Panpsychism in the West

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MIT Press, 2005 - Philosophy - 314 pages
In Panpsychism in the West, the first comprehensive study of the subject, David Skrbina argues for the importance of panpsychism—the theory that mind exists, in some form, in all living and nonliving things—in consideration of the nature of consciousness and mind. Despite the recent advances in our knowledge of the brain and the increasing intricacy and sophistication of philosophical discussion, the nature of mind remains an enigma. Panpsychism, with its conception of mind as a general phenomenon of nature, uniquely links being and mind. More than a theory of mind, it is a meta-theory—a statement about theories of mind rather than a theory in itself. Panpsychism can parallel almost every current theory of mind; it simply holds that, no matter how one conceives of mind, such mind applies to all things. In addition, panpsychism is one of the most ancient and enduring concepts of philosophy, beginning with its pre-historical forms, animism and polytheism. Its adherents in the West have included important thinkers from the very beginning of Greek philosophy through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to the present.

Skrbina argues that panpsychism is long overdue for detailed treatment, and with this book he proposes to add impetus to the discussion of panpsychism in serious philosophical inquiries. After a brief discussion of general issues surrounding philosophy of mind, he traces the panpsychist views of specific philosophers, from the ancient Greeks and early Renaissance naturalist philosophers through the likes of William James, Josiah Royce, and Charles Sanders Peirce—always with a strong emphasis on the original texts. In his concluding chapter, "A Panpsychist World View," Skrbina assesses panpsychist arguments and puts them in a larger context. By demonstrating that there is panpsychist thinking in many major philosophers, Skrbina offers a radical challenge to the modern worldview, based as it is on a mechanistic cosmos of dead, insensate matter. Panpsychism in the West will be the standard work on this topic for years to come.
 

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Page 59 - Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me...
Page 59 - In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
Page 92 - We have the ideas of matter and thinking, but possibly shall never be able to know whether any mere material being thinks or no;* it being impossible for us, by the contemplation of our own ideas, without revelation, to discover whether Omnipotency has not given to some systems of matter fitly disposed, a power to perceive and think, or else joined and fixed to matter so disposed a thinking immaterial substance...
Page 83 - IT is certain, that all bodies whatsoever, though they have no sense, yet they have perception : for when one body is applied to another, there is a kind of election to embrace that which is agreeable, and to exclude or expel that which is ingrate: and whether the body be alterant, or altered, evermore a perception precedeth operation ; for else all bodies would be alike one to another.
Page 197 - The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a sub-system. This larger Mind is comparable to God and is perhaps what some people mean by 'God,' but it is still immanent in the total interconnected social system and planetary ecology.
Page 227 - If you put God outside and set him vis-a-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit.
Page 47 - By nature' the animals and their parts exist, and the plants and the simple bodies (earth, fire, air, water)-for we say that these and the like exist 'by nature'. All the things mentioned present a feature in which they differ from things which are not constituted by nature. Each of them has within itself a principle of motion and of stationariness (in...
Page 226 - By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.
Page 144 - Consequently, the final outcome of that speculation commenced by the primitive man, is that the Power manifested throughout the Universe distinguished as material, is the same Power which in ourselves wells up under the form of consciousness.
Page 92 - ... it being, in respect of our notions, not much more remote from our comprehension to conceive that God can, if he pleases, superadd to matter a faculty of thinking, than that he should superadd to it another substance with a faculty of thinking; since we know not wherein thinking consists, nor to what sort of substances the Almighty has been pleased to give that power which cannot be in any created being but merely by the good pleasure and bounty of the Creator...

About the author (2005)

David Skrbina is a Lecturer in Philosophy in the Department of Humanities at the University of Michigan at Dearborn.

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