Say panpsychism. It's compatible with physics, but I don't know how we could determine if an electron is conscious. I don't even know you're conscious! But if believing in it made one's life better, would there be harm in doing so?

  • If it could be falsified, you can believe it until more evidence is in. If it is unfalsifiable, then you are just adding more 'entities' to your system, which Mr Ockham would frown on.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 23:33
  • @ScottRowe Occam's razor could be a reason to believe in panpsychism, if a theory of panpsychism is formally simpler than other theories of consciousness. It doesn't matter how many entities the theory entails, only how complex the theory itself is. MWI is more parsimonious than wavefunction collapse, despite involving many more entities.
    – causative
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 23:38
  • @causative Nonduality posits only one entity, so it is the most parsimonious.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 0:08
  • @ScottRowe Panpsychism (in some forms) is nondualist, as it posits only consciousness. Under panpsychism, all laws of physics are laws of thought and vice versa.
    – causative
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 0:16
  • @causative well, there you go. I would just leave off all the beliefs, but suit yourself. Philosophers are fond of asking if a belief "does any work" or not. No slackers allowed!
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 0:17

2 Answers 2


But if believing in it made one's life better, would there be harm in doing so?

The answer to this question is given by Niels Bohr in the following story, reported by Heisenberg. Niels Bohr narrates:

"A man lives near our holiday home in Tisvilde and he has placed a horseshoe over the front door of his house, which, according to an old folk belief, is said to bring good luck. When an acquaintance asked him: "But are you so superstitious? Do you really believe that the horseshoe brings you luck?" he answered: "Of course not; but they say that it helps even if you don't believe in it.""

  • I like that. This subject relates to William James's position explained in "The Will to Believe," I think.
    – Sayetsu
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 7:08

What would it mean to suppose that an electron is conscious? You could say something like "there's something it's like to be an electron," but what would that something be? No sense perception, no thoughts, no feelings; we know the biological structures that make those things possible and electrons don't have anything remotely resembling them. So if we really think about it, what it would be like to be an electron is actually inconceivable, which is to say that we don't know what we're talking about when we assert that it's the case. So I don't think that proposition can actually be believed because I don't think it's a meaningful assertion.

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