At Nautilus, evolutionary biologist Tam Hunt asks us to consider the “General Resonance Theory of Consciousness,” which he has been developing with psychologist Jonathan Schooler — “a framework with a panpsychist foundation. It may, he thinks, “at least in theory, provide more complete answers to the full array of questions the hard problem of consciousness poses.”
Hunt’s quite clear about the panpsychism (the view that everything in the universe participates in consciousness):
Since I came up in philosophy, rather than neuroscience or psychology, for me the easy part was deciding the philosophical orientation. Schooler and I duked it out over whether we should adopt a materialist, idealist, panpsychist, or some other position on our way to a complete answer. I am, as I’ve written in Nautilus before, a card-carrying panpsychist, inspired by Alfred North Whitehead, David Ray Griffin, David Skrbina, William Seager, and Chalmers. Panpsychism suggests that all matter has some associated mind/consciousness and vice versa. Where there is mind there is matter, where there is matter there is mind. They go together like inside and outside.
Tam Hunt, “The Hard Problem of Consciousness Has an Easy Part We Can Solve” at Nautilus (September 8, 2021)
Before we get to the Hunt–Schooler theory itself, first, let’s begin by noting a remarkable fact: Panpsychism seems to have triumphed in the area of theories of consciousness. Christof Koch’s well-regarded theory of consciousness is also panpsychist. And no one blinks.
Are there serious materialist theories of consciousness even out there any more? There are. But it is unclear how many of them are taken seriously (except, possibly, in pop science mags)
One of the best known materialist theorists is Tufts University prof Daniel Dennett, who says things like “What we think of as our consciousness is actually our brains pulling a number of tricks to conjure up the world as we experience it. But in reality, it’s all smoke, mirrors, and rapidly firing neurons…”
In response to this kind of thing, philosopher Howard Robinson of Central European University noted in From the Knowledge Argument to Mental Substance: Resurrecting the Mind, Dennett’s general method . . . is what might be called the “Jericho method”: he believes that if he marches around a philosophical problem often enough, proclaiming what are, plausibly, relevant scientific truths, the…