Archive | August, 2017

Debate: Can Science Explain Consciousness?

28 Aug

Here is part 1 of me and Professor David Papineau from King’s College London debating ‘Can science ever explain consciousness?’ for the ‘Panpsycast’ podcast. We have very different views: David is a physicalist and I am a panpsychist. But over the last ten years or so we’ve had a very productive interaction, and the arguments against physicalism in the first half of my book were very much shaped by my discussions with David. Before I met David I thought all physicalist were just crazy consciousness deniers like Daniel Dennett (here is Papineau and Dennett in recent debate) but he helped me to appreciate the subtleties of his more modest ‘brute identity’ form of physicalism.

(P.s. I have a lot respect for crazy consciousness deniers too!)

Making Progress on Consciousness

25 Aug

Here’s a short summary of the recent conference I and Sam Coleman organised in Budapest on Russellian monism (AKA the true theory of consciousness)

Are Electrons Conscious?

23 Aug

I just published this short piece on Oxford University Press blog, to accompany the publication of my book Consciousness and Fundamental Reality.  A question that often comes up when I give ‘the simplicity argument’ for panpsychism is “Why on earth should we think matter has an intrinsic nature????” It’s a good question, and so to answer it I’m going to write ‘Are Electrons Conscious? Part II’ in a couple of weeks, which will come out LSE’s philosophy blog ‘The Forum’. In the meantime, looking forward to a much needed holiday next week…


Radical Theories of Consciousness

1 Aug

I guest edited this month’s edition of Philosophy Now magazine on ‘Radical Theories of Consciousness’. It’s available now in UK in WHSmith’s and similar shops with lots of mags. Will be out in US and Canada later in the year.

There are articles by me (on panpsychism), Sam Coleman (on neutral monism), Hedda Hassel Mørch (on IIT), and Kelvin McQueen (on consciousness and quantum mechanics). There’s also a response to my work on panpsychism from Raymond Tallis, and a beautiful poem by Thomas Machter, which I reproduce below (I might include some more of his poems in future posts).

Living With A Panpsychist

by Thomas Machter

“Simpler to suppose: all has thought.
Safer to say: in a never
fresh universe, nihil novum.
Subtler to see: that to itself
mind reveals the very nature
of the nature in which it sits.

Am I pissing up the wrong tree?”
Evenings are long, distractions are
great; so what if fine error breeds.
What is it to me if my love
miss-takes the universe and time,
to build an implausible frame?
Reason has led her there, I guess.
But atoms with experience?
“My love! Why go on with this? No,
you’re not barking up the wrong tree;
you’re entangled in its highest
branches, howling wild at the moon!”

I soon regretted this sarcasm,
relented, and apologised.
Chastened, I spread myself far out.
What must it be like to believe
some cranky wayward subtle scheme?
I sunk myself into a broad
range, a general passion, a wide
scope. What thought can not be worked through?
Mind’s a match for the universe.
I contain every conviction.