You might say that, at any rate, it is very natural to suppose that an animal whose brain processes sensory stimuli, represents them as patterns, and then reacts to them should be conscious. Granted, it is very natural for you to think this, since you are yourself a conscious being, and what's more you are evolved to attribute mental states to other things in order to help you survive and reproduce.
When we engage with fictional characters displayed in books or anime (leaving aside plays and movies, since in them the actors are real people), we are indulging our tendency to treat sets of letters or pixels which have no inherent meaning, as if they did have meaning, in fact as though they were people. But none of us think that the characters in books have an independent mental existence, since apart from the actions of an external mind in making sense of them, they have no intrinsic meaning or significance.
Well, in some sense we are in the same boat as these fictional characters. We have the advantage that our brains, lives, and actions are specified in considerably more detail, whereas in the case of fiction there are a lot of gaps to be filled in. But from a sufficiently “objective” perspective, we are ourselves just a collection of material objects, a set of 1's and 0's in the cosmic computer with no inherent meaning. Well, evidently this supposedly objective perspective is wrong. Our Universe seems to be more hospitable than that. Sometimes, when there is a collection of matter to which meaning might be ascribed, it is so ascribed. Something is to us as we are to anime characters, interpreting the pattern as significant.
As Muriel Rukeyser writes in her poem "The Speed of Darkness" [erotic themes, not safe for work]:
Say it. Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.
Well, all of this suggests that the fundamental nature of existence has to be more like a mind than like a set of equations, because no set of equations interprets itself. And obviously we are not the most fundamental minds in existence, because human beings are contingent. We are born and we die and we need not have existed. The Universe existed long before we did. Therefore, some other mind-like entity must be. At best we participate in the operations of this mind.
Being the most fundamental entity in existence, there can be no distinction between its subjective thoughts and feelings and the objective “real world”, as we have seen previously. Its thoughts are what is.
This is not the only way to try to incorporate mental qualities into the fundamental description of the world, but it has a certain appeal due to its simplicity. In any case, these considerations turn the tables on claims that Naturalism is simpler because it can describe everything in a mathematically quantitative way, without any appeal to basic mental qualities. You can't get mental qualities out of any model of the world, unless somehow you put them in from the beginning.
To recapitulate: a book is a material object containing a set of letters in a row. The words in a book contain meaning because a human being, who is conscious, reads and understands them. But why does the human brain contain any consciousness or meaning? Because the ultimate nature of reality is like a mind, not like a set of equations, and it "reads" our brains and finds them to be meaningful.
Given that the series has to terminate in any case, why not just stop at our own minds rather than on God? Because we know that we, as complicated, evolved, and contingent constructs, are not the most fundamental entities in existence, and therefore any reasonable worldview should explain everything about ourselves in terms of a more fundamental picture.
Or to put it another way, if there are any types of meaning in the world which cannot be deduced just from the laws of physics, then it follows that the most fundamental reality is more than just those laws of physics, and indeed it must be something capable of supporting this meaning. This increases the probability that the fundamental reality is more analogous to a mind than a set of equations.
By itself, this Argument from Consciousness might well support a pantheistic conclusion, rather than a theistic one. But for the reasons given before, I think the unity and clarity of Monotheism has a decided advantage, not least for making sense of a scientific approach to the world.
Next: Theories of Ethics
From the materialistic perspective the meaning of these words as I look at them is somehow "in" the material of my brain, there literally isn't anywhere else it could be. So
" we are ourselves just a collection of material objects, a set of 1's and 0's in the cosmic computer with no inherent meaning. "
wouldn't be true for a materialist, because to the extent the meaning of words exists, they would have to exists inside the collection of material objects that is me. You think this too right? You just think that they somehow subside in some non-physical substance that is "in" you in some sense.
I’m trying to synthesize the 9 blog posts on The Fundamental Reality for a clear differentiation between the Cosmological Argument for theism and your approach, which you stated quite eloquently in Fundamental Reality I: Prologue, or Why Even Bother:
“Before I begin, let me tell you right away that this isn't my preferred approach for doing Apologetics. I generally prefer a more empirical approach based on examining historical records for things like, oh, people being raised from the dead. That's not just because that type of data can potentially get you to Christianity instead of just Theism. It's also because, as a scientist, I've been trained to prefer the data to purely theoretical reasoning. Also, as someone who has studied the history of Philosophy, I'm well aware of just how far astray one can be led by so-called “armchair reasoning”, where you try to figure out how it makes sense for the universe to work, based only on broad aspects of reality.”
So right away we see that in Aron Wall’s approach, the differentiator is empiricism. This approach generally prefers empiricism to the purely theoretical and deductive approach. The latter includes all the cosmological arguments of St Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, Leibniz, etc, (See William Craig, The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz).
The empirical approach (for lack of a better name) says the fundamental entity:
1. Is simple;
2. Has a mind or consciousness;
3. Exists because we know human consciousness exists and human beings participate in its maximal consciousness;
4. Is a necessity;
5. Consciousness tell story against naturalism. The Laws of Physics plus Logic alone cannot explain consciousness or the mind; and
6. Conversely, consciousness tells a story for theism.
How do we conclude the fundamental entity is the one God? Is this the same line as the Ontological Argument?
I hope I’m not oversimplifying or misinterpreting things.
I think you've misunderstood my position; doubtless because I have not explained it clearly enough, and the subject is difficult to talk about.
I am not a Cartesian dualist and therefore I do not believe that there is a "non-physical substance" which is in me. I do think that Cartesian dualism is a logically possible viewpoint. But at the same time I don't think it is very satisfying, because it just pushes the basic problem-of-mind (of how a causally interacting entity could be conscious) from the "brain" to the "soul". So I do not find Cartesian dualism very plausible. I think you are saying something similar.
My argument in Part VIII: The Hard Problem of Consciousness was perfectly compatible with a non-reductionistic form of materialism about the human person. So long as by "matter", we mean "that mysterious entity out of which we are made, some of whose properties are known from science", rather than "that entity all of whose properties are exhaustively described by external, objective scientific measurement", it is possible that we human beings are made entirely out of matter. But we would still have properties which would be very difficult to explain in strictly material terms.
The real question is not really about matter, but meaning. From the perspective of external physical science, our brains are no more (and no less) meaningful than a collection of words on a page. And yet we know that we have conscious experiences and that our thoughts mean something.
You state that:
Indeed. But that is precisely the problem---trying to see how a conscious meaning could reside in a physical structure. To make a silly example, suppose I say that everything is made out of little yellow marbles, and you ask me how blue things could be made out of yellow marbles. If I reply: "logically, if my viewpoint is correct, blue must be explained in terms of yellow, and yellow only", you might retort, "That is quite true, but it does not even begin to answer the question of how a blue thing could be made out of yellow things. Maybe there is an explanation, but simply saying that if your viewpoint is right there must be an explanation, does not actually count as providing such an explanation. If you cannot think of any explanation, well that is evidence against the view that everything is yellow, precisely for the reason you have said."
So yes, if materialism is correct, the meaning of our experiences must somehow reside in the matter of our brain. But how does it do so? Is there any combination of chalk lines which I could draw on the sidewalk which would have conscious experiences? Is there any set of letters I could write in a book which would be conscious, even if nobody read the book? Why is a bunch of firing neurons any different?
In Part IX: Stories and Atoms, I have proposed a solution to this problem by analogy. [After having written the following words, I decided to include them in the main post as well:] The words in a book contain meaning because a human being, who is conscious, reads and understands them. But why does the human brain contain any meaning? Because the ultimate nature of reality is like a mind, not like a set of equations, and it "reads" our brains and finds them to be meaningful.
Given that the series has to terminate in any case, why not just stop at our own minds rather than on God? Because we know that we, as complicated, evolved, and contigent constructs, are not the most fundamental entities in existence, and therefore any reasonable worldview should explain everything about ourselves in terms of a more fundamental picture.
Or to put it another way, if there are any types of meaning in the world which cannot be deduced just from the laws of physics, then it follows that the most fundamental reality is more than just the laws of physics, and indeed it must be something capable of supporting this meaning. This increases the probability that the fundamental reality is analogous to a mind.
When I said that I prefer an empirical approach to apologetics, I meant something more like this or that. I did say that I don't like a primarily theoretical approach ("armchair reasoning") as much, but the point was to explain that in this series I'm going to do it anyway. That includes my discussion of the Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Consciousness, and the (forthcoming) Ethical Argument (the series isn't over yet). All of them are theoretical, metaphysical arguments.
(I did make a contrast between deductive arguments, and plausibility arguments, and said I was mostly going to stick to the latter. But theoretical vs. empirical is a different distinction from deductive vs. probabilistic.)
Of course, even this very theoretical approach to metaphysics still appeals to very basic empirical facts about the world. Some things exist and have explanations in terms of other things, we as conscious beings exist, we have brains, matter exists, it is described by mathematical laws of physics, and so on. This type of metaphysical reasoning is not observation-free, but it interacts with observations on a looser level than physics, history, or biblical theology.
The arguments I'm making have nothing to do with the Ontological Argument, which I think is based on a logical fallacy.
Thank you for the clarification that erased my initial (great) puzzlement of why would a eminent theoretical physicist prefer empiricism over theory, given that empiricism and theorising go together and, in fact, advance each other. in the process of tightening the grip on understanding the reality in question.
I don't want to disrupt the excellent and difficult series on Fundamental Reality, but I'd like to ask you where do you think the Ontological Argument is based on a logical fallacy. I thought St Anselm had it right the first time (See Plainga's version of the Argument in William lane Craig, God is Great), Now, St Craig notes in the book: "In order fro the Ontological Argument to fail, the concept of a maximally great being must be incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor."
In quoting St Craig, it is NOT my aim to set him up against you. It's all part of my understanding..
Of course theoretical considerations play an important role in Science! Without them, Science would be impossible. But it plays a secondary role in comparison with experiment. See my discussion of the Second Pillar of Science.
In metaphysics as traditionally done (including in this series) the role of a priori theoretical reasoning is much greater, and the role of observation much less. For this reason, some people of a scientific bent think metaphysics as traditionally done is basically worthless. That's why I felt I needed to justify doing it in my prologue.
Regarding St. Anselm's Ontological Argument, it commits the exact same fallacy as the following argument:
1. Define an "existicorn" as a unicorn which exists.
2. It is logically possible that an unicorn exists, and if so it is an existicorn, so it cannot be said that an existicorn is inherently self-contradictory.
We now prove that an existicorn in fact exists:
3. Assume for contradiction that an existicorn does not exist.
4. In that case, the existicorn would both exist (by definition, 1) and not exist (by 3), a contradiction.
5. Therefore an existicorn exists.
6. Therefore a unicorn exists.
As for St. Craig's statement (from a book that I have not read) concerning Platinga's modal version of the Ontological Argument, it seems to equivocate between logical or conceptual necessity (what logically follows from our own definitions) and metaphysical necessity (what must be the case, given the fundamental nature of existence).
If necessary existence is part of what we mean by God, then (by a standard modal logic argument which I do not reproduce here) God's existence must either be necessary or impossible, metaphysically speaking. But there is no reason why things which are metaphysically impossible have to also be self-contradictory, like a married bachelor. (Indeed, if the Modal Ontological Argument were valid, it could be driven in reverse---the atheist could say that unless it is self-contradictory for God to not exist, it is possible for God not to exist, and therefore it is necessary that he does not exist. That would be equally fallacious.)
Thank you Dr Wall.
So as for St Anselm, the fallacy lies in defining the conclusion and using proof by contradiction (reductio ad absurdum) to circle back to the defined conclusion: We want to prove P, so we assume ~P (the negation of P) form which Q follows; but Q is absurd (self-contradictory), therefore ~P is false, which is t say, P is true. I can see the circularity there!
The distinction between conceptual necessity and metaphysical necessity is quite neat.
In this post where you hitting at the fact that you believe the universe is a quantum computer? Or am I reading too much into that. Because there are physicists like Deutsch who say that - sometime I think they mean it metaphorically, (like big built up from the laws of information processing) other times it's not so obvious.
No. I was trying to argue that Consciousness makes more sense in a Theistic world. I did use the metaphor of a computer, but I don't see that it makes much difference to my argument whether the "computer" involves classical bits or "qubits". I wouldn't expect a quantum computer would be conscious any more than I would expect a classical computer to be conscious. (I mean, I wouldn't expect it if I didn't know that human beings were conscious. Given that we are, maybe some computer programs can also be conscious, depending on how you answer the question of why we are conscious...)
Some physicists like Lee Smolin think it's a profound statement to say that the "Universe is made out of information", but I have a hard time seeing what this would mean. In physics, "information" means that there are several possible states for a system can be in. That doesn't tell you what it means to be in one of those particular states.
My first objection is that just because a certain model fails to explain a certain phenomenon, that does not necessarily mean that a different model is better at explaining it, and is not necessarily evidence that the different model is true. Some form of an a posteriori physicalism may explain this problem.
One possibility for why the human mind has information/meaning is because the human mind has interpreted itself. The reality of the human mind being contingent does not contradict this explanation. There does not need to be a fundamental mind of some sort.
My second objection is that a theistic explanation is arguably no better than an Naturalistic one because it replaces one mystery with another mystery (an entity that has no supervenience on physical properties, and is not physical).
Just because the big bang theory might have some problems, does not mean that creationist cosmology is better at explaining those gaps.
My third objection is that since physics itself is not a complete field, then it is a hasty, and premature conclusion that mental properties cannot be deduced from physical properties.
Thanks for your continued engagement.
I would say that there is only a semantic distinction between "a posteriori physicalism" and "property dualism" (where one and the same object can have both physical and mental properties). Either way, you are saying that objects have certain properties which cannot be accouted for by way of the ordinary laws of physics.
I don't know if you read the earlier posts in this series, but just so you know the argument here is at least partially dependent on them. In particular, I argued that there should be some sort of fundamental reality, and that the two most plausible metaphors for understanding what this entity is are "a set of equations" (naturalism) and "a mind" (theism). But the former is unable to explain why we are conscious, since there is no way to derive mental properties from them. Whereas mental properties can be derived from another mind, as I tried to argue with the example of us projecting interpetations onto animated characters.
To me it seems far more inexplicable that the human mind has "interpreted itself"---which seems circular. Where did it come from in the first place? It seems wrong to say that I am a fundamentally existing entity, which requires no explanation.
But sometimes (always?) intellectual progress takes the form of replacing one mystery with another! Every time physicists come up with a new theory of nature it raises new questions and puzzles of its own. That is not a good reason to reject the theory so long as it in fact explains more data than the old theory. For example it is progress to postulate that inflation explains the details of the Cosmic Microwave background, even though we don't know how inflation itself began. Or Einstein's theory of GR was progress because it explained the procession of the perihelion of Mercury, even though we still don't know how to combine it with QM. We can explain the periodic table in terms of the table of particles in the Standard model, but we still have no idea where that comes from. But it would be wrong to say you just replaced one table with another so you haven't made any progress.
The example of creationist cosmology is not parallel to this because there one is going backwards, the new theory would explain less of our scientific data than the old theory does. If it could explain everything the Big Bang theory does, and then some more things in addition, then it would be in business.
It is true that we do not yet have a complete theory of physics. But the fact that mental properties cannot be deduced from physical ones does not seem to depend on the precise form of the laws of nature. For example, you could add a new force to the Standard Model, or discover some extra dimensions, or come up with a theory of quantum gravity in terms of e.g. membranes described by large N x N matrices, and this wouldn't really change anything because the new concepts would still be formulated in terms of objectively specified algebraic or geometrical quanties, and the puzzle would remain exactly the same. The only thing I am assuming about physics is that it involves making models of the world based on some sort of abstract mathematical structures.
It is hard to even imagine what a "physical" theory, from which mental properties could be deduced, would look like. It seems like it would need to be formulated in a way which is radically different from any theoretical physics model I have ever heard of (leaving aside those crackpots who write to me telling me that the 12th dimension is the dimension of Peace and Harmony, or somesuch). It would require a paradigm shift of the methods of physics away from mathematics, to something else. But I'm not sure it could even be called theoretical physics then.
1) I fail to see how Naturalism suggests that fundamental reality is a set of equations. Metaphysical naturalism is merely the philosophical doctrine that only the natural exists. Moreover, just because Naturalism cannot deduce mental states from physical properties, does not mean consciousness cannot be explained in only natural terms. For example, one explanation is that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon.
2) You say, 'To me it seems far more inexplicable that the human mind has "interpreted itself"---which seems circular. Where did it come from in the first place? It seems wrong to say that I am a fundamentally existing entity, which requires no explanation.'
I think you misunderstood me. I never said that the human mind is eternal; I was merely suggesting that the "meaning" inside a person's mind comes from the mind interpreting itself, or the "stuff" inside. There doesn't have to be a fundamental mind to interpret the information inside our brains. I do not think that the
3) You made a rather good point in response to my argument about theism being no better of an explanation in comparison to "Naturalism." I acknowledge that you refuted that argument.
1. If you don't think the laws of physics (which are described by a set of equations) are the most fundamental reality, what would you propose as being the most fundamental reality, assuming Naturalism is true? (I discussed a number of specific alternatives here and explained why I don't like them as much...)
Unfortunately, the word "emergence" is used by different people to mean different things. In physics we call a property of a macroscopic system emergent if it doesn't follow in an immediately obvious way from the microscopic theory, but nevertheless is implied by the microphysics as a result of complicated interactions. For example, water at room temperature and pressure is liquid even though liquidity is not a property of the individual molecules. Nevertheless (we believe) if you did a sufficiently complicated simulation of the molecules then in principle you could see liquidity emerge without adding any new ingredients. But, if mental properties cannot be deduced from physical properties, then it cannot be emergent in this sense.
Confusingly, philosophers sometimes use "emergent" to mean nearly the opposite, that a property of a system cannot be deduced from its microscopic properties. To say that consciousness is "emergent" in this sense doesn't explain anything, it is just a restatement of the problem.
Probably Naturalism is consistent with the existence of consciousness (with a sufficiently flexible definition of "natural"), but that doesn't mean it can explain it. It is something which fits rather oddly with an otherwise materialistic, reductionistic cosmos.
2. I didn't mean that you were claiming that human minds are fundamental! Rather I was trying to illustrate the structure of my own argument. If it isn't fundamental than it has to derive its reality from other things besides itself, that is what it means for it to be nonfundamental.
Obviously the mind does interpet itself as part of its activity, but it cannot do so unless it has a reason to exist in the first place. Otherwise it would be a causa sui (self-caused entity) which seems impossible. One part (or aspect) of the mind could cause another part (or aspect) to exist, but that just pushes the question back to where the first part came from.
Do you remember how you were planning to end this sentence fragment?
3. Thanks, it's always nice when somebody acknowledges the parts of one's argument which are convincing, so one feels like one is making progress...!
"the laws of physics (which are described by a set of equations) are the most fundamental reality,"
How does that follow from Naturalism? Indeed, who apart from theoretical physicists would think such a thing?
Or perhaps you define Naturalism as the view that the laws of physics are the most fundamental reality.
But even this makes no sense. The laws of physics REQUIRE concrete things to be laws of --for instance
fundamental particles, say electrons and quarks.
So, on naturalism, the most fundamental reality is fundamental particles along with their interaction. A conclusion well-known to ancient atomists.
Like I said, I raised several other possibilities in part V of this series and rejected it.
The trouble with saying that elementary particles are the most basic reality is, first there are an enormous number of them (whereas basic principles should not be multiplied promiscuously), and secondly the laws of physics allow them to be created and destroyed in interactions. A contingent reality, which is caused to exist, cannot be the most fundamental thing in existence.
These days Naturalism pretty much consists of theoretical physics envy. There are plenty of philosophers and pop-writers who base their Naturalism explicitly on a wrong belief that everything must be reducible to theoretical physics. However, I agree with you that the ancient atomists did not think about their Naturalism in quite the same way.
Trouble with the laws of physics as the most basic reality is that the laws themselves can not generate the material reality. The laws only state the evolution of material reality.
As CS Lewis has remarked somewhere, all the bookkeeping in the world can not generate a single penny.
Thank you for responding, Aron Wall.
1) By saying that consciousness could be emergent, I mean that it is possible that consciousness can arise from a large, and complex arrangement of atoms. But since it seems that consciousness cannot be deduced from the (current) laws of physics, then I guess you win on this one.
2) So what would be the cause of consciousness? I don't know. How about the possibility that consciousness is a fundamental property of energy? In that case consciousness wouldn't have a cause. I still maintain the logical possibility that consciousness does not exist, so that could be one answer to the problem, even if it merely gives a negative solution.
3) If Naturalism is merely the philosophical doctrine that everything that exists must be natural, then it does not necessarily follow that everything will be eventually explained by science. However, the current issue is whether Naturalism explains human consciousness better than Theism. I think the main problem with finding a naturalistic explanation of human consciousness is that the concept of consciousness itself is indescribable, or at least, not describable in a meaningful way. Thus, I consider the hard problem of consciousness to have an indeterminate solution, sort of like in mathematics. Further, any explanation seems nonsensical, given the way consciousness is current conceptualized. Basically what I'm trying to say is that any explanation is just as "good" as any other. So Theism wouldn't have an advantage over Naturalism.
4) I have a few ideas for what could fundamental, but I don't have any ideas for how these possibly fundamental things could explain everything else in existence. The possibilities are: time, space, and energy.
5) Your argument is pretty good. If it makes you feel better, when I read your arguments, I feel like I'm very close to believing in the existence of a god. I feel like I could become a Christian. I feel like I might identify myself as an "agnostic agnostic," because I am unsure of whether I am agnostic, or not.
I meant to respond earlier but my comment got eaten by a laptop malfunction!
"Agnostic agnostic" is an amusing turn of phrase!
So long as our discussion has made you feel like Theism is more probable than when we began, I consider this conversation to already be a success. I only claimed to be providing plausibility arguments for Theism, obviously a conversion to Christianity would require additional information. The important thing, as I suggested in part XII of this series, is that you take whatever actions are appropriate given your current stage in your search for Truth. Possible steps might include:
* finding a church in your area (generally you aren't required to believe anything just to attend services and social events, although most require you to be a Christian in order to become a member or take Communion),
* reading introductory theological writers such as St. C.S. Lewis, or
* conditional prayer (I mean something like: "God, I don't know if you exist, but if you do:
but it is for you to decide what you can honestly do at whatever stage you are at, based on following the lead of the Spirit of truth. Now that may seem a little bit difficult, when you aren't even sure whether there is a Holy Spirit, but my point is that if there is a God who wants you to know Christ, then he is in control of the whole conversion process even if things currently seem highly uncertain on your end. But it's important to repent of whatever you already know to be sinful and earnestly seek the truth, rather than just waiting until the mood passes.
A few minor points:
Re 2/4: to me as a physicist "energy" means momentum in the time direction. It's a number, a quantity, and in cosmology it isn't even particularly well-defined. Similarly to a physicist the geometry of spacetime is itself a dynamical field, just like the electromagnetic field or something.
Obviously there are logically possible worlds in which I do not exist. But by observing that I exist, I rule out those possibilities since it is not possible for me to coherently deny that I exist, i.e."I say that I do not exist". It seems to me that the same thing is true about consciousness, that I cannot coherently say that "I think that I do not think". When I see a tree I am not directly aware of the tree as it is in itself, since light has to reach me from the tree and then it needs to be processed by my perception and then enter my mind. The only thing I am directly aware of is the tree as it exists in my mind. Hence every experience I have is an experience of consciousness.
I agree that things are somewhat mysterious either way, but my example of fiction was an attempt to provide at least a partial analogy for how a mind can, by an act of intepretation, ascribe mental concepts to things which would otherwise be meaningless collections of symbols. Another approach would be to say that any properties we have, such as consciousness, must either be a property of the fundamental reality, or it must at least have the power to produce things with that property. This lends support to the idea that there are mind-like aspects of the most basic aspects of reality.
I want to say, I have found your posts on fundamental reality very helpful. My perspective right now is an agnostoc who finds that perspective philosophically unsatisfactory and is trying to alter that, and your posts are helpful in that respect. I do however wish to ask, you say that we find meaning in our minds which suggests a more fundamental mind to implement that. However, I want to ask, from the perspective of a B-series of time adherent (not meant to be derogatory, the B series seems like it ends up being scientifically mandatory) the passage of time is ultimately something of an illusion to our heads. What if the idea of meaning is also illusory in our heads formed out of a sufficently complex system, and that the concept of meaning is essentially, well, meaningless on a fundamental level?
I know my statements are somewhat confused and muddled, but ultimately I'm pretty confused and muddled.
Incidentally, I also wamted to ask, how does the B series idea that all time is equally real square with the the indeterminacy of quantum effects?
Welcome to my blog, RC1.
1. You ask how we can rule out the possibility that "the idea of meaning is illusory in our heads". I think we can do so by thinking more carefully about what we mean by "illusion", which turns out to actually presuppose the idea of meaning.
An illusion arises when instead of experiencing a real thing X, we instead have a false experience of another thing Y. For example, in this optical illusion the lines are really straight (that's X) but appear to our perceptual system to be bent (that's Y).
So any time you perceive an illusion, there are 2 distinct layers---reality as it actually is, and reality as it appears to us. But now notice this crucial thing: Our minds are also part of reality. So actually both X and Y are real, they are just real in different ways. For example, although the lines are not bent, the fact that our minds experience them as bent is still a truth about how our minds work. And that has to be taken into account when you do metaphysics.
You ask "What if the idea of meaning is also illusory in our heads formed out of a sufficently complex system, and that the concept of meaning is essentially, well, meaningless on a fundamental level?". But I think this is self-contradictory. An illusion would require us to believe a false proposition about Nature. But if a proposition is false, it isn't meaningless! You can't say that "All beans are blue" is false unless you have ideas associated with "beans" and "blue". Similarly you can't say "Meaning doesn't exist" without having the concept of "meaning". But if your brain contains any concepts at all, then something exists which can recognize meaning.
2. Regarding the B-theory of time, I think first we have to be careful about what our experiences really show. Yes, it "feels" like time passes, and apart from memory and anticipation, we only experience one moment at once. However, it's not like we actively experience the nonexistence of other times.
Similarly, it "looks" like objects that are farther away are smaller, and that objects that are closer are bigger. But that's literally just a matter of perspective, it doesn't commit us in any way to rationally endorsing the proposition that the sun really is smaller than an orange. Whereas I think that endorsing any proposition at all, will commit you implicitly to the idea that at least some ideas in our minds are meaningful. So I think that the degree of "skepticism" required to disbelieve in "meaning" is WAY MORE than the amount of skepticism required to disbelieve in presentism.
It has been a while without my replying, but I want to ask--in other works on your blog, such as in the discussion on time, you suggest that illusory facts do not enter consideration in your understanding of metaphysics; I was just hoping you could explain a little further on what you mean by meaning being existant and real, even if it was false. Do you mean that the statement that meaning is meaningless is self-contradictory? Why is it that the theoretical illusion of meaning is relevant to your metaphysics, while other illusory concepts are 't?