Panpsychism

Everything is full of gods.

Thales 6th c BC

Photo by Lisa Wilson

In philosophy, 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.
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.
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. Dualism and Monism.

Panpsychism is one of the oldest philosophical theories, and has been ascribed to philosophers like Thales and Plato.

It can also be seen in ancient philosophies such as Stoicism, Taoism, Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism.

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.”: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.

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.

Panpsychist views are also 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.

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.
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.

Modern philosophy

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.

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[by whom?] 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.

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 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 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).

For more reading on the mind brain problem see,

https://philosophyandpsychology.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/neuronal-panpsychism/

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