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Title: Is Panpsychism a good solution to the mind-body problem?
Word count: 900
Writing time: 30 minutes
A: What is panpsychism?
Panpsychism deals with the relationship between mind and matter. It is a type of philosophical monism that suggests that all things have a mind and a body - suggesting that all of nature is in some way conscious. On the Papnsychist view, consciousness, mind, or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things - like mass or charge. Specifically, they posit that matter has a proto-consciousness or proto-mind and that it is an aspect of its nature.
Panpsychism can be traced back to the very origins of Western philosophy. The first panpsychist was Plato who believed that the soul was a type of consciousness which lives in the body. Since the time of Descartes, many philosophers have considered the mind-body problem to be the central issue in the philosophy of mind, but it was not until the 19th century that the term "panpsychism" was coined.
Panpsychism is a minority view in philosophy. It has been defended by philosophers such as Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, and more recently by David Ray Griffin, Galen Strawson, and Thomas Nagel.
B: Why is panpsychism a good solution to the mind-body problem?
The mind-body problem, also known as the hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why sentient experience arises from inert matter. It is a central issue in the philosophy of consciousness and has been called the "hard" problem because it is considered to be more difficult than the "easy" problems of how we detect and recognize physical things, or how we categorize and identify them.
The main focus of the problem is how a physical organism can have experiences or mental states - known as qualia - in the absence of any physical structure to support these. Qualia are individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. Examples include the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, the perceived redness of an evening sky, or the felt weight of a book.
Traditional solutions to the mind-body problem have been labeled either (i) monist (ii) dualist or (iii) pluralist in view of mind-body problem.
A: What are the arguments against panpsychism?
Panpsychism has not been widely accepted in the West, although it has been a central doctrine of Hinduism since ancient times and was also historically defended by such notable Western philosophers as Plotinus (c. 204–270), Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), and Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677).
There are three key arguments against Panpsychism:
Critique 1: Panpsychism is not falsifiable or empirically useful .
One of the key arguments given against panpsychism is that it is not falsifiable. The claim that everything is conscious, including stones and pebbles, seems to be impossible to 'test'.
A related criticism is that panpsychism has no predictive power. Tononi and Koch write: "Besides claiming that matter and mind are one thing, [panpsychism] has little constructive to say and offers no positive laws explaining how the mind is organized and works."
The above criticisms are addressed in the following way:
1. The first criticism is addressed by the distinction between "weak" and "strong" panpsychism. Weak panpsychism is the view that mind is a feature of some physical systems, but not all. Strong panpsychism is the view that mind is a feature of all physical systems. This distinction makes it possible to empirically test weak panpsychism. For example, if weak panpsychism were true, then we should be able to observe mind-like features in certain physical systems (e.g., the behavior of electrons). The second criticism is addressed with a similar strategy: weak panpsychism makes it possible to test whether consciousness plays a role in certain physical systems (e.g., the brain) without making the stronger claim that consciousness plays a role in all physical systems.
2. The second criticism is addressed by noting that panpsychism has explanatory power in at least one case: the case of consciousness. Since we know that consciousness exists, and we have no other theory for its existence, we can conclude that panpsychism provides an explanation for consciousness. We can then apply this conclusion to explain other phenomena, such as intentionality and meaning, which are associated with consciousness. Furthermore, if it turns out that all physical systems have some degree of consciousness, then it becomes more difficult to explain why only humans
Critique 2: Problem of mental causation
Theories of consciousness must provide insight into the workings of the brain and mind to avoid problems of mental causation. If they fail, theories will succumb to epiphenominalism, a position argued to be implausible or even contradictory.
Epiphenomenalism asserts that physical events within a person's brain (or body) give rise to consciousness, but have no effect on it. That is, consciousness is entirely caused by physical processes in the brain, but it itself has no effect on anything physical.
Panpsychism is a philosophical view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of minds. Panpsychism is a view that has been around for a long time, and it is not going away. It is a view that has been held by some of the greatest minds in history, and it is a view that is gaining traction in the modern world.