JustinG wrote: ↑Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:41 am Thanks Ashvin,
Whitehead's metaphysics was chosen as an example of, possibly one of many, "defensible interpretations of physics available which are consistent both with observed empirical facts and with the proposition that subjective states influence physical behaviour". An idealistic approach could been given as an example instead. But condensing Whitehead into less than 500 words was no easy task in itself, so I wasn't going to try and do the same with an idealistic approach, especially since the paper has a biological focus and was aimed at biologically-oriented readers. But, yes, the principle idea (the causal efficacy of consciousness) could be consistent with and applied to various forms of idealism.
The main issue for me is distinguishing between what is an "observed empirical fact" of biological life vs. a materialist or panpsychist interpretation of the facts. We have facts that show all living organisms share certain mineral-like processes. Many of them share mineral and plant-like processes. And fewer, but still a good many, share animal-like processes, i.e. inner life which engages in directed acts of will and feeling. We also know humans have an ego-"I" which no other animals seem to have. Everything else about the so-called progressions of one form of life to another are interpretations laid on the facts. They may reference fossils and geological layers and genetic studies to support those proposed progressions, but those are still interpretations of the underlying facts that there are shared features and shared genes. Methods of dating these things and recreating a whole evolutionary narrative take us into the realm of materialist assumptions stacked upon other materialist assumptions. From an idealist view, as opposed to a panpsychist one, the causative factor in the phenomenal world are what we typically refer to as principles, laws of nature, archetypes, etc. - they are the overarching ideas which make sense of all the particular manifestations. In that way, since we are limited to pretty crude analogies to visualize what are essentially meaningful qualities with no physical structure, the process is more like a top-down structuring from Universal formative principles to more particular manifestations of those principles. That is what Cleric also was pointing to in his comment about the entropic gradient from Sun to all biological processes on Earth. Note that this is not really the "creationist" view either because it does not assume any specific Divine agent acting from outside of Nature and it does not say we must be satisfied with the most vague speculations about ideas in the "mind of God" being turned into physical creatures at some particular point in time, or anything similar. Rather it says, if we want to discover the details of the evolutionary process, we must look to the manner in which the meaningful qualities of our experience are structured. I think William James actually started to do this, because he was a psychologist after all. That is where we find the structure of meaningful qualities - our own psyche.