RE: What exactly is "panpsychism"?

From: Colin Hales (
Date: Thu Jan 15 2004 - 18:17:39 MST

Yan King Yin:
> From: Samantha Atkins <>
> >> I think David Chalmers and some other philosophers
> >> have got it right already, it's called functionalism.
> Basically any
> >> structure with information-processing abilities will
> generate qualia,
> >> and the qualia is
> >> *independent* of space-scale, time-scale, and
> >> substrate. It could be neurons, silicon, it could be intergalactic
> >> (if you can muster up so much energy), it could execute only 1
> >> instruction per a million year.
> >
> >So my PDA "generates qualia"? Is that the same as
> experiencing qualia
> >or is it some other thing? This wonderful replacement for "ether"
> >permeates all objects, organizations of matter/energy and all their
> >known and most remotely possible interactions. I wonder
> exactly what
> >good such a universally assumed something is.
> Sorry about the delay, and also my wording is not very
> professional. It should be "experiencing" qualia.
> >If rocks have qualia then it is to be assumed that the moral
> will need
> >be responsible for keeping rocks maximally happy. <sigh>
> Rocks don't have qualia because its information-processing
> ability is next to zero (under everyday circumstances).
> Likewise a PDA is not very complex either. Human
> consciousness is interesting partly because we have this
> reflexive mechanism in our brain that allows us to monitor
> our own thoughts. Neuroscientists are actually trying to
> figure out exactly where this is located in the brain. A lot
> of similar, complex mechanisms add up to create interesting qualia.
> This view (functionalism) is quite widely accepted I think,
> perhaps not exactly "orthodox".

A nice, juicy new-year's thread....

I thought I'd throw this chart into the ring as worth a look:

The diversity of views given in the posts surely indicates that my level
of confusion about the word panpsychism is not unusual. I'm not citing
Dr Liley's diagram as definitive....indeed, looking at the diagram I'm
not sure I'd have put panpsychism under: "non-deteriministic reductive
property dualism".

Yan King Yin cites functionalism. On Dr Liley's diagram it's under
"supervenient non-reductive property dualism".

Eeek! All these damned isms. There seems to be a pervading delusion that
somehow nature is conveniently going to cooperate by poking all it's
machinations into one or other ism box. I love philosophy and read heaps
but this aspect of it drives me nuts. I'm too much the engineer beaten
up by reality I s'pose. Like many of you I have my own qualia model or
set of beliefs as to their underpinnings. When I map my model onto Dr
Liley's chart I see aspects of it spread across the whole chart.

Without broaching the extent of my possible delusions :-) my 12 layer
model traverses the quale axis, in effect. Representationalism, the
precinct of all conventional AI work is on the other othogonal axis,
which could also be called 'organisational' or 'functional'. Sorry but
functionalism doesn't do it folks - not in my model anyway. An instance
of a mind is out on the space formed between these two axes. At any one
layer on the quale axis you can say 'Yeah, it kind of looks like Xism
from this perspective'. The top layer quale axis layer hits the origin
of the axis and becomes functionalism devoid of the quale. At the
extreme bottom of the quale axis is pure baryonic matter physics. Thus
my difficulty pouring my ideas into any one philosophical bucket.

The idea of panpsychism seems useful, however. Panpsychism at depends on the usual
linguistic layer-cake - eg the definition of the word 'mind' in sentence
1. One way or another language gets in the way. Regardless of this,
aspects of the word that seem common to all definitions is

A) the notion of something universal.
B) the notion of recognising something new and fundamental.

In time it may well be that we simply have to recognise formally the
evidence of our own internal life as a declaration of something

I'd like to throw one possible (and by no means new) candidate for this
'stuff' which has already been mentioned - almost: Entropy _change_. [
ie. "That subjective experience is a fundamental property of the
universe associated with change of entropy" is the kind of fundamental
statement that could be incorporated in a panpsychist view as

Other candidates? Entropy level. Simple 'matter' has been suggested
elsewhere in this thread ("an atom has little qualia" I think it was).
Space, the void is another candidate. Some would have organisational
complexity as the 'stuff'.

These are simply an invocation that 'it is a fundamental property of all
<< insert choice here >> that in configuration X it is responsible for
the quale'. This is the invocation yearned for by Chalmers, for example.
This sort of paradigm shift seems to really stick in the throat of
orthodoxy. Me? I like to have 6 paradigm shifts before breakfast.... :-)

This is how I like to think of the panpsychist view, anyway. I hope it
helps, Samantha.

Happy new year to you all...


Colin Hales

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