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Panpsychism

Last updated April 27, 2022

Opposite take to that of Materialism. Panpsychists deny that the mind is fundamentally non-mental.

Everything physical is also mental or phenomenal or experiential.

In other words, everything is slightly conscious.

See the Combination Problem

# Eddington, Russell, Strawson’s argument for panpsychism1

  1. Physical science tells us about only the structural and relational properties of physical phenomena.
  2. Relational properties are determined by intrinsic properties
    1. Potentially problematic
    2. Could be the case that relational processes determine the placeholders of the relation
  3. Certain configurations of physical phenomena generate/constitute phenomenal states
  4. Intrinsic properties of physical phenomena must encompass this power
  5. Own inner awareness reveals that phenomenality is an intrinsic property
    1. Potentially problematic
    2. Supposes the introspection gives us access to the essential nature of our conscious states
    3. A careful phenomenological investigation of qualia reveals that they are always situated and invested with vital, affective, and embodied value so are relational, not intrinsic. Qualia must have content
  6. Phenomenality is the only intrinsic property we know of
  7. So phenomenality must be an intrinsic property of physical phenomena, or at least of certain organized physical systems

# Strawson’s Panpsychism1

Physicalism actually entails panpsychism

  1. Monism is true (there is only one kind of ‘stuff’ in the universe)
  2. Experiential phenomena are real phenomena (denies illusionism: see philosophical realism))
  3. All concrete phenomena are physical
  4. Therefore experiential phenomena are physical
  5. The emergence of experiential being from non-experiential beings does not make sense. If this were true, the experiential would need to wholly depend on the non-experiential. This can’t possible be the case: we have no model for it and can’t make sense of it
  6. So, at least some elementary physical phenomenal must also be experiential (micropsychism)
  7. If at least some elementary physical phenomena must also be experiential, it’s far more likely that all of them are (otherwise there would be radical heterogeneity edging on dualism and we are assuming that monism is true)
  8. Therefore, panpsychism is true

  1. This content is sourced from Professor Evan Thompson’s course materials for PHIL451A at UBC. All rights to this content is retained by Evan Thompson. ↩︎


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