The term panpsychism stems from the ancient Greek words πᾶν (pan – all or everything) and ψυχή (psukhe – mind or soul, from ‘I breathe’), so the literal definition of the theory would be: everything has a mind or a soul. Nowadays, the most common definition of panpsychism is the following: consciousness or mentality is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. However, that can be interpreted in many ways. To make things clearer, I will now briefly explain the various kinds of panpsychism.
Constitutive panpsychism is probably the most common form of the theory nowadays. This is the claim that higher-level consciousness, such as that of humans and animals, is constituted by consciousness found at lower levels of reality. Usually, the claim is specifically that it is found at the lowest, fundamental level of reality. In fact, I have yet to see a philosopher arguing for the view that higher-level consciousness is made up of consciousness at the ‘medium’ rather than the lowest level of reality.
Emergentist panpsychism is the view that human and animal consciousness is not constituted by consciousness featuring at the fundamental level. Rather, complex consciousness is caused by fundamental-level consciousness, meaning that human and animal consciousness emerges or comes about as a result of the causal interactions and relations found at the lowest level. On this view, human and animal consciousness is also fundamental since it is not made up of lower-level consciousness. It may be the result of lower-level relations, but it exists independently, as its own phenomenon.
Russellian panpsychism, inspired by the writings of Bertrand Russell, is the theory that the intrinsic nature of matter is consciousness. Proponents of this view make the following claim: physical science only tells us about the structure of the world, about how matter interacts in space and time but remains silent on what the deep inner nature of matter is; on what matter is in and of itself. Since the only intrinsic nature we know of is consciousness then, at least provisionally, the deep nature of matter must be of the same or similar kind. It is odd to imagine that the world is a merely structural phenomenon, so the Russellian panpsychist argues that structural features must be based in consciousness – the concrete, intrinsic nature of matter.
Panprotopsychism is the view that not consciousness but something close to it, that can give rise to it, is found at the fundamental level of reality. This form of proto-consciousness, whatever it is, is defined as having the ability to produce consciousness at higher levels. While we do not have a clear picture of what proto-conscious properties are, the most popular form of the theory today is panqualityism. Proponents of panqualityism argue that experienceable qualities are the proto-conscious properties that we need in order to account for higher-level consciousness. Such qualities are not subjects or minds in themselves, even though they can be experienced by subjects. They are experienceable but not necessarily experienced. The panqualityist claims that when those qualities are parts of a relevant structure, like the human brain, awareness of them emerges in virtue of that structure. There are many more versions of panprotopsychism, but panqualityism is probably the most commonly discussed.
Micropsychism can mean two different things. On the one hand, it is an umbrella term for all theories that claim that consciousness is a feature of the lowest level of reality. Under this definition, panpsychism is a form of micropsychism. On the other hand, it is the specific view that some but not all fundamental simples feature consciousness. Under this definition, panpsychism is not a form of micropsychism but a completely different claim. That is, the difference lies in attributing consciousness to all rather than some fundamental simples.
Cosmopsychism is also the theory that consciousness is a ubiquitous feature of fundamental reality, just like panpsychism. The difference is that ‘fundamental reality’ means something completely different for the cosmopsychist. According to them, the cosmos as a whole, conceived of as a unified object, is fundamental. That is, they give priority to the whole rather than to its parts, so that the parts of the cosmos are merely derived from or modifications of it as a whole. Rather than attributing consciousness to the smallest, basic level of reality, the cosmopsychist attributes it to the cosmos, arguing that human and animal consciousness is a less fundamental, derivative part of it as a whole. Recently, this theory has been gaining traction.
Panpsychism and many of the views mentioned have a long history in both philosophy and spirituality, dating back to ancient times. Recently, however, there has been a revival of interest in such ‘holistic’ theories of consciousness, mostly within contemporary analytic philosophy of mind. On this blog, I will try to approach these and other views from a broader perspective, talking about the many implications that their acceptance could have for individuals, societies, religion, science, etc.
I hope that this post serves as a good introduction to the blog and I welcome anyone interested in these topics to read on!
David Chalmers – Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism.
Derk Pereboom – Consciousness and the Prospects of Physicalism.
Philip Goff, William Seager and Sean Allen-Hermanson – Panpsychism.
Sam Coleman – Mental Chemistry: Combination for Panpsychists.
Yujin Nagasawa and Khai Wager – Panpsychism and Priority Cosmopsychism.