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  • Writer's pictureDan Thompson

The Limits of Knowledge and the Problem with Materialism

A Theory of Everything is Not Material

What we take for verity and certainty are the limits of knowledge, the limits of what we can know or learn within this short span of time, or moment of life, because our knowing can only penetrate so far, therefore our knowing is actually a kind of uncertainty or probability.

It was Plato who said that scientists and logicians don’t make discoveries, they merely rediscover them. Extracting ideas out of the absolute, i.e. consciousness, i.e. mind-at-large, by the faculty of their intuition (especially eidetic), which itself is transcendental and of the absolute itself, but of course they can’t say so, even though it is used in every aspect of their work. They can only talk about what they can prove, and prove what they have discovered, but not the process whereby they had done it. It is this process that is key. The process is the answer and the answer is the process. Everything is a process, which is why it cannot be located, observed or brought out. Their assumption that they had acquired the information exclusively through the scientific method is itself a kind of metaphysics. 

First, they assumed that their information was right, and then they assumed that they had discovered it themselves, but what is this seemingly magical faculty by which they discover their ideas? That is the real mystery. Where does this information come from in the first place? When asked, the researchers and scientists will have no better answer than we do; that the data i.e. information, suddenly flashes into their minds or into their experiments, which then presents itself to their minds—because information is just a more fundamental form of matter=energy—but that’s not the way they see it.

Instead, they see consciousness as some computation in the brain, that consciousness somehow emerges from the brain, rather than the other way around; that the brain is an abstraction, a symbol, a construct or even the reducing valve of consciousness. The simulation is not the phenomena, just as the map is not the territory.

Here we see that logic reveals its own limitations. This is existentialism. We are consciousness experiencing itself. The world is self-evident, not because it has been proven by any form of reasoning or experiment, but because it appears a priori to our senses, therefore we take it on faith because we can’t prove it. It is larger and more comprehensive than the ability of our devices to measure.

Since we aren’t going to be doing any experiments, we will have to settle for what we can glean through direct experience, which is actually quite a bit, considering that perception and experience are the only means we have of accessing the material world. Even with our expensive and elaborate machines, we still have to build them, run the experiments and then analyse the results, and in order to do that, we must process these data—the information—through perception and direct experience.

In The Unity of Human Knowledge (1960) Niels Bohr says, “physics is to be regarded not so much as the study of something a priori given, but rather as the development of methods of ordering and surveying human experience.” Emphasis on the word experience, not just subjective, but more specifically intersubjective, because everyone is having an experience, each making the other one real. What is objective is all the cumulative experiences united within the universal mind of That Which Experiences, a term borrowed by Bernardo Kastrup (Kastrup 2019:81) from Aldous Huxley (Huxley 1945) to describe the self, or the Individuated Unit of Consciousness (Campbell 2002).

The experiencer therefore is indispensable, occupying the middle distance between the object and the conception of that object. Isolating it in their field of vision, while at the same time using their intent to project a form onto it, identifying it as such in comparison with other similar and dissimilar things. While Plato might say that physics is a priori given, Bohr seems to mean that it is through experience (and possibly even through the intentionality of consciousness—the ability to think of something and particularly, think of something in its absence) that we receive our ideas. It would be hard to explain (i.e. the Hard Problem) if they (i.e. forms, ideas) did not already reside in the mind. There is something transcendental both in the thing itself and in the mind’s ability to conceive it.

There is not only experience however, but also that which cannot or hasn’t yet been experienced, which is the case that speculative realism and object-oriented ontology tries to make, resulting in a more-than-human analysis, because we have to look at ourselves from that which we are not to discover what we are in the context of everything else.

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