Thursday, February 01, 2018

We Know A Little About What Matter Does, But Nothing About What It Is....,


qz |  Interest in panpsychism has grown in part thanks to the increased academic focus on consciousness itself following on from Chalmers’ “hard problem” paper. Philosophers at NYU, home to one of the leading philosophy-of-mind departments, have made panpsychism a feature of serious study. There have been several credible academic books on the subject in recent years, and popular articles taking panpsychism seriously.

One of the most popular and credible contemporary neuroscience theories on consciousness, Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory, further lends credence to panpsychism. Tononi argues that something will have a form of “consciousness” if the information contained within the structure is sufficiently “integrated,” or unified, and so the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Because it applies to all structures—not just the human brain—Integrated Information Theory shares the panpsychist view that physical matter has innate conscious experience.

Goff, who has written an academic book on consciousness and is working on another that approaches the subject from a more popular-science perspective, notes that there were credible theories on the subject dating back to the 1920s. Thinkers including philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Arthur Eddington made a serious case for panpsychism, but the field lost momentum after World War II, when philosophy became largely focused on analytic philosophical questions of language and logic. Interest picked up again in the 2000s, thanks both to recognition of the “hard problem” and to increased adoption of the structural-realist approach in physics, explains Chalmers. This approach views physics as describing structure, and not the underlying nonstructural elements.

“Physical science tells us a lot less about the nature of matter than we tend to assume,” says Goff. “Eddington”—the English scientist who experimentally confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity in the early 20th century—“argued there’s a gap in our picture of the universe. We know what matter does but not what it is. We can put consciousness into this gap.”  Fist tap Dale.