Panpsychism

For your amusement, here is a New-Age philosopher imputing consciousness to subatomic particles in order to dream up a “scientific” basis for Jedi religion.

There is a profound difficulty at the heart of the science of consciousness: consciousness is unobservable. You can’t look inside an electron to see whether or not it is conscious. But nor can you look inside someone’s head and see their feelings and experiences. We know that consciousness exists not from observation and experiment but by being conscious. The only way we can find out about the consciousness of others is by asking them: I can’t directly perceive your experience, but I can ask you what you’re feeling. And if I’m a neuroscientist, I can do this while I’m scanning your brain to see which bits light up as you tell me what you’re feeling and experiencing. In this way, scientists are able correlate certain kinds of brain activity with certain kinds of experience. We now know which kinds of brain activity are associated with feelings of hunger, with visual experiences, with pleasure, pain, anxiety, et cetera.

This is really important information, but it’s not itself a theory of consciousness. That’s because what we ultimately want from a science of consciousness is an  explanation of those correlations. Why is it that, say, a certain kind of activity in the hypothalamus is associated with the feeling of hunger? Why should that be so? As soon as you start to answer this question, you move beyond what can be, strictly speaking, tested, simply because consciousness is unobservable. We have to turn to philosophy.

 

The moral of the story is that we need both the science and the philosophy to get a theory of consciousness. The science gives us correlations between brain activity and experience. We then have to work out the best philosophical theory that explains those correlations. In my view, the only theory that holds up to scrutiny is panpsychism.”

Most Ratburghers already know my response to this.

How about it? What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Panpsychism”

  1. Interview with Philip Goff about “Panpsychism” Jan 2020:

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-consciousness-pervade-the-universe/

    In his new book  Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness,  philosopher  Philip Goff considers a radical perspective: What if consciousness is not something special that the brain does but is instead a quality inherent to all matter?

     

    I should note that Philip Goff redefines the word “consciousness” for his own purposes:

    It might be important to clarify what I mean by “consciousness,” as that word is actually quite ambiguous. Some people use it to mean something quite sophisticated, such as self-awareness or the capacity to reflect on one’s own existence. This is something we might be reluctant to ascribe to many nonhuman animals, never mind fundamental particles. But when I use the word consciousness, I simply mean  experience: pleasure, pain, visual or auditory experience, et cetera.”

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  2. MJBubba:
    (Quoting Philip Goff) “ … But when I use the word consciousness, I simply mean  experience: pleasure, pain, visual or auditory experience, et cetera.”

    You would think that somebody who calls himself a philosopher would know that there’s a word, “qualia”, for these experiences, which has been used in philosophy since 1866.  It is related to, but quite different from consciousness.  Many organisms react to external stimuli (light, heat, chemicals in the environment, etc.) in a way which indicates they are having an experience, but that does not mean we can attribute to them what most people would refer to as consciousness (self-awareness, free will, etc.).

    If you get to redefine words, you can prove anything.  Rocks are animals, under my definition of animals as objects on the Earth which fall when dropped.

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  3. John Walker:
    You would think that somebody who calls himself a philosopher would know that there’s a word, “qualia”, for these experiences, which has been used in philosophy since 1866.  It is related to, but quite different from consciousness.

    Thanks, but, I don’t think much of the idea that we can discuss the “qualia” of inanimate objects, much less that of subatomic particles.

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  4. MJBubba:

    John Walker:
    You would think that somebody who calls himself a philosopher would know that there’s a word, “qualia”, for these experiences, which has been used in philosophy since 1866.  It is related to, but quite different from consciousness.

    Thanks, but, I don’t think much of the idea that we can discuss the “qualia” of inanimate objects, much less that of subatomic particles.

    Right. I think JW is just clarifying the misuse of the word consciousness without stopping to address the ridiculous consequences.

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  5. Haakon Dahl:

    MJBubba:

    John Walker:
    You would think that somebody who calls himself a philosopher would know that there’s a word, “qualia”, for these experiences, which has been used in philosophy since 1866.  It is related to, but quite different from consciousness.

    Thanks, but, I don’t think much of the idea that we can discuss the “qualia” of inanimate objects, much less that of subatomic particles.

    Right. I think JW is just clarifying the misuse of the word consciousness without stopping to address the ridiculous consequences.

    I think the consequence is that we can conclude the author of this drivel is NOT “conscious”.

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