Intelligent Design Philosophy Science

Physicist and philosopher Bruce Gordon on panpsychism

Spread the love

Idealism says everything is an idea in the mind of God. Panpsychism says everything participates in consciousness (thus is not just an idea). From Bruce Gordon’s dialogue with Michael Egnor:

Michael Egnor: To just sort of backtrack a little bit, when we make the assertion that the fundamental reality of the universe is mental rather than physical… what is mental? That is, we have a sense of what physical things are. They have extension in space. They’re heavy. They have inertia, things like that. But what is a mental “thing”? And can we define mental things except by what they’re not?

Bruce Gordon: Well, of course a panpsychist would deny this, but I would say the distinction between mental things and physical things is that for mental things, there is something that it’s like to be that thing. Whereas for physical things, there’s nothing that it’s like to be that thing.

Note: This distinction was originally made by philosopher Thomas Nagel in an essay, What is it like to be a bat? (1974), exploring the factors that distinguish consciousness from life as such. One might ask, “Is there something that it ‘is like’ to be a fern or a virus? Or an electron?”

Bruce Gordon: Of course, the panpsychist says that there’s something to be like everything. Right down to the most fundamental constituents of reality that we would, from a different philosophical perspective, regard as entirely impersonal.

News, “A physicist and philosopher examines panpsychism” at Mind Matters News

The main reason that interest in panpsychism is growing is probably the inability of materialism to provide a coherent account of consciousness.

The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science

Note: Readers may remember Bruce Gordon from books like The Nature of Nature, which he co-edited with design theorist William Dembski.

Takehome: Bruce Gordon thinks that, for a thing to be conscious, there must be something that it “is like” to be that thing. Can panpsychism demonstrate that?

One Reply to “Physicist and philosopher Bruce Gordon on panpsychism

  1. 1
    William J Murray says:

    And can we define mental things except by what they’re not?

    There’s literally no way to define the category of mental things in comparison to non-mental things, because mental things is all we have. Our ideas about supposedly non-mental things, and our experiences of supposedly non-mental things, are all mental things.

    So, when Egnor says:

    That is, we have a sense of what physical things are. They have extension in space. They’re heavy. They have inertia, things like that.

    He’s making a categorical error when he directly implies physical qualities are not mental qualities. Where do we experience the physical qualities he identifies? In mind. They are mental experiences.

    He’s thinking about mind from an inapplicable perspective. His statement:

    when we make the assertion that the fundamental reality of the universe is mental rather than physical..

    … reveals that he hasn’t thought all this through. Physicality is a quality of mental experience. I mean, has Egnor never had a dream when he sleeps?

    He’s still thinking about “things” and “physicality” from the ERT model.

Leave a Reply