Dominate the Substrate
I read recently of a theory called “panpsychism,” which attempts to forge some Aristotelian middle path between materialism and theism. I saw Aristotelian in that it seems puzzlingly teleological in affirming that the matter that makes up the cosmos is the building blocks of consciousness. This accounts for the intelligibility of reality, that it can be mathematically and logically apprehended (in theory) by a reasoning consciousness. Notice the reciprocality. Reality is intelligible because it is composed of mind, meaning that the act of thinking by any rational entity is in fact the cosmos thinking itself (a Neoplatonized Aristotelian notion as I see it). But the other implication is hard to accept, since it relies on this intelligible matter as potentially evolving into a rational mind of an organism. Purpose and intelligibility are confounded. Given the size of the universe the evolution of biological consciousness may be highly probable, but is it necessary?
I will leave it at that, and may probe it at another time. For now, let us consider the nature of this substrate and how the soul, the psyche in panpsychism, arises from what is so far apparent to be Democritean atoms and void. It is an attempt to bridge the gap between the Material and the Idea that for so long fight for supremacy over one another but as I see it are mutually reinforcing (Marx, by the very act of proposing his theory, invalidated it, especially when the theory began to be applied by Lenin et al.).
All ideas subsist materially as neural networks. The more faith is put into an idea, the stronger the neural network (in the sense of a muscle) and the more control that idea exerts upon all other neural networks in that it is more interconnected with more of the other neural networks. The more dogmatic a philosophy or article of faith, the more all other ideas either entertained or accepted are held in relation to those dogmas. Religion is a collective of minds that mutually reinforce a pattern of neurons.
The soul is an idea, materially subsisting like any other, but it is a special idea in that it is the abstraction of total consciousness from its material substrate into the metaphysical realm. Soul, the power of discursive reasoning within us, is our divine element that allows us to connect with the intelligible gods (the Forms) via Logos (dialectical argumentation) and sets all material reality below us as objects of control. Material reality can either control us as prisons of flesh and passion (and it is the passion for material derivatives of Form that divide our consciousness/soul and inhibit unio mystica) or we can control the material by subjecting ourselves to Reason, which orders our tripartite souls (rational, spirited, appetitive) in hierarchical proportion (Logos).
Plato’s “Republic” is that government of Reason over the irrational elements of soul that are more materially involved. As it is the ideal of government within the human microcosm, so it is in the human macrocosm, the constitution of a state (and of the cosmos as a whole). It follows materialistic and anthropological sequences. Government arises from the material substrate to the point where it becomes the soul and ruling principle that in turn influences the material by imposing and maintaining Form, like a sculptor onto clay to allow irrational substance to participate in Beauty.