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Note: This distinction was originally made by philosopher Thomas Nagel in an essay, What is it like to be a bat?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.
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?