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At Mind Matters News: Philosopher: Panpsychism is not in conflict with physics at all

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Vagueness and the Evolution of Consciousness

Responding to criticism from physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Sean Carroll, Philip Goff points out that panpsychism is not a dualist perspective:

At IAI.tv, University of Durham philosophy prof Philip Goff tells us that “The world of academic philosophy has been rocked by the conversion of one of the most influential materialists of the last thirty years, Michael Tye, to a form of panpsychism (panprotopsychism) in his latest book. And the main annual UK philosophy conference held a plenary panel on panpsychism this year for the first time in its history.” That’s part of a pattern of the world of philosophy and science warming to panpsychism, the belief that either all entities or all living entities participate in consciousness.

Dr. Goff, author of Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, offers some thoughts on what panpsychism is and isn’t:

News, “Philosopher: Panpsychism is not in conflict with physics at all” at Mind Matters News


From his perspective, panpsychism is a philosophical interpretation of physics. It conflicts with interpretations like that of Max Tegmark, who argues that, at bottom, reality is “purely mathematical” and that of dualists like Angus Menuge who argue that reality has both physical and non-physical elements. Goff argues that panpsychism is simpler than dualism.

Okay, but why not just accept materialism, pure and simple? Because, as Analytical philosopher Galen Strawson pointed out, the one thing we are each most certain of is our own consciousness. Materialism, pressed for an answer, insists that consciousness is an illusion that “science will get to the bottom of.”

But what then? Remember Egnor ’s Principle: If your hypothesis is that your mind is an illusion, then you do not have a hypothesis.

The panpsychists want to have a hypothesis. They want to include consciousness as a real fact in nature while avoiding dualism.


Takehome: Philip Goff sees panpsychism (consciousness pervades all nature) as offering a simpler view of physics than dualism, with fewer gaps than materialism. His perspective appears to be catching on.


You may also wish to read more about how panpsychism is gaining a firmer foothold in science: Scientific American explores panpsychism… respectfully. This is a major change. At one time, a science mag would merely ridicule the idea of a conscious universe. Make no mistake, panpsychism—as Goff elucidates it—is a purely naturalist view (“nothing supernatural or spiritual”). But, unlike the village atheist, he goes on to ask, but then what IS nature? Matter is all there is? But what IS matter? It turns out, no one really knows.

Why would a neuroscientist choose panpsychism over materialism? It seems to have come down to a choice between “nothing is conscious” and “everything is conscious.”

How a materialist philosopher argued his way to panpsychism. Galen Strawson starts with the one fact of which we are most certain — our own consciousness. To Strawson, it makes more sense to say that consciousness is physical — and that electrons are conscious — than that consciousness is an illusion.

Theoretical physicist slams panpsychism Electrons cannot be conscious Sabine Hossenfelder’s view because they cannot change their behavior. Hossenfelder’s impatience is understandable but she underestimates the seriousness of the problem serious thinkers about consciousness confront. There is a reason that some scientists believe that the universe is conscious: It would be more logically coherent to say that you think the universe is conscious than to say that your own consciousness is an illusion. With the first idea, you may be wrong. With the second idea, you are not anything.

Why is science growing comfortable with panpsychism (“everything is conscious”)? At one time, the idea that “everything is conscious” was the stuff of jokes. Not any more, it seems. A recent article at New Scientist treats panpsychism as a serious idea in science. That’s thanks to the growing popularity of neuroscientist Giulio Tonioni’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT), which offers the opportunity for mathematical modeling, along with the implication that inanimate matter and/or the universe may be conscious. If IIT continues to gain a sympathetic hearing, panpsychism could become, over time, a part of normal science.

4 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Philosopher: Panpsychism is not in conflict with physics at all

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    “Okay, but why not just accept materialism, pure and simple?”. Good question. What do you mean by “materialism”? Not all materialists hold that consciousness is an illusion but it’s hard to avoid noticing that it is intimately associated with the physical brain. No brain, no consciousness.

  2. 2
    Seekers says:

    Seversky,

    The OP is based on a growing observation that panpsychism is slowly replacing materialism as a popular view of the nature of consciousness.
    Also -Associated- does not imply a causation. It’s a rather simple thing to grasp no?.

  3. 3

    One should notice how subjectivity is systematically undermined in mainstream academics.

    Really academic people have bad personal judgment, because of undermining the concept of subjective personal judgment.

    Academic people generally should not be in a position of power, because of having bad personal judgment, nor should people in power take advise from academically trained people.

  4. 4
    Origenes says:

    Galen Strawson:

    Perhaps each of us knows for certain that he or she exists—fine—but the only other general thing we know for certain is that consciousness exists.

    Assuming that Strawson is reffering to cogito, he uses all the wrong terms. I wonder why he thinks that knowing that consciousness exists is seperate from knowing “I exist”. The “I” is what one calls ‘consciousness. Cogito is not about the physical body, as Strawson seems to imply.
    Second, it is, or should be, well-known that the existence of consciousness is absolutely not a “general thing” to know. I know that I exist—— IOWs I know that I exist as having conscious self-awareness——, but I am the only one, as far as I know, who has access to this domain.

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