Subordinating Living Consciousness To Dead Matter


Question

Scientists have explained that color does not exist though we perceive it, rooted in our own limited physicality. Einstein’s “Spooky Action At A Distance” and recent discoveries in quantum physics further confirm that our perceptions of reality are not reality itself. Is reality really interpretive?

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

I believe that Socrates [Plato?], in the Phaedo, points out the root of the confusion here. Socrates explores the very different questions ‘how’ and ‘why’. Thus if someone asks ‘why’ Socrates is sitting in a prison cell, the answer cannot be (paraphrasing) because his body is made in such a way that it bends at the joints and thus rests in a sitting pose. That is ‘how’ he sits. The answer to ‘why’ he sits: Socrates rejected a chance to escape prison and flee to another city. He chose to honor his social contract with Athens, and drink the hemlock. Similarly, if asked why I write to you, I cannot say, “by typing on my computer.”

 

Materialistic science (and not science in general) seeks to conflate the ‘how’ and ‘why’ question, in a clear attack on any form of metaphysical teleology. Thus in answer to, “Why is the sky blue?”, one explains ‘how’ the sky is blue.

 

If for the sake of argument, we hypothetically restore teleology and assume a creator, then atmospheric science, qua atmospheric science, has no idea whatsoever as to why the sky is blue. Scientists only know how the sky is blue. Let us consider a further example.

 

Consider a painting by Renoir. Who understands it best — an accomplished art historian or a paint chemist? The paint chemist may claim that the ‘colors’ on the canvas are actually a bunch of molecules with no color at all. But in fact, the painting is teleological: Renoir wanted it to look a certain way to the eye of a worthy observer. Thus rather than subordinating consciousness to dead matter and claiming that paint chemistry tells us more about Renoir than the art historian, we may privilege developed consciousness over dead matter and say that the colors, textures, shapes, and composition on the canvas are the whole purpose of the painting. On this view, the conscious experience of the art is the highest meaning and reality of the painting.

 

By analogy, Krishna/God makes the sky blue as a work of art. The blue color exists in a single seamless experience composed of observer, observed, and act-of-observation. To claim otherwise is to radically subordinate living consciousness to dead matter, an act that will struggle to find a serious philosophical justification.