Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanpsychism!


Guess what, kids? PHILOSOPHY TIME!

Panpsychism is the view that all matter possesses a soul (or has consciousness). There are a couple of different types of this view, though, and there are also different types of similar views that aren’t technically panpsychism.
Hylozoism, which is similar but not exactly the same, holds that all forms of matter posess life. It’s different from panpsychism because life and souls are obviously two different things, and it is different than animism because animism focuses more on things having consciousnesses. In other words, hylozoism is the doctrine that everything is alive, while panpsychism is the belief that everything is conscious.
So. You all may or may not believe this, but I’ve always been of this sort of belief, that all matter is, in some way, alive. I think that this belief is based on the fact that as a materialist, I don’t think consciousness in humans arises from anything but the physical components of the brain. That is, consciousness is due to the chemical and electrical interactions of the components that makeup the brain, rather than any sort of “extra” component, like a soul or some other special addition to the physical.
Because I’m a materialist, I think that human consciousness arises, then, solely out of the physical. Because of this, I don’t believe that certain physical “components” are capable of coming together and achieving human consciousness—or any other consciousness/life/etc.—if others aren’t.
That’s a bit difficult to understand; let me put it another way. There’s a metric ton (not literally, shut up) of atoms that make up the human body, right? And a lot of those atoms go into making up the brain—in which, according to materialists, the consciousness originates and exists.

Now we can take this in two directions (still assuming materialism):

1. Either consciousness arises out of only a set of specific arrangements of atoms, or

2. All atoms/smallest particles in the universe (obviously not atoms, but ‘atom’ is familiar and easiest to conceptualize) are capable of maintaining a sort of consciousness on their own.
It seems odd to me that only certain atoms in certain arrangements are capable of bringing about any sort of consciousness without the additional condition that consciousness is a potential property of all atoms. Why would only specific combinations lead to consciousness, and what would make certain that the “right” atoms would be chosen in the first place? I think that a variation of consciousness—certainly not human consciousness or any type we can recognize—exists in every atom in the universe. I think culminations of these atomic consciousnesses can lead to other variations, uncluding human consciousness, but I think that there must exist some sort of basal form of it in everything.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, it’s how I’ve always seen it.

One response

  1. […] As I’ve blogged about before, I identify myself with Hylozoism (or panpsychism, it depends on how you define things). Loosely, it’s the belief that all matter is, in some sense, “aware” or has a conscience*. As such, I can’t really place myself in opposition with the view that things like mountains or sand lack a worth comparable to the worth of, say, a dog or a pigeon or even a tree. […]

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