• flannel jesus
    1.3k
    Another way of putting it:

    it's possible minds are not the result of physical things. I don't think it's probable, but I can't deny it's possible. BUT when it comes to the goal of understanding consciousness, understanding minds, if it is the case that minds are not the result of physical things, then... the project of understanding minds is fucked. We can't do it.

    We can either understand minds as resulting from physical things, -or- we can't understand minds.

    Maybe that's a bit too strong, maybe there's some way to understand souls somehow, but we don't have a single model for it yet, no way to poke and prod a soul, so if that's really reality, it's looking pretty hopeless for the project of understanding.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Do you think panpsychists are committed to souls? I can't think of any time I've read a contemporary panpsychist talking about souls.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    No, that was addressed to people saying that the mind exists somewhere else or somehow else other than in this physical world, as a result of our physical bodies and brains. I don't think pansychists necessarily think that. In fact I know they don't all think that.
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    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.amber
    In some circles, Panpsychism has recently become a popular philosophical worldview, due in part to suggestive but questionable interpretations of Quantum Mechanics : observation collapses superposition. Even neuroscientist Christof Koch finds the notion of atomic awareness congenial to his scientific worldview. But computer scientist Bernardo Kastrup prefers a slightly different interpretation of the QM/observer concept*1.

    Personally, I go one step deeper than material atoms --- "another quality" --- to locate the "fundamental force" in the world : Information --- the power to transform. I won't go into that hypothesis in this post, but the notion of Information=Energy/Force*2 is also becoming acceptable for scientists studying complex systems of the world, even though the word Information originally referred to the meaningful contents of a human mind. Those holistic properties of a complex system are described as "emergent", because they are only potential until actualized by the interactions (forces?) between individual parts.

    To address your question, David Chalmers wondered "how do the experiences of fundamental physical entities such as quarks and photons combine to yield the familiar sort of human conscious experience that we know and love" {my bold}. And my answer is Holism*3 : a combination of separate things may add-up to more than the sum of its parts. In 21st century science, Holism is now labeled Systems Theory. And, in combination with Information Theory, is being used to study Complex Systems*4.

    You may be more interested in the Psychological or Philosophical implications of Panpsychism than its Physical properties. But most of our philosophical postulations on this forum are expected to be grounded in hard science. And Holism is beginning to emerge from the shadow of spooky New Age notions, to play a role in the "hard" science of physical complexity*5. Where "an unfathomable combination of parts" display novel physical properties ( and mental qualities? ) as a whole System. :smile:


    *1. How Does the Brain Create Mind? :
    Kastrup says that “reductionist neuroscientist Christof Koch” has come to believe in a form of Panpsychism : that ”our complex conscious inner life is constituted by an unfathomable combination of the experiential states of myriad particles forming our brain”.
    http://bothandblog8.enformationism.info/page16.html

    *2. Information is Energy :
    Definition of a physically based concept of information
    https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-658-40862-6
    6133l0UcZQL._AC_UF100,100_QL80_.jpg

    *3. Holism :
    Philosophically, a whole system is a collection of parts (holons) that possesses properties not found in the parts. That something extra is an emergent quality that was latent (unmanifest) in the parts. For example, when atoms of hydrogen & oxygen gases combine in a specific ratio, the molecule has properties of water, such as wetness, that are not found in the gases. A Holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part — A system of entangled things that has a function in a hierarchy of systems.
    https://blog-glossary.enformationism.info/page11.html

    *4. Complex Systems Theory :
    When a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it is considered a complex system. Traditional thinking would analyze each individual component, but this method also includes the relationships between all components. This gives us insight into emergent behaviors that wouldn't normally be expected from the parts.
    https://now.northropgrumman.com/complex-systems-theory-how-science-solves-social-problems

    *5. What is complex systems science? :
    But the way in which complex phenomena are hidden, beyond masking by space and time, is through nonlinearity, randomness, collective dynamics, hierarchy, and emergence — a deck of attributes that have proved ill-suited to our intuitive and augmented abilities to grasp and to comprehend.
    https://www.santafe.edu/what-is-complex-systems-science
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Oh, sorry, I just skimmed the conversation and missed context.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    No worries bert1. What do you think about pansychism?
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Oh, I'm a panpsychist. There are several reasons for that, but the overall reason is that it's the least problematic option. The worst theory of consciousness apart from all the others. At the moment, I think the least problematic option is to suppose that every arbitrarily defined object whatever has its own unitary consciousness, but the vast majority of these entities are conscious of almost nothing at all. Humans (and brainy animals generally) are unusual, not because they are conscious at all, but because of the wide variety and complexity of what they are conscious of.
  • Patterner
    555
    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.
    flannel jesus
    Beating us at chess is x, y, and z. One process or another is looking at what is possible given there current position of the pieces. Another is comparing all the possibilities with what happened in past games whose details it has been programmed with, and had the same possibilities. One process to calculate which of the current possibilities had worked out best. On and on.

    All that is what we do. But we also have a subjective experience of playing the game. That's what there computer lacks. Which wire needs to be soldered where to make it conscious?
    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.flannel jesus
    I have never even hinted that we should give up on what's been done that has accomplished so much. We should certainly continue all of that. I think there is room for discussion of all manner of approaches.

    Calling what I'm talking about as "magic," and referring of the "soul realm," otoh, smacks of ridicule. What is the goal?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    Calling what I'm talking about as "magic," and referring of the "soul realm," otoh, smacks of ridicule. What is the goal?Patterner

    I didn't say magic. "Soul realm" isn't ridicule, it's just my word for the category of ideas that say the mind isn't the result of physical processes. If the processes of the mind aren't happening here in this physical realm, then they must be happening in some other realm - I give that broad class of ideas the name of "soul realm", and I would call it that *even if it were discovered tomorrow that it really exists*. It's not meant to be ridicule, or a value judgement, or even imply it's not true.

    If our minds aren't physical, I call the alternative "souls".
  • Patterner
    555

    180 says magic.

    You mean "soul realm" the way you mean it. I know that now, but only because you told me. Other readers won't necessarily know that. Particularly people who are new here. Bert isn't new, and he didn't understand.

    A lot of people in a FB consciousness group like to call it "woo woo." People can easily see such terms, and read it as ridicule and dismissiveness. In most cases other than you, it is meant that way. Either way, it establishes an atmosphere.

    But I'm done with that part of the conversation. I'll just take it the way you intend it from now on.

    Regarding models, we don't have any for physical processes any more than we do for panpsychist processes. We can duplicate, in a different medium, a lot of the physical processes. But are we endowing it with subjective experience? Is there something it is like to be a computer? Or ChatGPT? Something that we cannot understand by knowing all therr is too know about its construction and programming? Something more than what it is like to be a can opener?

    Frankly, I suspect we will achieve it the way you expect we will. Because I think we'll eventually stumble upon what's needed for the proto-consciousness to get what it gets from the configuration/arrangement of our brains. IOW, freakin' huge complexity and number of systems. But we won't get it by figuring out which circuits, or wiring, or whatever, will do the trick. We can't spot it in our brains, after all. So how can we duplicate it?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    We can duplicate, in a different medium, a lot of the physical processesPatterner

    That's what a model is. Or rather, you need a model to be able to do that
  • wonderer1
    1.7k
    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

    Just based on a mainstream scientific picture, (for example the perspective presented by Sean Carroll in The Big Picture without any added panpsychism sauce) there is reason to expect a comprehensive explanation of the nature of consciousness to be beyond the cognitive grasp of humans (at least without a lot of help from AI).

    There is no good reason to look at it in a black or white way though. It's not a matter of "it just does". There are a lot of parts of the physical underpinnings of consciousness that can be understood if one spends time developing a broadly informed perspective on scientific findings relevant to the subject.
  • Patterner
    555
    There are a lot of parts of the physical underpinnings of consciousness that can be understood if one spends time developing a broadly informed perspective on scientific findings relevant to the subject.wonderer1
    I'm working on it!!! :grin:
  • wonderer1
    1.7k


    BTW amber, welcome to the forum. You've brought up topics I'm quite interested in. (One might say autistically obsessed with. :wink:)
  • Patterner
    555
    We can duplicate, in a different medium, a lot of the physical processes
    — Patterner

    That's what a model is. Or rather, you need a model to be able to do that
    flannel jesus
    But they are only duplicating physical processes like those that let us perceive a certain range of the electromagnetic spectrum, distinguish different wavelengths within that range of the spectrum, and store representations of what has been perceived. They are not duplicating consciousness. What would that even mean? Which part of which neurons are adding the experience of vision to the perception of parts of the spectrum? What chip design do they need to manufacture to duplicate that? Or what specific wiring do they need in order to make the consciousness circuit?

    As I said, I expect we'll stumble onto consciousness eventually. If proto-conaciousness exists, it's also in the particles the computer is made of. When we get the right configuration, well get consciousness. Obviously, that will happen if there isn't proto-consciousness, as well.

    But if there is proto-consciousness, might we approach things differently? What if some parts of the brain, or some processes, aren't important, and that idea only came along while considering proto-consciousness? Maybe we're wasting time on things that don't matter. Or maybe what seems to be a good pro-proto-consciousness approach doesn't seem as likely in electronics as in biological, and we think we should try to accomplish the same thing with a very different method, rather than trying to make an electronic brain as much like ours as possible.

    Beats me. Just considering possibilities. I don't think it's the best idea to rule out entire fields of thought when we can't find any evidence that it's purely physical. Consciousness is the most unique, mysterious thing there is, and we shouldn't be surprised if it comes about for a unique, mysterious reason.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    They are not duplicating consciousnessPatterner

    Yes, I agree, they aren't yet. You said

    "Regarding models, we don't have any for physical processes"

    You didn't specify if you meant specifically the full model about how physical stuff produces consciousness, it sounded like you were talking about models of physical processes *at all*.
  • Patterner
    555

    Ah. Yeah, I'm only taking about consciousness.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    Beats me. Just considering possibilities. I don't think it's the best idea to rule out entire fields of thought when we can't find any evidence that it's purely physical.Patterner

    Yeah, you're right, we shouldn't, and I'm sure when someone finally develops the very first ever model of how a soul might work, cognitive scientists will pay attention. But for now, there's nothing to pay attention to. The world is absolutely full of people saying matter can't explain consciousness, but who aren't producing any better explanations.

    It'll have a seat at the table when it has a model.
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    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?amber

    The cardinal difference is the subjective unity of consciousness: we experience ourselves as a single entity, not a combination of micro-processes. When we drop a rock on our toe, we don't hear about it second-hand, as if the message is transmitted through a series of separate sub-consciousness units.

    when someone finally develops the very first ever model of how a soul might work,flannel jesus

    Interesting that one of the Greek words for soul was 'psyche' (not spelled exactly like that) but it's also the root of 'mind', as in 'psychology'. So I wonder if 'soul' and 'mind' might be synonyms, to all intents. With the caveat that I think 'soul' or 'psyche' conveys the idea of the totality of mind, including the unconscious and subconscious, not simply the 'conscious mind' or what one is consciously aware of.

    As to which aspect of the mind (or soul) might not be physical, there is an account of that in medieval philosophy that I find, at least, suggestive. The physical or appetitive aspects of the psyche are what 'receives the sensations' e.g. the senses of sight, touch, hearing etc. The immaterial aspect is what recognises the form of the object. That is an intellectual judgement, which is the aspect of the psyche that is associated with 'the rational soul'. And I can think of an argument in support of that idea, but I'll leave it at that for now.
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    [deleted]
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    You can rely on wikipedia for information and I will keep on thinking through the presuppositions and implications of philosophical topics (e.g. 'panpsychism = animism').

    Explain how you/we know, or have compelling reasons to assume, that "consciousness is not physical" (or consistent with – subject to – physical laws).

    You quote me but do not address the points I raise and yet expect me to reply to your non sequiturs. :roll:

    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.Patterner
    Agreed, but that's not my assumption. That's a strawman.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    I believe pansychism would say that the fundamental laws are both material and conscious. If multiverses exist in reality then maybe part of us is in one of those. It seems our bodies are whatever is enclosed in our skin. But hypothetically there could be another body that mirrors ours and is us except they are in another place. Or say soul. Or one can dropped the materialist paradigm and believe the human body is mystical and consciousness, although coming from the brain, dies only to go into a quantum reality, or call it a mutiverse (who's to say where is where). These theories loop around together, but seriously you would have to have a true satori to know what it's like to be a brick. You don't in order to know that consciousness can't cease
  • bert1
    1.8k
    You can rely on wikipedia for information and I will keep on thinking through the presuppositions and implications of philosophical topics (e.g. 'panpsychism = animism').180 Proof

    This is insane. You provided the wikipedia link as part of your post! You invited people to read it!

    EDIT: But never mind. We don't have to rely on wikipedia. Perhaps you could offer your own conceptions of animism and panpsychism so we can see if we we are talking about the same ideas. For example, you said that panpsychism is reductionist. I am interested in what you mean. What x does it assert is nothing other than what y?
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