I’ve always assumed that quality is the result of quantity, and that abstract notions of consciousness, sentience, subjectivity and autonomy can ultimately be explained by the mechanical motions and interactions of inanimate entities such as elementary particles, atoms, cells, organs, organisms, etc. But now, I want to take on a different view in regards to this assumption because of the serious limitations that it possesses; mainly, that it fails to explain how subjective experiences and sentient feelings such as pleasure and pain can be reduced to the objective model of science and the mechanistic motions of natural process.
These “subjective” experiences can only be known and be described by the entities which possess such qualities. They cannot be isolated from the subject and be measured quantitatively. The modern scientific model suggests that, with enough complexity, subjectivity and sentience would automatically arise. Take the example from the mind/body problem. Some people think that the phenomenological mental states and the subjective experiences of first person perspective can be reduced to the complexity of physical properties of neural states. In other words, complexity of the brain can give clues to its mental productivity, and that with enough neural complexity, a mind can arise from the brain. But sheer complexity is irrelevant. No matter how many more neurons we add, and how many more synaptic connections we make, problems of consciousness still remains a mystery. Neural complexity is the wrong kind of explanation because it is merely a matter of how many cells a given cell can causally and mechanistically interact with. You can add more cells to your kidney, but it still will not be conscious and autonomous.
All of this implies that subjectivity is a totally different, and a “new” kind of quality that cannot arise through the causes and effects of “dead” cells and insentient entities such as electrical currents, cells, and molecules. There is a “gap” between what is objective and what is subjective, what is qualitatively expressed and what is quantifiable. But then if this were true, then we are talking about getting something from nothing, which violates the precursor property of phenomenon. You cannot introduce a new dimension into the phase space of your model to explain a certain result.
But what if the world isn’t as “dead” and mechanical as science assumes it to be? What if all matter that makes up the universe [starting with atoms] is in fact itself experiential? And as atoms become molecules, which become protein, and then ultimately cells and organs, does this experiential awareness deepen and expand while becoming more capable of recognizing the world? In other words, if all of the cells and molecules in our bodies that are experiential do they have some kind of quality and properties in relation to subjectivity and feelings? That their pharmacological activities arise through not just the making of themselves, but through communications with other organelles, cells, and neural consciousnesses? Through this qualitative bottom-up processing, a higher state of order ultimately forms to give birth to self-awareness and individuality.
This would mean that ultimately, every constituent in this world is pregnant with some form of consciousness and feelings, and that spirits and intelligence are imminent and embodied in matter itself. There is no dichotomy and duality between mind and matter, objectivity and subjectivity, as the two co-produce each other in a dynamic and organic fashion. You would not have mind without body, and body without mind because one doesn’t make sense without the other. There always needs to be a physical medium of space and time for subjective awareness and experiences to “ride” on, and be manifested through. Yes, it is true that you cannot see anything but matter anywhere in the universe, and that you cannot detect consciousness in matter. But that doesn’t mean that matter itself is not experiential and conscious. The reason why we fail to see consciousness is because seeing is in itself a conscious phenomenon. You can see that a paradox arises here, and it is this paradox that I’m trying to point out when I say that consciousness cannot be reduced to matter, and that “dead” matter alone, cannot give rise to consciousness.
This view that matter, down to its smallest constituents, has some kind of awareness and experience is called panpsychism. It makes it possible for sentient beings such as complex organisms like humans and other top mammals to develop subjectivity and phenomenological experiences, as well as for qualities to be in the same dimensional qualities. This perspective might help us rediscover the qualities of life, and to close the gap between matter and mind, so that our relationship with the natural world can be healed and recovered. Panpsychism could also reduce the damaged we have done to earth, as we might finally be able to co-evolve creativity, along with other entities and members that are themselves the manifestation of a world that is constituted by sentient and experiential matter.