If you’re following the plot of my philosophically inclined posts you will see my dismissal of materialists as modern flat earthers. So what basic philosophical stance do I regard as more appropriate? In his book The Flip, Jeffrey Krittal suggest five possible perspectives, as follows.
Panpsychism. Everything has mind/ has some level of consciousness/ is alive.
Dual-Aspect Monism. Mind and matter are aspects of a single underlying reality.
Quantum Mind. Quantum mechanics applies at a level of real world objects; mind is an expression of the quantum wave function. (Alexander Wendt)
Cosmopsychism/ panentheism. All conscious subjects are partial aspects of the more fundamental whole.
Idealism. Mind is fundamental and matter is a manifestation thereof.
This is all very interesting as theory, and no doubt enthusiasts of the various viewpoints could spend many an hour debating their differences. But in essence, if you don’t mind my saying so, it doesn’t matter!
The essential point of all of these perspectives is that matter/mind are indivisible aspects of reality, the one reality. Everything has inner and outer, indivisible. We are each aspects of the whole, interconnected with all others.
So much flows from that.
Materialism is a misleading diversion.
Science/technology has a limited domain if it restricts itself to outers.
At best, religions provide paths towards realisation of this underlying (spiritual) reality.
Politics must recognise that all humans and other living systems are co-sharers of our world. Having reached the earth’s limits we have become responsible for the future of the whole earth’s ecosystem.
Because of the sort of books I read, I keep coming across these words and have never really understood the difference (or it doesn’t stick): panpsychism, pantheism and panentheism. Fortuitously, Christian de Quincey explains in his book Blind Spots. I’ve added links to Wikipedia, which has good definitions and background.
Pan is an ancient Greek word meaning ‘whole’ or ‘all of’.
Panpsychism is a philosophical belief about mind, meaning that all of nature possesses mind. Consciousness is in every thing.
Pantheism is a theological belief about the nature of God or gods. It argues that God and nature are essentially the same. God is immanent in nature.
Panentheism takes pantheism a step further – God is in all of nature, but also beyond nature. God is both transcendent and imminent in nature.
Panpsychism is consistent with pantheism, but less so with panentheism because that transcendent God lies beyond its concept.
As de Quincey points out, the important thing to take away is that God/nature is an ongoing, evolving, neverending creative process, and we are each a co-creative part thereof. Materialism is a dead duck, and atheism seems somehow irrelevant.
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.