The Silence of Physics

Dainton, Barry ORCID: 0000-0002-6705-2070
(2021) The Silence of Physics. Erkenntnis, 88 (5). pp. 2207-2241.

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<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Although many find it hard to believe that every physical thing—no matter how simple or small—involves some form of consciousness, panpsychists offer the reassurance that their claims are perfectly compatible with everything physics has to say about the physical world. This is because although physics has a lot to say about causal and structural properties it has nothing to say about the intrinsic natures of physical things, and if physics is silent in this regard it is perfectly possible that everything physical has an experiential intrinsic nature. Following in Thomas Nagel’s footsteps, panpsychists have also argued that by revealing that everything is composed of the same fundamental ingredients, physics provides grounds for holding that if <jats:italic>any</jats:italic> physical things (e.g. our neural processes) have an experiential intrinsic nature then <jats:italic>all</jats:italic> must. My main contention in this paper is that the relationship between physics and panpsychism is considerably more complex than panpsychists have tended to assume. Nagel’s reasoning may be sound in the context of simplistic atomic theories which posit just <jats:italic>one</jats:italic> kind of fundamental particle. However, it begins to look distinctly dubious in the context of the diverse range of primitive entities that are to be found in the Standard Model of particle physics. Galen Strawson has suggested that mass-energy interconvertibility should be regarded as evidence that everything physical has the same intrinsic nature. I suggest Strawson’s claim relies on a dubious construal of the nature of energy. Special relativity is another of the cornerstones of contemporary physics, and it too makes life difficult for panpsychists, a fact which emerges when we consider what it would like to <jats:italic>be</jats:italic> a ray of light. However in this case I suggest that there is an interesting—if radical—move open to the panpsychist: they can simply deny that light exists. To conclude I briefly consider whether what QCD has revealed about the nature of mass poses a problem for panpsychism.</jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of the Arts
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2022 11:22
Last Modified: 29 May 2023 02:40
DOI: 10.1007/s10670-021-00450-5
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