QR6.3.14 What Exists?

Theories about what exists can be derived from three simple questions:

1. Does anything exist out there? 

Yes. Realism: Something that exists out there apart from our observation of it, so we see a common reality because there is one.

No. Solipsism: The world out there is created entirely by our mind, so each person constructs their own version of it, just as in a dream.

2. Does matter exist by itself alone?

Yes. Physicalism: Matter is an objective substance that exists whether we observe it or not.

No. Idealism: Matter is the thought of a non-physical mind, like a shadow of reality.

3. Does the observer exist apart from matter?

Yes. Dualism: Mind is a non-physical substance that exists in a mental realm just as matter exists in the physical realm.

No. Physical realism: All reality is just matter interacting with matter, so the observer must be either a physical result, a physical combination, a physical property, or just an illusion.

Each theory struggles with different facts. Solipsism struggles to explain why we all dream the same lawful reality, which leaves realism, that there is a common reality out there. Physicalism has a vanishing matter problem, as when examined closely, matter becomes virtual particles or quantum waves that aren’t physical at all. An embarrassing fact of physics is that 96% of the universe is dark matter and energy with no known material cause. Idealism has a manifestation problem, as what does a non-physical mind do that matter doesn’t do already? Dualism has the problem that different realms of existence have no basis upon which to interact.

Current science embraces physical realism, that only matter exists, but if it were so, detecting an object without physical interaction would be impossible, yet it happens (3.8.4). Nor can this theory explain observation, as no physical mechanism exists that lets dead matter observe:

It is well recognized in the West that physicalism … has no adequate account (and many would say no account at all) of how consciousness could arise from the activities of non-conscious physical matter.” (Velmans, 2021) p25

As Russell concluded after many years:

“… we cannot say that ‘matter is the cause of our sensations’ (Russell, 1927) p290.

He therefore suggested neutral monism, that matter and mind arise from something else, but neither he nor James (James, 1904) could specify what it was. Figure 6.40 shows the main reality theories at the beginning of last century. What exists (solid lines) was thought to be a substance that was either matter, or mind, or both, or neither.

Figure 6.40 Theories of Reality

A century later, theories are more complex but not a lot has changed. Physical realism now uses panpsychism, that matter observes, to make consciousness fully physical (Strawson, 2008). Dualism has become property dualism, that some matter can be conscious (Chalmers, 1996) p165. Idealism now includes cosmopsychism, that a great mind dissociated into human beings (Kastrup, 2019). Dual-aspect monism merges idealism and physicalism by making mental and physical inseparable aspects of an unknowable primal reality (Vimal, 2018). Mind and matter are then complementary just as electricity and magnetism are in physics (Velmans, 2021) p192, but aspects whose union is impossible can’t be complementary. Arguing that because an electron can be a wave and a particle, we can be a mind and a brain, is using one miracle to justify another.

   Dual substances, dual properties and dual aspects explain how atoms can be conscious but not how we are. Mass and charge add when matter aggregates but if consciousness did that, the moon would be more conscious than us. Dual-aspect monism concludes that “’I’ and ‘Self” and ‘me’ are all plural terms (like the crew of the USS Enterprise.(Benovsky, 2016) p348, but this contradicts the first fact, that at each moment we experience one observer not many.

More complexity didn’t solve the core problems: that dual realities can’t co-exist, that dead matter can’t observe and that atoms can’t combine consciousness. The naïve belief that only matter exists is false, by the previous chapters. The dualism that observer and observed are both substances is also false.  And no-one believes in solipsism, that only they exist, either. This leaves neutral monism, that the observer and the observed don’t exist by themselves, but are both caused by some other reality.

Quantum realism proposes that quantum reality exists, as quantum theory describes it. Hence, it is all around us but physical events just represent it, so realism is true. Hence, quantum laws everywhere create universal physical laws, so lawfulness is true. Hence, there are no particles, only quantum waves that look like particles when observed, so matter disappears when examined. And if quantum reality causes all physical events, it made the galaxies and so doesn’t have a manifestation problem.

Future generations may mock physical realism as a naïve belief in what doesn’t exist, just as we now mock fairies (Kastrup, 2020), because that a matter universe made itself from nothing is magical thinking. That quantum reality causes mind and matter isn’t dualism because there is only one source. That atoms are conscious doesn’t explain how we are, but if they entangle to increase the observer, our consciousness can evolve from what came before.

Some say that what can’t be seen can’t exist but that isn’t true, as unseen programs create the images that gamers see. If a gamer in a dungeon clicks on a door to reveal a monster image, was the monster lurking there beforehand? Obviously not, as that a dungeon of monsters exists in our laptop when we aren’t using it is absurd. A generated experience isn’t a permanent thing, so only what creates the monster image needs to constantly exist on the laptop.

If the physical world is a virtual reality, the same logic applies. We see tables and chairs not the quantum waves that generate them, and thinking they always exist is like thinking your laptop contains a dungeon of monsters. We see events not things, but if matter can’t observe, what exactly is observing?