Is panpsychism as crazy as it sounds?

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Yes. Probably.

(On the other hand, my twenty-five year-old car seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. So I’ll give him that.)

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Nope. I actually find it compelling

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I have some problems with it. One of them is that it seems to just push the hard problem of consciousness to a deeper, more fundamental level. While we no longer have the problem of explaining how it is that only some particular brain structures(or other putatively conscious physical structures) can produce conscious experiences, we still aren’t told how it works or why it exists, just that it’s everywhere, as if some fundamental property of matter. So in that way it doesn’t really seem to solve the problem.

Another is, if all physical entities have experience, what are they experiencing? They don’t have eyes, or nerves, or ears, or taste buds, or anything of the sort. If sensory organs aren’t required for sensory experience, then what is there really to be conscious of? And if all matter can have mind, why did the brain evolve? Just what are all those neurons and their connections for?

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It seems to me that all efforts to answer the “hard problem” share in common that they do not actually answer the problem. Rather, the disagreements are over exactly what question we should be trying to answer. e.g. Eliminativism and Illusionism resolves the question of “What is consciousness?” by answering “It doesn’t exist.” But this then leads to the equally hard question: “Why does it appear to us as if consciousness exists?” And, of course, making sure you are answering the right questions is very important. But answers still seem very far away.

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Chalmers thinks this is an easy problem under the criterion he used to define the hard problem of consciousness. See page 8 of his meta-problem of consciousness paper. That does not mean the meta-problem is not difficult, only that is is one that science can be used to solve.

But for the hard problem of consciousness, many philosophers (including Goff) use various flavors of the hard problem to argue that science as it is currently done cannot explain phenomenal experience. It’s that type of unexplainable phenomenal experience that illusionism claims does not exist.

Papineau and Frankish recently had an exchange about illusionism versus identity theory at Frankish’s blog. Both think that phenomenal experience can be explained by science. They end up agreeing that there is no substantial difference in their two positions. I linked Papineau’s comments separately.

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That’s interesting, because TBH I’ve been struggling to appreciate the difference between the two.

Thanks for the pointer!

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One dimension of difference is functionalism versus identity theory. Dennett, I believe, has always self-identified as a functionalist, but I think his most recent position is something like neuro-functionalism. That means that the functional brain properties that realize the mind depend on the details of the biochemistry and structure of neurons, hormones, etc in the brain/body. Practically speaking, that seems pretty close to identity theory to me.

Another dimension is the nature of the representations used in the theory. One can (1) deny that there are representations (the dynamical theorists), or (2) claim the relevant ones are first-order representations of properties of the world, or (3) claim that the relevant representations are second order representations of other brain states (eg HOT). I think illusionism is a version of second order representationalism, except that Frankish prefers to say that the second order representations misrepresent brain states.

There is also the technical issue of phenomenal concepts which physicalist philosophers often use to explain the Mary the color scientist thought experiment. Frankish seems to still be uncomfortable with them but Papineau is not.

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