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A series of extracts from one of Philip Dick's essays written in 1977 entitled "If You Find
This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others"

    An odd aspect of these rare, extraordinary ideas that puzzles me is their mystifying cloak of - shall I say - the obvious. by that I mean, once the idea has emerged or appeared or been born - however it is that new ideas pass over into being - the novelist says to himself, 'But of course. Why didn't I realize that years ago?' But note the word 'realize.' It is the key word. He has come across something new that at the same time was there, somewhere, all the time. It truth, it simply surfaced. It always WAS. He did not invent it or even find it; in a very real sense it found HIM. And - and this is a little frightening to contemplate - he has not invented it, but on the contrary, it invented HIM. It is as if the idea created him for its purposes. I think this is why we discover a startling phenomenon of great renown: that quite often in history a great new idea strikes a number of researchers or thinkers at exactly the same time, all of them oblivious to their compeers. 'Its time had come,' we say about the idea, and so dismiss, as if we had explained it, something I consider quite important: our recognition that in a certain literal sense ideas are alive.


    What does this mean, to say that an idea or a thought is literally alive? And that it seizes on men here and there and makes use of them to actualize itself into the stream of human history? Perhaps the pre-Socratic philosophers were correct; the cosmos is one vast entity that thinks. It may in fact do nothing BUT think. In that case either what we call the universe is merely a form of disguise that it takes, or it somehow is the universe - some variation on this pantheistic view, my favorite being that it cunningly mimics the world that we experience daily, and we remain none the wiser. This is the view of the oldest religion of India, and to some extent it was the view of Spinoza and Alfred North Whitehead, the concept of an immanent God, God within the universe... The Sufi saying [by Rumi] 'The workman is invisible within the workshop' applies here, with workshop as universe and workman as God. But this still expresses the theistic notion that the universe is something the God created; whereas I am saying, perhaps God created nothing but merely IS. And we spend our lives within him or her or it, wondering constantly where he or she or it can be found.


    "We in the field [of science fiction writers], of course, know this idea as the 'alternate universe' theme. ...Let us say, just for fun, that [such alternate universes] DO exist. Then, if they do, how are they linked to each other, if in fact they are (or would be) linked? If you drew a map of them, showing their locations, what would the map look like? For instance (and I think this is a very important question), are they absolutely separate one from another, or do they overlap? Because if they overlap, then such problems as 'Where do they exist?' and 'How do you get from one to the next' admit to a possible solution. I am saying, simply, if they do indeed exist, and if they do indeed overlap, then we may in some literal, very real sense inhabit several of them to various degrees at any given time. And although we all see one another as living humans walking about and talking and acting, some of us may inhabit relatively greater amounts of, say, Universe One than the other people do; and some of us may inhabit relatively greater amounts of Universe Two, Track Two, instead, and so on. It may not merely be that our subjective impressions of the world differ, but there may be an overlapping, a superimposition, of a number of worlds so that objectively, not subjectively, our worlds may differ. Our perceptions differ as a result of this. ...It may be that some of these superimposed worlds are passing out of existence, along the lateral time line I spoke of, and some are in the process of moving toward greater, rather than lesser, actualization. These processes would occur simultaneously and not at all in linear time. The kind of process we are talking about here is a transformation, a kind of metamorphosis, invisibly achieved. But very real. And very important.


    Contemplating this possibility of a lateral arrangement of worlds, a plurality of overlapping Earths along whose linking axis a person can somehow move - can travel in mysterious way from worst to fair to good to excellent - contemplating this in theological terms, perhaps we could say that herewith we suddenly decipher the elliptical utterances that Christ expressed regarding the Kingdom of God, specifically where it is located. 'My Kingdom is not of this world,' he is reported to have said. 'The Kingdom is within you.' Or possibly, 'It is among you.' I put before you now the notion, which I personally find exciting, that he may have had in mind that which I speak of as the lateral axis of overlapping realms that contain among them a spectrum of aspects ranging from the unspeakably malignant to the beautiful. And Christ was saying over and over again that there really are many objective realms, somehow related, and somehow bridgeable by living - not dead- men, and that the most wondrous of these worlds was a just kingdom in which either He himself or God himself or both of them ruled. And he did not merely speak of a variety of ways of subjectively viewing one world; the Kingdom was and is an actual different place, at the opposite end of continua starting with slavery and utter pain. It was his mission to teach his disciples the secret of crossing along the orthogonal path. He did not merely report what lay there; he taught the method of getting there. But, the secret was lost, the Roman authority crushed it. And so we do not have it. But perhaps we can refind it, since we know that such a secret exists.


    Since at the resolution of every encounter of thesis and antithesis between the Dark Counterplayer and the divine Programmer, a new synthesis is struck off, and since it is possible that each time this happens a lateral world may be generated, and since I conceive that each synthesis or resolution is to some degree a victory by the Programmer, each struck-off world, in sequence, must be an improvement upon - not just the prior one - but an improvement over all the latent or merely possible outcomes. It is better, but in no sense perfect - i.e. final. It is merely an improved stage within a process. What I envision clearly is that the Programmer is perpetually using the antecedent universe as a gigantic stockpile for each new synthesis, the antecedent universe then possessing the aspect of chaos or anomie in relation to an emerging new cosmos. Therefore the endless process of sequential struck-off alternate worlds, emerging and being infused with actualization, is negentropic in some way that we cannot see.


    If I consider the term by which I designate him - the Programmer and Reprogrammer - perhaps I can extract from that a partial answer. I call him what I call him because that was what I witnessed him doing: He had previously programmed the lives here but now was altering one or more crucial factors - this in the service of completing a structure or plan. I reason along these lines: A human scientist who operates a computer does not bias nor warp, does not prejudice, the outcome of his calculations. A human ethnologist does not allow himslef to contaminate his own findings by participating in the culture he studies. Which is to say, in certain kinds of endeavors it is essential that the observer remain occluded off from that which he observes. There is nothing malign in this, no sinister deception. It is merely necessary. if indeed we are, collectively, being moved along desired paths toward a desired outcome, the entity that sets us in motion along those lines, that entity which not only desires the particular outcome but that wills that outcome - he must not enter into it palpably or the outcome will be aborted. What, then, we must return our attention to is - not the Programmer - but the events programmed. Concealed though the form is, the latter will confront us; we are involved in it - in fact, we are instruments by which it is accomplished.


    "In February of 1975, I had passed across into a third alternate present - Track C, we shall call it - and this one was a garden or park of peace and beauty, a world superior to ours, rising into existence. I can [thus] talk about three, rather than two worlds: the black iron prison world that had been; our intermediate world in which oppression and war exist but have to a great degree been cast down; and then a third alternate world that someday, when the correct variables in our past have been reprogrammed, will materialize as a superimposition onto this one ... and within which, as we awaken to it, we shall suppose we had always lived there, the memory of this intermediate one, like that of the black iron prison world, eradicated mercifully from our memories.

Raymond Tallis questions an argument for panpsychism.

The case Goff presents for panpsychism is to a considerable extent based on the failure of alternatives – dualism and materialism – to explain consciousness. He devotes excellent chapters to demolishing these views.

According to dualism, there are immaterial minds and there are physical things. Because minds are not located or extended in space, we cannot see minds by peering into brains. This idea, famously mocked by Gilbert Ryle as the notion that we are ‘ghosts in machines’, has many problems. One of the most striking is that it cannot account for the central role the mind seems to play in our ability to do things. How could an immaterial entity influence the behaviour of a material object such as a brain? If a non-physical mind were intervening in the brain, there would be all kinds of things going on for which we would have no neuroscientific explanation. Such anomalous activity is not observed, so there is no such intervention, Goff argues.

Materialism fails because there is nothing in the brain as objectively (neuroscientifically) observed that is remotely like subjective experience. Here Goff’s critique mobilizes some of the well-known thought experiments in recent philosophy. Among them is Frank Jackson’s story of Mary the genius neuroscientist. For reasons that are not made clear, she has spent her entire life in a black-and-white room, where she has mysteriously acquired complete objective knowledge (whatever that may mean) of the science of colour. When she is liberated from the room into the outside world, she acquires something new: awareness of colours. This is often (incorrectly) described as additional ‘knowledge’, although it is in fact experience. The point however is upheld: experience is not reducible to or captured by objective knowledge. More specifically, what neuroscientists observe in the brain and nervous system does not get anywhere near subjective, qualitative experience. More generally, science-based materialism does not account for, or accommodate, consciousness – least of all the consciousness that is manifest in the ‘what it is like to be’ of a conscious subject.

The elusiveness of experience has persuaded some materialist philosophers to deny that experience is real. They argue that consciousness is an illusion. But this claim does not withstand a second’s thought; for in order to fall victim to the illusion of consciousness, one would have to be conscious of it.

Panpsychists step into the explanatory gap left by the failure of both dualism and materialism to make sense of the relationship between the mind and the brain. They correctly recognize that this is not just a little local difficulty to be resolved as brain science advances. What is needed is a radical rethink of the place of consciousness in the order of things.

Goff draws on arguments put forward by the physicist Arthur Eddington, developing ideas advanced by Bertrand Russell, to the effect that the physical sciences tell us nothing about the intrinsic nature of the ‘stuff’ that makes up the world. They describe only the manner in which bits of the stuff interact with each other. We know what they do, but not what they are. There is, however, a place where the veil of scientific appearance is torn; namely our own brains. We know from first hand experience that brains are conscious. Indeed, consciousness is the only fundamental feature of which we can be certain. If brains are representative of the stuff of the world, it is therefore reasonable to conclude that such stuff has consciousness as one of its fundamental features. (Indeed, Goff holds that the physical properties of particles – mass, charge, spin etc – are themselves forms of consciousness.)

Goff defends this extraordinary extrapolation from brains to the entire universe on the grounds of simplicity of explanation – grounds that, after all, drive science. It is more economical to propose that matter has one kind of intrinsic nature rather than two. But the suggestion that everything in the universe is like the brain raises an obvious question: what it is about the brain that makes it seem to be uniquely associated with subjective consciousness? Why do you and I have viewpoints underpinning integrated worlds, while socks and clouds and pebbles apparently do not?

One manifestation of this puzzle is the so-called ‘combination problem’: “How do you get from little conscious things… to big conscious things, like human brains?” Here we seem to have replaced one explanatory gap with another at least as wide. In the hope of making the combination problem a topic for ‘a new science of consciousness’, Goff translates it into the question of how a disunified brain, made of trillions of conscious particles, becomes a unified brain with a single consciousness. He hints that quantum entanglement might provide a model for such unification, but is not able to indicate what is or might be distinctive about the brain that it uniquely makes use of such entanglement. So long as this ‘emergentist’ model lacks details, it is only a promissory note. Worse problems arise out of the fact that observation – that is, observation by a conscious, macroscopic subject – is required to confer definite values on the quantum elements that go into the making of the brain, and which are supposed to help solve the combination problem.

These “xenobots” are living machines designed by an evolutionary algorithm

Meet the xenobots: Tiny living robots have been created using cells taken from frog embryos. Each so-called xenobot is less than a millimeter across, but one can propel itself through water using two stumpy limbs, while another has a kind of pouch that it could use to carry a small load.

Okay, but ... why? The early research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help the development of useful soft robots that can heal themselves when damaged. Because they are made of living tissue, they also decay once they stop working. The researchers, from Tufts University, the University of Vermont, and the Wyss Institute at Harvard, hope such living robots could one day be used to clean up microplastics, digest toxic materials, or even deliver drugs inside our bodies (although this is obviously still all a long way off).

How are they made? The robots are constructed from heart cells, which spontaneously contract and relax like tiny pistons, and skin cells that provide more rigid structure. Once it is set loose, a robot’s cells have enough energy to keep it wriggling and squirming for up to 10 days.

Intelligent design: The xenobots were created using an evolutionary algorithm, which mimics natural selection by generating potential solutions and then repeatedly picking and mutating the most promising ones. The algorithm conjured thousands of random configurations of between 500 and 1,000 skin and heart cells and each one was tested in a virtual environment. Many were useless lumps. But those that showed potential—such as being able to move—were tweaked and used to seed the next generation. After running this process 100 times, the researchers built the best designs out of living cells.

Are there ethical concerns? This first crop of xenobots are very basic. But future versions could be made with nervous systems and sensory cells—even rudimentary cognitive abilities—which would allow them to react to their environment. It is far from clear whether we should treat such robots as machines or living creatures.

Philosophy & Science / Metaphysics as Two Cows?
« on: January 14, 2020, 12:00:10 am »
Idealism: You have two cow thoughts. Who needs milk? That's more than enough.

Panpsychism: You have two cows made up of thousands of cow particles. How this works, nobody knows.

Materialism: There are no cows, no milk, no you. Just atoms in the Void.

Dualism: You have two cows. You make a bunch of hamburgers, and now you have two infinitely precious cow souls which is way better than actual cows.

Creationism: Those cow fossils were put in the ground by Satan. Also, in the Garden of Eden cows gave out strawberry and chocolate milk.

Nondualism: By milking the cows, you are milking yourself....Stop snickering and get those filthy thoughts out of the One Mind!

Mysterianism: I think you have two cows, but I'm too lazy to check.

Interesting RPG idea that's running a Kickstarter at the moment.

It's a game about people, people like you and me, more or less, people who were like you and me, until they stumbled on a “glitch”—a lesion, a crack, an unfixable and irredeemable break in the fabric of reality; and that glitch broke them, in turn. And for a while, infected by the malice of the endless void beyond the world; for a while, their eyes made open to the true nature of the world, they thought that the answer, the best answer, the only answer, to that break was to end the world itself ...

... until they realized that was dumb.

Now, they solve mysteries!


You can play Glitch for light fun and laughs. You can play it for an experience that'll get under your skin. (It's honestly like most RPGs in that way.)

What the game's tuned for is mostly "light-hearted fun, that can sometimes get quite real."

It's a game of stories, like most roleplaying games; a game of you crafting a story; so all that "something beautiful" stuff, all that "something to make your life better" stuff I wrote earlier: that isn't anything to do with whether you're having light fun or a deeply gripping experience; it's in the kinds of stories I want to help you to tell.


Functionally, Glitch is a "diceless" RPG. That means its rules system focuses more on resource allocation than on randomized results. That doesn't mean that it's predictable or mechanical or even particularly deterministic; it just means that it gets its unpredictability, not from dice, but from the players ... from the stew of collaborating and conflicting perspectives that you all playing it will bring unto both the story and the game.

When you play Glitch, you'll be taking on the role of a character of your own creation. As you play them, you'll take actions premised on one of their five basic traits. On one of their four divine abilities, one of their four expressions of elegant and supernatural inhumanity...

Or on their fifth attribute, which could be loosely understood as "cope."

When you take action within your character's means, it will be "free." When you go beyond those means, there is a Cost. It's not a very big Cost, to be clear; pushing one's limits is sometimes healthy and sometimes unhealthy, but, just like people in the real world, characters will probably push themselves in healthy and unhealthy ways all the bloody time. The effects aren't bad at first, and they do have ways to deal with them.

But enough Cost—piled up, with time—can bring even the strongest person tumbling down.

You can think of this basic system, if you're familiar with it, as an improved and polished version of the system found in Nobilis.

Note: Usual caveat that street versions of any drug can be incredibly dangerous, for more on this see What's in My Baggie?. Dealers hate drug testers, to the point of trying to hunt them down. All to say trying to treat yourself without guidance is incredibly dangerous.

The future of psychedelic science: What the next decade holds

The last decade has been inarguably incredible for the field of psychedelic science. The term renaissance is hyperbolically thrown around a lot these days but in this context it is perfectly apt. Moving from the fringes of the research world and shaking off years of baggage from illicit recreational circles, scientists have made startling progress in legitimizing the medical potential of these drugs.

With both MDMA and psilocybin on the precipice of approvals as mainstream medicines, and several leading universities opening dedicated psychedelic research facilities, the story of the last 10 years has been one of profound breakthroughs. So, as we stand on the precipice of a new decade, it's worth pausing for a moment and looking forward to investigate what the 2020s may hold in this rapidly accelerating field.

New Atlas spoke to several leading psychedelic researchers to get their thoughts on three big future-forward questions. Where will psychedelic science be in 2030, what is the biggest hurdle psychedelic researchers will face in the 2020s, and what is the most interesting psychedelic research topic that has yet to be fully explored?

Is consciousness just a complex electromagnetic field?

There are many field theories of consciousness and McFadden is not the first to develop an electromagnetic field theory of consciousness. Field theories were first proposed in the 1940s by Kohler, Wallach and Held. John, Libet, Pockett, Jones and others have proposed electromagnetic theories in the last twenty years. Mostyn Jones’ 2013 paper, “Electromagnetic-field theories of mind,” is a great overview of this history.

My own General Resonance Theory of consciousness includes electromagnetic fields as a possible seat of consciousness, and the same holds with any physical field. EM fields differ, in my approach, in that while other physical fields like gravity or nuclear forces could be the seat of consciousness in some systems, EM fields are capable of far more complex and fast-acting consciousness. We see below that McFadden holds a similar view in this regard.

McFadden’s approach seems to be panpsychist, as Jones has suggested in his work, but McFadden denies this and, as with Giulio Tononi in my 2011 interview of him in my book, Eco, Ego, Eros, seems to shy away from the panpsychist implications of his theory.

I’ve been inspired by McFadden’s work over the years, even though we differ on some key issues (such as panpsychism), and it was an honor to be able to dialogue with him here. We conducted this interview by email in the latter half of 2019.

Can a single-celled organism 'change its mind'? New study says yes

In an effort to replicate an experiment conducted over a century ago, systems biologists at Harvard Medical School now present compelling evidence confirming at least one single-cell organism—the strikingly trumpet-shaped Stentor roeselii—exhibits a hierarchy of avoidance behaviors.

Exposed repeatedly to the same stimulation—in this case a pulse of irritating particles—the organism can in effect "change its mind" about how to respond, the authors said, indicating a capacity for relatively complex decision-making processes.
The results are published online in Current Biology on Dec. 5.

"Our findings show that single cells can be much more sophisticated than we generally give them credit for," said corresponding study author Jeremy Gunawardena, associate professor of systems biology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.

Philosophy & Science / Multiverse Theories Are Bad for Science
« on: November 29, 2019, 09:53:45 pm »
Multiverse Theories Are Bad for Science

New books by a physicist and science journalist mount aggressive but ultimately unpersuasive defenses of multiverses

I am not a multiverse denier, any more than I am a God denier. Science cannot resolve the existence of either God or the multiverse, making agnosticism the only sensible position. I see some value in multiverse theories. Particularly when presented by a writer as gifted as Sean Carroll, they goad our imaginations and give us intimations of infinity. They make us feel really, really small—in a good way.

But I’m less entertained by multiverse theories than I once was, for a couple of reasons. First, science is in a slump, for reasons both internal and external. Science is ill-served when prominent thinkers tout ideas that can never be tested and hence are, sorry, unscientific. Moreover, at a time when our world, the real world, faces serious problems, dwelling on multiverses strikes me as escapism—akin to billionaires fantasizing about colonizing Mars. Shouldn’t scientists do something more productive with their time?

Maybe in another universe Carroll and Siegfried have convinced me to take multiverses seriously, but I doubt it.

Philosophy & Science / “New Era for Quantum Biology” Is Upon Us
« on: November 29, 2019, 09:39:15 pm »
“New Era for Quantum Biology” Is Upon Us

Daria Solovieva

It has been an exciting week for quantum biology enthusiasts, with two separate studies suggesting new ways to leverage quantum principles in life sciences applications.

Researchers from the Quantum Nanophysics Group at the University of Vienna found a “quantum interference in molecules of gramicidin, a natural antibiotic made up of 15 amino acids,” potentially opening a door to a “new era for quantum biology,” according to MIT Technology Review.

A separate paper published in Nature this week also suggested that “the theory of quantum open systems can successfully push forward our theoretical understanding of complex biological systems working close to the quantum/classical boundary.”

This research is the latest in scientific breakthroughs enabling us to better understand and leverage “quantum properties of biomolecules” and “set the scene for experiments that exploit the quantum nature of enzymes, DNA, and perhaps one day simple life forms such as viruses.”

The concept of quantum biology, or the application of quantum principles better known in math and computing to living organisms, has been around since the 1930s.

PitchBook and Crunchbase databases show that most of the private funding is flowing into quantum physics technologies, the hot new frontier, but the earliest applications of quantum principles was in fact in biology.

Beyond Panpsychism : the radicality of phenomenology

Abstract: A central presupposition of science is that objectivity is universal. Although this presupposition is the basis of the success of scientific inquiry, it also creates a blindspot in which the conscious knower/objectifier is hidden, ignored, or surreptitiously objectified (which is tantamount to ignore it). Several strategies were accordingly adopted in the West to overcome this induced ignorance. One of them is Phenomenology, with its project of performing a complete suspension of judgments (epochè) about the alleged objective world, and evaluating any claim of knowledge, together with its activity of objectification, on the basis of lived experience. Another one is panpsychist, or rather pan-experientialist metaphysics, that puts back lived experience in the very domain that was deprived of it by the act of objectifying. I will compare these approaches, thereby establishing a hierarchy of radicality  between avoiding the blindspot from the outset and compensating for it retrospectively.

Can a Trip-Free Psychedelic Still Help People With Depression?

During and after taking a high dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, something changed. "It was like being on holiday away from the prison of my brain," one person said. "I was a ball of energy bouncing around the planet, I felt carefree, re-energized."

    These testimonies came from a clinical trial for treatment-resistant depression at Imperial College London in 2016. As soon as one week after taking psilocybin—and for as long as three months after—the subjects' depressive symptoms were "markedly reduced," a paper on the results said. Since then, psilocybin and other psychedelics have been hailed as powerful and much-needed interventions for mental illness. Psychedelic research centers have been formed at Imperial College, and more recently at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In October 2018, psilocybin received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration, recognizing it as a promising treatment for hard-to-treat depression, and potentially expediting the process for its approval as a legal medication. (Psilocybin is currently illegal at the federal level in the U.S. and the U.K.)

    As scientists strive to understand exactly how these drugs lead to such dramatic outcomes, there's a growing desire to tease apart the experience of psychedelics from the drugs' other effects. Can the hallucinogenic trips that psychedelics induce be separated from other interactions the drugs might be having on the brain?

    The experiences people have on psychedelics can be profound, emotional, painful, blissful, and seemingly transformative. One patient in an Imperial College study reported that they "had an encounter with a being, with a strong feeling that that was myself, telling me it’s alright, I don’t need to be sorry for all the things I’ve done. I had an experience of tenderness towards myself. During that experience, there was a feeling of true compassion I had never felt before.”

    But what if this "trip" is just smoke and mirrors? A window dressing on a neurobiological process happening elsewhere that itself is reducing depression symptoms? Psychedelic drugs interact with receptors in the brain that cause the trip itself, but there are many other effects that are distinct from the hallucinogenic journeys people go through. For instance, they can create an increase in the connections among regions of the brain, and disruptions in other brain circuitry. Yet, up until this point, many experts have considered the entire psychedelic experience one single thing.

Pragmatic Metaphysics: Strategic Ontology In A Scientific World

Though the 20th century was largely defined by a science that espoused a metaphysics of materialism, more recent developments (and lack thereof) point to the insufficiency of a substance-based, physicalist ontology to explain the nature of reality. The ‘hard’ problem of consciousness shows no signs of abating, while quantum phenomena such as the observer effect are continuing to demonstrate that mind and matter are fundamentally connected (Barad, 2007; Radin, 2006). Consequently, ontological conjectures hitherto dismissed are being given extra layers of texture, and validity, from scientific inquiry. This essay will evaluate the revival of some of these conjectures within a scientific world, and propose a suggested route forward for the re-integration of metaphysics into broader discourse. To set the context, I will begin by outlining the centuries-old decline of Western metaphysics and demonstrate why physicalism has failed in its attempts to fill our ontological void. I will then proceed to evaluate alternative ontologies to physicalism — panpsychism, relational ontologies and monistic idealism. I will argue that although a step in the right direction, panpsychism’s position as a quasi-materialist ontology cannot overcome its combination problem, while relational ontologies fail on the account of what I refer to as pragmatic metaphysics. To conclude, I argue that monistic idealism succeeds philosophically and pragmatically where other metaphysical systems fail: it is not only conceptually sound, but also scientifically congruent with regards to quantum revelations, parsimonious, intelligible, accessible and of net good for the world, factors I argue should be given more weight in metaphysical discussions as we attempt to strategically re-integrate questions of existence into the mainstream.

In essence, Kant believed metaphysics at- tempts to infer a priori synthetic knowledge from pure concepts without sensibility, a project destined to fail since “concepts without intuitions are empty” (ibid). Since Kant posits that the mind structures reality (rather than the converse), he insists we are incapable of knowing things in themselves as we cannot discern between what is in our own minds vis-a-vis what is a feature of the thing-in-itself. Thus, according to Kant, since knowledge is limited to appearances, we cannot effectively speculate as to the nature of being itself. With this understanding, metaphysical inquiry torpedoed into terminal decline (Sjostedt-H, 2015).

Subsequent to Kant’s subjective critique, logical positivists such as Ayer emphasised the verification principle, which holds that a statement is meaningful only if it is either empirically verifiable or else tautological, of which metaphysical inquiry is neither. Subsequently, Wittgenstein (1966) ap- peared to put the final nail in the coffin of metaphysics with his argument that the very linguistic nature of metaphysical statements are meaningless, and that their place in discourse is just part of a multitude of language games. Both linguistic and thought-based arguments can be thought of as variants of correlationism, a term coined by Meillassoux (2008, p49) to depict the “idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.” For correlationists, it is assumed that one cannot know the reality of an object in and of itself since we cannot discern between its objective properties and the subjective properties that give access to the object.

Emergentism often draws parallels between consciousness and matter and structural examples such as whirlpools emerging from water, or water emerging from hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Yet the change in parts of the brain that give rise to emerging mental phenomena is not of the same category — these states are unobservable, unquantifiable, and lack any known trans-or- dinal laws that would bridge matter to mind (Sjostedt-H, 2015). Advocates of this physicalist school of thought imply that sentience can be inferred from biology in the same way that biology can be inferred from chemistry, despite no explanation as to how sentience can emerge from insentience. For Strawson, (2006a, p15), “intelligible emergence can be drawn from given a single set of conceptually homogeneous concepts. But it’s very hard to see how any set of conceptually homogeneous concepts could capture both the experiential (i.e., consciousness-involving) and the non-experiential (non-conscious-involving).”

This rebuke to emergentism, and thus materialism, can be developed as follows. Let us take the emergent property B as a derivative of a prior form A. For B to emerge from A is for B to arise from A given how A is. B must emerge or be given in A in a non-arbitrary way in order that it arise in the first place. Thus A has everything to do with B’s emergence. Some essence of B has to be already, in some configurative constituent, within A. “It is in essence an in-virtue-of relation [and thus] cannot be brute” (ibid).

Moreover, emergentism cannot, given its materialist foundation, accept that mental events can impact the world (such as through intention) since mental phenomena are not accepted forces of nature (Sjostedt-H, 2015). Emergentism developed to its logical conclusion thus refutes the possibility of mental causation in a physical world. Yet since emergentists also often reject epiphenomenalism (Chalmers, 2014), the notion that mind is the mere residual consequence of physical processes, they are stuck in the middle ground of neither accepting nor rejecting mental causation (Sjostedt-H, 2015). Thus to reject the upward and downward causation of emergentism, one could argue we ipso facto must accept that mind always co-existed with matter. This opens the conceptual door for the embracement of an alternative that transcends such problems, such as panpsychism, as consciousness is seen as a fundamental characteristic.

Since our understanding of the nature of matter has been evolving over time, it is impossible to take a firm position on a substance-based metaphysics. Moreover, said ‘understanding’ of matter is an abstraction taken to be real, in which it is known only as for what it does rather than what it is. Our materialist paradigm thus accounts for ontology through physical structure rather than content (Sjostedt-H, 2016). This is a perfectly valid position if attempting to account for the behaviour of certain particles, but does not go beyond abstract description of be- haviour into what a particle is, in and of itself. We have no thorough account of the intrinsic nature of matter, leaving the door open to debate as to what ontologically underpins it.

The ontological architecture of panpsychism makes for a convincing argument given the problematic prevailing paradigm of emergentism. Emergentism fails to provide an intelligible account of sentience from insentience and situates itself in a physicalist paradigm that has no sound laws for the interconnection between mental phenomena and physical constituents. Indeed, the emergentist argument positions itself as a physicalist account for which the empirical evidence it bases its endeavours is nonexistent. A simple Occam’s razor argument, one could argue, would invite the notion of panpsychism, which transcends the limitations of physicalist ontology in suggesting that consciousness itself is primary (either as protoconsciousness or some other version of sentience).

Combination problem

Yet panpsychism suffers from the combination problem, which challenges the validity of pervasive constituent-level sentience. In short, the question arises: how do the experiences of micro-level entities such as protons combine to give rise to human and animal consciousness?

It seems perfectly reasonable for micro-entities to exist in summation without a necessary flaring forth of a macro-entity. Applied to human consciousness, why would the summation of distinct conscious entities give rise to a single conscious mind? As Coleman (2014) argues, since each phenomenal micro-entity has a viewpoint that is its own, if micro-entities are to combine to form a universal experience, then said experience would have to combine each entity’s individual experience at the expense of all others as well as the same all other entities. This is a contradiction (assuming each entity has a different phenomenological experience). Other variants of the combination problem include the palette problem (Chalmers, 2014) (how can a limited number of micro qualities give rise to the complex array of macro phenomena of colours, sounds and smells?) and the grain problem (Lock- wood, 1993) (how do microexperiences result in homogenous macroexperiences such as the colour blue rather than a mass variation of distinct qualities?) It is clear that any refutal of the combination problem would have to take into account all of its iterations, less it be a rebuttal of a single strand.

Relational ontology

Let us proceed to an alternative to the panpsychist perspective, and move beyond its substance-based ontology and into a dynamic, relational version. A substance-based view of reality has been critiqued as overly “individuated, formalized, mechanistic, and reductive to make proper sense of our existence” (Asch, 2004, p20), yet to discuss a relational ontology within the linguistic con- straints of philosophies we are habituated to employing is a difficult task. Relational ontology sug- gests that being is dynamic rather than static, and that this dynamism should be the focus of our on- tological investigation. Western metaphysics holds within it an implicit assumption that the cosmos is constructed of substantial constituents, in which the fundamental units of reality are static and undifferentiated (Seibt, 2018). In contrast, relational ontologies hold the premise that reality is, instead of consisting of individual objects with attributes, ‘made’ of interconnected processes of becoming. The idea that individual objects exist is the result of our tools of perception (we perceive separate objects in an external reality for everyday purposes (Bergson, 1903)) and a consequence of the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness” (Whitehead, 1929), which holds that we believe single lin- guistic terms reflect individual objects, so that our language solidifies a reality in motion. In other words, our everyday navigation and language systems are built around an implicit atomistic ontology, with objective reality described in terms of nouns rather than dynamic verbs.

Arguably the most comprehensive metaphysical system based on this understanding is Whitehead’s (1929), though his framework is often deemed somewhat impenetrable. That said, one can see that Whitehead’s view of subjectivity is conceptualised in a temporal manner, an act of becoming. Whitehead places events and the processes of their arising and passing as the most accurate descrip- tion of ontological reality, as opposed to the prevailing (un)holy trinity of space, time and matter. He also employs a version of panpsychism that holds that the events that constitute reality (actual occasions) enjoy and exhibit some degree of subjectivity. Although avoiding some of the core prob- lems of substance-based panpsychism, this ontology still fails to account for the combination problem articulated previously.

Versions of relational ontologies are contained within the new materialism movement, a group of philosophical perspectives that do not seek to homogenise matter, but rather make room for its heterogeneity. The new materialists argue quantum experiments have put an end to substance-based ontology and that we must begin to see matter not as substance but rather as force or movement (Meillassoux, 2008). This is a promising movement for metaphysics in that its offshoots take into account quantum processes that physicalism fails to address, such as the measurement problem, whilst also overcoming post-Kantian anthropocentric ‘limits’ on metaphysics. A key thinker in this space is Karen Barad, who proposes a relational ontology of “agential realism” in which matter is seen as a dynamic expression of intra-active becoming. For Barad (2007), agentiality is occurring in a world that is becoming different than it is at all times, and phenomena and objects do not exist prior to their relationship but, rather, objects emerge through ‘intra-actions’. Agential realism implies a ubiquity of meaning (versus panpsychism’s ubiquity of mind) but does not address the par- ticular component parts in terms of their relationship to the whole. Instead, each expression is seen purely as an unfolding of the entirety. It remains to be seen, however, whether agential realism is legitimate in its transposition of indeterminacy at the quantum level to the macro level.

Although the relational ontologies of Whitehead, Barad and other new materialist thinkers act as marked improvements on physicalist ontology, several core issues can be raised. Without a substance-based metaphysics, it is not clear how one can define a dynamic process category feature, (though this critique could be nullified as language evolves more dynamic descriptive capacities), while there is as yet no indication from an ontological perspective how a philosophy of becoming corresponds to a reality of space and time. Yet I believe pushback against relational ontologies relate more significantly to issues of pragmatism, as outlined below.

An inaccessible metaphysics saturated in complexity, while potentially an improvement upon materialism, does little to re-integrate metaphysics back into mainstream discourse. It maintains, and indeed widens, the chasm between philosophers and the populous. I believe it is essential for the flourishing of society for us to widen the net of metaphysical reach, so that we begin to look beyond the superficial consciousness of materialism. If we are to re-establish metaphysics as a driving force in everyday life, in our systems and our institutions, as Panikkar (2010) suggests we used to, then factors such as intelligibility and elegance should be important considerations alongside philosophical thoroughness. Relational ontologies fail on these accounts. In fitting with this, I propose a perspective of pragmatic metaphysics.

Pragmatic metaphysics would rank metaphysical systems not just in terms of their philosophical rigor but also in terms of their applicable impact, so that the strength of a metaphysical theory would be judged not only by its conceptual thoroughness but also by its ability to positively impact life itself. Put differently, the validity of the ontological conjecture would be seen as inextricable from its practical applications.

Monistic idealism avoids the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness of physicalist ontology whilst also overcoming the combination problem that plagues the perspective of panpsychism. In relation to the aforementioned conditions, monistic idealism has been thoroughly articulated philosophically in various Western and

Eastern traditions (Kastrup, 2010), is consistent with old and new forms of science (Radin, 2006), is parsimonious (Kastrup, 2010), intelligible (“all is contained in a single awareness), accessible (Spira, 2017), and emphasises interconnectivity, thus satisfying the proposed conditions.

I have been drawn to monistic idealism (and non-dual philosophy) since a particular course of med- itation designed to invoke persistent non-symbolic experience (Martin, 2017) left me with an insight into the nature of reality that I fundamentally intuited as ‘more true’ than the relativistic un- derstanding I had been living by. Somewhat Bergsonian, it was my intuition that pointed towards my Being-ness as nonlocal awareness, the sense that universal consciousness just is, and that ‘I’ am said consciousness individuated. This ‘understanding’ stayed with me for several weeks before I lost its essence after taking a break from practice. This catalysed my interest in idealism, since it was a consciousness-only paradigmatic experience that I had stepped into. In considering why I felt it to be ‘more’ true, my experience of reality was not that there is no distinction between objects, but rather that the base ontological container and nature of said objects is the same — consciousness. It was a prolonged experience of lucidity, the dirt cleared from my windscreen, an intuition that consciousness (though not thought itself) is fundamentally primary, the screen upon which the film of reality is projected.

To ensure my attempts to provide ontological rigour are not overtly coloured by my personal experience, I will examine idealism from the lens of Kastrup (2015), who holds a unique vantage point, much like Barad, in that his training is both in physics and philosophy. As with panpsychism, there are a multitude of iterations of the category, but for the purposes of this essay, let us propose ideal- ism to be based upon two central claims. First, that consciousness is irreducible, and second, that the entirety of nature is reducible to unitary consciousness. Kastrup (2015) outlines several scientif- ic facts about the nature of consciousness and reality (such as there are tight neurological correlates between the brain and experience) and concludes in various iterations that the most parsimonious ontology, “that which requires the smallest number of postulates whilst maintaining sufficient ex- planatory power to account for all facts” (Kastrup, 2015) is one of monistic idealism.


In other words, sexuality becomes a pharmakon, both a toxin and antidote for Nature. Schelling writes of the separation of the sexes within Nature’s ‘infinite metamorphosis’ that ‘each organism has a level of formation at which [this] separation is necessary. [But this] highest point of disturbed equilibrium is [also] the moment of the reestablishment of equilibrium’ (FO 36, 40-41). This dis/equilibrium describes the production of the genus against the individual in a systolic-diastolic movement of expansion and contraction foregrounded in Schelling’s later work. But sexual separation does not fold the organism back into a teleological hierarchy of developmental stages. Instead, it opens the organism up to Nature’s radical productivity: ‘from the moment of the [separation] onward, the product no longer completely expresses the character of the stage of development at which it stood.’ Schelling describes this as ‘derangement’ [Störungheit], and this trope of illness marks the ‘most intense moment of natural activity’ in the organism (FO 39). Nature blossoms through ‘abortive’ experiments on itself, seizing on its own aberrations, ‘pursuing’ its individuative derangement as far as possible in a given manifestation (FO 41 n). And precisely this derangement, this illness, is a drive toward absolute knowledge as what Tilottama Rajan refers to as ‘a following of the particular wherever it might lead, regardless of its consistency with a larger whole.’14 Each organism is a tumescence in Nature, a derangement of the Stufenfolge, a symptom of radical auto-alterity in Nature which resists Schelling’s attempt, in the later Introduction to the First Outline, to contain it in an anterior organisation which ‘must have existed as a whole previous to its parts’ (FO 198). But Schelling still faces the question which dogs him throughout his oeuvre: why is there something and not nothing? How do things come to be from within Nature as the ‘most primal fluid–the absolute noncomposite [. . .] receptive to every form [. . .] a mass wherein no part is distinguished from the other by figure’ (FO 6)?

    Schelling’s answer to this question in the First Outline is inhibition – an intrinsic, primordial self-limiting force which engenders the phenomena of the natural world.


The First Division of the First Outline tries to work through its unruly textual excess by turning from the metaphysical overgrowth of the first section on the actants (‘The Original Qualities and Actants in Nature’) to something closer to dramatic narrative in the following section (‘Actants and Their Combinations’). Here, Schelling describes the creation of matter as ‘the drama [Schauspiel] of a struggle between form and the formless’ (FO 28). For Schelling, Nature’s universal fluidity is always already inexplicably ‘solidified’ by the actants in this drama without beginning, which transpires in ‘infinite multiplicity’ between fluid and solid. That is, the actants, in their creation of natural products, are always already subject to a drama of (de)combination in their infinite multiplicity.

This dynamic of coalescence and dissolution is ultimately pathologised by Schelling as the actants’ mutual derangement [Störung] into universal fluidity, which is in turn – indeed, simultaneously resisted by each actant’s individuality (FO 26, 28). This derangement describes what we have seen as Nature’s auto-alterity, a Nature divided against itself yet compelled to form products in a tension which creates generative fibrillations in Nature. And again, the language Schelling uses here is significant: the actant’s ‘constant drive [Trieb] toward free transformation’ is inhibited by the ‘compulsion’ [Zwang] of its combination with other actants in a productive coimplication of freedom and necessity (FO 33). In the Introduction to the Outline Schelling writes that discovering the ‘intermediate links’ in natural products with the unknowable ‘last conditions’ of Nature is the task of experimentation in Naturphilosophie – not the experimentation of the empirical natural sciences which assumes that one day the circle of its knowledge will complete itself and which imposes principles on Nature from without, but rather an ‘infinite task’ of ‘collect[ing] the fragments of the great whole of Nature [. . .] into a system’ (FO 199) which is always on the cusp of itself. It involves investigating the internal necessity of principles and not assuming their a priori nature, and this process is ultimately a psychoanalytic moment – ‘doing Naturphilosophie’ as an encounter in Wirth’s sense – where, in Schelling’s words, ‘Nature speaks to us to the extent to which we ourselves fall silent.’18 We must let Nature question us.

But what kind of ‘questions’ does a deranged Nature ask? What does its facticity present to us? The natural products we see in the world are, after all  ‘nothing other than productive Nature itself determined in a certain way’ (FO34), inhibited according to inscrutable laws into the unique, terrible, and solitary forms which surround us. Each one of them is part of Schelling’s Stufenfolge, the graduated series of stages with which Nature hopes to achieve the Absolute, or ‘the most universal proportion in which all actants, without prejudice to their individuality, can be unified’ (FO 35). Yet each natural product is also a ‘misbegotten attempt’ at this proportion (ibid.), a wayward line of flight away from the absolute ideal for which Nature strives, but can never achieve, caught in an ‘infinite process of formation’ (ibid.) which constitutes these lines of flight to begin with. Nature is caught within its actantial dynamics – within the derangement of a free drive to create infinite products and the compulsion to combine them into a ‘universal proportion.’ It is from this derangement that the materiality and historicity of Being emerges. This infinitely productive derangement of the actants forms an onto-aetiology which Schelling locates in disease. Disease, for Schelling, is coterminous with life itself: because disease ‘is produced by the same causes through which the phenomenon of life is produced[, it] must have the same factors as life’ (FO 160). So although in the First Outline’s Appendix on disease (FO 158ff) the term Aktion is not used, Schelling in effect transposes the actants’ deranging dynamism of activity and receptivity into physiology: here, the organism is not a static ‘being’ but a ‘perpetual being-produced,’ an ‘activity mediated by receptivity’ (FO 160) against a series of external stimuli which prevent the organism from ‘exhausting’ its activity in a final (dead, inorganic) object. In this ‘being-produced,’ the organism reproduces an ‘original duplicity’ whereby it generates itself ‘objectively’ in response to external conditions (its receptivity to the world) as well as ‘subjectively’ – that is, as an object to itself (its activity). Disease is precisely the ‘othering’ of the organism’s presence to itself as object, a ‘disproportion’ within its economy of excitability, or susceptibility to external stimuli (FO 169). And this force of disease is ultimately predicated on a ‘uniformly acting external force’ which acts on the organism while at the same time it ‘seems to sustain the life of universal Nature just as much as it sustains the individual life of every organic being (as the life ofNature is exhibited in universal alterations)’ (FO 171). Both life and disease, then, emerge from a constitutive tension between the world of external forces and the higher-order dynamical force which sustains the organism against the barrage of stimuli from without (FO 161). Extending the premises of the Naturphilosophie into the human and divine domains of theodicy, the Freedom essay, to which we now turn, aligns this diseased productivity with both the energy of evil and the yearning nature of God itself.


This darkness which recedes from knowledge in the Freedom essay is ‘a being before all ground and before all that exists [and] before any duality [. . .] the original ground or the non-ground [Ungrund]’  which  exists  even  before  God  (Freedom  68).    The  Ungrund is a state of  ‘absolute indifference’  (Freedom 68) between opposites which does  not  nullify  them  (it  is  not  Hegel’s  ‘night  where  all  cows  are  black’)  but  rather  suspends  them  in  relation  to  each  other.    Thus,  Schelling  writes  that  even  though  the  Ungrundis  before  all  opposites  and  duality,  it  is  ‘neutral’ towards them, which is precisely why opposites and polarities can ‘[break] forth immediately from the Neither-Nor’ of its indifference (Freedom 69).For Schelling, the Ungrundprovides a resolution to the problem of thinkingbecoming for  a  God  that  is  ‘infinitely’   different  to  the  world  of  things  (28),  a  resolution  which  marks  the  materiality  of  Nature  as  the  dark  ground  of  spirit,  the  receding  origin  of  Being  and  becoming.    The  world  of  becoming  must  emerge from God; but how can things separate from a God which encompasses all  things?    Schelling’s  answer  is  that  things  are  ultimately  grounded  in  ‘that which in God himself is not He Himself, that is, in that which is the ground of his existence’ (Freedom  28).    In  other  words,  the  Ungrundmarks  the  not-God  within  God,  that  within  God  which  God  cannot  know  and  which  always  already  implicates God in the history of Nature.  In a broadly psychoanalytic sense, the Ungrund is God’s unconscious; it harbours ‘the yearning the eternal One feels to give  birth  to  itself’   (Freedom  28), the  drive  to  individuation  in  and  through  Nature’s  materiality.    But  we  have  seen  from  the  Naturphilosophie  that  this  materiality  is  deranged,  ambivalent  toward  its  own  existence;  perhaps  this  is  why Schelling writes  early  in  the  Freedom  essay that Naturphilosophie  is  the  only  project  adequate  to  the  task  of  freedom  (Freedom  26-27).    As  life,  then,  God’s  yearning is driven by unknown forces, and in this God is like man.  Both God and  man  are  confronted  with  an  un-grounding  Other  which  becomes  an  existential pharmakon,  both  the  cause  of and  cure  for  the melancholic  desire  of an  endless approximation  to  wholeness.    Both  God  and  man  are  destined  to  ‘the  deep  indestructible  melancholy  of  all  life’  (Freedom  63).

This tension between the essay’s sense of   futurity   (its   desire   for   love   that   unites   all)   and   melancholy   (the   acknowledgement  that  this  desire  must  find  and  re-find  itself)  is  central  to  the  text’s complexity, resonating through the optative proclamation that ‘the good should be raised out of the darkness [. . .] whereas evil shouldbe separated from the  good  in  order  to  be  cast  out  eternally  into  non-Being’  (Freedom  67;  my  italics).    This  tension  and  melancholy  is  the  medium  from  which  personalityemerges as the core concept which fuels the Freedom essay’s futurity.This melancholy is the basis for the analogy Schelling draws between God’s relationship to the not-God of the Ungrund and the human being’s relationship with the centrum, a term Schelling takes up from Jakob Böhme to describe ‘the undivided  power  of  the  initial  ground’ as  it  exists  in  the  person  (Freedom  44).  Through  the  freedom  of  the  not-God  within  God,  ‘a  fundamentally  unlimited  power  is  asserted  next  to  and  outside  of  divine  power’   (Freedom  11) that  is  conceptually   unthinkable,   and   which   inaugurates   a   divine   individuation   marking   Schelling’s   radical   turn   from   the   notions   of   emanationism   and   theodicy   prevailing   in   his   time.      This   not-God   within   God   marks   the   (un)beginning  of  all  things  as  a  difference  always  already  operating  in  Being,  and  this  (un)beginning’s  human  equivalent  is  in  Schelling’s  formulation  of  personality.  In contrast to Hegel’s assertion that dialectical progression is always already attributed  to  Being  – that  ‘substance  is  essentially  subject’  and  inherently  logical21  –    the Freedom  essay  emphasises  the  emergence  of  personality  in  an  unprethinkable ‘moment’ of  creation  analogous  to  God’s  entry  into  time  and  history, a non-egoic ‘free act’ from the abyss of the unconditioned...


Key  to  the  specifically  idealist  intensity  of  the  Freedom essay’s  theodicy  is  a  recasting of the First Outline’s Stufenfolge as God’s progression toward an ultimate apocatastasis,  a  ‘final,  total  separation’   reminiscent  of  The  Book  of   Revelationwherein ‘everything true and good’ is  ‘raised into bright consciousness’  and the ‘eternally  dark  ground  of  selfhood’ is  locked  away  (Freedom  70).    In  this  resolution, everything is ‘subordinate to spirit’ and temporality and contingency are gathered up into an idealist regime (ibid.).  Yet its disclosure of the Ungrundas  God’s  unconscious,  and  the  centrum  as  its  human  iteration,  necessarily  harbours   a   dark   kernel   of   indeterminacy   which   frustrates   this   teleology.      Individuation  can  go  awry,  and  the  power  of  the  centrum  can  always  be  falsely  appropriated  in  the  ego’s  being-for-itself,  which  Schelling  will  describe  as  the  basis of evil.  Freedom is the necessary introduction of chaos and the anarchy of the Ungrundinto  time  and  history,  a  fracturing  of  the  Freedom  essay’s  Idealism  which  reflects  Schelling’s  turn  away  from  prevalent  teleological  or  systematic  explanations  of  Being.    Evil  is  the  energic  force  of  movement  without  which  existence would founder and congeal, unable to move.

In  other  words,  self-will attempts  to  bend  the  centrum  to  its  own  designs.    Outside  the  harmony  of  the  centrum’s ‘divine measure and balance’ self-will, as ‘a bond of living forces,’ can no  longer  rule  the  rebellious  dominion  of  forces  as  ‘cravings  and  appetites,’  which  leads  to  a  ‘peculiar  life  [of]  mendacity,  a  growth  of  restlessness  and  decay’  (Freedom  34).    Evil  is  a  disruption  of  cosmic  harmony  which  thereby  shows this harmony’s constitutive self-difference; it is the force whereby ‘things feverishly move away from their nonthingly center.’22  But this evil is productive, and  in  precisely  the  same  way  as  Nature’s  ambivalence  toward  its  products  in  the First Outline.  This productivity’s connection with historicity and materiality risks   the   individual’s   annihilation   in   ‘restlessness   and   decay’   as   the   ego   proclaims: I  am  the  centrum.    But  it  is  also  a  connection  with  the  the  Freedomessay’s  apocatastatic  drive,  and  is  thus  essential  to  the  individual’s  existence  in  the world.

Philosophy & Science / Could fecal transplants help treat mental illness?
« on: September 16, 2019, 04:23:01 am »
Could fecal transplants help treat mental illness?

Liz Tung

One startling new study even found that transferring gut microbes from people with schizophrenia into germ-free mice can cause schizophrenia-like symptoms. (Microbes from healthy controls had no such effect in the mice.) The same study found what could be the mechanism for that change: dysfunction of the affected mice’s glutamate system, which is thought to be implicated in schizophrenia.

“So it shows that it could be a cause, but at the very least a strong contributing factor, that’s coming from the microbes that the person carries with them,” Julio Licinio, the study’s co-author, said.

Licinio added that the significance to this finding is that changing the microbes could have a therapeutic effect on subjects’ behavior, offering a new avenue for treatment.

The study also offers one more piece of evidence that microbiomes don’t just reflect mental illness, but could actually be causing mental illness.

“There is a possibility that there are some microbes that are very specific to mental illness,” Licinio said. “It would be a huge finding if that’s confirmed.”

Licinio added that this hasn’t been proven yet, but evidence so far points to the idea that there are at least some microbes that are specific to people with mental illness.

“So we are still being a little cautious because we don’t want to, you know, say, ‘Oh, this is the biggest breakthrough,’ and it’s not proven yet. But it seems to be the case that there are at least some microbes that are very specific to people with mental illness.”

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