The soul of the world: panpsychism and its relevance for contemporary philosophy

Gruca, Zachary (2021) The soul of the world: panpsychism and its relevance for contemporary philosophy. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Panpsychism -- the composite of pan, which means "all," and psyche, the Latinized form of the Greek psuche, or "soul" -- is the thesis that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the universe. Although sometimes met with an incredulous stare, panpsychism is a metaphysical position which enjoys a long, venerable history that hearkens back to at least the Presocratic philosophers, but which eventually fell into relative obscurity with the rise of logical positivism in the 19th century. However, panpsychism is now once again gaining prominence in the contemporary philosophy of mind in response to the perceived logical and metaphysical insufficiencies of materialism, referred to as "physicalism" in contemporary literature, and dualism. Physicalism suffers chiefly from intelligibility problems, by virtue of how it relies on unintelligible explanations of consciousness, such as brute emergence into the realm of the physical. Conversely, dualism is threatened mainly by an empirical problem, namely with respect to how it fails to adequately integrate phenomenal consciousness into the scientific description of the world, which constitutes the famous "mind-body problem." Accordingly, panpsychism promises to overcome both sets of problems, first by positing consciousness as intrinsic to physical reality, and second, by suggesting that such intrinsic mental properties metaphysically ground or necessitate physical structure itself. As such, mental properties necessarily belong not only to composite entities such as human beings and other animals but, more controversially, also to the fundamental building blocks of reality. This does not, however, mean that panpsychism is immune to its own conceptual stumbling blocks, the most salient of which is known as the combination problem. The combination problem states that, given that organismal consciousness, or the kind of complex conscious experience that we have, is made up of an aggregate of smaller ''microexperiences," it is difficult to make sense of just how such microexperiences can collectively constitute unified "macroexperience." Although the combination problem threatens to undermine panpsychism, there are many proposed solutions and, if such solutions succeed, panpsychism seems to represent a more parsimonious conception of reality than either of its traditional alternatives, so it is important to take it seriously. This master's thesis intends to provide a comprehensive account of contemporary panpsychism as it exists today, in turn exploring the various solutions to the combination problem and other conceptual barriers and ultimately arguing for the legitimacy -- if not the preferability -- of a panpsychist metaphysics. While similar projects have already been done, my thesis will be novel in that it will provide both a contribution from Continental philosophy (which is normally neglected in the extant literature), and describe how panpsychism is practically useful for other philosophically relevant issues, especially regarding the ecological crisis.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15072
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 78-79).
Keywords: panpsychism, consciousness, ecology, philosophy of mind, metaphysics
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: May 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Panpsychism--Philosophy.

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