It has been widely thought that consciousness has no causal efficacy in the physical world. However, this may be not the case. In this paper, we show that a conscious being can distinguish definite perceptions and their quantum superpositions, while a physical measuring system without consciousness cannot distinguish such nonorthogonal quantum states. The possible existence of this distinct quantum physical effect of consciousness may have interesting implications for the science of consciousness. In particular, it suggests that consciousness is not emergent (...) but a fundamental feature of the universe. This may provide a possible quantum basis for panpsychism. (shrink)
Galen Strawson (2006) thinks it is 'obviously' false that 'the terms of physics can fully capture the nature or essence of experience' (p. 4). He also describes this view as 'crazy' (p. 7). I think that he has been carried away by first impressions. It is certainly true that 'physicSalism', as he dubs this view, is strongly counterintuitive. But at the same time there are compelling arguments in its favour. I think that these arguments are sound and that the contrary (...) intuitions are misbegotten. In the first two sections of my remarks I would like to spend a little time defending physicSalism, or 'straightforward' physicalism, as I shall call it ('S' for 'straightforward', if you like). I realize that the main topic of Strawson's paper is panpsychism rather than his rejection of straightforward physicalism. But the latter is relevant as his arguments for panpsychism depend on his rejection of straightforward physicalism, in ways I shall explain below. (shrink)
Is the great god Pan reborn? For a while there, it seemed every intellectual movement began with the prefix ‘post’, implying non-totality, but now there are indications that ‘pan’ (all) is returning to provide another answer to one of the most basic of ontological questions: What is the relationship of mind to matter? In this important book with 17 different authors, panpsychism is given its due.
Taking their motivation from the perceived failure of the reductive physicalist project concerning consciousness, panpsychists ascribe subjectivity to fundamental material entities in order to account for macro-consciousness. But there exists an unresolved tension within the mainstream panpsychist position, the seriousness of which has yet to be appreciated. I capture this tension as a dilemma, and offer advice to panpsychists on how to resolve it. The dilemma is as follows: Panpsychists take the micro-material realm to feature phenomenal properties, plus micro-subjects to (...) whom these properties belong. However, it is impossible to explain the generation of a macro-subject (like one of us) in terms of the assembly of micro-subjects, for, as I show, subjects cannot combine. Therefore the panpsychist explanatory project is derailed by the insistence that the world’s ultimate material constituents are subjects of experience. The panpsychist faces a choice of giving up her explanatory ambitions, or of giving up the claim that the ultimates are subjects. I argue that the latter option is preferable, leading to neutral monism, on which phenomenal qualities are irreducible but subjects are reducible. So panpsychists should be neutral monists. (shrink)
I shall be concerned in this paper with the consideration of panpsychism and of materialism in new forms as alternatives. Extended reference will be made to C. S. Peirce's view of perception as realistic in intention and yet not quite clear as to its mechanism and how it attains objective import. I shall say little about Whitehead as a representative of panpsychism as I have just finished a detailed criticism of his epistemological framework. I shall, however, make comments (...) on William James's radical empiricism as tied in with his view of perception as direct and immediate--roughly speaking, the alternative to Locke's representation of "unperceived things" --and bring in my own theory of sensations as guiding perceiving. Russell's neutral monism, connected historically with James's radical empiricism, will be touched on here in connection with his rejection of materialism. Phenomenalism and materialism exclude each other. Materialism, as an ontology, requires a realistic epistemology. I shall also make some comments on Dewey's biological experientialism. One can often best explain a perspective by means of contrasts. (shrink)
In a paper titled "Dewey between Hegel and Darwin," Richard Rorty argued that while it is appropriate to describe John Dewey as a radical empiricist and panpsychist, it would be better if we allowed those aspects of his thought to atrophy and eventually disappear. This paper challenges that claim, arguing that properly understood, radical empiricism and panpsychism continue to have a role in a world newly fascinated by the way bodies, minds, experience and nature are all interwoven into a (...) complex organic network. (shrink)
Consider (i) the humility thesis that we only know the causal natures of the external world and (ii) the thesis we are directly acquainted with the intrinsic natures of our phenomenal experiences. The conjunction of these two theses has motivated a version of panpsychism, which states that the intrinsic nature of all matter is phenomenal. Contemporary panpsychists, such as Lockwood (1991, 1993), Rosenberg (1999, 2004) and Maxwell (2002), have taken it upon themselves to flesh out a plausible story of (...) how this is so. Moreover, the story they tell involves the physical depending on the phenomenal. Now, most of us these days, including such contemporary panpsychists, acknowledge that our phenomenal experiences are, in some sense, representational. That is, when we introspect our phenomenal experiences, it seems like there are certain properties represented in these experiences. The aim of this paper is to use this well-conceded point that our phenomenal experiences are representational to cast doubt on contemporary panpsychism. (shrink)
We show that consciousness may violate the basic quantum principle, according to which the nonorthogonal quantum states can't be distinguished. This implies that the physical world is not causally closed without consciousness, and consciousness is a fundamental property of matter.
We make powerful motor cars by suitably assembling items that are not themselves powerful, but we do not do this by 'adding in the power' at the very end of the assembly line; nor, if it comes to that, do we add portions of power along the way. Powerful motor cars are nothing over and above complex arrangements or aggregations of items that are not themselves powerful. The example illustrates the way aggregations can have interesting properties that the items aggregated (...) lack. What can we say of a general kind about what can be made from what by nothing over and above aggregation? I think that this is the key issue that Galen Strawson (2006) puts so. (shrink)
David Skrbina opens this timely and intriguing text with a suitably puzzling line from the Diamond Sutra: ‘‘Mind that abides nowhere must come forth.’’, and he urges us to ‘‘de-emphasise the quest for the specifically human embodiment of mind’’ and follow Empedocles, progressing ‘‘with good will and unclouded attention’’ into the text which he has drawn together as editor. If we do, we are assured that it will ‘‘yield great things’’ (p. xi). This, I am pleased to say, is not (...) an exercise in hyperbole. (shrink)
This paper starts from the assumption that panpsychism is counterintuitive and metaphysically demanding. A number of philosophers, whilst not denying these negative aspects of the view, think that panpsychism has in its favour that it offers a good explanation of consciousness. In opposition to this, the paper argues that panpsychism cannot help us to explain consciousness, at least not the kind of consciousness we have pre-theoretical reason to believe in.
As some see it, an impasse has been reached on the mind- body problem between mainstream physicalism and mainstream dualism. So lately another view has been gaining popularity, a view that might be called the 'Russellian theory of mind' (RTM) since it is inspired by some ideas once put forth by Bertrand Russell. Most versions of RTM are panpsychist, but there is at least one version that rejects panpsychism and styles itself as physicalism, and neutral monism is also a (...) possibility. In this paper I will attempt to sort out these different versions with a view to determining which, if any, have a chance of breaking the perceived impasse. The unsurprising conclusion will be that there are a lot of challenges ahead for the RTM theorist. The surprising conclusion will be that it's not clear that pan- psychist RTM holds an advantage over the other versions in this regard. (shrink)
Strawson’s case in favor of panpsychism is at heart an updated version of a venerable form of argument I’ll call the ‘intrinsic nature’ argument. It is an extremely interesting argument which deploys all sorts of high caliber metaphysical weaponry (despite the ‘down home’ appeals to common sense which Strawson frequently makes). The argument is also subtle and intricate. So let’s spend some time trying to articulate its general form.
There is a famous passage in chapter six of Jamesâ Principles of Psychology whose import, many believe, deals a devastating blow to the explanatory aspirations of panpsychism. In the present paper I take a close look at Jamesâ argument, as well as at the claim that it underlies a powerful critique of panpsychism. Apart from the fact that the argument was never aimed at panpsychism as such, I show that it rests on highly problematic assumptions which, if (...) followed to their logical consequences, are just as inedible to contemporary critics of panpsychism as they are to its present-day supporters. Hence, a naÃ¯ve employment of the argument, as a critique leveled by physicalists against panpsychism, is counterproductive and even self-defeating. After examining the metaphysical shortcomings undermining Jamesâ position (as well as the hasty refutations of panpsychism based on it), I conclude with some reflections on what needs to be done in order to obtain a better perspective regarding the explanatory prospects of panpsychism as an alternative approach to mainstream physicalism in the study of conscious phenomena. (shrink)
Panpsychism is the doctrine that mind is a fundamental feature of the world existing throughout the universe. One problem with panpsychism is that it is a purely theoretical concept so far. For progress towards an operationalization of the idea, this paper suggests to make use of an ontological difference involved in the mind-matter distinction. The mode in which mental phenomena exist is called presence. The mode in which matter and radiation exist is called reality Physical theory disregards presence (...) in both the form of mental presence and the form of the temporal present In contrast to mental presence the temporal present is objective in the perspective of the third person. This relative kind of objectivity waits to be utilized for a hypothesis of how the mental and the physical are interrelated In order to do so this paper translates the mind-matter distinction into the distinction between mental and physical time and addresses the problem that panpsychism tries to attack head-on in these temporal terms. There are in particular , two issues thus getting involved: discussions about a time observable and the quantum Zeno effect. (shrink)
The essay examines the idea of ―biological space and time‖ found in Evan Thompson‘s Mind in Life and Gilles Deleuze‘s Difference and Repetition. Tracking down this ―new Transcendental Aesthetic‖ intersects new work done on panpsychism. Both Deleuze and Thompson can be fairly said to be biological panpsychists. That‘s what ―Mind in Life‖ means: mind and life are coextensive; life is a sufficient condition for mind. Deleuze is not just a biological panpsychist, however, so we‘ll have to confront full-fledged (...) class='Hi'>panpsychism. At the end of the essay we‘ll be able to pose the question whether or not we can supplement Thompson‘s ―Mind in Life‖ position with a ―Mind in Process‖ position and if so, what that supplement means both for his work and for panpsychism. (shrink)
This essay examines the speculative metaphysical doctrine of panpsychism, which some (though only a few) philosophers regard as a plausible solution to the problem of explaining the possibility of conscious experience. After a survey of some of the main arguments for and against panpsychism, the metaphysically realist background assumption of the doctrine is uncovered and questioned. A pragmatic reinterpretation of panpsychism, drawn from the work of William James,is then proposed. In order to be treated truly pragmatically, (...) class='Hi'>panpsychism—like any other metaphysical position—ought to be subjected to Jamesian pragmatic pluralism. Something like “panculturalism” follows as a result: both panpsychism and its metaphysical rivals are, in the end, cultural posits arising fromhuman practices of engaging with reality. (shrink)
Benedict de Spinoza, C.S. Peirce, and Gilles Deleuze delineate a trajectory through the history of ideas in the dialogue about the potentials and limitations of panpsychism, the view that world is fundamentally made up of mind. As a parallel trajectory to the panpsychism debate in contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive psychology, this approach can inform and enrich the discussion of the role and scope of mind in the natural world. The philosophies of mind developed by Deleuze and (...) Peirce are Spinozistic in their natural monism but move beyond Spinoza to explain mind as a part of the natural world in semiotic terms. (shrink)
Both Deleuze in DR and Thompson / Jonas can be fairly said to be biological panpsychists. That‘s pretty much what ―Mind in Life‖ means: mind and life are co-extensive: life = autopoiesis and cognition = sense-making. Thus Mind in Life = autopoietic sense-making = control of action of organism in environment. Sense-making here is three-fold: 1) sensibility as openness to environment; 2) signification as positive or negative valence of environmental features relative to the subjective norms of the organism; 3) direction (...) or orientation the organism adopts in response to 1 and 2. (―Sense of the river‖ is archaic in English, but ―sens unique‖ for ―one-way street‖ is perfectly clear in French.). (shrink)
Panpsychism is an eminently sensible view of the world and its relation to mind. If God is a metaphysician, and regardless of the actual truth or falsity of panpsychism, it is certain that he regards the theory as an honest and elegant competitor on the ﬁeld of ontologies. And if God didn’t create a panpsychist world, then there’s a fair chance that he wishes he had done so, or will do next time around. The difﬁculties panpsychism faces, (...) then, are not metaphysical ones. They are, instead, difﬁculties of understanding, and of acceptance by philosophers. The main difﬁculty of this sort the theory faces is that its ontology – with consciousness in some sense at the heart of all that exists1 – is deemed too bizarre, frankly, too humano-centric to be taken seriously. Why should anyone think that consciousness, widely held to be the preserve only of ourselves, plus the most recently evolved organisms, infuses the basement level of all existence? Such a thought seems to many – especially, to scientiﬁcally scrupled philosophers of mind – a narcissistic (or at best hopelessly anti-realist) folly, which doesn’t even deserve its day in court. Panpsychism.. (shrink)
I find myself in agreement with almost all of Galen's paper (Strawson, 2006) -- except, that is, for his three main claims. These I take to be: that he has provided a substantive and useful definition of 'physicalism'; that physicalism entails panpsychism; and that panpsychism is a necessary and viable doctrine. But I find much to applaud in the incidentals Galen brings in to defend these three claims, particularly his eloquent and uncompromising rejection of the idea of brute (...) emergence, as well as his dissatisfaction with standard forms of physicalism. I certainly find his paper far more on target than most of the stuff I read on this topic. (shrink)
Whitehead’s philosophy is of perennial scholarly interest as one of the relatively few really serious attempts at a systematic metaphysics. But unlike almost all major ‘philosophical systems’ it is not merely an historical curiosity, but retains contemporary supporters actively deploying Whitehead’s viewpoint in discussion of a variety of live philosophical problems. Furthermore, Whitehead’s metaphysics is the sole example of a comprehensive philosophical system which aims to take into account the radical transformation of science which occurred at the beginning of the (...) twentieth century with the development of relativity and quantum mechanics, developments with which Whitehead was, as a first rate mathematician, highly familiar. (shrink)
1 Non-reductive physicalists deny that there is any explanation of mentality in purely physical terms, but do not deny that the mental is entirely determined by and constituted out of underlying physical structures. There are important issues about the stability of such a view which teeters on the edge of explanatory reductionism on the one side and dualism on the other (see Kim 1998). 2 Save perhaps for eliminative materialism (see Churchland 1981 for a classic exposition). In fact, however, while.
In this paper I first examine two important assumptions underlying the argument that physicalism entails panpsychism. These need unearthing because opponents in the literature distinguish themselves from Strawson in the main by rejecting one or the other. Once they have been stated, and something has been said about the positions that reject them, the onus of argument becomes clear: the assumptions require careful defence. I believe they are true, in fact, but their defence is a large project that cannot (...) begin here. So, in the final section I comment on what follows if they are granted. I agree with Strawson that --broadly -- 'panpsychism' is the direction in which philosophy of mind should be heading; nevertheless, there are certain difficulties in the detail of his position. In light of these I argue for changes to the doctrine, bringing it into line with the slightly. (shrink)
For some two millennia, Western civilization has predominantly viewed mind and consciousness as the private domain of the human species. Some have been willing to extend these qualities to certain animals. And there has been a small but very significant minority of philosophers who have argued that the processes of mind are universal in extent, and resident in all material things.
Strawson’s challenging and provocative defence of panpsychism1 begins by sensibly insisting that physicalism, properly understood, must unflinchingly countenance the occurrence of conscious experiences. No view, he urges, will count as ‘real physicalism’ (p. 4) if it seeks to get around or soften that commitment, as versions of socalled physicalism sometimes do. Real physicalism (hereinafter physicalism tout court) must accordingly reject any stark opposition of mental and physical, which is not only invoked by many followers of Descartes, but even countenanced by (...) many recent physicalists. Conscious experiences, Strawson persuasively urges, are a special case of the physical, just as cows are animals. Panpsychism enters the picture because, despite the physical nature of conscious experiences, Strawson maintains that we cannot describe or explain the experiential using the terms of physics or neurophysiology. Since the experiential is nonetheless physical, Strawson concludes that the physical ultimates must, in addition to whatever properties physics and neurophysiology reveal, have experiential properties as well. Strawson argues that we cannot avoid this conclusion by maintaining that combinations of physical ultimates constitute or give rise to experiential properties. Physical ultimates cannot give rise to conscious experience unless those ultimates are themselves in some way ‘intrinsically experiential’ (p. 22). The experiential cannot emerge from nonexperiential ultimates in the way that macroscopic liquidity is standardly held to emerge from molecular properties. Strawson concludes that at least some physical ultimates must be ‘intrinsically experience-involving’ (p. 22); and, since it’s reasonable to see the physical ultimates as homogeneous in nature, we should assume that they all have experiential properties. (shrink)
One of Thomas Nagel’s premises in his argument for panpsychism (in Mortal Questions) is criticized. The principal criticisms are: (1) Nagel has failed to provide a clear sense in which mental properties are nonphysical. (2) Even within the framework of Nagel’s argumeent, there is no strong reason to think that the psychological lies outside the explanatory web of physical properties. This is because certain reducing properties common to both the psychological and nonpsychological may well be physical.
There have been many attempts to retire dualism from active philosophic life, replacing it with something less removed from science, but we are no closer to that goal now than fifty years ago. I propose breaking the stalemate by considering marginal perspectives that may help identify unrecognized assumptions that limit the mainstream debate. Comparison with Whitehead highlights ways that opponents of dualism continue to uphold the Cartesian “real distinction” between mind and body. Whitehead, by contrast, insists on a conceptual distinction: (...) there can no more be body without mind than mind without body (at least at the level of ultimate constituents). Key to this integration is Whitehead’s understanding that mind, at its most rudimentary, is simply the intrinsic temporality of a physical event. Thus, the resulting form of “panpsychism” is more naturalistic than commonly supposed, and it solves both the composition problem (traditionally fatal to panpsychism) and the “hard problem.”. (shrink)
The mind-body problem arises because all theories about mind-brain connections are too deeply obscure to gain general acceptance. This essay suggests a clear, simple, mind-brain solution that avoids all these perennial obscurities. (1) It does so, first of all, by reworking Strawson and Stoljar’s views. They argue that while minds differ from observable brains, minds can still be what brains are physically like behind the appearances created by our outer senses. This could avoid many obscurities. But to clearly do so, (...) it must first clear up its own deep obscurity about what brains are like behind appearances, and how they create the mind’s privacy, unity and qualia – all of which observable brains lack. (2) This can ultimately be done with a clear, simple assumption: our consciousness is the physical substance that certain brain events consist of beyond appearances. For example, the distinctive electrochemistry in nociceptor ion channels wholly consists of pain. This rejects that pain is a brain property: instead it’s a brain substance that occupies space in brains, and exerts forces by which it’s indirectly detectable via EEGs. (3) This assumption is justified because treating pains as physical substances avoids the perennial obscurities in mind-body theories. For example, this ‘clear physicalism’ avoids the obscure nonphysical pain of dualism and its spinoffs. Pain is instead an electrochemical substance. It isn’t private because it’s hidden in nonphysical minds, but instead because it’s just indirectly detected in the physical world in ways that leave its real nature hidden. (4) Clear physicalism also avoids puzzling reductions of private pains into more fundamental terms of observable brain activity. Instead pain is a hidden, private substance underlying this observable activity. Also, pain is fundamental in itself, for it’s what some brain activity fundamentally consists of. This also avoids reductive idealist claims that the world just exists in the mind. They yield obscure views on why we see a world that isn’t really out there. (5) Clear physicalism also avoids obscure claims that pain is information processing which is realizable in multiple hardwares (not just in electrochemistry). Molecular neuroscience now casts doubt on multiple realization. Also, it’s puzzling how abstract information gets ‘realized’ in brains and affects brains (compare ancient quandries on how universals get embodied in matter). A related idea is that of supervenient properties in nonreductive physicalism. They involve obscure overdetermination and emergent consciousness. Clear physicalism avoids all this. Pain isn’t an abstract property obscurely related to brains – it’s simply a substance in brains. (6) Clear physicalism also avoids problems in neuroscience. Neuroscience explains the mind’s unity in problematic ways using synchrony, attention, etc.. Clear physicalism explains unity in terms of intense neuroelectrical activity reaching continually along brain circuits as a conscious whole. This fits evidence that just highly active, highly connected circuits are fully conscious. Neuroscience also has problems explaining how qualia are actually encoded by brains, and how to get from these abstract codes to actual pain, fear, etc.. Clear physicalism explains qualia electrochemically, using growing evidence that both sensory and emotional qualia correlate with very specific electrical channels in neural receptors. Multiple-realization advocates overlook this important evidence. (7) Clear physicalism thus bridges the mind-brain gulf by showing how brains can possess the mind’s qualia, unity and privacy – and how minds can possess features of brain activity like occupying space and exerting forces. This unorthodox nonreductive physicalism may be where physicalism leads to when stripped of all its reductive and nonreductive obscurities. It offers a clear, simple mind-body solution by just filling in what neuroscience is silent about, namely, what brain matter is like behind perceptions of it. (shrink)
This paper discusses the materialist views of Margaret Cavendish, focusing on the relationships between her views and those of two of her contemporaries, Thomas Hobbes and Henry More. It argues for two main claims. First, Cavendish's views sit, often rather neatly, between those of Hobbes and More. She agreed with Hobbes on some issues and More on others, while carving out a distinctive alternative view. Secondly, the exchange between Hobbes, More, and Cavendish illustrates a more general puzzle about just what (...) divided materialists from their opponents. Seemingly straightforward disagreements about whether incorporeal substances exist turn out to be more complex ones in which the nature of those things is disputed at the same time as their existence. (shrink)
When so much is being written on conscious experience, it is past time to face the question whether experience happens that is not conscious of itself. The recognition that we and most other living things experience non-consciously has recently been firmly supported by experimental science, clinical studies, and theoretic investigations; the related if not identical philosophic notion of experience without a subject has a rich pedigree. Leaving aside the question of how experience could become conscious of itself, I aim here (...) to demonstrate that the terms experience and consciousness are not interchangeable. Experience is a notoriously difficult concept to pin down, but I see non-conscious experience as based mainly in momentary sensations, relational between bodies or systems, and probably common throughout the natural world. If this continuum of experience — from non-conscious, to conscious, to self-transcending awareness — can be understood and accepted, radical constructivism (the “outside” world as a construct of experience) will gain a firmer foundation, panexperientialism (a living universe) may gain credibility, and psi will find its medium. (shrink)
This paper is divided into two main sections. The first articulates what I believe Strawson's position to be. I contrast Strawson's usage of 'physicalism' with the mainstream use. I then explain why I think that Strawson's position is one of property dualism and substance monism. In doing this, I outline his view and Locke's view on the nature of substance. I argue that they are similar in many respects and thus it is no surprise that Strawson actually holds a view (...) on the mind much like one plausible interpretation of Locke's position. Strawson's use of terminology cloaks this fact and he does not himself explicitly recognize it in his paper. In the second section, I outline some of Strawson's assumptions that he uses in arguing for his position. I comment on the plausibility of his position concerning the relation of the mind to the body compared with mainstream physicalism and various forms of dualism. Before embarking on the two main sections, in the remainder of this introduction, I very briefly sketch Strawson's view. (shrink)
Panpsychism, an increasingly popular competitor to physicalism as a theory of mind, faces a famous difficulty, the ‘combination problem’. This is the difficulty of understanding the composition of a conscious mind by parts (the ultimates) which are themselves taken to be phenomenally qualitied. I examine the combination problem, and I attempt to solve it. There are a few distinct difficulties under the banner of ‘the combination problem’, and not all of them need worry panpsychists. After homing in on the (...) genuine worries, I identify some disputable assumptions that underlie them. Doing away with these assumptions allows us to make a start on a working conception of phenomenal combination. (shrink)
This essay is divided into two parts, deeply intermingled. Part I examines not only the origin of conscious experience but also how it is possible to ask of our own consciousness how it came to be. Part II examines the origin of experience itself, which soon reveals itself as the ontological question of Being. The chief premise of Part I is that symbolic communion and the categorizations of language have enabled human organisms to distinguish between themselves as actually existing entities (...) and their own immediate experience of themselves and their world. This enables them to reflect upon abstract concepts, including “self,” “experience,” and “world.” Symbolic communication and conceptualization grow out of identification, the act of first observing conscious experiencing and intimating what it is like, mimesis, a gestural protolanguage learned through imitation, and reflection, seeing oneself through the eyes of others. The step into actual intentional speech is made through self-assertion, narrative, and intersubjectivity. These three become the spiral of human cultural development that includes not only the adaptive satisfaction of our biological needs, but also the creativity of thought. With the mental-conceptual separation of subject and object – of self and world – the human ability to witness the universe (and each other) is the ground of our genuinely human quality. Consciousness gives human life its distinctively human reality. It is, therefore, one and the same ability that enables us to shape planet Earth by means of conceptual representations (rather than by means of our hands alone) while also awakening us to the significance of being. -/- Looking beyond human self-consciousness to investigate the origin and nature of awareness itself in Part 2, reductive objective materialism is found to be of little use. Direct experience also falls short in that, in order to be transformed into objective knowledge about itself, it must always be interpreted through and limited by the symbolic contexts of culture and the idiosyncratic conceptualizations of the individual. Awareness-in-itself must thus be considered ultimately unexplainable, but this may more indicate its inexpressible transcendence of all symbolic qualifiers than its nonexistence. It is suggested that awareness is not “self-aware” (as in deity) but is instead unknowing yet identical with the only true universal: the impetus of creative unfolding. Our human knowledge, as an expression of this unfolding, is seen to emerge from our conscious experiencing and, in turn, to have the power – and enormous responsibility – of directing that experience. Our underlying symbolic worldviews are found to be autopoietic: They limit or open our conscious experience, which, in turn, confirms those worldview expectations. As we explore a future of unforeseeable technological breakthroughs on an ailing planet who patiently copes with our “success,” truly vital decisions about the nature, meaning, extent, and future of conscious experience will have to be made. (shrink)
This is the outline: Introduction : le praticien d’une science-philosophie; Épiphénoménisme retourné et subjectivité délocalisée; Dieu est-il jamais inféré par la science ?; La question du panthéisme; Le pilotage axiologique et la parabole mécaniste; L'unité domaniale comme ce qui reste en dehors de la science.
Preface/Introduction: The question under discussion is metaphysical and truly elemental. It emerges in two aspects — how did we come to be conscious of our own existence, and, as a deeper corollary, do existence and awareness necessitate each other? I am bold enough to explore these questions and I invite you to come along; I make no claim to have discovered absolute answers. However, I do believe I have created here a compelling interpretation. You’ll have to judge for yourself. -/- (...) What follows is the presentation of three essays I have worked on over the past several years seeing publication for the first time. “Hollows of Experience” was written first as an invited chapter for a collection on the ontology of consciousness. However, when cuts became necessary, my chapter got the knife. Its length has prohibited it from publication in any print journal. “Myth and Mind” was written next as a journal article, but as my involvement with it grew so did its length, so it has also idled on my websty awaiting its call. “From Panexperientialism to Conscious Experience” was written most recently, but it is the only one to have been available to the public elsewhere than my own website. Under the name, “The Continuum of Experience”, it was Target Article #95 on the recently closed Karl Jaspers Forum (for discussion purposes only). -/- I have put them in a different sequence here, for reasons of logical sense. Up first, “Panexperientialism” deals with an idea difficult for many to accept, namely that conscious experience is a particular mode of symbolically reflected experience that is largely unique to our species. However, I aver that experienced sensation in itself (as found, for example, in autonomic sensory response systems) goes “all the way down” into nature, and thus the title, panexperientialism. -/- Understanding this idea is helpful to dealing with the focus on language in Part I of “Hollows”, next, since here speech and general symbolic interaction in general are found to be the catalysts for the creation of our consciously experienced world (our “lived reality”). In Part II, however, I explore how experienced sensations must be coeval with existence, and, with even greater temerity, how all this sensational existence might have arisen within some literally inconceivable background of awareness-in-itself that yet has a dynamism that occasionally breaks into existence as experiential events and entities. (The latter may sound wacky, but physicists and cosmologists are themselves attempting to come to terms with that which seethes with vast potential energy in what they refer to as the quantum vacuum.) -/- “Myth and Mind” was put third since it deals with a major lacuna in “Hollows” — that presumed prehistoric period when members of our species made the painful crossing of the symbolic threshold into the beginnings of cultural consciousness. Speech plays a central role here, too, but I look more at narrative structures from the dawn of self-awareness when ritual and myth became vital to human survival. Why would fantastic stories and bizarre rituals be necessary? I speculate that growing foresight led to the unavoidable realization of certain mortality, from which, in turn, emerged the secondary realization that we were now alive. In contrast to our yet-to-come death, we have life here and now, and by ritually identifying with a symbolically expanded mythic, i.e., sacred, reality, we may continue to live on after bodily death, just as our ancestors and loved ones must also do. Language and mythmaking are necessary to avoid mortal despair and they remain at the core of human consciousness. -/- As Ernst Cassirer (1944) has noted, language and myth are “twin creatures”, both metaphoric webs over a reality we can never wholly comprehend. We live in the symbolic and construct our works of imagination and wars of conquest to make life meaningful, to feel immortal, and to sense that we ourselves participate in a reality greater than ourselves. No doubt we do, but this does not mean our culturally constructed self-identities survive the death of our bodies, and it does not imply that our symbolic concepts can ever indicate the ultimate truth. We simply must symbolize an extended reality that was sacred to our ancestors: “Is it not our way, as illusory as it may be, to force continuance on our world and our life in the face of their inevitable ending? Are we not compelled to extend those imaginary horizons as far as we can despite the terror and the sometime joy their extension incites? Is their closure not a form of death?” (Crapanzano, p. 210) -/- Of course, this leaves me in the uncomfortable position of being forced to admit that this venture of mine must inevitably be another attempt at meaningful mythmaking. But what else could it be? This is certainly not a scientific proof though it is indeed an academically rigorous exploration. (Just try to count the citations!) I hope the reader will judge my thesis on the basis of its coherence, the sense of meaning it evokes, my intellectual responsibility, and, finally, the engagement it inspires. If you have read my expositions and found yourself immersed in the timeless questions I here call forth, I would call these writings successful (even if you violently disagree with my answers). -/- I am very grateful to Huping Hu for granting me this special issue of JCER in which to present my ideas in some detail. He has patiently dealt with my exuberant approach and allowed the many changes I kept coming up with right until the final publication date. I also wish to thank the many potential commentators who politely replied to my invitation, and, even more, I thank those who made time to write actual commentaries. -/- References -/- Cassirer, E. (1944). An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture. New Haven/London: Yale UP. -/- Crapanzano, V. (2004). Imaginative Horizons: An Essay in Literary-Philosophical Anthropology. Chicago: U of Chicago Press. -/- Gregory M. Nixon University of Northern British Columbia Prince George, British Columbia, Canada Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Websty: http://members.shaw.ca/doknyx. (shrink)