Panpsychism—the philosophy that everything has both a physical and a mental dimension all the way down through cells and atoms to the quantum level and all the way up through plants, insects, animals, and humans to the level of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe—offers a compelling perspective from which to reassess the philosophy of Materialism.
True Capitalism: This situation reminds me of the formulation I’ve discussed elsewhere that Capitalism could be a great economic system, it’s just never been tried. What we have had is a Capitalism that has created economic capital at the expense of social and environmental capital.
A true Capitalism, a sustainable Capitalism if you will, which a very large number of people are trying to create right now, builds all three kinds of capital at the same time. True sustainable Capitalism is made up of sustainable triple bottom line companies that are well-run and profitable while also not polluting the environment and not contributing to climate change and while treating their employees well, paying them a living wage with benefits in a healthy respectful workplace.
In a true sustainable Capitalism, these types of businesses use the craft of business to create business models that make a profit while addressing and solving social and environmental problems.
True Materialism: Somewhat analogously, Materialism may be a great philosophy, it’s just never been tried. The Materialism that we have now only deals with the physical dimension of matter and not the mental dimension of matter—leaving us with the big problem of how to understand the emergence of mind, of consciousness, from a dead, mindless, matter.
A true Materialism, through the corrective of the Panpsychic perspective, recognizes that matter has a physical dimension and a mental dimension. We certainly know this about ourselves, that aspect of the universe that we know best and through which we know everything else.
All of materialist science is appropriate for understanding the physical dimension of matter. At the same time, psychology, anthropology, and sociology that approach human life non-reductionistically—by attempting to understand how human minds, human consciousnesses, work without trying to eliminate the crucial central reality that they are dealing with minds operating according to their own principles—are also valid.
This perspective on true Materialism allows us to bring in the insights, understandings, and practices of the Eastern, essentially mental, disciplines of Yoga, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and Kabbalism,
A New Science: What we need to do now is to put the physical sciences and the Western and Eastern mental sciences together, based on Panpsychic philosophical corrective, and develop a set of sciences operating out of the new paradigm, which, at the simplest level, can be characterized as a transformation of Materialism based on the recognition that all matter has a physical dimension and a mental dimension.
This new formulation of Materialism can lead to a wealth of new hypotheses about the physical side of matter and a whole explosion of new hypotheses and research on the mental side of matter.
And, since we do all science with our minds, a kind of bootstrapping effect should emerge. As we come to understand our minds better and apply practices to strengthen them, they can become even more effective at learning about and understanding the physical side of all matter and the mental side of all matter.
One-Sided Materialism and One-Sided Capitalism: It’s important to recognize that one-sided Materialism and one-sided Capitalism have gone hand in hand.
The science that has emerged from one-sided Materialism treats the world and everything in it, including humanity, as a nesting of machines within machines, whose behavior can be studied, understood, predicted, and collectively verified. This type of science has been exceptionally effective at developing verifiable knowledge about the mechanistic aspects of the universe, the Earth, and humanity.
However, this type of science treats life and consciousness as emergent phenomena of particularly complex machines, but with no unique, intrinsic value. This type of science has led to a loss of empathy and a devaluation of nature and humanity. It’s hard to empathize with the natural world and even humanity if they are just different kinds of dead machines.
One-sided Capitalism has taken the knowledge generated by materialist science into action, treating nature as the source of raw materials for the production of products and the receptacle for the pollution generated by those products and their production processes. One-sided Capitalism has treated workers as cogs in its production machine and as consumers, to be convinced to buy, use, and throw away its products.
All of which has led us to the current crisis of a humanity living out of harmony with and destructive to the natural environment that it requires for its survival, health, and well-being.
The Paradigm Shift: The philosophy of Panpsychism can provide the underpinning for a great paradigm shift that transforms Materialism, with a recognition that all matter has an extrinsic physical dimension and an intrinsic mental dimension.
And, that Panpsychic paradigm shift can also help transform Capitalism, with a recognition that the natural world and humanity have intrinsic value and that they can and should be treated with empathy and compassion.
Thereby, Panpsychism can lead to a much more effective science and a much more effective and much less destructive capitalist way of doing business.