Amazon Book Description
- From a leading philosopher of mind comes this lucid, provocative argument that offers a radically new picture of human consciousness ― panpsychism.
- Understanding how brains produce consciousness is one of the great scientific challenges of our age. Some philosophers argue that consciousness is something “extra,” beyond the physical workings of the brain. Others think that if we persist in our standard scientific methods, our questions about consciousness will eventually be answered. Some even suggest that the mystery is so deep that it will never be solved. Decades have been spent in trying to explain consciousness from within our current scientific paradigm, but little progress has been made.
- Now, Philip Goff offers an exciting alternative that could pave the way forward. Rooted in an analysis of the philosophical underpinnings of modern science and based on the early 20th century work of Arthur Eddington and Bertrand Russell, Goff makes the case for panpsychism, a theory which posits that consciousness is not confined to biological entities but is a fundamental feature of all physical matter ― from subatomic particles to the human brain. In Galileo's Error, he has taken the first step on a new path toward the final theory of human consciousness.
- P. 3: Claims that it is consciousness that defines the identity of a person.
- P. 3/4: Accepts the possibility that one day we might survive death by uploading one’s mind to a computer. I don’t, and not just for reasons of technology. .
- While we are physical beings, what matters to us are our conscious states.
- P. 4/5: He claims that consciousness is all we can know is real – I might be a BIV, in the Matrix, or ‘might be a computer, created by humans to think I’m a human being’. This all sounds very Cartesian, though I couldn’t see what he meant by the third option, which doesn’t sound the same as ‘uploading’.
- P. 5: Goff supports Descartes’ Cogito. I thought this had been out of fashion since Kant.
- P. 6/7: Then he discusses the more balanced approach of Anil Seth, who claims that over time we’ll just get used to consciousness being a natural feature of matter, just as Life1 is now understood to be a biological process. We should ‘get out of our armchairs and into the lab’ to find out just where in the brain consciousness arises. Goff disagrees, by some analogy involving evolution, which I didn’t understand. Goff seems to think that Seth wants us to stop worrying about the origin of consciousness. In any case, it sounds like Seth is talking of the ‘easy’ problem of consciousness (Seth calls it the ‘real’ problem, rather than the ‘hard’ problem as defined by David Chalmers (which is a conceptional, rather than an ‘origins’, problem).
- P. 8/9: Goff next discusses eliminative materialism, via Patricia Churchland who argues (absurdly, in my view) that over time our mentalistic concepts will be replaced by materialist ones (surely, we’ll always need a mentalistic shorthand, whatever subtle changes there may be in the meaning of our words).
- P. 10: Goff seems to brush off the ‘Illusionism’ about consciousness of Keith Frankish (unmentioned at this point; a fictitious proxy is used) as absurd, yet later in the book considers the view seriously.
- … to be continued!
Rider (7 Nov. 2019)
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