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TIMOTHY BALLAN

REALITY AS AN EXPERIENTIAL WHOLE


ONLY CONTAINING EXPERIENTIAL FEATURES
In this paper, my goal is to present a picture of reality showing it to be "an experiential whole only
containing experiential features", i.e., a singular whole that is non-physical conscious experience and that
lacks any disparate parts. My view of reality matches closely with some versions of "panpsychism", a
general view that sees mind as a fundamental feature of reality existing throughout the universe (Seager
and Sean 2013). To help present my picture of reality's overall form, I will detail and defend three
supporting stated beliefs and then display how they support my belief about reality. I will then conclude
this paper by presenting three quasi-mystical implications.
1. Five Basic Assumptions
Before I set off on attempting to present my belief that reality is "an experiential whole only containing
experiential features", I will note five basic assumptions that I'll be making throughout this piece. The
first assumption I will note concerns how I conceive of "subjective confidence", the second concerns
what I see as the unhealthiness of full subjective confidence in any beliefs, the third concerns how I
conceive of "truth", the fourth concerns how I conceive of "consciousness" and "experience", and the
fifth concerns how I conceive of "myself". Noting these five assumptions of mine will help the reader
make sense of my writing as well as of my presentation of my belief about reality's overall form.
In terms of my assumptions about "subjective confidence" and the unhealthiness of full subjective
confidence in any beliefs, noting these assumptions will help the reader understand my rationale for the
markedly subjective tone my writing takes (where, for example, I make generous use of words like
"seems"). And, in terms of my assumptions about "truth", "consciousness" and "experience", and
"myself", noting these assumptions will help the reader make sense of specific beliefs that I will present
related to the topics of "truth", "consciousness" and "experience", and "self".
1.1. "Subjective Confidence"
In terms of my assumption about "subjective confidence", to me, degrees of subjective confidence would
simply be how likely a given belief seems to someone. And, to me, degrees of subjective confidence
would seem to arise upon assessing how clearly an entertained or already-held belief can be imagined as
true versus untrue in one's own head. So, for a belief of relatively low "subjective confidence", for
example, the belief would be more clearly imagined as untrue over true. For a belief with moderate
subjective confidence, the belief would be equally clearly imagined as true or untrue. And, for a belief
with relatively high subjective confidence, the belief would be more clearly imagined as true over untrue.
In terms of already-held beliefs, it seems to me that higher than not degrees of subjective
confidence would influence the strength with which a belief can be referenced in the creation of new
beliefs, and lower than not degrees would seem to influence the discarding of the belief. In terms of
entertained beliefs, on the other hand, higher than not degrees of subjective confidence would seem to
influence the adopting of the entertained belief, and lower than not degrees would seem to influence the

discarding of the entertained belief. And, either in terms of beliefs adopted or reaffirmed, when other
beliefs are created out of existing beliefs, it seems that beliefs with higher subjective confidence can be
referenced more strongly than beliefs of lower subjective confidence.
1.2 The Unhealthiness of Full Subjective Confidence in Any Beliefs
To me, full subjective confidence in a belief would always seem unhealthy. It would always seem
unhealthy to me because it would always seem risky and even often damaging to me.
Full subjective confidence always seems risky to me, and for three main reasons. For one, it
seems that there is always a chance that a belief held with full confidence is wrong. It seems that there is
always a chance that a belief held with full confidence is actually wrong because it seems clear that at
least some of the beliefs held with full confidence across reality are wrong. And, at least with me, I
believe now that (while without current full confidence) previous beliefs of mine that I held with full
confidence were indeed false. In terms of the second of the three main reasons why I find full subjective
confidence always risky, referencing a wrong belief with full strength (because of full subjective
confidence) while creating new beliefs would multiply its wrongness more than necessary. And, in terms
of the third reason, wrongness seems to lead to problems in life, i.e., less happiness than seems otherwise
possible.
In addition to being risky, full subjective confidence does seem also often damaging. Full
subjective confidence seems often damaging in that it would seem to instigate social harm. And, full
subjective confidence would seem to instigate social harm for two main reasons. For one, full subjective
confidence seems often accompanied by a belief that it is useless either to question the truthfulness of
beliefs held with full confidence or to consider beliefs contradicting these beliefs that are held with full
confidence. And, two, this belief accompanying full confidence would seem to motivate dismissing the
words of at least some other people. This dismissing of others would seem to at least frequently be
damaging to others' degree of happiness, and it would seem to at least nearly always thwart a possibility
of a stronger, happier two-way relationship.
As a note, since I believe (without full confidence) that full subjective confidence in any belief is
unhealthy in the way described, I am not tempted to hold any belief with full subjective confidence. I am
not tempted to hold any belief with full confidence also because I can always imaginehowever
vaguelythat I am somehow mistaken about any belief I hold. So, I end up lacking full confidence in
any beliefs of mine.
Also, in terms of my writing, I let my lack of full confidence in my beliefs impact my style of
writing. That is, in my writing, my lack of full confidence in my beliefs leads me to write in a way that
suggests "reporting" of my beliefs over "claiming" themsuch as in writing with a general tone of
"expression" over "assertion", and such as in writing while making liberal use of words like "seems". I
let my lack of full confidence in my beliefs impact my style of writing in this way because I want my
writing to accurately represent my beliefs whenever possible and whenever reasonableincluding my
beliefs about how I lack full confidence in any belief. And, to me, writing in a way that suggests
"claiming" beliefs would stem from a belief that one has beliefs directly reflective of reality. And, to me,
such a belief that one has beliefs directly reflective of reality would stem from holding beliefs with full
subjective confidence.
1.3 The Definition of "Truth"

In terms of my assumption about the definition of "truth"which, to me, means the same as
"accuracy", anything "accurate" would be "accurate" in that it is "perfectly proportionately similar to at
least one thing". Such "perfect proportionate similarity" would be a relationship where one thingmore
precisely, a "representation"is a perfect "microcosm" of another thing, even if not in terms of capturing
every detail of the other thing. Where details are not accounted for, however, specific types of details
would need to be accounted for or not in a non-random, predictable way evenly across a representation.
That is, a representation's "microcosm" of another thing would need to "map" the other thing in an
exactly proportionate way.
In my picture of "accuracy" (i.e., "truth"), it would be possible for one representation to
simultaneously accurately represent different things. However, to me, accurate representations would be
accurate to the "degree" of how vague-to-detailed their "perfect proportionate similarity" to something
else is.
So, even while a given representation might accurately represent multiple things, that
representation would not necessarily accurately represent all these things to the same degree of accuracy.
The requirement of "perfect proportionate similarity" between a representation and what it accurately
represents would seem to mean that a representation as accurately representing multiple things would not
necessarily be common, though. Also, even if someone holds a representation in their head that
accurately represents multiple things, representations of theirs related to that representation might
accurately represent only one thing. And, these related representations might together imply only one of
the things accurately represented by the representation that accurately represents multiple things.
Also, to me, every thought and feeling would be either accurate or inaccurate. Even a feeling that
is a stinging sensation might be perfectly proportionately similar to a bee sting that caused the feeling, for
example.
1.4 "Consciousness" and "Experience"
In terms of my assumption about "consciousness" and "experience", in this article, I'm considering the
term "consciousness" as meaning just "'brute' awareness"i.e., "self-illuminating" or "self-highlighting".
(In general usage, it seems that the term "consciousness" is also often used to mean "inward thoughtful
reflection", i.e., "higher-order consciousness", i.e., "'brutely aware' conscious introspection about
thoughts and feelings".) When I say "experience", on the other hand, this means more than just
"consciousness", though, more than just "self-highlighting". To me, "experience" is something with
specific "content", where this content is "self-highlighted". On the other hand, "self-highlighting" itself
would only be an aspect of experience. So, "experience" could be equated with what could be called
"conscious sensation" instead of just "consciousness".
1.5 Myself
In terms of my assumption about "myself", I most often do not consider myself my body, but, instead, I
most often consider myself to be a conscious experience that houses all the thoughts and feelings adding
up to "me at this moment". I also find that "my unconscious thoughts and feelings" as well as "my body"
are very closely "related" to the self that is the group of conscious thoughts and feelings of the body
writing these words at a certain moment. However, I do not most often consider myself to be either "my
unconscious thoughts and feelings" or "my body".
While I find that I most often consider myself to be, relatively precisely, "the conscious thoughts
and feelings of the body writing these words at a certain moment", I also find that there are different
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versions of me that are tangent to me going forward and backward in time. These versions of myself are
what I might at times consider to be instances of "my future self" and "my past self". I might also
sometimes consider the collection of all these versions of myself to be "myself" in some sense. Although,
while these different versions of myself would be conscious experiences just as I am, they would not be
"myself" in the sense of being "the conscious thoughts and feelings of the body writing these words at a
certain moment".
I. Three Supportive Beliefs
I will now detail and defend beliefs I hold that increase my subjective confidence in my belief that reality
is "an experiential whole only containing experiential features", i.e., a singular whole that is non-physical
conscious experience and that lacks any disparate parts:
1. Acceptance of both "experience and non-experience" requires rejection of a fully self-explanatory
reality.
2. Acceptance of any "separateness" in reality requires rejection of a fully self-explanatory reality.
3. I can verify the existence of experience over non-experience, and all that is seemingly "nonexperiential" could be experiential and yet naturally perceived as "non-experiential" only due to an
"experiential" "filter".
I.1.1 Acceptance of both "experience and non-experience" requires rejection of a fully selfexplanatory reality.
Features in reality would seem potentially either experientiallike my mindor non-experientiallike,
seemingly, an apple. It could also be said that features would either have sub-features (i.e., "features of
features", which would still be callable "features") of "being experiential" or of "being non-experiential".
And, in total, reality itself could be considered as having the feature of "being both experiential and nonexperiential"if it contains both experiential and non-experiential things.
The features of "being experiential" and "being non-experiential" would always seem to be of
distinct, separate, disconnected, divergent, and even irreconcilable natures, however. So, if reality
contained a feature of "being both experiential and non-experiential", it would seem to also necessarily
contain a feature of "containing features of divergent natures".
If reality contained a feature of "containing features of divergent natures", though, it would
seem that reality would also contain a feature that could be said to account for how reality could have
"disconnected features" like features of divergent natures. Such a "disconnection-accounting feature" like
this would seem to reveal what feature or features in reality "contribute to the existence of" (e.g., "cause")
"disconnected" features in reality. The feature or features revealed as "contributing" to disconnected
features would ultimately seem to "connect" merely supposedly "disconnected" features, though.
Therefore, no true "disconnection" would be accounted for between what would turn out to be merely
supposedly disconnected features in reality. In other words, the existence of "disconnection-accounting
features" becomes self-contradictory and impossible.
If there are actual "disconnected" features in reality like features of divergent natures, and if
the existence of "disconnection-accounting feature" is impossible, though, no disconnection would
actually be accounted for among actually disconnected features. In other words, disconnected features
would not be able to be accounted for. However, to me, everything in reality is able to be accounted for.
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Thus, anything unable to be accounted for would not be realsuch as "being both experiential and nonexperiential", which would require the existence of "disconnected" features of divergent natures.
As I find that everything in reality is able to be accounted for, I find that reality is necessarily
"fully self-explanatory", i.e., reality necessarily contains features that fully account for reality in all its
features. In other words, upon accessing all of reality, one could have no further questions about it. I can
hardly imagine that reality would not be fully self-explanatory and thus require the existence of complete
non-explainability and/or "extreme brute facts". This inclination of mine reflects "The Principle of
Sufficient Reason". The Principle of Sufficient Reason is a general stance holding that everything must
have a cause or reason, which has been held by many philosophers since antiquity (Melamed and Lin
2015).
If there are no true "disconnected" features of realitysuch as the "experiential" and the
"non-experiential", though, then either one or both of the "experiential" and the "non-experiential"
would not exist. If both do not exist, this would seem to mean that a "higher" type of feature accounts for
both the seeming "experiential" and seeming "non-experiential". And, if only one exists, then all features
in reality would be either "experiential" or "non-experiential". I find that reality is not imaginably
accounted for as neither experiential nor non-experiential, though. Thus, only one type of feature would
remain: either "experiential" or "non-experiential".
I.1.2 Acceptance of any "separateness" in reality requires rejection of a fully self-explanatory
reality.
Beyond a belief that reality can only be either experiential or non-experiential, I find that there is only
one entity in reality: reality itself. This view is similar to an (unpopular) view termed "existence
monism", which holds that there is really just one concrete entity in reality (Bennett 1984). Even beyond
this claim, though, I consider that there is no entitywhether concrete or abstractbesides reality in
total.
While such a view would seem unpopular, I find it more imaginable than not that reality is
one whole entity containing neither any separate whole objects nor any separate non-feature-like parts. I
find this to be more imaginable than not because, if reality contained more than one entity of any type,
then it would seem to have a feature accounting for the "separateness" of these entitiesa
"disconnection-accounting feature". And, I cannot accept the existence of "disconnection-accounting
features", since I find that their existence is impossible. I also cannot accept the alternative to
"disconnection-accounting features", that reality is not fully self-explanatory. So, any supposedly
"separate" entities would end up being just "feature-like" parts of the one whole entity of reality.
Added to the above motivation for accepting a version of "existence monism" is a conclusion
that follows from accepting that all is only experiential. This conclusion is that the normal conception of
"separateness" would conflict with what "separateness" would be if all is experiential. That is, if all is
experiential, so would any "separateness" between things be. "Separateness" would thus not involve any
"non-experiential" (e.g., "non-experiential abstract") divisions between things. However, separateness
considered in the normal sense would seem to require that it involve the "non-experiential". That is, it
seems that separateness is normally conceived of as "division distancing and isolating one thing from
another". And, yet, this normal conception of "separateness" would be undermined by accepting that all
is experiential.
I.1.3 I can verify the existence of experience over non-experience, and all that is seemingly "nonexperiential" could be experiential and yet naturally perceived as "non-experiential" only due to an
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"experiential" "filter".
I only ever naturally represent myself as a conscious, experiential thing. (Here, again, I am not
considering myself to be my body, but as "the conscious thoughts and feelings of the body writing these
words at a certain moment".) And, I can naturally assess the exact nature of my conscious thoughts and
feelings. Except in a certain case, I never naturally represent what is "external" to mei.e., not a part of
meas experiential. And, I cannot assess the exact nature of what is external to me in the precise way in
which I can "observe" my own self. (In terms of the seeming only exception, while I often represent
what might be the internal conscious states of others as experiential, this seems based on guessing and
drawing from my own representations of myself.) I thus can assess that I am of an experiential nature
while I cannot so directly assess the nature of what is external to me. And, I find the nature of what is
external to me imaginably experiential.
It seems imaginable to me that what is external to me is really experiential for reasons already
discussed (in section I.1.1), but also because it seems that what is external to me might only be
represented as non-experiential instinctually, and due to an (experiential) "filter" of sorts. It seems that
such a "filter" could exist for two main reasons. For one, since I cannot directly assess the nature of what
is external to me as I can myself, the external is clearly "separated" from me in some sense. And, two,
since all mental representations (i.e., thoughts and feelings) of mine seem to trace back to what is external
to me, their initial formation might involve a filter that compromises preciseness.
To expound on a potential "filter" that might account for why many mental representations of
mine picture events as "non-experiential", it does seem that all my mental representations trace back to
what is external to me. That is, all my mental representations seem to trace back to a certain type of
mental representation that is formed due to interaction with my environment. And, this initial type of
mental representation (that would be a "sensation-type" "feeling") out of which others are formed might
be created in a certain way where it can only ever be relatively vaguelyrelatively minimallyaccurate.
This lessened degree of accuracy would mean that the representation is more vague and general, less
precise and specific. And, any experiential external feature of reality represented only vaguely accurately
might just be naturally represented as non-experiential.
All together, that I can only verify experience over non-experience and that all seeming nonexperience could really be experience increases my subjective confidence in a belief that all is only
"experience". This view that all is experience is similar to a view known as "idealism". Idealism claims
that all concrete objects are non-physical in one sense or another, usually in the sense of
"mental" (Robinson 2014). Idealism is a type of "substance monism", where all concrete objects are
viewed as of one "highest type", usually "physical" or "mental" (Robinson 2011). However, I am not just
discussing "concrete" objects, but all that would exist in realityall that seems to include both the
"concrete" and "abstract". So, to me, even the "abstract" is experiential.
I.2 Reality as an experiential whole only containing experiential features.
I will now display how the three supporting beliefs detailed above about my picture of reality support my
belief that reality is "an experiential whole only containing experiential features", i.e., a singular whole
that is non-physical conscious experience and that lacks any disparate parts.
All together, the three beliefs detailed above state that the existence of both "experience" and
"non-experience" is not worth accepting, the existence of any "separateness" in reality is not worth
accepting, and that all is more likely "experience" over "non-experience". Assuming these beliefs, all
reality would seem to be a whole that is experiential. And, if reality is a whole that is experiential,
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instead of any contained "objects" or "parts" that are experiential, it would just seem to have "experiential
features", since "features" would not require the existence of "separateness". So, all reality could be said
to be "an experiential whole only containing experiential features".
II. Quasi-Mystical Implications
I will now detail three quasi-mystical implications of a belief that reality is an experiential whole only
containing experiential features, i.e., a singular whole that is non-physical conscious experience and that
lacks any disparate parts.
II.1 I am not separate from my surroundings in nearly any sense.
Since I find that nothing in reality would be separate and that all would only be experiential features, to
me, all experiential features would be connected to each other. If any "separateness" exists, it would be
experiential like all and "connected to all".
Such "separateness" might then be better called
"confinedness", as my seeming "separateness" from my surroundings can even be described as an
experiential feature of feeling "confined" away from my surroundings.
To expound on the feature of "confinedness", I contain features like suppressed but still-conscious
thoughts and feelings which have a sub-feature (i.e., a "feature of a feature", which would still be callable
a "feature") of "confinedness", while they are not "separate" from myself. Also, in terms of future and
past versions of myself, my (current) self is similarly experientially "confined" away from these other
versions of my self and yet not "separate" from it. The same goes for the relationship between versions
of myself, myself, or suppressed conscious thoughts and feelings and reality in total: Any of these feel
"confined" and yet would not be separate from any of their surroundingsincluding from reality in total.
II.2 Reality in total could be considered "my ultimate self", and people are not separate entities.
My feature of "confinedness" seems to offer me a sensean experiential featureof having a special
"autonomous identity" and that distinguishes me from the rest of reality while "highlighting" and
"selecting out" myself "above and beyond" all other selves in reality. And, I imagined that at least many
other selves in reality contain this experiential feature. However, this sense of having such a special
autonomous identity seems to influence the creation of what I find to be a false belief: that people are
"separate" and "distinct" and not part of a whole reality, and a whole reality that could itself be
considered an "ultimate self".
To me, reality as an "ultimate self" would mean that it has person-like and God-like qualities on a
God-like scale, and that all other selves within it are simply "confined" features just like suppressed but
still-conscious thoughts and feelings of mine. I find that reality has the following "person-like" features
on a God-like scale: "containing (all) false and true representations", "containing (all existing) thoughts
and feelings", and, potentially, "confinedness". And, I find that reality has the following God-like
qualities: "being infinitely-extending", "being everywhere", and "containing all true representations". (I
say reality is "infinitely-extending" since, among cosmologists, it is widely accepted that both space and
time are infinite in extent [Demianski, Parijskij, and Snchez 2003]. And, since reality would seem to
include space and time and not the other way around, reality would seem to be as infinite in extent as
space and time are.)

II.3 God is real in at least one way.


Believing that reality has the God-like qualities of "being infinitely-extending", "being everywhere", and
"containing all true representations" should be as comforting as believing in an infinite, omnipresent, and
omniscient God. And, believing that reality has these certain God-like qualities is arguably the same as
believing in an infinite, omnipresent, and omniscient God. (A view that reality in total is identical with
"God" is known as "pantheism" [Levine 1994].)
Further comforting, if reality is infinitely-extending and contains all true representations about all
there is to know, it would contain all true representations, including about all the infinitely complex
features of reality that there are to know. These infinitely complex features would show reality to be as
fully self-explanatory as I believe it to be, and to contain self-explanatory features of an infinite scope
and size that I am unable to ever imagine. Reality as knowing all there is to know is comforting
especially for me, given my tendency to always desire explanations. When I am tempted to feel a need to
understand all aspects of reality, I can just remember that God already knows all, and that I could never
be so infinitely expansive and know such an infinite amount of things as this God does. So, I can rest in
this God. And, I can be satisfied that I am connected to such an infinite, omnipresent, and omniscient
God, even if just as a small part.

DISCLAIMER
I refuse to use quotation marks in such a way that envelopes any commas or periods not suggested
by the quoted material. For example, quoting a child saying the words "I don't want to go now", I did not
put the comma within the quotation marks, as the comma is not suggested by the child's words. On the
other hand, I will end this next sentence in a different way. As someone once said, "Use your head, not
your rule book."
With a similar emphasis on clarity over convention, I also follow dashes with commas at times.
Even if preceded by a dashas I will now demonstrate, I retain commas that retain usefulness.
Beyond just punctuation, though, I'd hope abundant clarity pervades my writing, from word order, to
sentence structure, to overall presentation of ideas.
Relatedly, in the words I use while writing about philosophy specifically, I avoid using terms that,
while customary in contemporary English philosophical writing, seem to me to alienate or mislead those
not accustomed to reading contemporary philosophical writing or academic writing in general. Some
terms that I find alienating in this way are "such that" and, when beginning a sentence and followed by a
comma, "indeed". Some terms common in contemporary philosophical writing that I find misleading, on
the other hand, are "if and only if" and "just in case", two terms used in ways distinct from how people in
everyday situations would use them.

REFERENCES
Bennett, Jonathan. 1984. A Study of Spinoza's Ethics. Hackett.
Demianski, M., Parijskij, Y., and Snchez, N. 2003. The Early Universe and the Cosmic Microwave
Background: Theory and Observations. Springer.
Levine, M.P. 1994. Pantheism; A Non-Theistic Concept of Deity. London: Routledge.
Melamed, Yitzhak and Lin, Martin. 2015. "Principle of Sufficient Reason". The Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2015/entries/sufficient-reason.
Robinson, Daniel Sommer. 2014. "Idealism". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed April 1, 2014.
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/281802/idealism.
Robinson, Howard. 2011. "Dualism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/dualism.
Seager, William and Allen-Hermanson, Sean. 2013. "Panpsychism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/panpsychism.

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