a special explanation how “solid matter” could interact with “ghostly awareness” rests upon a failure to see that awareness is the solid thing, and matter the ghost. Of course phenomenal css can be conscious of matter, for it’s what phenomenal css does and is for. (As for seeing how it’s done, we’re not going to be able to do that, because css cannot be entered into from outside, as I observed above.)


Since css cannot be created by matter, it cannot have been created at our births but, as Wordsworth famously says in “Intimations of Immortality”, bequeathed to us from another world. But this is a misleading way to put it. We are our css, we therefore came from this other world. But if css cannot be created by matter, then it cannot be destroyed by matter, and it is impossible that in themselves the decay, collapse and death of the physical body could affect the survival of the soul.

“Death” is after all the collapse of physical processes, i.e. it is an affair of matter not mind. It’s true that towards the ends of their lives people often “lose their minds”. But this is surely a physical thing: css is cut off by physical deterioration from brain activities such as vision, hearing, short term memory, etc. It’s like the machine breaking down while the activator of the machine sits helpless and frustrated.


Why are we ignorant about these matters?

Kant very convincingly argued as follows. We have not been given certainty about an afterlife, God, etc, because that would lead to our bribing and flattering God in the hope of reward, rather than working out a sincere moral path for ourselves. For the same reason we must not be provided by religion with a ready-made set of “commandments”; for then we might act only so as to benefit ourselves. It is morally necessary for us to be uncertain about life after death.

VIII: Conclusion

Nonetheless the arguments are powerful; and there is therefore a strong likelihood that our css continues after death, though in quite what manner it is impossible (from this side of that dark curtain) to see.



Hofstadter, Douglas (2007) I am a Strange Loop, Basic Books, New York
Martin, Graham Dunstan (2005) Does It Matter? Floris, Edinburgh
Nozick, Robert (1984) Philosophical Explanations, OUP. Oxford
Penrose, Roger (1989) The Emperor’s New Mind, OUP. Oxford & NY