Sentience platonism
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Manu Herrán
Subjectivity, Philosophy, Sentience

"The little I know, I owe to my ignorance" --Plato.

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I'll call sentience platonism the idea that experiences exist by themselves, regardless of sentient beings who experience them. Even if the probability of sentience platonism were very small, while there is a higher than zero probability, we might think twice before disregarding it, because the implications on prevent suffering would be immense.


The philosopher Known as Plato (Aristocles) lived from 427 b. C. to 347 b. C. was a student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. The adjective platonic is commonly used to refer to the existence of universals or Ideas. For example, the appleness and the redness redness are universals of a specific red apple.

Platonism is considered an ontological dualism which proposes the existence of two kinds of reality:

  1. a sensible world (the world of things perceived by the senses, where the individual realities, materials, which happen in time and space) such as an apple, and
  2. a world of ideas (the world of things known through reason, where the immutable, eternal, invisible, intangible, independent of time and space realities) such as the idea of apple.
Platonism underlines the existence of this second world independently of the first, and even proposed that the second world is the first cause or generator.

Critique to the Platonism

Platonism may seem an unnecessary complication, besides unintuitive. It seems reasonable to think that the things we perceive exist without being inherited from some ideal. It is true that apples follow a pattern, we can call the "ideal apple", but what evidence or clues have independent existence of that ideal? And why the existence of a concrete block should depend on the existence of the Platonic ideal of apple?

Platonism still seems strange referred to other ideas, such as numbers. Suppose we have 42 tables and 42 blocks. Does this should make us assume the existence of the Platonic ideal of the number 42 with an independent existence of the 42 tables and 42 apples? You would disappear if the Platonic ideal of the number 42 would cease to have 42 tables and 42 apples? How many would then? ¿41 + x 41 + x tables and apples (being x an "unknown" number)?.


Even if we think that strict Platonism is something outrageous and unjustified, we must recognize that in the world there are things very similar to each other and it seems reasonable to think that somehow have been generated "from the same mold." If we interpret Platonism smoothly, as the existence of a special kind of unique things that determine and cause a multitude of other special kind of thing, we can find positive answers to the above questions.

Not all apples are so similar to each other. They come in different sizes, shapes and above all colors (red, green and yellow). But the apples from the same tree itself are very similar to each other. All have the same color and shape. We know why: they have the same DNA. A DNA molecule is like a set of instructions, such as a computer program, and contains somehow the "idea" of everything that this program can generate: cells, organs, flowers, apples ...

Of course both apples as DNA molecules are composed of the same type of elements: atoms (or any other lower particles we want to use to describe them) and so here we find a strict Platonism (since both elements, DNA molecules and apples, belong to the same type of thing, and it is not necessary to invoke a world of ideals), but certainly something like a kind of pseudoplatonism.

Could something similar happen with numbers?

Trenaren txistu adarrak isilarazi du Onofre. Tunelean sartu da laster suge ketsua. Burdinetan hamaika hanka baldarren hotsa errepikatu da.

[El pitido del tren hace callar a Onofre. La humeante culebra entra enseguida en el túnel. En los hierros repiquetea el sonido de miles de torpes patas.]

Azken fusila. Edorta Jimenez

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First written: 28 Sep. 2016
Updated: 23 Mar. 2017



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