Panpsychism - a philosophy with a future

by slimboyfat 140 Replies latest social current

  • slimboyfat

    waton you substitute "lifeless" for the word "dead", and thereby make my point. "Lifeless" seems a less problematic description for rocks than "dead". I'm just pointing out there is something a bit odd about calling a rock "dead", just as it would be odd to call a rainbow or a cloud or a flame "dead", although you could call them that if you wish.

    To my mind, to call something "dead", implies that it has "died" at some point. That's why I find it a bit odd to call rocks "dead". When does a rock die? (Apart from rocks arising from organic matter as I said)

    And anyway, panpsychists as I understand it don't argue that nonorganic matter is alive. So it's a red herring. Although I suppose you could argue that awareness on any level implies being "alive". But then the distinction between life and non-life is complicated even outside of the issue of panpsychism. All sorts of categories that are only good so far as they are useful in any case.

    I don't think panpsychists would generally say rocks are conscious. In fact Strawson denies the table is conscious for example. The point is that all matter comprises basic constituents that have "awareness" as a basic property already present at the fundamental level. This is the alternative to the supposition that awareness and consciousness somehow arise suddenly in certain structures at a certain level of complexity - which is in some ways the more mystical or voodoo interpretation of reality when you think about it.

  • waton

    It would be very tempting to give matter the status of divinity, if one considers any created substance as the now un-dead trailings of a superior being.

    two magnets display an uncanny ability to attract or repell, even through some substances. They seem to be "aware" of each other. This goes down to the smallest fundamental particles. so,

    are inert, "noble" substances like Helium, Gold less conscious because they react with difficulty, but explosives more alert?

    Ascribing a quasi divinity to all matter might prompt us to deal with respect, gratitude even, with all we manipulate, -good-, but ascribing conscious too it all, would that not be the ultimate idolatry, misplaced reaction?

    "ascribing", because there is silch scientific experimental evident for it, to my knowledge.

  • LoveUniHateExams

    But then the distinction between life and non-life is complicated - but is it?

    I think it's mostly clear-cut. Anything with DNA that self-replicates under its own steam is alive - bacteria, archaea, 'protists', fungi, plants and animals.

    Rocks aren't alive because they contain no DNA and don't reproduce. As far as scientists know, consciousness occurs only in living things.

    AFAIK, one grey area concerns viruses. They indeed contain DNA (or RNA in some cases) but are inert on their own - they make the next generation of viruses only by hijacking a host's cellular 'machinery', as it were.

  • slimboyfat

    LoveUni, you think everything is clear cut. It seems to be your starting point. I am the opposite. I agree with Derrida who said the inside is always infected by the outside, in any duality you care to interrogate.

    On the specifics the of the grey areas between life and non-life I found an interesting longish quote on this web page on the topic, including:

    "Evolutionary history suggests that life involves a range of co-evolving hierarchies, and that non-life and life share a huge and biologically significant territory that buffers and makes more complex any account of either."

  • cofty

    Still hoping for a distinction between awareness and consciousness.

    I suspect it's a distinction without a difference and that it's just too embarrassing to assert that rocks have consciousness.

  • Finkelstein

    So Slim when you hear of a solid proven scientific model of testing rocks if they do or dont have a conscious , let us know !

  • slimboyfat

    The distinction seems to be that awareness is simply a lower level of mental state than consciousness. For example while many conceive of monkeys or dogs as conscious, in that they appear to have "thoughts", it's doubtful that ants or slugs are conscious in that sense. But they may have some sort of mental state, or "awareness", that we would stop short of describing as conscious.

    Panpsychists simply make the point that materialists make the assumption that things don't have awareness unless proved otherwise. But why make that assumption? Why not make the opposite assumption: that things have awareness unless it's proved that they don't? You can say that's ridiculous or whatever else. But is there actually any good reason for loading the question in favour of materialism?

    In fact panpsychists go further and point out that we only have experience of being aware. We don't know what it's like to be a thing that isn't aware. In fact, can we even be sure that it's possible to exist and be unaware? We have direct evidence that a thing can exist and be aware (because we exist and we are aware). But obviously we could never have direct evidence that it's possible to exist and be unaware. So why assume that most things in the universe are unaware when in fact we can't prove that anything is unaware. On the other hand we can prove that we are aware, and therefore that at least some things are aware. So maybe our assumptions should be loaded in favour of awareness rather than against it.

  • cofty

    As I thought, a distinction without a difference.

    Why not make the opposite assumption: that things have awareness unless it's proved that they don't?

    Why not make the assumption that consciousness depends on Thetans who inhabit our bodies which are just the latest in a line of millions of incarnations?

    They are equally outrageous, ridiculous and far-fetched assertions and the burden of proof is ALL on the person making them. It is perfectly sensible to hold all such assertions in contempt.

    Your lack of reason and your logical fallacies in this thread are astonishing. I thought you hit bedrock with your claim that the perspective of a worm on the shape of the planet was as valid as that of an astronaut. I was wrong. We have plumbed new depths.

  • slimboyfat

    It's not my argument. It's an argument made by Galen Stawson, an academic philosopher who's taught at Reading, Rutgers, MIT, Princeton, Oxford and elsewhere.

    Why assume that things are unaware? The "thing" we have direct experience of being is ourselves, and we are aware. So we know that things can be aware, for certain. We don't know for certain if things can be unaware because we have no direct experience of being a thing which is unaware. We can speculate and guess that it is possible to be a thing that is unaware but it's difficult to prove.

  • cofty
    Galen Stawson, an academic philosopher

    Which tells us all we need to know about the state of "academic philosophy".

    it's difficult to prove

    Its equally difficult to prove we are not Thetans.

    I still have no problem dismissing both propositions as idiotic.

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