The Birth of Life & the Future of Consciousness

UPDATE. Here's a video of our dialogue: https://youtu.be/9jlVjOILsCU Next Tuesday, October 22nd at 7pm, I'll be in dialogue with astrobiologist Bruce Damer about his hot spring hypothesis of the origins of life. For Bay Area locals, the event will take place at the Mission Street campus of California Institute of Integral Studies and is free [...]

Physicalism and Its Discontents: A Study in Whitehead’s Panexperientialist Alternative [draft]

UPDATE: Here is a PDF of the final draft accepted for publication under the revised title "The Varieties of Physicalist Ontology: A Study in Whitehead's Process-Relational Alternative." I've just finished drafting this article, which will hopefully be featured in a special issue of the Journal of Philosophy, Theology, and the Sciences focused on panpsychism. It still [...]

On the Matter of Life: Towards an Integral Economics

I'm posting a revised version of a long essay I wrote a decade ago. It draws on thinkers including Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, William Irwin Thompson, Francisco Varela, Alfred North Whitehead, and Alf Hornborg in search of a more integral approach to economics. I had not yet encountered the social ecology [...]

Genes v. Organisms in Biological Explanation (responding to the Dawkins v. Weinstein debate)

Here's the recent debate between Richard Dawkins and Bret Weinstein on the relationship between cultural and biological evolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYzU-DoEV6k Here are two response videos from me arguing for the relevance of Francisco Varela and Evan Thompson et al.'s theory of autopoiesis and Alfred North Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jx06_OY6gU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DnL0_fydic   Some relevant essays that [...]

What is Life? (Part 2)

Continuing a dialogue in the comments of my last post, particularly the question of whether rocks have agency... An organic realism would suggest that some processes within rocks do have varying degrees of agency. Crystallization is telic. Atoms are self-organizing ecopoietic agents. The periodic table of elements is a taxonomic hierarchy that sorts different species [...]

What is Life? (Response to Joe Norman)

Sharing my reply below to a brilliant series of thoughts concerning the essence of life at Joseph W. Norman's blog (CLICK HERE TO READ IT). Joe, Thanks for pointing out the relevance of N. Taleb's distinction between randomness and an agent's exposure to randomness for the question of "life." Much to ponder here... My friendship with [...]

“Retrieving Realism: A Whiteheadian Wager” published in IJTS

Retrieving Realism: A Whiteheadian Wager (PDF) Published in International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Volume 36, Issue 1 (2017) Abstract: This essay argues that the organic realism of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) provides a viable alternative to anti-realist tendencies in modern and postmodern philosophy since Descartes. The metaphysical merits of Whitehead’s philosophy of organism are unpacked in [...]

The Place of Life in the Cosmos (draft of 11th International Whitehead Conference paper)

Below is the draft of a paper I'll present at next week's International Whitehead Conference in the Azores. Feedback appreciated! 2017 International Whitehead Conference   Matthew T. Segall   The Place of Life in the Cosmos: Feeling the Origin of Organism   “A philosophic outlook is the very foundation of thought and of life. The [...]

Pluralism as the Choreography of Coexistence, with William James and Co.

There's been quite an uproar recently across the philosophy blogosphere regarding the possibility of a pluralist ontology (see Critical Animal's recap of this cross-blog event). The multitude of angles being offered got me thinking, and eventually sent me back to William James' A Pluralistic Universe, from which I quote below (lecture 1): The theological machinery [...]

Phenomenology and Process Ontology: Evan Thompson, Merleau-Ponty, Whitehead, and the Growing Together of the Flesh of the World

I had a friendly exchange yesterday with the cognitive scientist and philosopher Evan Thompson about his debate earlier this year with another cognitive scientist Owen Flanagan. The two distinguished thinkers disagreed about whether physicalism as currently understood can provide an adequate account of consciousness. I wanted to revisit several of the themes Evan and I [...]