Radical Theories of Consciousness

comment 1

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.

The Author

I am a philosopher and consciousness researcher at Durham University, UK. My research focuses on how to integrate consciousness into our scientific worldview.

1 Comment

  1. Adrian says

    Dear sir, congratulations on getting your new book published !

    I do not really understand what you mean by “the universe as a whole is conscious”… In my opinion the underlying stuff that makes up atoms and force fields is the same essence that constitutes sensations, perceptions, imagination and thought, including the self as self-awareness, the owner and the main character in the whole show of consciousness.

    The objective-to-subjective distinction would be that atoms and matter in general are made with the participation of the entire transcendent reality [they exist in all systems of reference] while subjective phenomena have a limited existence [they exist only for the owner of that particular subjective state].

    In this way any mental state is supported by some limited part of universal reality and no mental state can be ascribed to the cosmos as a whole. These distinctive parts of existence separate from the Ultimate by their own initiative just like a small nation that declares independence unilaterally. The purpose is to create an individual personality as self-consciousness and a private sphere of consciousness comprising forms, colors, sounds etc. I explain in my paper [if anyone cares to read it] from where this inherent structure of consciousness [self vs. non-self].

    In time, because of the the interference of subjectivity with objective things the self-awareness identifies with some representation of a material thing [in our case with a human body] and the sphere of consciousness becomes populated with representations of macroscopic objects we interpret as non-self. The whole body-mind relation is just a normal case of inter-modulation between two signals passing through the same non-linear device.

    In what concerns the evolution of consciousness it turns out Darwinian evolution and subsequent cultural evolution do have a final point and this is understanding of our own subjectivity. Just like gnostics used to believe, there is an excellent understanding, a vital piece of information that emancipates the self from its earthly bonds. I believe I have got this piece of information and I’ve tried for the last few years to express it into words as best I could. The paper is called “The Psychophysical Principles of Consciousness” and is exactly what the title says it is. [ A link is available at the article from the 21-st of April ]

    Thank you for reading this and best regards from Romania !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s