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Thread: Panpsychism

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    Senior Member Synapse's Avatar
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    Default Panpsychism

    Ervin Laszlo has proposed that the virtual energy field known as the quantum vacuum, or zero-point field, corresponds to what Indian teachings have called Akasha. the source of everything that exists, and in which the memory of the cosmos is encoded. I would like to take his reasoning a step further and suggest that the nature of this ultimate source is consciousness itself, nothing more and nothing less.

    Panpsychism declares that the entire universe from the most distant galaxy all the way down to the smallest particle or wave is entirely sentient or conscious. They are all connected parts of the whole. Panpsychists believe that all matter in the universe has some degree of consciousness. In other words, the substance of the universe is composed entirely of Mind or Consciousness.

    This Mind is in you and me, the most distant star, the smallest subatomic particle or wave, and we are all connected. Not only are we connected but also every particle within each entity is aware of all the other particles. We are all part of a grand communication scheme that is the "Glue" that holds the universe together.

    Matter and Mind are both real and have always existed together and are one. While Mind and Matter can not be separated from each other, they are still not the same. Mind or consciousness is not a form of Matter or energy but they always go together.

    Panpsychism is opposed to basic Materialism or any doctrine, which argues that the reality of the universe is composed solely of matter.

    In order to explain consciousness, Materialism needs the supernatural miracle of dead matter somehow forming into consciousness. Panpsychism does not need miracles. It is consciousness. Since all the ingredients of Life are conscious there is no need for impossible materialistic scenarios to explain how life began.

    Mind, Matter and Life have always existed. They are:

    Co-eternal, Co-extensive as well as Co-creative.
    I like the idea, correlates with my views in some ways.
    Do you think this holds any credibility, too alternative or idealistic.
    What do you think of this philosophy?

  2. #2
    Habitual Fi LineStepper JocktheMotie's Avatar
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    While I don't really agree with the idea that matter and energy can retain things like "memory" in the sense I think you're using it, I do see where you are coming from. Actually, instead of using the quantum vacuum as the existence of this energy that permeates the universe, I'd use the Higgs field instead, despite the fact it's not really proven yet. The issue with using the quantum vacuum as a source for this Mind is that on a macroscopic level it doesn't really exist. It's really only worth mentioning on tiny levels, and it basically is a constant dance of particle and energy cancellations, brief existences and annihilation which make it hard to argue that it can "remember" anything because its constituents are being constantly created and destroyed.

    The Higgs field, however, is a non-zero field that essentially interacts with both matter and energy, and it is what gives matter its "mass" qualities. The Higgs field permeates all of space, and is apparent both macroscopically and at the tiniest of lengths.



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    Enigma Nadir's Avatar
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    The problem with these kinds of ideas is that they occupy an area outside rationality and then throw stones at it, so that if you try to criticize this idea on the grounds that it has no valid reasoning, the singular kind of response you'll get ends up being something like "you're a materialist, you wouldn't understand the finesse of this school of thought", or, "there is no way we can reconcile our differences as long as you keep hanging on to reason", which isn't really a defense. So this idea really ends up being a belief, and objective reality gets thrown out of the window as the believers feverishly convince themselves of the truth while the rationalists look on with disapproval.
    Not really.

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    Senior Member Synapse's Avatar
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    What Panpsychism wants to achieve is the search for neural correlations of consciousness however it is at odds with emergentism because panpsychism wants to speculate there is a consciousness, a connection that goes beyond the current scientific views which isn't in conflict with empirical research only with its presuppositions.

    Panpsychism enjoys a metaphysical advantage in that it avoids the difficulties of emergentism, which are greater than is generally thought. Not only is there a problem simply in accounting for the emergence of something so distinctive as consciousness from mere matter, it is surprisingly difficult to articulate a form of emergentism that does not threaten to make the emergent features causally impotent or epiphenomenal.
    A more appropriate title for this thread would then be Panpsychism vs Emergentism.

    Panpsychism and the Scientific World View

    Panpsychism and emergentism. If one believes that the most fundamental physical entities (quarks, leptons, bosons, or whatever physics will ultimately settle upon) are devoid of any mental attributes, and if one also believes that some systems of these entities, such as human brains, do possess mental attributes, one is espousing some kind of doctrine of the emergence of mind. All the currently popular physicalist theories (such as behaviorism, central state identity theories, functionalism) are theories which attempt to provide an account of how the mental emerges from the physical.

    Since panpsychism is, by definition, the doctrine that mind, in some sense of the term, is everywhere, in some sense of that term, it would seem to be intuitively clear that if one does not place mind at the very foundation, and in fact regards mentality to be a feature of systems of non-mentalistic entities, then one is an emergentist. Panpsychism's assertion that mind suffuses the universe presents a fundamental and sharp contrast with its basic rival, emergentism, which asserts that mind appears only at certain times, in certain places under certain—probably very special and very rare—conditions.

    It was the modern “mechanistic” picture of the world inaugurated by Galileo, Descartes and Newton which put the problem of the mind at center stage while paradoxically sweeping it under the rug. The whole problem-space was severely distorted by what was virtually a stipulated separation of matter from mind, so that what could have been merely a useful conceptual distinction was transformed into an ontological gulf. Thus, everything that could not be accounted for in terms of the interactions of simple material components was conveniently labelled a “secondary quality” inhabiting not the “real” world but merely the conscious mind. For instance, in a maneuver reminiscent of Democritus, colors were banished from the world of matter, replaced with the “causal powers” of physical things to produce “in the mind” the experience we call color. Thus the world was made safe for physics.

    The current burst of scientific and philosophical studies of mind sparked by the “cognitive revolution” has rekindled debate about the perennial dilemma of emergentism versus panpsychism. The recently renewed and once again influential claim of some philosophers, especially David Chalmers, that the explanation of consciousness presents a uniquely difficult problem for science has forced the reexamination of the metaphysical foundations of the scientific world view (see The Conscious Mind 1996). Chalmers calls this problem the “hard problem of consciousness”; it is also sometimes called the “explanatory gap” or the “generation problem”. The key difficulty is how to explain in naturalistic terms the generation of consciousness by “mere matter”. Once again it seems imperative to decide whether and how mind emerges upon, or exists only under, some specifiable and non-universal natural and non-mentalistic conditions or whether mind itself forms a part of the fundamental structure of the world, perhaps in some of the ways panpsychists have suggested.
    It obviously remains far from clear that quantum mechanics necessarily leads to panpsychism and one might wish to deploy the powerful theory of emergence which quantum mechanics provides in the service of a more traditional emergentism which sees mind developing from non-mental aspects of nature (such an approach is taken by Silberstein and McGeever 1999). Assessing such a strategy would require consideration of the plausibility of the claim that mind and consciousness can be explicated solely in terms of the physical properties and entities postulated by quantum mechanics, a difficult task which one might harbor some doubts. The point here is simply that the combination problem can be addressed from within a panpsychist framework.

    At present, the predominance of the scientific view of the world, and a general disinclination towards dualistic as well as idealistic metaphysics, brings with it the triumph of emergentism, and the key issue becomes that of assessing the prospects of theories of emergent mentality. All modern physicalistic theories of mind implicitly rest upon a theory of emergence (which is seldom articulated in any detail), but, thus far, none of these has dealt with consciousness in a fully satisfactory way (that is, the problem of the emergence of consciousness has not gone the way of the problem of the emergence of chemistry). Unless and until we have such a satisfactory account, panpsychism remains an open possibility.

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    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    I'm with Nadir. It might be true, but how could you ever find out?

    To be honest, I'm not even sure what it means for something inanimate to be aware of anything. Awareness assumes experience, and experience assumes some kind of biology, doesn't it? To say that my computer is aware of me in some other weird form would be to water down the definition of the word aware. I'm not even aware of everything around me, but I'm to accept that my monitor is? Sounds fishy.

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    Senior Member Anja's Avatar
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    I can't keep up with you guys on this type of conversation but I have questions. Maybe they fit here. Are plants conscious? Do they have memory? Are they considered inanimate?
    "No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it awakes into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted to the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith." - Albert Schweitzer

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    S Saiyan God Mace's Avatar
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    Panpsychism... that's quite a thought.

    Didn't collect much off this subject other than that the concept of 'consciousness' (in us) is being defined as relative as opposed to absolute - much a consideration for it's function.

    ... it's like saying "I'm pissed off at his/her stupidity, and I hate that", but that's not taking into account that a lot of people can be stupid, so when you take into account everybody else, the decision whether to be pissed at them 'all' and hate that is quite another one. You start to think more-or-less 'relative' (like on a scale), whereas you were thinking 'absolute' for him/her. Pretty much a context of it's own.

    So in some ways, in my opinion, panpsychism is a good source of thought in that context... just not compatible with general belief, as it isn't backed up by evidence.

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    Babylon Candle Venom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Synapse View Post
    In order to explain consciousness, Materialism needs the supernatural miracle of dead matter somehow forming into consciousness. Panpsychism does not need miracles. It is consciousness. Since all the ingredients of Life are conscious there is no need for impossible materialistic scenarios to explain how life began.

    I like the idea, correlates with my views in some ways.
    Do you think this holds any credibility, too alternative or idealistic.
    What do you think of this philosophy?
    I think its bullshit.
    1. unfalsifiable
    2. no mechanism
    3. no predictions

    materialism needs no such "magic" to explain consciousness.

    there is no "self" center of the brain, so its obvious that there is no "will center" of the brain. Therefore, if anyone is going to be as crass as to simply look for the "consciousness center" of the brain, of course they arent going to find it and have to come up with supernatural bullshit.

    The human brain is an analogue PARALLEL neural net processing machine. Consciousness is merely the "sensation" of thinking. When you move your leg, you are conscious of it because of the sensation. Consciousness is "feeling" the sensation of certain parts of your brain "firing/thinking/processing". More accurately, its the ability to remember separate sensations and form a sense of time by comparing these. From this, the illusion of creating "thoughts" over small amounts of time, becomes "consciousness".

    If you have ever blacked out for hours at a time, you will understand that without a past, you are nothing. As in, if you're whole life was a black out, you would have nothing to comment on, talk about, feel about, base your reaction to it on etc.... your "self" is dependent on experiencing the material world.

    materialism requiring the supernatural to explain consciousness? = fail

    edit:
    1. there will be computers in the next 40 years with enough computing power for us to attempt to program consciousness (falsifiable)
    2. if we achieve this with said computer, then the mechanisms will be more apparent.
    3. the predictions of materialistic consciousness line up with pharmacology

    my position is not 99% provable, today. However, at least its falsefiable and WILL be testable. For now its plausible inference.

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    Senior Member Feops's Avatar
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    Panpsychism declares that the entire universe from the most distant galaxy all the way down to the smallest particle or wave is entirely sentient or conscious.
    I can't quite get my head about that part. Would this mean it's unlinked from my brain and thought process? Do I gain more consciousnesses when I eat? Does it dilute my existing consciousness? If I drink and sweat out a significant amount of weight over a day, have I become a somewhat different person for all the exchange in such a short time?

    It's an interesting thought but seems to conflict far too much with what we know about matter/waves.

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    Senior Member Synapse's Avatar
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    This is a theory and a theory is usually from hypothesis or belief, wanted to express the view as it is interesting. After all Carl Jung investigated psychological and mythological archetypes, and began to argue for a panpsychical and mystical view of the human condition.

    The 'Theory of Mind' has morphed into a 'Theory of Everything'. Carl Jung, a vocal protagonist of universal interconnectedness through his concepts of the collective unconscious and archetypes, predicted this synthesis. In Aion (1951), he prophetically states that "sooner or later nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will draw closer together as both of them, independently of one another and from opposite directions, push forward into transcendental territory, the one with the concept of the atom, the other with that of the archetype"

    So I was curious to see where the idea went

    David Chalmers proposed a theory based on information that every structure contains information and any structure can be fully described using information. He observes that information is ubiquitous and that experience must also be ubiquitous.

    If this [experience is ubiquitous] is correct then experience is associated with even very simple systems. This idea is often regarded as outrageous, or even crazy. But I think it deserves a close examination. It is not so obvious to me that the idea is misguided, and in some ways it has a certain appeal.

    Adult consciousness involves a limited set of brain structures. Much of the brain operates below consciousness. We are not conscious of most of our body most of the time. Experiences enter consciousness when something notable happens like stubbing a toe. Why not assume all the activity not entering our stream of consciousness is nonetheless conscious, but with a limited connection to stream of consciousness? What is left out is as important as what is present. The consciousness we experience is an executive control with a limited capacity to deal with information. So complex filters exist to insure only relevant experience gets through. There is nothing special about the neurons that make up this executive control. Why not assume all the structures in the brain correspond to a consciousness that is their structure.

    Equating existence to immediate experience violates our sense of objective physical reality. That reality is a pragmatic creation of consciousness. This is not denying our scientific understanding of physical structure. It is describing the context in which that structure has existence and meaning.

    You just never know with these things.

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