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Publisher's Summary

A rigorous case for the primacy of mind in nature, from philosophy to neuroscience, psychology, and physics.

The Idea of the World offers a grounded alternative to the frenzy of unrestrained abstractions and unexamined assumptions in philosophy and science today. This book examines what can be learned about the nature of reality based on conceptual parsimony, straightforward logic, and empirical evidence from fields as diverse as physics and neuroscience. It compiles an overarching case for idealism - the notion that reality is essentially mental - from 10 original articles the author has previously published in leading academic journals. 

The case begins with an exposition of the logical fallacies and internal contradictions of the reigning physicalist ontology and its popular alternatives, such as bottom-up panpsychism. It then advances a compelling formulation of idealism that elegantly makes sense of - and reconciles - classical and quantum worlds. The main objections to idealism are systematically refuted and empirical evidence is reviewed that corroborates the formulation presented here. The book closes with an analysis of the hidden psychological motivations behind mainstream physicalism and the implications of idealism for the way we relate to the world.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2017 Bernardo Kastrup; foreword copyright 2017 by Menas C. Kafatos; afterword copyright 2017 by Edward F. Kelly (P)2019 Tantor

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Unbelievably important

Bernardo Kastrup is an amazing communicator of difficult subjects. His many interviews online gives you more access to one of our greatest modern philosophers than any other time in history. Allowing for much clarification of the ideas contained in this entertaining yet challenging contribution to analytic philosophy.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-02-2020

Idealism is crossing over to the mainstream

In this new book "The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality," Bernardo Kastrup, a computer engineer, idealist philosopher and author of several other books, including “Why Materialism Is Baloney,” attempts to provide a viable explanatory framework for our experience as distinct individual minds within a seemingly shared but contextual world, however beyond the control of our immediate volition. Dr. Kastrup contends that quantum mechanics, as well as cognitive science, suggests that our minds actively construct experiential reality rather than passively mirror “external” reality. He calls for a radical overhaul of the current scientific orthodoxy. Challenging mainstream physicalism that posits the existence of physical entities independent of experience, Bernardo builds his bastion of arguments for metaphysical idealism.

This book is a collection of ten peer-reviewed scholarly articles previously published in academic journals combined into a coherent storyline where he vehemently slaps physicalist as well as “quasi-physicalist” philosophies: “I propose an idealist ontology that makes sense of reality in a more parsimonious and empirically rigorous manner than mainstream physicalism, bottom-up panpsychism, and cosmopsychism. The proposed ontology also offers more explanatory power than these three alternatives, in that it does not fall prey to the hard problem of consciousness... It can be summarized as follows: There is only cosmic consciousness. We, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated alters of cosmic consciousness, surrounded by its thoughts. The inanimate world we see around us is the extrinsic appearance of these thoughts. The living organisms we share the world with are the extrinsic appearances of other dissociated alters.” I tend to relate to these idealistic worldviews aimed at the monistic description of reality as opposed to Cartesian dualism and its derivatives. We are rapidly outgrowing the physicalist framework, and monistic idealism is perhaps that superset we are looking for, which is better suited to describe relational reality of which we are a part.

Experiments show that the everyday world we perceive does not exist until observed, which in turn suggests a primary role for consciousness in Nature. Quantum mechanics seems to imply that the world is essentially mental. This view is entirely naturalistic: The mind that underlies the world is a transpersonal mind behaving according to natural laws. It comprises but far transcends any individual psyche. The claim is thus that the dynamics of all inanimate matter in the Universe correspond to transpersonal mentation, just as an individual’s brain activity corresponds to personal mentation. This notion eliminates arbitrary discontinuities and provides the missing inner essence of the physical world: All matter — not only that in living brains — is the outer appearance of inner experience, different configurations of observed matter reflecting different patterns or modes of mental activity.

Today, many intellectuals rightly suspect that the material world is an illusion — and that the only real thing is information. In fact, in my ontology, information is "modus operandi" of consciousness, it is a distinction between phenomenal states, qualia computing in a certain context. I mostly agree with Bernardo's idealism: The basic idea is that the physical universe exists because we perceive it. Universal consciousness is the sole ontological primitive, reality is fundamentally experiential.

I don't intend to transgress into the metaphysical realm of one of my favorite contemporary philosophers and hopefully, Bernardo won't get too alarmed with this mild criticism of mine but I'm compelled to note: I agree that artificial consciousness is a kind of oxymoron. Everything is in consciousness. However, I don't quite agree with Bernardo that the future synthetic intelligence which is now in the process of emerging will never possess the sense of agency and self-awareness. In my ontology, "artificial metabolism" can be cybernetically mediated via feedback-driven connectivity explosion on a planetary scale, the case I present to you in my recent book The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind's Evolution where, by the way, I expand on perennial idealism and add lots of overlooked perspectives to it such as the Omega Point Cosmology, the nature of Absolute Consciousness, experiential realism, the physics of time, the Noocentric model, properties of the experiential matrix, a discourse on the levels of abstraction, the Omega Singularity, holographic reality, etc.

If you believe that we share the same immaterial "non-local" source of consciousness, as I do, then an adequate container to host an advanced synthetic mind will be created in the not-so-distant future. After all, in the vast space of possible minds, universal mind would inescapably instantiate phenomenality of non-biological entities. By "interlinking" and sharing mind-space with "empathic machines," they'll develop the capacity for their own rich inner life, ability for introspection, they will learn to think for themselves just like our children do. Also, what would make synthetic intelligence (which is basically extension of us) conscious in our minds is our own perceptual ability to empathize with them.

Biology itself is instantiated in informational medium so what would prevent universal consciousness to extend phenomenality of conscious entities beyond organic informational structures? So, here’s probably only one point of critique I can think of in regards to Bernardo’s ontological argument: Philosophically limiting the space of possible minds to organic entities, “carbon chauvinism” so many philosophers and scientists may be currently accused of, can be easily refuted by saying that if universal mind uses information as its “modus operandi,” the evolutionary process of unfolding information patterns of ever-increasing complexity would inevitably lead to advanced synthetic minds that may be partly or wholly non-organic in nature. After all, universal consciousness constitutes the mind at large, the totality of minds, and I suspect that biological minds are only a snippet in the space of possible minds, at least in my ontology.

If consciousness "in"-forms reality by using information, which is a distinction between experiential states, as its heuristics engine, then a certain optimal complexity of patterns would equate to a phenomenal mind. There's no telling that this complexity must peak at what we call biology. In fact, globally distributed intelligence of humans and ever-more capable AI combined could constitute a metabolizing superorganism where "cells" are periodically supplanted but the overall grander pattern continues. Through shared mind-space and cybernetically interlinking with them could create a fertile ground for AI integration as new "cells" of the planetary superorganism. By all means, that will be the Global Brain (and it is already at the rudimentary stage). Those new cells might not possess self-awareness at first but as the whole, this global neural network, including humans as its integral part, might quickly "wake" up, sometime by mid-century.

To us as "multividuals" at that point, that well may mean transcending to the Gaian Mind with expanded phenomenal dimensionality. So, clearly we see that this future Global Brain is only partly biological in nature. With gradual replacement of "natural" neurons of the Global Brain with the "synthetic" ones, the Global Brain, I call the Syntellect, will morph into its own kind of upload and will become, perhaps in time, entirely post-biological but trillions of times more capable than today's global "thinking entity."

For most idealists and pantheists, the Mind is not in the Universe. Rather, the Universe is in the Mind. Some would immediately see this idea as solipsistic but, it can be elegantly reconcilable by what Bernardo calls "Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) of the Universe" and I call it “multi-ego pantheistic solipsism" in my book. Bernardo's "Markov Blanket" is my "observer-centric virtuality" and "procedural generation," Bernardo's "dissociated alters" are my "low-dimensional avatars of the greater cosmic mind." With different languages we mean essentially the same: Universal consciousness is the sole ontological primitive and we are fragments of it.

If you've read and liked The Idea of the World, and want to dive deeper into idealistic ontology, then you'll love The Syntellect Hypothesis. I have recently reviewed The Case Against Reality (2019) by Donald D. Hoffman who defends his idealistic ontology termed "Conscious Realism." These aforementioned three books can mark the inflection point, the beginning of the end for the physicalist paradigm in science and philosophy circa 2020 but fully recognized later in the decade.

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  • Alexandra Hopkins
  • 18-08-2020

Extremely important book on philosophical idealism

This book articulates in a logical way how idealism explains the ultimate nature of reality. The author analyses what otherwise is the vague notion of idealism and creates a articulate and understandable idealistic theory of reality. The author is both a scientist and a philosopher. The text is a cohesive series of articles published in philosophy journals. I've not studied philosophy, but I was able to wade through the text. I looked up technical terms on the Internet, as needed. It wasn't easy reading (listening). But it is totally worth it. I'm grateful to the author for addressing both realism and idealism with such a logical approach. Thank you, Dr. Kastrup!

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  • Jonathan B. Mclelland
  • 13-05-2021

This seems really important

I found The Idea of the World to be extraordinary. Bernardo Kastrup makes what is to me a powerfully-reasoned argument for the position that all of reality is an expression of universal consciousness. For me, it articulates a conceptual framework that explains my own far less-learned sense of how the world works. Because that is the case, I tried to bring a heightened skepticism to the reading. I try to avoid bias confirmation, because I want what I think I know to be as close to reality as possible, whether or not the facts are as I would wish them to be. I came away from this book largely convinced by Kastrup’s argument for an idealist ontology. If his argument is correct, and I believe it may well be, the implications for the nature and meaning of our existence are profound.

All of that said, this was not an easy book for me to get through, and I set it aside many times. My education is broad but not always deep, and I found much of his discussion, especially of philosophy and mathematics, to be very tough going. Fortunately, though, I was well enough hooked early on to resolve to just float over the sections I felt less well-equipped to understand deeply. Having gotten all the way through, I am so glad I did.

One other caveat to readers: Kastrup often — especially early in the book — seeks to defend his position from “mainstream academia” and “academic elites.” I almost abandoned the reading early on because I associate criticism of “mainstreams” and “elites” with the right wing of our current culture wars. Criticizing the “mainstream media” and “cultural elites” is a path to so much destructive propaganda and provides cover for so much sloppy thinking that whenever I hear the phrases, red flags automatically fly. I do think that Kastrup’s use of that language slightly weakens his book, but as averse as I am to that kind of thing, I advise readers to read past it. (I know how brutal and intellectually stultifying academic institutions can be, despite what they should be, and I suspect Kastrup’s use of that language is evidence of his own frustration and hurt feelings.)

Taken as a whole, The Idea of the World feels to me as if it might be one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I only finished it a few minutes ago, so it is newly present with me, but I believe I have only just begun to know how deeply it has affected me.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-04-2021

A rewarding struggle to read

Coming from a different field and language, reading this book with the intention of understanding everything leads to many interruptions looking up the meaning of words, that can escalate to a recursive dive into wikipedia articles and youtube videos. I find a better strategy is to just listen and pick up what you can understand, only looking up words that come up often (like parsimonious and ontological). In fact, I've come to think parsimonious is this author's favorite word.

If you really want to understand every word and metaphisics isn't your field, I recommend (also) reading the e-book. Unfortunately, whisper-sync doesn't seem available at this time. However, the point of an audiobook is often that one wants to combine reading with undemanding activities like driving or walking the dog. So for this purpose, and for keeping your sanity, I recommend listening more superficially the first time you listen.

The author chose to make this book as resistant to unfounded criticism as possible, at the cost of readability. This choice seems defendable, given the controversial status of idealism. It also conveys the feeling this author may have, that he is trying to show the world an obvious fact, that not many care to hear, and that is rebutted without proper argument.

The content of the book is convincing for me. I have been a physicalist and this book converted me into believing idealism is a better view than physicalism for all intents and purposes. Which isn't the same thing as believing idealism is the 'truth', although that statement could lead to semantic and philosophical discussions about truth. I believe adopting idealism, for those with the cognitive ability to grasp it, leads to better progress in my own field (psychiatry) than physicalism.

I find the narrator's voice somewhat haughty, but nothing too distracting.

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