Everything, even a rock, has some degree of consciousness

Philip Goff, associate professor in philosophy at Central European University in Budapest, argues that the idea of panpsychism ("mind is everywhere") shouldn't be dismissed just because it sounds crazy.

Excerpt from Philosophy Now:

Physicalists may object: "Just because we haven't yet worked out how to give a mechanistic explanation of consciousness, it doesn't follow that such an explanation will be forever beyond our grasp. Scientists before Darwin had no explanation of the emergence of complex life, which led many to suppose that there must be something divine or miraculous in the existence of life. The genius of Darwin was to come up with the idea of natural selection, which removes the need for divine creation in the biological realm. We just need a 'Darwin of consciousness' to come along and do something similar in the mental realm." This kind of objection is often accompanied by a certain narrative of the history of science, according to which phenomenon after phenomenon was declared inexplicable by philosophers, only to be later explained by the relentless march of science.

However, to adopt panpsychism is not to give up on the attempt to explain consciousness scientifically. Rather, panpsychism is a scientific research programme in its own right. Panpsychists do not simply declare animal and human consciousness a sacred mystery which must have arrived by magic. Instead, they try to explain animal and human consciousness in terms of more basic forms of consciousness: the consciousness of basic materials entities, such as quarks and electrons. It is true that consciousness itself is not explained in terms of anything more fundamental: the basic consciousness of basic physical entities is a fundamental postulate of the theory. But there is no reason to think that science must always follow the most reductionist path. The scientific explanation of electromagnetism which eventually emerged in the 19th century involved the postulation of new fundamental properties and forces: electromagnetic ones. Perhaps the scientific explanation of human consciousness, when it eventually arrives, will be similarly non-reductive in postulating fundamental kinds of consciousness.

[via 3 Quarks Daily]

Image: Owner of Pet Rock Net/Wikipedia