Panpsychism - a philosophy with a future

by slimboyfat 140 Replies latest social current

  • MrRoboto

    If a person was standing before you and you asked them if they were conscious, what is their answer?

    Do you believe them? Why? You cannot verify the answer as being correct.

    Sufficient AI would have you convinced that it is conscious, self-aware.

    Would it actually be? if not, why not?

    How can you show that your own consciousness is not simply a complex-enough AI system to fool others and even perhaps yourself? Would that mean you are not conscious?

    Aside from complexity, what is the difference between you and Mario (from Mario Bros. games)

    If consciousness cannot arise from non-conscious matter alone then there would have to be a conscious creator of us. Assuming we are actually conscious.

    If it can arise from non-conscious matter alone then we should have seen some evidence of that already and we should perhaps be able to design conscious systems already. That would put us in the role of the conscious creator but then we have to ask ourselves: 1. are we perhaps just carefully adjusted matter arranged just so, on purpose by a higher-level conscious creator? or 2. are we the top-level of consciousness, somehow self-assembling from the soup of matter that is the "universe"? 2nd option there makes some folks more comfortable but it is less reasonable and more illogical than option 1.

    How can we know?

    Perhaps its turtles all the way down.

  • Outahere

    I can show that frogs, mice and humans experience to varying degrees, but I cannot show that an inanimate rock can. So what can this idea be built on if it's an assertion about physical reality?

  • Outahere

    From the Coyne link provided by Cofty:

    Panpsychism has a long history in philosophy, and is defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as “the doctrine that mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe.”

    In isolation, that idea might be defensible on some level. A conscious observer is needed to collapse the wavefunction. Without the observer, Schrodinger''s cat is neither alive nor is it dead.

  • Outahere


    A basic argument for panpsychism, as Strawson presents it, is that we know we are personally conscious.

    Well, I know personally that I have a conscious mind. I experience myself directly.

    However, I am incapable of experiencing another mind or proving that it exists.

    You could be sitting across from me and still could not know or prove that you have a conscious mind.

    I can measure your brain activity, but that isn't the same exact thing.

  • MrRoboto

    Is that to say one mind as a fundamental feature..? or each particle, quark, sun, atom, human etc has a mind each? Where is the line drawn?

    consciousness observing may collapse the waveform but that doesn't give the cat consciousness (even if it is alive, its' consciousness if not derived from the observer)

    I'm not completely sure I understand their "experience" terminology but I would say that if a conscious observer collapses a waveform then that should be the test for consciousness. Can an atom always collapse the waveform for photons ? if not, is it because they can't "observe" them?

    It has been shown that detectors (observers made of matter) can be used in experiments to collapse the waveform - but only when consciousness if involved - that is to say that if the data is erased before consciousness has a chance to observe it (i.e. humans) then the result is the same as if no consciousness was involved at all - I think that should tell us something about what is conscious and what isn't. (i'm referring to the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment, if you want more info on that)

    I, for one, would like to see the delayed choice quantum eraser performed with a dog as the observer. and also with many humans, to see if there is any change

  • MrRoboto


    You personally know what you have been programmed to think and 'believe' as a highly sophisticated AI system. I would expect you to say those things about your conscious mind but you are no different than a less cool (gotta wear the right sun glasses) version of Agent Smith. I, of course, am Neo.

    I only say that because from my perspective, I cannot prove any different - I could measure your brain activity but.. And then again, I am your Smith, and you are my Neo - from your vantage point.

    Consciousness if one of those things that people really don't have the words to describe on more than a superficial level. Any description we may want to use will inevitably lead to more questions and lack of clarity.

    x. I think therefore I am.

    y. wait, but I also think!

    x. well, I'm not so sure about that, therefore you are NOT, possibly. But I most definitely am.

  • jp1692
    Where is the line drawn?

    At octpopus. (See my previous posts in this thread if you want/need clarification).

  • slimboyfat

    I skimmed a book that argued octopuses may be as, or nearly, or differently but equally intelligent as humans.

    I thought the Philosophy Now article on panpsychism was pretty good. If it doesn't convince you fair enough.

    What I meant to say is that the idea that consciousness arises from unconscious matter is just as unprovable as panpsychism. This may be difficult to grasp because reductive materialism is pretty much taken for granted in our culture. But just because it's taken for granted doesn't mean it's true, or that it should be let off the hook in terms of requiring evidence.

    Some of the resistance to panpsychism may be a suspicion that it aims to create a space for God or the supernatural. But there is no reason panpsychism should necessitate belief in God. In fact, in some sense materialism's "hard problem" of consciousness is one of the best arguments for God, and panpsychism tends to defuse that problem. So it's not entirely clear what the implications of panpsychism are for God or the supernatural.

    All I know is that reality appears increasingly mysterious to me. And as Krauthammer once quipped, atheism appears to be the most unlikely of the theologies on offer. There is a deep mystery at the heart of existence. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are we uniquely equipped to perceive the world as it really is? Reductive materialism offers no answer to these questions. In fact it doesn't make much sense as a view of reality when all its perameters, including the mystery of existence and consciousness, are taken into account.

  • jp1692
    SBF: Why are we uniquely equipped to perceive the world as it really is?

    I actually love this particular question, but you must realize it’s somewhat circular and entirely self-referential in its underlying assumption that we actually do “perceive the world as it really is.”

    When did this happen? The ancients that perceived the world as flat or the center of the universe clearly did not “perceive the world as it really is.”

    The 18th century chemists that subscribed to the theory of phlogiston didn’t “perceive the world as it really is.”

    So what makes you think we now have it all right? When did we start to “perceive the world as it really is”?

    When did this happen?

    In fact, if you want to talk about the basic equipment with which we are actually “equipped,” our innate, basic physical senses don’t perceive a great deal of how things actually are. Our eyes, for example, only perceive a very small portion of the EM band, our ears only hear a very small range of the frequencies which are audible to other animals, our sense of touch can only handle a very limited range of hot or cold without being irreparably damaged and so on.

    It’s only by using our intelligence that humans have been able to devise mechanical devices to extend our basic, stock sensory input devices enabling us to perceive so many things which formerly were unknown and unknowable to us in our native state.

  • slimboyfat

    Yes it's also possble that we don't perceive the world as it really is. I should have included this possibility, which is equally mind blowing when you think about it. It would mean there is no rational basis on which to dismiss the faith of mystics in a God beyond understanding. Because why assume that the human mind is capable of understanding the logic of arguments for or against God or other significant philosophical concerns? If we are the result of evolution from non-living matter, which in turn appeared from nothing at the Big Bang, and there is no God, then there is no reason to suppose that this process should enable humans, of all beings in the universe, to accurately perceive the world as it really is. In fact it seems rather unlikely. In which case it seems hopelessly optimistic to assume we can ask and answer questions that indicate accurate or truthful perception of reality.

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