• amber
    3
    Hello! I joined this forum to get opinions on some ideas I have had on certain theories.

    My understanding of panpsychism is that consciousness is a fundamental quality of the universe. I am unsure on whether panpsychists believe that consciousness is the ONLY fundamental force of the universe, or if consciousness is fundamental alongside other commonly held fundamental forces, like energy, electromagnetism, etc.. If the second is true, and physical processes such as energy are also fundamental, it seems that the combination problem is trivial: we have observed that physical processes can form complex objects without human intervention, such as trees: if we assume that another quality is fundamental (ignoring consciousness), and this quality is used to make a complex system like a tree, which seems to have fundamental components working together to form a complex system, why can’t the same be true of consciousness? My point is that we have observed other fundamental qualities “working together” to form a complex system, so it is not farfetched to conclude the same of consciousness.

    Please let me know what you think! Any feedback / recommendations for further reading are greatly appreciated.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    There are a variety of panpsychists, but my guess is that most contemporary panpsychists are of the second kind you mention - the ones that think that consciousness is fundamental alongside other properties such as charge or whatever. I am in that group. The former kind of panpsychist I would guess would be idealists, although their motivation and arguments might be different from traditional idealism. Some panpsychists arrive at panpsychism via idealism, Timothy Sprigge for example.

    Regarding the combination problem, you make an interesting point. However I think the analogy with other properties may not work. The combination of entities with physical properties does not necessarily entail the creation of new wholes - one could be merelogical about it. However the merging of conscious entities is typically assumed to create new wholes, which raises difficult question: What happens to the individual consciousness of the parts? Does that remain, so we have a multiplicity of consciousnesses, perhaps in a hierarchical relationship? Or does the consciousness get 'pooled' somehow, and prior individuals are lost? How does that work exactly and why? What triggers the merging? Mere proximity? Functional relationships which entail new powers/abilities of the new entity? And so on.
  • Patterner
    557
    I think proto-consciousness is a property of matter, just as things like mass and charge are. We don't know what mass and charge are, and we don't know what proto-consciousness is.

    I don't think the combination problem is a problem. No, I can't explain how it combines. But our not understanding very important things doesn't mean I don't accept them. How does mass warp spacetime? How do negative and positive charges attract each other?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    Panpsychism need not talk about consciousness or mind as a "force" at all - conscious experience can be rephrased as "what it's like to be something", and some pansychists just conceptualize it as "there's something it's like to be EVERYTHING".

    There's "something it's like" to be a chair. A molecule. An atom. An electron. A quantum field.
  • Patterner
    557
    some pansychists just conceptualize it as "there's something it's like to be EVERYTHING".flannel jesus
    I think the question remains. As Chalmers respeatedly asks, why is there something it is like to be anything?
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    Welcome to TPF!

    You might find my contrarian view useful – from a 2022 thread Question regarding panpsychism ...
    ... "panpsychism" is a reductionist yet anti-emergence mystery-of-the-gaps which only compounds 'the mystery of consciousness' with a proposal to substitute a (lower level) harder problem for "the" (higher level) "hard problem". A question begged, not answered.180 Proof
    IMO, 'panpsychism' is metaphysically indistinguishable from Stone Age
    animism¹ and therefore its so-called "combination problem" is solved by magic (e.g. Leibniz's "pre-established harmony"²).

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism ¹

    https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/preestablished_harmony#English ²
  • Corvus
    3k
    why can’t the same be true of consciousness? My point is that we have observed other fundamental qualities “working together” to form a complex system, so it is not farfetched to conclude the same of consciousness.

    Please let me know what you think! Any feedback / recommendations for further reading are greatly appreciated.
    amber

    The main problem with panpsychism is that all the non-living objects in the universe including the universe itself, refuse to respond in intelligible manner, when they were interrogated with the questions about them.
  • Patterner
    557
    its so-called "combination problem" is solved by magic180 Proof
    Without an explanation (whether panpsychism or something else), the question of how matter becomes conscious is "it just does." Which is magic without an attempt at an explanation.
  • Patterner
    557
    The main problem with panpsychism is that all the non-living objects in the universe including the universe itself, refuse to respond in intelligible manner, when they were interrogated with the questions about them.Corvus
    Not every arrangement of matter is conscious. Do we scoff at the idea of electron shells because not every arrangement is solid?
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    How do you know that "how matter becomes conscious ... just is" and cannot be explained (even, if only, in principle)? Describe which laws of nature both allow "matter to become conscious" and yet prohibits us from explaining "how matter becomes conscious."
  • Corvus
    3k
    Not every arrangement of matter is conscious.Patterner
    None of them are.

    Do we scoff at the idea of electron shells because not every arrangement is solid?Patterner
    Not scoffing, but would like to hear the more elaborated arguments on the idea why electron shell arrangement is solid.

    First of all, what do you mean by "solid"? You need to define the term intelligibly and objectively. Then you need to explain all about the electrons, electron shells and their arrangement before concluding they are solid under the definition of 'solid".

    Then we can progress into further considerations and discussions, if there appear any to be compelling reasons worthwhile doing so.
  • Patterner
    557
    How do you know that "how matter becomes conscious ... just is"180 Proof
    I don't know that. I'm saying no explanation is given. We are told that, when Physical Processes X, Y, and Z are present, we find consciousness. But we are not told why. Why do X, Y, and Z not take place without the subjective experience of it? What is taking place - photons hitting retina; signals traveling asking optic nerve; storage of information; etc. - doesn't suggest the presence of consciousness. It's just interactions of different levels of physical entities.
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    Okay, so (as far as you/we know) our 'theories' are incomplete and data insufficient – but no "magic" involved or assumed as you've suggested. We learn from We don't know yet and not from appeals to ignorance just-so stories like "panpsychism" & other metaphysical fairytales. :sparkle:
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    We don't know yet180 Proof

    I also don't understand why people jump from "science doesn't have a complete picture of how the brain produces consciousness" to "science can't ever find answers, it must be that we have souls that aren't physical".

    "We don't know" feels like a comfortable thing to say, I don't see why I would want to propose souls.
  • Patterner
    557

    I didn't suggest magic. You did. And it applies as well to your position as mine.

    It is an unfounded assumption that the only things that exist in our reality are things we can find with our physical senses and science. The only things we can find using Method X are things that can be found with Method X. That doesn't suggest there are no things that X can't find.

    When we see something that doesn't seem, in principle, explainable by X, is makes sense to consider something that X cannot find does, indeed, exist.

    "We don't know" feels like a comfortable thing to say, I don't see why I would want to propose souls.flannel jesus
    Nor do I.
  • Sirius
    39
    Okay, so (as far as you/we know) our 'theories' are incomplete and data insufficient – but no "magic" involved or assumed as you've suggested. We learn from We don't know yet and not from appeals to ignorance just-so stories like "panpsychism" & other metaphysical fairytales180 Proof

    This isn't even a question of insufficient data. Its not that consciousness is a physical stuff and we don't have enough data about it. That would be a categorical mistake.

    As for the combination problem, why is it so hard to understand the scientific method only works for physical stuff that can be measured and observed (directly or indirectly). Consciousness isn't anything like this. Its not that we are invoking magic, we are just saying science has its limitations. You can't appeal to science when our metaphysical theory tells you science won't help you out. You should first tell us how can science quantify and measure subjective phenomenonal experience.


    The hard problem of consciousness won't be solved by more data and science.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    Nor do I.Patterner

    Sure, it's just very common for people to go from "science hasn't figured it out" to "science can't figure it out", and then from there to souls.

    The way you've phrased it sounds like you're going to "science can't figure it out", which is possibly a misreading.

    What is taking place - photons hitting retina; signals traveling asking optic nerve; storage of information; etc. - doesn't suggest the presence of consciousness. It's just interactions of different levels of physical entities.Patterner

    It sounds like you're extremely confident that it's JUST interactions of physical things, and thus CAN'T contain the explanation for consciousness. If that's not what you mean, I apologize.

    I, for one, am not of the opinion that these physical interactions can't be the seat of consciousness.
  • Sirius
    39


    How do you know that "how matter becomes conscious ... just is" and cannot be explained (even, if only, in principle)? Describe which laws of nature both allow "matter to become conscious" and yet prohibits us from explaining "how matter becomes conscious."180 Proof


    1. 2 entities or states can only be identical if they share all properties, including that of location in space and time. This isn't true for mental and physical states, since the physical state is just matter and the mental state has qualia.

    So you can either assume the physical state does have mental properties (panpsychism) or you deny the existence of mental states.

    2. Here is another problem. You don't and can never have a single law in physics which deals with mental states. Why ? Because laws in physics only deal with entities and states that can be measured and quantified. So physics doesn't help you here.
  • Patterner
    557
    The way you've phrased it sounds like you're going to "science can't figure it out", which is possibly a misreading.flannel jesus
    You are not misreading, if we think we have reached the end of all possible scientific methods. But, as Nagle says in Mind and Cosmos, "The world is an astonishing place, and the idea that we have in our possession the basic tools needed to understand it is no more credible now than it was in Aristotle’s day." Consciousness is not in the perview of our current scientific understanding and methods. That's why it doesn't offer an explanation.


    It sounds like you're extremely confident that it's JUST interactions of physical things,flannel jesus
    What that's not physical do you suspect?

    I think there is a mental property to all things. So, while we can currently perceive, directly or indirectly, the physical interactions, we cannot perceive what the mental aspects are up to.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    'panpsychism' is metaphysically indistinguishable from Stone Age
    animism
    180 Proof

    That's just innacurate. Most academic panpsychists I am aware of are a mile away from animism. My own views are somewhat closer to animism, but they're not captured by the wiki article either. You don't have to educate yourself on what panpsychism is if you don't want to of course.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    If the second is true, and physical processes such as energy are also fundamental, it seems that the combination problem is trivial: we have observed that physical processes can form complex objects without human intervention, such as trees: if we assume that another quality is fundamental (ignoring consciousness), and this quality is used to make a complex system like a tree, which seems to have fundamental components working together to form a complex system, why can’t the same be true of consciousness

    The way I understand combinatorial objections to panpsychism, the issue isn't that fundemental forces cannot combine to form complex systems. Rather, it is that the boundaries that delineate "things" are arbitrary from the standpoint of physics. Information, causality, mass, and energy flow across all such "boundaries" as if they didn't exist. This means you can draw arbitrary lines around different physical ensembles and claim an almost infinite number of distinct consciousness.

    So the issue isn't that fundemental forces cannot combine to create human level intellect, but that it seems all sorts of systems can do this.

    Another problem is that the Earth's core, clouds, the sun, etc. all also in involve a ton of information transfer. So too, a room with 10 people having a conversation can be thought of as a physical system, and this system has even more complexity than a single human body.

    Why then does it not appear that the sun has a mind like a human? Why don't rooms of people produce self-aware group minds? If you cut my arm off, my conciousness stays mostly the same, but presumably my arm's level of conciousness deteriorates to some sort of basic, fundemental level. Why is this?

    To explain this, we need to explain what it is about human beings and animal life that works differently to make conciousness become "more full" in them. But then this problem turns out to look a lot like the "Hard Problem of Conciousness" that we had before we invoked panpsychism, so we end up in the same spot.

    That, or we have to suppose that the sun might have an awareness similar to ours, but be unable to act due to its composition, which seems strange. A problem for this avenue is what happens with brain injuries, where people lose whole chunks of their conciousness. If brain injuries, Alzheimer's, certain drugs, etc. that disrupt the brain cause such profound shifts in experience, then it seems like we still need to explain many of the same things that the Hard Problem asks us to, even with panpsychism.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    What that's not physical do you suspect?Patterner

    I suspect that the internal workings of a computer are physical events, but they're not JUST physical events, they're physical events that do abstract things. They take inputs, run them through algorithms, and figure things out. They do work.

    Someone 100 years ago looking at a lightbulb would think that a bit of electricity and a metal filament was making light, sure, but it's JUST a physical thing, it can't, like, make calculations or, you know, beat us at chess. 100 years later, we've got a bunch of stuff that's JUST physical things, that can make calculations, beat us at chess, and pass the turing test better than some people can.

    I think it makes more sense to be open minded about what things that are "just physical things" are capable of. A lot can emerge out of something that is "just a physical thing".
  • Patterner
    557

    Do we suspect any of those physical things are conscious? I guess we're becoming less certain all the time that they are not. But if we think they are not, why not? What about them is different from us that makes them not? If we think they are, why? What about them is the same as us that makes them so?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    We suspect human brains are conscious. Physicalism is the most popular position among philosophers, scientists, and specifically cognitive scientists.

    Maybe physicalism isn't the case, but the reason nonphysicalism doesn't have traction is *we don't have a single model of anything that might compose a non-physical mind*. There's no model. There's no way of poking and prodding this soul-realm in the way we have ways of poking and prodding physical things, and there isn't a single model. Physicalism is the general take because *there isn't another serious competitor*. There isn't a model.

    We have models of chemistry, we have relativity, we have quantum physics - we have various actual useful models of physical stuff, models complete enough that we can make a simulation of them. That's the sign of a well-defined model - a simulation. If you can simulate something, you know your model is getting somewhere. There's no simulations of the non physical soul realm, because there's no model.

    And if you wanted to imagine a model of how soul-stuff operates, consider this - our physical reality is turing-complete, which means whatever your model is of how the mind might work in the soul-realm - you can just imagine that model is implemented here, in physics, in brains. Anything that is implementable is in principle implemetable here. If it's possible to implement consciousness, it's possible to implement it in our physical world, because our physical world is turing complete.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    I also think it can't be taken lightly that the closest we've gotten to artificial intelligence is by making a (very simplified) simulation of how our neurons interact and relate to each other. The fact that we looked in our brains, learned some things about neurons, deconstructed them down to their most fundamental concepts and then simulated neural nets based on the concepts we learned from our neurons - and that those neural nets *can literally now talk to us* - this can't be taken lightly. This is a big deal for the conversation. We haven't simulated minds yet, of course, but the accomplishment shouldn't be downplayed at all, and its relevance to this conversation shouldn't either.
  • Patterner
    557

    I don't know anything about, or have any thoughts about, your soul realm. I'm probably not too interested in discussing it, but, if you can gives me any specifics about it (which seems unlikely, considering how many times you said we have no model of it), we'll see.
  • RussellA
    1.6k
    we have observed that physical processes can form complex objects without human intervention, such as treesamber

    Some think that relations don't exist outside the human mind, in which case there cannot be complex objects outside the mind.

    From Wikipedia – Relations (Philosophy) -
    Eliminativism is the thesis that relations are mental abstractions that are not a part of external reality.

    Do we observe a complex object because the object is complex or because we think the object is complex.

    How to avoid the circularity of a human observing something that is independent of being observed?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    So physical brains, to you, are "just interactions of physical things" (and thus presumably not the seat of consciousness and minds), but you don't have anything to say about any other possible model (no matter how undeveloped) of how minds might be non-physical (this is what I call, as an umbrella term, the soul-realm - if the mind doesn't exist here, because of physics, it must exist in some other way, because of something that isn't physics - aka the soul realm).

    You're right, there isn't a whole lot to say about the soul realm. There's no model, so there's not a lot to talk about. It's a god-of-the-gaps type situation - humans are ignorant of how consciousness works, so while we're ignorant of it, we can just naysay physical ideas of the mind and we get to posit a soul-realm without really saying a whole lot about it. It doesn't seem like it's doing any work as an idea, to me, and that's probably why physicalism is the normal position among experts.
  • Patterner
    557

    I do believe the brain is the seat of consciousness and minds. I do not believe physical properties and physical processes can account for it. I try to explain myself here. In short, the physical processes being described as doing x, y, and z are already doing something. That is, x, y, and z. Yet we are told they are also doing this other thing - producing consciousness. But there is no explanation for how they accomplish consciousness. Point to this or that category of events, and we can see how it leads to our ability to detect a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, or discriminate wavelengths within that portion, or whatever. But we cannot see how those same events produce this other thing at the same time. It's especially vexing because that other thing is of a different nature. It cannot be measured, or even detected with the same science that we are told can answer all questions. We're told it's just how things are. I find that entirely unsatisfactory.

    So how about consider that something exists which we cannot detect with our senses or science? We don't seem to have a problem accepting the existence of dark matter, even though we have no ability whatsoever to detect it. We know it must be there, because we see it's effects. SOMEthing has to explain certain phenomena.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    In short, the physical processes being described as doing x, y, and z are already doing something. That is, x, y, and z. Yet we are told they are also doing this other thing - producing consciousness.Patterner

    We are told the physical processes in a computer are doing x, y, z. Yet we are told they are also doing this other thing - beating us at chess.

    Things can do multiple things.

    So how about consider that something exists which we cannot detect with our senses or science?Patterner

    That's totally possible. Once there's an *actual model*, there'll be something to consider. Right now, there's not enough substance to the idea to begin to consider it.

    We have a problem - a hard problem! - and that problem is, we want to understand consciousness. We currently *literally only have one avenue of investigation available*, and that is to try to understand the physical brain more. We don't have any way of investigating souls. We don't have a single model about how souls are supposed to work. Souls so far offer no promise in terms of explantaory power, they offer nothing progressive towards our goal of understanding consciousness. That doesn't mean souls don't exist, but it does mean that there's not a whole lot to chew on when we try to take seriously the idea that they do. All you've got is that sentence: "Maybe the mind isn't produced by physical stuff, maybe souls exist", and then there's nowhere to go from there.

    So do we continue to follow the one single avenue of investigation for consciousness, as being the result of physical brains following physical processes, or... do something else? What would the 'something else' be? And, knowing about the massive achievement of AI from neural nets, why even consider giving up on the physical idea? We can literally *talk to a simulation of physical neurons*, for free right now.
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