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Is panpsychism experiencing a surge of interest?

by Greg Krehbiel on 1 February 2018

This article mocks the idea — ‘Credible Philosophers’ Attribute Consciousness to Inanimate Objects Like Rocks and Tableware — but I see this as a positive thing. Not that I embrace it, but I’m glad people are increasingly open to that option. Here’s why.

If you start with a materialist view of things, and view man as a collection of material things, none of which have consciousness, it’s very hard to figure out where consciousness comes from. Electrons don’t have consciousness. Blood cells don’t have consciousness. Clumps of organic matter don’t have consciousness. Why should a human body? Why isn’t a human brain just like a computer, doing things, but unaware of it?

That’s taking the question “bottom to top,” in a way. But what if you take a top to bottom view?

What if you start with the thing we know better than anything else in the world, which is that we have consciousness. Then you might work your way down. Does a chimp have consciousness? Probably. Not like ours, but something like it. Does a dog? Again, a step down, but probably. Does a fish? Maybe in a very limited way. Does a bacteria?

Perhaps consciousness is a property of matter that is more obviously manifested in complex systems.

I’m not saying any of this is true, just that it’s worth considering and shouldn’t be mocked as a crazy idea.

2018-02-01  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 17

  1. Robin R.
    2 February 2018 @ 7:53 am

    Theoretically speaking, panpsychism isn’t a crazy idea. Neither is solipsism. You can start at the “top” by acknowledging your own consciousness: cogito ergo sum. But why should you ascribe consciousness to anything other than yourself? Why to other human beings? You directly know of only one single case of a conscious human being. The old argument from analogy is just very bad induction.

  2. Scott Wicker
    2 February 2018 @ 9:14 am

    Isn’t solipsism even more extreme than atheism? I’d say it is entirely indefensible.

  3. Robin R.
    2 February 2018 @ 11:11 am

    I am not in the habit of measuring all possible beliefs against atheism. Nor am I a solipsist. But the crucial question is: How does one justify the belief that there conscious entities other than oneself? If you have a proof that justifies that believe, by all means present it.

  4. Robin R.
    2 February 2018 @ 11:11 am

    *the belief that there are conscious entities…

  5. Scott Wicker
    2 February 2018 @ 11:29 am

    Glad to hear you’re not a solipsist.

    Rational humans know intuitively that there is a God and that they are not the center of the universe. A solipsist has chosen to believe what he knows is a lie. As his sickness progresses, he is no longer able to distinguish fantasy from reality or even to recognize that he’s in serious trouble.

  6. Robin R.
    2 February 2018 @ 11:59 am

    Leave God aside for the moment. How do you know that other human beings are conscious?

  7. Scott Wicker
    2 February 2018 @ 12:37 pm

    It is intuitively obvious to believers in God, who is an unseen yet conscious being. If you believe that the unseen being is conscious, ergo you believe the same about beings you can see.

  8. Robin R.
    2 February 2018 @ 12:56 pm

    All beings that you can see? If so, you are in fact a panpsychist. Or do you mean human beings? If so, what is funny about them that causes you to ascribe consciousness to them? God doesn’t really enter into the equation, let alone some vague and evasive talk about intuition.

  9. Scott Wicker
    2 February 2018 @ 1:51 pm

    I think all animals have some kind of consciousness. I don’t believe this is true of plants and basic substances (like rocks), which are neither animals nor beings, so I don’t qualify as a panpsychist. God is the primary reference point for mankind, so he matters in any equation, even when he is not explicitly mentioned (as, for example, in a mathematics equation).

  10. Robin R.
    2 February 2018 @ 1:57 pm

    Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. What if someone believed that he and God were the only conscious entities? How would you convince him that other animate beings are conscious? It doesn’t help to say merely that you believe this or that.

  11. Scott Wicker
    2 February 2018 @ 2:55 pm

    Anyone who believes that may not be a solipsist, but he certainly is an idiot, so I wouldn’t bother trying to convince him otherwise.

  12. Robin R.
    2 February 2018 @ 3:35 pm

    Uh yeah, that’s the way to do metaphysics and epistemology. Just pull God and intuition out of your ass and call people idiots whenever you can’t make a cogent argument.

  13. William
    3 February 2018 @ 12:05 am

    Scott, 1 Peter 3:15-16 might apply in this situation.

  14. Robin R.
    3 February 2018 @ 12:50 am

    No one was asking Scott for the hope that he has.

  15. Jack Whitehead
    3 February 2018 @ 2:14 am

    Hey, Robin! How do I know I’m texting you? God bless you! So good to see you! Hey, Greg! You still da man!

  16. Robin R.
    3 February 2018 @ 3:58 am

    So glad to have you back, Jack!

    How do I know you’re texting me? I intuit it. Or God tells me so and I intuit God.

    I’m learning these things from a metaphysical master.

  17. Greg Krehbiel GregK
    3 February 2018 @ 11:49 am

    Hey Jack,

    Good to see you. I hope you’re doing well!


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