Amazon Product Description1
- For the last five years philosopher Galen Strawson has provoked a mixture of shock and scepticism with his carefully argued case that physicalism2 (the view that every real, concrete phenomenon in the universe is physical) entails panpsychism (the view that the existence of every real concrete thing involves experiential being).
- In this book Strawson provides the fullest and most careful statement of his position to date, throwing down the gauntlet to his critics - including Peter Carruthers, Frank Jackson, William Lycan, Colin McGinn, David Papineau, Georges Rey, David Rosenthal and J.J.C. Smart - by inviting them to respond in print.
- The book concludes with Strawson's response to his commentators.
Amazon Customer3 Review
- I have been going to meetings, workshops and seminars about consciousness since I was knee high to a puppy, and after a few years when it was a minority interest, it is very noticeable that consciousness is currently back in favor, with new books, journals and research appearing extremely rapidly.
- The interdisciplinary conferences are always fun, though they tend to be populated by an extraordinary array of people, many of whom are convinced that they have The Answer, and nothing will ever dissuade them. I have met mystics, philosophers, psychologists, brain scientists and a lot of people who used to do physics. Several Nobel laureates have written books purporting to explain the connections between consciousness and their primary area of expertise.
- Yet for all this activity, we are still left with the central problem that philosophers call "the hard problem": if, as most materialists4 believe, the world is made entirely of physical matter, how can matter be conscious? How could three pounds of material inside the skull have experiences?
- Most people who have done philosophy 101 will have learned that there are two main schools of thought about the "hard problem." The first says that the hard problem is easy: consciousness 'emerges' from neural processes. This succeeds in replacing the question, "what is consciousness and how is it possible?" with a similar one: "what is emergence and how is that possible?" In effect "explaining" one mystery with another one.
- Option two is to say that the hard problem is so hard that it is insoluble: consciousness must be some sort of illusion. Some serious writers, including the editor of a popular magazine on psychology, have claimed that all of human experience can be reduced to reflexes, and if we believe in consciousness, love and faith, these are all programs, because we are, in fact, not conscious at all. Though I know, like and respect many of them, they remind me of some of the members of the Flat Earth Society who continued their activities for almost twenty years after the moon landings. I remember hearing the announcement that the final thirteen members of the British branch of the society decided to call it a day.
- There is a third alternative that proposes that the universe is not made only of matter, but that it also composed of another material, mind, perhaps, that is the home of consciousness. We then have another problem: if matter and mind are fundamentally different, how can they interact? How can one cause another to change? This is far from being an academic exercise: if you feel that you would really like some chocolate, how does that cause a change in your physiology and behavior? We all know that the desire can change your body and behavior, but how?
- A fourth approach, the non-dual, says that everything is Mind and that matter is but one of its manifestations. This is a fundamental tenet of Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist traditions, and beloved in the New Age movement. There are, though, a number of technical snags with this very attractive idea.
- So we clearly need to find some way to square the circle.
- So this is the background to Galen Strawson's new book. It begins with a lead essay by Strawson, commentaries by 18 other philosophers, and then Strawson's extensive comments on the comments.
- The book is a goldmine of valuable insights. Strawson is imaginative and the commentaries are insightful, informative and very well argued. Unlike many books on philosophy, it is fun to read.
- There is no question that Strawson's fascinating model is at odds with most mainline thinking in science, psychology and philosophy.
- Strawson's three main principles are first that the existence of consciousness is undeniable; second is the principle of monism: that everything that exists is made of the same material. Third is the notion that emergence is not possible: a mind could not spring out of the activity of material cells in the brain. He argues that although water can emerge from the combination of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, the same trick could not happen with consciousness. There is no way of organizing matter that is not conscious, so that it produces something that is.
- This leads to a philosophical position that could have straight out of the mouth of an Advaita Vedantist at any time over the last thirteen centuries.
- If everything is made of the same sort of stuff as tables and chairs, cats and dogs, and if at least some of the things made of that sort of stuff are conscious and if there is no emergence, it follows that the stuff that those tables and chairs and cats and dogs are made of, must itself be conscious. This is the central core of the "panpsychist" philosophy that views all matter as involving consciousness. Even an atom is sentient.
- He goes on to say that there are no experiences without subjects of experience; if there is a pain, it must belong to and be experienced by someone. The trouble with that is the experience of meditators and mystics who report pure egoless experience.
- I normally like books that give me answers. This one does not, but I have a strong intuition that the debates in this book are going to generate more and unexpected answers.
- I am going to leave the last word to Galen Strawson,
"There is, I feel sure, a fundamental sense in which monism is true, a fundamental sense in which there is only one kind of stuff in the universe. Plainly, though, we don't fully understand the nature of this stuff, and I don't suppose we ever will - even if we can develop a way of apprehending things that transcends discursive forms of thought."
- An excellent mental work out, so it is warmly recommended!
In-Page Footnotes ("JCS - Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Issue 10-11 (2006)")
Footnote 1: Of the book Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?, Imprint Academic; 1 edition (24 Oct 2006), which is a reprint of the same material.
Footnote 3: Dr. Richard G. Petty: presumably the “world-renowned authority on the brain” – see Link.
For further information, and some on-line texts, see Link (Defunct).
"Carruthers (Peter) & Schechter (Elizabeth) - Can Panpsychism Bridge the Explanatory Gap?"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 32-39(8)
"Coleman (Sam) - Being Realistic: Why Physicalism May Entail Panexperientialism"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006; 40-52(13)
- In this paper I first examine two important assumptions underlying the argument that physicalism entails panpsychism. These need unearthing because opponents in the literature distinguish themselves from Strawson in the main by rejecting one or the other. Once they have been stated, and something has been said about the positions that reject them, the onus of argument becomes clear: the assumptions require careful defence.
- I believe they are true, in fact, but their defence is a large project that cannot begin here. So, in the final section I comment on what follows if they are granted. I agree with Strawson that --broadly -- 'panpsychism' is the direction in which philosophy of mind should be heading; nevertheless, there are certain difficulties in the detail of his position. In light of these I argue for changes to the doctrine, bringing it into line with the slightly — but significantly — different panexperientialism.
"Goff (Philip) - Experiences Don't Sum"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 53-61(9)
- According to Galen Strawson, there could be no such thing as ‘brute emergence’. If we allow that certain x’s can emerge from certain y’s in a way that is unintelligible, even to God, then we allow for anything: for something to emerge from nothing, for the concrete to emerge from the abstract. To suppose that experiential phenomena could emerge from wholly non-experiential phenomena would be to commit ourselves to just such a brute emergence, to enlist in the ‘Humpty Dumpty army’ for life, with little chance of honourable discharge.
- It is this revulsion for the notion of brute emergence which leads Strawson to hold that the only viable form of physicalism is panpsychism, the view that the ultimate constituents of the physical world (which I will follow Strawson in calling ‘ultimates’) are essentially experience involving.
- Unfortunately, panpsychism is also committed to a kind of brute emergence which is arguably just as unintelligible as the emergence of the experiential from the non-experiential: the emergence of novel ‘macroexperiential phenomena’ from ‘microexperiential phenomena’.
"Jackson (Frank) - Galen Strawson on Panpsychism"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 62-64(3)
- We make powerful motor cars by suitably assembling items that are not themselves powerful, but we do not do this by 'adding in the power' at the very end of the assembly line; nor, if it comes to that, do we add portions of power along the way. Powerful motor cars are nothing over and above complex arrangements or aggregations of items that are not themselves powerful.
- The example illustrates the way aggregations can have interesting properties that the items aggregated lack. What can we say of a general kind about what can be made from what by nothing over and above aggregation? I think that this is the key issue that Galen Strawson (2006) puts so forcefully on the table.
"Lycan (William) - Resisting ?-ism"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 65-71(7)
- Professor Strawson's paper is refreshing in content as well as refreshingly intemperate. It is salutary to be reminded that even the Type Identity Theory does not entail physicalism as that doctrine is usually understood (since c-fiber firings are not by definition purely physical). And it's fun to consider versions of panpsychism.
- I can see why Strawson finds his position hard to classify (p. 7), and I sympathize. In my title I have cast my own vote for '?-ism' on the grounds that any familiar label would be either misleading or unwieldy.
- My main purpose here is to assess Strawson's case for panpsychism and then to offer some objections to panpsychism, but first I want to answer an interesting and serious charge he makes against me.
"Macpherson (Fiona) - Property Dualism and the Merits of Solutions to the Mind-Body Problem: A Reply to Strawson"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 72-89(18)
- This paper is divided into two main sections.
- The first articulates what I believe Strawson's position to be. I contrast Strawson's usage of 'physicalism' with the mainstream use. I then explain why I think that Strawson's position is one of property dualism and substance monism. In doing this, I outline his view and Locke's view on the nature of substance. I argue that they are similar in many respects and thus it is no surprise that Strawson actually holds a view on the mind much like one plausible interpretation of Locke's position. Strawson's use of terminology cloaks this fact and he does not himself explicitly recognize it in his paper.
- In the second section, I outline some of Strawson's assumptions that he uses in arguing for his position. I comment on the plausibility of his position concerning the relation of the mind to the body compared with mainstream physicalism and various forms of dualism.
- Before embarking on the two main sections, in the remainder of this introduction, I very briefly sketch Strawson's view.
- Strawson claims that he is a physicalist and panpsychist. These two views are not obvious bedfellows, indeed, as typically conceived, they are incompatible positions. However, Strawson’s use of the term ‘physicalism’ is not the mainstream one. Strawson, clearly, recognizes this and takes some pains to distinguish how his conception of physicalism differs from mainstream physicalism. Strawsonian physicalism is the position that there are both non-abstract ‘experiential’ phenomena (by this Strawson means conscious mental phenomena, including both experience, traditionally conceived, and conscious thought) and non-experiential phenomena and that, ‘there is, in some fundamental sense, only one kind of stuff in the universe’ (Strawson, 2006, p. 7). He thinks that the experiential cannot be explained in principle by the non-experiential. The former does not reduce to the latter, and it does not emerge from the latter in any explicable way (Strawson, 2006, p. 12). Strawson urges a panpsychist view, which he claims to be the view that ‘all physical ultimates are experiential’ (Strawson, 2006, p. 25).
"McGinn (Colin) - Hard Questions: Comments on Galen Strawson"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 90-99(10)
- I find myself in agreement with almost all of Galen's paper (Strawson, 2006) -- except, that is, for his three main claims.
- These I take to be:
- that he has provided a substantive and useful definition of 'physicalism';
- that physicalism entails panpsychism; and
- that panpsychism is a necessary and viable doctrine.
- But I find much to applaud in the incidentals Galen brings in to defend these three claims, particularly his eloquent and uncompromising rejection of the idea of brute emergence, as well as his dissatisfaction with standard forms of physicalism.
- I certainly find his paper far more on target than most of the stuff I read on this topic.
"Papineau (David) - Comments on Galen Strawson: 'Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism'"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 100-109(10)
- Galen Strawson (2006) thinks it is 'obviously' false that 'the terms of physics can fully capture the nature or essence of experience' (p. 4). He also describes this view as 'crazy' (p. 7).
- I think that he has been carried away by first impressions. It is certainly true that 'physicSalism', as he dubs this view, is strongly counterintuitive. But at the same time there are compelling arguments in its favour. I think that these arguments are sound and that the contrary intuitions are misbegotten.
- In the first two sections of my remarks I would like to spend a little time defending physicSalism, or 'straightforward' physicSalism, as I shall call it ('S' for 'straightforward', if you like).
- I realize that the main topic of Strawson's paper is panpsychism rather than his rejection of straightforward physicalism. But the latter is relevant as his arguments for panpsychism depend on his rejection of straightforward physicalism, in ways I shall explain below.
"Rey (Georges) - Better to Study Human Than World Psychology"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006pp. 110-116(7)
- Strawson argues that ‘the only reasonable position’ regarding the inexplicability of experience in non-experiential terms is that experience is a fundamental feature of the world: ‘All physical stuff is energy, and all energy . . . is an experience-involving phenomenon’ (Strawson, 2006, p. 25).
- Now, I take it we haven’t the slightest reason independent of this argument for any such fantastic conclusion. No one has produced the slightest evidence that anything but certain animals (and maybe certain machines) have experiences.
- Indeed, on the face of it, the conclusion seems about as plausible as a claim that all energy involves lactation, or that quarks are a kind of mammal. Perhaps I don’t know that these latter claims are false, but there’s obviously not a shred of reason to take them seriously.
- Strawson’s claims also seem to me indistinguishable from dualism, as I understand it, which, after all, just is the claim that the mental is not explicable by the non-mental — i.e. not explicable at all — a view that I join many in finding improbable, and in any case intellectually unsatisfying.
"Rosenthal (David) - Experience and the Physical"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 117-128(12)
- Strawson's challenging and provocative defence of panpsychism begins by sensibly insisting that physicalism, properly understood, must unflinchingly countenance the occurrence of conscious experiences. No view, he urges, will count as 'real physicalism' (p. 4) if it seeks to get around or soften that commitment, as versions of so-called physicalism sometimes do.
- Real physicalism (hereinafter physicalism tout court) must accordingly reject any stark opposition of mental and physical, which is not only invoked by many followers of Descartes, but even countenanced by many recent physicalists. Conscious experiences, Strawson persuasively urges, are a special case of the physical, just as cows are animals.
- Panpsychism enters the picture because, despite the physical nature of conscious experiences, Strawson maintains that we cannot describe or explain the experiential using the terms of physics or neurophysiology. Since the experiential is nonetheless physical, Strawson concludes that the physical ultimates must, in addition to whatever properties physics and neurophysiology reveal, have experiential properties as well.
- Strawson argues that we cannot avoid this conclusion by maintaining that combinations of physical ultimates constitute or give rise to experiential properties. Physical ultimates cannot give rise to conscious experience unless those ultimates are themselves in some way ‘intrinsically experiential’ (p. 22). The experiential cannot emerge from non-experiential ultimates in the way that macroscopic liquidity is standardly held to emerge from molecular properties. Strawson concludes that at least some physical ultimates must be ‘intrinsically experience-involving’ (p. 22); and, since it’s reasonable to see the physical ultimates as homogeneous in nature, we should assume that they all have experiential properties.
- In Section I, I will raise doubts both about Strawson’s claim that we cannot describe the experiential in nonexperiential terms and his argument for that claim. In Section II, then, I will suggest some concerns about Strawson’s argument against emergence and his consequent ascription of experiential properties to the physical ultimates. I will close in Section III with some general remarks about physicalism and subjectivity.
"Seager (William) - The 'Intrinsic Nature' Argument for Panpsychism"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 129-145(17)
- Strawson's (2006) case in favour of panpsychism is at heart an updated version of a venerable form of argument I'll call the 'intrinsic nature' argument. It is an extremely interesting argument which deploys all sorts of high calibre metaphysical weaponry (despite the 'down home' appeals to common sense which Strawson frequently makes). The argument is also subtle and intricate. So let's spend some time trying to articulate its general form.
- Strawson characterizes his version of panpsychism, or ‘real physicalism’, as the view that ‘everything that concretely exists is intrinsically experience-involving’. He approvingly quotes several of Russell’s remarks, the general upshot of which is that ‘we know nothing about the intrinsic quality of physical events except when these are mental events that we directly experience’ which sentiment is echoed by various pronouncements of Eddington, such as ‘science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom’. In whatever way the argument is going to proceed, it evidently depends upon some conception of the intrinsic nature of things. What is this supposed to be?
- The philosophical literature on the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties (or relational properties) is vexed and very far from settled (see Humberstone, 1996, for an extensive review and discussion). The core intuition would seem to be the idea that the intrinsic properties of X are the properties that all duplicates1 of X would have. Thus, for example, any duplicate2 of me would have the same mass as I do (so mass looks like an intrinsic property) but would differ from me in not being an uncle (so uncle-hood looks — as it should — to be a non-intrinsic or extrinsic property). But there does not seem to be any way to define duplication3 in the relevant sense without circular reference back to intrinsic properties. Another way to get at the idea is to characterize the intrinsic properties as those which X would persist in exemplifying were it absolutely alone in the universe. That is, the intrinsics are the properties X has ‘all by itself’ or ‘of its own nature’. For example, the clearly extrinsic (or relational, I will not attempt to forge a distinction between these notions here) property of ‘being an uncle’ is not a property one can have if one is absolutely alone in the universe. This suggests that a simple characterization of the notion of intrinsic property would be something like ‘F is an intrinsic property of x just in case Fx does not imply the existence of anything distinct from x’. Unfortunately, this won’t quite do. In the first place, necessary existents are entailed by anything having any property. Kim (1982) amended the condition to require that Fx not entail the existence of a distinct, contingent thing. But as Lewis (1983) pointed out the property of loneliness (being absolutely alone in the world1) is obviously extrinsic and yet its possession does not entail the existence of any distinct contingent beings. Langton and Lewis (1998) suggest that the intrinsics are the properties which are logically independent of both loneliness and accompaniment, that is, F is an intrinsic property of x just in case Fx is compatible with loneliness and accompaniment and not-Fx is similarly compatible with both loneliness and accompaniment. On the face of it however, this criterion appears to make the relational property of ‘. . . loves a’ (where a is some object) into an intrinsic property, for a can love itself or not whether or not it is accompanied. Be that as it may, the concept of the intrinsic properties of an object seems intuitively intelligible, despite the difficulties philosophers have in spelling it out precisely in non question-begging terms. It may well be that the concept of intrinsicness is a ‘primitive’ notion. The point here is simply that a difficult metaphysical question lurks within the issue of intrinsicness itself, even prior to putting the concept to any argumentative use.
"Simons (Peter) - The Seeds of Experience"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 146-150(5)
- Stripped of detail and rhetoric, here is an attempt to capture the gist of Galen Strawson’s argument for panpsychism (Strawson, 2006).
- We cannot deny the existence of experience.
- Experience appears to emerge from physical phenomena that are not themselves experiential.
- Wholly non-experiential phenomena are not by their physical nature capable of giving rise to experience.
- Therefore either experience emerges magically from wholly nonexperiential phenomena or the physical phenomena from which experience emerge are in some way themselves experiential.
- Magical or brute emergence is absurd.
- Therefore the physical phenomena from which experience emerge are in some way themselves experiential (Micropsychism).
- It is implausible to suppose that nature is so fragmentarily constituted that some physical phenomena are experiential while others are not.
- Therefore all physical phenomena are in some way experiential.
- But all phenomena are physical (Physicalism).
- Therefore all phenomena are in some way experiential (Panpsychism).
- Put in this rather skeletal but I think helpful and reassuringly rational way, its conclusion may seem a little less shocking. But only a little. Panpsychism, at least in caricature, is one of the most immediately counterintuitive and off-putting of metaphysical positions. The idea of electrons making decisions about how to spin, nuclei harbouring intentions to split, or photons with existential Angst, makes idealism seem positively sane. That great philosophers such as Leibniz or Whitehead have been panpsychists is insufficient recommendation: everyone makes mistakes. That panpsychism is argued by Strawson to follow soberly from physicalism is guaranteed to outrage many who happily and proudly call themselves physicalists.
"Skrbina (David) - Realistic Panpsychism: Commentary on Strawson"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 151-157(7)
"Smart (J.J.C.) - Ockhamist Comments on Strawson"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006pp. 158-162(5)
"Stapp (Henry P.) - Commentary on Strawson's Target Article"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 163-169(7)
- Strawson's primary claim is that 'physicalism entails panpsychism' (Strawson, 2006). This claim would be surprising if it meant what it seems to mean. But it does not.
- According to Strawson’s words, ‘physicalism’ is the doctrine that every real temporally located existent is physical; and ‘panpsychism’ is the assertion that the existence of every real temporally located existent involves experiential being. Here, and throughout, I have, in accordance with the meanings specified at the beginning of Strawson’s article, replaced ‘concrete phenomena’ and ‘concrete thing’ by ‘temporally located existent’ (p. 3).
- According to Strawson, the key phrase ‘is physical’ in the definition of physicalism normally means ‘can in principle be fully captured in the terms of physics’ (p. 4). However, Strawson emphasizes that experiences are temporally located existents, and claims that this fact forces him to distinguish the usual meaning of physicalism, which he dubs ‘physicSalism’, from ‘real physicalism’.
- This twisting of the meaning of Strawson’s primary claim (produced by relabelling the usual concept by the awkward term ‘physicSalism’, and then using the word ‘physicalism’ to denote a differing concept of ‘real physicalism’) is furthered by his use of the loose term ‘involved’ in his characterization of panpsychism, which he defines as ‘the view that the existence of every real temporally located existent involves experiential being’. But the existence of any real thing in the universe may involve every other real thing, in some general sense, for one cannot simply pluck one part of reality out from the rest. Reality may exist only as a whole, in which case each reality may involve experiential being in some way, which in many cases could be quite indirect. Consequently, Strawson’s claim of ‘panpsychism’ is very weak compared to the normal claim, characterized (Honderich, 1995) as ‘the doctrine that each spatio-temporal thing has a mental or “inner” aspect’. The assertion that each spatio-temporal thing has an experiential inner aspect is a more stringent condition than the assertion that each such thing is merely involved — perhaps from afar — with experiential being.
- In view of these shifts in the specified meanings of the key words, it must be recognized that Strawson’s claim that ‘physicalism entails panpsychism’ does not mean what it would mean if more normal meanings of the two nouns were used.
In commenting on Strawson’s article, it is therefore important to determine:
- 1) what, in normal terms, is Strawson actually claiming to prove;
- 2) how does he claim to prove it;
- 3) is his proof valid; and
- 4) what does contemporary science have to say about the matter.
"Stoljar (Daniel) - Comments on Galen Strawson 'Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism'"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 170-176(7)
"Strawson (Galen) - Panpsychism?: Reply to Commentators with a Celebration of Descartes"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006pp. 184-280(97)
"Strawson (Galen) - Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 3-31(29)
"Wilson (Catherine) - Commentary on Galen Strawson"
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 13, Numbers 10-11, 2006, pp. 177-183(7)
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