Mod+ Panpsychism - Strawson, Koch, and more! [Resources] [Panpsychism]

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Like other resources threads, idea here is mostly to provide material for people wishing to investigate the topic.

Some commentary/debate is useful but please, if such discussion seems to be getting long [over 3-5 posts] create a separate thread and link to continue.

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1) Dr. Christof Koch, who has been interviewed by Skeptiko:

Experience is as fundamental as matter & energy and space & time.

2) Galen Strawson: Realistic monism: why physicalism entails panpsychism
What does physicalism involve? What is it, really, to be a physicalist? What is it to be a realistic physicalist, or, more simply, a real physicalist? Well, one thing is absolutely clear. You’re certainly not a realistic physicalist, you’re not a real physicalist, if you deny the existence of the phenomenon whose existence is more certain than the existence of anything else: experience, ‘consciousness’, conscious experience, ‘phenomenology’, experiential ‘what-it’s-likeness’, feeling, sensation,explicit conscious thought as we have it and know it at almost every waking moment.Many words are used to denote this necessarily occurrent (essentially non-dispositional) phenomenon, and in this paper I will use the terms ‘experience’,‘experiential phenomena’, and ‘experientiality’ to refer to it.
 
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#4
I have a lot of time for Galen, though one of the main possibilities is not terribly kind to our idea of continuity of an integrated consciousness after death...that we break up into primary experience elements, akin to primary physical elements.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
I have a lot of time for Galen, though one of the main possibilities is not terribly kind to our idea of continuity of an integrated consciousness after death...that we break up into primary experience elements, akin to primary physical elements.
I've wondered about this, if shards of ourselves reincarnate into new conscious identities. It's not what people would usually liken to immorality of the soul, but it is an interesting hypothesis for dedicated panpsychists like Koch to ponder.

Panpsychism 'Proved' by Rudy Rucker
http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=2576
A more formal argument in Edge 2006:

Panpsychism. Each object has a mind. Stars, hills, chairs, rocks, scraps of paper, flakes of skin, molecules — each of them possesses the same inner glow as a human, each of them has singular inner experiences and sensations.


I'm quite comfortable with the notion that everything is a computation. But what to do about my sense that there's something numinous about my inner experience? Panpsychism represents a non-anthropocentric way out: mind is a universally distributed quality.


Yes, the workings of a human brain are a deterministic computation that could be emulated by any universal computer. And, yes, I sense more to my mental phenomena than the rule-bound exfoliation of reactions to inputs: this residue is the inner light, the raw sensation of existence. But, no, that inner glow is not the exclusive birthright of humans, nor is it solely limited to biological organisms.


Note that panpsychism needn't say that universe is just one mind. We can also say that each object has an individual mind. One way to visualize the distinction between the many minds and the one mind is to think of the world as a stained glass window with light shining through each pane. The world's physical structures break the undivided cosmic mind into a myriad of small minds, one in each object.


The minds of panpsychism can exist at various levels. As well as having its own individuality, a person's mind would also be, for instance, a hive mind based upon the minds of the body's cells and the minds of the body's elementary particles.


Do the panpsychic minds have any physical correlates? On the one hand, it could be that the mind is some substance that accumulates near ordinary matter — dark matter or dark energy are good candidates. On the other hand, mind might simply be matter viewed in a special fashion: matter experienced from the inside. Let me mention three specific physical correlates that have been proposed for the mind.


Some have argued that the experience of mind results when a superposed quantum state collapses into a pure state. It's an alluring metaphor, but as a universal automatist, I'm of the opinion that quantum mechanics is a stop-gap theory, destined to give way to a fully deterministic theory based upon some digital precursor of spacetime.


David Skrbina, author of the clear and comprehensive book Panpsychism in the West, suggests that we might think of a physical system as determining a moving point in a multi-dimensional phase space that has an axis for each of the system's measurable properties. He feels this dynamic point represents the sense of unity characteristic of a mind.


As a variation on this theme, let me point out that, from the universal automatist standpoint, every physical system can be thought of as embodying a computation. And the majority of non-simple systems embody universal computations, capable of emulating any other system at all. It could be that having a mind is in some sense equivalent to being capable of universal computation.


A side-remark. Even such very simple systems as a single electron may in fact be capable of universal computation, if supplied with a steady stream of structured input. Think of an electron in an oscillating field; and by analogy think of a person listening to music or reading an essay.


Might panpsychism be a distinction without a difference? Suppose we identify the numinous mind with quantum collapse, with chaotic dynamics, or with universal computation. What is added by claiming that these aspects of reality are like minds?


I think empathy can supply an experiential confirmation of panpsychism's reality. Just as I'm sure that I myself have a mind, I can come to believe the same of another human with whom I'm in contact — whether face to face or via their creative work. And with a bit of effort, I can identify with objects as well; I can see the objects in the room around me as glowing with inner light. This is a pleasant sensation; one feels less alone.


Could there ever be a critical experiment to test if panpsychism is really true? Suppose that telepathy were to become possible, perhaps by entangling a person's mental states with another system's states. And then suppose that instead of telepathically contacting another person, I were to contact a rock. At this point panpsychism would be proved.


I still haven't said anything about why panpsychism is a dangerous idea. Panpsychism, like other forms of higher consciousness, is dangerous to business as usual. If my old car has the same kind of mind as a new one, I'm less impelled to help the economy by buying a new vehicle. If the rocks and plants on my property have minds, I feel more respect for them in their natural state. If I feel myself among friends in the universe, I'm less likely to overwork myself to earn more cash. If my body will have a mind even after I'm dead, then death matters less to me, and it's harder for the government to cow me into submission.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#7
From the biosphere to the species is nothing but an immense ramification of psychism seeking for itself through different forms. That is where Ariadne's thread leads us if we follow it to the end.
--The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin

Christof Koch goes deeper into panpsychism for Scientific American.

Taken literally, panpsychism is the belief that everything is “enminded.” All of it. Whether it is a brain, a tree, a rock or an electron. Everything that is physical also possesses an interior mental aspect. One is objective—accessible to everybody—and the other phenomenal—accessible only to the subject. That is the sense of the quotation by British-born Buddhist scholar Alan Watts with which I began this essay.

I will defend a narrowed, more nuanced view: namely that any complex system, as defined below, has the basic attributes of mind and has a minimal amount of consciousness in the sense that it feels like something to be that system. If the system falls apart, consciousness ceases to be; it doesn't feel like anything to be a broken system. And the more complex the system, the larger the repertoire of conscious states it can experience.
I think Koch is almost there, he just needs to make the leap Valera did and extend some causal power to the mental ahead of the physical...
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#8
I think Koch is almost there, he just needs to make the leap Valera did and extend some causal power to the mental ahead of the physical...
But he is not a dualist, so that wouldn't make sense.

"I will defend a narrowed, more nuanced view: namely that any complex system, as defined below, has the basic attributes of mind and has a minimal amount of consciousness in the sense that it feels like something to be that system. If the system falls apart, consciousness ceases to be; it doesn't feel like anything to be a broken system. And the more complex the system, the larger the repertoire of conscious states it can experience."

~~ Paul
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#9
But he is not a dualist, so that wouldn't make sense.

"I will defend a narrowed, more nuanced view: namely that any complex system, as defined below, has the basic attributes of mind and has a minimal amount of consciousness in the sense that it feels like something to be that system. If the system falls apart, consciousness ceases to be; it doesn't feel like anything to be a broken system. And the more complex the system, the larger the repertoire of conscious states it can experience."

~~ Paul
In Chalmer's Panpsychism papers he discusses how certain models of panpsychism might allow for mental causation.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
The Phenomenal Bonding Solution to the Combination Problem

Panpsychism, the view that each and every fully real, concrete entity is conscious, is a highly probable theory of the natural world. Appreciation of this requires little more than getting our epistemic situation right.

Physics tells us much about the dispositions of fundamental natural entities, but leaves us completely in the dark about their categorical nature. In knowing that an electron has 9.11×10−31 mass, we know how it is disposed to resist acceleration and attract other things with mass. In knowing that an electron has negative charge, we know that it is disposed to repel other things with negative charge and attract things with positive charge. Everything natural science has to tell us about electrons concerns their behaviour; we learn nothing about what an electron is independently of what it does. The only thing each of knows for certain about the categorical nature of natural entities is that at least some of them, for example me and you, are conscious.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#14
"Everything natural science has to tell us about electrons concerns their behaviour; we learn nothing about what an electron is independently of what it does. The only thing each of knows for certain about the categorical nature of natural entities is that at least some of them, for example me and you, are conscious."

I have no idea what "categorical nature" is, but this sounds like there is some fundamental difference between electrons and consciousness. Do we know what consciousness is independently of what it does?

~~ Paul
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#15
"Everything natural science has to tell us about electrons concerns their behaviour; we learn nothing about what an electron is independently of what it does. The only thing each of knows for certain about the categorical nature of natural entities is that at least some of them, for example me and you, are conscious."

I have no idea what "categorical nature" is, but this sounds like there is some fundamental difference between electrons and consciousness. Do we know what consciousness is independently of what it does?

~~ Paul
Well categorical qualities are characteristics that have no ordering, so categorical nature is basic the description of something from the outside.

I think the distinction is between outside description versus the internal "What is Like to be Something" description.

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Ecp posted this in C&S:

Why Physicists Are Saying Consciousness Is A State Of Matter, Like a Solid, A Liquid Or A Gas

Tegmark borrows the term computronium to describe matter that can do this and cites other work showing that today’s computers underperform the theoretical limits of computing by some 38 orders of magnitude.

Clearly, there is so much room for improvement that allows for the performance of conscious systems.

Next, Tegmark discusses perceptronium, defined as the most general substance that feels subjectively self-aware. This substance should not only be able to store and process information but in a way that forms a unified, indivisible whole. That also requires a certain amount of independence in which the information dynamics is determined from within rather than externally.

Finally, Tegmark uses this new way of thinking about consciousness as a lens through which to study one of the fundamental problems of quantum mechanics known as the quantum factorisation problem...
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

It’s not just that scientists are reluctant to set out on a path that might lead them to see play—and therefore the seeds of self-consciousness, freedom, and moral life—among animals. Many are finding it increasingly difficult to come up with justifications for ascribing any of these things even to human beings. Once you reduce all living beings to the equivalent of market actors, rational calculating machines trying to propagate their genetic code, you accept that not only the cells that make up our bodies, but whatever beings are our immediate ancestors, lacked anything even remotely like self-consciousness, freedom, or moral life—which makes it hard to understand how or why consciousness (a mind, a soul) could ever have evolved in the first place....

...Dennett’s own answer is not particularly convincing: he suggests we develop consciousness so we can lie, which gives us an evolutionary advantage. (If so, wouldn’t foxes also be conscious?) But the question grows more difficult by an order of magnitude when you ask how it happens—the “hard problem of consciousness,” as David Chalmers calls it. How do apparently robotic cells and systems combine in such a way as to have qualitative experiences: to feel dampness, savor wine, adore cumbia but be indifferent to salsa? Some scientists are honest enough to admit they don’t have the slightest idea how to account for experiences like these, and suspect they never will.​

There is a way out of the dilemma, and the first step is to consider that our starting point could be wrong. Reconsider the lobster....But in fact, scientific observation has revealed that even lobsters engage in some forms of play—manipulating objects, for instance, possibly just for the pleasure of doing so. If that is the case, to call such creatures “robots” would be to shear the word “robot” of its meaning. Machines don’t just fool around. But if living creatures are not robots after all, many of these apparently thorny questions instantly dissolve away.

What would happen if we proceeded from the reverse perspective and agreed to treat play not as some peculiar anomaly, but as our starting point, a principle already present not just in lobsters and indeed all living creatures, but also on every level where we find what physicists, chemists, and biologists refer to as “self-organizing systems”?

This is not nearly as crazy as it might sound...

...The first consists of what’s called emergentism. The argument here is that once a certain level of complexity is reached, there is a kind of qualitative leap where completely new sorts of physical laws can “emerge”—ones that are premised on, but cannot be reduced to, what came before...

...Those who hold the second position, usually called panpsychism or panexperientialism, agree that all this may be true but argue that emergence is not enough...

Why do most of us, then, immediately recoil at such conclusions? Why do they seem crazy and unscientific? Or more to the point, why are we perfectly willing to ascribe agency to a strand of DNA (however “metaphorically”), but consider it absurd to do the same with an electron, a snowflake, or a coherent electromagnetic field? The answer, it seems, is because it’s pretty much impossible to ascribe self-interest to a snowflake. If we have convinced ourselves that rational explanation of action can consist only of treating action as if there were some sort of self-serving calculation behind it, then by that definition, on all these levels, rational explanations can’t be found. Unlike a DNA molecule, which we can at least pretend is pursuing some gangster-like project of ruthless self-aggrandizement, an electron simply does not have a material interest to pursue, not even survival. It is in no sense competing with other electrons. If an electron is acting freely—if it, as Richard Feynman is supposed to have said, “does anything it likes”—it can only be acting freely as an end in itself. Which would mean that at the very foundations of physical reality, we encounter freedom for its own sake—which also means we encounter the most rudimentary form of play...
I don’t deny that what I’ve presented so far is a savage simplification of very complicated issues. I’m not even saying that the position I’m suggesting here—that there is a play principle at the basis of all physical reality—is necessarily true. I would just insist that such a perspective is at least as plausible as the weirdly inconsistent speculations that currently pass for orthodoxy, in which a mindless, robotic universe suddenly produces poets and philosophers out of nowhere. Nor, I think, does seeing play as a principle of nature necessarily mean adopting any sort of milky utopian view. The play principle can help explain why sex is fun, but it can also explain why cruelty is fun. (As anyone who has watched a cat play with a mouse can attest, a lot of animal play is not particularly nice.) But it gives us ground to unthink the world around us.

Years ago, when I taught at Yale, I would sometimes assign a reading containing a famous Taoist story. I offered an automatic “A” to any student who could tell me why the last line made sense. (None ever succeeded.)...
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#18
RadicalPolitik mentioned Gao on another thread:

A quantum physical argument for panpsychism

It has been widely thought that consciousness has no causal efficacy in the physical world. However, this may be not the case. In this paper, we show that a conscious being can distinguish definite perceptions and their quantum superpositions, while a physical measuring system without consciousness cannot distinguish such nonorthogonal quantum states. The possible existence of this distinct quantum physical effect of consciousness may have interesting implications for the science of consciousness. In particular, it suggests that consciousness is not emergent but a fundamental feature of the universe. This may provide a possible quantum basis for panpsychism.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
IMPLICATIONS OF A FUNDAMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS

Let's begin with the key question posed in Vol. 1, No. 2 of the Journal of Consciousness Studies: "Why, in principle, should a neuronal system of any degree of complexity give rise to the phenomenal experience of consciousness?" My answer has two parts: If we start with radical physicalist assumptions about the nature of reality, then there is no reason why, "in principle", a neuronal system should give rise to conscious experience. If, however, we start with the assumption that primal reality is as described in this paper, then the arising of conscious experience is not astonishing at all. It's just what we might expect. If reality is this second way, then the role of the neuronal system is not to mysteriously create awareness and mind from alien substance. Rather, it is to organize a pre-existing propensity for awareness into useful, functional awareness, and provide for its modulation by useful information. Again we face the utility issue. If awareness is as primal and ubiquitous as energy, then it will be present in every system. But whether or not it plays a functional role will depend on how a particular system has been configured, and the nature of its connections to the world outside it. It is quite possible that during pre-biological evolution (the cosmological and geological phases of evolution) awareness played no functional role.

It is clear, however, that at some point during biological evolution, awareness was harnessed and put to work. If, today, we humans were given the task of designing systems that have useful mental characteristics, we quite literally would not know where to begin. Yet evolution — with its slow, plodding, and chance-and -necessity genius — did a magnificent job of it. As I see it, this was possible because the medium on which the cosmic algorithms have been operating is a mental-physical medium, not just a physical one.
The challenge, as I see it, is to explain what "proto-mental"/"proto-consciosuness" really means - why does the kind of fundamental awareness he talks about give rise to all the other qualia we experience? Are all possible qualia within the proto-mental awareness, even the various subjective feelings that seem so different from the kind of Eastern transcendental states McDonald apparently identifies with the proto-mental part of the firmament alongside energy as the proto-physical?

Perhaps it's me that misunderstood the description of the proto-mental, but how is there awareness of any kind without a mind/Mind to have the experience?..Which is how we end up back at the Pansychist-or-Idealist position...which I still feel is a way point to some kind of Neutral Monism...which perhaps is simply beyond our ability to describe...
 
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#20
IMPLICATIONS OF A FUNDAMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS



The challenge, as I see it, is to explain what "proto-mental"/"proto-consciosuness" really means - why does the kind of fundamental awareness he talks about give rise to all the other qualia we experience? Are all possible qualia within the proto-mental awareness, even the various subjective feelings that seem so different from the kind of Eastern transcendental states McDonald apparently identifies with the proto-mental part of the firmament alongside energy as the proto-physical?

Perhaps it's me that misunderstood the description of the proto-mental, but how is there awareness of any kind without a mind/Mind to have the experience?..Which is how we end up back at the Pansychist-or-Idealist position...which I still feel is a way point to some kind of Neutral Monism...which perhaps is simply beyond our ability to describe...
I imagine it's something like pure awareness, if consciousness is fundamental.
 
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