A comment on a remark in Colin McGinn's article in The New
"The trouble with panpsychism is that there just isn't any evidence of
the universal distribution of consciousness in the material world. Atoms
don't act conscious; they act unconscious. And also, what precisely is
on their microscopic minds - little atomic concerns? What does it mean
to say that atoms have consciousness in some primitive form (often
called "proto-consciousness")? They either have real sensations and
thoughts or they don't. What is a tiny quantity of consciousness like,
exactly? Panpsychism looks a lot like preformationism in biology: we try
to explain the emergence of organic life by supposing that it already
exists in microscopic form in the pre-life world - as if the
just-fertilised egg has a little, fully formed baby curled up in it
waiting to expand during gestation."
In defense of panpsychism I would like to point out that we must
examine the question of evidence here. What exactly would be "evidence"
viz a viz "there just isn't any evidence of the universal distribution
of consciousness in the material world"?!
How would we humans come to know with any modicum of scientific
certainty whether or not an atom is conscious. McGinn's remark considers
panpsychism to be analogous to preformationalism in biology and thus,
given our current understanding of DNA and genomes, we can see some kind
of correctness to that idea, albeit one that casts aside the narrow
materialist straight-jacket. If, as some
<http://consc.net/papers/nature.html> have reasoned, consciousness is
indeed a basic aspect of our universe, then I don't see an escape from
the panpsychist conclusion.
The question then remains: How do we deal with the question of the
existence of sensations "in" atoms?
"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."
~ Francis Bacon
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