“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Neuroscientist Christoph Koch comes out as a panpsychist?

Now that I’m just about finished with my comprehensive exam, let’s see what interesting things are happening around the blogosphere… WOW! According to Michael Zimmerman, Christoph Koch has come out as a panpsychist in his new book Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. Koch generates an information-theoretic account of consciousness, which he labels Φ, suggesting that all organized systems, from sub-atomic particles to humans, and perhaps to computer networks like the Internet, experience the world internally in some way.

If it has both differentiated and integrated states of information, it feels like something to be such a system; it has an interior perspective. The complexity and dimensionality of their associated phenomenal experiences might differ vastly, but each one has its own crystal [interior] shape…Even simple matter has a modicum of Φ. Protons and neutrons consist of a triad of quarks that are never observed in isolation. They constitute an infinitesimal integrated system. (p. 131-132).

I studied Koch’s work back when he collaborated with the late Francis Crick, and needless to say, I thought their search for a neural cause of consciousness was doomed to failure. I am surprised and delighted that he was lead by his own scientific research to the conclusion that coming to terms with the explanatory gap requires re-imagining the metaphysical presuppositions of scientific materialism.

Koch even goes so far as to praise Teilhard de Chardin for his pathbreaking work toward such a new image of the cosmos:

Teilhard de Chardin is alluring because his basic insight is compatible with the observed tendency of biological diversity (measured by the amount of variation) and complexity to increase over the course of evolution and with the ideas about integrated information and consciousness I have outlined…The rise of sentient life within time’s wide circuit was inevitable. Teilhard de Chardin is correct in his view that islands within the universe–if not the whole cosmos–are evolving toward ever-greater complexity and self-knowledge. (p. 134, 165).



7 responses to “Neuroscientist Christoph Koch comes out as a panpsychist?”

  1. John Bryant Avatar

    “suggesting that all organized systems, from sub-atomic particles to humans, and perhaps to computer networks like the Internet, experience the world internally in some way.”

    Wouldn’t it be extraordinary to learn that our experience is somehow physically connected to, albeit unconsciously, to those other experiences; and as individually differentiated from the experience of the divine being, is conceived the form we experience as our body.

    I wonder if Mr. Koch has experimented with psychedelics…

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      I don’t know about Christoph, but I do know that Crick experimented with LSD. I’m sure Francis must have suggested it to Christoph as a potential enhancement of his scientific imagination one night during their collaboration….

      1. John Bryant Avatar

        So what ya planning on doing after you graduate Matt? I’m sure you’re going to write some books… and teach? My big problem has been finding students…. If you get frustrated, a lot of “us” turn to making music to try to change the WORLD.

        Are you considering that as an alternative? 🙂

        Could be fun. 🙂

        I was really touched by this back then but didn’t get a chance to comment:


        “everything is connected, but NOTHING is the same. every puzzle piece has its place on the board, but we have forgotten the shape of the world.”

        chords: D, A, C, G

        help me add to this song!



      2. Matthew David Segall Avatar

        Ha, wow, I forgot that video was still up. If teaching fails, poetry and song may be my recourse.


  2. Reductionism, Emergence, and Consciousness | Emergent Worlds Avatar

    […] publicly endorsed a ‘panpsychist’ metaphysic in his latest book (see a short discussion here on my friend Matt’s ‘footnotes2plato’ blog). In other words, Koch believes […]

  3. The Flood Behind Avatar
    The Flood Behind

    Reblogged this on The Flood Behind.

  4. […] Christoph Koch comes out as a panpsychist? (2012) […]

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