According to Christian de Quincey (in his books Blind Spots) there are four basic philosophical/ontological ways of looking at the mind-matter conundrum. For simplicity I equate mind with consciousness and matter with energy (as per Einstein).
- Materialism. Everything is matter; mind is an emergent phenomenon.
- Idealism. Everything is ultimately mind. Matter emanates from mind or is an illusion (maya).
- Dualism. Everything is ultimately separable mind and matter. They represent separate domains.
- Panpsychism. Everything is ultimately inseparable. Mind and matter together constitute sentient energy, the inner and outer of the one reality. Mind pervades everything, even the smallest atoms.
So, which is the most likely? This is my take:
- Materialism really is a crazy hypothesis the more you think about it. How can consciousness ’emerge’ from matter? Which is the more real to you? Although currently in wide vogue, this is in my view the worst theory, and can cause immense damage to nature which is regarded as ‘inert’. This damage is what we see today.
- Idealism is sort of the opposite. It has a certain plausibility. How could we know if it were not true?
- Dualism seems inherently implausible. How could the two domains interact? This seems to require a third concept.
- Panpsychism seems entirely plausible, coming closest to ‘explaining’ the basics of the universe we see. In such a universe we are clearly both objectively and subjectively a part of the One.
You could regard this as a rather obscure philosophical debate. Should we be ‘mindful’ of it, and does it really ‘matter’? The damage being caused by materialism suggest it might actually be rather important to understand.
What do you think?
7 thoughts on “Mind and Matter”
My philosophy group talks about this frequently. I like your way of thinking, Barry!
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Is a computer capable of thought, and if so will this demonstrate mind/matter duality, or is there no duality and the human mind is just a physical process like computer consciousness?
Thanks for your comment, Robert. I’d say that, in line with panpsychism, a computer comprises sensate matter, but it is not an organic whole, so does not have a coherent mind or ‘inner’. Computer programmes give a simulation of left-brain thought. There is no inner consciousness there. We could call it fake consciousness!
So how do you define consciousness without being snobbish about it like a solipsist? The whole universe is organic but not necessarily conscious and subsets of the totality can be organic and not conscious so organic means little as you use it. And who is to say that organic consciousness will not be synthesized by man in his machines?
I don’t seem to be able to reply to your further comment, Robert, so am re-replying to this one. I had to look up solipsist, but don’t think it’s anywhere near my position. We can ‘see’ the consciousness in each other, and indeed a dog. Essentially I am suggesting that consciousness is ‘inner’ and matter/energy is ‘outer’, and computer programmes are a feature of the ‘outer’ – so clearly cannot be the same as ‘inner’.
These are all just attempts to understand the mystery within which we live. I’m just suggesting that panpsychism is a better bet than the other options.
So money is psychic and doesn’t like me? Well that accounts for a lot of my life!
Thanks Barry, I love your way of thinking philosophically. I’m not sure this will ever be resolved but I tend to go with the panpsychism way of looking at our universe.
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