Eric Schwitzgebel has written recently that he doesn’t think anybody knows if panpsychism is true or false, and philosophers who claim to know, are, consciously or not, faking it. We need more evidence he argued, and we don’t have it yet — that’s why there is disagreement.
I tried to articulate why I think this is the wrong way to pose this issue.
Panpsychism as I understand it, maintains that a salt molecule is conscious. My conviction is that there couldn’t be any conceivable evidence that a salt molecule is or is not conscious, so we cannot be waiting for evidence. It seemed to me therefore that the sort of big philosophical change that comes from embracing panpsychism or rejecting it has to be part of a larger group of social, cultural, aesthetic, and psychological changes which cohere with the belief “a salt molecule is conscious” (or a salt molecule is not conscious).
Eric asked — well are those changes justified? In effect, are we just talking about mob psychology here? If we are, it seems like bleak news for philosophy. It seems, sadly that we must all be kidding ourselves, or faking it, as we come up for justifications for major shifts that unjustifiable.
I don’t want to embrace that. So I think I owe a justification for philosophical change.
A philosophical change is justified if it helps us make the world happier by fulfilling people’s desires..
That’s why I will never embrace the view that a salt molecule is conscious, if that entails meaning that a salt molecule has desires. Because how could we satisfy the desires of a salt molecule and weigh them against the competing desires of the sodium and chlorine ions contained within it?
So since no philosophy will make the world happier by maintaining salt molecules are conscious, they aren’t conscious, therefore panpsychism isn’t right.