• Don Salmon

    May 11, 2023 at 12:03 pm

    Mike, I agree for the most part with everything you write. Since I don’t want to get to much into purely intellectual (philosophic) discussions, I’m going to leave aside your comment about Vedanta except to say, if you’re talking about Shankara’s version of Vedanta, I completely agree with you – there are many others that aren’t illusionist at all – in fact, the majority of Vedantic and Tantric texts are not)


    I wonder if you could elaborate a bit on this comment. This was the only one I think I didn’t understand at all:

    “Physics, comprehensively but not exhaustively, describes phenomenal reality. On this view, it follows that phenomenal reality, largely but not exclusively, behaves as if it were material in nature.”

    “Phenomenal reality,” I had always thought, meant the reality that we experience. As physicist Arthur Zajonc (who has spent his life studying the foundations of science) puts it, “Physics is entirely about quantities, and is completely silent on qualities.”

    So my understanding is, phenomenal reality is completely absent from physics. No color, sound, etc. Did you watch Bernardo’s video series on analytic idealism? There’s a lot I disagree with in Bernardo’s idealist philosophy ,but his critique and parsing of the limitations of physicalist arguments is quite brilliant. When he explains this point about what physics encompasses, he has a very interesting image:

    First, he draws the outlines of a city skyline. He notes that materialist philosophers often tell us that while physics may deal with qualities, it gives us the behavior of the forms.

    So in the video, you see a red line drawn around the outer edges of the buildings in the skyline.

    Then – in quite a brilliant move – first the outlined buildings disappear, leaving only the red line.

    Then the red line disappears, the screen temporarily goes blank and then it is filled up with hundreds of overlapping equations.

    This is exactly the point Zajonc makes – what physics gives us is solely purely mathematical quantities, which we then, apply to our phenomenological experience, which is utterly absent from the perspective of pure physics.

    Finally, I think the point you and Whit are making about how successful physics is in describing the MEASURABLE BEHAVIOR of our experience (I always prefer to use everyday words if possible, so I’m going to leave aside “phenomenological reality) – is that regularly REQUIRES the assumption of materiality.

    Maybe we can go into this further. I suggest the exact opposite. If the universe were actually as materialists claim (I’m also going to use the most commonly used term – “physicalism” is a technical term that I find muddies the water a lot- though technically it’s more accurate), it would be pure chaos. (If you want a deep intellectual discussion of this, Sri Aurobindo devotes a very clear chapter of The Life Divine to this point)

    So, let’s see if I can summarize my questions:

    1. You say physics comprehensively but not exhaustively describes reality, and you seem to also be seeing this comprehensive description includes our experience.

    RESPONSE: Our experience itself is completely absent from physics – even from a “comprehensive” description.

    2. You seem to be saying, if I understand it correctly, that the accuracy of physics’ description of the behavior of measurable aspects of our experience implies a material universe.

    RESPONSE: it seems to me just the opposite. If the universe were as materialists claim, it would be pure chaos.