Panpsychism

Literally, ‘all-soulism’.

The view that matter is intrinsically alive, or is made up from basic entities which are so. Various forms of such a view are found in the philosophies of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), and John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart (1866-1925) among others.

Also see: hylozoism

Overview

Etymology

The term panpsychism (/panˈsʌɪkɪz(ə)m/,/pænˈsaɪ(ˌ)kɪz(ə)m/) comes from the Greek pan (πᾶν : “all, everything, whole”) and psyche (ψυχή: “soul, mind”).[7]:1 “Psyche” comes from the Greek word ψύχω (psukhō, “I blow”) and may mean life, soul, mind, spirit, heart, or “life-breath”. The use of “psyche” is controversial because it is synonymous with “soul”, a term usually taken to refer to something supernatural; more common terms now found in the literature include mind, mental properties, mental aspect, and experience.

Concept

Panpsychism holds that mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality.[1] It is also described as a theory that “the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe”.[2] Panpsychists posit that the type of mentality we know through our own experience is present, in some form, in a wide range of natural bodies.[7] This notion has taken on a wide variety of forms. Some historical and non-Western panpsychists ascribe attributes such as life or spirits to all entities.[8] Contemporary academic proponents, however, hold that sentience or subjective experience is ubiquitous, while distinguishing these qualities from more complex human mental attributes.[8] They therefore ascribe a primitive form of mentality to entities at the fundamental level of physics but do not ascribe mentality to most aggregate things, such as rocks or buildings.[1][9][10]

Terminology

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, such as humans).[11]

Philip Goff draws a distinction between panexperientialism and pancognitivism. In the form of panpsychism under discussion in the contemporary literature, conscious experience is present everywhere at a fundamental level, hence the term panexperientialism. Pancognitivism, by contrast, is the view that thought is present everywhere at a fundamental level—a view that had some historical advocates, but no present-day academic adherents. Contemporary panpsychists do not believe microphysical entities have complex mental states such as beliefs, desires, and fears.[1]

Originally, the term panexperientialism had a narrower meaning, having been coined by David Ray Griffin to refer specifically to the form of panpsychism used in process philosophy (see below).[8]

History

Antiquity

Two iwakura – a rock where a kami or spirit is said to reside in the religion of Shinto

Panpsychist views are a staple in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy.[4] According to Aristotle, Thales (c. 624 – 545 BCE), the first Greek philosopher, posited a theory which held “that everything is full of gods.”[12] Thales believed that magnets demonstrated this. This has been interpreted as a panpsychist doctrine.[4] Other Greek thinkers 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”).[8]

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).[8] In the Philebus and Timaeus, Plato argues for the idea of a world soul or anima mundi. According to Plato:

This world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.[13]

Stoicism developed a cosmology that held that the natural world is infused with the divine fiery essence pneuma, directed by the universal intelligence logos. The relationship between beings’ individual logos and the universal logos was a central concern of the Roman Stoic Marcus Aurelius. The metaphysics of Stoicism finds connections with Hellenistic philosophies such as Neoplatonism. Gnosticism also made use of the Platonic idea of anima mundi.

Renaissance

Illustration of the Cosmic order by Robert Fludd, where the World Soul is depicted as a woman

After Emperor Justinian closed Plato’s Academy in 529 CE, neoplatonism declined. Though there were mediaeval Christian thinkers, such as John Scotus Eriugena, who ventured what might be called panpsychism, it was not a dominant strain in Christian thought. But in the Italian Renaissance, it enjoyed something of a 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 term panpsychism into philosophical vocabulary. According to Bruno, “There is nothing that does not possess a soul and that has no vital principle.”[8] Platonist ideas resembling the anima mundi also resurfaced in the work of esoteric thinkers such as Paracelsus, Robert Fludd, and Cornelius Agrippa.

Early modern period

In the 17th century, two rationalists, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, can be said to be panpsychists.[4] 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’s view is that there are infinitely many absolutely simple mental substances called monads that make up the universe’s fundamental structure. While it has been said that George Berkeley’s idealist philosophy is also a form of panpsychism,[4] 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

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