Freya Mathews on Panpsychism

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Panpsychism as Paradigm

Quote:The gist of the argument is that a holistic or cosmological version of panpsychism, according to which the universe as a whole is the ultimate locus of mind, or of mind-‐like properties, can function as a rival to materialism, materialism being understood as the view which denies that mind, or any mind-‐like property, inheres in an essential way in matter or in other fundamental elements of physical reality. Moreover, I shall suggest that, in relation to materialism, cosmological panpsychism functions not merely as a rival theory but as a rival paradigm. I make this suggestion because materialism generates a number of intractable anomalies, anomalies that have become so entrenched in the philosophical tradition of the West as to seem inevitable. We perhaps forget that they are anomalies, and treat them instead as the very substance of metaphysics. It might be in consequence of this conflation that we have concluded that metaphysical questions are in principle undecidable, and consequently not worth pursuing. Tackling these intractable questions from the viewpoint of an alternative paradigm might then have implications for metaphysics itself...

Quote:I shall address four specific metaphysical anomalies.In each case I shall argue that these are anomalies for materialism but are far less problematic for cosmological panpsychism.The arguments as I present them here will be very abbreviated but can be found in more developed form elsewhere in my work.

1.Problem of realism, or of the appearance/reality distinction
2.Problem of why the universe hangs together, or, more narrowly, the problem of causation
3.Problem of why there is something rather than nothing
4.Problem of the origin of the universe, or of a beginning to time

Of course, the hard problem of consciousness, which I have not listed, is also a preeminent anomaly for the materialist paradigm, an anomaly which panpsychism can make some claim to solve. But if it can be shown that materialism harbours other anomalies,and that cosmological panpsychism solves, or at least softens, these, this independent evidence for panpsychism strengthens it as a contender in the case of the hard problem. Moreover, a sense of the cosmological reach and origins of consciousness will provide a new and illuminating context for the investigation of our own human consciousness. In both these respects then exploring cosmological panpsychism as paradigm is relevant to the hard problem of consciousness.

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Why Has the West Failed to Embrace Panpsychism?

Quote:To solve this problem of contingency or arbitrariness, and hence this failure of intelligibility, at the heart of science, the postulate of causality was tacitly assumed. The universals of science were underpinned by causal necessity. The forces posited by physics were vectors of a causal power that simply made things that were otherwise entirely arbitrary happen. Physics was a theater of force, of coercion, because otherwise there was no way of accounting for the fact that things happened as they did. But Hume of course exploded this device, by revealing that the principle of causation is neither logically necessary nor detectable by observation. The whole edifice of science is held in place by it but it is, in fact, a metaphysical fraud or sleight of hand.

Quote:...There may be alternative modes of thought, and indeed of explanation, which do not share this structure—the structure of theoria—and do enable us to see both how and why reality itself hangs together.

Before introducing an example of such a mode of thought, I would like to spell out in a little more detail how the conundrum of causation at the heart of science is a consequence, at a subtler level, of the mirroring maneuver at the base of theory. In this mirroring maneuver the mind, as we have seen, projects ‘the world’ as an idealized totality onto a kind of mental screen and in the process differentiates itself, in just the kind of way Kant detailed in his analysis of the transcendental unity of apperception, into a knowing subject, on the one hand, and the world as object or known, on the other. Since this object is, despite its world-content, mentally a passive construct of the subject, it will be understood by the subject to be, in an ultimate sense, inert. In the explanatory scenario of theoria, self-activity,and hence motive power, will always be intuited to lie outside the object.The object by definition, qua object, lacks the power of self-creation or self-animation. It will for this reason seem intuitively natural, from the perspective of the subject, to posit an external source of motive power for the world, a Prime Mover or, as secular substitute for such a Mover in science, a principle of causation, which is, as we have seen, a principle of coercion or force. The laws of nature are held in place by the arbitrary but coercive force of causation.

So, to continue the recapitulation, science, the ultimate expression(so far) of theoria, is inevitably a physicalism or materialism...

Quote:It was a brilliant and arresting article by Francois Jullien (2002), “Did philosophers have to become fixated on Truth?”, that first sensitized me to the possible contingency of truth as the goal of cognition. And it was the meta-level contrast Jullien drew between the figure of the Greek philosopher and that of the Chinese sage that somehow made this contingency of truth asa goal plain. Jullien’s arguments were different from those I have offered here; he did not posit theoria as a distinct category of cognitive process nor did he, accordingly, seek to demonstrate that dualism originated in such a process. But his aim was, like mine, to show that truth, the goal of the Greek philosopher, was an historical and cultural discovery. In seeking truth, the Greek philosopher was seeking a kind of final solution to the riddle of existence, an account of the nature of things that was fixed and eternal despite the perishability of things themselves. Truth in this sense, Jullien emphasized, was exclusive: if a view were true it necessarily excluded all competing views. It was in this respect that the Greek philosopher stood in marked contrast to the Chinese sage, who, Jullien observed, set out not to explain the world but to adapt himself to it. The sage sought to identify the tendencies or dispositions at work in particular situations in order to harness those tendencies or dispositions to his own best advantage. To this end he remained open to all points of view instead of insisting on a single viewpoint(‘truth’) exclusive of others. In describing the sage as seeking ‘congruence’ with reality, Jullien seems to be implying that the thinking of the sage remained inextricable from agency rather than becoming, like the thinking of the Greeks, an end in itself.
'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


Thinking from Within the Calyx of Nature

Quote:Is philosophy an appropriate means for inducing the “moral point of view” with respect to nature? The moral point of view involves a feeling for the inner reality of others, a feeling which, it is argued, is induced more by processes of synergistic interaction than by the kind of rational deliberation that classically constituted philosophy. But how are we to engage synergistically with other-than-human life forms and systems? While synergy with animals presents no in-principle difficulty, synergy with larger life systems takes us into epistemological realms explored only in the margins of the Western tradition, such as in Goethe’s Romantic alternative to science. These “alternative” epistemological realms are however the very province of the Daoist arts of China, and these arts accordingly furnish us with practices conducive to a moral consciousness of nature.

Quote:The  question  I  shall  be  pondering  in  this  paper is,  how  are  we  to  induce the  moral  point  of  view  with  respect  to  the  natural  world?  Working  out how to induce this point of view is obviously relevant to, even if it is far from  the  whole  substance  of,  environmental  education,  but  I  am  not intending  it  as a  question  specifically  about  environmental  education.  I want to explore rather the kind of knowing or thinking that is involved in the  attainment  of  a  moral  consciousness  of  nature.  For  some  kind  or knowing  or  thinking -  something  beyond  mere  unreflective  experience  of natural  environments –  does  seem  to  be  involved:  rural  people unreflectively  immersed  in  nature  are  often,  after  all,  amongst  the  most oblivious  of  its  moral  significance.  And  mere conditioning is hardly satisfactory: while children may simply be instructed to internalise certain moral  values,  adults  normally  cannot  be  inducted  in  this  way,  and  it  is clearly  not  desirable  to  attempt  so  to  induct  them:  moral  consciousness should be based on understanding rather than on external authority. But what    kind    of    understanding    will    serve    the    purpose? Scientific understanding  of  life-systems  is  obviously  not  enough:  science  has traditionally  been  the  prime  tool  for  the  wholesale  instrumentalization  of nature.  But  what  other  kinds  of  understanding  are  there?  Is  it  through rational deliberation, careful rational consideration of questions about the moral  considerability  of  nature,  that  a  moral  viewpoint  with  respect  to nature  can  be  fostered?  Is  it,  in  other  words,  via philosophical  thinking, specifically environmental  ethics,  that  this  moral  viewpoint  is  attained? Many  environmental  philosophers  evidently  assume  that  thinking  about nature in a philosophical way is a necessary step towards achieving moral reorientation vis a vis the environment.

But is this so?...
'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: 2019-09-21, 10:07 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)

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