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Panpsychism

In one of Nautilus’ most popular articles, “Is Matter Conscious?” Hedda Hasel Mørch explained how the hard problem wasn’t…By Kevin Berger

In one of Nautilus’ most popular articles, “Is Matter Conscious?” Hedda Hasel Mørch explained how the hard problem wasn’t that hard at all. Rather than fret over how the hardware of brains gives rise to the software of consciousness, we could find peace by reversing the order.

To Mørch, the brain—purely a set of relations—was more like software; consciousness—with its distinct sensations—was more like hardware. Consciousness, she wrote, constituted the heart of physical matter, a concept that often goes by the name “panpsychism,” and decidedly sends heads spinning. “The possibility that consciousness is the real concrete stuff of reality, the fundamental hardware that implements the software of our physical theories, is a radical idea,” Morch admitted. “It completely inverts our ordinary picture of reality in a way that can be difficult to fully grasp. But it may solve two of the hardest problems in science and philosophy at once.”

Mørch’s 2017 article received hundreds of comments, and the debate over panpsychism has only got hotter in the past few years, not only in Nautilus, of course, but in articles and books. This week we head back into the debate with new perspectives on panpsychism, which don’t solve the hard problem, but do inch close to the heart of matter.


Lead image: solarseven / Shutterstock

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