Do Electrons Dream of Electric Sheep?

comments 3

I’ve written quite a few articles recently outlining my ‘simplicity argument’ for panpsychism. One persistent questions is, ‘Why on earth should we suppose matter has an intrinsic nature????’. In this article for LSE’s ‘The Forum’ I try to layout the article in a bit more detail. It’s an old and much discussed argument. I think my slight addition to it is the response to holism.

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. Alan says

    Hi Prof. Goff
    Just wonder with these observations and two UFO videos released by the US DOD (see NY Times – 16 December 2017) whether something about their protoconscious nature could be responsible for their motions in some way? I mean, we build jets and cars etc. based on physical notions of matter (Newtonian, relativistic) yet these things don’t seem to respect this physics. Just a thought from someone with a uni. physics background.(and frankly baffled by these objects). The story certainly seems to have wings.
    From a look at some of commentary by the pilot who spoke on this and observed one, there seems to some anticipation by the objects of what the pilots are going to do, or are told by their flight controlllers to do. It’s new physics and some!

  2. I’ll shall certainly order your book. From reading your posts my argument for panpsychism takes a quite different approach, although I share you liking for simplicity! I made this 28 min video recently which sums it up, and if you’ve time I’d be interested to know your thoughts (also on youTube

    One thing I didn’t cover in my video was the issue raised in your companion piece, namely the combination problem. I see that as a non problem (just as I think David Chalmer’s hard problem is a non-hard problem!), so my view probably falls under the Intelligible Emergence category.

    The combination problem is for me a misunderstanding of panpyschism itself. If whatever it is that makes us conscious pervades the entire physical world, then there are no individual units of consciousness coming together to create a larger (human) consciousness. Hopefully this won’t appear too simplistic an analogy, but looking at the ocean, nobody would say a large wave is composed of lots of little waves – whilst waves large and small have similar properties, they are only unique arrangements of matter and energy at a specific point in time. If base awareness, sentience, is all pervasive, why would this not be the same for consciousness?

    The combination problem may also be a by-product of religious panpsychism, because the soul and the consciousness are often conflated? I personally don’t believe in a soul – there is nothing essentially me making it’s way from life to life – there is only matter, energy and awareness. So I find it easier to conceive of consciousness as a temporary arrangement too.

    The subjective experience of our individual consciousness is a sort of necessary illusion created through evolution by the hunter-gatherer brain, rather than an actual description of what consciousness (sentience) is. We have two complimentary modes of perception – ‘everything is separate’ and ‘everything is one’ but in the 21st century we’re so used to functioning primarily with the first, we usually forget that the second is an equally valid p.o.v.

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