Whilst the usefulness of the computational metaphor in many areas of psychology and neuroscience is clear, it has not gone unchallenged and in this article I will review a group of philosophical arguments that suggest either such unequivocal optimism in computationalism is misplaced – computation is neither necessary nor sufﬁcient for cognition – or panpsychism (the belief that the physical universe is fundamentally composed of elements each of which is conscious) is true. I conclude by highlighting an alternative metaphor for cognitive processes based on communication and interaction. Relevance: This paper argues against computational accounts of mind and cognition, discussing Searle, Bishop and Penrose and suggesting a new metaphor for cognition based on interactions and communication. The new metaphor is sympathetic to modern post-symbolic, anti-representationalist, embodied, enactive accounts of cognition.
Bishop J. M. (2009) Why computers can\t feel pain. Minds and Machines 19(4): 507–516. https://cepa.info/834
“Strong computationalism” holds that any suitably programmed computer instantiates genuine conscious mental states purely in virtue of carrying out a speciﬁc series of computations. The argument presented herein is a simple development of that originally presented in Putnam’s “Representation & Reality”, which if correct, has important implications for Turing machine functionalism and the prospect of “conscious” machines. In the paper, instead of seeking to develop Putnam’s claim that, “everything implements every ﬁnite state automata”, I will try to establish the weaker result that “everything implements the speciﬁc machine Q on a particular input set (x)”. Then, equating Q (x) to any putative AI program, I will show that conceding the “strong AI” thesis for Q (crediting it with mental states and consciousness) opens the door to a vicious form of panpsychism whereby all open systems, (e.g., grass, rocks, etc.), must instantiate conscious experience and hence that disembodied minds lurk everywhere. Relevance: This paper critiques the computational accounts of mind and cognition using a construction borrowed from Putnam.
Bitbol M. (2021) The Tangled Dialectic of Body and Consciousness: A Metaphysical Counterpart of Radical Neurophenomenology. Constructivist Foundations 16(2): 141–151. https://cepa.info/6942
Context: Varela’s neurophenomenology was conceived from the outset as a criticism and dissolution of the “hard problem” of the physical origin of consciousness. Indeed, the standard (physicalist) formulation of this problem is what generates it, and turns it into a fake mystery. Problem: Such a dissolution of the “hard problem” is very demanding for researchers. It invites them to leave their position of neutral observers/thinkers, and to seek self-transformation instead. It leaves no room for the “hard problem” in the field of discourse, and rather deflects it onto the plane of attitudes. As a consequence, it runs the risk of being either ignored or considered as a dodge. How can we overcome this obstacle and restore the argumentative impact of neurophenomenology? Method: I propose a metaphysical compensation for the anti-metaphysical premise of the neurophenomenological dissolution of the “hard problem.” Yet, this alternative metaphysics is designed to keep the benefit of a shift from discourse to ways of being - this is the latent message of neurophenomenology. Results: A dynamical and participatory conception of the relation between body and consciousness is formulated, with no concession to standard positions such as physicalist monism and property dualism. This conception is based on Varela’s formalism of “cybernetic dialectic” and on a geometrical model of self-production. It is in close agreement with Merleau-Ponty’s “intra-ontology: an engaged ontological approach of what it is like to be, rather than a discipline of the contemplation of beings. Implications: Taking neurophenomenology seriously implies a radical shift in our way of tackling the “hard problem” of consciousness. There is no question here of theorizing about the neuro-experiential correlation but of including it in a chain of resonance and continuous research that amplifies our lived life. Even metaphysics partakes in this shift. Constructivist content: The article advocates a critical stance towards standard realist approaches to the science and philosophy of mind. A complete reversal of the hierarchy of ontological priorities between physical objects and consciousness is proposed, in the spirit of Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences. Then, the obvious but usually overlooked relation between being conscious and knowing consciousness is emphasized. Keywords: Neurophenomenology, phenomenology, consciousness, experience, mind-body problem, quantum mechanics, neutral monism, panpsychism, Merleau-Ponty.
Candiotto L. (2022) Loving the Earth by Loving a Place: A Situated Approach to the Love of Nature. Constructivist Foundations 17(3): 179–189. https://cepa.info/7922
Context: I extend the enactive account of loving in romantic relationships that I developed with Hanne De Jaegher to the love of nature. Problem: I challenge a universal conceptualization of love of nature that does not account for the differences that are inherent to nature. As an alternative, I offer a situated account of loving a place as participatory sense-making. However, a question arises: How is it possible to communicate with the other-than-human? Method: I use panpsychist and enactive conceptual tools to better define this situated approach to the love of nature and to reply to the research question. In particular, I focus on Mathews’s “becoming native” and the generative tensions that unfold in a dialectic of encounter when a common language is not shared. Results: The fundamental difference experienced in encountering the other-than-human is generative for building up the human-Earth connection if we let each other be listened to. I describe the ethical dimension that permeates this type of “enactive listening” at the core of a situated account of love of nature. Implications: Love of nature is of paramount importance in our current climate crisis characterized by environmental anxiety, despair, and anger. A situated love of nature emphasizes the importance of community-based local interventions to preserve the Earth. Love, thus understood as a fundamental moral and political power, is a catalyst for environmental activism. Constructivist content: My article links to participatory sense-making as defined by De Jaegher and Di Paolo, and De Jaegher’s loving epistemology. It offers a broader understanding of participatory sense-making that includes the other-than-human. It also introduces the new concept of “enactive listening.”
Excerpt: First, one is impressed by the successes of science, endorsing materialism about everything and so about the mind. Second, one is moved by problem of consciousness to see a gap between physics and consciousness, thereby endorsing dualism, where both matter and consciousness are fundamental. Third, one is moved by the inscrutability of matter to realize that science reveals at most the structure of matter and not its underlying nature, and to speculate that this nature may involve consciousness, thereby endorsing panpsychism. Fourth, one comes to think that there is little reason to believe in anything beyond consciousness and that the physical world is wholly constituted by consciousness, thereby endorsing idealism. Some recent strands in philosophical discussion of the mind–body problem have recapitulated this progression: the rise of materialism in the 1950s and 1960s, the dualist response in the 1980s and 1990s, the festival of panpsychism in the 2000s, and some recent stirrings of idealism. In my own work, I have taken the first two steps and have flirted heavily with the third. In this paper I want to examine the prospects for the fourth step: the move to idealism.
Jurgens A. W. (2022) Autopoiesis and Ontopoetics: Investigating the Compatibility. Constructivist Foundations 17(3): 198–200. https://cepa.info/7926
Open peer commentary on the article “Loving the Earth by Loving a Place: A Situated Approach to the Love of Nature” by Laura Candiotto. Abstract: I agree with Candiotto that, in principle, enactivism is compatible with panpsychism. Nevertheless, as the tent of enactivism has grown, not everyone within it may concur with this synthesis. As such, I preemptively raise some potential objections to this synthesis from various strands of enactivism, and outline one possible route for developing a panpsychist enactivism.
Kastrup B. (2017) On the plausibility of idealism: Refuting criticisms. Disputatio 9(44): 13–34. https://cepa.info/4635
Several alternatives vie today for recognition as the most plausible ontology, from physicalism to panpsychism. By and large, these on- tologies entail that physical structures circumscribe consciousness by bearing phenomenal properties within their physical boundaries. The ontology of idealism, on the other hand, entails that all physical struc- tures are circumscribed by consciousness in that they exist solely as phe- nomenality in the first place. Unlike the other alternatives, however, idealism is often considered implausible today, particularly by analytic philosophers. A reason for this is the strong intuition that an objective world transcending phenomenality is a self-evident fact. Other argu- ments – such as the dependency of phenomenal experience on brain function, the evidence for the existence of the universe before the origin of conscious life, etc. – are also often cited. In this essay, I will argue that these objections against the plausibility of idealism are false. As such, this essay seeks to show that idealism is an entirely plausible ontology.
I propose an idealist ontology that makes sense of reality in a more parsimonious and empirically rigorous manner than mainstream physicalism, bottom-up panpsychism, and cosmopsychism. The proposed ontology also offers more explanatory power than these three alternatives, in that it does not fall prey to the hard problem of consciousness, the combination problem, or the decombination problem, respectively. It can be summarized as follows: there is only cosmic consciousness. We, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated alters of cosmic consciousness, surrounded by its thoughts. The inanimate world we see around us is the extrinsic appearance of these thoughts. The living organisms we share the world with are the extrinsic appearances of other dissociated alters.
Pierce B. (2021) Can Panabstractism Offer an Alternative Approach to the Hard Problem? Constructivist Foundations 16(2): 161–163. https://cepa.info/6947
Open peer commentary on the article “The Tangled Dialectic of Body and Consciousness: A Metaphysical Counterpart of Radical Neurophenomenology” by Michel Bitbol. Abstract: While sympathetic to the view that lived experience is prior, epistemologically, at least, to any conclusions we draw about an apparent external world, I argue that to deny that the ontological shift proposed in the target article leaves us with a hard problem is problematic. The worry is that retaining an ontology in which physical bodies and conscious experience co-exist and interact leaves us with the question of how there ever came to be conscious beings capable of constructing a subjective view of a physical external world. One possible response would be to endorse panpsychism, but this option is rejected. I propose an alternative approach: panabstractism, which is the view that what there is consists of concrete matter and abstract relations, with each constituting the other, a distinction that is orthogonal to the traditional mind/body dichotomy.
Thompson E. (2011) Living ways of sense-making. Philosophy Today 55(Supplement): 114–123. https://cepa.info/2291
My title – “Living Ways of Sense Making” – comes from the title of a paper that Francisco Varela gave in 1981 to the Stanford International Symposium on “Disorder and Order.”1 Building on his work on autopoiesis or the self-producing organization of living beings,2 Varela spoke as a neurobiologist concerned with the biology of mind. His paper is notable both for being an early critique of the representationist view of the brain and cognition, and for being an early statement of an alternative view informed by phenomenology – a view we were later to call the enactive view of cognition.3 According to the enactive view, living beings are sense-making beings; they enact or bring forth significance in their intimate engagements with their environments. Here is how Varela put this idea at the outset of this early paper: “Order is order, relative to somebody or some being who takes such a stance towards it. In the world of the living, order is indeed inseparable from the ways in which living beings make sense, so that they can be said to have a world.”4 “The ways in which livings beings make sense” – these words have a double meaning. On the one hand, they refer to how living beings go about their sense-making activities and thereby constitute and inhabit their worlds. On the other hand, they refer to how we understand living beings, how living beings make sense to us. In this way, these words point back to us as those living beings who have a pre-understanding of life and who can therefore raise the question, “what is living being?” This question is the overarching question of Donn Welton’s and John Protevi’s papers responding to my book, Mind in Life.5 Welton has examined how to integrate a “bottom up” phenomenology of biological systems into a phenomenology of intentional conciousness, while Protevi has discussed whether this kind of integration of life and mind might lead us also to panpsychism. My way of entering this discussion and responding to their rich papers will be to take up again the question, “what is living being?” Or, more simply and precisely, “what is living?” My essay has four parts. First, I will say more about what I mean when I ask, “What is living?” Second, I will present my way of answering this question, which is that living is sense-making in precarious conditions. Third, I will respond to Welton’s considerations about what he calls the “affective entrainment” of the living being by the environment. Finally, I will address Protevi’s remarks about panpsychism.