Notes On Attention Paid

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Annaka Harris, Conscious, Chapter 7, Beyond Panpsychism

… Annaka Harris on separating consciousness from complex thought:

… it’s important to distinguish between consciousness and complex thought when considering the modern panpsychic views. Postulating that consciousness is fundamental isn’t the same as suggesting that complex ideas or thoughts are fundamental and magically result in a material realization of those ideas.1

… Harris goes on to outline the “hard problem” of panpsychism, which is how does complex consciousness, with memory and predictive capabilities, arise from lots of little consciousnesses?… to me, this is the least hard problem if we allow that individual wholes can add up to wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts, which is exactly what the human body is as an organism… a sum of parts equaling a greater whole… again, refer to the thinking of Wilber and de Chardin… in particular, Wilber’s discussion of holon theory, Wikipedia”)…

… Harris summarizing David Chalmers:

But perhaps it’s wrong to talk about a subject of consciousness, and it’s more accurate to instead talk about the content available to conscious experience at any given location in space-time, determined by the matter present there—umwelts applied not just to organisms, but to all matter, in every configuration and at every point in space-time.2

… one of the points Harris struggles with that i think is a big value of Panpsychism is the implication that a ubiquitous property of consciousness would mean that everything is interconnected… our ability to experience pleasure and pain could quite easily be the nervous system of the greater whole… that is, pleasure and pain is not an experience had by complex minds in isolation of a greater whole… we are the pleasures and pains of the cosmos… all the interactions of matter and energy in the cosmos are a foundation of our pleasure and pain… Native American and other primitive cultures understood this… among the most damaging propositions on the planet is the idea that we stand apart from this whole and can do whatever we want with it… it seems that Harris has a hard time letting go of the need to treat being conscious and undertaking complex thought as independent things… again, the idea of holons…


  1. Annaka Harris, Conscious, p 90 [return]
  2. Ibid, p 92 [return]