• Gnomon
    3.7k
    As a panpsychist I have been asked a few times for evidence of consciousness in rocks and other such objects.bert1
    I'm currently re-reading Peter Ells' 2010 book, Panpsychism, because he discusses in detail many controversial topics that arise in philosophical metaphysics of Consciousness. One aspect of his terminology is puzzling to me though. Ells asserts that "experiential entities are the fundamental entities of idealist panpsychism". Although he is very explicit in his definitions of other terms, he seems to take the existence of "experiential entities" as a given or essential axiom. Is the word "experiential" in this usage, a metaphor for conscious human subjective experience? Or does he really believe that atoms are literally aware of their environment? Where does the Psyche (mind) come-in to this equation?

    I presume that minimal "experience"*1 means to sense (to be affected by) incoming energy/information . And ultimately perhaps to make sense (meaning) of that data. If so, in what sense does a grain of sand experience its environment? Maybe a physical meaning of "to experience" is to undergo change due to a causal event. But how does that kind of experience add-up to the kind of human experience that we call "knowledge" or "memory" or "psychic" experience? Again, I can understand Brainless Experience as a metaphor for inputs & outputs of energy. But Ells seems to view it more literally as something equivalent to human cognition.

    I should mention that my own understanding of fundamental entities in the world acknowledges that they exchange energy/information with their environment, and they record that input/output as a change in the material form (e.g. temperature ; structure ; position) of the object, but without gaining any conceptual knowledge that I would call meaningful "experience". For example, a grain of sand might be moved in location by the impact of momentum from another object. But, is the grain consciously aware of that moment in its history? I suspect that a lot of the incredulity toward Panpsychism hinges on such ambiguous terminology. :smile:

    PS___As a panpsychist, Ell's assumes that Consciousness (experience) is fundamental to the world. But since objective evidence for such Awareness only appeared on the scene after billions of years of evolution --- the emergence of Living & Thinking things with centralized brains of some kind*2 --- I began to refer to proto-consciousness in terms of Information Theory. As the "power to enform", that prototype of Cognition is equivalent to physical Potential Energy, which can transform into actual Mass/Matter. But as the world evolved & complexified, a new form of Generic Energy/Information emerged as what we call "Mind" : an immaterial function (activity) of material brains.


    *1. To Experience : (philosophy)
    Experience refers to conscious events in general, more specifically to perceptions, or to the practical knowledge and familiarity that is produced by these processes. Understood as a conscious event in the widest sense, experience involves a subject to which various items are presented.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experience

    *2. I must admit that, in microscopic videos of brainless single cell organisms, they appear to know what they are doing, as they search for food. But a scientist might say the appearance is due to anthropomorphic interpretation of blind mechanical inputs & outputs, as a human would experience it.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    experiential entitiesGnomon

    a.k.a. 'beings'

    Where does the Psyche (mind) come-in to this equation?Gnomon

    As far as we know, with the first organic beings.

    Have a geez at this.
  • bert1
    1.9k
    Is the word "experiential" in this usage, a metaphor for conscious human subjective experience? Or does he really believe that atoms are literally aware of their environment?Gnomon

    I haven't read it, but from what you quote it's almost certainly literal. Panpsychists literally think that, in some sense or other, everything is conscious.
  • bert1
    1.9k
    I presume that minimal "experience"*1 means to sense (to be affected by) incoming energy/information . And ultimately perhaps to make sense (meaning) of that data.Gnomon

    I think that presumption is wrong in the context of panpsychism. I suspect that's not what most panpsychists mean.
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    Is the word "experiential" in this usage, a metaphor for conscious human subjective experience? Or does he really believe that atoms are literally aware of their environment? — Gnomon
    I haven't read it, but from what you quote it's almost certainly literal. Panpsychists literally think that, in some sense or other, everything is conscious.
    bert1
    Yes. His version of Panpsychism is Idealist, and assumes that Consciousness is fundamental to reality. My alternative version could be called Pan-Informationism, which understands Causation as fundamental and Consciousness as emergent, so only the potential for complexification was essential. That's why it took 14 billion years for Self-Consciousness to appear on a minor planet on the edge of an ordinary galaxy of a near-infinite cosmos. Anyway, it's that "some sense" that I'm grasping at. :smile:

    I presume that minimal "experience"*1 means to sense (to be affected by) incoming energy/information . And ultimately perhaps to make sense (meaning) of that data. — Gnomon
    I think that presumption is wrong in the context of panpsychism. I suspect that's not what most panpsychists mean.
    bert1
    Apparently, there is some variety of interpretations of philosophical Panpsychism, but Ells does seem to mean that his "experiential entities" actually know what's happening. In the book, he asks a question : "But an experiential entity is a tiny mind. Doesn't mind require grounding in matter, or at least in some kind of 'substance' " He then answers his own question : "they are fundamental and thus require no grounding in matter, 'substance' or anything else." If "Mind" here is not metaphorical, but literal, it implies conscious awareness of experiences.

    I still have difficulty imagining Atomic (elemental, unanalyzable) Minds exchanging knowledge with other "tiny minds" on a sub-atomic scale : a tiny chat room or Twitter. That sounds like a Reductive definition of an otherwise Holistic concept. However, I could describe the equivalent elemental bit of Causal Information as an "Enformation Vector"*2 by analogy with a mathematical/physical Vector (magnitude + direction). Yet, in a cosmic ontological sense, such a Vector could be described as (being + becoming).

    I won't delve into the similarities & differences with my own story of Consciousness here. But FWIW, I'll note that Ells ends the book with : "No one starts out nowadays by being a panpsychist, still less an idealist. . . . My religious beliefs have changed also, and from a secular humanist I have become a Quaker . . . . Nonetheless, I am more than a Deist, as I believe in the efficacy of prayer in aligning ourselves to the will of God . . ." Do you view Panpsychism as more than a personal philosophical worldview, and perhaps as a social religious belief system?

    Although Enformationism has some parallels to Panpsychism, I remain ambivalent about a personal God for us to pray to. That position would make one vulnerable to the Problem of Evil, that could be traced back to an original Evil or incompetent Mind. Which is one reason I modified Idealistic Panpsychism into a somewhat more realistic extrapolation of Information Theory. :smile:

    PS___I apologize if I seem to be pushing this thread off-track. But understanding the Panpsychism underpinnings of my own worldview is important to me. Maybe a little push-back will help.


    *1. Mind : the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought. ___Oxford

    *2. CAUSAL ENFORMACTION VECTOR : magnitude = phi, as in Integrated Information theory
    vector-mag-dir.svg
  • Patterner
    710
    I still have difficulty imagining Atomic (elemental, unanalyzable) Minds exchanging knowledge with other "tiny minds" on a sub-atomic scale : a tiny chat room or Twitter. That sounds like a Reductive definition of an otherwise Holistic concept.Gnomon
    I just quoted these elsewhere recently.

    Goff is quoted in an article:
    Panpsychism as defended in contemporary philosophy is the view that consciousness is fundamental and ubiquitous, where to be conscious is simply to have subjective experience of some kind. This doesn’t necessarily imply anything as sophisticated as thoughts.
    In a Ted Talk, Chalmers says:
    Even a photon has some degree of consciousness. The idea is not that photons are intelligent, or thinking. You know, it’s not that a photon is wracked with angst because it’s thinking, "Aaa! I'm always buzzing around near the speed of light! I never get to slow down and smell the roses!" No, not like that. But the thought is maybe the photons might have some element of raw, subjective feeling. Some primitive precursor to consciousness.

    Skrbina said:
    Minds of atoms may conceivably be, for example, a stream of instantaneous memory-less moments of experience.
    I don't know if any panpsychists believe anything like the scenario you have difficulty imagining, but it doesn't seem these three do.
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    I don't know if any panpsychists believe anything like the scenario you have difficulty imagining, but it doesn't seem these three do.Patterner
    I had assumed that's the case, but wanted to get a second opinion. So my problem is not with the general concept, but with the specific terminology, such as "mind" and "experiential entity". In common usage, both of those words typically refer to human-scale consciousness & feelings & meanings. Yet, would an electron "mind" being ionized (separated from its atom)? Most of the criticisms of Panpsychism I've seen, focus on the plausibility of "tiny minds".

    So, although my philosophical thesis has some parallels with Panpsychism, I use various forms of the term "Form" (Information : EnFormAction) to describe the doing & knowing aspects of reality. I suppose you could say it's a 21st century secular update of ancient religious Panpsychism.

    I asked the question about "experiential entities" because that's the only part of Peter Ells' argument for Universal Mind, that sounded implausible to a modern mind. :smile:


    Mind :
    1. the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.
    2. be distressed, annoyed, or worried by.


    Psyche :
    the human soul, mind, or spirit.

    Form :
    the logical structure of something as distinguished from its material.
  • PeterJones
    415
    There is no secure evidence that consciousness exists other than,our own experience. This would be why Behaviourism flourished in the sciences for a while, and it's the cause of the 'other minds' problem.

    The empirical evidence cannot reliably decide whether nothing is conscious, everything is conscious or everything simply is consciousness.
    .
  • Corvus
    3k
    Now apply this to consciousness. I have accused two things of being conscious. A rock and a human being. What are we going to look for as evidence of consciousness in (a) a rock, and (b) a human?bert1

    For an object to be conscious, it has to be

    1. a living - such as a person, dog, cat, monkey ... etc. Non living objects like machines cannot be conscious, even if it behaves intelligently, acts, and works like a conscious being.

    2. must be able to communicate intelligently with another conscious being via behaviour (intelligent animals like monkeys, dogs and cats) or language (in case of human being),

    3. respond to environmental changes / demands, or carry out their act of biological demands for their survival. (such as wild animals hunting for survival, birds feeding their chicks etc)

    Therefore rocks are definitely not conscious, while most humans are. Some humans are not conscious (those in comma, sleeping or fainted drugged or drunk to unconscious state)
  • bert1
    1.9k
    sleepingCorvus

    What about when dreaming?
  • Corvus
    3k
    What about when dreaming?bert1

    When dreaming being unconscious, the person cannot communicate with others, hence cannot be conscious.
  • bert1
    1.9k
    OK, it seems like your view is a stipulative definition, rather than a theory of something we already agree the is the referent of the term 'consciousness'.
  • Corvus
    3k
    Yes, it is just my own opinion :)
  • bert1
    1.9k
    Sure, that's fair enough, and on topic for this thread.
  • chiknsld
    314
    Inanimate matter does not have consciousness, but it does have the ability to produce organic molecules, which lead to life.
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