Matter Can’t Make Mind: Part One

There are many excellent reasons why materialism is likely to be false. Let us start with the nature of matter itself.

What is ‘Matter’?

(1) The man-in-the-street usually claims to ‘know by experience what matter is‘. Dr Johnson is famous for impersonating the man-in-the-street by kicking a stone. He thought this showed that solid matter was indeed solid. But what did he actually prove? Nothing. The pain he got in his foot merely shows what we all know, namely that ‘Matter’ is simply the way mind perceives its surroundings as they appear to us through our senses, namely as hard / soft, cold / hot, noisy, painful, colourful / dark, etc. In this case it appeared as hard and painful. In other words, matter is appearance.

The quantum physicist Nick Herbert very nicely says that we human beings resemble King Midas. Everything he touched turned into gold – including his daughter and his food, so that he would have starved to death both emotionally and physically had the god Dionysos not taken pity on him. Herbert says we ‘can’t directly experience the true texture of reality because everything we touch turns to matter.

(2) So now let’s put this question to the physicist, for it is popularly held that he knows what matter is. When facing this same question, Sir Arthur Eddington gives the example of an elephant sliding down a grassy slope. So as to handle this situation in science, he explains, you turn it into pointer readings or their equivalents. You turn the elephant into a weight (mass), the grassy slope into an angle of 60o, the grass into a coefficient of friction – and so on. As Eddington carefully explains, concrete reality disappears, and abstract measurements take its place.

Thus we are, I fear, again disappointed, for the physicist does not claim to ‘know what matter is‘. Science is humanity’s most majestic creation. On the one hand it has taught us rigour, on the other it has magnified our sense of wonder. But it neither replaces nor replicates reality. It merely gives us an abstract account of reality, which enables us to manipulate it better. That is to say that the physicist deals, not with ‘matter itself’ (whatever that might be) but rather with those aspects of appearance which can be quantified, reduced to measurements, and thereby modelled and manipulated. And of course modern science has enabled us to do this to a remarkable degree.

(3) What do we conclude? Well, for the man-in-the-street ‘matter’ is the impression given of it by our various senses. Moreover there is a natural tendency to assimilate the notion of ‘matter’ to the harder and more impenetrable side of our experiences with the outer world. For the scientist it is rather different: ‘matter’ is those aspects of the world that he can measure or model. For him, there is a natural tendency to see matter, measure it, test it, judge its nature via the exceedingly successful tool of mathematics. For the scientist, the living reality of the experienced world thus literally disappears into abstractions.

The ‘true nature‘ of matter is absent from both these views, nor is it possible to ascertain what that ‘true nature‘ might be. There is nothing very surprising about this outcome, since everything we know about the outer world is actually indirect: it is transmitted and transmuted to us through our senses, and interpreted through the conscious and unconscious areas of our minds.

Help from Berkeley

Now it is essential to observe the subject of discussion properly, and to define it as accurately as we can. One must admit that clarity is not always attainable, and that mystery is frequently unavoidable. In this case however I believe that the definition I shall propose will not only provide some clarity but also a degree of enlightenment.

Let us therefore take the philosopher Berkeley’s view of matter. I do not accept the final conclusions of Berkeleyan philosophy, but his starting point embodies a remarkable insight. For him, there are basically two elements in nature: (1) percipere (what perceives and cannot by its nature be perceived), i.e. consciousness, and – its reverse or polar twin: (2) percipi (what is perceived and cannot by its nature perceive), i.e. matter. This is quite close to the view which Indian philosophy has always taken, namely that the division is not between soul and body, or mind and matter, but between consciousness and appearance. We shall see that this makes all the difference to our way of thinking about reality.

(Let me at once point out, before proceeding with the argument, that materialists entirely agree with Berkeley’s definition of matter: that is, they entirely agree that matter can be perceived but does not perceive. We shall return to this issue in a moment.)

I shall immediately say that I take this view of the question to be, observably, correct. It is quite literally a matter of observation, and any dispassionate person can see at once that this is the way things are. The material objects we observe in the world around us are quite evidently perceptible by consciousness, yet themselves devoid of consciousness; whereas the living persons we also experience around us are (pace arguments about solipsism ) evidently observing beings. Yet it is impossible for any consciousness to enter another consciousness and perceive the latter’s own perceptions. This is one of the most important lessons we absorb in early childhood when learning how to understand the actions of people around us. Importantly, nobody can perceive my perceiving. The scientist can open up my brain but he still cannot perceive my perceiving. Yes, he can fix a device to my skull and see where in my brain certain impulses are happening. But that is still not observing what and how my experiences are. We must be thankful for this, because otherwise we would soon have totalitarians, fascists, communists, and in due course no doubt Iranian ayatollahs, all seeking direct mind-control of their subjects. As Genoud writes in the JCS,

Can consciousness be sought out by seeing? Can it be known by hearing, touching, or thinking? If that were so, consciousness would be a shape and colour, a sound, a tactile sensation, a thought. None of which is true.

As I say, impartial experience shows that the Berkeleyan claim as to percipere and percipi is the way to define the fundamental split between matter and mind. The two poles – which I shall continue to call by their Latin names percipere and percipi — what perceives and what is perceived — are mutually exclusive. To put it another way, one might say that (1) consciousness is an inside without an outside, and that (2) matter is an outside without an inside. To state it this way is to enunciate an apparent paradox. But clearly this is because consciousness and matter are paradoxical when taken separately. Taken together, they are complementary.

Percipere and percipi are two mutually exclusive categories. Each is everything the other is not; and each is nothing that the other is. Consciousness and matter are thus reverse or polar twins. I am reminded of one of Jorge Luis Borges’s short stories, where he speaks of the Disc of Odin. This impossible object is a disc with only a single side. It follows therefore that, if you drop it and it lands face down, you’ll never find it again. Consciousness and matter are, I would suggest, a pair: two Discs of Odin.

There is one exception to this absolute law. It is a single exception, yet we all experience it every minute. The perceiver is never the perceived and the perceived is never the perceiver, except in one case. For everyone’s personal consciousness can of course perceive itself. So the impassable gulf is resolved in one case and in one case only, with subject and object knowing each other reflexively. Consciousness is the only thing that knows itself, i.e. only consciousness resolves the ultimate ontological chasm between perceiver and perceived.

Here an important metaphysical claim may be made. Nor is this step (except in the fashionable view of our contemporaries) daring at all: it is merely the sort of thing that many great philosophies of the past believed in. Consciousness may be an element of the Ultimate. The World, we may guess, is the result of splitting apart from each other the two fundamental principles or elements, percipere the perceiver & percipi the perceived.

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


Note: Consciousness is abbreviated throughout as ‘css’,
Universe as ‘U’.

Tools for Thinking


A writer has a duty to be so clear that you can see when he’s cheating.


What is stupidity? Thinking you can’t be wrong.


‘In Science, you can have as many dimensions as you want, provided none of them contains ghosts, life after death, God, or contradicts Charles Darwin.’
You can also have as many Universes as you want. (Adapted from Scarlett Thomas, The End of Mr Y, p 19.)


Some thinkers prefer straitjackets to ideas.


Science has satisfied our yearning for magic. All the ancient spells (7-league boots, far-seeing mirror on the wall, etc.) except the cloak of invisibility have been created.
But does that mean it can tell us everything? That it not only disproves all religions but replaces them?


Even clever people make mistakes. The cleverer they are, the more ingenious their mistakes and the more wary we must be of being deceived.


Are emotions necessary for intelligence?
Yes. People who lack emotions don’t seem to be intelligent in quite the right way.


If you forbid mysteries, then no-one will ever again discover anything.


Academics practise a closed shop. Free speech in academe is allowed only within frontiers, not across them. They build impenetrable walls around their “fields”. Anyone who blithely trespasses on someone else’s field must never be mentioned again.


Some philosophers find language such a powerful tool that they began to think it was the test of every truth.
And some find science such a powerful tool that any question it can’t answer can’t be a real question. (“Arrest that question! Gag it! Forbid it to speak!”)


The psychologically insecure, who insist on certainty;
The psychologically secure, who can tolerate doubt.


As in the lecture hall. Understanding is not a word-perfect repetition of the lesson. That is parroting.
Understanding is digestion, assimilation, adaptation to one’s own purposes, living the lesson meaningfully.
Word-perfect repetition is a proof you have not understood. Machines therefore cannot qualify for understanding.


Words cannot describe, because they don’t have colour, taste, sound, shape, texture, etc. They merely POINT at things that have colour, taste, etc. It’s our minds, our remembered experience, which fills in the gaps left by those absent colours, tastes, shapes, etc.
The word “Manchester” is like a road-sign pointing to Manchester. It doesn’t “contain” or “describe” the city, it merely points at it.


The “Table-Leg Problem”. There was no word for the supports of tables and chairs. So people were forced to extend the word ‘leg’. Used this way, it’s a metaphor. It’s a forced metaphor – forced because there’s no other term for a table-leg. But because you use the word ‘leg’ of tables, it doesn’t mean they can walk, or dance, or kick you. The technical term for extensions / metaphors of this sort is CATACHRESIS.
Because of the way the modern world perpetually pours out inventions, we have endless quantities of this figure of speech. I.e. we have Galloping Catachresis. BUT did insects ‘invent’ winged flight? No. Does Radar ‘see’ a plane? No. That would be like saying your spectacles see a plane.
Similarly, Machines don’t have ‘memories’, They don’t ‘store information’, they’re not ‘intelligent’. They contain machinery which produces a small number of the effects of these human capacities, but only when we are using them. Computers are (in Raymond Tallis’s beautiful phrase) ‘prosthetic extensions of the conscious human body’.


A symbol is meaningless without knowledge of its referent. A word is meaningless without knowledge of what it ‘stands for’. Living human beings all understand the “same” word slightly differently; and it’s only the highest common denominator which can be even pointed at by dictionaries.



Just as in the philosophy of materialism, consciousness is to be explained by its contradictory, i.e. consciousness is claimed to emerge from unconsciousness — so neoDarwinians seek to explain altruism by selfishness. Like deriving a toad from a horseshoe. Like swearing that black is white.


In science, ‘matter’ simply means ‘What science, so far, is capable of measuring.’ (See Does It Matter?, Graham Dunstan Martin, Floris 2005)

What is matter? Matter is appearance.


Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker: the haemoglobin molecule consists of four chains of amino acids. One of those chains consists of 146 amino acids. The number of possible ways of arranging 20 kinds of thing in chains 146 long is 10190.
Dawkins agrees with us! But see his way out.

Dembski 2002 p 290: If you toss 100 pennies all together, till all are heads, then it’ll take you 1030 tosses.
One at a time, however, deliberately leaving each one lying on the carpet once it shows heads, it takes about 100 tosses. Dawkins’ device is the latter. So who or what, somewhere within the animal reproductive processes, deliberates, has planned or knows in advance what is needed, observes the correct placings and deliberately leaves them unchanged? For Dawkins (like all orthodox Darwinians) claims that the evolutionary process has no purpose, conscious control, plan, deliberation, etc.


Contrary to Dennett and others, science is not an ideology which states that everything is made of matter. Science is a method of inquiry into the mystery of Being. The true scientist has an open mind.


Why do atheists hang onto Darwinism at all costs? Because it is the very foundation of atheism. It appears to explain how the U can achieve order and complexity by sheer blind accident. So it does away with the need for a supernatural designer-creator. So it’s the one big thing that enables them to be atheists. Hence their immoderate rage and fear at anyone who questions neoDarwinism.

Of course evolution happens. BUT is it by itself sufficient?
There are good arguments for supposing that Nature and chance cannot produce either the U or the living world. For the U starts off too complex for mere chance to be at work. And for the living world to be produced by evolutionary means, Earth’s history is not long enough.
And if Nature and chance cannot produce them, then something else did!


How can being a loop produce css? No matter how strange the loop!
It can no more produce css than can setting up two mirrors facing each other make these two mirrors conscious. No matter how often or how complicatedly the light goes to and fro, it still doesn’t start seeing itself.


“If everything is physicalistic, then anything must be possible to simulate / recreate.”
I.e. it must be possible to ‘model’ anything.
They conclude therefore: ‘Anything that can’t be made can’t possibly exist’, which is the same as saying: ‘Anything I don’t understand can’t possibly exist.’

Css, Dualism, & Soul


We know neither what matter is nor what mind is. So we cannot tell whether images like ‘the ghost in the machine’ are apt or not.
But in either case, they are merely metaphoric.
Metaphors are used in an attempt to make dualism seem absurd. We are asked whether a feather can drive a locomotive. But who (in the centuries before it was done) would have believed that steam could drive a locomotive?

In other words, what is it about solid objects that makes them so solid? It’s our senses. And what are our senses? Aspects of our css.

The Religion of Materialism


What was there at the beginning of the U? An on / off switch?


Belief is embedded in people’s personalities, and held at an unconscious level. Vertigo overcomes people who are asked to abandon their beliefs. It’s like asking them to abandon their legs.


I sometimes think Europeans are atheists because Americans aren’t.


The materialist claim is that ‘Just as we can make a motor-car, so we shall one day be able to make a mind.’ This supposes that a mind is made of material bits and pieces just like a motor-car.

It’s perhaps plausible that ‘If you can’t make an X, you can’t know how an X works.’ To take a further step, however, namely, ‘Anything that can’t be made can’t possibly exist’, is to take a step too far. Besides, this amounts to saying ‘Anything that can’t be imitated can’t possibly exist’; which amounts to saying ‘Anything that I don’t understand can’t possibly exist.’ These are not rational assumptions, yet the last of these statements is the working assumption of many materialists.

Whether machines can become conscious is not a technical question, it is conceptually and metaphysically impossible.


If not only was there no happening to be had, nor was there anything for it to happen to, how did the U get started?


“God”, they claim, (or any similar creator) would have had to evolve, because the complex comes after the simple. So we can’t have him starting off the U.

Our habit of looking at things from an evolutionary perspective makes it hard for us to believe that an intelligence could be there at the OUTSET. However, Big Bang theory supposes that the U started as a huge, wound-up, energy machine. It’s been running down ever since. Entropy is low at the beginning. The U has to start with energy, complexity.

As Aristotle argued, an incompleted infinity is possible (such as the series of numbers – or an infinite future to time), whereas a completed infinity (such as an infinite past time) is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, when the U was created, Time too was created (along with Space).

The U sprang therefore from eternity, which is a different mode of time, a timeless time perhaps, not necessarily sequential as is our own familiar time. Notions of evolution are irrelevant here, because they depend on our notions of sequential time. The argument that only evolution can produce complexity is therefore beside the point in the context of the Universal Creation.

The Creator of All is not caused by a causal chain, s/he/it initiates the very existence of a causal chain.

Consciousness & the Immaterial


The cosmologist Frank Tipler believes that, eventually, an electronic heaven will be devised, in which (converted into electronic pulses) we all will achieve deathless eternity. (This’ll be a long time in the future, but don’t worry! Our electronic descendants’ll come back for us. (What unparalleled altruism!)) This is because, he claims, “css is nothing but information.”
This is untrue: information isn’t css, it’s one of the things that consciousness is conscious of.


Is css perhaps what causes, constitutes, drives, or impels Time? Certainly it is inseparable from it.
Of course if there were no css, nothing would happen. Because nothing would be experienced.
Presumably therefore css exists so as to make things happen. I.e. it’s designed into the Universe so as to make things happen. It’s therefore a part of the U’s design and purpose. An essential part. We must therefore be fragments of an essential & immortal entity.


What puts the “fire” into the equations? Hawking asks on his last page. Maths doesn’t do it (though he would love it to, for it’s his lifeblood). He means, What makes the U real? It can’t be maths.
Well, exactly. Just as a map is an abstraction from the living landscape, so Maths cannot capture the nature of what the maths stands for!


There is a basic metaphysical paradox. I.e. the World contains two kinds of things: (1) those which can perceive but not be perceived (i.e. css) and (2) those which can be perceived but cannot perceive (i.e. matter).


1) The ultimate centre of Css is empty / featureless / pure: a mirror reflecting nothing;
2) Css is unlocatable;
3) Every css is isolated from every other css. (We cannot eavesdrop on each other’s minds; we cannot see what they are seeing. Even if we could, we would still be seeing, not what they see, but how we see them seeing it.)
4) Css is impregnable. Css is the magic castle that cannot be found (Unfortunately, when within our bodies it is subject to sensory communication from outside, and can be besieged by physical torture, but cannot be taken except by acquiescence).
5) With regard to Time, css is dual: (i) We cannot tell if it is either metaphysically (a) chained to Time or (b) constitutive of Time. But it also contains (ii) a deep eternal element outside Time (to be identified with (1) above;
6) Css is irreducibly Subjective (yet the Objective derives entirely from css).
7) Css possesses free will (Css does not only perceive, it acts);
8 ) Css constitutes Identity (Css just is our identity, and that’s all there is to it);
9) Css is ineffable. (The contents of Css, and particularly the qualia, are impossible to reduce to words, mathematics or any other symbolic system.)
10) Css is the unique source of all values. (For nothing has value or purpose to an unconscious object.)
11) Css permits no doubt. (For if I do experience something, then indeed I do experience something, even if this is adjudged to be an illusion.)
12) Css is prelinguistic. One sometimes finds it asserted that we are unconscious before we learn a language. This is plainly false. (However it handily allows those who assert it to deny css to the entire animal kingdom.)
13) Css is self-knowing (thereby resolving the basic metaphysical paradox). The basic paradox is this: there are two kinds of things: (a) those which can perceive but not be perceived (i.e. css) (I shall term this percipere), and (b) those which can be perceived but cannot perceive (i.e. matter) (I shall term this percipi). Css is the only thing in nature which (within its own css only) knows itself, which perceives itself, which resolves the absolute disjunction between percipere and percipi. I repeat: css resolves this disjunction.
I posit that this disjunction lies at the heart & origin of the U.

Almost all the above features of css are (a) unique in Nature and (b) completely different in kind from material phenomena.


To confuse css with the material brain is like supposing that it’s the telescope /microscope that does the seeing, and not the person looking through it.


The behaviourists used to believe there is no such thing as css. To all intents and purposes, Daniel Dennett our contemporary believes there is no such thing as the colour ‘red’— or the smell of violets – or the sound of trumpets — or even the experience of pain — because he says qualia only ‘seem’ to exist — thereby denying that he himself has any sensations.
Maybe one should say ‘There seems to be a philosopher called Dennett.’

And these are the people who sneer at ‘folk psychology’! As Democritus said in the 5th Century BC: ‘How can I deny my senses when I get all my evidence from them?’


When asking “What is X?” questions, the answer has always to be couched in terms more basic than X. So “What is css?” has to be answered in terms more basic than css.
But what if css is fundamental? What if css (as Indian philosophy thinks) is the ultimate?
Then no analysing css down into more fundamental elements would be possible.


We don’t know what a quark “is”. Why, then, ask what css is? Knowing what fundamentals “are” is impossible.

On the other hand, it could be said that we do indeed know what css is – because we live it and experience it every moment of our lives. What else could “knowing” be?


Since perception cannot be constructed from anything incapable of perception, css (which is pure perception) must be a fundamental element of the U. Perhaps the fundamental element.


On the other hand, percipi can easily be constructed from percipere. (We do it every night in our beds asleep.)
This again suggests that css is the fundamental element.


Moore p 183: the infinitude of meaning. ‘The meaning of an expression has infinite possibilities woven into it.’ Can css therefore grasp infinity? Does it partake of it?



If the U indeed contains an ultimate spiritual power, all words used of it must be inapt and inept. The word ‘God’ is particularly feeble, since it suggests all sorts of infantile images – besides absurdly insinuating that ‘God’ is ‘male’. Perhaps we should use expressions such as ‘the Ultimate’, ‘the Divine’, ‘the All-Mind’, ‘the Ground of All Being’.
Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite suggested that only description through negatives could even be approximately apt.

On the other hand, the word ‘God’ is useful shorthand, so long as it isn’t taken too seriously.


The two things are just one thing looking in a mirror. The world is the mirror.


True spirituality resembles the wild beauty of a beach somewhere on the West Coast of Scotland. Institutional religion is that same beach encumbered by deckchairs, donkeys, seawalls, ice cream vans and multistorey hotels.


Religious doctrines must be amendable, alterable, corrigible, if they are about realities. For this is the situation in science, human knowledge being always fallible. Compare the great religions with each other. What they share is, sometimes, their truths. What divides them is, often, metaphoric – or naïve, trivial and disposable – or merely ritualistic.
To the extent that religions are mutually incompatible, each is merely an allegory.

What is the heart of religion? Wisdom, compassion, personal growth.
What is the irrelevant tinsel? Doctrine & dogma – which, understood literally, is often no better than credulity & superstition.

The spirit gives life, the letter kills.


Literalists suppose that words have one clear and definite meaning, and that they know it. However, language is fundamentally ambiguous. This is a basic necessity of its very nature. It cannot be otherwise.
Consequently fundamentalists never understand their own language, and therefore cannot understand their own sacred text.


Abou el Fadl 2005: ‘Puritans’ (i.e. extremists) show a methodical disregard on principle and in all circumstances for human reason, human wishes, human happiness or misery, and even for human virtues such as benevolence and compassion. All these are to be disregarded absolutely; only what they (falsely) imagine to be the law of God is to be observed.
In short, human beings are not to be allowed to think. Nor to feel.
All their values are negative.

They forbid:
Music, singing and dancing.
All TV programs unless religious.
The giving of flowers.
Clapping the hands in applause.
Acting in a play.
Writing novels.
Shaving one’s beard.
Eating or writing with the left hand.
Standing up to show someone respect.
Celebrating anyone’s birthday.
The voice of women should not be heard in public.
Women must not mix with men in public places.

This is merely a small selection.


Wahhabism began in the 18th C. While we were having our enlightenment, they were having their endarkenment. Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb.


‘Religion, for me, is a quest – a quest of faith, of meaning.’ ( Necla Kelek)
Religions are mere lanterns in the dark. Doctrines are like reducing the Spring to a formula.



Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but it’s criticism of science. Science needs constant criticism so as to progress. So perhaps ID is science after all.


We know nothing about the world except through ourselves.
We know nothing about what other people think about the world except through ourselves.


Where, when and how does the world take place? It doesn’t take place ‘out there’. It takes place in experience, i.e. in the consciousness of living beings.


The various modalities of the qualia, i.e. the senses of hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, touching – are unimaginably different from each other. They just present themselves to us as if they were totally different dimensions. Seeing is nothing like tasting; hearing is nothing like seeing; smelling is nothing like touching. And so forth.


The World is illusion – a dream summoned up by css. On the other hand, the only reality is conscious experience. So the World is not illusion.


The tree has information, but doesn’t know it. Neither did we before we understood about tree-rings.


Scepticism doesn’t go far enough. Heresy is the thing. Nonconformism. The only progress ever made in the world is made by people who rebel against the conventional wisdom.
As two very quotable contemporaries say, (1) ‘A “Given Fact” is a social agreement to stop thinking.’ (Dr Moerman) (2) ‘The most important question for any society to ask is the one that is forbidden.’ (Richard Halvorson)


Hawking:’[…] Questions about reality do not have any meaning.’ (Quoted in Ferguson 1995, p 132) Here we have a man who wishes to replace reality by mathematics.


Programs are rules. Therefore no originality. Originality is precisely what breaks the rules deliberately (not accidentally) and turns out better than they. It is better because it serves the purpose better, or turns it to a hitherto unimagined purpose.

It seems plain that breaking the rules is precisely what css is for. For it is easy to imagine that, without css, the rules would never be broken save by breakdown.

1) A Turing machine cannot handle meaning.
2) Intelligent aware behaviour is not following rules. Nothing rule-based will give it you. If you try to model choice and decision-making through computers, they will merely model them on more and more rules.

How certain is it that we have free will? It’s as certain that I exercize my autonomy as that I’m speaking to you now.


There is no such thing as a ‘public, objective fact’. Any so-called ‘public fact’ is always (first) observed privately by a number of individuals who (secondly) agree as to what they have witnessed, i.e. each of them privately observes him/herself as so agreeing. The phrase ‘an accepted scientific truth’ is both frank and exact. What science claims to be the truth is what most scientists in that particular field agree upon for the time being. Objectivity is the product of agreement between subjectivities.
As to what we term ‘private experiences’, these nonetheless repeat themselves in similar form in many different consciousnesses, and we can, as with ‘public experiences’) agree about them. When suffering is caused to different people on different occasions, nonetheless we can agree ‘We all experience that sort of thing.’ ‘Objectivity’ depends on subjectivity. Why then should an apple be regarded as more real than suffering?
Suffering is a much more powerful experience than tasting an apple.


There are various valid paths to the Divine. Some of these are known as “religions” but must not be taken too literally, for the Divine is by definition beyond speaking.
There are also a number of paths which – despite their religious claims –lead into dark and cruel nonsense.


I derive this word from the Latin vim (by force) and forte (by chance). For this is how materialists / determinists see the U, supposing it derives exclusively from (1) the laws of blind chance on the one hand and (2) the laws of inescapable causality on the other.
They deny all purpose, all meaning, all freedom, all possibility of a human mind interfering with mindless totalitarian determinism. In doing so they claim not to worship a god, but in effect they do – only that god is mindless.


Martin, Graham Dunstan (2005) Does It Matter? The Unsustainable World of the
Materialists, Floris, Edinburgh
(2008) Living on Purpose: Meaning, Intention and Value, Floris, Edinburgh