Sabine Hossenfelder blogged a few days ago short post with the title “Electrons Don’t Think“. For me it was an obvious straw-man click-bait headline against pan-psychism. Sabine does admit her naivity in pointing out this is the first she’d heard of pan-psychism. Obviously, no sane philosopher or physicist suggests objects like electrons are sentient – beyond inevitable thought experiments and “ways of talking” which often confuse the unwary.
So I said as much in my one-liner response at the time.
And anyway, I’ve never met a panpsychist who would suggest electrons “think”.
— Ian Glendinning (@psybertron) January 3, 2019
But I am myself something of a pan-psychist – often I say “pan-proto-psychist” to stave off the insane presumption. The stuff of intelligent life IS in everything, and from that point on we’re into metaphysical territory as to what fundamental “stuff” really might be and whether we take a monist over a dualist view. Move over the particles and waves, materials and energies of quantum physics and beyond.
Massimo Pigliucci, a Stoic and evolutionary philosopher for whom I have a lot of time, tweeted in support of Sabine’s post:
Panpsychism is the modern elan vital. Right on target, except for the gratuitous dig at philosophers at the end. Some philosophers are fuzzy thinkers. So are some scientists… https://t.co/gPT2jZsrW4 pic.twitter.com/t2zgR02a5u— Massimo Pigliucci (@mpigliucci) January 5, 2019
To which I further reacted:
@mpigliucci being (very like) the modern equivalent of elan vital does not make it wrong? Fuzzy thinking is a feature, not necessarily a fault, when dealing with fuzzy reality? @skdh (I subscribe to “pan-proto-psychism”. OBVIOUSLY electrons don’t think – that’s a straw man)— Ian Glendinning (@psybertron) January 6, 2019
Now I’m not advocating fuzzy thinking in order to avoid the seeming conflict – per Ben Gibrain (Philosophy Fails) point. What I am suggesting – a la Dennett – that we have to suspend judgement on objective choices where object definitions are themselves at issue. Hanging on to the uncertainty as long as the discourse requires to achieve a sane conclusion.
Personally, as I’ve written many times before, consistent with many working at the quantum gravity level, I think “information” (any significant difference) is the fundamental stuff of both physical and sentient things.
There is no elan vital separate from the res extensa, they are both manifestations of the same res informatica forever entangled at higher evolved levels.