Realism vs Idealism Saga Continues

Often cast in the physicalism vs pan-psychism sense, it’s an argument I’ve left long behind for my “information realism”.

Many reacting recently to Kastrup’s Idealism / Pan-psychism as the kind of stuff “only stoned hippies could contemplate as real”. Myself, I get why he’s contemplating (promoting) it, but it’s really just word-play in the end using “consciousness” where I would use “information.” ie although he’s using the word he’s not really saying the real / physical world is conscious, merely made of experience-stuff, more like experiencable stuff (ie real information).

That is the physical and the psychological are equally real, since they are both manifestations of the fact that fundamental reality is information, and both equally explicable – along with erstwhile conundrums (“hard-problems”) like free-will, subjectivity and mental agency – in terms of their evolution from there.

Several times before when writing on this (see links) A J Owen comments with quotes from Whitehead, to which I often respond “no doubt, nothing new under the sun”. I did spend some effort getting up to speed with Russell’s metaphysical take, so I guess I should do the same with Whitehead at some point.

Prompted today, by these two tweets, the first with a quote from Wallace:

And this response from Matthew Seagall (FootnotesToPlato):

With a link to this (draft) piece: “Physicalism and Its Discontents: A Study in Whitehead’s Panexperientialist Alternative

[Although not referred to in this piece, Seagall has written on Kastrup, and Pigliucci’s response, in a Whitehead context before. See links at the bottom. He does however refer to IIT(Tononi) and Dennett(B2BnB) and more, often mentioned here on Psybertron.]

Whiethead’s “radical empiricism” is kinda where I started, though for me it was Wm James “radical empiricism” as used by Pirsig – stuff experienced / experiencable immediately / diectly as an interaction in the world at a fundamentally real level prior to / independent of any mental abstraction or interpretation.

“a conception of experience as basic to Nature”
Whitehead quoted by Seagall

Also concluding:

“the panpsychist alternative is superior to physicalism’s eliminativism, epiphenomenalism, and emergentism”

No doubt, as I say, but it’s not necessary to go that far. We still have emergence and a kind of causal supervenience but both physics and psyche emerge from the experiencable stuff – information realism.

It’s the experience that’s basic to nature, not the consciousness of it or of itself.

[Leibnitz – see Smolin’s “nads”.]

Pan-experientialism better than Pan-psychism – I’ll say.
[Russell > Whitehead > Quine > Dennett … pedigree apparent]

[Wittgenstein – referring to Tractatus only, misses Witt’s joke at the expense of the logical positivists – misreading of “Whereof one cannot speak …”]

But I have no doubt this is true:

“Whitehead’s Philosophy of Organism is a protest against the lifeless Nature imagined by Descartes, Galileo, and Newton, and a rejection of the narrow linguistic analysis and sterile logical positivism of his philosophical contemporaries. His is an attempt to make natural science philosophical again by asking whether physical causes and motions need be so violently segregated from the conscious reasons and emotions by which we apprehend them.”

No indeed, they surely don’t. And it’s as unfair on Descartes, Galileo and Newton, as it is on Wittgenstein – they each had their own projects of their day. With the first three it was about making space for God alongside their physics, since consciousness appeared God-given and God had to be given a place.

“He is perhaps best situated within the American pragmatist tradition stemming from Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey …”

“… in particular his genetic account of mutually sensitive prehensions is an attempt to make good on James’ psychological insight by building it out into a coherent cosmological scheme.”

Now that I can believe (see James ref above.)
Him, Pirsig, me & all. I like “prehensions” before “app” and “comp” – pre-conceptual experience, radical empiricism.

“He was influenced by the French philosopher Henri Bergson whom he credits along with William James and John Dewey in the preface to Process and Reality.” [Wikipedia]

[Interestingly Tononi in the list of refs, but not in the text.]

[Need to see a statement of “Whitehead’s process-ontology”- as I’ve said before, the fundamental nature of experiencable real world information, is a process view because it’s the interaction, the event, that is the experience of the real world. I’ve called it “relationalism” previously, before I settled on the atomic nads being “bits” of information.]


Post Note: Clearly just rough notes, not really a review of Seagall’s paper, simply sparked by it, but also previously:

Clearly that real entity vs conceptual object is in Whitehead too via the process of radical experience. Simply easier in French because they have distinct words for the different knowings – which may go a long way back – but clearly a lot of this goes back to James (US) & Bergson (Fr)  in the western canon. Whitehead is the Brit that most picked-up on it and influenced the rest of us, despite the dominant prevalence of the objective (and all the logical positivism that ensues) in present day scientific orthodoxy

“Bergson travelled to London in 1908 and met there with William James, the Harvard philosopher who was Bergson’s senior by seventeen years, and who was instrumental in calling the attention of the Anglo-American public to the work of the French professor. The two became great friends. James’s impression of Bergson is given in his Letters under date of 4 October 1908:

‘So modest and unpretending a man but such a genius intellectually! I have the strongest suspicions that the tendency which he has brought to a focus, will end by prevailing, and that the present epoch will be a sort of turning point in the history of philosophy.'”


A long, slow turning “point” it has turned-out to be (see scientistic orthodoxy) but just maybe we’re getting there. (James seems to be the nexus of the whole story?)

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