Defeat of Godless Mythology via Argument Against Direct Realism

Before we move to the “good part” (describing the nature and process of a logically possible Afterlife), we should take a moment to kung fu kick the final load bearing support of godless mythology: Direct Realism, the view that visual perception is not a simulated reality of the external world overlaying the mind-independent form of the external world but direct observation of the external world.

Direct Realism attempts to defeat Kant’s observation that the existence of external objects, given they lie outside consciousness, ‘must be accepted on faith’. Direct Realism attempts to circumvent this fatal weakness by stating that visual perception stares directly into the external world, granting direct perception of objects and events in the external world.

Argument against Direct Realism is here achieved through critical analysis of (a small portion of) University of New Jersey professor Pierre Le Morvan’s defense of Direct Realism entitled:


Pierre Le Morvan

Volume 41, Number 3, July 2004

Since the demise of the Sense-Datum Theory and Phenomenalism in the last century, Direct Realism in the philosophy of perception has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. Curiously, however, although there have been attempts in the literature to refute some of the arguments against Direct Realism, there has been, as of yet, no systematic treatment of all eight of the main arguments against it. The aim of this paper is to fill this lacuna in the literature
by discussing all eight of these arguments against Direct Realism and the argumentative strategies Direct Realists may deploy to counter them.

Direct Realists hold that perception is an immediate or direct awareness of mind-independent physical objects or events in the external world; in taking this awareness to be immediate or direct, Direct Realists deny that the perception of these physical objects or events requires a prior awareness of some tertium quid (e.g., a reified appearance, sense-datum, sensum, idea, quality-instance, species) mediating between the mind and external physical objects or events. Direct Realism is thus logically incompatible with Indirect Realism and with Idealism and Phenomenalism.

To reject representationalism would mean accepting that we do not perceive sense data at all. Someone looking at their hand does not immediately perceive a bundle or series of hand sense-data which represents the actual hand. Rather, they immediately perceive the hand. They do not perceive any hand sense-data at all. So the direct realist view up for consideration is that we perceive the external world immediately and directly.

-Wikipedia, Direct Realism

Let’s face it: sensory perception as it occurs “in real life” is just the momentary perception of a limited array of objects occupying the current conscious space of a particular individual. When the individual seemingly moves from one location to another, the objects that currently appeared to the person disappear as they are replaced by perception of new sensory objects. If there are mind-independent objects and events in the external world, they do not depend upon their perceived doppelgangers (rather their sensory doppelgangers depend upon them in terms of their relaying what they are like to the brain, a process that upon reflection makes absolutely no sense) as mind-independent doppelgangers, unlike sensory objects, do not depend upon the brain in order to exist or have their particular “appearance” and nature. There is a distinction or dichotomy between the sensory object and the object in the absence of anyone perceiving it.

Long story short, godless mythology regarding the brain’s creation of consciousness “shoots itself in the foot” in regard to Direct Realism as sensory objects are creations of the brain while external objects in terms of their independent existence do not rely upon brains in order to exist. Visual perception cannot be direct observation of the external world as visual perception is merely a “projector movie” emanating from a “projector” (the brain). The external world and objects in the external world are under no obligation to appear in the way of visual objects, and there is nothing about them that informs why visual objects have the appearance they bear: one only arbitrarily (“out of nowhere”) believes that visual objects copy the appearance of external objects, as the only thing anyone can experience is the percept.

Nevertheless, let us grant Le Morvan the floor:

[b]Le Morvan:

Indirect Realists,[/b] like Direct Realists, are realists in the sense that they take mind-independent objects or events to be objects of perception; however, unlike Direct Realists, Indirect Realists [b]take this perception to be indirect by involving a prior awareness of some tertium quid between the mind and external
objects or events.

Idealists and Phenomenalists[/b] agree with the Indirect Realists’ denial that perception is an immediate or direct awareness of mind-independent physical objects or events in the external world; but they go further in denying altogether the existence of mind-independent objects or events. For Idealists and Phenomenalists, perception is an awareness of mind-dependent objects or events. Idealists take perceived objects to be ontologically dependent on being perceived (esse est percipi). Phenomenalists take perceived objects to be ontologically dependent on the possibility of being perceived (esse est posse percipi).

Subjective idealism (or just Idealism) is a theory in the philosophy of perception. The theory describes a relationship between human experience of the external world, and that world itself, in which objects are nothing more than collections (or bundles) of sense data in those who perceive them. This theory has much in common with phenomenalism, the view that physical objects, properties, events, etc. (whatever is physical) are reducible to mental objects, properties, events, etc. Thus reality is ultimately made up of only Mind and mental objects, properties, events, etc.

Subjective idealism is monist, because it states that only the Mind exists (matter is then empirically unprovable as an independently objective reality external to subjective perceptions).

A famous proponent of subjective idealism was 18th century Irish philosopher George Berkeley.

He began the theory of subjective idealism in response to John Locke’s materialism. He believed that existence was tied to experience, and that objects existed as perception, not as matter separate of perception.

-Wikipedia, Subjective Idealism

Le Morvan:

Since Direct Realism is logically incompatible with Indirect Realism or with Idealism and Phenomenalism, defeating Direct Realism is necessary for mounting a case for any of its rivals. This [Le Morvan’s] exploration of strategies Direct Realists may deploy against arguments purporting to defeat Direct Realism is thus an exploration of how to defeat these putative defeaters.

In this connection, two preliminary clarifications are in order.

First, Direct Realism is often conflated with what is called “Naïve Realism.” Naïve Realism, a strong form of Direct Realism, claims that perceived objects or events always appear exactly as they are. One can be a Direct Realist, however, without being a Naïve Realist. This is because holding that perception of physical objects or events is direct or immediate does not entail that one must also hold that perceived objects or events always appear exactly as they are. Hence, to show that Naïve Realism is untenable does not show that Direct Realism itself is untenable.

Direct realism is the view that the immediate (direct) objects of perception are external objects, qualities, and events. It should not be confused with the more naïve view that the world is exactly as we perceive it to be. Obviously, we can misperceive the world. The direct realist does not deny that there are perceptual illusions. But the claim is that when we do perceive something, the immediate and direct object of perception is in the external world, not the mind.

-Wikipedia, Direct Realism

Le Morvan:

Second, discussions in the philosophy of perception have focused heavily on visual perception. This paper will follow the usual practice of discussing Direct Realism with regard to visual perception, not with regard
to other sensory modalities. It’s worth noting, however, that a commitment to Direct Realism with regard to visual perception does not ipso facto commit one to Direct Realism concerning any other sensory modality.


Because commitment to Direct Realism in regard to the other senses (and cognition and emotion), requires belief that non-visual perceptions exist in the absence of brain-generated consciousness. Visual perceptions “depict” objects and events (the motions and interactions of and collisions between objects in environmental space): non-visual perceptions, in contrast, do not “show” or “depict” objects and events but are invisible, immaterial experiences occurring only to the person having them.

Le Morvan goes on to introduce eight causal arguments against Direct Realism and provides means by which the Direct Realist may argumentatively “defeat” each of them. I will only include Le Morvan’s counter of the First Argument (The Causal Argument), as Le Morvan’s counter of the First Argument inadvertently reveals the fatal flaw of Direct (and Indirect) Realism.

Le Morvan:

1.1. [b]The Causal Argument

First Premise.[/b] Direct Realists hold that external physical objects or events can be immediate or direct objects of perception.

Second Premise. But perception involves a long and complex causal series of events. For instance, light quanta are reflected or emitted from an external object, the light quanta then travel through an intervening medium (e.g., air and/or water), they then hyperpolarize retinal cells by bleaching rhodopsin photopigment molecules, and then a very complex series of physiological processes takes place in the eye and in the brain eventuating in perception.

Conclusion: Direct Realism is false.

Given this long and complex causal series,physical objects or events cannot be immediate or direct objects of perception.

The proponent of this kind of argument usually then proceeds to claim that something else (a sense-datum, or sensum, or idea, or sensation, or image, or quality-instance, or species) is the immediate object of perception.

How Direct Realists May Counter The Causal Argument

It’s wise for Direct Realists to concede that for humans, and for percipients physiologically like us in the actual world, perception involves a long and complex causal series of events, and that perception is indeed dependent upon the condition of the eyes, of the optic nerve, and of the brain, upon the nature of the intervening medium, and so on.

One can be a Direct Realist without being so naïve or ignorant as to think that in the actual world (and relevantly
similar possible worlds), humans perceive external objects or events directly in the sense that there are no causal intermediaries between the external object or event and the percipient.

Does this concession entail the falsity of Direct Realism? No. In holding that external objects or events are immediate or direct objects of perception, Direct Realists deny that perception of these external objects or events must be mediated by a prior awareness of causal intermediaries in the causal series eventuating in perception.

Even if, say, the photoisomerisation of rhodopsin photopigment molecules in one’s eyes is a nomically necessary
intermediary event in one’s visual perception of external objects or events, it does not follow, on Direct Realism, that one must be aware of that event (or any other intermediary event or object) when one perceives external physical objects or events.

Of course one need not be intellectually or perceptually aware of the ‘causal intermediaries in the casual series eventuating in perception’ in order to perceive external objects or events (if Direct Realism is true). This response to the Causal Argument misses the point.


The actual complaint against Direct Realism in regard to the “complex causal sequence of events” necessary for the production of visual perception is that visual perception is ultimately the contrived construct of a machine (the brain according to godless views regarding consciousness, some thing in the external world according to Phenomenalism, or Someone in the external world according to Idealism).

The Direct Realist states that vision is a direct and immediate perception of the external world, but “perception of the external world” is a creation of the brain (the Author despite disbelief that brains create consciousness uses the brain’s fictional ability to create consciousness as a tool in the defeat of Direct Realism) as opposed to objects and events in the external world that are not creations of the brain and exist regardless of whether or not they are perceived.

Sensory perceptions created by the brain, as they are not one and the same as objects not created by the brain, cannot directly and immediately observe external objects. Sensory perceptions are but the “holographic Princess Leia” created by the “R2D2” of the brain, while external objects not created by the brain are the “actual Princess Leia” existing independent of “R2D2” and the “Leia hologram”.

From the film: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) Fair Use invoked.

Sensory objects are the “Everlasting Gobstoppers” cranking out at the end of the “Willy Wonka contraption” that is the process of perception. This metaphorical “Gobstopper” (consciousness and visual perception in relevant particular) is the “hologram” of an mind-independent world, not that world itself. The “hologram” is only a “projected movie” emanating from the “film projector” of the brain: external objects and events do not “come from” the brain and thus do not owe their existence to the brain. It is odd, therefore, to state that the “projected movie” of visual perception is able to look upon something not created by the “projector” of the brain, as external objects do not wink out of existence like sensory objects. Sensory objects, being “projections” from the brain, cannot depict anything not projected from the brain.

The Direct Realist doggedly asserts that sensory perception directly and immediately observes the external world, but he cannot know what external objects are like or even if they exist, as the only thing the Direct Realist can see is the “holographic Princess Leia”: He makes the cognitive mistake of believing “holographic Princess Leia” is the actual Princess Leia!

The conceptual proof that sensory perception is and can only be perception of “holographic Leia”, lies in the reason that if something terrible were to occur to the brain (yielding cessation of function), the “holographic Leia” would wink out of existence. The “actual Leia”, if “she” exists, remains unaffected by cessation of function of the brain. If external objects were one and the same as their sensory doppelgangers, when sensory objects wink out of existence, the external objects they mimic or represent should wink out of existence alongside them! It is more reasonable that the “holographic Leia” only perceives itself. It is the hologram, not the “real Leia”: in the end the Direct Realist suffers a delusion in which he believes “holographic Leia” is “real Leia”.

The upshot is that Direct Realism is a cognitive distortion in which one believes one’s subjective experience perceives something that is not one’s subjective experience.

The only thing that appears in existence is one’s subjective experience and the particular forms it assumes. One’s subjective experience cannot reach into a realm not composed of one’s subjective experience, as all that appears is the percept. Direct Realism, then, is another sad case of a person observing one’s consciousness and fooling oneself into thinking it is something other than one’s conscious or that one perceives something other than one’s consciousness. In order for objects and events in the external world, if they exist, to have any reasonable relation to sensory objects they themselves must be made out of the subjective experience of the subject (anything not made out of the subjective experience of a person, while the person is subjectively experiencing, cannot be experienced by the subject). Without this substantial sameness, one is merely taking one’s consciousness and telling everyone it is something other that one’s consciousness, or that one’s consciousness can “see” things that are not one’s consciousness, when one’s consciousness constitutes everything that can be seen or known.


Philosophical honesty demands realization that even if there are no mind-independent objects and events and consciousness is the only thing that exists, this does not rule out the non-existence of a God or gods.

There remains the possibility of Ernst Mach’s Phenomenalism:

In the late 19th century, an even more extreme form of phenomenalism was formulated by Ernst Mach, later developed and refined by Russell, Ayer and the logical positivists. Mach rejected the existence of God and also denied that phenomena were data experienced by the mind or consciousness of subjects. Instead, Mach held sensory phenomena to be “pure data” whose existence was to be considered anterior to any arbitrary distinction between mental and physical categories of phenomena. In this way, it was Mach who formulated the key thesis of phenomenalism, which separates it from bundle theories of objects: objects are logical constructions out of sense-data or ideas; whereas according to bundle theories, objects are made up of sets, or bundles, of actual ideas or perceptions.

That is, according to bundle theory, to say that the pear before me exists is simply to say that certain properties (greenness, hardness, etc.) are being perceived at this moment. When these characteristics are no longer perceived or experienced by anyone, then the object (pear, in this case) no longer exists. Phenomenalism as formulated by Mach, in contrast, is the view that objects are logical constructions out of perceptual properties. On this view, to say there is a table in the other room when there is no one in that room to perceive it, is to say that if there were someone in that room, then that person would perceive the table. It is not the actual perception that counts, but the conditional possibility of perceiving.

-Wikipedia, Phenomenalism

Phenomenalism takes the wheel from Materialism and substitutes ‘the possibility of perceiving’ for physical particles in spacetime. It is more simple and transparent that, given the transitory nature of conscious experience the ‘permanent possibilities of experience’ in Phenomenalism are probably psychical or mental particles that, contrary to Chalmer’s panprotopsychism are not wrapped within physical shells but run about naked as pure fragments or “bytes” of every experience of every person that shall and can exist.

In Ernst Mach’s Phenomenalism, a human life is probably implied to be a “one-time-only” event, but even in the absence of God or gods there is room for godless afterlife in the form of godless reincarnation, in which a deceased person is re-created by mental particles into another human, animal, or insect. Godless versions of the afterlife are logically possible, as there is no good reason other than personal incredulity at the idea of cyclic or eternal personhood to insist that personal consciousness is necessarily a “one-time-only” phenomenon. If mental particles are indestructible or if mental particles are destructible but there are an infinite variety of them capable of forming any possible person, it is not impossible that a deceased person could be formed over and over using different particles in each incarnation, to yield an immortal organism that experiences an infinite variety of lives in an infinite variety of forms.

Godless Afterlife may also exist in the form of eternal multiverse teleportation, wherein mental particles reform a deceased person’s consciousness in another universe (in Phenomenalism, materialistic mind-independent universes are replaced by phenomenal or mental universes in an overarching psychical multiverse). The deceased person “wakes up” in a different universe, perhaps as a new person with new identity, personality, memories, etc. to live out a different life before experiencing another death, perhaps finding oneself “reloaded” following this second death into yet another universe in a sequence extending to eternity.

(Though it is not out of the question that the same person persists in successive universes, with the individual retaining memory of past life but resigned to live a new life in each successive world).

Everything within reason and lack of logical contradiction is possible in Ernst Mach’s (John Stuart Mill’s) Phenomenalism—save the existence of a God or gods due, in Mach’s belief, to the absence of ‘permanent possibilities of experience’ that would create God or any other deity.

But hey, what does Mach know? He possessed a mind that due to simple incredulity at the concept, insisted upon the non-existence of the Judeo-Christian God. The external world can easily carry the Judeo-Christian God (and to be fair, any other god), as the non-existence of a God or gods is merely an imagined concept in the mind of humans that may be false for all one knows, given absence of direct knowledge of the entities occupying the endless, invisible realm outside consciousness.

Nevertheless, philosophical honesty demands observance of the fact that atheism can survive the defeat of Materialism through Ernst Mach’s Phenomenalism, in which the world consist of psychical rather than physical particles and the mental particles that exist, by random chance, happened not to have the ability to form gods.