Abstract Details

Does quantum panprotopsychism lead to cosmic idealism?  Paavo Pylkkanen (Philosophy, University of Helsinki, Finland and University of Skovde, Sweden., Helsinki, Finland)   PL9

I have recently considered the relation of the Bohm-Hiley (1993) ontological interpretation of quantum theory to panpsychism (Pylkkanen 2020). This interpretation proposes that a quantum object (e.g. an electron) is a particle accompanied by a new type of field, giving rise to a quantum potential energy. The field enfolds information about the environment of the particle (e.g. slits) and guides the particle via the quantum potential by actively in-forming its motion, rather than pushing and pulling it mechanically. This resolves many of the paradoxes of quantum theory and makes it more intelligible. Bohm suggested that such holistic and contextual activity of information at the quantum level can be seen as a primitive mind-like quality of elementary particles. This amounts to a dual aspect monistic view, where a key factor of reality is information that is simultaneously mental and physical. Quantum theory suggest a novel way to approach the combination problem of panpsychism. i.e. that of giving an account of how the primitive consciousness of the elements of a system could possibly combine into the full consciousness of the system. The combination problem presupposes what Atmanspacher (2014) calls a compositional approach, i.e. explaining the properties of the whole in terms of its parts. However, there are quite generally instances in quantum theory where the whole is prior to parts (cf. Schaffer 2010). So we do not explain the whole in a bottom-up way in terms of the parts, but rather explain the properties and behavior of the parts in a top-down way partly in terms of the whole (cf. Aharonov et al. 2018). Thus, while the Bohm-Hiley scheme has a panpsychist flavor in postulating that elementary particles have mind-like qualities, its emphasis on the priority of the whole goes against the spirit of the bottom-up way of explaining consciousness characteristic of traditional panpsychism. If we consider the entire universe in the light of Bohm-Hiley quantum theory, it is suggested that the universe is an undivided process which is simultaneously mental and physical. Is there any sense in which the universe as a whole with such dual aspect properties might be said to be conscious, or is conscious experience restricted to certain individual biological organisms, or at most collectives of them, as our folk psychology would have it? During recent years such radical themes have been taken up by a number of researchers (e.g. Itay Shani and David Chalmers) under the label of cosmopsychism or cosmic idealism. In this talk I will consider these themes in the light of a philosophical framework inspired by quantum theory. Aharonov, Y., Cohen, E. and Tollaksen, J. (2018) Completely top-down hierarchical structure in quantum mechanics, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 115. Atmanspacher, H. (2014) 20th Century Variants of Dual-Aspect Thinking. Mind and Matter 12 (2). Bohm, D., and Hiley, B. J. (1993). The Undivided Universe. London: Routledge. Pylkkanen, P. (2020) A Quantum Cure for Panphobia. In W. Seager (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism. Schaffer, J. (2010). Monism: The Priority of the Whole. Philosophical Review, 119 (1).