Abstract Details

Panpsychism and the Physics of Consciousness: IIT, Orch-OR, and the Combination Problem  Ethan Makulec (Philosophy/Neuroscience, Grinnell College, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York )   C10

Panpsychism views consciousness as fundamental to and omnipresent in reality. The primary difficulty facing panpsychism is the Combination Problem, which questions how the basic consciousness of fundamental entities could possibly come to constitute a complex higher-order consciousness such as our own. This project examines several perspectives and theories of consciousness relevant to panpsychism to argue for and establish the necessary metaphysical details of a panpsychist picture of reality that offers progress on the combination problem. The considered positions elucidate how panpsychism provides the most plausible account for the role of consciousness in the universe and demonstrate that the distinction of the mental and physical must be reevaluated as unopposed mutually inextricable aspects of reality. Progress on the combination problem is seen to entail an account of how consciousness is constituted that is analogous to the combination of entities described by physical science, i.e. by relations amongst entities which instantiate both the mental and the physical. It is argued that two contemporary theories, Integrated Information Theory (IIT) and Orchestrated-Objective Reduction (Orch-OR), advance progress on the combination problem. These theories apply fundamental principles of physics and maintain basic premises compatible with panpsychism such that in conjunction with alterations to other metaphysical notions of these theories, they provide an outline for a potential solution to this problem. Specifically, IIT posits that consciousness is embodied by causal relations between the elements of any system and, by modifying IIT's notion of exclusion, gives a clearer sense of mental combination. Orch-OR assists by providing an account of systems at the most fundamental physical level and the relationship between these systems, neural function, and consciousness. Analysis of these and closely related perspectives demonstrates how panpsychism remains a viable position for the science of consciousness and provides a basic framework for a future solution to the combination problem. The panpsychist position that is described demonstrates the utility of integrating fundamental physics with the science of consciousness to outline a hypothetical physics of consciousness. It is hoped this account helps to dissolve skepticism of panpsychism's scientific utility, resolve some conflicts between the philosophical and scientific perspectives on consciousness, and illuminate a panpsychist path for theories of consciousness to take.