Panpsychism - a philosophy with a future

by slimboyfat 140 Replies latest social current

  • jp1692
    SBF: Why not make the opposite assumption: that things have awareness unless it's proved that they don't?
    Because it leads to unrigorous, unscientific thinking. From there, all kinds of crazy propositions can be posited with with no requirement of proof or evidence. Are you familiar with Russell's teapot?

    "It is an analogy, formulated by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others."

    "He wrote that if he were to assert, without offering proof, that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, he could not expect anyone to believe him solely because his assertion could not be proven wrong."

    Or, as Carl Sagan explained, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

  • slimboyfat

    That's not a good analogy. We are not postulating the existence of imaginary entities.

    The fact is that things exist and they either have awareness or they don't. Materialists assume that things don't have awarenss unless it's proved that they do. But why make that assumption? Simply throwing arms in the air shouting "ridiculous" and "teapot" and "Thetans" is not an argument.

    The only "thing" we have experience of being is ourselves. And we know that we are aware. So we know that at least some things are aware. We don't know for certain that there are things that exist that at unaware.

    We have direct proof that a thing can be aware. (Ourselves)

    We have no direct proof that a thing can be unaware.

    Simply making the assertion that most things are unaware, and any other view is ridiculous, is not an argument.

  • jp1692
    SBF: That's not a good analogy. We are not postulating the existence of imaginary entities.

    Well you can tell Russell that it's not a good analogy.

    I happen to think it's a great analogy, and perfect for this debate. Perhaps you meant that it's not an appropriate analogy since you said that "we are not postulating the existence of imaginary entities." But you are postulating the existence of imaginary qualities, abilities or characteristics, namely: awareness, a thing which--unless I missed it--you have still not defined in relationship to your premise.

    Perhaps it would help if you defined (what you mean by) awareness in the context of this thread and explain how it is both different than and distinct from consciousness. (If I missed it, I apologize. Although I have scanned this thread pretty thoroughly, I haven't read every single word of this thread. If you have, please supply a link to the post.)


  • jp1692
    SBF: Simply making the assertion that most things are unaware, and any other view is ridiculous, is not an argument.

    Perhaps it is not an argument, but it is--I believe--the more reasonable approach.

    As a student of the history of science, I am well aware of the fact that many things which we (humans alive at any particular time in history) have believed were wrong. I alluded to some of these in an earlier post: the flat earth, the geocentric universe, the phlogiston theory of combustion. The list is long.

    But science does not progress by merely asserting a differing idea. There must be some evidence to support it. From that experiments and/or some other means of data collection must be performed to either disprove the new hypothesis or give it support. To do otherwise is unscientific. And yet advances in science also require creative, original thinking.

    The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) proposed the then novel idea of the atom--doing so many centuries before John Dalton could, in the early 19th century, provide experimental support for it leading to our modern atomic theory in chemistry.

    PS: You will be interested to know that John Dalton is also known for his research into colour blindness, which is sometimes referred to as Daltonism in his honour.

  • slimboyfat

    There is nothing wrong with the point Russell was making. It's not applicable here.

    If anything, panpsychism is a simpler and more economic explanation of consciousness than meterialism. Because materialists think the universe consists mainly of dull matter, that in a few rare instances comes together to form brains that experience consciousness. This phenomenon is said to emerge from matter somehow in a process that is not understood.

    Panpsychists say it's simpler than that. Awareness is a property that is fundamental to all matter. In some entities it is more complex than others because of the structure, but it doesn't "radically emerge" at any point. It's always there. It's a simpler and more elegant explanation of consciousness.

    Thomas Nagel offers the definition of awarenss that it satisfies the question: "what is it like to be a bat... or something else?"

    What is it like to be a human?

    What is it like to be a dog?

    What is it like to be a bat?

    What is it like to be a spider?

    What is it like to be a tree?

    What is it like to be a crystal?

    What is it like to be an atom?

    If the answer, from the inside, is something more than "nothing" then that is "awareness".

  • jp1692

    SBF, I'm aware of (did you see what I just did there?) what panpsychists say. I don't require a restatement of what I already understand.

    What I require is some evidence to support their assertions. As far as I have seen in the literature on the subject that I have reviewed and from any of the comments put forth here, there is none.

    The definition(s) of awareness that you cite via Nagel are problematic. They are formulated as a question, the answers to which are by definition unknowable by us. How can anyone know what it's like to be a cat or a tree or an atom? We can't. We can't even know at what point the answer would be nothing. Hell, it's hard enough to know what it's like to be human! And my experience of being human is likely quite different than yours.

    As a result, while these sorts of questions are seductive mind-candy for a parlor room game of wild-pseudo-philosophical speculation, they do not, indeed they cannot, move us toward a better understanding of the subject under discussion.

  • slimboyfat

    Thomas Nagel's approach to the issue, as I understand it, is widely regarded among analytic philosophers, and used as the basis for discussion in the philosophy of mind.

    Notice that the point is not the specific answer to the question; "what is it like to be a bat?" The point is that if there is an answer to the question (even though we don't know what the answer is) then we are dealing with some sort of awareness.

  • cofty
    What is it like to be a crystal?

    That is like asking what colour is love?

    It's "not even wrong".

  • jp1692
    SBF: The point is that if there is an answer to the question (even though we don't know what the answer is) then we are dealing with some sort of awareness.

    I understand the point of the question.

    My point, which I apparently did not clearly articulate, is this: not only can we NOT know the answer, we cannot even know if there is one for all of the cases you cited: dogs to atoms.

    But there is evidence for some, particularly what we call living things. There is no evidence for non-living things.

    So again, it is an assertion for a belief or idea that could be true but for which there is absolutely no evidence other than we cannot explain how consciousness arises so maybe it's innate in everything, at least at some level.

    That's a weak argument at best. It reminds me of many non-answers that the WTBTS would put forth for questions that they couldn't or wouldn't answer. "Well we don't know, but since we don't know this, then maybe that ..."

    Trust in Jehovah is now replaced with trust in Nagel.

    I'm not buying what he's not selling.

  • jp1692
    Cofty: what colour is love?

    I can answer that!

    When I was dating my wife I wrote her a serious of poems each of which began with the opening line:

    • Love is (insert color here) ...

    After that I explored the romantic notions and associations of each color. I ran through all the basic colors, included a few more "colorful" shades and even ended with "clear."

    Of course this won her heart, which was of course my goal.

    But I was writing poetry, not doing rigorous, analytical thought. ... LOL!

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