[NOTE – this is re-post from the original incarnation of this blog.]
Panprotoexperientialism is a long word. Type it, and your spell-checker is going to take exception, even if you spell it right.
It may or may not be found with hyphenation between the pan (meaning everywhere) and the proto (meaning potential), or the proto and the experientialism (meaning the subjective qualitative experience of consciousness, or qualia).
But hyphenation or not, it basically conveys the metaphysical idea that all fundamental constituents of the universe (strings, loops, processes or whatever they may be) carry properties that pertain to their ability – when bound within a complex system like the brain of a conscious being – to subjectively experience the objective universe.
In dividing the world into two using terms like subjective and objective, a duality comes to mind, perhaps of the type imagined by Descartes. His was a substance dualism, where the stuff of matter and the stuff of mind are two entirely different sorts of stuff. Body and soul, and all that stuff. And although panprotoexperiential ideas can be read that way, many modern philosophers prefer to talk of a monism – a oneness – where matter and mind are made of the same stuff, but where that same stuff has dual-aspects that carry two different types of properties: material and experiential.
For this reason, these versions of panprotoexperientialism are often referred to as dual-aspect monistic theories, or property dualism as opposed to Descarte’s substance dualism. One might think of the two types of properties in one substance as the two sides of a coin.
What panprotoexperientialism is not, is the assertion that rocks feel pain or thermometers think. Hence the proto. (even the stronger version – panpsychism – doesn’t necessarily assert those things, although it comes closer to it and may suggest that those things do just that, although in immeasurably diminished quantity and quality to living beings).
Exactly how this scheme works, and explanations of why science has thus far failed to find this aspect of matter in it’s probing of the microphysical are sketchy at best, but no-one would claim the idea as a well-grounded theory. This is philosophy and this is metaphysics. The point is to look at unexplained or unclear phenomena – like consciousness, free will or the details of microphysical substance and causality – and suggest logically consistent ideas that fit the gaps. Note the emphasis: this is what distinguishes metaphysics from pseudo-scientific quackery. These are philosophical ideas, not scientific theories, and for most people who think about such things, nor are they beliefs.
Personally, panprotoexperientialism is one area I like to consider and research, because in relation to various problems posed for physicalism (such as the hard problem of consciousness) the idea has explanatory potential.
I hope to write some more regarding physicalism next time.
One final thing. Please note that I am not a philosopher, nor am I a scientist. I am a lazing dropout (seconded). I’ve been interested in philosophy for a few years and science for a few years longer and just like to read a lot. So please do not take my views as fact or amuse yourself too deeply when you spot my mistakes and misunderstanding. I would prefer a simple correcting from those who know better!