Top-down Individuation: Nonduality and the Fallacies of Panpsychism and Artificial Sentience


Here is the abstract of my upcoming presentation at the Science and Non-Duality Gathering 2015, in San Jose, California, coming October:

We live in culture dominated by two contrived metaphysical inferences: that the world exists outside consciousness and that particular arrangements of matter in that world somehow generate consciousness. This distorted view of reality feeds the delusory dreams of artificial consciousness so prevalent in the media today, such as in movies like Ex_Machina.

In contrast to science fiction, however, there is the cold science fact of our complete failure to articulate, even in principle, how particular arrangements of matter could possibly generate consciousness. But instead of forcing our culture to revise its mistaken metaphysics, this failure is leading to a new delusion: panpsychism, or the notion that consciousness is in all matter, as opposed to all matter in consciousness. Under panpsychism, consciousness is fundamentally fragmented, just as matter appears to be. Single atoms allegedly have very simple consciousness, while more complex psyches, such as our own, can be built bottom-up by connecting atoms together.

In this talk, we will see how both panpsychism and our dreams of artificial consciousness arise from a delusory interpretation of the facts of reality, as available to experience. We will see that consciousness isn’t created, but the framework wherein all creation happens. We will see that consciousness isn’t fundamentally fragmented, but fundamentally one. We will see that individual psyches don’t arise from bottom-up integration, but from top-down dissociation of a single consciousness. Finally, we will see how all this follows directly from true non-dualism.

Copyright © 2015 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Hi Bernardo, I just purchased 2 of your books after learning about you via Skeptiko. I have a question, I would like to give your books away as a gift but alas, they have not been translated to German. Do you have a a German peer or an american one who has been translated who falls into your way of thinking? Can you recommend someone? Of course, Deepak Chopra may have been translated to German but I like the academic essay-type better. Who could you recommend? Cheers, Mark

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    2. I hope you enjoy the books, Mark. I wouldn't know who else to point you to, other than to refer you to my list of favorite books on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BernardoKastrup/info?tab=page_info. Cheers, Bernardo.

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  2. Spirit_not consciousness is the framework that holds one together_never separate_consciousness requires perception_SPIRIT knows_doesn't need to perceive_doesn't need to think_it wants to feel/:

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    1. Without defining what you mean by 'spirit' you are just dancing around with words. It means nothing. And no, consciousness -- defined as that which experiences -- does not require your perceptual apparatus to be active. You are conscious during dreaming or during purely abstract thinking. You are also conscious in an isolation tank. You are conscious of emotions without perceiving anything. etc.

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  3. I really love the way you offer straightforward explanations, Bernardo. Such clear and unambiguous language I always interpret as a sure sign of a high intellect and a firm grasp of subject matter.

    It is easy to picture from what you say above that the Big Bang, according to panpsychists, would have been composed of (say) 99.9% matter and 0.1 percent consciousness. Just thinking about that makes the whole dualist idea laughable!

    Thank you.

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  4. Bernardo, I am, in the main, strongly sympathetic to your views (I had read that one book of yours, the Baloney one), but your decryings of panpsychism always have puzzled me. I'm still not sure (even after reading your book) what the difference is between your view of consciousness, and panpsychism. Wikipedia:

    "In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal feature of all things, and the primordial feature from which all others are derived. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of minds."

    I see nothing in that definition that implies or requires "fragmentation." IIRC from your book, you seem hung up on whether e.g. rocks are conscious (I believe you say that they aren't, not even on a very minimal level). More to the point, who, exactly, is propounding or implying said fragmentation? If there is a group of people doing that, they would seem to be very rare, in a world where most philosophers are typically materialists first, and those who are not don't seem, in the main, to propose or imply this fragmentation that you speak of. The Wikipedia article then goes to say that panpsychism equates to "Non-emergentism", which would seem to match your views, not the one of the "fragmentationists".

    And aren't you implying your own dualistic non-unified view of consciousness by breaking the world down into two types of objects, those which are conscious, and those which are not? So do we have a choice between your dualism, and the dualism of the "fragmentationists" (whoever and wherever they are). Both views seem unsatisfactory to me.

    It may be that only in nondual awareness do any and all such dualisms and paradoxes dissolve and resolve (as Ken Wilber has often put it). In other words our attempts to resolve such paradoxes are an intrinsic feature of symbolic language (which is by definition dualistic), and doesn't equate to consciousness itself being dualistic.

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    1. Hi John,

      In the definition you took: "...psyche is a universal feature OF all THINGS..." So consciousness is a feature OF matter, as opposed to matter being an excitation of consciousness, as I propose.

      Panpsychism: consciousness is in matter
      My proposal: matter is in consciousness

      Panpsychism: human minds are formed bottom-up, by aggregation of simpler minds at atomic level
      My proposal: human minds are formed top-down, by dissociation of mind-at-large

      Panpsychism entail fragmentation in that it infers that the structure of matter impinges on the structure of mind. That is, if matter is atomized, then minds are atomized. This is explicitly articulated in modern 'scientific' panpsychism. And you can even see it all the way back to Whitehead and his "occasions."

      For me, to say that something is conscious means to say that it is a dissociated alter of mind-at-large. I don't think ALL things are such; only living things. Indeed, I believe metabolism is the image of dissociation. A non-metabolizing rock is not a dissociated alter of mind-at-large and, as such, it isn't conscious. But it is IN consciousness as part of the outside image of mind-at-large's global cognitive processes. There is nothing it feels like to be a rock for exactly the same reason that there is nothing it feels like to be an isolated neuron in your brain. There is ONLY something it feels like to be the WHOLE of your brain, and that is the way you feel right now.

      I'll elaborate more on all this in a future book.

      Cheers, Bernardo.

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    2. Hi Bernardo. I haven't been responding to your posts recently, as I've been reading them and letting them marinate.

      I found this reply of yours very interesting, particularly the last paragraph. Ken Wilber has a term for things like rocks - he calls them "heaps", which is to say just a collection of things. A lot of the things we see in nature are heaps--rocks, lakes, rivers and oceans, mountains, etc. The collection may be accidental, or the more or less predictable result of various natural processes; and certainly, heaps can exhibit various kinds of properties. But at bottom, they are composed of aggregations of atoms and/or molecules, and it is these latter, if anything, that I tend to think of as the "outside image of MAL's global cognitive processes". There are myriads of ways in which atoms and molecules can interact, and that accounts for the natural phenomena that physicists have so far identified, if not adequately explained.

      However, I reflect that the bodies of animate beings are also composed of atoms and molecules. I wouldn't call them heaps, however, because they possess the ability to reproduce themselves: natural processes might produce lots of similar rocks, but that's not the same thing as the precision with which reproductive processes generate organisms. And there are the other criteria of life that living beings exhibit, such as irritability (i.e. some kind of interaction with the environment in purposive ways), metabolism, excretion and so forth. In most cases (viruses might be somewhat problematic), it's easy enough to determine whether or not something is animate.

      So what are the bodies of animate beings? As opposed to their consciousnesses, which you characterise as dissociated aspects of MAL? Maybe their bodies reflect their consciousness: the collection of atoms and molecules that makes up human bodies, for instance, reflects our consciousness--is the "outside image" that we normally identify as a human being with all the capabilities it possesses. To a certain extent, our bodies seem to be somewhat heap-like, but there's the added frisson of our consciousness, which is localised (one might say limited) by the body.

      I'm just thinking aloud here: it's all still marinating and I admit it hasn't quite gelled yet, but it's something that nags away at me: sorting out what's what, and how to interpret your version of Idealism. I could say more, but will leave it there and maybe you'll reply with something that will help clarify my thinking.

      Cheers,

      Michael Larkin

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    3. Hi Michael,

      I think only metabolism (life) is the image of mind-at-large's dissociation into individual streams of experience. Everything else are heaps: from rocks to computers to robots. Life is indeed unique in many ways and has its own mysteries (protein folding, morphogenesis, etc.). It is not a process life any other. As such, it is the unique way dissociation manifests itself to us externally. To create an artificial sentient being, we need to induce dissociation in mind-at-large artificially. It may be possible, but it has nothing to do with silicon chips.

      Cheers, Bernardo.

      PS: Sorry for the late reply, I missed your post at first.

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    4. these 'heaps' such as rocks, molecules and atoms don't exist without consciousness for these are delineations made by consciousness. For example, we delineate a rock from that which is not the rock, but the boundary that distinguishes the rock from the non-rock does not exist. In a materialist POV - without consciousness - reality(matter) can only exist in it's most primitive non-divisible state. And, if matter can not have a non-divisible state - then materialism is screwed.

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    5. Larry, spot on! I am totally with you: the idea of separate inanimate objects is merely a conceptual overlay we place on nature. It doesn't exist in reality.

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  5. Replies
    1. Did you see my earlier post, Bernardo? If so and you've decided not to reply, that's fine. But on the off chance you haven't, do you have a response?

      Cheers,

      Michael Larkin

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    2. Sorry Michael, I missed it at first but now replied!

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    3. "I think only metabolism (life) is the image of mind-at-large's dissociation into individual streams of experience. Everything else are heaps: from rocks to computers to robots. Life is indeed unique in many ways and has its own mysteries (protein folding, morphogenesis, etc.). It is not a process life any other. As such, it is the unique way dissociation manifests itself to us externally. To create an artificial sentient being, we need to induce dissociation in mind-at-large artificially. It may be possible, but it has nothing to do with silicon chips."

      Thanks for your response, Bernardo. I'm imagining Mind At Large (MAL) in Its primaeval state, without the presence of dissociated alters. It is the one and only consciousness that exists, and has Its own internal experience of Itself. But then I think: does It also have an "external" appreciation of Itself?

      We know that alters are capable of having both, albeit that both are limited; but if MAL has only internal experience, could alters be the means by which It experiences Its external image vicariously, via their internal interpretation of It? Through them, is MAL having an exploratory experience of Itself that It couldn't otherwise have? Its inherent external image might be manifested as what we think of as elementary particles, along with the properties/behaviour ("forces" and "energies"), of those and the heaps derived therefrom.

      In my understanding, you think of inanimate heaps and their properties as being part of the external view of MAL's cognitive processes. However, it now occurs to me that the bodies of organisms could also be more sophisticated heaps that have evolved to reflect what you shorthand as "metabolism", i.e. nutrition, growth, reproduction, excretion, irritability, and so forth.

      You say you think life isn't a process like (mistyped "life"?) any other. In one sense that could be true enough, but in another, I wonder if animate heaps that exhibit metabolism aren't essentially formed through elaboration of properties/behaviour intrinsic to MAL. Over what we think of as time, these processes appear to evolve to become more and more complex. At some point, alters might become aware internally that they experience MAL's external image, viz. the universe and its many phenomena--and are interpreting those in progressively more sophisticated ways.

      It's an interesting question as to when "dissociation" might happen. Would it precede the appearance of progressively more animate heaps, or develop as they develop? I don't know, of course, but suspect the latter. In either case, it would appear to us as an evolutionary process.

      Note that I'm *not* implying that everything, right down to individual elementary particles, possesses consciousness. It's more that consciousness emerges in heaps once they become sufficiently complex ("alive"), and this is mirrored by their metabolism. This isn't the serendipitous emergentism commonly hand-waved about by materialists. No: there is, and always has been, an intention, and a purpose behind it. That would be the striving of MAL to experience Itself through the second-person perspective of animate heaps. These possess the ability to perceive externally, associated with internal, interpretative experiences of what MAL is, which are what MAL co-experiences.

      (continued below)

      Michael Larkin

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    4. Hi Michael,

      You wrote: "but if MAL has only internal experience, could alters be the means by which It experiences Its external image vicariously, via their internal interpretation of It? Through them, is MAL having an exploratory experience of Itself that It couldn't otherwise have?"

      YES! Exactly! I wrote extensively about this in my upcoming book, "More Than Allegory." STay tuned; it should come out early next year. Regarding your other points, I think this new video may help clarify my thinking:

      https://youtu.be/hx7cspjwvHM

      Cheers, Bernardo.

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  6. (continued from above)

    There *is* a kind of dualism involved, I suppose, but it is not between two different kinds of substance (mind and matter), or between two different sets of properties (mental and material). It's between two distinct perspectives of/on the one thing: the internal and the external. Primaeval MAL may only be capable of an internal view; may only be able to perceive Itself from the inside, from the first-person perspective. It utilises Its invisible (to It) external view to evolutionarily (experimentally?) create sentient beings capable of relaying to it an experience of Itself from the outside via their internal interpretative faculties, which in the end boil down to their (localised and limited) consciousnesses. Sentient beings would be, in this view, transducers of external perceptions. They would function, if you like, as sense organs for MAL. Internally, however, they have the experience of what they think of as individuality.

    Materialists attempt to explain everything as being reducible to matter, including consciousness, which they may attribute to every elementary particle, which through complexification generates, eventually, human consciousness. They may even deny the very existence of consciousness. But there remains the hard problem of why it is that we experience and cogitate. It's only a problem because they set up in the first place the conceptual distinction between mind and matter. Eliminate that distinction, and things become simpler, if still somewhat hard to grasp.

    The $64,000 question is, does individuality persist after death? Virtually everyone asks themselves this at one time or another. There appear to be at least two methods of passing on information. One is cultural, and the other, persistence of individuality. Cultural transmission is highly contingent. We can't say that in a hundred years' time we won't have bombed ourselves back into the stone age, or that there won't have been some global catastrophe that wipes us all out, in which case MAL would lose contact with Its evolving second-person source of data about Itself altogether, at least on this planet.

    The thought that death brings annihilation is quite probably mankind's greatest existential fear. But we ought to remember that "death" is an entropic process that happens for sure only to animate heaps. If MAL is eternal, both internally and externally, then so are Its dissociated consciousnesses (or at least the information they have gathered) as well as the basic constituents of animate heaps, viz. elementary particles.

    MAL would have to permanently lose information for death to apply to its dissociated alters, and, essentially, to It. The evidence is that MAL doesn't lose information: evolution, based on it, is an inexorable process. Even if information gathering ceases on this planet, there are probably many more where it can continue, and we can't rule out the possibility that alters would be re-instantiated as animate heaps on those other planets.

    Cheers,

    Michael Larkin

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    Replies
    1. Hi Michael,

      You wrote: "but if MAL has only internal experience, could alters be the means by which It experiences Its external image vicariously, via their internal interpretation of It? Through them, is MAL having an exploratory experience of Itself that It couldn't otherwise have?"

      And: "There *is* a kind of dualism involved, I suppose, but it is not between two different kinds of substance (mind and matter), or between two different sets of properties (mental and material). It's between two distinct perspectives of/on the one thing: the internal and the external."

      YES! Exactly! I wrote extensively about this in my upcoming book, "More Than Allegory." STay tuned; it should come out early next year. Regarding your other points, I think this new video may help clarify my thinking:

      https://youtu.be/hx7cspjwvHM

      There is also a debate I had with Chris field at SAND last week, which should be online in a couple of weeks, I hope. In it, we explore many of the questions you raise.

      Cheers, Bernardo.

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  7. Can you explain further why consciousness experiences, or rather 'how' consciousness experiences? It seems to me that defining consciousness as that WHICH experiences unnecessarily conflates the experiencing entity of the body/mind -- which is the only means through which one can experience -- with consciousness (that in which experience occurs).

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    1. I am NOT saying that That-Which-Experiences (TWE) is the body. In fact, I don't think it is: the body is itself an experience of TWE, therefore TWE cannot be the body. Calling TWE "consciousness" is fair enough. This new video may help:

      https://youtu.be/hx7cspjwvHM

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  8. What ''luck'' to have found your work via the guys from 'On the back of a tiger'. Now I have a lot of pleasant reading to do and I just needed a few minutes to get this coherent feeling that your work dovetailes with what I wrote in my book 'Ich LIEBE meinen Tumor'. Do you know Robert Lanza's book BIOCENTRISM ? It is worth reading, as well.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Guido,
      Glad to hear it! Just last week at a conference I met a guy, Will Pye, who wrote a book called "Blessed with a Brain Tumor." I guess you two are on the same page. :)
      I know of Lanza's work but -- shame on me -- haven't gone through it in detail yet. I plan to.
      Tschüss, Bernardo.

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