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.

Consciousness and Fundamental Reality

26 Jul


I seem to me mostly using my blog to ply my wares at the moment, but..I can’t help giving a little plug for my book, which is finally about to be published and currently has a pre-release discount of £33.59…available here

Here are some of the nice things some people have said about it:

“This book contains some of the most important contributions to the metaphysics of consciousness in recent years.  Philip Goff develops a sophisticated argument against materialism, and then explores the prospects for radical alternatives in considerable depth.  He makes a strong case for panpsychism, the thesis that consciousness exists at a fundamental level of physical reality, and extends this to a case for cosmopsychism, the thesis that the universe as a whole is conscious. Anyone interested in the philosophical problem of consciousness should pay close attention to his ideas.”
–David Chalmers, New York University

“Goff has produced a grand piece of speculative metaphysics, in the tradition of Leibniz, Spinoza and Unger. It is also probably the best single piece of work emerging from the recent bloom of interest in Russellian monist views of consciousness. Starting with plausible and well-defended premises, he argues for a daring conclusion that many will find difficult to accept; yet, he makes a compelling case that there is no easy way to resist it. Figuring out how to respond to his rigorous and thorough arguments will be highly instructive (and fun!) for anyone with an interest in metaphysically-oriented philosophy of mind.”
–Geoffrey Lee, University of California, Berkeley

“This book will quickly become a reference point for philosophical discussions of consciousness. Philip Goff lays out the issues with precision and cuts through to the heart of the latest philosophical technicalities. He also writes beautifully and advances a number of strikingly novel theses. No philosopher interested in consciousness can afford to ignore Consciousness and Fundamental Reality.”   –David Papineau, King’s College London and City University New York

“In an era of increasing specialization and “small ball” philosophy, Philip Goff’s Consciousness and Fundamental Reality comes as a welcome antidote. He defends a grand metaphysical vision of the world, constitutive cosmopsychism, according to which the universe as a whole is conscious, and everything else is grounded in its evolving conscious state. Yes, this view is revisionary. But all views on the mind-body problem are revisionary – including orthodox physicalism. Goff develops a number of powerful arguments against the alternatives as well as a positive case for his cosmopsychism. His discussion demands – and will repay – our close attention.”    –Adam Pautz, Brown University.

The Logic of Chilcot

7 Jul

Chilcot said (paraphrase) ‘I think a leader should be straight with the country AND should take the country with them; Blair didn’t do this’. The negation of a conjunction doesn’t imply the negation of both conjuncts. Therefore, Chilcot didn’t say Blair wasn’t straight with the country.

(N.B. I think the bastard lied. I’m just making a logical point.)


Is the Teddy Bears’ Picnic Logically Consistent?

22 Jun

Having recently reproduced, I have found myself singing a lot of children’s songs. I was distressed recently to notice what seems to be a logical contradiction in the ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ song. I don’t have many expectations for my daughter, but I couldn’t bear the idea that she would grow up failing to respect norms of rationality. Therefore, I won’t be singing that song to her again.

I happened to post this finding on Facebook, expecting, perhaps, that my mum would like it (she’s a big fan of the law of non-contradiction). To my surprise, there was great interest, and some of the greatest philosophical minds on the planet took it upon themselves to solve this paradox and rescue the teddy bear’s picnic from the philosophical dustbin. It’s possible that I’ve happened upon a whole new branch of philosophy, and so I’ve embedded this high-level discussion in this post. (I was intending to compile a taxonomy of the various proposals, but then I realised I can’t be bothered).

Russellian Monism Conference

20 Jun

In the past few years, many philosophers have been getting excited about a new (or rather rediscovered) theory of consciousness that has become known as ‘Russellian monism’ (I have a video on this a couple of posts ago). I’m co-organising this amazing conference on the topic. More details here: russellianmonismposter_1