Bernardo Kastrup: The Physicalist Worldview as Neurotic Ego-Defense Mechanism


The physicalist worldview is often portrayed as a dispassionate interpretation of reality motivated purely by observable facts. In this article, ideas of both depth and social psychology are used to show that this portrayal may not be accurate. Physicalism—whether it ultimately turns out to be philosophically correct or not—is hypothesized to be partly motivated by the neurotic endeavor to project onto the world attributes that help one avoid confronting unacknowledged aspects of one’s own inner life. Moreover, contrary to what most people assume, physicalism creates an opportunity for the intellectual elites who develop and promote it to maintain a sense of meaning in their own lives through fluid compensation. However, because this compensatory strategy does not apply to a large segment of society, it creates a schism—with corresponding tensions—that may help explain the contemporary conflict between neo-atheism and religious belief.

-Bernardo Kastrup