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Unravelling Panpsychism - Solution to Depsychologized Consciousness

Updated: Oct 31, 2022


Image credits: New Scientist


This piece deals with Monistic dualism, which means that the physical properties aren’t opposed to the experiential ones and that the physical properties contain the experiential properties, as opposed to the dualistic approach, which distinguishes between the physical and the experiential ones.


In his book the Conscious Mind, David Chalmer talks about the psychological and the phenomenal aspect of consciousness. For him, the phenomenal aspect of consciousness is characterised by ‘the way it feels’ and the psychological aspect of consciousness is characterised by ‘what it does.’

However, the concern is of perceiving the processes leading to the phenomenal feel and behaviour, for it’s easy to perceive the physical entities, making micro consciousness.

This is regarded as the depsychologized consciousness. Hence, it (Panpsychism) is regarded as an elegant and effective solution to the hard problem posed by consciousness.


If you think about consciousness long enough, you either become a panpsychist or you go into administration

John Perry

Panpsychism means that consciousness is ubiquitous and fundamental to every substance in this world. There are different kinds of panpsychism, including Animism, Hylozoism, Pantheism, Panexperientialism, Panentheism, Russellian Monism. While Animism stands for the fact that everything possesses a conscious-like spirit; which apparently is a bit mythological, Hylozoism means that everything is alive, though not succinctly stating the concept of consciousness being ubiquitous. According to the pantheists, everything is a part of the supreme being called “God”, thus balancing Cosmos with God. Panentheism means that God is present in every single substance and panexperientialism states that every single thing is capable of experiencing.

As Nagasawa gives his exposition, Macroconsciousness results out of or is realised in micro consciousness, thus being able to establish the relation between phenomenal states and conscious experience, arising out of physical entities.

Bertrand Russell, in his Russellian Monism, asserts that phenomenal states can be identified with the intrinsic nature of physical properties. For him Physics is characterised by fundamental physical entities which affirms nothing about the very nature of what’s within them and calls it quiddities. It must have certain properties inherited, that actually provide the base for behavioural dispositions.

However, the question that stands out is, Are physical states intrinsically phenomenal?

Bertrand Russell says that if it were, then there would have been no difference between microphenomenal and macrophysical properties and if it is, then the physical causation will itself be phenomenal, which is not the case.

David Chalmers

Image credits: TED


Is it really possible for the macroconsciousness, which is phenomenally subjective, to get constituted by microconsciousness? Nagasawa tries to explain by asserting that man has certain epistemic limitations either, and thus cannot consciously experience everything. He thus states this point to be a cognitive dead end. Keith Frankish, a British philosopher, takes Nagasawa’s views on Panpsychism a little ahead.

He states that phenomenal states can’t be compared with the anomalous natural occurrences or the unobservable entities posited by Science, including bosons(photons, gluons, W/Z bosons, gravitons) and dark matter. It substantiates the contingent proposition by arguing that if we do compare, then our epistemic position of the knowledge will be comparable to the theory of ancient theorists, who had propounded the theory but didn’t have the technical and theoretical apparatus to develop it. A Phenomenal state is something that can’t be observed directly but can be felt and experienced. He says, ’ they are publicly unobservable observables!’

His other concern is to try to physically identify the process(es) leading to phenomenal subjectivity. Is it really possible? Well, Keith asserts that it can be possible by a neural correlation between the physical entities and microphenomenal properties. However, he points out, it is not possible, even though many research programmes into the identification of isomorphisms linking microphenomenal properties and physical properties are being carried out. Even if there’s an attempt to know the macrophenomenal properties by establishing the relation between the phenomenal behaviour and the associated neural, it will still not be possible to establish the relation, assuming there’s no conceptual link between the phenomenal and the psychological states.

Perhaps no one knows whether or not consciousness wholly or partially results out of micro consciousness, thus it should be taken as a necessary metaphysical aspect.

The concern, he says, shouldn’t be about drawing a parallel between the two, but understanding the timing and the binary essence of the phenomenal subjectivity.


The hard problem posited by consciousness by itself offers a very elegant solution of Panpsychism to it. Panpsychism might seem to be quite regressive, as it sounds a bit animistic but is real and titular to hold. Through this piece, I would like to endorse Keith Frankish’s views on Panpsychism, as he says we shouldn’t be concerned about its existence, but about its timing, as to when it happens, and not why it happens. Panpsychism is a metaphysical aspect, and thus mustn’t be compared to contingents.




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