flexibeast.space - gemlog - 2022-09-13

The metaphysics of ontopoetics and panpsychism

In the course of my usual “oh, that sounds interesting” travels on Teh Intarwebs, i recently came across ‘ontopoetics’. As someone who's something of a panentheist, i'm finding the concept more than intriguing.

The concept of ‘ontopoetics’ was created by Naarm/Melbourne philosopher and academic Freya Matthews.

“Freya Matthews”

“An Invitation to Ontopoetics: the Poetic Structure of Being”

Wikipedia currently describes ‘ontopoetics’ as:

a philosophical concept that involves the communicative engagement of self with the world and the world with the self. It is also described as a "poetic order" that unfolds alongside the "causal order" in the process of the communicative engagement with reality and participating in it ...

Ontopoetics is not considered a theory but a view of reality and an understanding of the world as a communicative presence ...

[T]he poetic element to the concept connotes a complexity that embraces diversity of experiences so that those that do not lie within the bounds of one's tradition are not rejected or denied. The concept also includes the manner by which humans respond to the symmetries around them. It is distinguished from panpsychism in the sense that it does not merely claim that the world is psychoactive but that it is responsive to us so that it can be called forth if engaged on an expressive plane, one of meaning and not merely of causation.

-- Wikipedia: ‘ontopoetics’

In turn, Wikipedia describes ‘panpsychism’ as:

the view that the mind or a mindlike aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. It is also described as a theory that "the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe." It is one of the oldest philosophical theories, and has been ascribed to philosophers including Thales, Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Bertrand Russell, and Galen Strawson. In the 19th century, panpsychism was the default philosophy of mind in Western thought, but it saw a decline in the mid-20th century with the rise of logical positivism.

-- Wikipedia: ‘panpsychism’

Panpsychism sounds like the sort of thing that those of a physicalist[a] bent would immediately dismiss as woo, but as the Wikipedia article goes on to note:

Recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness and developments in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics have revived interest in panpsychism in the 21st century.

And Philip Goff, associate professor of philosophy at Durham Uni, argues that panpsychism is “not a competing scientific theory, but a philosophical interpretation of the claims of physics”, and that it's therefore not in conflict with the standard model of physics:

“What physicists get wrong about consciousness”

Some related papers by Matthews include:

“Panpsychism as Paradigm?” [PDF]

“Why has the West failed to embrace panpsychism?” [PDF]

“The World Hidden Within the World: a Conversation on Ontopoetics” [PDF]

i found this excerpt from the first paper interesting:

This plenum is construed geometrodynamically, as a dynamic extended substance - space - in a continuous process of expansion and self-differentiation [à la process philosophy - Alexis]. The model is the age-old one of water ... the universe may be compared with a vast ocean coursed continually be currents and waves, some of which interfere to become vortices which hold their structure for long enough to give the appearance of independent or enduring existents. (W.K. Clifford articulated this “space theory of matter”, as a metaphysical template, long before Einstein and later John Archibald Wheeler gave it mathematical form as geometrodynamics.[)]

Particularly given my poem “Currents in currents”, which i wrote without having been aware of the described model:

“Currents in currents”

And the last paper includes some interesting reflections on Daoist thought:

Although this old world – this world of enchantment – was undoubtedly in part a figment of superstitious imagination, it may not have been entirely so. Daoism identified a movement in things, a directedness in their unfolding. The elements of nature (the “Ten Thousand Things”, as Daoists say) are really, according to Laozi and Zhuangzi, patterns in an underlying flow. These patterns form and re-form under the influence of the patterns forming and re-forming around them. This is, in other words, an order of mutual arising, a symbiosis in which no particular form or pattern can emerge independently of the forms or patterns resolving and dissolving all around it. Moreover, when the Ten Thousand Things are left to arise spontaneously in this way, under the mutual influences of one another, the universe assumes its own proper pattern or form – it follows its proper course.

🏷 metaphysics,philosophy


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[a] “In philosophy, physicalism is the metaphysical thesis that ‘everything is physical’, that there is ‘nothing over and above’ the physical, or that everything supervenes on the physical. Physicalism is a form of ontological monism — a ‘one substance‘ view of the nature of reality as opposed to a ‘two-substance’ (dualism) or ‘many-substance’ (pluralism) view. Both the definition of ‘physical’ and the meaning of physicalism have been debated.”

-- Wikipedia: ‘physicalism’