What the bleep do we know?

So, I’m in the midst of watching this movie and several things have occurred to me. Obviously it’s a silly movie, with silly, new age thinkers that really take advantage of quantum mechanics, but what surprised me the most was how trite and conservative most of their opinions were. For example, they keep talking about how consciousness creates reality and how there are all these unrealized possibilities that consciousness creates. For various values of ‘create’ and ‘reality’ this strikes me as being almost trivially true. When I choose to do anything I am actualizing a possibility (assuming I am not a determinist). If it weren’t possible for consciousness to influence reality, then how would the human race have gotten anywhere? Does consciousness create reality? Well, when I build a box, or hammer together a bookshelf I am putting a bookshelf into reality that could not have been there without my consciousness. Now they do mention that if I believe that I can walk on water, then I can walk on water. This is obviously ridiculous, and leads us into the movie’s second strange aspect.

I think what I found most surprising was the new age thinkers encouraging Cartesian dualism. According to many of these thinkers the world ‘out there’ is only real when it is in my mind. Thus when they say that consciousness can create reality that is not because consciousness relates to reality or structures reality, but rather that reality is in the mind. For most of these thinkers esse ist percipe: to be is to be perceived. I think that what I find most amusing about this is that they are positing Berkeley’s subjective idealism as a radical new hypothesis and that it is only because of quantum mechanics that this great insight could have been made.

Hopefully when I finish the movie I will have some better formed thoughts on the subject, but right now I can’t help thinking that what these people desperately need is a phenomenologist! Luckily there is one in the house and he is open for business.

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3 Comments on “What the bleep do we know?”

  1. Baekho Says:

    Ah yes, What the Bleep Do We Know?. I find that movie all the more sad because I do think there are some interesting philosophical implications in quantum mechanics, but “theories” like the ones expounded in that movie really trivialize the whole thing. They also trivialize many of the philosophies and doctrines of Buddhism, Hinduism, etc, which are really much more nuanced and profound than the average New Ager makes them out to be.

    It seems to me the “thinkers” in that movie aren’t really Cartesian Dualists as much as they are Idealists—Idealists of the crazy variety. I think Berkeley would’ve found them too radical. 😉

  2. musicalcolin Says:

    I agree completely with you w/r/t their trivializing some really interesting eastern philosophies/religions. I’m not really sure what you mean by Idealists, but it sounds plausible.

  3. Baekho Says:

    By Idealists I guess I mean that they think everything is reducible is consciousness—i.e. “consciousness is all there is”. Their main justification for this view seems to be the mantra that “we can create reality with our minds”. They generally subscribe to a poorly thought-out monism.

    I think it’s interesting that they overlook the equally profound effects “external” reality can have on “interal” reality—physical/chemical reactions can obviously induce different mental states just as certain mental states dispose us to altering the physical world (or at a more abstract level, how we view the world). For some reason New Age types tend to zero on only one half of the equation.


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