“shoonya. … shoonyaatoon he jag utpanna zaale.”

(Marathi) “shoonya. …shoonyaatoon he jag utpanna zaale.”

That’s what our (retard/retarded/idiotic/idiot/moronic/cretin-some/even worse, but mostly more European-looking, e.g., “goraa”-looking by skin-color (etc.) than otherwise) Brahmins have always told us—all of them. And, our casteist-Brahmins have always taken the fullest advantage of the same. Especially if they went to an IIT to get a JPBTI. (What makes you think that attending IIT is enough to eradicate caste-ism out of one?)

An English translation of “shoonya”: the Zero/the Naught.

An English translation of the full statement: “The world [actually, thereby meaning, the entire universe] came into being from the Zero / the Naught.”

Always pick this one up for your meditation, even just for deep thought (and not a systematically trained meditation), whenever you think of the casteist-Brahmins, especially those from Pune, India (my birth-place and home-town).

… And you will do that, won’t you? [And, don’t say back: “But I don’t think of them!”]


Here is one of the zillion references to the position. (Pune casteist-Brahmins (rich and all) are emphatically not alone.): [^].


Update on 2019.06.12 14:59

Turns out that this post has come out to be a bit too rant-some for my liking. Also, when I wrote it last night, I thought that the philosophic position from which I wrote it would be clear enough! Yes, I really did think so, last night! But this morning, I figured out that it wasn’t so. Further, the issue is also is of a great philosophic importance. So, today, let me note at least the bare essentials of the philosophic analysis which had gone before I wrote the above post.

The quote actually commits only one error, but it also paves a way for another, grave, error. They in turn lead to a lot of other errors, including legitimizing the pure evil of casteism. Let me explain how.

Consider the quote again: The universe came into being from the Zero / the Naught.

The first error—one that is more easy to pick out—is that some precondition is being prescribed for the entire universe, i.e., for Existence as such. That’s all that the quote by itself states.

Since this is a metaphysical statement, and not mathematical, The Zero here means Non-Existence. So, no, the Zero here does not by itself mean some supposed Mystical Consciousness that created the Existence.

But note the context here. Since the concept of Existence is the most fundamental one of all, since it encompasses literally everything that ever exists, has ever existed or will ever exist, even just the simple device of importing into an argument a contra to Existence, an alternative to it, and according this alternative the same epistemological status as that of Existence, by itself leads to horrible consequences. The act is horrendous only because the concept of Existence is so fundamental—it’s the most fundamental concept. Given the proper hierarchical place of the concept of Existence, positing something—anything—alternative it, therefore, by itself has the effect of making the entire knowledge-hierarchy superfluous, with an alternative being thereby being made to lie at an even more fundamental level.

So, the issue subtly shifts, without the speaker having to explicitly name it, to a question of figuring out what this alternative could possibly be.

Given the nature of the things, the only alternative that could possibly make any sense to anyone would be: some or the other consciousness. The road is therefore paved for legitimizing the primacy of consciousness—a hallmark of mysticism.

Since men do sense, through a direct grasp, that their consciousness is not so capable that they could make Existence dance in accordance to their wishes, and since the proceedings now are being conducted firmly in the abstract terms, and since the layman is unable to counter it at the same level of abstraction, a further road now gets paved, viz., that for welcoming some mystical, Super-etc.-Consciousness.

All that the quoted formulation seeks to do is for you to grant legitimacy to this mystical formulation, viz., there is some mystical Super-Consciousness that preceded, and thus produced, Existence.

Got the trick?

Study the method of the Brahmins. They don’t name the issues directly. And especially if are like the irrational Brahmins of India, they also ensure that the entire proceedings occurs at an abstract level. And that makes it worse.

A mystic is always bad. But he could be as lacking of consequences as some random trickster who performs road-side shows. The mystic becomes bad, horrendous, only when he practices his art in the intellectual, abstract terms, in this world. A “sanyaasee” who retires to Himalayas doesn’t usually engage in abstract intellectual matters, and anyway is removed from the mundane world. So, any mysticism that he carries too doesn’t matter to the rest of us.

But a Brahmin who stays in the mainstream society, and intellectualizes, does matter. Afterall, in India, traditionally, the only men who were charged with (and allowed) dealing with abstractions were Brahmins.

The membership to this group was, for at least a couple of millenia if not more, on the basis of birth alone. … Sure, not all people born into a given caste are bad. But that is besides the point. The premises and the fact of abstract intellectualizations, and their consequences, is what we are concerned with, here.

So, once again carefully observe the role of abstractions—and the consequences of making, and keeping, mysticism abstract.

The Indian term for the aforementioned kind of a mystical Super-Consciousness—one that precedes Existence—was (and is): “bramha” (and not “bramhaa”). A “braamhaNa” was one who had a knowledge of (and therefore had a special access to) the Super-Consciousness that is the “bramha”. That’s what the literal meaning of the Sanskrit term is. “Brahmin” is just an Anglicization of “braamhaNa”.

If everything in existence is produced by “bramha”, so is every living being—including every human being.

Since all the proceedings are conducted without physical violence, and purely and perfectly at an intellectual plane alone, one “desirable” side-effect it produces is that the layman does not come to doubt that the intellectualizations being offered are not part of rationally acquired and valid knowledge.

It is an objective fact that reason is man’s fundamental means of survival. It therefore is an objective fact that knowledge does mean efficacy, a mastery over the matters it subsumes. In any demonstrable hierarchy of skills, knowledge—properly including also its application—is the most valuable one. It’s a crown skill. (Aristotle called rationality the crown-virtue.)

However, in India, it always was only a Brahmin who was charged with all matters concerning knowledge. And, membership to the class of intellectuals was via birth. That’s what casteism basically boils down to.

Therefore, any random guy, so long as he was born into the Brahmin caste, would necessarily have access to “bramha”. If all stars and mountains and rivers and trees and cats… are produced by “brahma”, and if all people too are produced by “brahma”, and if only a caste-Brahmins has access to “bramha”, and if a caste-Brahmin still was a human being too, then, given the fact that the position of knowledge as a crown-virtue is not being directly challenged at all, is it any surprise that every random caste-Brahmin guy would have to be taken as having “come” from the head of the Super-Consciousness that is the “bramha”?

(Don’t ask me what the term “head—a bodily organ—of a Super Consciousness” mean. I don’t know. Chances are, they might locate the actual living bodies of all caste-Brahmins to constitute the supposed head of that Super Consciousness, too. Who knows. But they certainly are that capable.)

While writing this update, I had said that there were several errors implicit in that statement. The one easiest to make out was: Denying the primacy of Existence. The consequent error, I said, was not as easy to make out. The reason it is difficult to figure out is that it is not directly named in that quote (i.e. the title of this post). But the second error becomes easy to grasp once you figure out that it is Brahmins who have always repeated this quote. The second error actually is a transformation of the first error. It is: the Primacy of “bramha”’s Consciousness. Introduce the third error: That only caste-Brahmin has access to “bramha”, and the lethal weapon is completed.

And what is “brahma”, you still ask? Easy enough. In practical terms, it means whatever it is that happens to constitute the contents of consciousness of any of the caste-Brahmins—including casteist-Brahmins.

And yes, there is ample evidence—for those willing to see it—that caste-Brahminism is not only wide-spread in Indian IT industry (especially that in Pune), but also that it has in fact been on the upswing for quite some time by now. I, for one, certainly do believe that if I were a Brahmin, I would have progressed much more rapidly, far more easily, in the Indian IT industry. At any rate, I wouldn’t go jobless even as irrational Brahmins in Pune kept on amassing money.

To conclude: Yes, it was a rant. But no, it wasn’t just a rant.


No songs section for this time around. I go jobless.

BTW, for cross-reference, cf. an American poem from (I guess) the mid-20th century: “The world began when I was born…”

 

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Work Is Punishment

Work is not worship—they said.

It’s a punishment, full stop!—they said.

One that is to be smilingly borne.

Else you lose your job.

And so lose everything else too. …


Hmmm… I said. … I was confused.

Work is enjoyment, actually. … I then discovered.

I told them.


They didn’t believe.

Not when I said it.

Not because they ceased believing in me.

It’s just that. They. Simply. Didn’t. Believe. In. It.

And they professed to believe in

a lot of things that never did make

any sense to themselves.

They said so.

And it was so.


A long many years have passed by, since then.


Now, whether they believe in it or not,

I have come to believe in this gem:

Work is punishment—full stop.


That’s the principle on the basis of which I am henceforth going to operate.

And yes! This still is a poem alright?

[What do you think most poems written these days are like?]

It remains a poem.


And I am going to make money. A handsome amount of money.

For once in my life-time.

After all, one can make money and still also write poems.

That’s what they say.

Or do science. Real science. Physics. Even physics for that matter.

Or, work. Real work, too.


It’s better than having no money and…

.


 

 

 

An intermediate update regarding my intermediate development regarding my new approach regarding QM

Update on 2019.10.02, 17:00 IST

I have completed writing (more like somehow filling in the contents for) the alpha version of the outline document. However, it is not at all readable. So, I am not in a position to be able to distribute it even as a private communication. (Talking besides the black-board is so much easier to do!)

By now, the outline document alone runs into 18 pages (some of the contents being repetitive). The background document has become another 12 pages. Editing 30 pages should take at least about a week or so, if not a little more.

So, no promises, but chances are good that both these documents could get finalized and distributed within the next 7 to 10 days.

In the meanwhile, feel free to look for the other things on this blog, and bye for now.

Update over; original post, below the fold.



0. As mentioned here earlier, I have been in the process of writing a point-by-point outline document on my new approach to quantum mechanics.


1. A certain preliminary version of the outline document was completed on the afternoon of 4th February 2019. It is about 10 pages long, and roughly at a pre-alpha stage. Separately, there also has been an additional document covering some of the background material for understanding QM. (An earlier version of this background document was posted here at this blog few days ago—too bad if you never noticed it—bad, for you, that is.) It too has been under expansion and revision; currently it stands at a total of further 10 pages (i.e in addition to the outline document).


2. As things usually go at such a stage (i.e., in the stages before the alpha), certain mistakes (including some basic conceptual errors too) were noticed even in the main document, but only after it was “carefully” completed. Currently, these are being addressed.


3. In case you are wondering about the nature of the inadvertent errors or lacunae:

Contrary to what many people might be expecting from me:

3.1: First, errors or lacunae were mainly found not regarding my new ideas concerning the measurement postulate, but rather with the more philosophical ideas concerning the quantum-physical ontology!

3.2: Second, perhaps then not very surprisingly, lacunae were also found on the more applied side of the QM postulates, especially regarding the many- particles systems and quantum entanglement.

The nature of the lacunae / errors somehow gives me a confidence that the basic ideas of my new approach themselves should be right!


4. Pre-release versions starting from the (upcoming) alpha version could perhaps be made available to select physicists, as a private communication. …

… Of course, it is a different matter altogether that I think that none would be interested in the same. (Indian and American physicists and others think that way, anyway!)

… But still, if interested, drop me a line, and I will consider having you on the distribution list (which is expected not to carry more than 8–10 people at the most, so as to keep my own email communications and the attendant diversions and confusions down to the minimum so that I myself the jobless could at all handle it).


5. The Release Candidate should get posted at iMechanica, but only for the purposes of securing an external “time-stamp”—not so much for the purposes of discussions. (The focus of iMechanica is obviously different; it’s much more on the classical engineering side—which fact I love.)


6. I will try to finish the alpha by this week-end.

The next milestones until the final release (or even the release candidates) will be decided once the alpha is actually at the hand.


7. I will announce the availability of the alpha at this blog via a separate post.


A song I like:

(Hindi) “teraa meraa pyaar amar, phir bhee mujh ko lagataa hai Dar…”
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra

[No specific order is being implied by the order of the credits. … In other words, I can’t decide on it. Not for this song.]


History:

First written on my private machine: Wednesday 06 February 2019 08:35:32 AM IST
First finalized here: Wednesday 06 February 2019 11:31:05 PM IST

 

 

A bit on Panpsychism—part 2: Why the idea is basically problematic, and what could be a different (and hopefully better) alternative

I continue from my last post. While the last post was fairly straight-forward, the subject-matter of this post itself is such that the writing becomes  meandering.


The basic trouble with panpsychism:

The primary referent for the concept of consciousness refers to one’s own consciousness. The existence of the same faculty in other beings is only an inference drawn from observations. If so, and in view of the two facts discussed in the last post, why can’t a similar inference be extended to everything material, too?

Well, consciousness is observed to exist only in those beings that are in fact alive. Consciousness is fundamental, sure. In Ayn Rand’s system, it even is a philosophical axiom. But qua a metaphysical existent, consciousness also happens to be only an attribute, and that too, of only one class of existents: the living beings.

Here, we will not get into the debate concerning which species can be taken as to be truly conscious, i.e., which species can be said to have an individualized, conscious grasp of reality. Personally, I believe that all living beings are conscious to some extent, even if it be only marginal in the more primitive species such as amoebae or plants.

However, regardless of whether plants can be taken to be conscious or not, we can always say that material entities that are not alive never show any evidence of being conscious. Your credit cards, spectacles, or T-shirts never show any evidence of being engaged in a process of grasping reality, or of having a definite, internal and individualized representation of any aspect of reality—no matter in how diluted, primitive or elementary form it may be posited to exist, or how fleetingly momentary such a grasp may be asserted to be. Consciousness is an attribute of only those beings that actually have life. You can’t tell your credit card to go have a life—it simply cannot. For the same reason, it can’t have the faculty to know anything, speaking literally.

Now, coming to the phenomenon of life, it is delimited on two different counts: (i) Life is an attribute possessed by only some beings in the universe, not all. (ii) Even those beings which are alive at some point of time must eventually die after the elapse of some finite period of time. When they do, their physical constituents are no different from the beings that never were alive in the first place. (This “forward-pass” kind of a logical flow is enough for us here; we need not look into the “backward-pass”, viz., the issue of whether life can arise out of the purely inanimate matter or not. It is a complicated question, and so, we will visit it some time later on.)

The physical constituents of a living organism continue to remain more or less the same after the event of its death. Even if we suppose that there is a permanent loss of some kind of a *physical* constituent or attribute at the time death, for our overall argument (concerning panpsychism) to progress, it is enough to observe and accept that at least **some** of the physical aspects continue to remain the same even after death. The continued existence of at least a part of physical constituents is sufficient to establish the following important conclusion:

Not all physical parts of the universe are at all times associated with living beings.

Given the above conclusion, it is easy to see that to speak of all parts of the reality as possessing consciousness is an elementary error: Not all parts of reality are alive at any point of time, and consciousness is an attribute of only those beings that are alive.


An aside related to reincarnation:

Even if reincarnation exists (and I do believe that it does), what persists in between two life-times is not consciousness, but only the soul.

In my view (derived from the ancient Indian traditions, of course, but also departing from it at places), the term “soul” is to be taken in sense of an individual (Sanskrit) “aatmaa.” An “aatmaa,” in my view is, loosely speaking, the “thing” which is neither created at birth nor destroyed at death. However, it is individual in nature, and remains in common across all the life-times of a given individual. Thus, I do not take the term “soul” in the sense in which Aristotle and Ayn Rand do. (For both Aristotle and Ayn Rand, the soul comes into being at birth, and ceases to exist at death.) Further, in my view, the soul has no consciousness—i.e., no feelings, not even just the desires even. For more details on my view of soul, see my earlier posts, especially these: [^][^][^].

The important point for our present discussion is this: Even if the soul were to be an attribute of all parts of the entire universe (including every inanimate objects contained in it), we still couldn’t ascribe consciousness to the inanimate parts of the universe. That is my main point here.


Another idea worth entertaining—but it is basically different from panpsychism:

Following the above-mentioned analysis, panpsychism can make sense only if what it calls “elements of consciousness” is something that is not in itself conscious, in any sense of the term.

The only idea consistent with its intended outcome can be something like a pre-consciousness, i.e., some feature or attribute or condition which, when combined with life, can give rise to a consciousness.

But note that such a pre-condition cannot mean having an actual capacity for being aware; it cannot represent the ability to have that individualized and internal grasp of reality which goes when actual living beings are actually conscious of something. That is the point to understand. The elements that panpsychism would like to have validated cannot be taken to be conscious the way it asserts they are. The elementary attributes cannot be conscious in the same sense in which we directly grasp our own consciousness, and also use it in our usual perceptions and mental functioning.

Even if you accept the more consistent idea (viz., a pre-conscious condition or a soul which may be associated with the non-living beings too), panpsychism would still have on its hands another problem to solve: if consciousness (or even just the pre-consciousness) is distributed throughout the universe, then for what reason does it get “concentrated” to such glaringly high degrees only in the living beings? For what metaphysical function? To allow for which teleological ends? And, following what kind of a process in particular? And then, what is the teleological or metaphysical function of the elements of consciousness?… From what I gather, they don’t seem to have very good ideas regarding questions and issues like these. In fact, I very much doubt if they at all have _any_ ideas in these respects.


Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder [^] notably does touch upon the animate vs. the inanimate distinction. Congratulations to her!

However, she doesn’t pursue it as much as she could have. Her main position—viz., that electrons don’t think—is reasonable, but as I will show below, this position is inevitable only when you stay within the scope of that abstraction which is the physical reality. Her argument does not become invalid, but it does become superfluous, when it comes to the entirety of existence as such (i.e., the whole universe, including all the living as well, apart from the non-living beings). To better put her position in context (as also those of others), let us perform a simple thought experiment.


The thought experiment to show why the panpsychism is basically a false idea:

Consider a cat kept in a closed wooden box. (Don’t worry; the sides of the box all carry holes, and so, the cat has no problem breathing in a normal way.) Administer some general anathesia to the cat, thereby letting her enter into a state of a kind of a deep sleep, being physically unresponsive—in particular, being unresponsive to the external physical stimuli like a simple motion of the box. Then place the cat in the wooden box, and tie its body to a fixed position using some comfortable harnesses.

If you now apply a gentle external force to the box from the outside, the cat-plus-box system can be easily described (or simulated) using physics; some simple dynamical evolution equations apply in this case. The reason is, even though the cat is a living being, the anaesthesia leads it to temporarily lose consciousness, so that nothing other than its purely physical attributes now enter the system description.

Now repeat the same experiment but when the cat is awake. As the box begins to move, the cat is sure to move its limbs and tail in response, or arch its body, etc. The *physical* attributes of her body enter the system description as before. However these physical attributes themselves are now under the influence of (or are a function of) an additional force—one which is introduced into the system description because of the actions of the consciousness of the cat. For instance, the physical attribute of any changes to the shape of its body are now governed not just by the externally applied forces, but also out of the forces generated by the cat itself, following the actions of her consciousness. (The idea of such an additional physical force is not originally mine; I got it from Dr. Harry Binswanger.) Thus, there are certain continuing physical conditions which depend on consciousness—its actions.

Can we rely on the principles or equations of physical evolution in the second case, too? Are our physical laws valid for describing the second case, too?

The answer is, yes. We can rely on the physics principles so long as we are able to bring the physical actions produced by the consciousness of the cat into our system description. We do so via that extra set of the continuing conditions. Let’s give this extra force the name: “life-physical force.”

Next, suppose the entire motion of this box+cat system occurs on a wooden table. The table (just as the wooden box) is not alive. Therefore, no special life-physical force comes into the picture while calculating the table’s actions. The table acts exactly the same way whether there is only a box, or a box with a non-responsive cat, or a box with a much meowing cat. It simply supplies reaction forces; it does not generate any active action forces.

Clearly, we can explain the actions of the table in purely physical terms. In fact doing so is relatively simpler, because we don’t have to abstract away its physical attributes the way we have to, when the object is a living and conscious being. Clearly, without any loss of generality, we can do away with panpsychism (in any of its versions) when it comes to describing the actions of the table.

Since panpsychism is a redundancy in describing the action of the table, obviously, it cannot apply to the universe as a whole. So, its basic idea is false.

Overall, my position is that panpsychism cannot be taken too seriously “as is”, because it does not discuss the intermediate aspect of life (or the distinction of living vs. non-living beings). It takes what is an attribute of only a part of the existence (the consciousnesses of all living beings), and then directly proceeds to smear it on to the entirety of existence as such. In terms of our thought experiment, it takes the consciousness of the cat and smears it onto not just the wooden box, but also onto the wooden table. But as can be seen with the thought-experiment, this is a big leap of mis-attribution. Yet a panpsychist must perform it, because an entire category of considerations is lacking in it—viz., that related to life.

What possibly would a panpsychist have to do to save his thesis? Let’s see.

Since consciousness metaphysically is only an attribute of a bigger class of entities (viz., that of living beings), the only way to rescue panpsychism would be to assert that the entire universe is always alive. This is the only way to have every part of the universe conscious.

But there are big troubles with such a “solution” too.

This formulation does away with the fact of death. If all beings are always alive, such a universe ceases to contain the fact of death. Thus, the new formulation would smear out the distinction between life and death, because it would have clubbed together both (i) the actions of life or of consciousness, and (ii) the actions of the inanimate matter, into a single, incoherent package—one that has no definition, no identity. That is the basic theoretical flaw of attempting the only way in which panpsychism could logically be saved.

Now, of course, since we have given a lifeline (pun intended) to the panpsychist, he could grab it and run with it with some further verbal gymnastics. He could possibly re-define the very life (i.e. living-ness) as a term that is not to be taken in the usual sense, but only in some basic, “elementary,” or “flavour”-some way. Possible… What would be wrong with that?

… The wrong thing is this: There are too many flavors now blurring out too many fundamental distinctions, but too few cogent definitions for all these new “concepts” of what it means to be a mere “flavour.”… Realize that the panpsychist would not be able to directly point out to a single instance of, say the table (or your T-shirt) as having some element of same kind of live which actually is present with the actual living beings.

If an alleged consciousness (or its elementary flavor or residue) cannot perform even a single action of distinguishing something consciously, but only follows the laws of physics in its actions, then what it possesses is not consciousness. Further, if an allegedly elementary form of life can have unconditional existence and never faces death, and leads to no actions other than those which follow from the laws of physics alone, then what it possesses is not life—not even in the elementary sense of the term.

In short, panpsychism is an untenable thesis.

Finally, let me reiterate that when I said that a pre-condition (or pre-consciousness, or “soul”) can remain associated with the inanimate matter too, that idea belongs to an entirely different class. It is not what panpsychists put forth.


Comments on what other bloggers have said, and a couple of relevant asides:

For the reasons discussed above, Motl[^]’s “proof” regarding panpsychism cannot be accepted as being valid—unless he, Koch, Chalmers, or others clarify what exactly they mean by terms such as “elementary” consciousness. Also, the elementary bits of “life”: can there be a \Phi of life too, and if yes, how does \Phi = 0 differ from ordinary loss of life (i.e. death) and the attendent loss of the \Phi of consciousness too.

As to Hossenfelder‘s post, if a given electron does not belong to the body of a conscious (living) being, then there exist no further complications in its physical evolution; the initial and boundary conditions specified in the purely physical terms are enough to describe its actions, its dynamical evolution, to the extent that such an evolution can at all be described using physics.

However, if an electron belongs to a conscious (living) being, then the entire of consideration of whether the electron by itself is conscious or not, whether it by itself thinks or not, becomes completely superfluous. The evolution of its motion now occurs under necessarily different conditions; you now have to bring the physical forces arising due to the action of life, of consciousness, via those additional continuing conditions. Given these additional forces, the system evolution once again follows the laws of physics. The reason for that, in turn, is this: whether an elementary particle like the electron itself is conscious or not, a big entity (like a man) surely is conscious, and the extra physical effects generated by this consciousness do have to be taken into account.

An aside: Philosophy of mind is not a handmaiden to physics or its philosophy:

While on this topic, realize that you don’t have to ascribe consciousness to the electrons of a conscious (living) being. For all you know, there could perhaps be an entirely new kind of a field (or a particle) which completely explains the phenomenon of consciousness, and so, electrons (or other particles of the standard model) can continue to remain completely inanimate at all times. We don’t know if such a field exists or not.

However, my main point here is that we don’t have to exhaust this question without observation; we don’t have to pre-empt this possibility by arbitrarily choosing to hinge the entire debate only on the particles of the standard model of physics, and slapping consciousness onto them.

Realize that the abstraction of consciousness (and all matters pertaining to it or preceding it, like the soul), is fundamentally “orthogonal” to the abstractions of physics, of physical reality. (Here, see my last post.) You don’t commit the error of taking a model (even the most comprehensive model) of physics, and implicitly ask philosophy of mind to restrict its scope to this model (which itself may get revised later on!) Physics might not be a handmaiden to philosophy, but neither is philosophy a handmaiden to physics.

Finally coming to Schlafly‘s post, he too touches upon Hossenfelder’s post, but he covers it from the advance viewpoints of free-will, mind-body connection, Galen’s argument etc.[^]. I won’t discuss his post or positions in detail here because these considerations indeed are much more complicated and advanced.

Another aside: How Galen’s argument involves a superfluous consideration:

However, one point that can be noted here is that Galen fails to make the distinction of whether the atom he considers exists as a part of a conscious (living) being’s body, or whether it is a part of some inanimate object. In the former case, whether the electron itself is conscious or not (and whether there is an extra particle or field of consciousness or not, and whether there is yet another field or particle to explain the phenomenon of life or not), a description of the physical evolution of the system would still have to include the aforementioned life-physical force. Thus, the issue of whether the electron is conscious or not is a superfluous consideration. In other words, Galen’s argument involves a non-essential consideration, and therefore, it is not potent enough to settle the related issues.


Homework for you:

  • If panpsychism were to be true, your credit card, spectacles, or T-shirt would be conscious in some “elementary” sense, and so, they would have to be able to hold some “elementary” items of cognition. The question is, where and through what means do you suppose it might be keeping it? That is to say, what are the physical (or physico-electro-chemical-etc.) correlates for their content of consciousness? For instance, can a tape-recorder be taken to be conscious? Can the recording on the tape be taken as the storage of its “knowledge”? If you answer “yes,” then extend the question to the tape of the tape-recorder. Can it be said to be conscious?
  • Can there be a form of consciousness which does not carry a sense of self even in the implicit terms? As it so actually happens, i.e., in reality, a conscious being doesn’t have to be able to isolate and consciously hold that it has self; but it only has to act with a sense of its own life, its own consciousness. The question asks whether, hypothetically, we can do away with that implicit sense of its own life and consciousness itself, or not.
  • Can there be a form of consciousness which comes without any mind-body integrating mechanisms such as some kinesthetic senses of feedback, including some emotions (perhaps even just so simple emotions such as the pleasure-pain mechanism)? Should there be medical specializations for addressing the mental health issues of tables? of electric switches? of computers?
  • Could, by any stretch of imagination, the elementary consciousness (as proposed by panpsychists) be volitional in nature?
  • Should there be a law to protect the rights of your credit card? of your spectacles? of your T-shirt? of a tape-recorder? of your laptop? of an artificial neural network running on your laptop?
  • To those who are knowledgeable about ancient Indian wisdom regarding the spiritual matters, and wish to trace panpsychism to it: If a “yogi” could do “tapascharyaa” even while existing only as an “aatmaa” i.e. even when he is not actually alive, then why should he at all have to take a birth? Why do they say that even “deva”s also have to take a human birth in order to break the bonds of “karma” and thereby attain spiritual purity?

More than three thousand words (!!) but sometimes it is necessary. In any case, I just wanted to finish off this topic so that I could return full-time to Data Science. (I will, however, try to avoid this big a post the next time; cf. my NYRs—2019 edition [^].)


A song I like:
(Marathi) “santha vaahate krushNaa maai”
Lyrics: Ga. Di. Madgulkar
Music: Datta Davajekar
Singer: Sudhir Phadke

 

A bit on Panpsychism—part 1: what its basis possibly could be

Panpsychism is an interesting theory from the philosophy of the mind [^] . This topic has a long history, and it has recently been put forth in a very engaging form by an Australian-American professor, Dr. David Chalmers [^]. I gather that there also have been others like Prof. Giulio Tononi [^] and Dr. Kristoph Koch [^]. However, I have not yet read them or watched their videos. So,¬† my discussion of panpsychism is going to be limited to what I understand about this theory after listening to only Prof. Chalmers. Prof. Chalmers discusses panpsychism mainly in the context of “the hard problem of consciousness.”

I had last year (in 2018) listened to Prof. Chalmer’s TedX talks, and also had browsed through some of his writings. However, I didn’t think of writing a post about it. The reason I am now writing this post is that several physicist have recently come to discuss it. See: “Electrons don’t think” by Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder [^] ; “Panpsychism is needed to quantify consciousness” by Dr. Lubos(h) Motl [^] , and “The mind-body problems” by Dr. Roger Schlafly [^].

In these couple of posts (this one and the next), I am going to note a few points about panpsychism—what I think of it, based on just some surface reading (and watching videos) on the topic by Prof. David Chalmers. My write-up here is exploratory, and for that reason, a bit meandering.


Panpsychism says (going by the definition of the term thrown up by a Google search on the word) that “everything material, however small, has an element of individual consciousness.” For this post, we will assume that this definition correctly characterizes panpsychism. Also see the Google Ngram, at this link: [^]


The thesis of panpsychism seems to have the following two ideas at its base:

(i) What we perceive can cut across the entirety of the existence.

There are no sub-categories of beings (or parts of existence) that can in principle (i.e. directly or indirectly) remain permanently inaccessible to us, i.e., to our means and methods of cognition. For instance, consider the fact that a technique like SEM (scanning electron microscope) can bring certain spatial features of bacteria or of nano-scale structures to a high-fidelity representation that is within the range of our direct perception. Something similar, for the idiot box in your room—it brings a remote scene “to life” in your room.

Notice that this philosophical position means: a denial of a “second” (or “third” etc.) world that is permanently inaccessible to the rest of us, but one that is, somehow, definitely accessible to philosophers of mysticism such as Plato or Kant.

(ii) The idea that what we perceive includes both the realms: the physical realm, and the realm of the mind or consciousness.

Obviously, by the “realm” of consciousness, we don’t mean a separate world. We here take the word “realm” in the sense of just a collective noun for such things as: the contents of consciousnesses, their actions, the products of their processes, etc., as beings having consciousness are observed to exist and be conscious of this world (or take conscious actions in it).

By the idea of the two abstract realms—physical and consciousness-related—we mean a categorically improved version of the Cartesian division—which is to say that our realms have no connection whatsoever to the actual Cartesian division.

[I don’t know if all advocates of panpsychism accept the above two ideas or not. However, when I began wondering what could possibly be the theoretical bases of this idea (of panpsychism), these two seemed to be the right kind of bases.]


Given the above two ideas, the logic of panpsychism basically seems to go something like this:

Since the world we can directly or indirectly perceive is all there is to existence, and since our perception includes both the physical and the consciousness-related aspects, therefore, we should take a direct jump to the conclusion that any part of the existence must carry both kinds of attributes—physical, and the consciousness-pertaining.


If you ask me, there is a problem with this position (of panpsychism). I will cover it in a separate post later this week. I would like to see whether, knowing the fact that I find the logic problematic, you would want to give it a try as to what the reasoning could be like, so that we could cross-check our notes. … Happy thinking!

Bye for now… [The songs section will come back in the next part, to be posted soon enough.]


Originally published on 2019.01.06 14:59 IST. Slightly revised (without introducing any new point) on 2019.01.07 10:15 IST.