Matter gets psyched


Panpsychism may be the craziest theory of consciousness, except for all the others.


“In philosophy, hyle (from Ancient Greek: ὕλη) refers to matter or stuff.”


from Laruelle: A Stranger Thought, by Anthony Paul Smith (a book about François Laruelle)

Henry’s recasting of a radical phenomenology has been predicated on directing his analysis way from the eidos (essence, idea, form) and toward the hyle (matter, stuff) – see Michel Henry, Material Phenomenology.


If ὕ – the first Greek letter for “hyle”, upsilon (υ) with diacritics dasia and oxia (U+1F55) – is used for the symbol of matter, φ (phi) for physical, + ψ (psi) for psychical, then

ὕ = φ + ψ

(i.e., the combination of physical and psychical properties is a more complete view of what matter is). The physical is the (quantitative) behavioral aspect of matter – the kind that is formulated in mathematical language in current physics, for example – whereas the psychical is the (qualitative) experiential aspect of matter, at various levels, from brains on down. There is no reason in principle for only φ to the considered by science and for ψ to be ignored by science.


Adopting γ (gamma) for the symbol for language (γλώσσα), then codicalism

κ = γ|ὕ

(code = κωδικός) is a dialectical monism: a dialectical monism of language and matter – not mind and matter, because matter has psychical properties in itself. Consciousness (mind) is not a mystery. Matter is.



Note: Panpsychism can be called experiential materialism. Physicalism is the (restricted) view that matter is physical, whereas experiential materialism (or as Gaylen Strawson has called it, real materialism) is the view that matter is both physical (as defined by conventional physics) and psychical (or experiential).

The alternatives to panpsychism – emergentism, informationism, illusionism – are all more problematic.


22 Jan 2019

In my view there is certainly a lot of physical theory for “lower” level material things, but no physical theory yet for why “higher” level brains have consciousness. So panpsychism (psychical theories of matter) is a viable path given the failure of (magical, to me) emergentism.

24 Jan 2019

Emergentism is the view that all theories or aspects of matter – from psychical (e.g., conscious human brains), to biological, to chemical, down to particle – can all be formulated or arise somehow from the Standard Model of Particle Physics (perhaps with General Relativity, if needed), the basic physical theory. There is already a problem with emergentism: How does organic chemistry and biology ,and then up to conscious human bfians arise from the Standard Model?

Informationism is the view that consciousness is a property of complex networks of information processing elements and is substrate-independent. It isn’t clear how a planet-sized network of Intel chips could be conscious.

Panpsychism is the view that there are psychical theories or aspects – as well as physical aspects – of matter down from neurobiological to cellular to molecular, and even perhaps to atomic. Given that emergentism and informationism are likely dead ends, panpsychism is a viable approach.

25 Jan 2019

Viewing material = physical + psychical (which includes consciousness) can br “expanded” (or “complicated”) by viewing

          material = physical + chemical + biological + psychical

for those for whom chemical and/or biological reductionism to physics (here physical equates to that which reduces to physics) is an issue.

29 Jan 2019

Codicalism is the dialectical monism of language and matter:

                κ = γ|ὕ

code = κωδικός
language = γλώσσα
hyle (matter, stuff) = ὕλη

Matter is the combination of physical and psychical:

                ὕ = φ+ψ

physical = φυσικός
psychical = ψυχική

31 Jan 2019

In a micropsychist* approach, the lowest-level psychical properties could appear in the form of their own material subatomic entities, like quarks — quirks? — in current physical theories. Thus human-level consciousness is “constituted” from lower-level material entities possessing lower-level psychical features.

According to constitutive micropsychism, the smallest parts of my brain have very basic forms of consciousness, and the consciousness of my brain as a whole is in some sense made up from the consciousness of its parts. This is the form of panpsychism that suffers most acutely from the combination problem, which we will explore below. However, if it can be made sense of, constitutive micropsychism promises an elegant and parsimonious view of nature, with all the richness of nature accounted for in terms of facts at the micro-level.

* Panpsychism (SEP)

Anti-panpsychists gravitate toward emergentism (see SEP article above for its problems) or illusionism, e.g.:

Rather than thinking that this is a fundamental property of all matter, I think that it is an illusion. As well as senses for representing the external world, we have a sort of inner sense, which represents aspects of our own brain activity. And this inner sense gives us a very special perspective on our brain states, creating the impression that they have intrinsic phenomenal qualities that are quite different from all physical properties. It is a powerful impression, but just an impression. Consciousness, in that sense, is not everywhere but nowhere. Perhaps this seems as strange a view as panpsychism. But thinking about consciousness can lead one to embrace strange views.
Keith Frankish

On the other hand,

According to the fusion view … when micro- or protoconscious entities come together in the right way, they fuse or “blend” together to form a single unified consciousness. …
Hedda Hassel Mørch

cf. the blending of psychical (“soul”) atoms and physical atoms according to Epicurus


Philip Thrift


2 thoughts on “Matter gets psyched”

  1. Very interesting post! I always had a soft spot for information-based theories of consciousness. But the thing is: the very concept of ‘information’ is unclear. If it’s Shannon information, then we’re really just talking about yet another physical concept (and thus the explanatory – or the metaphysical – gap is not solved or avoided). If we talk about some sort of semantic information existing within nature, well, that comes close to begging the question in favour of some consciousness-based interpretation of reality. I think we only ever get a viable version of panpsychism when we postulate consciousness itself at the fundamental level.

    Liked by 1 person

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