Intelligent Design Philosophy Science

A materialist philosopher explains how panpsychism is logically compatible with materialism

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Galen Strawson starts with the one fact of which we are most certain — our own consciousness:


He breaks his approach down into steps:

Step one is: one thing we know for sure is that consciousness is real.

Step two—this is an assumption, technically— [is] I believe there’s only one kind of stuff and I call it “physical stuff.”

So, I’m a physicalist and I know that consciousness is real. I have to say that consciousness is physical. That’s step three.

ROBERT WRIGHT, “WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE AN ELECTRON? AN INTERVIEW WITH GALEN STRAWSON” AT NONZERO (JUNE 28, 2020)

But now what is Step four? If consciousness is physical, is it universal in both animate and inanimate nature?

Whether or not Strawson’s panpsychism offers a coherent view of evolution, it’s easy to see the attraction: a way of accommodating consciousness, the one thing of which we feel utterly certain, in a wholly material universe. Those who are content to make fun of panpsychism are probably underestimating that attraction.


Takehome: To Strawson, it makes more sense to say that consciousness is physical — and that electrons are conscious — than that consciousness is an illusion.

You may also wish to read: 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.”

2 Replies to “A materialist philosopher explains how panpsychism is logically compatible with materialism

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    The basic answer is that consciousness can’t be treated logically. I know I’m conscious, and I suspect that other creatures who exhibit dreaming in sleep are also conscious. But that doen’t forbid non-dreamers from being conscious. I can’t go any farther with logic. Everything else is pure guesswork.

    Strawson isn’t really applying logic to consciousness itself, he’s just applying logical consistency to his belief system. “I have to say” isn’t the same as “Consciousness exists.”

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Strawson honestly admitted that step two is ‘technically’ an assumption.

    Step two—this is an assumption, technically— [is] I believe there’s only one kind of stuff and I call it “physical stuff.”

    There is no ‘technicality’ to it. The atheistic belief that everything, including consciousness and free will, is physical is the core a-priori philosophical assumption that lies behind Atheistic Naturalism.

    Free Will: Weighing Truth and Experience – Do our beliefs matter? – Mar 22, 2012
    Excerpt: If we acknowledge just how much we don’t know about the conscious mind, perhaps we would be a bit more humble. We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/social-brain-social-mind/201203/free-will-weighing-truth-and-experience
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    Moreover, it is the core unquestioned a-priori philosophical assumption on the part of atheists that is directly at odds with the scientific evidence that we now have in from both neuroscience and quantum mechanics.

    In neuroscience, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor states, “The evidence that some aspects of the mind are immaterial is overwhelming.”

    Materialism of the Gaps – Michael Egnor (Neurosurgeon) – January 29, 2009
    Excerpt: The evidence that some aspects of the mind are immaterial is overwhelming. It’s notable that many of the leading neuroscientists — Sherrington, Penfield, Eccles, Libet — were dualists. Dualism of some sort is the most reasonable scientific framework to apply to the mind-brain problem, because, unlike dogmatic materialism, it just follows the evidence.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....15901.html

    Michael Egnor Shows You’re Not A Meat Robot (Science Uprising EP2) – 2019
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQo6SWjwQIk&list=PLR8eQzfCOiS1OmYcqv_yQSpje4p7rAE7-&index=2

    And in quantum mechanics, ‘realism’ itself, the belief that a physical reality exists apart from our conscious observation of it, has itself been falsified.

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.”
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

    Let’s just say, as far as experimental science itself is concerned, that the core, a-priori, atheistic assumption that ‘everything is physical’ is found to be severely wanting for any experimental support from both neuroscience and quantum mechanics.

    Verse:

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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