Cosmopsychism and Consciousness Research: A Fresh View on the Causal Mechanisms...

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Cosmopsychism and Consciousness Research: A Fresh View on the Causal Mechanisms Underlying Phenomenal States

Joachim Keppler, Itay Shani


Quote:Despite the progress made in studying the observable exteriors of conscious processes, which are reflected in the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC), there are still no satisfactory answers to two closely related core questions. These are the question of the origin of the subjective, phenomenal aspects of consciousness, and the question of the causal mechanisms underlying the generation of specific phenomenal states. In this article, we address these questions using a novel variant of cosmopsychism, a holistic form of panpsychism relying on the central idea that the universe is imbued with a ubiquitous field of consciousness (UFC). This field is understood as a foundational dual-aspect component of the cosmos, the extrinsic appearance of which is physical in nature and the intrinsic manifestation of which is phenomenological in nature. We argue that this approach brings a new perspective into play, according to which the organizational characteristics of the NCC are indicative of the brain’s interaction with and modulation of the UFC. Key insights from modern physics suggest that the modulation mechanism is identical with the fundamental mechanism underlying quantum systems, resulting in the conclusion that a coherently oscillating neural cell assembly acquires phenomenal properties by tapping into the universal pool of phenomenal nuances predetermined by the UFC, or more specifically, by entering into a temporary liaison with the UFC and extracting a subset of phenomenal tones from the phenomenal color palette inherent in the basic structure of the UFC. This hypothesis is supported by a substantial body of empirical evidence.



Quote:...Consider now the restriction of the spectrum of possible causal mechanisms underlying macro-scale phenomenal consciousness. One sense in which cerebral chauvinism is ill-advised is evinced in the accumulation of evidence suggesting that the bounds of consciousness in the living world may far exceed cranial circumscription. To begin with, some highly intelligent creatures such as octopuses and other cephalopods are endowed with large neural ganglia on their arms, supporting sophisticated forms of sensing and moving with significant degree of autonomy from the octopus’ brain (Hanlon and Messenger, 1996; Godfrey-Smith, 2013). More radically still, there is growing evidence for the existence of complex behavior in organisms lacking brains altogether. An intriguingly broad array of cognitive abilities is being progressively unveiled in simple eukaryotes, prokaryotes, and plants. Variegated forms of perception and behavioral plasticity, information processing, anticipation, memory, learning, valence, problem solving, communication, and cooperation are attributed to various brainless organisms from slime molds (Nakagaki et al., 2000; Reid et al., 2012), to bacteria (Ben-Jacob et al., 2006; Lyon, 2015), to plants (Trewavas, 2014; Gagliano, 2017).

In congruence with such studies, there is also a growing tendency to view neuronal networks as but one special case (albeit particularly powerful) of a general network dynamics whose fundamental principles are exemplified throughout the entire spectrum of biological life (Lyon, 2015; Baluŝka and Levin, 2016). In other words, many cognitive functions which in creatures such as Macaque monkeys, bees, or humans, are mediated through cerebral activity appear to be manifest, to some degree, in different forms of life (such as plants, slime molds, or bacteria) using alternative types of informational networks: be it methylation DNA networks, root systems, cytoskeletal elements, non-neural bioelectricity, calcium signaling, and so on...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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  • Typoz
Problems for Goff’s panpsychism

Feser


Quote:Goff says that there must be something that fleshes out the abstract structure described by physics, and alleges that “there doesn’t seem to be a candidate for being the intrinsic nature of matter other than consciousness” (Galileo’s Error, p. 133).  But in fact there is no great mystery here in need of some exotic solution.  We need only to see what is in front of our nose, which, as Orwell famously said, requires a constant struggle.  The concrete reality that fleshes out the abstract structure described by physics is nothing other than the world of ordinary objects revealed to us in everyday experience.  Physics is an abstraction from that, just as the representation of a person’s face in a pen and ink sketch is an abstraction from all the rich concrete detail to be found in the actual, flesh-and-blood face.  No one thinks that the existence of pen and ink drawings raises some deep metaphysical puzzle about what fleshes out the two-dimensional black-and-white representation, and neither is there any deep metaphysical mystery about what fleshes out the abstract structure described by physics.  The bizarre panpsychist solution is no more called for in the latter case than in the former. 

Does that mean there is nothing more to be said about the intrinsic nature of matter beyond what common sense would say about it?  Not at all, and Aristotelianism provides a detailed account what more there is to be said about it.  It is to be found in the hylemorphist analysis of material substances as compounds of substantial form and prime matter, possessing causal powers and teleology, and so on.  Again, for the details see Aristotle’s Revenge (as well as its predecessor Scholastic Metaphysics, and the work of other contemporary Aristotelians like David Oderberg).  Goff is right that a radical solution is needed to the problems opened up by Galileo’s error.  But it is to be found, not in panpsychism (which ultimately amounts to yet a further riff on Galileo’s error), but in a return to the classical philosophical wisdom that the early moderns abandoned.



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Are Roses Really Red?

Goff


Quote:Feser’s view is standardly called ‘direct realism’ or ‘naïve realism’: the view that conscious perception (when it goes right) is essentially a relationship between the mind and the external world. According to direct realism, experiences are not inside the head but are rather ‘world-involving’: the red rose out there in the world is literally inside of (or at least partly constitutes) my visual experience of the red rose. The redness I directly encounter in my experience is not a property of my experience but of the rose itself.

I have a familiar philosophical concern with this view, which arises from thinking about hallucinations. If I’m hallucinating a red rose, then there’s no red rose out there in the world for me to be related to. So when it comes to hallucinations, at least, the experience must be in the head. The direct realist, then, is led to the view that veridical experiences (‘veridical’ is the technical term for experiences that present things as they really are) are radically different kinds of thing from hallucinations: the former are world-involving relationships, the latter are in the head. This view is known in philosophy of perception as ‘disjunctivism.’

For these reasons, Feser’s direct realism entails disjunctivism, and I think there’s a pretty good argument against disjunctivism...


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Goff’s gaffes

Feser


Quote:
Quote:Feser, in contrast, rejects Galileo’s initial move of taking the qualities out of the external world. The redness really is in the rose, the greenness really in the grass, etc., and hence we have a ‘hard problem’ not just about consciousness but also about the qualities in external objects.


End quote.  This is the reverse of the truth, and Goff misses the point that rejecting Galileo’s move leaves us, not with a second “hard problem,” but rather with no “hard problems” at all.  And Goff himself should see this, given his other commitments.  The so-called “hard problem of consciousness” arises only if we assume that higher-level properties must be reducible to lower-level ones – that the qualitative character of a visual experience, for example, must be reducible to neurological properties or the like.  There will be a corresponding “hard problem” of explaining how redness can be a feature of a rose only if we assume that redness must be entirely reducible to properties of the sort described by physics and chemistry.

But these “problems” disappear if we reject this reductionist assumption...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2022-07-18, 04:18 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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