Ways of Not Knowing

I have been considering my experience as aesthetic experience. Whether I'm at a dinner party joking around with friends or whether I'm reading forum posts, I'm having an aesthetic experience. Generally, I've been feeling like the aesthetic experience of "doing" philosophy can be a bit of red herring. And I know I'm not saying anything new here, but I want to say it anyway. Sometimes I get the feeling that if I just do theory and philosophy harder, the solutions will come to me and I'll have it all figured out. But I know that's not really the case. I'm trying to transition away from getting overly caught up in theory/philosophy/science and put more energy into the felt sense of being alive. Not to theorize about awareness or consciousness, but to feel consciousness.

I will still read philosophy and theory. I know myself too well to think I could give that up. Hey, I like to stay informed.

Speaking of which, I was listening to some Bernardo Kastrup interviews, and I feel like he has his free miracle at work just like everybody has their free miracle in their theories. And I think for me, the free miracle is mystery itself. And I wonder if mystery is felt in felt experience, somehow. Probably "felt" isn't the right word for it. I wonder if felt experience is somehow connected to mystery, and it's the edge where felt experience ends and mystery begins that the weird stuff happens sometimes. For sure "mystery" is not the right word, because if there is some "thing" that is "mystery" it would be un-nameable. Of course, usually I'm not focused on those questions. Usually, I'm busy running around, going to work, taking care of crap around the house, hanging out with friends, remembering things, thinking about things, writing things, etc.

Well, I didn't capture what I really wanted to say, but this is what I have for now. I'm afraid that positing un-nameable, unknowable "mystery" runs too close to having faith in something that isn't real. That would be going overboard. I did some some reading on negative theology the other day, and that has some parallels--certain theologians who believed "God" had some knowable properties and some "unknowable" properties that they considered transcendent properties. It's an interesting idea. I will try to dig out the link.
Last edited:
Sometimes I get the feeling that if I just do theory and philosophy harder, the solutions will come to me and I'll have it all figured out. But I know that's not really the case. I'm trying to transition away from getting overly caught up in theory/philosophy/science and put more energy into the felt sense of being alive. Not to theorize about awareness or consciousness, but to feel consciousness.
For me the purpose of philosophy is not to solve the riddle of our existence, but rather to arm one's self and the next generation, with the tools they need, to be discerning of authenticity versus pretense. To dispel the darkness, whether it be a person, religion or a credo.

Like attracts like. I do not know, but I suspect there is a reason for this dispelling work...
For me the purpose of philosophy is not to solve the riddle of our existence, but rather to arm one's self and the next generation, with the tools they need, to be discerning of authenticity versus pretense. To dispel the darkness, whether it be a person, religion or a credo.
Thanks, ES. I appreciate your clarity here! I will have to mull this over.
If I'm honest with myself, I think my deepest desire that pulls me to this forum, etc, is the desire to "solve the riddle of our (my?) existence". As I mentioned, I don't think it's really possible to do so, but if I reflect on the impulse within me, the impulse is driven by that desire.
"I think it has something to do with consciousness."

I hear this refrain when folks are talking about UFOs, NDEs, paranormal, psi, etc. I think it's a common idea but a difficult one to "follow up" on.

I've been thinking about my day-to-day inner life as aesthetic experience. Specifically, I've been noticing the little differences in the experience. It feels different to think about my upcoming dinner party than it does to think about Bernardo Kastrup's idealism theories. It feels different to be pissed off at my boss at work than it does to sit in the airport waiting for a flight to board when I go on vacation.

Toggling between these inner aesthetic experiences is an inexact science. Everybody knows that there's a difference between cognition and emotion. Psychologists talk about a difference between "top-down processing" versus "bottom-up processing." But the actual boundaries between different kinds of inner experience are fuzzy as hell, in my opinion. The transitions between different inner aesthetic experiences (mental states) are fuzzy.

For some atheists and humanists, "spiritual" experience is synonymous with the inner experience of wonder and awe. I sometimes feel wonder and awe when I contemplate different theories I hear on podcasts or read in different places or even come up with myself. I've had some minor inexpiable experiences that also came with a sense of wonder and awe (and fear, surprise, etc in a couple cases).

I think I want to "solve the riddle of existence." That may be the same as saying that I crave wonder and awe.

I wonder about the relationship between mystical experience and those feelings of wonder, awe, fear, etc. When some people have heavy-duty mystical experience, UFO experience, psi experience or whatever, it can really mess with them for a long time. If you view those experiences as metaphorical "injections" of awe, wonder, and fear into a person's day-to-day inner experience, it can be understandable why that person would feel really messed up for a while, trying to cope with all those different kinds of heavy-duty emotional energies that persist within them.

"I think it has something to do with consciousness."
The hard problem of consciousness remains hard. Perhaps we're dissociations of some mind at large as Kastrup talks about. Perhaps consciousness emerges from something "non-intelligent" in some way we don't or can't understand. Perhaps there's some third way that is beyond understanding. Either way, there seems to be plenty of room for inexplicable experiences, even inexplicable experiences with multiple witness and with physical evidence.

It's possible that the problem with "disclosure" may be that the "powers that be" have come to similar conclusions, and all disclosure would amount to is them saying: There's things that happen that we don't understand. A lot of those things probably have complicated "mundane" explanations, but some of them are beyond the pale of what we tend to believe about the universe and our human existence." Maybe they could then give some guidelines on how the citizenry could try to protect themselves and keep themselves safe ... but that would start to look a lot like the government endorsing specific spiritual or religious views, which seems to be out of its purview.
Thanks, ES. I appreciate your clarity here! I will have to mull this over.
If I'm honest with myself, I think my deepest desire that pulls me to this forum, etc, is the desire to "solve the riddle of our (my?) existence". As I mentioned, I don't think it's really possible to do so, but if I reflect on the impulse within me, the impulse is driven by that desire.
(Sorry for the ramble Dan)... :)

Oh yes, don't get me wrong. The desire to solve the riddle of our existence resides deeply at the heart of philosophy. This motivates me intellectually to decry all the social barriers, mindsets and methods which are for some reason crafted to prohibit exactly that (our understanding). Why the embargo and awesome insistence upon ignorance? Why all the secrecy, skeptic patrols, curmudgeons and urgency in academic brainwashing? We are not taught how to think in college, we are taught how to NOT to think. I clashed with my profs over this constantly - bored shitless with their endless Laplace Transforms, Hemingway, Adam Smith and Golden Section method memorizations. A total waste of time. It was the wasting of time/acumen which they were teaching, not the lessons. Laplace transforms are forgotten in 2 months, but the lessons on fecklessness persist for a lifetime.

Teaching one to hate the seeking of knowledge and to ensure that one never attempted it again (unless you bought the lie of nihilism hook line and sinker and became a 'professor'). But the mere intellectual realization of this was not enough to effect any change inside me.

My second concern became then the nature of cause-to-effect and suffering. My Pollyanna (virtue-Christianity) mind used to think 'If only people would start filling their day with random acts of kindness - the world would be a paradise'. Random acts does not get your garbage collected, nor cause a 2 acre field to spring forth with nutrition and be shipped 2,356 miles, and satisfy 36 laws and regulations and pay off 14 officials who are rent-seeking in that play. Then I directed several projects which exposed me to hunger, disease, corruption and warfare. Most of humanity resides in an abject cistern of suffering. Thus I started to change my life and begin to ferret out all the darker aspects of my own contribution, to examine self and begin to make changes, grow business, help families, and focus on improving the lot...

It was a long pathway of toil, failure and despair... My own children were permanently harmed through rent-seeking and house hedge. The darkness of humanity masquerading as 'virtue'.

I found four things:​
1. Social niceties are not the same thing as integrity. You do not have to be nice. 'Nice' is a charade. Nice can be a useful charade.​
2. I found that no matter what I did, I eventually had to hurt someone in the process of doing the right thing.​
3. 'The right thing', is not as easy to determine as it may seem at face value.​
4. You cannot avoid 1 - 3 above by, simply resigning yourself to do nothing (or as little as possible). For in doing so, you have done the utterly wrong thing - and been embraced by darkness.​

The first I could live with - not everyone who is hard on you is your enemy, not everyone who smiles at you is your friend. The instructors and Gunnies who screamed at us for weeks, while we crawled through mud with our M-16's and carried a log over our heads, were some of the kindest pure souls I ever met.

The second finding bothered me immensely. There was never any perfect action on my part - regardless of how hard I tried, I ended up having to hurt someone. This world became like a bad SAW movie, existentially. So, I found that I had to start picking and choosing who would be the victim in the sordid play. Who had to be fired so that everyone else achieved a net gain in life. Who had to lose on a deal, or be cut out of contract, in order for the families involved to be uplifted. Which tribe had to lose, in order for the nation to gain. Who had to be penalized, who had to be taken out of power... and all suffer. I found that even if I had developed the perfect strategy - someone, inevitably and unavoidably was harmed in its effecting.

It is the pretender who assaults by sleight-of-hand darkness - because that is where their soul resides and they know no other pathway.
Nassim Taleb: We did not break the mafia by being “kind” and convincing. In the presence of rent seeking, you break by breaking.


So - I come the long way back around to your point. My finger of discernment swings around again to the mechanisms which insist on this SAW house of horrors - who they are, what they do, why they insist upon our ignorance. Ignorance about our origins, nature of being and the true fabric/substrate of this reality - consciousness. Those are the characters, players and mechanisms whom I am most hard upon now.

I will suffer the genuine and the innocent, however I will not suffer agency, nor the useful idiot. We are all fools.

What are they protecting and why are they so TERRIFIED of it, ... and us (terror is the only sufficient explanation)? Why so terrified of this factor that the daily suffering of 4 billion people is taken in stride as just another day at the plantation? No ethical being should ever allow this state of Earth to happen - even by accident. The mere existence of 'free will' is not enough to exculpate the crime. While you were asleep, I robbed you of all your inheritance, wealth, home, health and rights. But it happened because you chose to sleep, in your 'free will'. Now I hold a revolver to your head, clicking its empty chambers off constantly, a spiritual gun which could go off on any given day (which you least expect), and as long as you believe what I want you to believe - say what I want you to say - and do what I want you to do - live this abject suffering of their awesome crafting - then there will never be a bullet in that gun. This is the Good News.

This is my concern. Part of what I crudely attempt do, in the Tree of Knowledge Obfuscation, is document many of these terror-impelled impediments to our knowledge process. Document darkness of the heart. The surreptitious magician, the deluded useful idiot, those who fool themselves about their own virtue - and whom they serve.

I make mistakes at it, but it has to be done. We all (eventually) have to do this.
Last edited:
I have been reading David Chapman at meaningness.com. Chapman is an acquired taste, and I don't fully understand him.

He is trying to come to terms with meaning. It is more popular these days, I think, to talk about consciousness, but I believe he's talking about cognition/meaning as a layer that exists within consciousness. Specifically, when it comes to meaning, he is trying to find a middle-ground between eternalism and nihilism. In Skeptiko terms, eternalism would equate to "extended consciousness" (meaning arises from some source outside of humans, aka idealism) and nihilism would equate to "biological robots in a meaningless universe" (meaning is created solely by humans, aka materialism).

For Chapman, as I understand him, meaning is the constantly shifting interplay of pattern and nebulosity--it is hard to define the borders. He draws a parallel between meaning and things like rainbows and mirages in the sense that there seems to be some quality to meaning where it is neither solely generated outside the human nor solely generated within the human. It is somehow both and neither at once, an interaction like a rainbow. Chapman's view here is problematic for both idealism and materialism, because idealism and materialism are mutually exclusive of one another in a way that doesn't work if there is such a thing as a true middle ground.

Another important aspect of his view, perhaps, is the sense that one can never quite get one's arms around meaning. From what I can gather, he may be saying that it is generally a mistake to abstract certain kinds of knowing and apply them to all domains, levels, and contexts of experience, because contexts of meaning are always changing and meanings themselves are always changing. If you try to "freeze" certain kinds of meaning and make them universal, the effort will eventually fail in some way because the contexts around them will eventually change to the point where the "frozen" meanings don't work anymore.

(This approach can look very much like relativism, though Chapman claims he's not talking about relativism and says that relativism is usually a form of nihilism.)

It does seem that certain kinds of knowledge don't change. For example, the "laws of physics", etc. It may be the case, it seems to me, that the perceived "beginning" of the universe may be a point at which the "laws of physics" did change. And if there is an end to the universe, perhaps that is the point at which the "laws of physics" change again.

So perhaps all things DO change, but some things take such a very long time to change that for all practical purposes from a human perspective, they don't seem to be changing.

His reading list is interesting and you can kinda get a sense of some his general ideas from this page:

This page kinda gives some hints as to what he's trying to say about meaningness. There's a lot of material on his various websites; I wish he would make a good effort to summarize his main points in one place:
Last edited:
I have been interested in "process theology" ever since reading about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Bohm, Hegel, etc. My default understanding of process theology/process philosophy has been to think of the big questions in terms of verbs as opposed to thinking of things in terms of nouns.

I have never been able to make much progress in this quest.

Anyway, I think David Chapman points in an interesting direction in regards to this question, and he mentions Heidegger as being a philosopher who had important things to say on the question. And, importantly for me, I think these topics relate to the questions of idealism, extended consciousness, materialism, etc.

I don't understand these ideas well, but I want to jot down my little summary to see if it helps me get my mind wrapped around things:

Possibly, for Heidegger, it is fruitful to consider that prior to consciousness/experience/awareness, there is "existing"--in the sense that the verb "existing" precedes the noun "consciousness". In the sense that the verb "existing" needs to take on an object, "consciousness/experience/awareness" would be seen as the object (or content) of "existing." It may also be fruitful to consider consciousness as a verb: "consciousnessing" or "being aware" or "experiencing". And of course, a verb like being aware or experiencing needs to have an object (or content): sense perceptions would be content. Thoughts, fantasies, emotions, fantasies, cognitions, etc would be other kinds of content (or objects) for experiencing/being aware/consciousnessing.

When I try to imagine "existing" as being prior to consciousness, my mind wants to consider it as a noun. Kind of like I do when I imagine idealism or extended consciousness--when I imagine what idealism is like, I end up thinking of consciousness (or Mind-at-Large) as a "thing". But to imagine the verb form of "existing" as being prior to the noun "consciousness" is rather difficult to do. I struggle with getting a sense in my mind of what that "looks" like.

I believe some of the "process philosophers" seem to say that culturally and historically, we have become accustomed to favoring nouns at the expense of verbs when we think of the big mysteries of life. And there are trade-offs in this exchange--we lose perspectives, understandings, approaches, etc.

I think I have been moving in this direction when considering the edge between experience and some hypothetical "that which can't be experienced". You can't think of the edge in terms of nouns--in order to define an edge in terms of nouns, you have to be able to say something about both sides of the edge. But perhaps verbs like "existing" or "experiencing" can serve quite well as the edge--and then there's no compelling reason to HAVE TO make guesses about that which may be BEYOND the edge.
Last edited:
Robert M. Ellis

Ellis is an philosopher/ethicist based in the UK. I believe he was involved in some Western Buddhist tradition for quite some time, now presents material on the Middle Way that incorporates Lakoff/Johnson work on embodied meaning vs. respresentational meaning. A fascinating approach to finding space in experience that is not quite pure idealism and not quite pure materialism. The middle ground of agnosticism I believe holds promise as a way forward -- most folks who are interested in these topics are not interested in the implications of strong agnosticism, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile in the search for anwers. His material is readable, if a bit dry. He talks about how belief is a subset of meaning and how belief and meaning are subsets of desire/wants/needs/intentions. He mentions that judgment occurs in science much like it does in ethics (what is right/wrong) and aesthetics (what is beauty). He mentions that beliefs, meanings, etc are sort of like crystalizations of the energy of wants/needs/desires and how loosening the grip of those crystalizations can lead to "integration" of contradictions. Ellis likes to talk about moving in incremental steps toward greater objectivity by looking at our rigid crystalizations and trying to loosen them by admitting into our experience the notion that our crystallized interpretation is not the only interpretation that can possibly be made.

Brian Cantwell Smith
On the Origins of Objects

My interpretation of BC Smith, applied to some of the topics we discuss here:
At any given time, object(s) in the universe at any scale "register" some other part(s) of the universe, but no object(s) ever "register" the universe as a whole. Any object, including humans, can only register some part at any given time. Desire/wants/needs are registries of matter/energy, and they work by processing registers of other objects/processes, which creates meaning. But people have different "frames of mind"--when you're day dreaming and relaxed out in nature, for example, or at a party having a lot of laughs with good friends, you may be running on some particular "set" of registries, but when you're doing some serious thinking on questions of NDEs, mystical experience, philosophy, etc, you would be running on a slightly different set of registries, fueled, perhaps, by slightly different drives/desires/wants/needs/intentions, etc.

His idea of objects is that they are somehow connected and disconnected from other objects in some dynamic, fluctuating way. Some tiny atomic elements interact with other tiny elements, but not with ALL other elements at once. The other tiny element they interact with are a registry, or a part of the whole.

My list of ideas/authors that I listed here (on the second entry of this thread) is a registry of sorts. If I go to other forums on other topics, I would create very different lists/registries. For example, if I were interested in some certain kind of jazz music, I could create a list/registry of musicians that led to the current kind of jazz. Or if I was interested in creative writing, or world history, or my own history of relations, or whatever, I could create registries.

So frames of mind, as well as different kinds of family upbringing, different cultural backgrounds, personal experiences, etc. can have a major influence on what registries any given person operates from. Any given experience in the universe (moment to moment occurrences) are essentially activated registries, and any given person will engage their registries (meanings/desires/wants/needs/etc) with the registries of what is happening in the universe (more registries). Maybe another way to put it is that it's partial "registries" all the way down and all the way up. Following this line of thought, you could end up with a view of experience where multiple interpretations exist and are serious challenges to each other because they are made of different "sets" of partial registries, and also, you could end up with a view of experience where some consensus reality is stabilized registries and registry interactions, but their could be quirks in the reality based on what registries you and your community have activated when you're participating in it. (Note: Here is where the door opens to all kinds of mystical experience/psi/etc. Also note: all of this is compatible with idealism.)

David Chapman -- Meaningness
Phd from MIT. Practitioner of Western Buddhism. Interested in pursuing middle ground between pure idealism (he calls it eternalism) and pure materialism (he calls it nihilism). Similar to Ellis and Smith in some interesting ways. He is interested in looking at the universe as a constant flux of pattern and nebulosity; fixed versus foggy in constant interplay. Any rigid belief system is bound to be too patterned (rigid) or too nebulous (relativism). Chapman calls different interpretations/theories/etc "stances". Stances can and do change. Chapman likes to posit a "complete stance" where Ellis uses the term "integration". One important difference between Chapman and Ellis, is that Ellis talks about trying to incrementally move away from our plentiful rigidities toward a further kind of objectivity through a life-long process of continuing to loosen the grip of rigid beliefs/meanings/desires.
Last edited: