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 Interesting Argument for Panpsychism

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Interesting Argument for Panpsychism   Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:35 pm

I came across the following argument for (proto) panpsychism. IMO the author makes some good points.

Quote :
Essential characteristics of higher forms of life are:

Subjective experience
Purposefulness
Perception
Imitation
Memory
Different activity states

According to reductionism these characteristics are only anthropomorphic images for properties of highly organized dead matter. Although reductionists claim that these properties can be explained by reductionist causal laws, their explanations are essentially based on finality and are similar to this one: The complexity of this ability would become obvious by the attempt to construct a robot with such an ability.

There is no other argument for the belief that reductionist causal laws would lead to the above mentioned characteristics of higher forms of life than the prejudice that such laws are enough to explain the world. A simple alternative is to assume that these characteristics are fundamental, and to explain evolution with them.

Subjective experience and perception need as a prerequisite individual consciousness. The transition from (animal) consciousness to (human) self-consciousness is continuous. As babies we had no ('actual') self-consciousness. If we attribute consciousness to animals, is there any reason why we should not attribute consciousness to living cells with a uniform purposeful behaviour such as e.g. cells of the immune system? And isn't the purposeful behaviour of enzymes in vivo and in vitro strong evidence that enzymes can be animated beings with primitive consciousness?

Humans and animals perceive with different senses a large region of their surroundings. Without such a perception it would be impossible to survive. Also unicellular organisms can orientate themselves and move purposefully. Even the motions of many subcellular units such as enzymes, proteins (e.g. transcription factors), RNA and DNA molecules cannot be explained solely by entropy maximization and energy minimization.

The astonishing ability of carbon atoms to build hollow balls (fullerenes), the ability of water molecules to build elaborate crystals, or the catalytic power of atoms and simple molecules, all this can be (better) explained if we attribute to the atoms and molecules primitive perception of their surroundings and purposeful behaviour. If enzymes are conscious beings, it seems obvious that also simple molecules and atoms can be conscious beings.

The emergence of chemical oscillations or spacial structures in an initially homogenous chemical medium is very improbable according to classical thermodynamics. Such effects depend on chemical reactions, in which energy minimization leads to no preferred direction. Whereas entropy maximization should prevent such effects, they can be explained by assuming that molecules copy the behaviour of neighbouring molecules.

Water can be cooled down to temperatures below its freezing point (supercooling), before it freezes suddenly at a non predictable moment. The lower the amount of water, the more it can undergo supercooling. Such a behaviour is fully understandable by assuming that one water molecule starts freezing and the neighbouring molecules imitate it. There is an analogous situation, when a person approaches a flock of birds. The first bird noticing the person determines the moment when all birds fly off.

Memory exists within many different forms of life. It has been detected not only within unicellular beings but also within marcomolecules. So the current reactivity of neurotransmitter-gated ion channels can depend on the past: a long activation by corresponding neurotransmitters leads to a desensitization of the channel for some time. And if the mean temperature to which water can undergo supercooling depends on the initial temperature of the water (Mpemba effect), this also suggests a memory of the water molecules.

http://www.pandualism.com/z/E/psychon.html#a06

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PostSubject: Re: Interesting Argument for Panpsychism   Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:47 pm

I don't know who wrote that website, however, the "Psychon Theory" is the, now disregarded, brainchild of Nobel winner John Eccles. It is also one of the first modern theories of Mind, and represents the beginning of the modern Science of Consciousness. He first put it forward in the early 70s, and spent his remaining years developing and defending the idea. I do know that if you mention Psychons around modern scholars in the science of consciousness they will pretty much facepalm.

He describes his theory thusly: "It is proposed that the whole world of consciousness, the mental world, is microgranular, with mental units called psychons, and that in mind-brain interaction one psychon is linked to one dendron through quantum physics. The hypothesis is that in mammalian evolution dendrons evolved for more effective integration of the increased complexity of sensory inputs. These evolved dendrons had the capacity for interacting with psychons that came to exist, so forming the mental world and giving the mammal conscious experience."

From: Evolution of Consciousness, John C. Eccles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 89, No. 16 (Aug. 15, 1992), pp. 7320-7324
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PostSubject: Re: Interesting Argument for Panpsychism   Sat Dec 18, 2010 9:58 am

It's sounds like an attempt to apply reductionism to the science of consciousness. I happen to view consciousness (or proto-consciousness) as a fundamental property of systems. The more complex the system the more complex the level of consciousness.

The author may have been wrong on the details but I think he was headed in the right direction.

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PostSubject: Re: Interesting Argument for Panpsychism   Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:44 pm

Uriah wrote:
He describes his theory thusly: "It is proposed that the whole world of consciousness, the mental world, is microgranular, with mental units called psychons, and that in mind-brain interaction one psychon is linked to one dendron through quantum physics. The hypothesis is that in mammalian evolution dendrons evolved for more effective integration of the increased complexity of sensory inputs. These evolved dendrons had the capacity for interacting with psychons that came to exist, so forming the mental world and giving the mammal conscious experience."
It's understandable that a neurophysiologist would think in terms of physical elements, with "psychons" as mental atoms. But physicists over the 20th century began to discover that their sub-atomic particles were built-up of less and less particular stuff. For example, quarks theoretically exist only in triplets, but no one has ever seen them separated. And electrons seem to consist only of loosely-localized mathematical probability fields (i.e. data, information).

As the reductive scalpel of physics dissected the lowest levels of reality though, it seemed to be more like trying to carve water than anatomy. They were forced to deal, not with discrete particles, but with zones of probability. At its foundation the world seems to consist of continuous fields and forces rather than "microgranular" individual objects.

So, although I think Eccles was on the right track in his assessment of consciousness, he went off the track by following the ancient notion of Atomism. Now it seems that the funda-mental "world of consciousness" may also be the origin of physical structures . . . and of mental patterns.

The Enformationism hypothesis proposes that everything in this world arises from an eternal/infinite metaphysical Mind-Field. From that homogeneous ocean of potential & possibility a cosmos of heterogeneous energy and matter evolved via a process of self-reference and inter-action (complexification). One thing led to another, and voila, here we are!

Thus, human self-consciousness emerged from the primitive consciousness of biology, which emerged from pre-conscious bits of matter and zaps of energy, which in turn emerged from the primordial Mind-Field. Doesn't it seem more reasonable for our minds to emerge---albeit indirectly---from universal consciousness than directly from a bubbling pot of dumb matter and entropy-prone energy? If so, then Panpsychism may be on the right track.
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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: Interesting Argument for Panpsychism   Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:48 pm

The more I learn about the science of consciousness the less I find myself agreeing with any Dualistic concepts. The more we understand how the mind works (physiologically speaking) the less metaphysical consciousness itself appears to be.
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