Panpsychism > Pansensitivity
- The Brain Is Already Panpsychic
If matter is mostly empty space, then what goes on in the brain already involves a form of telepathy at the microcosmic level. The fact that different regions of the brain communicate with each other means that thought is distributed through matter across space, and that matter is therefore undeniably telepathic. It sounds outrageous, but if we are being honest (waxing Simonic here), how can we say that the electrons of our brain are not transmitting our conscious experience in some way across the gaps from atom to atom and neuron to neuron?Since there is nothing to suggest that this process is remarkably different between organic molecules and inorganic molecules, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that this telepathic unity extends to all matter. Maybe the inertness or volatility of matter affects its capacity to host more significant awareness, but there is no reason to suspect that any matter is incapable of some degree of subjective participation.
- Panpsychism would solve the hard problem of consciousness.
Perhaps the best reason to seriously entertain the notion of panpsychism is that it makes the hardness of the hard problem makes sense. By locating consciousness (or awareness, experience, proto-consciousness) at the very bottom of the ground of being, we can reason that it is not possible to find a reason for experience itself, as all functions and substances in the universe are kinds of experiences rather than the other way around. Experience has no function, because function itself is nothing but an experience. If the hard problem is ‘Why does feeling exist?’, the panpsychic solution is “Existence and feeling are the same thing”.
- The alternatives to panpsychism are no better.
Materialism and functionalism both presume their own theoretical metaphysics as primitive to explain the existence of feeling. Whether it is a magical combination of substances or a particular ordering of ‘information’ that is presumed to cause awareness to occur, the hard problem remains the same – why should any combinations or orderings result in any ‘feelings’, ‘illusions’, or ‘interpretations’ at all? If you are going to have a universe built on determinism, you can’t really pull the rabbit of awareness out of the hat unexpectedly without having a good deterministic reason for it.
- We have good reason to be skeptical of our naive realism when it comes to attributing consciousness outside of ourselves.
Human beings have a terrible record of recognizing the humanity in members of their own species, let alone sentience in other kinds of organisms. The more we understand how perception shapes a customized reality for us rather than produces flawed reports of a universal reality, the more we must admit that we really wouldn’t know non-human consciousness if it was staring us in the face. We have no problem assigning personality to cartoons or stuffed animals, but slow something down to an imperceptible rate, or shrink it to a microscopic size and we find it absurd to consider that there can be experience happening. Of course, if we came across something that looked and acted like a human brain, we would presume the same thing. Were we not ourselves familiar with the connection between neurons and consciousness, we could never suspect that such a connection existed.
- Level of emergence is arbitrary.
We have no problem embodying our body – identifying personally with every part of it. The cells of our nervous system are made of ordinary organic molecules, performing ordinary molecular functions. Since we have experiences, feel, and make sense of the world, it is only a question of what level this capacity arises. Does it require a brain? Many organisms survive quite well without brains. Does it require cells? Cells are nothing but organizations of molecules. Given the functionally superfluous nature of consciousness, there is really no advantage that any level would have over any other as far as explanatory power. Why does an intelligent community like the brain make any more sense than an intelligent community like the immune system as a candidate for sentience? Some postulate microtubules and quantum fluctuations, which is possible too, but no closer to answering the hard problem.
- The Enlightenment has given us a new cognitive bias.
Functionalism relies on complexity, evolution, and randomness like a holy trinity of wishful thinking. The power of the machine has proved so seductive that the very mention of qualities associated with them is held up as a talisman to ward off the specters of vitalism and animism. Emergent properties are conjured to fill the gap between hydrogen and humans while unexplained holes in physics are swept under an increasingly bulging carpet of dark energy, dark matter, virtual particles, decoherence, etc. Panpsychism or panexperientialism can tie up all of these loose ends and point the way to a new theory of cosmos rooted in sense as well as mechanism.
- Pansensitivity is better than panpsychism or panexperientialism.
Not all awareness implies a biological quality awareness of awareness, but all that can be considered to ‘exist’ in any way does so because it is present in some sense (literally, some sense modality must present ‘space’ or ‘time’, ‘matter’ or ‘energy’, etc.) What exists relates to itself through sensible perspectives and juxtapositions: participatory expressions of aesthetic experience – not abstractions. Bypassing the anthropomorphic connotations of terms like experience and psyche, pansensitivity implies a weaker hypothesis: that at the foundation of all phenomena, there is at least more than a total absence of awareness.
- Sensitivity is beneath and beyond mind.
The mind is only the aspect of self that thinks. It is a verbal-cognitive sense modality, possibly specific to Homo sapiens. When the mind thinks about the self, it thinks of the mind, but this is an incomplete understanding. The mind cannot move the mouth to eat, cannot imagine a new color. The mind thinks that it does not feel and that its efforts emerge from a plenum of pure semantic entitlement. If we seek a more objective understanding however, we find that all of the mind is on loan from the self, from sensory-motive foundations which extend to eternity.
I think that Strawson’s argument, very briefly, is this:
- There is one ultimate reality to the universe (“realistic physicalism,” as he calls it).
- Mental (that is, experiential) phenomena are a part of this monistic reality. Therefore, experiential phenomena are physical phenomena, rightly understood.
- Radical-kind, or brute emergence is impossible; mental phenomena cannot arise from any purely non-mental stuff.
- Therefore, the one reality and all things in it are necessarily experiential.