Intelligent Design

What Does It Mean To Say “Mind Is Primary”?

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There has been some discussion in other threads about the nature of experience and how it relates to what we call the material or physical world.  It is my position that the belief that an actual physical world exists independent of mind is just that – a belief, and that it cannot be (or at least has not been) demonstrated in any way to actually exist.  I agree that there is a lot of empirical evidence that supports the theory that a physical world exists “outside” of the parameters of what we consider our “self”, and that others we experience as separate beings appear to agree with that assessment and provide additional testimonial evidence supporting that theory.  However, there is a difference between a well-supported provisional theory and a demonstration that what the theory points to is true.

This thread is not about arguing whether or not an independent physical reality exists, but is rather about setting aside that perspective and agreeing, at least arguendo, to assess what it means if there is no independent physical world exterior of mind – that mind is actually primary, and the experience of a seemingly exterior, consensual physical world is a product of mind.

IMO most discussions that examine a “mind-primary” existence attempt to shoe-horn it into what is actually a materialism-primary worldview.  The common perspective of the mind from that framework is via the assumption that mind is entirely individual and local.  This is, IMO, an incredibly superficial and materialism-oriented perspective of “mind” that flies in the face of a lot of research into the mind.  The current philosophical arguments against a mind-centric theory of experience is that such a view leads to solipsism and the watering down of all experience to non-credible “delusion.”  Again, it is my opinion that these arguments are set forth (at least subconsciously) from a materialism-centric set of premises that are not valid when considering the mind-centric perspective from its own premise. Also, that reasoning flies in the face of mental values and thoughts that are held as universal even among those that make those arguments.

More properly characterizing the experience of consensual physicality in a mind-centric experience, IMO, involves a larger and deeper conceptualization of what mind is (or may be). Instead of physical bodies physically separated via physical space and environment, if mind is our primary essence of existence and experience, it would be better to see ourselves (arguendo) as an individual loci of consciousness in a multi-axis field of mind with many different categorical kinds of mental experience.  One of those kinds of mental experience would be a largely consensual, non-material physicality.  Quantum research should have long ago relieved us of the notion that there is an actual material world (at least that we can find), as we have found no matter at all at its foundation; only patterns of potential and behaviors which we call “energy”.  Depending upon how one consciously examines these patterns, they change.  All quantum evidence from research is entirely in consilience with a mind-centric theory of what the physical experience represents.

So, the premises:

1. Mind is the universal substrate of existence and experience, not matter.

2. There are universal and local principles by which mind operates and by which experience is generated.

3. There are many different kinds of experience one can have in mind, such as: consensual physicality (what we call the conscious, waking world); non-consensual physicality (such as dreams); non-physical & non-consensual thought & imagery (such as imagination, visualization); and consensual thought (such as self-evident truths, morality, logic and math).  There are other kind of experience that are less accepted, but which have been researched successfully, such as consensual visualization, semi-consensual experience, and others.

It is my view that this is a much more elegant theory of experience than those which include an actual material-world component, because an actual material world is (1) philosophically unnecessary, (2) unsupported by the evidence, and (3) impossible to verify or validate outside of mental experience anyway.

The main question, IMO, is whether or not the mind-centric perspective is rationally and philosophically sustainable. In another thread, KF argues that by putting the physical experience in the same overall category of mental experience, it necessarily means that physical experience is like delusion or dream experience. However, we already know that just because an experience is mental, that does not philosophically or rationally imply that it is like a delusion or a dream, as demonstrated by the mental experiences of self-evident truths, logic, morality and math.  Consensual experience, whether physical or mental, is verifiable and subject to consensual investigation whether it is of the thought or physical variety.  We know error exists, and is just as real, in the world of thought as any error in physical experience. In fact, the only place truth, error, validation and credibility exist as meaningful values is in the mind anyway.

IMO, the mind-centric theory provides more of a seamless and universal model for the pervasiveness of ongoing intelligent design throughout our experiential life; it entirely eliminates an unnecessary, problematic and unsupported major “substance” issue; it entirely provides seamless grounds for the behavioral patterns we call natural laws, energies and forces; offers room for completely real but non-normative experiences (like miracles, semi-consensual experiential modes like Fatima, remote viewing, out-of-body and near death experiences, etc.).

Another question would be: is the model superior in any practical way?  The answer to that, IMO, would be that a paradigm of mind-centricism would include an investigation into the various principles of the mind that underlie the various forms of experience, and explore the question of how much consciousness can be used to affect the various kinds of mental experience – including that of the physical-consensual.  I think the paradigm could offer many avenues of investigation and research.

24 Replies to “What Does It Mean To Say “Mind Is Primary”?

  1. 1
    Origenes says:

    … if mind is our primary essence of existence and experience, it would be better to see ourselves (arguendo) as an individual loci of consciousness in a multi-axis field of mind with many different categorical kinds of mental experience.

    In your proposal, what is ontologically primary, the “multi-axis field of mind” or the “individual loci of consciousness”? Or, alternatively, are ‘they’ one thing?

  2. 2
    EDTA says:

    WJM,

    Do you have links to any further exposition on this topic? Thank you.

  3. 3

    Origenes,

    Ultimately, they would be one thing, both existing eternally, providing a contextual relationship of “self” and “other”.

    EDTA: No.

    One of the philosophical questions I’d like to be challenged on by some kind of rational counter-argument is why an actual, external material world would be required for any significant reason, or why adopting the mind-centric view would be a problem.

  4. 4
    Latemarch says:

    William@3

    One of the philosophical questions I’d like to be challenged on by some kind of rational counter-argument is why an actual, external material world would be required for any significant reason, or why adopting the mind-centric view would be a problem.

    I think that developing a worldview that excludes something that is obviously there could be a problem“;^)

    I’m a big fan of the ‘it from bit’ concept. That matter is the combination of energy and information. This fits quite well with your observation….

    Quantum research should have long ago relieved us of the notion that there is an actual material world (at least that we can find), as we have found no matter at all at its foundation; only patterns of potential and behaviors which we call “energy”.

    ….”patterns” ie information and “behaviors” ie energy. When the two are combined we get the hard stuff that you stub your toe on in the middle of the night. (Why do they put the legs of the bed frame so close to the edge?)

    We know that matter cannot be eternal as it is logically impossible to have an infinite past therefore information must be prior to matter and information only comes from mind. I would also argue that energy without something to direct it or something to act on is also immaterial. So far this fits neatly in your mind-centric view. But note…we have not left out the matter. Matter is still neatly accounted for without slipping into a materialistic worldview.

    Now, why does this matter? (No pun intended)

    It matters because it appears that we are created as a mind intimately connected to a material body. We are not a mind body dualism but a mindbody unity. Gen 2:7 NIV Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Note that the matter precedes the mind in our formation. Frankly trying to split us into two parts is a Gnostic concept and best avoided.

    I found Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body a useful elaboration of the mind/body(matter)issue, particularly the early chapters.

  5. 5

    Latemarch,

    Please note that in rational analysis, one must be careful about how they describe things. What is actually “obvious” is that we are having a consensual experience of physicality. The fundamental nature of that experience is not obvious at all, especially when on carefully considers the nature of experience.

    I don’t see that you’ve actually raised a logical or philosophical challenge to the theory, but have only warned against it. Do you actually have a challenge to offer?

    BTW, experiencing physicality is not the same as experiencing a material world (you can use a dream to evidence that). We have no evidence of matter, only of experiential physicality. Two entirely different things.

  6. 6
    Latemarch says:

    William@5

    I agree with your assessment.

    As I read the OP (I had to read it several times you packed a lot into just a modicum of words) I actually came around to much of what you were proposing. Now I’m no philosopher and unlike KF have not read deeply but I believe that much of this has been hashed out long ago by better minds…..I guess I could Google it but then I would be attempting to argue from viewpoints that I only feebly understand.

    Still, I feel like you may have stumbled into an either/or fallacy. Why must it be either mind or matter? Why not both? Yes, I saw the appeal to the current state of quantum science that there didn’t appear to be any there there. I believe that to be a rather weak reed to hang your theory on. Science is constantly changing making for a terrible foundation to build a world view (See Scientism?)

    Note, I’m not accusing you of Scientism. I’m just saying that leg of the stool in your argument may be weak.

  7. 7
    Latemarch says:

    William

    Another probe into what might be a weakness.

    You said:

    Quantum research should have long ago relieved us of the notion that there is an actual material world (at least that we can find), as we have found no matter at all at its foundation; only patterns of potential and behaviors which we call “energy”.

    Internal inconsistency. Something is patterning. Something is behaving. Just what are we working with in our quantum science? If there is nothing there does that make it all a lie? (Yeah, a metaphysical implication…there are plenty)

  8. 8

    Latermarch,

    I appreciate your engagement. You asked:

    Why must it be either mind or matter?

    I didn’t say it must be. My argument that mind-centric expereince is a better premise because of various reasons (no evidence for matter, can’t experience outside of mind anyway, and that matter is superfluous in relation to current experiential models).

    I believe that to be a rather weak reed to hang your theory on.

    Only inasmuch as any large amount of consilient evidence gathered over the course of decades and repeatedly verified should be considered a “weak reed.” In addition to that, however, there are other reeds: parsimony – a model without an entire, superfluous external material world; and then there’s the logical reed, which demonstrates that we cannot experience anything outside of our mind anyway.

    Something is patterning. Something is behaving. Just what are we working with in our quantum science? If there is nothing there does that make it all a lie?

    Who said there is “nothing” there? I refer you to my first two premises:

    1. Mind is the universal substrate of existence and experience, not matter. [Note: Mind is not “nothing”.]

    2. There are universal and local principles by which mind operates and by which experience is generated.

    In order for experience to have intelligible patterns that provide for an identity/context framework, what we experience must follow certain principles. We are aware of at least some principles, like self-evident truths, principle of identity, mathematics, etc.

  9. 9
    Latemarch says:

    William@8

    I’m going to leave behind the either/or and Science issues behind for the time being. I may wish to return to them in the future. I do so because of the something vs nothing that comes in the third paragraph.

    I suspect that I’m not entirely comprehending the breadth of the mind-centric view or you misapprehend my argument. We might be talking past each other.

    The nothing that I was referring to was that of matter. Am I correct that the mind-centric view eliminates matter thus matter = nothing? Because I do agree that “Mind is not nothing”
    The point I was trying to make is that you are using the vocabulary of a ‘something’ which internally contradicts the supposed non-existence of matter.

  10. 10

    Latemarch said:

    The point I was trying to make is that you are using the vocabulary of a ‘something’ which internally contradicts the supposed non-existence of matter.

    No, it only internally contradicts it from a materialist-oriented perspective. If you agree that mind is not “nothing”, then it is “something”. Matter is not necessary. If I dream of, or visualize, a zebra, is it “nothing”? Of course not. It’s “something”, just not a material zebra. If I dream of riding and petting a zebra, is it nothing? No, it is something, it’s just not a material zebra.

    If I experience patterns and behaviors in a dream, are those patterns a behaviors “nothing”? Of course not. We cannot even imagine “nothing”. We experience patterns and behaviors in what we call “the physical world”, which, under mind centrism, is simply a largely consensual experience of physicality within mind.

  11. 11
    Latemarch says:

    William@10

    Okay, I get it now.

    Question: Where or from who do the experiences originate? Is this mind the ‘Intelligent Designer’? I’m just trying to lay out the boundaries of the mind-centric universe.

  12. 12

    The experiences originate in the mind. They reflect the various natures of the individual consciousness providing context and support on various levels. It’s largely an automatic process involving the unconscious and subconscious, with a free will capacity to directly control much of that which is perceived as a very local manifestation of self – the body and thought – as action and thought based on conscious intent. Beyond the local body and thought, the subconscious and unconscious have more influence in environment.

    The unconscious represents a virtually infinite potential for experience, while the subconscious develops or find more categorical an thematic kinds of experience.

    These are not cut and dried levels. Some aspects of the unconscious and subconscious work together (automatically, for the most part) to situate us in an “external” framework that suits our identities.

  13. 13
    R J Sawyer says:

    Mind is the universal substrate of existence and experience, not matter.

    But who’s mind?

  14. 14
    Latemarch says:

    I don’t know what happened to William….but

    Let’s consider consensual physicality.
    How, in the mind-centric view are there any independent objects that mind doesn’t perceives?

    Example:
    Two minds perceive a room. There is a box in the hall not perceived by either. Does the box exist?

    Is this an internal inconsistancy?

  15. 15

    RJ Sawyer asks:

    But who’s mind?

    I think “who” can only apply to an individual consciousness in mind. I think it might be an error to think of the universal field of what we call “the unconscious” as belonging to any being recognizable as such, since it would actually be omnipresent with everything, everywhere, everywhen.

    So I would say it’s appropriate to consider universal mind “God”, but it really doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s just a label.

    I would also like to point out here that because we are used to framing terms from a fundamentally materialist perspective, what the terms “mind”, “conscousness”, “subconscious” and “unconscious” immediately trigger us to think about what those terms mean are usually materialist-rooted perspectives even if we disagree with materialism.

  16. 16
    R J Sawyer says:

    Obviously we can’t prove that the universe and life are not simulations in a universal computer (non-material, of course), but that just puts it on a very long list of things we can’t prove. I just can’t see the point in expending much effort arguing over something that can’t be proven, or at least be confirmed with a high level of probability.

  17. 17

    R J Sawyer,

    Then get off my thread.

  18. 18

    Latemarch asks:

    Let’s consider consensual physicality.
    How, in the mind-centric view are there any independent objects that mind doesn’t perceives?

    Example:
    Two minds perceive a room. There is a box in the hall not perceived by either. Does the box exist?

    Independent of what?

    Given my outline of mind, what part or aspect of mind are you referring to? One mind, both? “Not percieved” by all minds, and all aspects of mind? The conscious mind doesn’t have to have to be aware of a thing for the subconscious to be aware of it.

    In the model, the consensual subconscious is “aware” of everything (at least as potential) in the dimensional matrix of shared potentials and necessary actualizations of experience. IOW, it’s running a kind of shared virtual reality that requires a certain degree of cohesiveness between individual viewpoints.

  19. 19
    Latemarch says:

    William@18

    In the model, the consensual subconscious is “aware” of everything (at least as potential) in the dimensional matrix of shared potentials and necessary actualizations of experience. IOW, it’s running a kind of shared virtual reality that requires a certain degree of cohesiveness between individual viewpoints.

    And there goes the parsimony.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way but these kinds of explanations for common everyday events is why, though internally consistent, make this an unpopular worldview.

  20. 20

    Latemarch said:

    And there goes the parsimony.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way but these kinds of explanations for common everyday events is why, though internally consistent, make this an unpopular worldview.

    So, in trying to understand your objection, I infer that you are saying that the existence of an entire material universe would make an explanation for shared mental experiences more efficient. Is that correct?

    To begin with: common every day events would still be common every day events regardless of the framework one uses to characterize the nature of those events. I’m not sure what point you’re making with that, because it seems to me you are saying (considering what you say next about popularity) is that because you are used to thinking about these things in terms of an external material universe, it follows that the material universe theory is “more efficient”. That certainly doesn’t follow.

    If that’s not what you mean, perhaps you could describe how the material-world theory is “more efficient” than the “mind-centric” theory. Both require coordinated, consensual mental experiences, but one does not require 15 billion years of linear, material-world time and @28.5 gigaparsecs of material-world space. One requires coordination of experience in two domains (material and mental), while one only requires coordination in one domain (mental).

    Also, could you please tell me what difference it makes to any of this if a theory is popular or not?

  21. 21
    Latemarch says:

    William@20

    So, in trying to understand your objection, I infer that you are saying that the existence of an entire material universe would make an explanation for shared mental experiences more efficient. Is that correct?

    Yes, You see the box. I see the box. We agree to a shared experience of the box. The matter itself does the coordinating. It does not require a “consensual subconscious is “aware” of everything.” Which, frankly, reads as a god like subconscious to coordinate everything.

    Both require coordinated, consensual mental experiences, but one does not require 15 billion years of linear, material-world time and @28.5 gigaparsecs of material-world space.

    Neither size nor age makes something more or less parsimonious.

    Also, could you please tell me what difference it makes to any of this if a theory is popular or not?

    It’s just an observation. Both worldviews are internally consistent given their a priori assumptions.

    From a Christian perspective:
    The mind-centric view contradicts the plain reading of Genesis 1. Renders meaningless the suffering and death of Christ and negates the focus of much of the New Testament on the importance of the body.

    I’m pretty much out of ideas re the mind-centric worldview. I feel like I understand it much better now. Like I said above your position is internally consistent given the assumptions I just don’t believe the assumptions are true.
    I’d like to thank you for the OP and all the thoughtful and courteous interaction. Really made me think. I leave you with this thought from some anonymous wag.

    It would appear that God must like matter….He made so much of it.

  22. 22

    It would appear that God must like matter….He made so much of it.

    Odd statement, considering we have yet to actually find any matter.

    Not being a Christian, I’m not that familiar with the Bible. Does it say that God created matter?

  23. 23
    Latemarch says:

    William@22
    A Christian-centric point of view.

    The first chapter of Genesis describes the formation of the universe from an earth-centric point of view. It’s also not in an order that one would expect from a materialist point of view. The rest of the universe doesn’t show up until day four.

    Genesis 1:14-19 (NIV) And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

    I bolded the part where he made the rest of the universe. In the Hebrew it’s almost an aside. Oh yeah, let’s make some stars. A 14 billion light year universe is nothing to an omnipotent God.

    I’ll also point out that all of it was made before any other minds which don’t show up until day six. That would mean if there isn’t actually any matter there the only one being deceived is God himself.

  24. 24
    ScuzzaMan says:

    As a Christian I believe God when he says of Man that “he IS flesh“.

    Instead of Mind however, I would talk about the relationship between the Physical and the Spiritual. Men typically think of spiritual things as being somehow less “real” than physical things. We perceive this in the saying that “I’ll believe it when I see it” and similar statements routinely used in human conversation.

    BECAUSE we are flesh (physical, material) we tend to believe somewhat automatically (un-mindfully) that the physical is real and anything else, anything other than the physical, is inherently therefore less real.

    But my experiences have bought me to this understanding:

    The Spiritual is fundamental, primary, necessary, cause.
    The Physical is derivative, secondary, contingent, effect.

    This insight (and its implications) resolves many philosophical, moral and religious problems.

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