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In this episode we have the important job of finding out what Panpsychism is all about, and why the philosophical position is gaining more and more traction in philosophy, but even with physicists and other scientists. The idea that consciousness is the fundamental nature of the physical world is by no means a new one, and it does seem to resolve some of the problems of how consciously experiencing lifeforms could have evolved out of non-conscious non-living material. But most materialists balk at the idea and consider it absolutely bonkers, for reasons we’ll find out as we attempt to pay respect to the criticisms of the position too.


So fortunately, to navigate this tricky philosophical quagmire we have one of the best known and most passionate supporters of panpsychism, author and professor of philosophy at Durham University Philip Goff. Philip’s research focuses on how to integrate consciousness into our scientific worldview. He argues that the traditional approaches of materialism, that consciousness can be explained in terms of physical processes in the brain; and dualism, that consciousness is separate from the body and brain, face unresolvable difficulties.


His first academic book, Consciousness and Fundamental Reality was published in 2017 and his first book aimed at a general audience, Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, was published in 2019.


He also has a podcast, Mind Chat, which he rightly hosts with a philosopher of a completely opposite point of view. And he’s involved in a book of essays on consciousness which will be out this year called ‘Is Consciousness Everywhere? Essays on Panpsychism’

which is a collection of essays by scientists and philosophers published in Journal of Consciousness Studies. The contributors include Carlo Rovelli, Sean Carroll, Lee Smolin, Anneke Harris, Christoph Koch, and Anil Seth, several of whom appear in this series of Chasing Consciousness.


What we discuss:

00:00 Intro

06:00 The unanswerable questions

09:30 Panpsychism explained

12:30 %32 of philosophers are now opposed to materialism

14:30 Bertrand Russel’s importance to Panpsychism

16:00 Science tells us what matter does but not what it IS, in and of itself

17:00 Consciousness defined: ‘What it’s like to be….’

19:30 Neural correlates don’t describe the subjective contents of experiences

21:10 Arguments for Panpsychism

23:00 Consciousness from Non-consciousness: the evolutionary problem

26:20 Materialist counter arguments

27:00 Qualitative vs quantitative data: Galileo’s Error

29:00 Causal power of qualitative experience

32:00 Meaning and hypothesising as higher forms of experience

34:00 ‘What breathes fire into the equations?’

36:00 Misunderstanding that panpsychism is Dualism

38:20 Why is dualism out of fashion?

44:00 Steel manning the materialist critics

44:45 Public observation and experiment is not the full story

47:00 Problem of consciousness VS problem of life

49:00 Is there really a hard problem of consciousness

51:15 Primacy: Why the need for one over the other?

54:30 Block Universe implications for panpsychism

59:30 Block and quantum implications for consciousness

01:06:45 Meaning, value and mystical experiences

01:13:45 Low probability of fine tuning for life in the universe

01:16:15 Goal directness in the early universe doesn’t have to be an argument for God

01:19:00 Atheists are in denial about fine tuning, the religious are in denial about suffering



Consciousness and Fundamental Reality for academics

Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, for the general public

Michael Tye’s Vagueness and the Evolution of Consciousness: Through the Looking Glass

Galen Strawon: why he believes Panpsychism interview

Eric Schwitzgebel ‘Crazyism’ Scientific American article

Luke Roloffs Combining minds’

Stephen Hawking quote, “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

Sabine Hosselfeld “Electron’s don’t think” article

Phillip’s ‘Mind Chat’ podcast with guest Sean Carroll on Is consciousness emergent?

David Chalmers on Consciousness might collapse the wave function

Barry Dainton - on being a photon (a timeless, changeless existence)

Lee Smolen - time is fundamental, New Scientist article 

Philip Goff Artcle on Fine Tuning for Life

Inverse Gamblers Fallacy - Ian Hacking

Philip’s Scientific American article on the multiverse and fine tuning

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