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Letter on Pansychicism

by on February 4, 2018

Takling muffin

Letter to

Dear Quartz,

Thank you for your article on the ‘panpsychic’ view of consciousness. It surfaces one of the large debates of modern philosophy, that between the schools of thought of David Chalmers and Daniel Dennett. According to the latter, to which I subscribe, things like conscious stones are an inelegant solution to a non-existent problem.

Daniel Dennett, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tuft University, has convincingly demonstrated that there is no “hard problem” of consciousness. In his book, Consciousness Explained, he uses evidence from numerous studies to show that consciousness doesn’t exist as an independent entity from our biological existence and that it is readily explained by physical, empirical processes. The illusion of a single thread of consciousness can be attributed to our ongoing encounter with the world through our senses and the brain’s evolutionary tweaking as a prediction machine working to continually make sense of the world.

The panpsychic view, albeit fun to think about, like the “Force” in Star Wars, seems to be the unfortunate conclusion of a false premise. Dennett’s approach provides an empirically usable way of thinking about consciousness, one which can help us model and think about truly difficult problems such as human happiness, health and well being.

Thank you,


Though the longing, the imperative for unique, indescribable, individual experiences seems a bulwark of freedom.

“…the opposite [of happiness], a further enroachment of institutionally planned behaviour-patterns on the ever-diminishing sphere of experience.”

Wiesengrund-Adorno [the name Benjamin uses in citations], Mimima Moralia, 38 Invitation to the Dance, and elsewhere on the role of indescribable experiences and freedom.

“I would only believe in a god who could dance.” – Zarathustra

But there is a clear danger in seeking dancing gods, in glorifying individual, non-scientific experiences.
[See Heidegger’s Black Notebooks as discussed at the 2016 conference at Emory’s Department of Philosophy.]  [See Popper’s insistence on science and truth. ]

And carrying the personal too far.
[Is it moral to say anything non-accusatory about Baudrillard after 9/11?]

Life matters. And the fragments of each individual matter. But where to find them when thought itself seems to drive towards clear systems?
[Dialectical thinking is a hard pattern to break]

Perhaps only in consciously working against the temptation of single narrative?
[Hence the value in arguing for Dennett. There is value in rational argumentation.]

The poet seeks individual moments. Fragments. Like “Scraps from a Lunch Counter.”

unwrapped sandwich
open cup, still full
              still warm
hard stool
        metal, folded over 
for a counter

people chatter

dirty knife
fresh tomatoes, left over
bits of leaf
           on their fringes
wrapped in plastic

Here describing finding scraps of beauty during lunch, like a homeless person finding food. The sense of displacement, conformity, boredom with a job. [Very different, thankfully].

How to use words: Mistrust the reader? Know the reader and the tendency of words, thoughts. But love them and Love them. Love surprises and individuals. [surrealism]


             [they almost all wore suits and ties]

Did it translates into action, into kindness, feeding someone who could use a meal?


From → Philosophy

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