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Metaphysics & Psychology

Could consciousness pervade the universe ?

By T.K. Randall
January 17, 2020 · Comment icon 705 comments

Could even fundamental particles possess some form of consciousness ? Image Credit: kalhh / Pixabay
The question of exactly what consciousness is has puzzled philosophers and scientists alike for millennia.
We - as in the human race - are conscious, meaning that on a day-to-day basis we perceive a great deal about the world around us. We feel - both physically and emotionally - and can not only ask big questions about our own existence, but also about the nature of existence itself.

But what exactly is consciousness ? Is it something that our brains produce or can it exist outside of complex, highly-evolved forms of life ? Could consciousness be inherent to all matter ?

Philosopher Philip Goff, author of Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, subscribes to panpsychism - the idea that consciousness is not exclusive to the human mind but is in fact a fundamental feature of the universe that pervades throughout the cosmos.

"This doesn't mean that literally everything is conscious," he told Scientific American.
"The basic commitment is that the fundamental constituents of reality - perhaps electrons and quarks - have incredibly simple forms of experience. And the very complex experience of the human or animal brain is somehow derived from the experience of the brain's most basic parts."

"Human beings have a very rich and complex experience; horses less so; mice less so again. As we move to simpler and simpler forms of life, we find simpler and simpler forms of experience."

In this context, 'experience' is a reference to perceiving the world, either through pleasure or pain, or through seeing, hearing, smelling, touching etc.

"Perhaps, at some point, the light switches off, and consciousness disappears," said Goff.

"But it's at least coherent to suppose that this continuum of consciousness fading while never quite turning off carries on into inorganic matter, with fundamental particles having almost unimaginably simple forms of experience to reflect their incredibly simple nature."

Source: Scientific American | Comments (705)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #696 Posted by Helen of Annoy 4 years ago
@psyche101 Oh, you're way too verbose. And so angry. Let me guess: another traumatised one. My god, is there anyone left in the West who can overcome their traumas?  Is there anything worth reading? Copy and paste me that part, please. Because I find your frustrated meltdowns too boring to read.       Meanwhile, no sane physicist would suggest their profession gives them any chance to explain the Universe, in the form of final theory, let alone the existence itself, in the form of incontestable dogma.  Science does have theories about the current shape of that what we perceive as the U... [More]
Comment icon #697 Posted by Helen of Annoy 4 years ago
  Claiming physics has the final answer to the eternal questions = misunderstanding the physics. Believing physics has means to find answers to the eternal questions = misunderstanding the physics.  Mistaking your own opinion for the implied meaning that should be read into the actual theories = misunderstanding the very concept of science.  Attacking people for not accepting your misconceptions = possible psychological problems.   
Comment icon #698 Posted by WanderingFool0 4 years ago
Well Joc, you know we disagree on this, since I am a philosopher at heart. I do want to say a couple of things about philosophy; the study of ideas and it's sibling relationship with science; the study of things and Philosophy's importance even though it lays outside of the materlistic box of Physics. Science was born out of and walked hand and hand with philosophy and still does today. [More]
Comment icon #699 Posted by joc 4 years ago
I have attacked no one Sweet Cheeks!  That's your department... I have a question...Why are there 'eternal questions'?
Comment icon #700 Posted by Will Due 4 years ago
  Because having all the answers is boring.    
Comment icon #701 Posted by psyche101 4 years ago
I think you're not verbose enough. You said you like science, you claim to understand it, and yet it's the one thing you don't approach in this discussion. You're too busy with you're poor me I'm being picked on routine to avoid the real discussion.  Not angry at all. You're a sook.  Guess again. How you going with your spiritual security blanket?  So you're lazy and don't understand the science?  Wouldn't that be easier to say?  And yet there's a video I posted up there if one of the best on the planet at the moment saying just that. Have you ever heard of a bloke called Professor Lawren... [More]
Comment icon #702 Posted by psyche101 4 years ago
I laid out the basics of the argument in bullet point. Go right ahead and point out the flaws in the information presented. Tell us where Sean Carroll is misrepresenting science in the previous posted video please. I double dog dare you.  Exactly, even worse when you don't understand the science involved as you have proven if yourself. Indeed, you should seek help with that. And read a textbook or two.
Comment icon #703 Posted by Helen of Annoy 4 years ago
Poor trolls. They're screaming, spitting, writhing... and the Universe keeps being unexplained    My last piece of advice for you in this thread: choose a different religion, your misunderstanding of undisputed facts is comical.  No, wait, on a second thought, keep up your good work. With such obnoxious prophets your religion of misapplied physics is guaranteed to be laughed at even harder.  
Comment icon #704 Posted by XenoFish 4 years ago
Yep, same passive-aggressive "victim" nonsense. Threads gone nowhere. Needs to be shut down. 
Comment icon #705 Posted by Saru 4 years ago
Thread closed for moderator review.

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