Panpsychism

The Pixie

Well-known member
On another thread I said of pantheism that is "Sounds like nonsense to me". I am not alone in this!

But over the course of the 20th century, panpsychism came to be seen as absurd and incompatible in mainstream Western science and philosophy, just a reassuring delusion for New Age daydreamers. Karl Popper, one of the most influential philosophers of recent times, described it as “trivial” and “grossly misleading.” Another heavyweight, Ludwig Wittgenstein, waved away the theory: “Such image-mongery is of no interest to us.” As the American philosopher John Searle put it: “Consciousness cannot be spread across the universe like a thin veneer of jam.”

However, a certain other poster took offence, and a somewhat bitter argument ensured.

Plenty of things that are true sound like nonsense on first hearing, such as the theory of evolution or elements of quantum physics.

Chalmers' view is that he's confident neither that panpsychism is true nor that it's false. Obviously, that's a long way from your own view.
Of course, evolution and quantum physics are well supported by evidence. While panpsychism is certainly not!

At first, it was not a topic I was at all; interested in, but, somewhat reluctantly, I have looked at it to some degree, and so here are some thoughts.

There is an article by David Chalmers on it here. Chalmers is a well respected philosopher, which does give the theory some support, and he is not alone. He sums it as like this (though there are other versions):

For present purposes, the relevant sorts of mental states are conscious experiences. I will understand panpsychism as the thesis that some fundamental physical entities are conscious: that is, that there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon or a member of some other fundamental physical type. This thesis is sometimes called panexperientialism, to distinguish it from other varieties of panpsychism (varieties on which the relevant entities are required to think or reason, for example), but I will simply call it panpsychism here.


Size matters​

We all accept people are conscious, perhaps chimps and dolphins too. How about cats and dogs; I guess that is more contentious, but certainly a case can be made? So what about beetles and worms; anyone want to argue they are conscious? They do have brains and a nervous system.

What about E Coli bacteria? I think at this point most people would say bacteria do not have consciousness.

Carbon dioxide molecules... two oxygen atoms and a carbon, bonded together floating randomly in the atmosphere. Is that intelligent? Does it know what it is like to be a carbon dioxide molecule? Does it remember what it was like to be an oxygen molecule and a lump of coal?

But panpsychism goes even smaller. Panpsychism is claiming that elementary particles - electrons, quarks, etc. - are, in some sense, conscious.


Intelligence​

What exactly is this property that panpschism claims electrons have? Is it claiming electrons act as intelligent beings?

Chalmers says "there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon". What does that really mean? The photon surely requires intelligence to experience something - otherwise the phrase has lost is meaning, and we might as well say elementary particles have the property "foobar", and define "foobar" as that which all things have.

So do electrons make informed choices; do they decide which way to orbit the nucleus depending on how they feel today? Of course not. Statistical mechanics is predicated on electrons acting randomly, not purposefully.


The Problem of Consciousness​

Consciousness is hard to explain. Where does it actually come from?

Panpsychism claims to resolve this - and indeed this is why it has been resurrected (it was popular with the ancient Greeks). There is no actual evidence to support panpsychism, just a hope that it can explain consciousness.

Panpsychism says consciousness was already there in the electrons, quarks, etc. that make up the brain, and human conscious is just that on a bigger scale. Problem solved...

But not really. For one thing, a big boulder has a lot more electrons and quarks than your brain, so how come the boulder is not conscious?

Where did the consciousness in the photons come from? Turn on a light bulb, and you are creating new photons - and hence new consciousness if panpsychism is to be believed. Where does all that consciousness come from? If you want to say it came from other particles in the light, then we can go back to the Big Bang. After the Big Bang, there was 10^-36 seconds before the elementary particles appeared. Not long, to be sure, but the universe at that time went from no consciousness in it to suddenly being rammed full of it. Where did it all come from?

All panpsychism has done is kick the can down the street.


Aggregate Consciousness​

But there is more. If my conscious experience is made up of the conscious experiences of 10^25 elementary particles, how come I have no actual experience of being an elementary particle? Why do I not have any experience of being an electron whizzing round a nucleus? My consciousnerss is made up of 10^25 elementary particles that have been experiencing what it is like to be an electron, a quark, or whatever for billions of years, but despite all that, I have no experience of it myself.

Further, how exactly do 10^25 elementary particles come together to produce one conscious human mind? A crowd of a thousand people does not have an intelligence equal to the sum of all the individual intelligences; at best it has an intelligence a little above that of the smartest guy there and when it turns to a mob, rather less than that. All the evidence we have suggests consciousness just does not add together in that way.

Panpsychism has been described as anti-emergentism - and yet it relies on sufficient conscious particles coming together to magically form a human-level consciousness. It actually requires human level consciousness as an emergent property of those 10^25 elementary particles.

Personally, I go with the usual emergentism; consciousness is an emergent property of a sufficiently complex brain. No one has a problem with liquid (and associated properties like wetness and viscosity) being an emergent property of water, do they?


Quantum mechanics​

Quantum mechanics says that a photon (say) can be in several states at the same time, and only collapsed into one particular state when its wave function collapses, which happens when it is measured. But if the photon itself is conscious, then it is measured at every moment. If panpsychism is true, then there can be no superposition of states; there can be no quantum mechanics.

Bear in mind that modern science has determined elementary particles are not actually particles at all, but something more akin to wavefunctions. Panpsychism is the claim that wavefunctions are conscious...

Furthermore, particles are not local; they can interact with each other at great distance.

So how come I cannot read your thoughts? If I were to press my forehead to yours, there would be conscious particles at the front of your brain that are closer to the front of my brain than they are to the back of your brain. At that sort of distance, if panpschism is true, we should have a single shared experience of being us.


Conclusion​

I said panpsychism sounds like nonsense, and I stand by that. I am not saying we can be sure it is wrong, and if philosophers want to explore it, then go for (not like they need my permission, of course). Perhaps they will turn up something convincing. But until they do, I am going to say panpsychism is probably not true, and that I am justified in taking that position.

If @Lucian wants to try to defend panpsychism, he is welcome to do so, but somehow I doubt he can or will. And of course if anyone else wants to comment, please do!
 
On another thread I said of pantheism that is "Sounds like nonsense to me". I am not alone in this!
This is the second time you've mixed up panpsychism and pantheism.
However, a certain other poster took offence, and a somewhat bitter argument ensured.
Assuming you've me in mind, you've caused no offence.
At first, it was not a topic I was at all; interested in, but, somewhat reluctantly, I have looked at it to some degree, and so here are some thoughts.
The 'looked at it to some degree' amounts, by your own admission, to skim reading an article because you cannot be bothered to do more. This leaves it unclear why you would then surmise "panpsychism is probably not true, and that I am justified in taking that position" and indeed that it is "certainly not [supported by evidence]!".
If Lucian wants to try to defend panpsychism, he is welcome to do so, but somehow I doubt he can or will. And of course if anyone else wants to comment, please do!
I'm still mystified as to why my thoughts on it are so important to you, and why you assume I would want to endorse it.
 
This is the second time you've mixed up panpsychism and pantheism.

Assuming you've me in mind, you've caused no offence.

The 'looked at it to some degree' amounts, by your own admission, to skim reading an article because you cannot be bothered to do more. This leaves it unclear why you would then surmise "panpsychism is probably not true, and that I am justified in taking that position" and indeed that it is "certainly not [supported by evidence]!".

I'm still mystified as to why my thoughts on it are so important to you, and why you assume I would want to endorse it.
So you have nothing of substance to say on the topic. Thanks for confirming.
 
There is an article by David Chalmers on it here. Chalmers is a well respected philosopher, which does give the theory some support, and he is not alone. He sums it as like this (though there are other versions):

For present purposes, the relevant sorts of mental states are conscious experiences. I will understand panpsychism as the thesis that some fundamental physical entities are conscious: that is, that there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon or a member of some other fundamental physical type. This thesis is sometimes called panexperientialism, to distinguish it from other varieties of panpsychism (varieties on which the relevant entities are required to think or reason, for example), but I will simply call it panpsychism here.
How do you understand the bolded? Thanks for the article.

Is the below your commentary on Chalmers article?

We all accept people are conscious, perhaps chimps and dolphins too. How about cats and dogs; I guess that is more contentious, but certainly a case can be made? So what about beetles and worms; anyone want to argue they are conscious? They do have brains and a nervous system.​

Then they are conscious, yet all consciousnesses are not the same.
What about E Coli bacteria? I think at this point most people would say bacteria do not have consciousness.
I would agree with you. I suppose it depends on how one defines "consciousness". Is it the quality of being aware of your environment?
Carbon dioxide molecules... two oxygen atoms and a carbon, bonded together floating randomly in the atmosphere. Is that intelligent? Does it know what it is like to be a carbon dioxide molecule? Does it remember what it was like to be an oxygen molecule and a lump of coal?
Do you have to "know" or "remember" anything to experience being a molecule of CO2?
But panpsychism goes even smaller. Panpsychism is claiming that elementary particles - electrons, quarks, etc. - are, in some sense, conscious.
Hmm...

What exactly is this property that panpschism claims electrons have? Is it claiming electrons act as intelligent beings?​


Chalmers says "there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon". What does that really mean? The photon surely requires intelligence to experience something - otherwise the phrase has lost is meaning, and we might as well say elementary particles have the property "foobar", and define "foobar" as that which all things have.

So do electrons make informed choices; do they decide which way to orbit the nucleus depending on how they feel today? Of course not. Statistical mechanics is predicated on electrons acting randomly, not purposefully.
You are not even trying to imagine existing as an elementary particle! LOL!

I think there has to be more to consciousness than just the statement "there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon". Is there something it is like to be a laptop? or a keyboard?
Panpsychism says consciousness was already there in the electrons, quarks, etc. that make up the brain, and human conscious is just that on a bigger scale. Problem solved...

But not really. For one thing, a big boulder has a lot more electrons and quarks than your brain, so how come the boulder is not conscious?
How do you know it isn't. Is "there something it is like to be a boulder"?
Where did the consciousness in the photons come from? Turn on a light bulb, and you are creating new photons - and hence new consciousness if panpsychism is to be believed. Where does all that consciousness come from? If you want to say it came from other particles in the light, then we can go back to the Big Bang. After the Big Bang, there was 10^-36 seconds before the elementary particles appeared. Not long, to be sure, but the universe at that time went from no consciousness in it to suddenly being rammed full of it. Where did it all come from?
Yeah, where did all that conscious matter come from? It must have come from a conscious Creator of the highest magnitude!
All panpsychism has done is kick the can down the street.
A can that has a "something it is like to be " a can. Whatever that may be.
But there is more. If my conscious experience is made up of the conscious experiences of 10^25 elementary particles, how come I have no actual experience of being an elementary particle? Why do I not have any experience of being an electron whizzing round a nucleus? My consciousnerss is made up of 10^25 elementary particles that have been experiencing what it is like to be an electron, a quark, or whatever for billions of years, but despite all that, I have no experience of it myself.
I think Moreland made a similar point to this. I like this point, but I would think that Chalmers would have something to say in reply to counter it.
Further, how exactly do 10^25 elementary particles come together to produce one conscious human mind? A crowd of a thousand people does not have an intelligence equal to the sum of all the individual intelligences; at best it has an intelligence a little above that of the smartest guy there and when it turns to a mob, rather less than that. All the evidence we have suggests consciousness just does not add together in that way.
This is another good point! Bravo! @The Pixie

Moreland would agree with you on the bold especially in regard to a human consciousness.
Panpsychism has been described as anti-emergentism - and yet it relies on sufficient conscious particles coming together to magically form a human-level consciousness. It actually requires human level consciousness as an emergent property of those 10^25 elementary particles.
Did you read that entire article?
Personally, I go with the usual emergentism; consciousness is an emergent property of a sufficiently complex brain. No one has a problem with liquid (and associated properties like wetness and viscosity) being an emergent property of water, do they?
Why are they emergent properties of water and not simply properties of water when it is in its liquid state?

Quantum mechanics says that a photon (say) can be in several states at the same time, and only collapsed into one particular state when its wave function collapses, which happens when it is measured. But if the photon itself is conscious, then it is measured at every moment. If panpsychism is true, then there can be no superposition of states; there can be no quantum mechanics.
You lost me here.
Bear in mind that modern science has determined elementary particles are not actually particles at all, but something more akin to wavefunctions. Panpsychism is the claim that wavefunctions are conscious...
And... Are you saying that wavefunctions/ fields are conscious as a whole and as individual particles? Would that surprise someone who agrees with panpsychism?
Furthermore, particles are not local; they can interact with each other at great distance.
The particles have to be entangled/linked in some mysterious way to do that.
So how come I cannot read your thoughts? If I were to press my forehead to yours, there would be conscious particles at the front of your brain that are closer to the front of my brain than they are to the back of your brain. At that sort of distance, if panpschism is true, we should have a single shared experience of being us.
That may be possible in the future when science invents a brain entanglement machine.

I said panpsychism sounds like nonsense, and I stand by that. I am not saying we can be sure it is wrong, and if philosophers want to explore it, then go for (not like they need my permission, of course). Perhaps they will turn up something convincing. But until they do, I am going to say panpsychism is probably not true, and that I am justified in taking that position.​

You are entitled to your opinion, especially now that you have put some effort into understanding what panpsychism is about. You just need to learn how to spell it. :)
 
How do you understand the bolded?
To be honest, I do not know. I am not convinced it really means anything.

Is the below your commentary on Chalmers article?
No, it is more just my random thoughts on the subject, in part from looking at other web sites.

Then they are conscious, yet all consciousnesses are not the same.
I would disagree, but somewhat tentatively. I can accept cats and dogs have a limited consciousness, but not worms.

I would agree with you. I suppose it depends on how one defines "consciousness". Is it the quality of being aware of your environment?

Do you have to "know" or "remember" anything to experience being a molecule of CO2?

Hmm...
Yes, there is a problem of definitions here, and that is the nature of topic.

You are not even trying to imagine existing as an elementary particle! LOL!

I think there has to be more to consciousness than just the statement "there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon". Is there something it is like to be a laptop? or a keyboard?

How do you know it isn't. Is "there something it is like to be a boulder"?
Again, definitions are a problem.

Is it morally wrong to build a tunnel though a mountain? That mountain has far more consciousness than you or I - if panpsychism is true - and you are drilling a huge hole through the heart of it!

I appreciate that that is not exactly flawless logic, but if you want me to believe a mountain is conscious, you will need better evidence than "it might be".

Yeah, where did all that conscious matter come from? It must have come from a conscious Creator of the highest magnitude!
And I would not rule that out.

The point of panpsychism is to explain where consciousness comes from. That is (as far as I can tell) the only reason to suppose it is true - that it helps explain consciousness.

This is the dichotomy panpsychism promotes:
  • Consciousness magically appeared (whether from god, emergentism or whatever)
  • Consciousness is in every particle and human conscious is just tapping into that.
Out of those two, the second seems more reasonable, more parsimonious.

But it fails to do that. All it does is kick the can down the street. The choice is really:
  • Consciousness magically appeared
  • Consciousness magically appeared in every particle, and human conscious is just tapping into that.
Seen that way, panpsychism gets us no closer to working out that magic step, and instead adds a new complication.

I think Moreland made a similar point to this. I like this point, but I would think that Chalmers would have something to say in reply to counter it.

This is another good point! Bravo! @The Pixie

Moreland would agree with you on the bold especially in regard to a human consciousness.
I am on side with Moreland here; we are both dualists. We both stand in opposition to physicalism, to panpsychism. My objection to Moreland is that he is arguing against physicalism/panpsychism, when he should be arguing against property dualism (eg emergentism) if he wants to prove the soul. But that is a discussion for the other thread.

Did you read that entire article?
I skimmed it.

Why are they emergent properties of water and not simply properties of water when it is in its liquid state?
One molecule of water is not a liquid. To be a liquid, with all the properties of a liquid such as wetness, you need a lot of them together.

A property of a liquid is that it flows and fills the bottom of a container. You cannot do that with just one molecule, you need a lot. How many you need is a difficult question, and there will be no definite boundary.

You lost me here.

And... Are you saying that wavefunctions/ fields are conscious as a whole and as individual particles? Would that surprise someone who agrees with panpsychism?
No, I am saying particles are actually wavefunctions/fields and therefore if panpsychism is true, then what it is really saying is that wavefunctions/fields are conscious, that they know what it is to be a wavefunction/field.

The particles have to be entangled/linked in some mysterious way to do that.
But panpsychism assumes that that is true - it has to be to give us a single conscious.

If panpsychism is true your consciousness is aggregated from the consciousness of the particles in your brain (or body?), and for that to happen, those particles must be linked in some way. That is fine, because QM tells us particles are indeed linked.

But if you put your head next to someone else's head, some of your particles are closer to some of his than they are to some of yours. If this linking between particles is true, you should merge into single consciousness. The fact that you do not shows panpsychism is wrong, or at least that it does not explain human consciousness.

You are entitled to your opinion, especially now that you have put some effort into understanding what panpsychism is about. You just need to learn how to spell it. :)
I know how to spell, it is the typing... Sometimes I am thinking of one word and my hands type another. It is like they have their own consciousness...
 
I would disagree, but somewhat tentatively. I can accept cats and dogs have a limited consciousness, but not worms.
It depends on how you define what a consciousness is. If you have a low bar, then it could be simply awareness of your surroundings. A worm likely has an awareness of its surroundings but not enough to know better than to come onto a running track after it rains.
Is it morally wrong to build a tunnel though a mountain? That mountain has far more consciousness than you or I - if panpsychism is true - and you are drilling a huge hole through the heart of it!
Ha! I laughed my way as I read through your last post I responded to because of these types of comments.
I appreciate that that is not exactly flawless logic, but if you want me to believe a mountain is conscious, you will need better evidence than "it might be".
In the video Moreland explains what the hard problem of consciousness is and that scientists couldn't explain what the conscious is when performing experiments. So then what...they posit it is an immaterial property of the brain. Is that really science when you rule out the soul from the start?
The point of panpsychism is to explain where consciousness comes from. That is (as far as I can tell) the only reason to suppose it is true - that it helps explain consciousness. I'm going to exit this thread and focus on the other one.

This is the dichotomy panpsychism promotes:
  • Consciousness magically appeared (whether from god, emergentism or whatever)
  • Consciousness is in every particle and human conscious is just tapping into that.
Out of those two, the second seems more reasonable, more parsimonious.

But it fails to do that. All it does is kick the can down the street. The choice is really:
  • Consciousness magically appeared
  • Consciousness magically appeared in every particle, and human conscious is just tapping into that.
Seen that way, panpsychism gets us no closer to working out that magic step, and instead adds a new complication.
Moreland argues for a complete oneness of the consciousness and not an aggregate.
I am on side with Moreland here; we are both dualists. We both stand in opposition to physicalism, to panpsychism. My objection to Moreland is that he is arguing against physicalism/panpsychism, when he should be arguing against property dualism (eg emergentism) if he wants to prove the soul. But that is a discussion for the other thread.
He does that in the video.
One molecule of water is not a liquid. To be a liquid, with all the properties of a liquid such as wetness, you need a lot of them together.

A property of a liquid is that it flows and fills the bottom of a container. You cannot do that with just one molecule, you need a lot. How many you need is a difficult question, and there will be no definite boundary.
Does wetness emerge and become something different from water itself?
No, I am saying particles are actually wavefunctions/fields and therefore if panpsychism is true, then what it is really saying is that wavefunctions/fields are conscious, that they know what it is to be a wavefunction/field.
Has that been proven?
But panpsychism assumes that that is true - it has to be to give us a single conscious.

If panpsychism is true your consciousness is aggregated from the consciousness of the particles in your brain (or body?), and for that to happen, those particles must be linked in some way. That is fine, because QM tells us particles are indeed linked.
That's not the way I understand it, but I haven't read the Chalmer's article that you linked, yet
But if you put your head next to someone else's head, some of your particles are closer to some of his than they are to some of yours. If this linking between particles is true, you should merge into single consciousness. The fact that you do not shows panpsychism is wrong, or at least that it does not explain human consciousness.
Not necessarily. Brains are individualized within a skull.

Would panpsychism pertain to other organs of the body? Where does it draw the line in ascribing "something it means to be like? Complete organisms/ individuals? Meaning that the only thing that could be conscious in a human is the brain. Maybe I'll do some reading on it and watch some youtube videos as we progress in the other thread.
I know how to spell, it is the typing... Sometimes I am thinking of one word and my hands type another. It is like they have their own consciousness...
I was joking with you. I have the same problem. I'm just not as consistent with it in regard to misspelling, panpsychism, as you are. Spell check usually cues me in with some typos. I'm going to exit this thread until I learn more about panpsychism. Maybe then I will have something more meaningful to say and can avoid strawmanning the panpsychist arguments.
 
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It depends on how you define what a consciousness is. If you have a low bar, then it could be simply awareness of your surroundings. A worm likely has an awareness of its surroundings but not enough to know better than to come onto a running track after it rains.
To me this indicates there are degrees of consciousness, which fits with it being emergent.

In the video Moreland explains what the hard problem of consciousness is and that scientists couldn't explain what the conscious is when performing experiments. So then what...they posit it is an immaterial property of the brain. Is that really science when you rule out the soul from the start?
We cannot rule it out, but you need a better argument than that to convince people it is true. Would you be happy to agree that we do not know if we have a soul or not?

Moreland argues for a complete oneness of the consciousness and not an aggregate.

He does that in the video.
Again, Moreland and I are on the same side in this debate.

Does wetness emerge and become something different from water itself?
It emerges, but it is still a property of the water, rather than different to it.

Has that been proven?
I think so (I am not a physicist!) at least in the sense we know they are not particles. Exactly what they are is unclear, but they are closer to waveforms.

That's not the way I understand it, but I haven't read the Chalmer's article that you linked, yet
Let me know what you think; I may well have it wrong. However, I think the whole point of panpsychism coming back into fashion is to explain consciousness. People think it is true specifically because it (supposedly) helps to explain consciousness.

Not necessarily. Brains are individualized within a skull.
Right, which I think is good reason to think panpsychism is not true. Clearly we do not become one person when we put heads together.

Would panpsychism pertain to other organs of the body? Where does it draw the line in ascribing "something it means to be like? Complete organisms/ individuals?
That is a great question! Yes, it should mean that all your organs are conscious, but I have not come across anyone saying that in my limited reading.

I was joking with you.
I did realise that!
 
On another thread I said of pantheism that is "Sounds like nonsense to me". I am not alone in this!

But over the course of the 20th century, panpsychism came to be seen as absurd and incompatible in mainstream Western science and philosophy, just a reassuring delusion for New Age daydreamers. Karl Popper, one of the most influential philosophers of recent times, described it as “trivial” and “grossly misleading.” Another heavyweight, Ludwig Wittgenstein, waved away the theory: “Such image-mongery is of no interest to us.” As the American philosopher John Searle put it: “Consciousness cannot be spread across the universe like a thin veneer of jam.”

However, a certain other poster took offence, and a somewhat bitter argument ensured.


Of course, evolution and quantum physics are well supported by evidence. While panpsychism is certainly not!

At first, it was not a topic I was at all; interested in, but, somewhat reluctantly, I have looked at it to some degree, and so here are some thoughts.

There is an article by David Chalmers on it here. Chalmers is a well respected philosopher, which does give the theory some support, and he is not alone. He sums it as like this (though there are other versions):

For present purposes, the relevant sorts of mental states are conscious experiences. I will understand panpsychism as the thesis that some fundamental physical entities are conscious: that is, that there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon or a member of some other fundamental physical type. This thesis is sometimes called panexperientialism, to distinguish it from other varieties of panpsychism (varieties on which the relevant entities are required to think or reason, for example), but I will simply call it panpsychism here.


Size matters​

We all accept people are conscious, perhaps chimps and dolphins too. How about cats and dogs; I guess that is more contentious, but certainly a case can be made? So what about beetles and worms; anyone want to argue they are conscious? They do have brains and a nervous system.

What about E Coli bacteria? I think at this point most people would say bacteria do not have consciousness.

Carbon dioxide molecules... two oxygen atoms and a carbon, bonded together floating randomly in the atmosphere. Is that intelligent? Does it know what it is like to be a carbon dioxide molecule? Does it remember what it was like to be an oxygen molecule and a lump of coal?

But panpsychism goes even smaller. Panpsychism is claiming that elementary particles - electrons, quarks, etc. - are, in some sense, conscious.


Intelligence​

What exactly is this property that panpschism claims electrons have? Is it claiming electrons act as intelligent beings?

Chalmers says "there is something it is like to be a quark or a photon". What does that really mean? The photon surely requires intelligence to experience something - otherwise the phrase has lost is meaning, and we might as well say elementary particles have the property "foobar", and define "foobar" as that which all things have.

So do electrons make informed choices; do they decide which way to orbit the nucleus depending on how they feel today? Of course not. Statistical mechanics is predicated on electrons acting randomly, not purposefully.


The Problem of Consciousness​

Consciousness is hard to explain. Where does it actually come from?

Panpsychism claims to resolve this - and indeed this is why it has been resurrected (it was popular with the ancient Greeks). There is no actual evidence to support panpsychism, just a hope that it can explain consciousness.

Panpsychism says consciousness was already there in the electrons, quarks, etc. that make up the brain, and human conscious is just that on a bigger scale. Problem solved...

But not really. For one thing, a big boulder has a lot more electrons and quarks than your brain, so how come the boulder is not conscious?

Where did the consciousness in the photons come from? Turn on a light bulb, and you are creating new photons - and hence new consciousness if panpsychism is to be believed. Where does all that consciousness come from? If you want to say it came from other particles in the light, then we can go back to the Big Bang. After the Big Bang, there was 10^-36 seconds before the elementary particles appeared. Not long, to be sure, but the universe at that time went from no consciousness in it to suddenly being rammed full of it. Where did it all come from?

All panpsychism has done is kick the can down the street.


Aggregate Consciousness​

But there is more. If my conscious experience is made up of the conscious experiences of 10^25 elementary particles, how come I have no actual experience of being an elementary particle? Why do I not have any experience of being an electron whizzing round a nucleus? My consciousnerss is made up of 10^25 elementary particles that have been experiencing what it is like to be an electron, a quark, or whatever for billions of years, but despite all that, I have no experience of it myself.

Further, how exactly do 10^25 elementary particles come together to produce one conscious human mind? A crowd of a thousand people does not have an intelligence equal to the sum of all the individual intelligences; at best it has an intelligence a little above that of the smartest guy there and when it turns to a mob, rather less than that. All the evidence we have suggests consciousness just does not add together in that way.

Panpsychism has been described as anti-emergentism - and yet it relies on sufficient conscious particles coming together to magically form a human-level consciousness. It actually requires human level consciousness as an emergent property of those 10^25 elementary particles.

Personally, I go with the usual emergentism; consciousness is an emergent property of a sufficiently complex brain. No one has a problem with liquid (and associated properties like wetness and viscosity) being an emergent property of water, do they?


Quantum mechanics​

Quantum mechanics says that a photon (say) can be in several states at the same time, and only collapsed into one particular state when its wave function collapses, which happens when it is measured. But if the photon itself is conscious, then it is measured at every moment. If panpsychism is true, then there can be no superposition of states; there can be no quantum mechanics.

Bear in mind that modern science has determined elementary particles are not actually particles at all, but something more akin to wavefunctions. Panpsychism is the claim that wavefunctions are conscious...

Furthermore, particles are not local; they can interact with each other at great distance.

So how come I cannot read your thoughts? If I were to press my forehead to yours, there would be conscious particles at the front of your brain that are closer to the front of my brain than they are to the back of your brain. At that sort of distance, if panpschism is true, we should have a single shared experience of being us.


Conclusion​

I said panpsychism sounds like nonsense, and I stand by that. I am not saying we can be sure it is wrong, and if philosophers want to explore it, then go for (not like they need my permission, of course). Perhaps they will turn up something convincing. But until they do, I am going to say panpsychism is probably not true, and that I am justified in taking that position.

If @Lucian wants to try to defend panpsychism, he is welcome to do so, but somehow I doubt he can or will. And of course if anyone else wants to comment, please do!
Panpsycism appears to mean in its most general meaning a world-soul. The Greeks and early christians speculated about such things.

In this OP you have focused in on a very specific meaning (maybe based on a very narrow explanation of it, or not) that every particle is intelligent. Then you beat up on that idea. For example, when you mock it by saying,

“But there is more. If my conscious experience is made up of the conscious experiences of 10^25 elementary particles, how come I have no actual experience of being an elementary particle?”​
Personally, I think that is absurd too, that every particle is in itself intelligent. It is dumb, IMO.

What I think the idea of a world-soul theoretically presupposes is that the entire universe produced or possessed a world-soul (at one time or another) just as a small part of it can produce a human soul. The theory is proven in humans. Full stop. Philosophers, sages, and prophets, are merely extrapolating to larger things, in this case, a world-soul, that is, human consciousness on a much larger scale, obviously not in a human body, but in a cosmic body, —the first Man!

…as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him [christ], things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:10)​

I think it is unwise to accept the first specific definition of something, in this case, a world-soul, and reject it because it appears absurd (at first), when other, more nuanced explanations of the idea are available.

If a 50 Kg lump of matter can produce consciousness in a human, then can an infinite sized lump of substance called the cosmos produce a world consciousness? Arguably, rationally, YES! Should we investigate this? Yes, IMO.
 
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Panpsycism appears to mean in its most general meaning a world-soul. The Greeks and early christians speculated about such things.
That is not what I was thinking of in the OP. It does have other means; not sure if that is actually one.

In this OP you have focused in on a very specific meaning (maybe based on a very narrow explanation of it, or not) that every particle is intelligent. Then you beat up on that idea. For example, when you mock it by saying,

“But there is more. If my conscious experience is made up of the conscious experiences of 10^25 elementary particles, how come I have no actual experience of being an elementary particle?”​
Personally, I think that is absurd too, that every particle is in itself intelligent. It is dumb, IMO.
I was very clear what meaning I was using.

What I think the idea of a world-soul theoretically presupposes is that the entire universe produced or possessed a world-soul (at one time or another) just as a small part of it can produce a human soul. The theory is proven in humans. Full stop. Philosophers, sages, and prophets, are merely extrapolating to larger things, in this case, a world-soul, that is, human consciousness on a much larger scale, obviously not in a human body, but in a cosmic body, —the first Man!
This is, in a sense, the opposite to what I was thinking of. In this view it is us who are the small part of a much bigger soul. If it is the size of the universe, that would be panentheism, I think.

If a 50 Kg lump of matter can produce consciousness in a human, then can an infinite sized lump of substance called the cosmos produce a world consciousness? Arguably, rationally, YES! Should we investigate this? Yes, IMO.
I disagree. I think that that 50 kg has a very specific infrastructure to support consciousness; that is not the case for the world.

You seem to view consciousness like mass - as I guess panpsychism does - where if you have twice the quantity, then you must have twice the mass and twice the consciousness. I do not think it works like that, for one thing I do not think rocks have consciousness.
 
That is not what I was thinking of in the OP. It does have other means; not sure if that is actually one.


I was very clear what meaning I was using.


This is, in a sense, the opposite to what I was thinking of. In this view it is us who are the small part of a much bigger soul. If it is the size of the universe, that would be panentheism, I think.

I disagree. I think that that 50 kg has a very specific infrastructure to support consciousness;
that is proven in humans.
that is not the case for the world.
How do you conclude that the world never produced consciousness outside of humans, either in the past or in the future? You do not know that so you cannot conclude, as you say, “not the case for the world”.

The theory is proven in humans that a small amount of matter or substance can produce consciousness. The question under investigation is if a pan-psychic (latin: All-soul) or world-soul is theoretically possible either in the past, present, or future? We have to consider the far past and far future too because presumably the universe will carry on a lot longer than you and I have breathed our last.

One might ask, Who cares if there is a world-soul before humans existed, let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

Apparently, sages, prophets, and philosophers cared because they could perceive much more to life and living than satisfying mere bodily appetites. It is their religious speculation that drives all of this discussion. If not for them and the scriptures they wrote and their influence upon the world you and I would be doing other things.

These are people who, unlike you and I, spent their whole lives developing a consciousness bathed in the divine nature. Therefore, they allegedly could perceive things we cannot perceive without effort of our own. Presumably God wants to be known but only if it is the most important thing we value. If we value football and potato chips more, well, then we probably will never find him.

You seem to view consciousness like mass - as I guess panpsychism does - where if you have twice the quantity, then you must have twice the mass and twice the consciousness. I do not think it works like that, for one thing I do not think rocks have consciousness.
I am not implying a proportional relationship between mass and consciousness. My point was that the idea of a world-soul is possible if human souls can be made from so much less.
 
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that is proven in humans.

How do you conclude that the world never produced consciousness outside of humans, either in the past or in the future? You do not know that so you cannot conclude, as you say, “not the case for the world”.
I do not know it, but I see no reason to suppose it is true.

How do you know the world did?

The theory is proven in humans that a small amount of matter or substance can produce consciousness. The question under investigation is if a pan-psychic (latin: All-soul) or world-soul is theoretically possible either in the past, present, or future? We have to consider the far past and far future too because presumably the universe will carry on a lot longer than you and I have breathed our last.
Why should we think it is (was/will be) possible?

One might ask, Who cares if there is a world-soul before humans existed, let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
Obviously we do, given we are discussing it.

Apparently, sages, prophets, and philosophers cared because they could perceive much more to life and living than satisfying mere bodily appetites. It is their religious speculation that drives all of this discussion. If not for them and the scriptures they wrote and their influence upon the world you and I would be doing other things.
Okay... So what?

These are people who, unlike you and I, spent their whole lives developing a consciousness bathed in the divine nature.
Do you mean actually developed it, or developed ideas about it?

Therefore, they allegedly could perceive things we cannot perceive without effort of our own. Presumably God wants to be known but only if it is the most important thing we value. If we value football and potato chips more, well, then we probably will never find him.
Or perhaps people who are desperate enough can delude themselves into believing anything.

I am not implying a proportional relationship between mass and consciousness. My point was that the idea of a world-soul is possible if human souls can be made from so much less.
Again, human consciousness has the infrastructure to support it. We know that because damage to the brain affects it; we can trace thoughts using fMRI. There is no corresponding infrastructure as far as we know for a world soul.
 
I do not know it, but I see no reason to suppose it is true.

How do you know the world did?
The evidence that persuades me towards a creative source at work is the following. You know this already because I have stated it many times. Not that I want to discuss them again, but because you asked.

1) cosmological argument for a creative reason or cause
2) moral argument for God
3) personal, subjective experience

Why should we think it is (was/will be) possible?
Because it happened at least once already that we know of, ie., the world producing consciousness at this moment of its history. Given that we are living at a moment in the life of cosmos that extends into infinity before and after us, the likelihood of it producing other conscious is reasonable. That is the reasoning for it. This is not really a difficult concept but one has to look beyond himself, beyond his own life, to the existence he came from and belongs to. Most people dont care about such things and that is fine. But it separates the philosophers from the animals who are just looking for their next meal.

Obviously we do, given we are discussing it.


Okay... So what?

Do you mean actually developed it, or developed ideas about it?
I mean that they developed their own consciousness by thinking good thoughts, working through problems about right and wrong, teased out errors in thinking, worked at virtuous living through self-restraint, temperance, buffeting their bodies (versus indulging in luxury and pleasure), so forth and so on. Believe it or not, there is a system to developing one’s own consciousness to be transformed in their mind. It is no coincidence that the moral philosophers, prophets, and sages, often adhered to an ascetic lifestyle. They were training their mind rather than pursuing wealth, pleasure, luxury, and power.

If you ever get time I suggest reading Senecas moral letters. He was a great Latin philosopher.

Or perhaps people who are desperate enough can delude themselves into believing anything.
There is always the possibility that humans will believe in error just as there is always the possibility that humans will deny the truth. There are two possible errors, a type I and a type II error. You know me well enough by now that I argue that both bible literalists and atheists are in error, each committing an error in reason: bible literalists a false positive error by taking myths as history, and atheists a false negative by denying the creative cause for moral intellect. You know that already about me so nothing new here.

Again, human consciousness has the infrastructure to support it. We know that because damage to the brain affects it; we can trace thoughts using fMRI. There is no corresponding infrastructure as far as we know for a world soul.
Key words: “as far as we know”…and we know little.
 
The evidence that persuades me towards a creative source at work is the following. You know this already because I have stated it many times. Not that I want to discuss them again, but because you asked.
I was responding to "the world never produced consciousness outside of humans, either in the past or in the future" which I understood to be with regards to the world producing a world consciousness. That is quite a different claim to the one you address here, which would encompass the world itself being created.

Because it happened at least once already that we know of, ie., the world producing consciousness at this moment of its history.
And now you remember we are discussing whether "the world never produced consciousness outside of humans, either in the past or in the future". What is going on here? How is "cosmological argument for a creative reason or cause" relevant to whether the world produced a consciousness?

The world has produced a brain capable of doing complex maths. Is it god reasoning to suppose that there is there a world-brain capable of doing complex maths? I do not think so. The set of circumstances required for such a brain are very specific.

Why should I imagine consciousness is any different?

Given that we are living at a moment in the life of cosmos that extends into infinity before and after us, the likelihood of it producing other conscious is reasonable. That is the reasoning for it.
Actually it only extends back as far as the Big Bang.

In an infinite universe anything that can happen, will happen, no matter how low the probability. But not something that is not possible. If it is not possible, then it will never happen.

Also, though less relevant, if something is very rare, it is very unlikely to happen to us.

I mean that they developed their own consciousness by thinking good thoughts, working through problems about right and wrong, teased out errors in thinking, worked at virtuous living through self-restraint, temperance, buffeting their bodies (versus indulging in luxury and pleasure), so forth and so on. Believe it or not, there is a system to developing one’s own consciousness to be transformed in their mind. It is no coincidence that the moral philosophers, prophets, and sages, often adhered to an ascetic lifestyle. They were training their mind rather than pursuing wealth, pleasure, luxury, and power.
Ah, right, developed as in improved rather than engendered.

Key words: “as far as we know”…and we know little.
So you have no reason to think there is a world soul beyond the dubious claim that there might be, and in an infinite universe there must be one somewhere.
 
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