Skeptiko – Alex Tsakiris – Bernardo Kastrup’s Controversial View of Consciousness Research

Author and scientist Bernardo Kastrup sees pattern of decreased brain activity during peak experiences.

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Bernardo Kastrup, author of Meaning in Absurdity. During the interview Kastrup discusses his beliefs about human consciousness:

Alex Tsakiris: You make some interesting connections between the “fainting game”, erotic asphyxiation and some new research with psychedelic mushrooms. You suggest that when we really look at what’s going on in the brain we actually see a dampening down of brain areas — the opposite of what we would expect. So what are the implications of this in terms of this idea of filtering of consciousness?

Bernardo Kastrup: The current paradigm says that conscious experience is an epiphenomenon, a by-product, of brain activity. So you should always be able to find a tight correlation between conscious states as reported by the subject and measurable brain states as measured, for instance, with an FMRI scanner. Usually this correlation is there, but there are instances, like this study you mentioned, where this correlation is not there in a very spectacular and repeatable way. What it suggests is that we have to find another model of reality, if you will, to accommodate this. A model that accommodates both the fact that normally, ordinarily, conscious experience is modulated by brain states, but also sometimes there is a lack of correlation in a spectacular way.

Alex Tsakiris: So these anomalies you’re talking about, for example, with psilocybin and reduced brain functioning, or brain injuries that lead to increased consciousness, these have to be explained. We can’t just sweep them off the table and say, “well, materialism seems to work pretty well in the general sense,” right?

Bernardo Kastrup: These anomalies are major anomalies. They are gigantic anomalies. The only way we can get away with them and still honestly believe in the materialistic paradigm as many of us do is because that paradigm embodies an approach of looking upon the world that is a third-person perspective. In other words, it’s not through personal experience but through reports and measurements.

Published on December 4, 2013