Abstract Details

Dynamic Selves: An Outline for a New Type of Panpsychism  Nino Kadic (Philosophy, King's College London, London, United Kingdom)   C10

Panpsychism is the theory that consciousness is fundamental and ubiquitous. The most popular version of the view is combinatory panpsychism, which states that fundamental subjects combine to form more complex subjects. This formulation suffers from the notorious combination problem: how could subjects possibly combine? There is a strong intuition that they cannot. Combinatory panpsychists aim to solve the combination problem by postulating special relations or by deflating the issue. Non-combinatory panpsychists usually accept emergentist panpsychism, the claim that subjects do not combine, but that fundamental consciousness causes higher-level consciousness. This formulation seems to rely on emergence - the very notion that panpsychists originally tried to eliminate! What I propose is a third kind of panpsychism, one that is unaffected by both the combination problem and emergence. Specifically, I argue that fundamental subjects can share, route and re-organise their phenomenal qualities so that one of them becomes the dominant subject - me. No ontologically new subject comes about and the physicalist vocabulary of 'combination' and 'aggregation' is avoided. All fundamental subjects that form my brain send (information about) their phenomenal qualities into one specific fundamental subject, which then has (access to) all of their phenomenal qualities. It is merely an interchange of information or phenomenal routing. What I call 'me' is the fundamental subject that has access to all that information. This proposal suffers from several problems. Would I perish if the dominant fundamental subject particle left my brain? Does this lead to the infinite regress of small observers - homunculi - in my brain? If dominant subjects only receive information about the phenomenal qualities of other subjects, does that mean that they do not have first-person experiences of those qualities? Are experiences radically detached from subjects? The answer to the first question depends on whether the role of the dominant fundamental subject is static or dynamic. I claim that it is dynamic: the role switches frequently between subjects, in a manner isomorphic to neural processing. It is not located at one specific point in the brain. Regarding the second question, there can be no infinite regress of homunculi if centres of experience are truly fundamental. The answer to the third question is that there is no contradiction in the idea of fundamental subjects sharing types of experiences. The dominant subject could have the same type of experience, as induced by other subjects. Alternatively, a model where phenomenal information from other subjects merely affects the phenomenal state of the dominant subject is also non-contradictory. The dominant subject could have first-person experience of the affected state. As for the fourth question, the answer is that experiences are necessarily had by subjects, but it is contingent what specific set of qualities they have at any given time. So, what I call 'Nino' is a particular set of qualities plus any fundamental subject - its role is merely to serve as the centre of experience. Whatever the case, I believe that dynamic panpsychism is a novel proposal that avoids crucial objections and is thus worthy of further consideration.