When leaving secondary school I thought my ideologies least likely to change were socialism, pacifism and atheism. (Atheism really stood for materialism / physicalism, and by extension the rejection of things like postmodernism.)
Well, the first two have undergone thorough changes, and even the third point I have finally come to see in a different light. I think I have finally found a way to understand idealism / Hegelianism / religiousness / postmodernism on my own terms. That doesn’t mean that I have become identified with those things, but that I no longer believe there is such a great difference between my views and those views, at least not necessarily.
What difference there remains has mostly to do with habit and emphasis. I do not “believe in God”, but I recognize that it could be just a matter of changing a few names I give things and some habitual ways of thinking. But if I did that, the result might not be the same as with most believers. I honestly don’t know. Probably religious people are a rather philosophically diverse set themselves, and that is one of the important things I have understood about them lately.
In the following I have summed up my “physicalist in the streets, idealist in the sheets” approach. Comments are welcome, especially regarding opportunities to expand where this is excessively terse.
Just like I haven’t become a “real believer”, I have not become a “real postmodernist”. My readers probably don’t include many religious people, but there are many who know about postmodernism and Hegelianism, and if someone wants to say “Sam, what you have written has absolutely nothing to do with postmodernism or Hegelianism”, that is completely ok. In fact I anticipate it. This is my path to these ideas, not an introduction to these ideas.
1. Our experience of the world is the experience of our senses. The world that we experience is our brain’s representation of the world.
1.1. “The physical world” is a theory our brain finds useful to manipulate our bodies in order to trigger rewarding sensations in our senses.
1.2. Subjective truth is different from belief. Subjective truth is the truth about our brain’s representations (“inner world”). Beliefs are brain-representations about physical reality.
1.3. Materialism is subjectively false, because we do not experience the material world but we do experience our brain-representation.
1.4. Beliefs do not necessarily have much to do with subjective truth.
1.4.1. We can believe that there is no free will, but we cannot discard the subjective truth of free will.
2. The domain of consciousness is concepts, moods and emotions and their interrelations; not physical reality.
2.1. Psychological experiments show that the brain assigns a rather low priority to accurately perceiving reality. When concentrating on something, we miss surprising visual cues (like the gorilla walking through the room). When socially pressured, we change our perception to conform with the group. When our ideas (this is an expensive wine) conflict with our senses (the wine in the glass is actually third-rate), the ideas win.
2.2. We can focus on our feelings and appetites almost indefinitely. The real world bores us unless it draws out something in our internal world.
3. The most salient concepts in our brain-representation have no straightforward physical interpretation.
3.1. The self is the central concept in the brain. The self comprises many organs and mechanisms that we don’t understand, and is itself represented in itself, in the brain. The boundaries and independence of many parts is unclear. (To what extent are cells independent? Or cancerous tumours? Or our microbiome? Are our mental illnesses a part of us? Are there mental illnesses? Is our social position a part of us?) The physical fact of the self is not straightforward.
3.2. Emotions are central, but as physical phenomena they are poorly understood.
3.3. Memories are central, even though they often deviate substantially from what actually happened.
3.4. The test of beliefs is not coherence with experiment, but convenience, social acceptability, coherence with other beliefs etc.
4. Physical reality is a poor guide to inner reality.
4.1. Materialism is the choice of physical reality as the fundamental plane of existence.
4.1.1. In physical reality, everything is a physical mechanism.
126.96.36.199. You are (“just”) a physical mechanism.
4.1.2. Physical mechanisms are constrained by physical law. There are possibly random or unknowable elements to the physical mechanisms, but no external source of choice (“free will”).
4.1.3. The subjective experience of self-directedness or free will is incompatible with physical reality.
4.2. Foregrounding the view of self as a physical mechanism undermines valuing the self and growing the inner world. The foregrounded view of others as physical mechanisms is ultimately equivalent to psychopathy.
5. In inner reality, God, souls and free will are natural concepts.
5.1. Good outcomes not due to any person evoke impersonal gratitude. Contemplating the natural world evokes impersonal admiration and awe. Etc.
5.2. We separate the “true self” from a person’s actual actions. This is our theory about the person.
5.2.1. We especially endow ourselves with a “true self”; others are judged more by their actions, but ourselves by our intentions. This is the so-called “fundamental attribution error” in social psychology. (Why is it an error?)
5.3. We must have theories about people, because their brains are beyond observation and comprehension.
5.3.1. “Soul” is a word for our theory (or “model”) about a person. The soul is immortal in the same way as a book is immortal.
6. “God exists”, “you have a soul” and “you have free will” are not necessarily claims about physical reality.
6.1. The central purpose of God for man is worship. Promoting God-worship is a way of promoting people’s connection to divine things: goodness, natural beauty and inner truths.
6.2. Talking to someone about God and their soul is a protection against apathy, depression and psychopathy.
6.2.1. From the outside view, this is a noble lie. From the inside view, this is truth.
7. For most people, the internal truths lead to religion, a belief in self / a soul and free will.
7.1. In the inner reality, the question “Is there a God?” can be interpreted as “Is it worthwhile giving a name to my feelings and thoughts concerning awe, transcendent experiences, being on the right path and oneness / organisation of everything?”
7.2. In the inner reality, the lack of a sense of “a soul” is an expression of disconnection.
7.3. In the inner reality, a lack of sense of free will is an expression of depression and apathy.