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Birth of the Cartesian Mind-Body Divide

Modern science was born from the Cartesian mind-body divide in which the body is an object while the mind is a person. A person perceives, conceives, judges, values, and enjoys, but objects push and pull other objects based on instrument-measured properties. The mind-body divide creates three problems: (a) every effect of the mind on the body and that of the body on the mind is neglected by science, (b) object modeling of a body proves inadequate because there is always a mind that is influencing a body in some way, and (c) many models of the body (that work in some cases but not in others) have to be developed. Thereby the complete truth is fragmented into incompatible theories, which cannot be unified except by discarding all those theories.

Modern scientific theories of bodies are like the attempt to predict and explain a book based on the shape of a pen that wrote it, a musical composition based on the length of the instrument that produced it, or a work of art based on the weight of the paintbrush that drew it. All such theories are indeterministic because the physical properties of the pen, paintbrush, or instrument are insufficient to account for the creative outcome without the creator’s mind. Through all these elementary examples, we know a fact: We need the mind even to explain bodily behavior.

Results of the Cartesian Mind-Body Divide

Under the Cartesian dogma, a false idea of “scientific law” in which the mind plays no role has been constructed. Every “law” created by science to date has been indeterministic. It cannot predict all observable effects in the domain that the laws apply. Its explanations of what it can predict are often based on unprovable assumptions (e.g., that there are infinite points between any two points or that the universe is uniform in all places and directions). The result is the dichotomy between inconsistency vs. incompleteness. Every theory is incomplete. To overcome its limits, additional theories become necessary, although they too are incomplete in other ways. Moreover, additional theories contradict previously formulated theories, making a unified theory impossible.

The fact is that modern science, under such a dogma, has no capacity to explain even the most ordinary sensual and mental experiences that everyone takes for granted. And yet, such is the propaganda about the virtues of scientific thinking that people have learned to ignore the shortcomings of science quite like an indulgent parent ignores their children’s faults. Indulging a child is not a bad thing if the child is growing up into a responsible adult. But indulging a bad-mannered arrogant child ensures that he will never grow up into a responsible adult.

And yet, dogmatic approaches to science do not accept the problems arising from their claims, nor the repeated failures of these ideologies to explain and predict what they had set out to do. They always rationalize the failures and postpone the problem to the future. Anyone who talks about alternatives is ridiculed as pseudo-scientific, in the same way, that dogmatic religions earlier persecuted everyone as a heretic who dared to propose an alternative way of thinking.

Removing the Cartesian Mind-Body Divide

The solution to these problems is removing the mind-body divide and treating everything as a person. Even the body must be treated as an aspect of a person, because it can perceive, conceive, judge, value, and enjoy, just like the mind. The mind and body may do these things in different ways—e.g., perceiving sensations vs. meanings—but both are incomplete without the other. The mental reality is also deeper and causes broader bodily effects, like music, art, literature, dance, poetry, and science. If the mind is separated from the body, and the body is treated as an object, then we cannot explain the broader effects because they are produced by deeper causes.

Numerous examples of broader effects exist today: (a) the origin of life and the universe, (b) the role of meaning in the formation of economies and societies, (c) how changing meaning creates history, and (d) how semantic reasoning is different from mathematical logic. By neglecting the deeper reality and narrowing the study of the broader effects through reduction, materialism makes every subject incomplete. Discarding the mind-body divide, ending the study of the body as an object, and beginning the study of the body as one aspect of a person is essential to unify all subjects, complete all subjects, and obtain a coherent and cohesive understanding of reality.

The Necessity of Intellectual Rigor

Understanding many problems, analyzing their causes, and connecting them to the mind-body problem needs intellectual depth and breadth. All deep and broad questions have a long history, with many partial answers, and associated controversies. Everyone doesn’t have the patience or tenacity to wade through this mess. By dividing knowledge into many incompatible departments, then splitting the departments into many incompatible subjects, then separating the subjects into many incompatible theories, modern thinking has fragmented the understanding of reality to an extent that it is often difficult to see how many problems result from the same root cause.

And yet, establishing this connection is essential to a solution. It makes the answer, for those approaching it scientifically, that much harder. We can introduce the students to theories, but we cannot compel them to think. They should want to think, which means reading, immersion, and contemplation. Stating the truth is easy. But becoming convinced that it is the truth is hard. Through a rigorous study of modern science and its problems, we get convinced of its alternative. But it is time-consuming. Not everyone is inclined toward difficulty. Most people would consider such an enterprise too arduous. We don’t want to compel them to endure that hardship.

Why the Science of Meaning is Hard

Philosophy and science in India were called darshan, which means “perception” or “vision” or “seeing”. Darshan was about perceiving surface and deep realities that included the realities behind the surface phenomena. The ability to perceive everything made their scientific study easier. That ability is presently rare. Modern science claims that the reality behind the phenomena cannot be perceived; it can only be guessed by speculation. This makes darshan harder: (a) we have to study the broader effects, (b) know why they cannot be explained currently, (c) know which type of reality explains them, (d) before we try to develop the capacity to perceive it.

This hardship is entailed by our inability to perceive the deeper reality, while not wanting to be excluded from the education on darshan which always relied on such perception. When we compensate for the absence of depth by breadth, we make everything harder. If we reject even that breadth because it seems harder, then we will never understand the vision of depth.

The education on darshan is demanding because truth cannot be divided into 20 subjects each with 1/20th of the truth or 20 independent truth claims. Divide and conquer is not a method for the theory of everything. Such a theory can be found in anything if we study it completely. It can be verified against everything if we study them completely. Thereby, knowing the truth of everything is harder than knowing one modern subject that studies some aspects of phenomena, but easier than knowing all modern subjects that study many different piecemeal phenomena. Darshan demands more to fully know one thing and supplies more as the truth of everything. A more valuable thing is more expensive. It can only be obtained by paying a higher price.