Monday, March 24, 2008

Book Review: Conquest of Illusion

No one will disagree with the proposition that what we experience as reality is actually a representation created by our brain and sensory organs. The more optimistic materialists will claim that although it is a representation, it is perfectly accurate. One problem I have with this claim, especially coming from the evolutionists, is that an accurate representation isn't necessary for evolutionary fitness; only consistency is required. For example, it isn't necessary that our internal representations of an apple correspond exactly to what the apple really looks like; it's perfectly sufficient that we be able to consistently identify apples and distinguish them from other items that are not food.

Conquest of Illusion by J. J. Van der Leeuw (ISBN 0-7661-5769-5) takes this line of thought even further. According to this book, the representation is consistent at best, and bears little resemblance to the real world, which is referred to as Eternal Reality. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the perennial philosophy, bold and in all caps. The book goes on to discuss various philosophical problems; the common thread is that they are all only problems from our limited perspective. Free will, justice and immortality are covered, among others.

The real value of this book is that it gives another picture of what life might be like for the fully-recovered materialist, especially in the last chapter. I experienced it as similar to the scene in the Matrix movie where Morpheus was enduring torture presumably by telling himself that it wasn't real, whereas Neo not only had the experience if it not being as it appeared, but even managed to figure out the game. The author may have also gotten to that point; the rest of us have more work to do.

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