Naturalized Panpsychism: An Alternative to Fundamentalist Physicalism and Supernaturalism

Authors
Earl Cookson
Marquette University
Abstract
A central problem in the mind-body debate is the generation problem: how consciousness occurs in a universe understood as primarily non-conscious. This problem is particularly bothersome for physicalists. I argue that the generation problem stems from a non-critical presupposition about the nature of reality, namely, that the mental is an exception in the universe, a non-fundamental property. I call this presupposition mental specialism. Despite the fact that mental specialism dogmatically ingrained in the debate, there has been little reason offered either to accept or reject it. And doing so would dissolve the generation problem. But rejecting mental specialism, though it would dissolve the generation problem, would mean accepting another anathema presupposition: panpsychism. The resistance to panpsychism stems from the perception that panpsychism runs counter to science, that it is based on dogmatic metaphysical arguments, and that it entails doctrines that cannot be accepted by science, such as mysteriousness. This perception is misguided and here I argue that a naturalized panpsychism, one that does not run contrary to science in these ways, can be developed and defended. I argue that consciousness emerges from proto-consciousness, the fundamental property that is disposed to give rise to consciousness. Proto-consciousness is not an arbitrarily posited property; following an important contemporary approach in neuroscience, I understand proto-consciousness as information. The thesis that consciousness emerges from proto-consciousness elicits a fatal problem with panpsychic theories, the combination problem. This problem is how to account for higher-order conscious properties emerging from proto-conscious properties. I solve the combination problem that by adopting Giuolio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness and demonstrating emerging higher-order conscious properties just is a system integrating information. Thus information is the fundamental property that, when integrated in a system such as a human being, is consciousness. Proto-consciousness is thus a natural property and the formulated panpsychic theory based upon information is a naturalized panpsychism
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