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At Mind Matters News: Nautilus offers a primer on panpsychism

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Noting the growth in interest from science writers as well as neuroscientists and philosophers, Templeton’s magazine Nautilus offers four essays discussing current approaches. Panpsychists argue that their approach can help resolve not just the hard problem of consciousness but hard problems associated with matter.

Recently, we’ve been discussing the way panpsychism is creating competition for naturalism in the sciences. Where naturalism sees cognition/consciousness as an illusion that happen to aid survival, panpsychism sees it as part of the substrate of nature, more obviously present in more complex entities like humans than in less complex ones. Neither view appeals to the supernatural in principle but to the panpsychist, information is as much a part of nature as matter or energy. Its effects are pervasive and real. And consciousness is not something to just be explained away. Such a view may change the way many see nature on topics ranging from the environment to evolution.

News, “Nautilus offers a primer on panpsychism” at Mind Matters News

Note the reaction from a typical Darwinian naturalist:


… naysaying philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci:

Consciousness probably evolved for specific reasons because, after all, it costs a lot metabolically to maintain the kind of brain that can engage in conscious thoughts. There must be a reason and it must be advantageous from the point of view of natural selection. I don’t see any reason to think that inert things are conscious. I don’t even see a particular reason to think that a lot of other biological things, like plants, bacteria, things like that, are conscious. But that’s just one perspective and one way to look at it.

KEVIN BERGER AND BRIAN GALLAGHER, “A CLASH OF PERSPECTIVES ON PANPSYCHISM” AT NAUTILUS

What’s really interesting about Pigliucci’s comments is that even a decade or so ago, his was an utterly conventional view. Now he feels he must qualify it by saying “But that’s just one perspective and one way to look at it.” It seems that fewer researchers today expect the “Hard Problem of Consciousness” to suddenly yield to a new research finding — a situation that leaves many looking with interest and sympathy at a non-naturalist approach like panpsychism.


You may also wish to read: Why panpsychism is starting to push out naturalism. A key goal of naturalism/materialism has been to explain human consciousness away as “nothing but a pack of neurons.” That can’t work. Panpsychism is not dualism. By including consciousness — including human consciousness — as a bedrock fact of nature, it avoids naturalism’s dead end.

Panpsychism, if it continues to gain adherence in science, philosophy of science, and science communications, will likely change the nature of the intelligent design controversy.

One Reply to “At Mind Matters News: Nautilus offers a primer on panpsychism

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    The digitalists had a few decades of glory starting in 1957. Digitalists think all philosophical problems must inevitably yield to larger and faster digital computers. They aren’t really materialists, they’re mathists. They believe abstract math is God and Turing is its prophet.

    True materialists look at the material world and see that the living part of the material world is conscious. As we learn that more and more of the ‘non-living’ world is densely packed with life, the border between conscious and non-conscious also erodes.

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