Consciousness | Fabric | Universe | 05th November 2022 | Virtual Wire
Through the physical sciences, we have come to know a great deal about the behaviour of matter. However, will we ever know its intrinsic nature?
Panpsychism is a philosophical theory stating that the mind or a conscious, mind-like aspect is a fundamental feature of reality which exists throughout the universe. Early attempts to formulate an integrated theory of reality found that the mind and consciousness kept arising as special problems. Hence, panpsychism, one of the oldest philosophical theories, emerged as a middle way between dualism and materialism. Panpsychism offers an alternative solution to materialism(consciousness is derived from the physical matter), and dualism (consciousness is separate and distinct from the physical matter) as it states that consciousness is a fundamental feature of physical matter, with all particles in existence having a simple form of consciousness attributed to them.
These teeny-tiny particles come together to form more complex, sophisticated forms of consciousness, such as the human psyche and its subjective experiences. This isn’t to say that particles have a coherent worldview or active thought processes and certainly not an existential crisis. It’s just that there is some degree of consciousness or ‘motive’ latent in these particles even at the sub-atomic level of electrons and quarks. Panpsychism states that all things have a mind or mind-like quality. It argues that the concept of the ‘mind’ must apply to all physical matter to some extent. This theory does not necessarily try to define the ‘mind’ or how it relates to objects; it is a conjecture about the widespread phenomenon of the mind in the universe. As such, panpsychism is more of an overarching concept The problem is, how it meshes with today’s work in fundamental physics. Currently, there is a terrible contradiction between the relativity theory and quantum mechanics.
The core issue is the relationship between big elements of reality to the fundamental smaller ingredients at the quantum level. The ideas of panpsychism claim that space and time are themselves emergent; that the relations between fundamentally non-spatial and non-temporal ingredients give rise to these ideas. If reality’s fundamental ingredients aren’t spatial, then what is it that panpsychism means when claiming that these little elements of reality are ‘subjects of experience?’ Moreover, if time isn’t fundamental as some of the theories claim, then how can there be subjects at the fundamental level, because consciousness seems to be an inherently temporal phenomenon? We must understand that when we introspect our own conscious activity, we are not static beings—we exist in time.
A possible route to reconciliation friendly to the panpsychism theory is that there exists ‘proto-time’ and ‘proto-space’ at the fundamental level. This is the essence of panprotopsychism. Which by definition states that the fundamental ingredients, as they combine, give rise to conscious experience, and those fundamental ingredients are quasi-mental. However, despite its criticisms, Panpsychism has recently been gaining credibility within academic circles as the question of consciousness is further explored. After all, it feels surreal to imagine the universe itself having consciousness, doesn’t it?