On The Personal Implications Of Panpsychism
Years ago, I read an article that made a startling observation: If humans have free will, they get it from the matter of which they are composed. That article described work published by physicists and mathematicians, that suggested that all matter is conscious. I have been considering that possibility for years now. I have long wondered if the world I live in is filled with things that are conscious, and I have acted as if it were.
Consider all the ways in which we anthropomorphize things. We give inanimate objects human qualities. A familiar example is the Der Wienerschnitzel commercial starring a hot dog running for his life in a hot dog bun. Another example is the way the ancient Greeks and Romans gave human qualities to patterns in the stars. And finally, there is that lamp that appears at the beginning of every Pixar movie, pounding the letter I into oblivion. They are all examples of how we give human attributes to things.
Then I wondered if we have an understanding on some level, that everything is conscious. That is the question posed by a field of science called, panpsychism. Panpsychism is defined as follows by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Panpsychism is the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world.
As I surveyed the literature, I found entries like this one from an article in Scientific American in 2014, “Is Consciousness Universal?”:
Taken literally, panpsychism is the belief that everything is “enminded.” All of it. Whether it is a brain, a tree, a rock or an electron. Everything that is physical also possesses an interior mental aspect. One is objective — accessible to everybody — and the other phenomenal — accessible only to the subject.
But what inspired this article I’m writing today came from another article that I just read today, “Electrons May Very Well Be Conscious”. In that article, they make a statement about a concept that is now familiar to me:
“…we can look steadily at less-complex forms of behavior that allow us to reasonably infer some kind of mind associated with all types of matter. Yes, including…