Monday, February 15, 2016

The Materialist Creed Is Highly Political

The way it shakes out in history, most modern critical social thinkers and progressives tend to be materialists. In the eighteenth century that made some kind of sense, but today it seems to me highly problematic, if not fatally dangerous.

Materialism, moreover, has devolved into a sacred cow, as Thomas Nagel learned when he recently published a book called: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. This evoked hysterical denunciations from defenders of the faith who yammered for an inquisition and chortled about burning the heretic.

Why all the furor?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mark Twain's Dream Artist

The dream is the greatest of all psychic phenomena. Like a god, the dreamer is a creator of worlds and spaces. But what are dreams? Shadows of the day, airy nothings?

Perhaps not, say some writers who don’t mind subverting conventional worldviews. The philosophers C.D. Broad and H.H. Price arrived at a strange conclusion. Our waking minds, they suggested, are immersed in an extended dream world. The dream world continues with its business, even as we carry on in waking reality.

Moreover, there’s a flimsy partition between waking and dream reality. Dozing off at your desk or on a train ride can plunge you into another world, incongruous and unexpected.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Trumping Authenticity

The master dealer seems to have lost a hand at the Iowa caucuses. But the show isn’t over yet, and the mystery of the phenomenon persists. Donald Trump has been baffling the pundits by maintaining his lead in the polls and commanding all the media attention. It doesn’t matter how crass or stupid or incendiary his utterances. The more he’s called a demagogue and an idiot the more his apparently substantial body of fans applaud and cheer him on.

We should ask his admirers: What is it about Mr. Trump that so captivates you?

Monday, February 1, 2016

History and Altered States of Consciousness

 In a recent post, I told the story of a young woman who suddenly realized that she was a free agent – an important shift in her consciousness. It was an episode of personal transformation, a private affair.

But sometimes sudden alterations of mind can change the course of history.   I’ll give one big example, the formation of the so-called Abrahamic religions. In each case, founding moments of these great historical creations were based on dramatic shifts of consciousness. (Scientists speaks of “altered” states of consciousness. See Charles Tart’s groundbreaking anthology: Altered States of Consciousness.)

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