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Strawson on Realistic Monism

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

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In this brief essay “Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism”, Galen Strawson covers a lot of the territory that I have tried to write about here. From the fallacy of brute emergence to the necessity of sensation as a concrete physical phenomenon, he gives a great overview of how to see the problem and where to look for a solution. I would like to think that my conjectures are designed to pick up where he leaves off, in the sense that they relate to filling in the gaps between micropsychism and realism. He writes:

“The experiential/non-experiential divide, assuming that it exists at all, is the most fundamental divide in nature (the only way it can fail to exist is for there to be nothing non-experiential in nature)”

Here my response is that the fundamental divide can exist conditionally – IF – nature’s monism is the division-providing sense itself. In that case nothing in nature is non-experiential from an absolute perspective, but locally, our experience can consist of side views and rear views of other experiences which are so foreign to our own in scale and character that they seem to be inert to us and all those who inhabit a similar perceptual inertial frame as we do (other humans, animals, organisms…).

“Emergence can’t be brute”

Exactly (see The Failure of Emergence). I can follow his reasoning with perfect clarity as it is very close to my own regarding the appeal to emergence as a kind of metaphysical Santa Claus clothed in a magical wardrobe of arbitrary inevitability. He does an exemplary job of covering the core issue of why emergence makes sense to explain liquidity from non-liquidity, but not experiences from non-experiences. To paraphrase David Chalmers, since physics is consistent with the absence of consciousness, consciousness must be a further fact about the world.

Strawson gets into spatial extension and how it can or cannot emerge from non-space. MSR, PIP, and Eignemorphism work together to explain how space, time, and entropy are forms of insensitivity – gaps and range constraints within the primordial pansensitivity which privatize one perspective by mechanizing all other perspectives to different degrees. The monism can be conceived, metaphorically, as a prism in which both the white beam of extended publicity and the diffracted spectrum of intentional privacy are within the prism itself, and change places depending on how the prism is viewed.

It’s difficult because rather than comparing (private phenomenal) apples to (public structural) apples, Eigenmorphism is the proposal that the former and latter apples have absolutely opposite orientations. Public structures are identifiable as isolated obstructions in space or stepped procedures through time (forms and functions), while the proposed view is for phenomenal privacy to persist as a subtractive phenomenon – a ‘hole in wholeness’ through which particular qualities of experience are disentangled along a temporal gradient from the event horizon of eternal experience. Rather than functions or forms, private physics is appreciation and participation.

Under eigenmorphism, awareness would not be produced from the dynamics of microstructures any more than multi-level parking lots are produced by the parking behaviors of vehicles. Instead of presuming that the micro-apples of physics are producing a macro-apple of phenomenology, Eigenmorphism expects that all of the apples of phenomenology (micro, macro, and cosmo) are more like apples of the metaphorical variety; apple images, flavors, logos, memories. A Beatles album. A personal computer from the 1980s. Une pomme. Not to say that phenomenology is metaphorical from the absolute perspective, but from our local perspective, the contents of the psyche are real as qualia and metaphor while the perimeter of the local awareness is staged with seemingly non-experiential quanta (public realism). MSR imagines that these perspectives fit like lock and key – not with each other, but with the underlying unity of primordial sense.

Strawson’s Micropsychism is very similar to what I have proposed, although by MSR, every experience is to some extent micro or mega relative to some other experience, as our top-down awareness is informed from ‘above the top’ intuition as well. We’re not just built of psychic Legos, but are also a megapsychic Taj Mahal executed in micropsychic Legos.

Highly recommend.

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