Three Problems with Panpsychism

I’m a big fan of the Unbelievable podcast, and I recently listened to the episode from the brilliant Sharon Dirckx and the interesting Philip Goff, where atheist Goff was a proponent of panpsychism. While I’m open to the possibility at some level, this article highlights a view concerns I have with the theory.

  1. Rocks aren’t conscious. They fail the turing test. Perhaps the panpsychist could reconcile this turing failure by claiming intelligence is unrelated to consciousness, but science, philosophy, and experience traditionally and uniformly associated intelligence with consciousness. If you are not intelligent, you are not a conscious being.
  2. Explaining experience doesn’t explain thinking, and therefore doesn’t explain the mind.
    1. We can imagine having simpler and simpler experiences, like suffering levels of vision impairment, but these observational experiences are not the same as thinking. A blind person doesn’t think any less than a fully-sighted person.
    2. We can also picture people with decreasing intelligence, but people with lower intelligence may have just as much brain mass or more. So panpsychism is no less complex than plain dualism as it ends up needing to map brain configuration to levels of consciousness, which is effectively the brain-as-a-mind-interface story of the duelists.
  3. As Sharon notes, panpsychism requires at least an atom for consciousness, so it’s plagued by the same origin story of the material universe. It is still subject to the Kalam Cosmological Argument and similar arguments.
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