In philosophy of mind, panpsychism is the view that mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. It has taken on a wide variety of forms. Contemporary academic proponents hold that sentience or subjective experience is ubiquitous, while distancing these qualities from complex human mental attributes; they ascribe a primitive form of mentality to entities at the fundamental level of physics but do not ascribe it to most aggregates, such as rocks or buildings. On the other hand, some historical theorists ascribed attributes like life or spirits to all entities.
Panpsychism is one of the oldest philosophical theories, and has been ascribed to philosophers including Thales, Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, and Galen Strawson. During the 19th century, panpsychism was the default theory in philosophy of mind, but it saw a decline during the middle years of the 20th century with the rise of logical positivism. The recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness has revived interest in panpsychism.
The term "panpsychism" has its origins with the Greek term pan (πᾶν : "all, everything, whole") and psyche (ψυχή: "soul, mind") as the unifying center of the mental life of us humans and other living creatures.":1 Psyche comes from the Greek word ψύχω (psukhō, "I blow") and can mean life, soul, mind, spirit, heart and 'life-breath'. The use of psyche is controversial due to it being synonymous with soul, a term usually taken to have some sort of supernatural quality; more common terms now found in the literature include mind, mental properties, mental aspect, and experience.
The philosopher David Chalmers, who has explored panpsychism as a viable theory, distinguishes between microphenomenal experiences (the experiences of microphysical entities) and macrophenomenal experiences (the experiences of larger entities like humans).
Panpsychist views are a staple theme in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy. According to Aristotle, Thales (c. 624 – 545 BCE) the first Greek philosopher, posited a theory which held "that everything is full of gods." Thales believed that this was demonstrated by magnets. This has been interpreted as a panpsychist doctrine. Other Greek thinkers who have been associated with panpsychism include Anaxagoras (who saw the underlying principle or arche as nous or mind), Anaximenes (who saw the arche as pneuma or spirit) and Heraclitus (who said "The thinking faculty is common to all").
Plato argues for panpsychism in his Sophist, in which he writes that all things participate in the form of Being and that it must have a psychic aspect of mind and soul (psyche). In the Philebus and Timaeus, Plato argues for the idea of a world soul or anima mundi. According to Plato:
Stoicism developed a cosmology which held that the natural world was infused with a divine fiery essence called pneuma, which was directed by a universal intelligence called logos. The relationship of the individual logos of beings with the universal logos was a central concern of the Roman Stoic Marcus Aurelius. The metaphysics of Stoicism was based on Hellenistic philosophies such as Neoplatonism and Gnosticism also made use of the Platonic idea of the anima mundi.
After the closing of Plato's Academy by the Emperor Justinian in 529 CE, Neoplatonism declined. Though there were mediaeval Christian thinkers who ventured what might be called panpsychist ideas (such as John Scotus Eriugena), it was not a dominant strain in Christian thought. In the Italian Renaissance, however, panpsychism enjoyed something of an intellectual revival, in the thought of figures such as Gerolamo Cardano, Bernardino Telesio, Francesco Patrizi, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella. Cardano argued for the view that soul or anima was a fundamental part of the world and Patrizi introduced the actual term panpsychism into the philosophical vocabulary. According to Giordano Bruno: "There is nothing that does not possess a soul and that has no vital principle." Platonist ideas like the anima mundi also resurfaced in the work of esoteric thinkers like Paracelsus, Robert Fludd and Cornelius Agrippa.
Early modern period
In the 17th century, two rationalists can be said to be panpsychists, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz. In Spinoza's monism, the one single infinite and eternal substance is "God, or Nature" (Deus sive Natura) which has the aspects of mind (thought) and matter (extension). Leibniz' view is that there are an infinite number of absolutely simple mental substances called monads which make up the fundamental structure of the universe. While it has been said that the idealist philosophy of George Berkeley is also a form of pure panpsychism and that "idealists are panspychists by default", it has also been argued that such arguments conflate mentally-constructed phenomena with minds themselves. Berkeley rejected panpsychism and posited that the physical world exists only in the experiences minds have of it, while restricting minds to humans and certain other specific agents.
In the 19th century, panpsychism was at its zenith. Philosophers like Arthur Schopenhauer, C.S Peirce, Josiah Royce, William James, Eduard von Hartmann, F.C.S. Schiller, Ernst Haeckel and William Kingdon Clifford as well as psychologists like Gustav Fechner, Wilhelm Wundt and Rudolf Hermann Lotze all promoted panpsychist ideas.
Arthur Schopenhauer argued for a two-sided view of reality which was both Will and Representation (Vorstellung). According to Schopenhauer: "All ostensible mind can be attributed to matter, but all matter can likewise be attributed to mind".
Josiah Royce, the leading American absolute idealist held that reality was a "world self", a conscious being that comprised everything, though he didn't necessarily attribute mental properties to the smallest constituents of mentalistic "systems". The American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce espoused a sort of Psycho-physical Monism in which the universe was suffused with mind which he associated with spontaneity and freedom. Following Pierce, William James also espoused a form of panpsychism. In his lecture notes, James wrote:
Our only intelligible notion of an object in itself is that it should be an object for itself, and this lands us in panpsychism and a belief that our physical perceptions are effects on us of 'psychical' realities
In 1893, Paul Carus proposed his own philosophy similar to panpsychism known as 'panbiotism', which he defined as "everything is fraught with life; it contains life; it has the ability to live.":149
In the 20th century, the most significant proponent of the panpsychist view is arguably Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947). Whitehead's ontology saw the basic nature of the world as made up of events and the process of their creation and extinction. These elementary events (which he called occasions) are in part mental. According to Whitehead: "we should conceive mental operations as among the factors which make up the constitution of nature."
The psychologist Carl Jung, who is known for his idea of the collective unconscious, wrote that "psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another", and that it was probable that "psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing". The psychologists James Ward and Charles Augustus Strong also endorsed variants of panpsychism.:158
The geneticist Sewall Wright endorsed a version of panpsychism. He believed that the birth of consciousness was not due to a mysterious property of increasing complexity, but rather an inherent property, therefore implying these properties were in the most elementary particles.
The panpsychist doctrine has recently seen a resurgence in the philosophy of mind, set into motion by Thomas Nagel's 1979 article "Panpsychism" and further spurred by Galen Strawson's 2006 article "Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism." Its prominent proponents in the United States include Christian de Quincey, Leopold Stubenberg, David Ray Griffin, and David Skrbina. In the United Kingdom the case for panpsychism has been made in recent decades by Galen Strawson, Gregg Rosenberg, Timothy Sprigge, and Philip Goff. The British philosopher David Papineau, while distancing himself from orthodox panpsychists, has written that his view is "not unlike panpsychism" in that he rejects a line in nature between "events lit up by phenomenology [and] those that are mere darkness." The Canadian philosopher William Seager has also defended panpsychism.
In 1990, the physicist David Bohm published "A New theory of the relationship of mind and matter", a paper propounding a panpsychist theory of consciousness based on Bohm's interpretation of quantum mechanics. Bohm has a number of followers among philosophers of mind both in the United States (e.g. Quentin Smith) and internationally (e.g. Paavo Pylkkänen). The doctrine has also been applied in environmental philosophy by Australian philosopher Freya Mathews. Science editor Annaka Harris explores panpsychism as a viable theory in her book Conscious, though she stops short of fully endorsing the view.
The integrated information theory of consciousness (IIT), proposed by the neuroscientist and psychiatrist Giulio Tononi in 2004 and since adopted by other neuroscientists such as Christof Koch, postulates that consciousness is widespread and can be found even in some simple systems. However, it does not hold that all systems are conscious, leading Tononi and Koch to state that IIT incorporates some elements of panpsychism but not others. Koch has referred to IIT as a "scientifically refined version" of panpsychism.
Arguments in favor
Hard problem of consciousness
In the philosophy of mind, panpsychism is one possible solution to the so-called hard problem of consciousness. David Chalmers, who formulated the hard problem of consciousness, has argued panpsychism is one of multiple viable theories of consciousness in The Conscious Mind (1996) and subsequent work. Chalmers argues against any reductive solution to the hard problem of consciousness by presenting three related arguments: the explanatory argument, the conceivability argument, and the knowledge argument. He then discusses three possible non-reductive explanations of consciousness but leaves open the correct solution.
In a subsequent paper, Chalmers has built on his previous exploration of panpsychism and said that a "Hegelian" argument is the most convincing argument for panpsychism, although he admits that it is not definitive. The argument is Hegelian because it is centered around Hegelian dialectic and the concepts of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
Chalmers uses the materialist argument from causal closure as his thesis and the conceivability argument for mind–body dualism as his antithesis. Chalmers argues that each argument is persuasive, and that the most persuasive way to resolve both simultaneously is to adopt a form of panpsychism, which is the synthesis of the two arguments.
Chalmers, however, takes his argument further, and argues that for the thesis of panpsychism there is a separate antithesis of panprotopsychism- the proposition that everything in existence is proto-conscious as opposed to conscious. Chalmers tentatively proposes Russellian monism as a synthesis but he does not fully embrace this option and instead sees panpsychism and panprotopsychism as more plausible options.
Alleged problems with emergentism are often cited by panpsychists as grounds to reject reductive theories of consciousness. This argument can be traced back to the psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, who applied the phrase ex nihilo nihil fit ("nothing comes from nothing") in this context – saying thus the mental cannot arise from the non-mental.
In the article "Panpsychism" in his 1979 book Mortal Questions, Thomas Nagel defines panpsychism as "the view that the basic physical constituents of the universe have mental properties",:181 which he claims are non-physical properties. Nagel argues that panpsychism follows from four premises:
- (1) "Material composition", or commitment to materialism.
- (2) "Non-reductionism", or the view that mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties.
- (3) "Realism" about mental properties.
- (4) "Non-emergence", or the view that "there are no truly emergent properties of complex systems".
Nagel notes that new physical properties are discovered through explanatory inference from known physical properties; following a similar process, mental properties would seem to derive from properties of matter not included under the label of "physical properties", and so they must be additional properties of matter. He also argues that "the demand for an account of how mental states necessarily appear in physical organisms cannot be satisfied by the discovery of uniform correlations between mental states and physical brain states.":187 Furthermore, Nagel argues mental states are real by appealing to the inexplicability of subjective experience, or qualia, by physical means. Nagel ties panpsychism to the failure of emergentism to deal with metaphysical relation: "There are no truly emergent properties of complex systems. All properties of complex systems that are not relations between it and something else derive from the properties of its constituents and their effects on each other when so combined." Thus he denies that mental properties can arise out of complex relationships between physical matter.
Critics of panpsychism could deny proposition (2) of Nagel's argument. If mental properties are reduced to physical properties of a physical system, then it does not follow that all matter has mental properties: it is in virtue of the structural or functional organization of the physical system that the system can be said to have a mind, not simply that it is made of matter. This is the common functionalist position. This view allows for certain man-made systems that are properly organized, such as some computers, to have minds. This may cause problems when (4) is taken into account. Also, qualia seem to undermine the reduction of mental properties to brain properties.
The most popular empirically based argument for panpsychism stems from Darwinism and is a form of the non-emergence argument. This argument begins with the assumption that evolution is a process that creates complex systems out of pre-existing properties but yet cannot make "entirely novel" properties. William Kingdon Clifford argued that:
[...] we cannot suppose that so enormous a jump from one creature to another should have occurred at any point in the process of evolution as the introduction of a fact entirely different and absolutely separate from the physical fact. It is impossible for anybody to point out the particular place in the line of descent where that event can be supposed to have taken place. The only thing that we can come to, if we accept the doctrine of evolution at all, is that even in the very lowest organism, even in the Amoeba which swims about in our own blood, there is something or other, inconceivably simple to us, which is of the same nature with our own consciousness [...]
Philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead have drawn on the indeterminacy observed by quantum physics to defend panpsychism. A similar line of argument has been repeated subsequently by a number of thinkers including the physicist David Bohm, anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff and philosophers such as Quentin Smith, Paavo Pylkkänen, and Shan Gao. The advocates of panpsychist quantum consciousness theories see quantum indeterminacy and informational but non-causal relations between quantum elements as the key to explaining consciousness. This approach has also been taken by Michael Lockwood (1991).
These arguments are based on the idea that everything must have an intrinsic nature. They argue that while the objects studied by physics are described in a dispositional way, these dispositions must be based on some non-dispositional intrinsic attributes, which Whitehead called the "mysterious reality in the background, intrinsically unknowable". While we have no way of knowing what these intrinsic attributes are like, we can know the intrinsic nature of conscious experience which possesses irreducible and intrinsic characteristics. Arthur Schopenhauer argued that while the world appears to us as representation, there must be 'an object that grounds' representation, which he called the 'inner essence' (das innere Wesen) and 'natural force' (Naturkraft), which lies outside of what our understanding perceives as natural law.
Galen Strawson has called his form of panpsychism "realistic physicalism", arguing that "the experiential considered specifically as such – the portion of reality we have to do with when we consider experiences specifically and solely in respect of the experiential character they have for those who have them as they have them – that 'just is' physical".:7
One criticism of panpsychism is that it cannot be empirically tested. David Chalmers responds that while no direct evidence exists for the theory, neither is there direct evidence against it, and that he believes "there are indirect reasons, of a broadly theoretical character, for taking the view seriously" (see above).
A related criticism is what seems to many to be the theory's bizarre nature. John Searle states that panpsychism is an "absurd view" and that thermostats lack "enough structure even to be a remote candidate for consciousness." Philip Goff, on the other hand, writes that many theories now known to be true have faced resistance due to their intuitive strangeness, and that such intuitions should therefore not be used to assess theories.
The combination problem is frequently discussed as an objection to panpsychism. It can be traced to the writing of William James, but was given its present name by William Seager in 1995. While numerous solutions have been proposed, they have yet to gain widespread acceptance. Keith Frankish explains the combination problem as follows:
Panpsychists hold that consciousness emerges from the combination of billions of subatomic consciousnesses, just as the brain emerges from the organization of billions of subatomic particles. But how do these tiny consciousnesses combine? We understand how particles combine to make atoms, molecules and larger structures, but what parallel story can we tell on the phenomenal side? How do the micro-experiences of billions of subatomic particles in my brain combine to form the twinge of pain I’m feeling in my knee? If billions of humans organized themselves to form a giant brain, each person simulating a single neuron and sending signals to the others using mobile phones, it seems unlikely that their consciousnesses would merge to form a single giant consciousness. Why should something similar happen with subatomic particles?
Some have argued that the only properties shared by all qualia are that they are not precisely describable, and thus are of indeterminate meaning within any philosophy which relies upon precise definition according to these critics (that is, it tends to presuppose a definition for mentality without describing it in any real detail). The need to define better the terms used within the thesis of panpsychism is recognized by panpsychist David Skrbina,:15 and he resorts to asserting some sort of hierarchy of mental terms to be used. Thus only one fundamental aspect of mind is said to be present in all matter, namely, subjective experience. Another panpsychist response has been that we already know what qualia are through direct, introspective apprehension; and we likewise know what conscious mentality is by virtue of being conscious. For someone like Alfred North Whitehead, third-person description takes second place to the intimate connection between every entity and every other which is, he says, the very fabric of reality. To take a mere description as having primary reality is to commit the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness".
By placing subjective experience as the intrinsic nature of the physical world, panpsychists hope to avoid the problem of mental causation. However, Robert Howell has argued that all the causal functions are still accounted for dispositionally (i.e., in terms of the behaviors described by science), leaving phenomenality causally inert. He concludes: "This leaves us once again with epiphenomenal qualia, only in a very surprising place."
Another criticism of panpsychism has been that it is not useful for explaining the functions of the brain. Giulio Tononi and Christof Koch write that while panpsychism integrates consciousness into the physical world in a way that is "elegantly unitary," its "beauty has been singularly barren. Besides claiming that matter and mind are one thing, it has little constructive to say and offers no positive laws explaining how the mind is organized and works."
In relation to other theories
Writing in 1950, Charles Hartshorne said that panpsychism, in contrast to many forms of idealism, holds that for all minds there is a single, external, spatio-temporal world, which is not just ideas in a divine mind. He said panpsychism was thus a form of realism. David Chalmers also contrasts panpsychism to idealism (as well as to materialism and dualism). On the other hand, Uwe Meixner argues that panpsychism can come in both dualistic and idealist forms. He further divides the latter into "atomistic idealistic panpsychism," which he ascribes to David Hume, and "holistic idealistic panpsychism," which he favors.
David Chalmers describes panpsychism as an alternative to both materialism and dualism. Philip Goff similarly describes panpsychism as an alternative to both physicalism and substance dualism. Chalmers describes panpsychism as respecting the conclusions of both the causal argument against dualism and the conceivability argument for dualism. Goff has argued that panpsychism avoids the disunity of dualism, under which mind and matter are ontologically separate, as well as dualism's problems explaining how mind and matter interact.
The relationship between neutral monism and panpsychism is complex, and further complicated by the variety of formulations of neutral monism. In versions of neutral monism in which the fundamental constituents of the world are neither mental nor physical, it is quite distinct from panpsychism. On the other hand, in versions where the fundamental constituents are both mental and physical, neutral monism is closer to panpsychism or at least dual aspect theory. Neutral monism and panpsychism (as well as sometimes dual aspect theory) are sometimes grouped together as similar theories.
Physicalism and materialism
Panpsychism encompasses many theories, united by the notion that consciousness is ubiquitous; these can in principle be reductive materialist, dualist, or something else. Galen Strawson maintains that panpsychism is a form of physicalism, on his view the only viable form. On the other hand, David Chalmers describes panpsychism as an alternative to both materialism and dualism. Philip Goff similarly describes panpsychism as an alternative to both physicalism and substance dualism.
Panpsychism is incompatible with emergentism. In general, theories of consciousness fall under one or the other umbrella; they either hold that consciousness is present at a fundamental level of reality (panpsychism) or that it emerges higher up (emergentism).
Animism and hylozoism
Panpsychism is related to but distinct from the holistic view that the whole universe is an organism that possesses a mind ("cosmic consciousness" or "universal consciousness"). This latter view is shared by some forms of religious thought such as theosophy, pantheism, cosmotheism, non-dualism, new age thought and panentheism. The hundredth monkey effect exemplifies the threshold for this applied cosmic consciousness. The Tiantai Buddhist view is that "when one attains it, all attain it".:38
Hylopathism argues for a similarly universal attribution of sentience to matter. Few writers would advocate a hylopathic materialism, although the idea is not new; it has been formulated as "whatever underlies consciousness in a material sense, i.e., whatever it is about the brain that gives rise to consciousness, must necessarily be present to some degree in any other material thing". A compound state of mind does not consist of compounded psychic atoms. The concept of awareness "being in itself" allows for the idea of self-aware matter. Attempts have been made to conceptualize this primitive level of existence prior to associative learning and memory. In the way that the collection of self-aware matter constitutes a cognitive being, the collection of cognitive beings as a conglomerate entity, reflects panpsychism. Consciousness was not "nascent" but emergent due to a lack of abandon during the evolution of material awareness.
Similar ideas have been attributed to Australian philosopher David Chalmers, who argues that consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe, and which he also refers to as the First Datum in the study of the mind.
In the practice of non-reductionism this feature may not be attributable to any base monad but instead radically emergent on the level of physical complexity at which it demonstrates itself. Complex elegance is the further development of awareness that is self-aware. This we can call "post-intelligence" where "intelligence" is simple processing. The element of superiority might be that the post-intelligence is proto-experiential. These phenomenal properties are called "the internal aspects of information".:162–170
The form of panpsychism under discussion in the contemporary literature is more specifically known as panexperientialism, the view that conscious experience is present everywhere at a fundamental level. Panexperientialism can be contrasted with pancognitivism, the view that thought is present everywhere at a fundamental level, a view which had some historical advocates but has not garnered present-day academic adherents; as such contemporary panpsychists do not believe microphysical entities have complex mental states like beliefs, desires, fears, and so forth.
Panexperientialism is associated with the philosophies of, among others, Charles Hartshorne and Alfred North Whitehead, although the term itself was invented by David Ray Griffin in order to distinguish the process philosophical view from other varieties of panpsychism. The ecological phenomenology developed in the writings of the American cultural ecologist and philosopher, David Abram, is often described as a form of panexperientialism, as is the "poetic biology" developed by Abram's close associate, the German biologist Andreas Weber.
Whitehead's metaphysics incorporated a scientific worldview similar to Einstein's theory of relativity into the development of his philosophical system. His process philosophy argues that the fundamental elements of the universe are "occasions of experience," which can together create something as complex as a human being. This experience is not consciousness; there is no mind-body duality under this system, since mind is seen as a particularly developed kind of experience. Whitehead was not a subjective idealist, and while his occasions of experience (or "actual occasions") resemble Leibniz's monads, they are described as constitutively interrelated. He embraced panentheism, with God encompassing all occasions of experience and yet still transcending them. Whitehead believed that these occasions of experience are the smallest element in the universe—even smaller than subatomic particles. Building off Whitehead's work, process philosopher Michel Weber argues for a pancreativism.
Panprotopsychism is a theory related to panpsychism. It is discussed as a viable theory of consciousness in the works of David Chalmers.
Cosmopsychism is the theory that the cosmos is a proper whole, a unified object that is ontologically prior to its parts. Proponents of cosmopsychism claim that the cosmos as a whole is the fundamental level of reality and that it instantiates consciousness, which is how the view differs from panpsychism, where the claim is usually that the smallest level of reality is fundamental and instantiates consciousness. Accordingly, human consciousness, for example, is merely derivative from the cosmic consciousness.
Active panpsychism is a variant recently proposed by Eric Lindell, which holds active consciousness to have been inappropriately neglected. To remedy this, active (or process) panpsychism posits that energy expenditures are inherently volitional, while maintaining that matter inherently possesses subjective awareness.
In eastern philosophy
According to Graham Parkes: "Most of traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean philosophy would qualify as panpsychist in nature. For the philosophical schools best known in the west — Neo-confucianism and Japanese Buddhism – the world is a dynamic force field of energies known as qi or bussho (Buddha nature) and classifiable in western terms as psychophysical." According to Advaita Vedanta, the non-dualistic school of Hinduism, Brahman is the underlying consciousness that is the foundation of all reality.
East Asian Buddhism
According to D. S. Clarke, panpsychist and panexperientialist aspects can be found in the Huayan and Tiantai (Jpn. Tendai) Buddhist doctrines of Buddha nature, which was often attributed to inanimate objects such as lotus flowers and mountains.:39 Tiantai patriarch Zhanran argued that "even non-sentient beings have Buddha nature."
Who, then, is "animate" and who "inanimate"? Within the assembly of the Lotus, all are present without division. In the case of grass, trees and the soil...whether they merely lift their feet or energetically traverse the long path, they will all reach Nirvana.
The Tiantai school was transmitted to Japan by Saicho, who spoke of the "buddha-nature of trees and rocks".
According to the 9th-century Shingon Buddhist thinker Kukai, the Dharmakaya is nothing other than the physical universe and natural objects like rocks and stones are included as part of the supreme embodiment of the Buddha. The Soto Zen master Dogen also argued for the universality of Buddha nature. According to Dogen, "fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles" are also "mind" (心,shin). Dogen also argued that "insentient beings expound the teachings" and that the words of the eternal Buddha "are engraved on trees and on rocks . . . in fields and in villages". This is the message of his "Mountains and Waters Sutra" (Sansui kyô).
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article Panpsychism.|